Elizabeth Krohn was never meant for an indoor profession. The Class of 2020 graduate, who is completing her Master of Landscape Architecture degree, was meant for the outdoors, positively impacting environments and uplifting underserved communities.
“I grew up in seven different states; I got to experience a lot of different environments. I remember even as a kid seeing those differences and wanting to learn as much as I could about them,” said Krohn, who came to Temple with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and environmental science in addition to a wealth of experience in public service. "I also have memories of hiking different areas with my dad and gardening with my mom and they were so supportive of my time outside and getting dirty or whatever I got into; I’m so grateful for that. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I was passionate about nature and environmental science.”
Krohn said she also found an equal passion for service. While she was completing her undergraduate programs at St. Joseph’s University, she participated in the Appalachian Experience, a program where groups of 20 or more students work together in different areas of the Appalachians on a variety of projects while spending time and connecting with the local community.
“I ended up going twice. My first year focused on construction projects while in the second year, I was involved in renovating a thrift shop,” she said. “Both experiences were just so beautiful because I was able to encounter so many individuals that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I was able to learn so much from them but also from the fellow students who were with me on the trip; it was one of those life experiences that just felt so real to me. From there, service became an essential part of my life and I continue to pursue that passion today.”
After finishing her undergraduate degrees, Krohn applied to AmeriCorps, which had partnered with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest “primarily because I was certain I loved nature, I loved science, I loved educating and I loved service so it made sense to me.”
“I applied and I asked specifically for a STEM teaching position in Alaska. I got the results back that I was accepted to the program — ‘Congratulations! You’re going to Ashland, Montana, and you’re going to teach math in a middle school,’” she laughed. “I was like, ‘that’s not what I asked for,’ but I take a lot of opportunities in my life as ‘this is what has been handed to me, let’s make the best of it and see what I can learn from it.’”
The middle school Krohn was placed with was located on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, “and the whole time I was there, I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”
“It was an amazing experience being totally welcomed and immersed in the culture. I learned so much from teaching the students and I learned so much from my fellow volunteers,” she said. “It really ended up being one of the most enriching experiences of my life.”
Her time with the Appalachian Experience and AmeriCorps is what ultimately led her to the field of landscape architecture, Krohn said.
“I realized that I wanted to do something that impacted the human spirit and I found that I was able to do that most strongly whenever I participated in service. It was while I was in Montana teaching the students and getting to know the community that I really became aware of the privileges that I’ve been afforded in my life,” she said. “To me, I believe that comes with responsibilities for leadership for just change; I knew I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know how. I knew I wanted to incorporate my loves of science and nature and art and educating but I didn’t know where to go next.”
After Montana, Krohn moved to New Jersey and taught outdoor education classes, which included science education and recreational activities like high ropes courses, archery and canoeing “and all of these things I never imagined that I would be doing, but were really incredible.”
“It was around that time that I started learning about the positive benefits communities can derive from open spaces in terms of physical and mental health and how profound that can be. I was totally fascinated by this and as I continued to read about it, I found that landscape architects are some of the professionals that can make that happen,” she said. “It seemed like all of my interests were rolled into one profession that I didn’t even know existed.”
Temple’s Master of Landscape Architecture program, offered by the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, is unique from other programs because of its ecological restoration focus, something I didn’t find anywhere else,” Krohn said.
“I have found that throughout the program, I’ve been able to use my science background and expand that knowledge in so many ways through the different field trips and ecosystem classes I took,” she said.
For my capstone project this year, Krohn partnered with Esperanza Health Center, which has three locations in Philadelphia. Their mission is to provide holistic healthcare to underserved Latino communities in the city, according to Krohn. Esperanza’s goal, she said, is to create a “health campus,” transforming vacant lots “into holistic open spaces that benefit not just the visitors at Esperanza but the neighborhood as a whole.”
“This project aligned so strongly with everything I’ve wanted to do through this program and as a landscape architect, which is primarily to serve underserved communities. It’s been an incredible experience, though quite challenging,” she said. “I learned to devise solutions that could potentially help this neighborhood. Esperanza has been an amazing stakeholder — I’ve been able to talk to them frequently about what they’d like to see in their health campus and I was able to talk to other residents as well. I couldn’t have asked for a better real-world experience for my final project at Temple.”
Krohn’s dedication to her craft has certainly not gone unnoticed. She has been nominated for a prestigious Olmsted Scholarship, offered through the Landscape Architecture Foundation.
“Each year landscape architecture programs around the nation nominate one graduating student that they believe has the most potential to enact positive change in the field of landscape architecture in the future. My department nominated me, for which I am completely honored,” she said. “If I ended up receiving the award it would mean so much to be me because I’d be able to continue working with Esperanza. I could design other spaces in greater detail and get more people involved with community outreach in order to find out what it is that Kensington needs and what residents are looking for. It would probably be possible to involve other students and other universities in the outreach and make a real difference in that community.”
As she prepares to graduate, Krohn said Temple has readily prepared her for what comes next.
“As I’ve gone through the program, I’ve become more interested in spaces for children. Providing children connections with nature is so important because it has proven to have long-lasting benefits through the rest of their lives,” she said. “In the future, I’d love to work for a firm that has a focus on sustainability, which Temple has definitely prepared me for, but also has a focus on positively impacting communities, particularly children. I recognize the benefits that spending time in nature during my childhood has had on my life and I would love to provide children with similar opportunities. It can just do so much for them in terms of developing life skills like self-confidence and curiosity and love of nature. I’m super motivated — I’m ready to get to work!”
Krohn said it is essential for landscape architects to “dream of the big possibilities and really strive for that.”
“There are real-world constraints and sometimes, yes, the big dream isn’t going to be possible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to achieve as much as you can for the communities you serve,” she said.
Her time at Temple “has truly pushed and challenged me toward this drive for excellence; it’s definitely made me stronger in the end,” she said.
“Perseverance is life, right? Perseverance is following your dream despite challenges along the way and people in the background telling you no,” she said. “Sometimes the loudest voice is your own telling you no. But keep going. Don’t give up. Follow your dream. It’s worth it.”