Behind the scenes of LABash 2018, with Kara Swanick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Landscape Architecture will host the 48th annual student-run LABash conference, which will bring together students and professionals to celebrate landscape architecture, on April 5–7. Featuring a lineup of 26 speakers, plus workshops and networking opportunities that are meant to expand student's professional skills.

The theme this year is “Identify,” which suggests that landscape architects shall remain conscious of the ideas, people and experiences they encounter, said Swanick. The event's logo depicts the image of a leaf-rubbing, from the iconic American elm trees found across the Penn State campus. The logo design was created by Zoe Roane-Hopkins, another landscape architecture student who has a strong graphic design background.

Swanick is in her fourth year as a landscape architecture student, taking 18 credits, and is the executive director of LABash 2018.

Said Swanick, "LABash is the unrivaled student-run conference of landscape architecture in North America. We are extremely pleased that this year's event is at Penn State, because we get to show off our fantastic students and program. I’m also really excited to foster a relationship between students and professionals from all over the country, and lots of parts of Canada as well.”

There are three organizational committees for the event: Sponsorship and Outreach, directed by Tori Frydrych; Entertainment, directed by Jeff Wertheim; and Communications and Marketing, directed by Swanick. “It is predominantly a student-run conference; the faculty advisers give us the room to organize it," said Swanick.

She added, “While I am the overall director, we all work side-by-side in our respective branches and it’s really a system of checks and balances. We rely on each other, but we also give the space to do our own thing. We let each other know when the lines cross or when we need to know things from the other committees.

“LABash 2018 wouldn’t have been possible without my reliable and trustworthy co-directors Tori and Jeff, all the volunteers, and the great faculty and staff, Eliza Pennypacker, Kendall Mainzer, Lisa DeRussel and Jennifer Birkeland, as well as  who have supported us," said Swanick.

Since she joined the Penn State Stuckeman School, Swanick has been heavily involved in LASS (the Landscape Architecture Student Society), and became the president of the society in spring 2017. As an extension of that role, she was designated the executive directorship for LABash.

“Having a leadership position is something I’ve always wanted to do. It is where I thrive," she said. "I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices, but I do them happily. I’ve always had a penchant for organizing and planning things, it has been a theme throughout my life. But this [experience] has been like no other and has really taught me how to roll with the punches and how to step up and take care of things that need to happen.”

When asked why she chose to study landscape architecture at Penn State, Swanick said, “I was always a nerd for the environment and nature. I also liked drawing — art is really important to me. I later became interested in architecture.” When she heard about the major, she realized the field brings all her interests together: “So I was like, ‘ok, I will give it a shot. It says here I have to take Soils 101 so this should be interesting!’ And here I am four years later. I can’t imagine doing anything different for my college experience.

"I know I’m in the right field, because when I talk about it I get really excited and I can keep talking about it," she added. "I’m passionate about it, and I know I’m here for a reason.”

When asked about the experience, she said, “There is no way this will negatively impact my future career and outlook on life. I’m excited to find ways to continue organizing things. It’s something I want to keep in my life. Whether its international conferences or birthday parties!”

Next on her plate, Swanick said she hopes to complete an internship over the summer, and then she is heading abroad to Bonn, Germany, in August. This semester is technically her last on campus.

“I’m on track to graduate right when I get home," she said. "I’m not sure exactly what’s next down the road, but I am excited for whatever is coming my way.”

For more information and to register for LABash 2018: labash2018.com/labash-2018.

Last Updated April 05, 2018