Significant accomplishments in teaching

Paul F. Anderson



Curriculum development

Computer integration. My impact on the curriculum has been greatest through the integration of computer applications with traditional mental and manual methods. This has occurred at both the undergraduate level and the graduate level. I began this integrated approach in what is now Landscape Inventory and Analysis (LA 361) when I began teaching in 1977. My educational philosophy is that of appropriate technology, not unthinking applications that cannot be justified based on the needs and resources of clients, staff, and support. This is the reason that, in 1985, I led a faculty effort to develop a strategic plan for integrating computer technology into the undergraduate curriculum. Work on current curriculum revisions has again put a focus on the integration goal. The goal has yet to be achieved throughout the curriculum, but large gains have occurred in the last two years.

To materially help this effort, I have provided to the Department through external funding over $45,000 in computer hardware and software. This includes not only the equipment used in my own activities but also four computers, three printers, digitizing tablet, mass storage devices, and other equipment used in the department office and graduate studio. In addition, I authored three major grants and several minor grants for computer facilities on behalf of the College of Design. Two of the major proposals were funded through the Central Pool of the Student Computer Fee to upgrade existing computer laboratories in the College. One grant was funded through Project Vincent to establish a workstation-based GIS teaching lab. These laboratory facilities, along with in-studio computing facilities, provide important support to my philosophy of computer integration. Projects in Landscape Inventory and Analysis (LA 361) best exemplify this integrated approach, such as the assessment of West Des Moines Glen Oaks Development landscape impacts by Wilma Proctor and Joe Stoberl.

Glen Oaks computer integration project with Photoshop and PowerPoint by Wilma Proctor and Joe Stoberl for LA 361 (1998)


Landscape planning sequence of courses. Since 1982, I have chaired several committees in the Department of Landscape Architecture that have significantly improved the courses in our landscape planning sequence. The first major changes were needed when ISU changed from the quarter system to the semester system. Other major changes were needed several years later, when the four-year BSLA program was changed to a five-year BLA program. According to the survey of alumni I conducted in 1992, our landscape planning courses are a strength of our BLA program (behind construction and native plant materials). These courses are not required by national accreditation standards, but are one of the aspects of our program that distinguishes it from other less diverse undergraduate programs in North America.

Landscape planning courses also help provide students with the background in environmental ethics, landscape ecology principles, natural resource conservation, cultural resource management, and land stewardship called for by the ASLA Code of Professional Ethics, ASLA Declaration on the Environment, Iowa native Aldo Leopold, and others. All of these considerations are integrated into the capstone course in the landscape planning sequence, Comprehensive Landscape Planning (LA 463). Students are challenged with regional studies that involve a diverse array of stakeholders with diverse opinions and needs. These studies also often involve landscapes with complex patterns and competing uses. One such project completed by a team of four students (two were ASLA award winners) was highly successful because the students first interviewed local residents and officials in Buchanan County, Kalona, and the Amanas to study cultural differences. After serious soul-searching as a group and individually examining their own social and ecological conscience, they developed their planning concepts and recommendations in a way that respected residents' privacy while, at the same time, allowed tourists to increase their understanding of cultural diversity through educational activities.

Buchanan County tourism master plan for LA 463 (1995)

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Graduate studies. From 1983 to 1992, I was graduate program coordinator for the Department of Landscape Architecture. During this period, I authored a successful proposal to establish a concurrent enrollment program to expand the pool of applicants to the graduate program. Essentially, this offers graduate students from non-LA backgrounds the opportunity to earn both the BLA and MLA degrees in an integrated fashion. This immediately increased our applicant pool because it anticipated the 1980s national trend of decreasing demand for MLA degrees among those who already held BSLA or BLA degrees. We find that the students accepted into the BLA/MLA concurrent enrollment program infuse a desirable work ethic and maturity among students in the department. They also enrich the experiences of fellow students by bringing diversity to our student population at both the undergraduate level and graduate level. The number of new students in the program usually numbered three or four, although the number grew to eight new students in 1998-1999.

