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Alumni Spotlights

Meet Our Alumni

Learn more about our unique alumni in the spotlights below.

Lauren Delbridge jumping on the metabolon landfill trampolines in Germany.

Q&A with Lauren Delbridge, '17

My experience at Virginia Tech was very focused on the motto Ut Prosim: That I May Serve. As a landscape architecture student, I felt a calling to find ways to serve others, the profession, communities in need, degraded landscapes, etc. So much of our profession is centered on service in one way or another, so hearing “that I may serve” throughout college was incredibly impactful to me as a human and a designer.

In school, I developed a huge interest in the remediation and reclamation of disturbed sites. As Landscape Architects, we have the ability to think about sites with the community, environment, and ecology in mind – which sets us up as thought leaders for the transformation of degraded lands. Starting in school as the National Olmsted scholar with the Landscape Architecture Foundation, I’ve spent a lot of my (extra) time researching strategies and case studies to inform how we transform coal ash ponds and landfills to benefit surrounding communities. As part of these studies, I traveled to Germany to explore how they’ve transformed waste sites of the Ruhr Region. I was able to continue this work as a Fellow for Innovation and Leadership with the Landscape Architecture Foundation. While still a side project, these bigger ideas are still a driving force in my work.

Duisburg Nord Waste Containment in Germany
Lauren at the spoiltip in Germany.

I knew in school that I wanted to begin my career at a mid-sized or larger firm so I could quickly learn the ins and outs of many different project types. During school, I was an intern for LandDesign in Charlotte, NC and have been working for them full time since I graduated. I’ve been able to explore a huge variety of project scales and types, which has helped me grow into a well-rounded designer and project leader.

What I love most about Landscape Architecture is the breadth of work it allows you to do. There are endless directions you can take your career, which is fitting considering we should be able to adapt to changing cultural and environmental needs. The ability to shift and change your career path in big ways without leaving the profession is incredibly important and something that isn’t spoken about enough.

I graduated with a small but mighty group of seven in our LAR studio. Some of my best college memories are studio trips, site visits, and late nights with that crew. Whether we were all squeezed into one hotel room for a Raleigh field trip or hanging out at El Rods post studio pin-up, we had an incredibly tight group that made school even more fun.

Stay curious and take risks! School is such a good time to push boundaries and explore topics that excite you. You have the rest of your career to be reigned in by client budgets, so spend these years of your life drawing weird things and exploring unusual topics.

  • I miss the scenery – having mountains and hiking right at your doorstep is something I took for granted
  • Being surrounded by big thinkings and change makers is something I also didn’t realize was so incredible about being on campus
  • I miss Cabo Fish Taco! (And yes, there’s one in Charlotte but it’s just not the same vibe)

Outside of work, I serve on the VT Landscape Architecture Advisory board and also on the Olmsted Scholar task force for the Landscape Architecture Foundation. I spend most of my free time with my anxious Golden Retriever trying to help her overcome her fears of trashcans and manholes.

Lauren with her dog outside.
Sheema Laguerre and 10 other graduating students wearing their caps and posing under a tree together.
Matt Powers, Director of the School of Design

Q&A with Sheema Laguerre, '16

Virginia Tech influenced me to be a leader who is focused on serving others rather than themselves. Throughout the programs, events, and leadership roles I was afforded I learned the valuable lesson of putting others first and everything else will fall into place.

Sheema presenting a project to a group of people.

I am inspired by my family and those who helped me get to where I am, why because without them and their continued support I would not be half of the person I am today.

My career path has been nothing like I imagined. I am still within the field of landscape architecture which is truly a shock to myself and probably my whole support system. I always knew I would make a career switch to either law or business, but alas I have not completely switched and here I am eight years later in Orlando, Florida, a place I vowed never to go to when I graduated. I believe I ended up in Orlando because that is ultimately where I needed to be, Orlando is where I would gain the most experience, where I would learn more about myself as a designer, a professional, and ultimately where I needed to go to fall in love with landscape architecture again.

I love that landscape architects are the makers and creators of the built fabric we all enjoy and are not always in the spotlight. Landscape Architecture is a field where we have to explain to the general public what it is we do on a reoccurring basis. However, I enjoy knowing that I designed a park space, or a large scale community development and can pick out all the nuisances to the projects and yet no one ever suspects that I was the designer.

Outdoor landscape in Virginia.

One of my fondest memories of college was participating and being an influential leader within New Student and Family programs as a Hokie Camp Exec. leader and Hokie Camp counselor. I was able to play an active role in students lives while they were transitioning from high school to college and credit the leadership I was given in providing me with the best resources to give to new students.

