July is Park and Recreation Month, and WithersRavenel is celebrating! Each week, we’re profiling one of our team members whose work includes parks and recreation projects.
Today, meet Landscape Designer Sami Allen, SITES AP. A recent addition to WithersRavenel, Sami has a bounty of experience in community engagement and development. She has a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) degree from North Carolina State University. She also has a bachelor’s degree in communications from East Carolina University.
WithersRavenel: What sparked your interest in parks and recreation and landscape architecture?
Sami Allen: My interest in landscape architecture began when I worked for the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab in my hometown. There I worked with volunteers and staff to uncover the history and significance of an 18th-century farmstead site on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. I became fascinated with cultural history and wanted to understand how people interacted with the land and its natural resources.
WR: Recently, you worked with the Coastal Dynamics Design Lab at N.C. State. What did you learn there about resiliency and recovery that you can apply to parks and recreation work?
SA: During my time at CDDL, I learned about the benefits of writing federal and state-funded grants for rural, under-served communities that are still recovering from effects of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. Writing grants builds capacity for small towns by providing opportunities to improve stormwater management and community connection. I learned so much from the guidance of professors Andy Fox and Travis Klondike at CDDL. I hope to continue my education at WithersRavenel in grant-writing and design by finding creative ways to build community resiliency and connection.
WR: You also spent two years in Africa with the Peace Corps. Tell us about how that experience helped shape your perspective on life and the world.
SA: During 2011-2013, I had the opportunity to live and work in a rural village in the country of Burkina Faso in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. I worked with a women’s group to develop a consistent business model for selling handmade soap, fish from the local river, and vegetables from the garden, that generated income for women and their families. Additionally, I worked with the local secondary school to develop a school garden that generated conversation about nutrition. This experience taught me the importance of checking my biases. I also learned how different cultures value the land and how that plays a role in their relationship to food and local resources. I learned so much more from the people of Burkina Faso than I could ever give back. I’m grateful for their hospitality and friendship.
Do you want to put WithersRavenel’s dedicated Parks and Recreation Studio and Landscape Architecture team members to work for you? Contact Sami Allen at (919) 535-5239 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Parks and Recreation Director Brian Starkey, PLA, ASLA, at (919) 238-0305 or email@example.com.