While graduate program coordinator for the department I also authored a successful proposal to the Graduate Curriculum and Catalog Committee in 1988-1989 for an MLA/MCRP double degree program, in cooperation with the Department of Community and Regional Planning. The number of students in the MLA/MCRP program has been less than for the BLA/MLA concurrent enrollment program, averaging one new student every two to three years. However, the option has attracted students who would not otherwise apply. The quality of work done by these has equaled or exceeded the work of other graduate students. I have served as co-major professor for two MLA/MCRP students. Both students asked me to be their "primary" major professor. This role fits my interests very well, not only because I enjoy the integration of subject areas, but also because my expertise is in landscape planning, I bridge these two disciplines easily. David Wanberg was an MLA/MCRP graduate who was an ASLA student award winner and whose thesis research I supervised. His thesis research was exemplary in the way that he integrated interests in natural and cultural resource management with the funding and administration of Iowa's Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program. David's statewide survey and analysis of local REAP committees helped the Iowa Department of Natural Resources strengthen the role of local committees in the decision-making process.

MLA thesis on REAP local committees by David Wanberg (1992)

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Article in Journal of Soil and Water Conservation based on David Wanberg's thesis research (1994)


Writing across the curriculum. One of my strengths that I enjoy sharing with students is professional writing. I ask students to write in every course I teach, even in design studios and computer labs that typically do not have a writing component. In the courses that I have taught recently, I stress organization (make a good outline first), low "fog index" (two words are not always better than one), consistency (in tone, format, terms, parallel construction, and so on), and style (audience, tone, voice, tense). In each of these courses, I provide handouts, writing exercises, and professional examples to help sharpen students' professional writing skills. I also offer to serve as critical reviewer for draft manuscripts before the writing assignments are due. This gives students early feedback and a chance to improve their writing before they turn it in for a grade. In Landscape Inventory and Analysis (LA 361), student teams prepare reports following an outline that I provide. Often, this is their first assignment of this type in the LA curriculum. 

Critical Areas Study report for LA 361 (1999)

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In Computer Graphics for Landscape Architecture (LA 411/511), I ask students to write a brief report for each project. This often becomes the basis for project descriptions in their portfolios. In Comprehensive Landscape Planning (LA 463), students (usually working in teams) prepare a major report (of 25 to 150 pages) integrating many types of graphic illustrations. In Principles of Research for Landscape Architects (LA 541), students complete the semester by developing and writing a research proposal, that often becomes the basis for their thesis research or creative component project. In Research Tutorial (LA 580), Thesis Research (LA 699), and on POS committees, I provide comprehensive writing assistance to students in formulating and editing their thesis text. This is particularly important for Patrick Brown and other students in Research Tutorial (LA 580) as they prepare for their thesis by writing initial material on literature review and methods.

Writing sample from Research Tutorial report on habitat fragmentation by Patrick Brown for LA 580 (1998)

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Courses developed

Landscape Inventory and Analysis (LA 361). Because I have taught this course each term it was offered since 1977, I have provided continuous leadership in its development. Jim Sinatra initiated the course in 1971. By 1977, the inventory techniques and computer application projects, that Jim had initiated, were no longer included by other instructors. In 1977 and 1978, I completely revised the course by developing a sequence of projects starting with mental techniques, building to manual techniques, and completing the sequence with computer-assisted techniques. It was also at this time that I wrote Regional Landscape Analysis, a text for the course, that included mental, manual, and computer-assisted techniques. The integration of computer techniques with traditional forms of practice was rare at the time and was the only LA course to do this regularly until the early 1990s. For many years, this was known as "the computer course" in the Landscape Architecture curriculum. It has also been popular with non-majors (who number between 5 and 15 percent of the class) because the course integrates and applies knowledge from a variety of natural resource and cultural resource disciplines.

As computer technology and GIS techniques developed, I incorporated them into the course. I used a variety of platforms, computer labs, peripherals, and software, both sequentially and concurrently. Until 1995, I wrote software specifically for students in the course—Micro-MSDAMP, Geodesy, EdCell, and a host of utility packages (I still used Geodesy and EdCell last year, along with other packages). Commercial software suitable for teaching GIS concepts was not available until the mid-1990s. In 1991, I developed a course pack that included the syllabus (description, policies, schedule, and bibliography), 30 lecture outlines, 13 project statements, sample questions from past exams, and reference materials to support the project assignments.