A group of students holding signs and standing together smiling outside.

Advice I have for current students would be don’t be afraid to be wrong or fail. Success will only come once you have attempted something and failed at. Also to be patient when you get into the workforce, don’t be so quick or anxious to have leadership, additionally responsibilities etc., learn what you can first and those things will come, the race is not for the swift but those who are patient and understand timing.

Sheema showing two students something on a computer.

Three favorite things about campus and Blacksburg were the drillfied, the food was always top tier, and I miss the fall weather and the overall feeling you get when you see the trees turn orange and maroon.

My interest outside of work are to spend time with my family, friends, travel, workout and keep my fitness both physical and mental in the best shape possible. I also am the avid sports enthusiast and try to go to all the sporting events in Central Florida whenever they are available.

Sheema posing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Matt Powers standing outside
Matt Powers, Director of the School of Design

Q&A with Matt Powers, '00

Virginia Tech changed my life in many ways. Specifically, VT helped me become much more reflective about my learning and growth. This allowed me to become a more active participant in my own learning. As a result, my relationship to the course content and my professors changed so that I became much more goal oriented, engaged, and thoughtful as a student and professional.

Matt Powers teaching inside with drawings behind him.
Matt Powers at commencement hooding ceremony.

I am inspired by the belief that we can do better; that there is a better way and a better day. I set out to find it every morning. I hope that my friends and colleagues are there with me when I do.

I am a two time alumnus, 2000 Master of Landscape Architecture and 2006 Environmental Design and Planning. My career path has been mostly straightforward. I was inspired to become a professor when I was an undergraduate. Each of my career decisions since then has been aimed at achieving that dream.  Fortunately, my career path included a stop at Virginia Tech as a graduate student. Even more fortunately, my path has brought me back to Blacksburg over 20 years later as a professor!

Matt Powers teaching and working with six other people around a table.
Matt Powers showing five students plants outside.

I love landscape architects! I like how we think, collaborate, and continually strive to balance the built and natural environments with the art and science of design.

Matt Powers and three other people looking at a drawing together around a table.

My favorite memory was the day Patrick Miller, the department chair of landscape architecture at the time, told me that I was assigned to teach a design studio. It was my first studio and I had come to Virginia Tech to become a professor. This was a huge opportunity for me personally. It also taught me the value of trusting students, enabling dreams, and empowering others.

Put yourself and your needs as learners and young adults first. Ask for help when you need it. Find something to believe in and learn to love it even when you’re bored, tired, or it doesn’t love you back.

I love many things about Blacksburg. I love the Appalachian culture, the New River, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all the friendly people you can meet downtown.

I like gardening, fishing, kayaking, music, and hanging out with friends and family.

Matt Powers smiling with his wife and child outside.
Matt Powers as a a little league baseball coach outside.
Kat Ranieri standing in stairwell with arms crossed and numbers 2.5 behind them on the wall.
Kat Ranieri, 2023 AAD Outstanding Recent Alumnus

Q&A with Kat Ranieri, '23

When I was a student, hearing from people who were actively working in architecture was inspiring. It made it seem like it could be done, and was not this elusive unknowable future. When you're in school, it all feels theoretical. I feel lucky to have the means to come back to school regularly and give back the connection to the working world that was given to me.

Now that I work in closer connection to the field, every day I am inspired by the folks putting their bodies on the line to build these incredible residences. I think that respect for labor should be part of what is instilled in architecture students from day one. You literally cannot get a building completed without themand they are so knowledgeable.  From layout to verification to hanging level 5 drywall to operating a tower crane, these folks have specialized skills that we as architects do not need to have because of them.

I do not think it is unique to want to work on and see the direct effect of your efforts in your community. What is unique is working where those opportunities are supported. Because of that, that is a critical question to ask in interviews if community work is important to you. The next is to make sure that the community work given adequate respect. It's important that community work is not the last thing you do on a Friday afternoon. Additionally, there is no place for telling people what they need. Our community clients are the experts on what they need.

I say this every time I come back to school. Come into work humble, as questions, and push as hard as you can to get grunt work in CA. It's unlikely you're going to be asked to do the big fat marker sketch of a building right away, so start learning how to put the building together.

The other thing I always say to students is do what you're asked to do first. If you have a second proposal or interesting idea, it is always better to make sure you do what you're told to do.

Bollo's, Gillie's, and Burchard. Easy!