Assessment Plan | LAEP


To assure ongoing excellence in achieving learning outcomes, an assessment process is undertaken by the LAEP Department. The primary assessment means used is the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Boards 6-year review process. The Assessment Plans incorporated in this process are unique to their respective degrees, as are the mapping of the intersection of the learning objectives with specific courses in the program. 

LAAB Professional Accreditation Standards

As a program with nationally accredited BLA and MLA degrees, LAEP has each degree's performance systematically reviewed by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB). The program was provisionally accredited in 1966, and fully accredited in 1968. The BLA has been continuously accredited since that time. Since becoming the 19th accredited program in North America, LAEP has had both the undergraduate and graduate degrees accredited. The degrees are reviewed every 6 years, and were last assessed in the spring of 2017. LAAB conducts on-campus accreditation reviews that focus upon the following 9 standards of assessment:

  1. Program mission and objectives
  2. Governance/administration
  3. Professional curriculum
  4. Faculty
  5. Students
  6. Alumni
  7. Practitioners
  8. Relation to the university and the community
  9. Facilities and equipment

LAAB assessments constitute the most rigorous, thorough, and universally accepted measures of performance in our discipline. The 2017 review team’s report constituted 17 pages of discussions of the above assessment areas. Their report was, in part, a summary finding from their review of LAEP’s self-report, an all-encompassing, 300+ page document. While the entirety of the self-report and review are forms of assessment, standards 3 and 7 are particularly central to USU’s goals for program assessment. Both degrees were given a full 6-year reaccreditation. 

Advancement Board Review

In 2001, LAEP established an independent panel of practitioners, academics and alumni to partner in assuring excellence in the program’s operations. In 2008, over three-dozen members constituted the LAEP Advancement Board. In addition to committee functions, the Board holds two annual all-day meetings on campus. During those events members of the Advancement Board assess the program via the following activities:

  • Interviews with students from each class level, including graduate students
  • General review of students on their readiness to enter practice
  • Review of curricula for applicability to current standards and emphases in professional practice

During the course of the year members of the Advancement Board also assess the program via the following activities:

  • Reporting by Advancement Board members on recently graduated students and their performance in professional practice
  • Interviews for job positions
  • Participation in ASLA national student honor/merit award juries

Public Juries

Design education places a high priority on public critiques of design and planning solutions. LAEP courses annually integrate juried student presentations in studio classes as a means to utilize this most enduring of design assessment devices. Juries routinely include adjunct faculty, visiting scholars, off-campus professionals, alumni, and community stakeholders, as well as department faculty. Juries emphasize core areas of skill development, as well as the student’s command of specific course learning objectives. Juried presentations typically integrate a graded component, and may include written evaluations.

Portfolio Review

Students seeking entry to the BLA program undertake a matriculation process at the end of the sophomore year that includes the preparation and review of a personal design portfolio. The document provides the student an opportunity to highlight the creative competencies acquired during their freshman and sophomore years. It provides LAEP an opportunity to assess the capstone work of students who have completed the first half of the BLA. The entire LAEP faculty reviews the portfolios, evaluating each for demonstration of the following qualities:

  • Creative potential
  • Problem solving skills
  • Graphic fluency
  • Aptitude for visual thinking and design

Portfolio Guidelines (see at Assessment) for submission of the portfolio are provided for students and are reviewed by the LAEP Faculty. The guidelines were last updated in 2014.

Internal Curriculum Review

An internal review of courses and a sampling of their student projects that were compared to the learning objectives was conducted in 2006. Findings from the review were integrated into the BLA curriculum. The next internal curriculum review occured in spring of 2011, following the LAAB review team report, and again in 2016/2017. Informal internal curriculum review occurs annually through discussions at the Fall and Spring LAEP annual retreats.


During 2009, LAEP explored means for implementing a rubric as a core component of the department’s Assessment Plan. Following study of design and non-design discipline rubrics, a pilot device was created. The 2009/2010 academic year was the first the rubric was implemented. Study of assessment device implementation across the 4-year BLA revealed a dearth of examination at the juncture between the 3rd and 4th years. It was determined that a rubric would be effective in assessing program success at that point. LAEP 3120 was identified as the optimal implementation point for this assessment. Specifically, the capstone design project for the course incorporates the broadest array of competency areas and thus is the preferred product through which to apply the rubric. It was also determined that the rubric would be ideal for assessing the specific competency areas defined in the BLA Learning Objectives. Hence the rubric (see at Assessment) is derived from those nine objectives, and utilizes four competency assessment levels. The rubric is annually administered by three LAEP Faculty members, excluding the course instructor. A randomly selected sampling of fifteen projects is assessed using the rubric.

Exit Assessments

Interviews were included beginning in the 2006 review of program assessment. In 2008/2009 a 2-part exit interview began involving a conversational interview, and a 4-page written survey (see at Assessment). The latter is based upon the instruments used by a host of departments at USU and elsewhere. It integrates assessment objectives previously outlined by the department. Graduating BLA and MLA students were contacted before departing USU to arrange interviews. A one-on-one interview with the Department Head includes open-ended discussion regarding the student’s experience in the program. Specifically, the following questions are posed each April:

  • How well do you believe the department achieved its mission statement?
  • How well did each departmental course meet its stated objectives?
  • What courses failed to meet their objectives? And why?
  • Was the sequencing of courses appropriate? If not, why?
  • What suggestions would you make to improve the curriculum?
  • Do you have any general comments or observations?

