— By Matthew Medeiros
This summer, Reif Larsen ’18 (landscape architecture) interned in the Burlington, VT offices of SE Group, a landscape architecture and planning firm that works on a range of projects, specializing in recreation planning and design for communities and mountain resorts.
Over the summer, he worked on places ranging from a new base lodge at Mount Snow in Dover, VT, a park in South Burlington, VT, and a bed and breakfast in Burlington, VT. Larsen’s responsibilities involved three main areas: producing things like drawings, graphics, and implementing changes on those images; designing concepts for a project and discussing those with SE’s project manager and the client; and work in the field visiting a project site, photographing it, and measuring the landscape.
“The work that we do has such a profound impact on the places we live in and how we live our lives.”
“SE Group has really made mentoring a focus for the internship, and the projects they have me work on are curated to provide an educational experience. There’s sort of an ‘open door’ policy here and I walk into people’s offices a lot to ask them about the work they’re doing or have an extended conversation about project workflow, client relations, or other aspects of a project,” explains Larsen.
Networking was the key ingredient in Larsen finding the internship. He was visiting Burlington during fall 2016 and stopped by SE Group’s offices to find out more about the firm.
“I met one of their principals and we got talking. I asked if they were looking for interns, and he said most likely because they had just gotten a lot of new project work. So I contacted him again in April and ended up getting the position,” Larsen says.
He feels his classes in the UMass College of Social and Behavioral Sciences prepared him for success collaborating across the practices of planning and landscape architecture at an interdisciplinary firm like SE Group. Larsen is also putting his experience as a researcher into practice at SE group, and is working on a project examining the impacts of self-driving and shared cars on transportation routes in the landscape. Reif was also the recipient of the Dean’s Opportunity Award, which helped fund the internship.
“I definitely want to give a shout out to Professor Mark Lindhult for inspiring me to think about technology as it relates to landscape architecture. I’m discovering that it’s imperative for the future of the industry. Managers know that, and they’re looking to new hires to provide those skill sets for their companies,” he adds.
Larsen’s best advice for fellow students wanting an internship is to get started early, and network as much as possible.
“Talk to your professors. Sign up for professional society memberships (BSLA, ASLA) and attend events. Put yourself out there and ask a lot of questions, and apply apply apply to everything. I got rejected a lot, and got a lot of tough criticism on my portfolio… and I’m glad I got that out of the way in college,” he says.
“Now I’m feeling pretty confident about networking and interviews, and I’m 100% ready to hit the ground running in the professional world,” Larsen adds.
He also encourages students who are undecided on their major to check out UMass Amherst’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP).
“LARP feels like its own little world on campus, and few students know about us. Most people don’t seem to know that landscape architects and planners are making major decisions about the environment they live and work in. But the work that we do has such a profound impact on the places we live in and how we live our lives,” he explains.
If you’re interested majoring in landscape architecture or learning about internship possibilities, please visit the SBS Advising Resource Center for resources, tips, and to make an appointment with an advisor.