Professor Andrew Wilcox named among country’s “Top 25 Most Admired Educators”

Professor Andrew Wilcox, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture (Image by Mark Maryanovich Photography)
Professor Andrew Wilcox, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture (Image by Mark Maryanovich Photography)

Landscape architecture professor Andrew Wilcox was named among the nation’s Top 25 Most Admired Educators in Architecture, Interiors, and Landscape Architecture by DesignIntelligence, a national firm whose closely followed annual surveys track industry and education trends in the design, construction and engineering fields.

The 2019 educator ranking is the result of a survey in which some 10,000 students, deans, educators and industry professionals participated between May and June. Cal Poly Pomona was the only California State University on the list.

“I am really honored to be able to represent Cal Poly Pomona, the College of Environmental Design and the Department of Landscape Architecture,” Wilcox said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to many colleagues here at CPP, especially those in ENV that have taken the leap on some creative collaborations; there is no way recognition like this emerges without them. I think it is also important to recognize the students that I have had the privilege of collaborating with over my tenure, their creativity, curiosity, ethics, determination and brave willingness to positively impact the world around them through landscape architecture is truly admirable to me.”

Wilcox is a product of the program he now leads. He graduated in 2000 with his undergraduate degree and was hired as a lecturer the following academic year, teaching until he began his graduate studies at the University of California in 2002. He started on tenure-track in 2005 and has been a tenured faculty at the College of Environmental Design since 2012.

“This honor is a tribute to Andy’s leadership, vision, commitment, perseverance, and stamina,” said Michael Woo, dean of the College of Environmental Design. “It is also recognition of the quality of our current faculty, students, and staff, and the legacy of our alumni and the previous faculty who have created and sustained one of the most venerable landscape architecture programs in the nation.”

Landscape architecture is concerned with the design, management, preservation, and use of the land. Students majoring in landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona are immersed in an interdisciplinary curriculum of landscape design and planning processes, graphic communications, ecology, plants and planting design, construction methods, environmental history and extensive field study.

The program is one of fewer than 20 universities nationwide whose undergraduate and graduate programs are both accredited by the Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB). It is one of two programs in the West Coast to bear the distinction, and the only one in California. 

Wilcox presided over a period during which the department’s programs climbed several notches in DesignIntelligence national rankings. Between 2017 and 2018, its BSLA program moved up from No. 11 to No. 10, while its MLA program jumped from No. 14 to No. 11.

 “[He] is the greatest and most passionate advocate of CPPLA, its students, and alumni among those of his generation,” said Associate Professor Weimin Li, the department’s graduate coordinator. “He was trained by the BSLA program, grew side by side with it, and as an outstanding design educator, have taught and mentored generations of excellent landscape architects in the past 20 years who are currently enhancing quality of life of diverse communities and providing stewardship to the landscape of southern California and beyond.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Wilcox runs Eagle Rock-based landscape architecture firm, il Finch. He launched the “Bravely Curious” campaign, arguably the college’s most popular and most visible branding strategy. It sought to capture the spirit and ambitions of a profession working towards innovations and solutions based on values of ecological stewardship and social sustainability.

Wilcox said the tagline was inspired by Sean Penn’s description of author Jon Krakauer in a 2007 “Iconoclasts” episode. The brand’s mascot, the jackalope – a mythical antlered rabbit – was inspired by the work of American mythologist and academic Joseph Campbell. The creature symbolizes “a curious, slightly mischievous and somewhat brave wanderer of the west that evolved in response to its landscape/environment both real and imagined.”

 “The jackalope was an attempt to push the imagination of landscape types and of whom/what occupy them – landscapes change our ideas of ourselves and what we are,” Wilcox said. “The characteristics associated were what I was playing on and trying to connect with landscape architects and our students.”

“Bravely Curious” gained wider exposure during the department’s 60th anniversary festivities last year. It was integrated into the yearlong celebration programming that included on-campus exhibitions highlighting student work and design pioneer Francis Dean, lecture series and professional workshops; off-campus mixers and a symposium on the contributions of female professionals; and a weeklong tour Wilcox led of Castiglion Fiorentino in eastern Tuscany, the site of the of the college’s longest-running study abroad program and a rite of passage for many landscape architecture students.

“He more than deserves recognition,” said Nicole Nguyen (’15, landscape architecture), a designer at Costa Mesa-based urban design firm BGB Design Group who currently serves in the department’s professional advisory board. “He’s not afraid to go outside of our norm. It’s the point of being ‘bravely curious’ to try something different outside of our comfort zones.”