Course pack materials for LA 361 (1998)

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Landscape Impacts (LA 362). This course was also initiated by Jim Sinatra following Earth Day and passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970. My contribution to the course was expanding beyond the studio project orientation to include principles of landscape ecology, provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (and similar state acts), and requirements and professional practice in preparing environmental impact statements. When ISU changed from the quarter system to the semester system, this course was combined with LA 361. I devote approximately 25 percent of LA 361 to environmental impact assessment, including a writing assignment to critically review an Environmental Impact Statement and a final project on a site and topic selected by each student.

Computer Graphics for Landscape Architecture (LA 411/511). I developed this course from a series of independent studies (LA 490s and 590s) I sponsored in the 1980s. The only course that had integrated computer applications was LA 361 (described above). As students became interested in other developing computer graphics applications (such as CAD and image editing), I was deluged with 490 and 590 requests. At first, I hesitated to propose a separate course for computer graphics because of my philosophy of integrating computer applications in the same courses as corresponding mental and manual techniques. In 1985, as I led a faculty strategic planning effort to integrate computer applications into a variety of courses, Rab Mukerjea convinced me that until computer applications were fully integrated into existing courses, a new course was a logical short-term solution. I proposed LA 411/511 as an elective course the following year. Al Rutledge was able to release me from teaching a required course in 1990 when I taught it as an experimental course. Since 1990, enrollment has steadily increased beyond the course limit. Also, for the past three years, LA 411/511 has been offered twice per year instead of once per year.

Students select the computer applications for each required project. However, most select CAD for the first two projects (typically 2D plan and 3D model). The third project (and fourth project for students in LA 511) typically involves a wide variety of computer graphics applications (such as 3-D rendering, image editing, electronic presentations, GIS, statistical charts and graphs, and World Wide Web pages for portfolios). I present the resultant graphics to the class and others in the form of on-screen slideshows and 35mm slides. Students are expected to prepare not only functional computer graphics (such as Computer-Aided Design technical drawings), but interpretive computer graphics (such as image editing collage drawings).

CAD and Photoshop graphics of Pipestone National Monument by Bill Campe for LA 411 (1998)

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Photoshop interpretive collage of Jens Jensen and The Clearing by Matt Gonshorowski for LA 411 (1997)


Graduate Seminar (LA 500/501). Al Rutledge and I instituted this course in 1981, when I began serving as Graduate Program Coordinator. Like similar courses in other departments, the purpose of the course was to provide orientation information on the department and university services. It was also intended as a colloquium for faculty and students to present their current work for comments and review. In 1992, the colloquium functions became part of LA 582 and the information on services and graduate program procedures was incorporated into LA 541.

Principles of Research for Landscape Architects (LA 541). I began teaching this course in 1992, team teaching with Bob Harvey. The first year, my responsibilities were the last half of the course, dealing specifically with statistical, survey, and GIS methods. I also supervised students' final projects: a research proposal. For many students, this proposal was the basis of their thesis research or creative component project. The new component I introduced into the course was GIS methods. I incorporated readings in geography, Boolean logic, spatial statistics, geostatistics, logit modeling, descriptive modeling, and predictive modeling. In addition, I have increased the students' exposure to survey research techniques through the results of my own national surveys and the work of Terry Besser (Sociology) in the Iowa Rural Development Initiative.

Since 1992, I have had sole responsibility for teaching LA 541. I often invite guests to class who describe their experiences as a researcher, specific research methods they use, and other courses that students could take to be "producers" of research. This is necessary because my emphasis in the course is helping students (including a few undergraduates) become informed "consumers" of research. In 1993, I developed a course pack that includes the syllabus (description, policies, schedule, and bibliography), handout on graduate student survival skills, department and Graduate College forms, project statement for each assignment, material on ethical standards and norms of good practice, writing aids, 11 student and professional research proposals (as examples), selected journal readings, and additional materials to support the project assignments.

