For most of her life, Allison Hanna didn’t think college was in the cards for her. That is until she hit it big in Vegas.
“When I was a freshman in high school, I went through a career evaluation and found horticulture and landscaping might be for me — that’s when I found out all there is you can do in the landscape architecture field,” said Hanna, 21, from Mechanicsburg. “In my junior year at the local (vocational technical) school, two teachers saw potential in me and suggested that I started entering competitions. They sent me to Las Vegas — they threw me right into the deep end, which was a very scary, but very amazing experience.”
Fourth place in the residential construction management competition at the National Association of Home Builders International Builders Show was followed by second place for a project that Hanna led in her senior year. Combined with smaller regional competitions where she discovered she “loved talking about what I was creating and had become quite adept with CAD,” she knew she had found her calling.
Hanna is the first in her family to attend college right out of high school. On May 15, she will complete her B.S. in Landscape Architecture and will also serve as the student speaker for the School of Environmental Design Graduation Ceremony.
“I wanted to find something that I loved — I was around people all I my life who were not really happy with their jobs. I wanted to start with a job that I would be happy with my entire life,” she said. “There are so many different ways to go with landscape architecture. It’s a very multidisciplinary field — engineering, architecture, horticulture, civil engineering, design-build. I love being in a field where you can see a project the whole way through from idea to end product.”
Since entering Temple’s Landscape Architecture program — “My mother and I came to Temple Ambler on many visits and every time I knew I was going to come here.” — Hanna has had numerous opportunities to put her passion for the field to good use.
From Temple’s award-winning 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show Exhibit, “WILDE! Cultivating wonder in everyday places,” for which she was a project manager, to creating a master plan for the historic Daylesford Abbey in Paoli — a project recently honored with a Merit Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects — Hanna has focused her energies on taking community projects to completion.
“I think a true benefit of a project like Daylesford Abbey was actually working with members of the Abbey community, learning what they wanted and helping them to achieve their goals. It really provided them with an introduction to the field of landscape architecture and they were very receptive to our ideas. In the end, they said we knew more about the Abbey than they did!” said Hanna, who is graduating with a 3.6 grade point average. “You don’t get community interaction and design-build experiences like this or like the Flower Show at other universities. We’re learning what to do and what not to do, we’re learning how to working in groups toward a common goal, on projects that have real world considerations before we ever leave the classroom.”
Hanna hasn’t contented herself with excelling just in the classroom either. During her freshman year, she joined the National Society of Leadership and Success, “and I realized I was missing out on an essential part of what I thought college should be — I wanted to do more.”
Fast forward four years and Hanna has added Owl Ambassador and memberships in the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association, Sigma Lambda Alpha Landscape Architecture Honor Society, Golden Key Honor Society and the student chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects to her résumé, capping it all off by tackling the top rolls in student leadership as vice president and then president of the Ambler Campus Student Government Association.
“In my junior year, I really didn’t know what student government was all about, but we learned as a group and we focused on what we could do to help the students of this campus. As a student that’s what I’d want for myself in our student leaders,” she said. “My goal has always been to get more people involved — if you don’t see an organization or event that interests you, make it happen. For someone who wasn’t from this area, getting involved was essential to my college experience — Ambler, and Temple as a whole, welcomed me like family.”