Dec 07, 2023  
2022-2023 University Catalog 
2022-2023 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Landscape Architecture, M.L.A.: 48-72 units

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Offered by: College of Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture Department

The Department of Landscape Architecture welcomes graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds who are concerned with the health and sustainability of both environmental and social system through shaping of our physical environment. Students learn current and advanced methods for establishing strong, well-defined, and mutually life-sustaining systems and enhancing relationships between people and the land. The curriculum emphasizes case study projects at scales varying from the small sites to large regions. Our learn-by-doing education uses learning formats including but not limited to lectures, seminar session, studios, frequent jury reviews, discussion, and field trips, which occur either on-site or online. The program prepares students to be socially proactive, environmentally responsible, theoretically sophisticated, technically strong, and thus become both scientifically rational and curiously critical in making decisions to protect and improve both environmental and social aspects of our society.

The Department of Landscape Architecture considers its location in southern California to be a unique advantage for the study of landscape and environment. The presence of seashores, mountains, and desert terrains as well as one of the major metropolitan centers in North America offers a unique opportunity for professional study of landscape architecture and other environmental design disciplines. Project sites may range throughout the greater Southern California region and beyond. Field trips are core to the program and a variety of areas and locations throughout the state are a regular aspect of the graduate program. Applicants to the program should anticipate frequent field trips in southern California and beyond as an essential part of their studies. Students may also participate in courses and activities offered by many other departments and institutes on campus such as the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, an interdisciplinary laboratory for sustainable living.

Andrew O. Wilcox, Chair
Weimin Li, Graduate Coordinator

The objectives of the graduate program encompass both a general professional educational background and advanced specialized study in human ecosystematic Landscape Design and Planning. This focus is featured with extensive research into the bio-physical and socio-cultural inventory of landscape systems and the interplay among them; in-depth analysis on the patterns, trends, and relations of highly relevant natural and social processes and other factors; considerate programming based on client, stakeholder, and community input collected via social surveys, public meetings, focus groups, and activities; rational systematic planning to create strong sustainability and connectivity; and creative site design solutions to construct vibrant, safe, and culturally friendly places.

In addition, the program embraces new directions reflecting the ever-changing issues and needs of the landscape and human society that calls for new theories, principles, and methods. These new directions in the curriculum include but are not limited to:

Climate change mitigation and adaptation, which address knowledge on landscape mitigation strategies that if employed at mass scale, can help reduce GHG emissions (ASLA, 2016), adjust global and micro-climate, protect natural resources and wildlife habitats, promote local agriculture, and foster community resiliency against climate change;

Participatory design and social practice, which seeks to create places that reflect and serve diverse cultural, ethnic and economic communities by involving users in the entire process of creating and improving their own landscape. The MLA program is especially committed to serve disadvantaged communities which otherwise lack resources to secure consulting service and technical support from environmental design professionals.

Geodesign, which embraces and utilizes big data and the latest geospatial technologies to empower human capability in scientific rationalization to address complex and systematic landscape design challenges that are otherwise difficult to address; and

Urban sustainable landscape design that brings in creative landscape strategies to sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and environmental benefits (ASLA, 2016).

Admission to the Program

The Master of Landscape Architecture program accepts students from varied academic backgrounds, including non-design disciplines, for a two- or three-year long program. Applicants with no previous study in landscape architecture will be considered for a General Standing (First Professional) plan. General standing courses may be satisfied by alternate means including waivers of selected courses based on previous academic and professional experience and qualified units transferred from other academic programs upon the MLA Graduate Coordinator’s approval. Waivers and transferred units are not guaranteed and are approved case by case. Applicants holding an accredited Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in Landscape Architecture or a closely aligned design-based discipline, may be considered for the Advanced Standing (Post-Professional) plan within the MLA graduate program. Admission to the Advanced standing program is not guaranteed for those with degrees in environmental design disciplines. The admission decision will be based on an applicant’s overall qualification and experience.

  • General Standing (First Professional) plan is up to 72 units.
  • Advanced Standing (Post-Professional) plan is 48 units.

All applicants are required to undergo transcript evaluation and portfolio review during the admission process. Unofficial transcripts can be used for this review process, but an official transcript must be submitted to the University’s admission office before officially registered in the program. Besides requirements for the General Standing admission, applicants interested in the advanced standing option should demonstrate additional academic preparation and/or professional experience in order to be qualified for the option. Contact the MLA Graduate Coordinator to be considered for the Advanced Standing consideration.

For admission to the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program, an applicant must have received a baccalaureate degree and have attained an overall undergraduate grade point average of at least 2.5; the MLA program recommends a GPA of 3.0 or better. 

In addition to the standard university application forms submitted online via CSU Apply (, official transcripts, and English requirement (for international applicants), which must be submitted to the university Admissions Office, the Department of Landscape Architecture requires supplementary materials as noted below. See the department website ( for submission guidelines.

  1. Statement of intent addressing relevant experience, fit to the program, and scholarly potential.
  2. Two letters of recommendation
  3. Evidence of writing (writing sample) or creative potential (portfolio)

February 1 is the usual application deadline with supporting materials due March 1st. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Department of Landscape Architecture and the University Admissions Office for the critical dates in the admission process.

Program Requirements

In order to earn the Master of Landscape Architecture degree, the student must: (1) satisfy the Graduation Writing Test; (2) with a graduate advisor, develop and file a program of study and have it approved by the graduate coordinator, the department chair, the Dean of the College of Environmental Design, and the Graduate Studies Analyst in the Office of Graduate Studies; (3) complete all curricular requirements including the culminating experience.

Curricular Requirements

The General Standing (First Professional) plan requires up to 72 semester units of graduate work to be completed in the graduate degree program. Unless students receive waiver of courses or have transferred units approved, all General Standing students must finish 72 semester units to graduate.The Advanced Standing (Post-Professional) plan requires a minimum of 48 semester units of graduate work completed in the MLA program.

Upper division elective courses should be approved by the student’s advisor if they are outside the department or outside of the pre-approved MLA list of suggested electives. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained in all course work to satisfy degree requirements as well as in all graded course work attempted while in graduate standing at this university.

MLA students may elect to participate in study abroad programs that fit within the developed and approved program of study an in consultation with the graduate coordinator for Landscape Architecture.

Academic plans for the General Standing program and Advanced Standing program must complete the culminating experience LA 6071L , LA 6081L , LA 6941 , and LA 6951 . The culminating experience is a project-based experience. Thesis option is currently not available.

The candidate must be enrolled in the university during the semester of graduation.


A minimum of 70% of all (major required and elective) MLA coursework must be 5000-level or above; MLA students are recommended to not exceed 9-units of upper division elective. To fulfill elective requirements, students may take courses from the preapproved elective list in addition to above major electives. Refer to department website for extended and updated list of recommended elective courses. Consult graduate coordinator if students would like to take electives beyond the above major electives.

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