Course pack materials for LA 541 (1998)

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Research Tutorial (LA 580). Al Rutledge and I instituted this course in 1981, when I began serving as Graduate Program Coordinator. The purpose of the course is to better prepare students for their thesis research or creative component project. The course is individualized for each student by working with his or her major professor. Students begin by revising the proposal they began in LA 541, then presenting it to their POS committee for review and comment. Two additional goals of the course are to (a) develop a draft of at least part of the literature review chapter needed for their thesis or creative component report and (b) test methods that could be used in their thesis research or creative component report. David 's LA 580 report exemplifies the course goals in his study of Five-Year County Plans for the Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Act.

Research Tutorial report on county REAP plans by David Wanberg for LA 580 (1990)

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GIS Seminar (Bot 684/LA 490/LA 590). This course was offered twice (1990, 1991) as a multi-disciplinary overview of GIS applications. It was organized by Arnold van der Valk and Paul Anderson on behalf of the ISU GIS committee. The 1990 offering involved presentations by a series of on-campus speakers and off-campus speakers (both in-state and out-of state). Financial support from the College of Design was used to bring in several nationally known speakers on GIS (including Dana Tomlin of Ohio State University, later Yale and Harvard). Attendance at the first class meeting far exceeded the capacity of the seminar room (we expected a maximum 20 students). Attendance at the remaining seminars averaged 40 students and 10 faculty members.

When the seminar course was offered again in 1991, there were approximately 90 students enrolled. Without a budget to bring in out-of-state speakers, all speakers were on-campus or in-state. In addition to attending the seminar presentations, students worked on a project with a selected faculty member. I worked with eight students on their GIS projects. Projects included database development, modeling, software reviews, literature reviews, or a combination of these activities. For example, Diane Whited's GIS seminar study applied water quality models to the watershed that contained her parents' farm in Cherokee County. Diane went on to win the ASLA Certificate of Honor, then to a graduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where she is currently employed as a research associate in landscape ecology and wetlands research.

GIS Seminar report on AGNPS modeling by Diane Whited for LA 490 (1993)

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Research article on wetland biodiversity by Diane Whited and Sue Galatowitsch (1998)


Advanced GIS landscape modeling (LA 590K).  I proposed this course in 1985 when I led a faculty strategic planning effort to integrate computer applications into appropriate courses throughout our curriculum.  However, I was not able to start teaching the course until Fall 1999 because faculty asked me to teach Computer Graphics in LA (LA 411/511) until 1989 or 1990 when the integration of CAD, image editing, and other computer graphics into other courses was planned to be completed.  Because that process was slower that expected, I taught LA 411/511 until Spring 1999.

The purpose of LA 590K is to give landscape architecture students additional experience in GIS tools after they complete Landscape Inventory and Analysis (LA 361). The course also serves students across the university who need to apply GIS modeling tools to issues in resource planning and management for their courses, research, or outreach.  Emphasis in the course is on use of descriptive and predictive GIS modeling techniques, including logit modeling (logistic regression), spatial statistics, geo-statistics, environmental diversity indices, Boolean logic, and map algebra.  In an effort to use cutting edge modeling tools, we were able to arrange for our class to be a Beta test site for ESRI's new ModelBuilder extension to ArcView GIS software.  The course also is intended to serve as an elective for students in the proposed graduate minor in GIS.  For example, two students (Chuck Benton and Steve Parrish, graduate students in Anthropology), are learning and applying logit modeling techniques I used in archaeological site modeling research for the Raccoon River Greenbelt (Dallas County Conservation Board, 1994-1996) and Camp Dodge (Iowa National Guard, 1997-1999). Their modeling work is being conducted in cooperation with the Iowa Archaeologist's Office,  Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, and Iowa 4-H Camping Center. This is another example of my emphasis on integration of teaching, research, and outreach.

Archaeological site modeling by Steve Parrish for LA 590K and LA 511 (1998)

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Academic and career advising

Undergraduate students. Each year, I advise from 8 to 27 undergraduate students in landscape architecture (average 12, this year 10). I particularly enjoy the responsibility of advising students, especially on a one-to-one basis. My service on university curriculum committees has given me valuable background when advising students on institutional procedures. My knowledge and experience with public, private, and academic practice provides a basis for career advising.

