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M. Elen Deming Honored for Exceptional Service to CELA and LAF

Elen Deming CELA 2024
CELA President Jun-Hyun Kim presents the Forster Ndubisi Professional Service Award to M. Elen Deming.

Educator and researcher M. Elen Deming was presented with the Forster Ndubisi Professional Service Award at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA) Dinner on March 22, 2024.

The Forster Ndubisi Professional Service Award was created in 2022 by CELA and the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) to honor an individual who has provided exceptional service to both organizations to significantly advance the discipline of landscape architecture. The award is named after former Texas A&M University landscape architecture professor and department head Forster Ndubisi, a longtime thought leader and friend of LAF who was given the inaugural award posthumously.

M. Elen Deming, DDes, FASLA, FCELA, is Professor of Landscape Architecture and founding Director of the Doctor of Design Program at North Carolina State University. For over 30 years, she has taught design studios, design history and theory, and research design in landscape architecture. Previously, she was Professor of Landscape Architecture and Department Head at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and taught at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. From 1985 through 1992, Elen practiced as a professional landscape architect at Sasaki. 

Elen’s research is centered in the environmental humanities as well as research methodology. She has been an advocate for practice-based design research and transdisciplinary thinking for environmental designers. She was co-editor of Landscape Journal in 2002, and sole editor from 2006 to 2009. She was made a CELA Fellow in 2008-2009 and served as CELA President in 2011.

Elen Deming, Megan Barnes, Heather Whitlow
Megan Barnes, Elen Deming, and Heather Whitlow at CELA 2024.

Elen has been a trusted LAF collaborator for over a decade. In the early years of the Landscape Performance Series and Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, Elen lent theoretical grounding to these initiatives and pushed LAF to expand our research objectives beyond just quantifying benefits. She went on to become a CSI Research Fellow herself in 2013 and 2015, producing 6 case studies.

In 2015, Elen joined the LAF Board of Directors and became Vice President of Research in 2016. During this period, Elen helped LAF further explore our interest in practice-based research and played a key role in developing the LAF Research Grant in Honor of Deb Mitchell. Although her LAF board service officially ended in 2019, she has continued to be part of conversations and conference presentations and serve on LAF research program review teams and grant juries. 

Elen’s curiosity—the mark of a true scholar—has allowed her to speak authoritatively on research in the discipline throughout her career while always evolving her perspectives. She offers tangibility in a topic area that, to many in the discipline, feels intangible. Elen is simultaneously an obvious intellect, an educator to the bone, and a true bridge builder for our discipline. She is a friend and mentor to many of us at LAF, always willing to help out and offer new insights. We’re so fortunate that she’s seen LAF as a place to offer even a portion of her valuable time, thought leadership, and generosity of spirit over these years.

“Elen has left her inquisitive, collaborative, and forward-thinking fingerprints all over LAF’s research programs,” said LAF Senior Program Manager Megan Barnes. “Her influence has endured over the past decade, from the inception of CSI all the way to our current suite of programs, and her legacy will continue to grow through LAF’s research programs as long as LAF is around. Elen is now in our DNA.”

Learn more about the Forster Ndubisi Professional Service Award and his legacy here.

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.