Penn State undergraduate, Ryan P. Emerson was recently awarded an Udall Scholarship. The Morris K. Udall Scholarship annually recognizes 80 outstanding undergraduates who demonstrate a commitment in environmental related careers. This summer, Emerson, a junior majoring in landscape architecture and a Schreyer Honors scholar will join other recipients in Tucson, Arizona (August 2-6), to meet with policymakers and community leaders in environmental fields.
“I am committed to improving the lives of individuals and communities through sustainable landscape architecture design,” said Emerson, a native of Lewisberry, Pa.
It was a junior high school lesson that would serve as Emerson’s catalyst to create positive change via his current field.
“Frederick Law Olmsted was my original inspiration for getting into the field and one of the driving forces I continue with landscape architecture,” said Emerson. “In 8th grade I learned about Central Park in New York, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. One of the main purposes of the park was to eradicate disease and urban slums. I was drawn by the social consciousness of Olmsted and Vaux’s design.”
To this day, Emerson is paralleling that same thoughtful insight to every design project he undertakes. In two “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful” summer initiatives, Emerson spent ten weeks each in York, PA (2006) and Middletown, PA. (2007). The York project was centered on the revitalization of “Salem Square,” which was home to a Civil War memorial. The following summer, the Middletown people were incorporated in the brainstorming and creation of a limestone boulder and flower garden. Overall, the development of both sites helped in fostering relationships among community members, while beautifying the areas.
Even with his free time, Emerson continues his community involvement but in a different capacity.
“I am actively involved in the Friday Night Nursing Home Ministry through the Christian Student Fellowship. Each Friday night we go to an assisted living home to play games and guitar with the residents,” said Emerson.
It is his relentless work in and out of the classroom that has garnered him recognition from a variety of places.
Beyond receiving a 2008 Udall Scholarship, Emerson recently received the College of Arts and Architecture’s Reuben and Gladys Golumbic Scholarship Award for his above mentioned works, including his participation in the Penn State Solar Decathlon team. The award recognizes Penn State students excelling and contributing in the Arts and Humanities field.
“We all live downstream – we can’t just flush all our problems away. Everything will have an affect on us or our neighbors,” said Emerson on why he is so passionate about his field.
Story by Olayemi Falodun