To address several advising issues raised by the national accreditation team visit in 1997, I was asked to chair a new department advising committee. Nine students volunteered to participate along with Katherine Lyons, the department's professional pre-LA advisor. Our initial project was a survey of students' academic advising needs. The major need identified in the survey was more information about department curriculum policies and planning for the future. Based on survey results and an initiative at the college level, Katherine and I wrote an Undergraduate Academic Advising Handbook. The handbook contains the following sections:

  1. Purpose
  2. Advising strategies (other sources of help)
  3. Advising responsibilities (students, faculty, professional advisor)
  4. Academic procedures and forms (calendar, courses, scholarships, graduation)
  5. Curriculum policies (electives, requirements, substitution, honors)
  6. Other LA department policies (studios, computers, intellectual property, outreach)
  7. Planning for the future (minors, internships, research assistantships, study abroad, job search, career paths, professional licensing, graduate studies)
  8. Resources and references (SSLA, faculty and staff)
  9. Appendices (department policies, department history)

I wrote sections 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Katherine wrote sections 4, 8, and 9. Students on the committee and all faculty reviewed the document and it is currently being distributed in printed form and electronic form. Because the department has not had a handbook in the past, early reactions from students have been quite positive. The Undergraduate Academic Advising Handbook best exemplifies my concern and commitment to undergraduate academic advising.

LA Undergraduate Academic Advising Handbook (1998)

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Graduate students. Each year, I advise from 1 to 6 graduate students in landscape architecture (average 3, this year 5). The small size and nature of our graduate program (advanced study, not first professional degree) makes my work with graduate students quite different from my activities with undergraduate students. Faculty members who work with graduate students typically advise two at a time. I am currently advising five and the number (and moving average) has been steadily increasing since 1982.

My work with graduate students has been aided tremendously by the knowledge I gained through eight years on the Graduate College Curriculum and Catalog Committee (two years as chair), Graduate Cabinet, Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee, LA graduate program coordinator, college graduate program committee, and college PhD program study committee. Another asset in advising graduate students is my research background and responsibilities, something that sets me apart from the typical LA faculty member. To help graduate students adjust to the culture of graduate studies in the LA department, I prepared a handout on LA Graduate Student Survival Skills.

This handout is included in my LA 541 course pack. It is also included with my Web pages for the courses I teach. This handout and the discussion it generates are examples of practical information that needs to accompany and balance theoretical information presented in the course. This combination of practical and theoretical information helps ensure that graduate students achieve academic success at ISU.

Graduate student thesis supervision

Since 1982, I have served on 16 POS committees as chair and 45 POS committees as member. Of the 45 POS committees on which I served as a member, I was major representative on 14, minor representative (for students in the College of Design) on 16, and minor representative (for students in other colleges) on 15.

Because of my experience with graduate curriculum and my expertise in GIS, I get more requests for POS committee participation than time allows. One strategy I use to focus my available time where the need is greatest is to work with only those students who want to study GIS applications. In this way, I am able to integrate graduate student research with my own research and outreach. This allows me more time to mentor graduate students and remain highly involved in their research. One example is Michael Miller's research in GIS descriptive modeling of historic vegetation types mapped in Fayette County by Government Land Office surveyors in 1832-1859. Michael's award-winning work (ASLA Certificate of Merit) addressed research hypotheses about the data that we were preparing at the time under contract to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He was able to provide analyses and insight as a form of metadata that were not required by my contract with IDNR. His research helped increase the value of our work for IDNR and other researchers who use our GIS digital data. In turn, the digital data was an unusually rich resource that he could draw on for his thesis research because of his involvement in preparing the database. In addition, Michael's research and his recommendations for additional research have provided thesis research topics for three other graduate students (Jane Chen, Said Musli, and Patrick Brown).

MLA Thesis on GLO historic vegetation by Michael Miller (1995)

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Teaching award

In 1986, I received the ISU Amoco Outstanding Teacher Award (one of four awarded across the university). It was awarded in recognition of "demonstrated excellence in teaching, with specific emphases on the candidate's communication skills, substantive knowledge, enthusiasm, self confidence, and an exemplary record in student advisement and counseling." This award is particularly meaningful to me because successful teaching is central to my philosophy of integrating teaching, research, and outreach.


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Last update: 20 September 99