Try beating this job training: As a professional gardener fresh out of college in Minnesota, Anne Godfrey '04, MLA '04, packed a tent, hopped into her white Pontiac Bonneville, and crisscrossed the Northeast, setting up camp and studying natural landscapes among the rocky shorelines and majestic forests of coastal New England.
The practical design lessons she learned while immersed in nature helped kickstart her career in landscape architecture—and steered her on a course to the UO. A native of Wisconsin (with the Midwestern accent to prove it), Godfrey says the adventure allowed her to explore other regions of the country for the first time, setting the stage for her eventual move to Eugene.
"What's great about the West Coast is there's a much wider spectrum of acceptability of who you are, what you're interested in, and what your values are," she says. "Coming to Oregon was a way for me to be more of myself."
Godfrey is now in her 10th year as an instructor of landscape architecture at the UO, where she has earned a reputation for innovation and excellence in teaching. When she entered the profession, the conventional method for developing students' design skills was to throw them immediately into the deep end of the creative process, forcing them to learn by trial and many, many errors. But with her students repeatedly walking away discouraged, Godfrey saw a need to turn tradition on its head.
"When students are asked to design right away, it turns out to be more frustrating than helpful," she says. "I don't want them to be frustrated. I want them to feel success." Godfrey's solution: a teaching method that grounds her students in design before ever asking them to put pencil to paper as novice designers. She first sends students into the city to study parks and plazas, letting them learn by observing, measuring, and experiencing how real-world spaces serve the people who use them. "There's a general logic behind the way they acquire the skills that is more meaningful for them," she says. "Faculty members within the department have seen a big difference."
In her work with upper-division students, Godfrey has helped two teams from the UO become finalists at national design competitions. These competitions often attract students with a penchant for perfectionism (and unthinkably long hours), but Godfrey likes to remind them that success can't be sustained on caffeine alone. Sometimes, pitching a tent is the way to go. "You need to have a whole life in order to be a good designer for the longterm," she says. "That means being wise with your time, traveling, and constantly looking at new things for ideas."
Name: Anne Godfrey
Education: BA '97, Carleton College; BLA '04, University of Oregon; MLA '04, University of Oregon
Teaching Experience: Joined the UO faculty in 2004
Awards: The architectural journal DesignIntelligence named Godfrey one of its 30 Most Admired Educators for 2014.
Off-Campus: Godfrey, a skilled photographer and digital artist, enjoys experimenting with an art form called "phenomenal landscape experience," which blends several high-resolution photos to produce a dynamic collage.
Last Word: "I was a late bloomer when it comes to design drawing. It gives me a kind of empathy that I pull from as I teach."
—By Ben DeJarnette