2014 BSLA - Thu Ngan Han: Plotting The Future Of Her Community

2014 BSLA - Thu Ngan Han: Plotting The Future Of Her Community

There is a garden in the Lawncrest section of Philadelphia that didn’t exist two years ago.

The 25-plot community garden required buy in from the niehgborhood, city officials and a variety of city groups, but with Temple University Landscape Architecture major Thu Ngan Han leading the charge, fresh vegetables will soon by popping up in abundance as the garden’s second growing season gets underway.

“With Temple’s landscape architecture program, we are given the opportunity to work on a lot of urban community-based projects in addition to being given a solid background in plants and ecology — in our profession you’re working with plants all of the time so from a practical sense it’s essential to have an understanding of what does and doesn’t work,” said Han, 23, who will complete her B.S. in Landscape Architecture this month with a stellar 3.85 grade point average. “Last year I decided to implement a project in my own neighborhood to create a community garden. It helped immensely that I could speak about the horticultural aspects of a project like this and explain the benefits to my neighbors who really embraced the idea.”

Next stop City Hall. Her timing, Han said, couldn’t have been better as the city’s Office of the Managing Director had recently kicked off the PhillyRising Collaborative, designed to help rebuild city communities.

“The perfect spot was in a city park in my neighborhood — there was a lot of activity, a lot of kids. Since it was city property, we of course needed permission,” she said. “We also needed the support of the nearby library, recreation center and firehouse. All of the city groups ended up supporting the idea; the recreation center and the library now have plots of their own! We also partnered with TreePhily (a Philadelphia Parks and Recreation program) who donated several trees that, in time, will grow into shade trees.”

For just $10 a season, families and community organizations have their own garden plot to tend to and fresh produce to enjoy all season, Han said.

“I love being out in the garden on my own. Kids will come over and ask what I’m doing,” she said. “I’ll talk to them about what I decided to grow and you can see the interest, the curiosity — it’s a great educational opportunity. My goal is to start a summer education program in cooperation with the recreation center and the library to get the neighborhood kids fully involved in a hands-on learning experience.”

While at Temple, Han has taken every opportunity to expand her own educational experiences. In the classroom, she was one of three group leaders for Temple’s award-winning 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit, “WILDE! Cultivating wonder in everyday places,” and is currently completing an urban design studio project focusing on mixed-uses for a trail system along the Schuylkill River. A University Honors student, Han was also a Diamond Peer Teacher and in Fall 2013 headed overseas for a study abroad experience in Rome.

“I was able to travel a lot — Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and within Italy,” she said. “I was able to see what has lasted and what can be accomplished, which is very empowering.”

Outside of the classroom, Han was president of the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association and a member of the Sigma Lambda Alpha National Honors Society and the student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“One of the reasons I went to Temple was because you have so many options and opportunities. When I first started, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but Temple is a place to explore that,” she said. “I was able to take courses in all of my interests — psychology, drawing, acting — and graduate with a very well rounded education.”

Han said upon graduation she would like to continue to focus her talents on improving urban environments.

“I’m particularly interested in strengthening urban communities,” she said. “Where someone might see a degraded landscape, I see potential. I want to work with communities to reclaim the landscape.”

Article Written by Jim Duffy, MSEd Public Relations and Website Coordinator.  Temple University Ambler Administration Building 

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