LAEP Mission Statement

Since 1939 the LAEP Department has established a rich tradition of service to the Inter- Mountain West through professional education, expansion of knowledge through research and its dissemination, and service to our constituents. Our focus is on the practical and theoretical dimensions of sustainable natural and cultural systems, social and behavioral concerns, aesthetic sensitivities and engineering implementation. Students and faculty are engaged in the creative exploration, identification, analysis and appropriate resolution of design, planning and management issues. Current and future challenges include diminishing resources, expanding growth, diversification of population, increasing globalization and changing technologies. We will accomplish this mission in a collegial, student supportive environment of increasing diversity in collaboration with allied disciplines.


  • Create a process-oriented, integrated curriculum that represents the diversity of our faculty.
  • Develop relationship with cross-disciplinary faculty, including those in the Caine School of the Arts.
  • Offer a balanced curriculum in design, technical and environmental subjects.
  • Emphasize quality education in the traditional skills of the landscape architecture profession.


  • Establish a vital Rural Intermountain Planning Program.
  • Foster life-long learning.

Research and Creative Activity

  • Improve quality, production and dissemination of research.
  • Increase the number of faculty.
  • Increase the number of graduate students.


  • Continue to fund a dynamic, successful development program that will raise donations for endowed chairs, scholarships and fellowships, a guest lecture series and a study abroad program for faculty and students.


  • To graduate critical thinkers and creative problem solvers equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to practice landscape architecture.
  • To develop within students an understanding of, and land ethic sensitive to, the specific issues of the Intermountain West, while establishing the broader ability to practice as leaders in a complex global society.
  • Attract and retain students with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and professional goals.

MLA Graduate Program Mission Statement

The mission of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning’s Master of Landscape Architecture graduate program is to:

  1. Prepare future professionals to address the dynamic issues and scales of landscapes across the Intermountain West and around the world.
  2. Engage in creative intellectual work that contributes to the theory and practice of landscape architecture.

Doctoral Program Mission Statement

The mission of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning’s Doctor of Landscape Architecture graduate program is to:

  1. Prepare leaders and future faculty in landscape architecture
  2. Engage in creative intellectual work that contributes to the theory and practice of landscape architecture.

Outcomes Data

Context Statement

Assessment procedures for LAEP are defined by the nationally recognized standards set by our professional organizations. As a nationally accredited professional program, and one based upon highly visual skills, the program is governed by reviews (both of the Program and of its students) that continually assess performance. Those reviews are established by the governing body, the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB), and by studio-based pedagogical traditions.

LAAB Professional Accreditation Standards

In 2017, LAEP was visited by an LAAB review team. The program’s full accreditation was renewed for the maximum period (6yrs). The program will next be accessed for accreditation again in spring of 2023. The 2017 review team’s report cited the following assessments:

BLA Program

Assessment Expectations  
Program Mission and Objectives Met with Recommendations  
Governance/Administration Met  
Professional Curriculum Met  
Faculty Met  
Students Met  
Alumni Met  
Practitioners Met  
Relation to the University and the Community Met  
Facilities and Equipment Met  


MLA Program
Assessment Expectations  
Program Mission and Objectives Met with Recommendations  
Governance/Administration Met  
Professional Curriculum Met with Recommendations  
Faculty Met  
Students Met  
Alumni Met  
Practitioners Met  
Relation to the University and the Community Met  
Facilities and Equipment Met  

Advancement Board Review

As an independent body, the Advancement Board operates outside the oversight of the Program. As such, the Board has not historically kept a consistent record of findings and recommendations. Instead, the Board has reported at the annual meeting on their conclusions. The Program has been responsive to those recommendations in making appropriate changes. An important change in this process is reporting on Board recommendations. The Board’s turnover in members, coupled with the rapid change in LAEP’s administration, means that these processes evolve over time.

Public Juries

Public juries of student work provide an ongoing assessment point for LAEP. However, data from those juries is not systematically collected. Instead, guest critics share input to the instructor for the course, and to the student for their individual work. This project-by-project communication loop serves a distinct function, but does not tend to produce recorded outcomes data.

Portfolio Review

Since 2006, the average number of sophomores seeking to matriculate into the upper division of the BLA has been approximately 33. Of those applicants, each of whom submits a person portfolio, 27 on average have been accepted. In contrast, some 45, on average, begin the sophomore year in pursuit of the BLA. Consequently, the portfolio review remains a key assessment tool for annually examining the quality of work being produced by students in the lower division of the Program. Given the consistent nature of the portfolio requirements, each year’s students are responding to the same expectations, and are vying for the same number of slots against a similar number of classmates.

Internal Curriculum Review

Between 2011 and 2016, an extensive self-assessment process occurred, as LAEP outlined a set of curriculum changes in faculty expertise and shifts in workplace needs. The subsequent course-by-course competency review utilizes the Learning Objectives matrix reported in this Assessment.

Updating Outcomes


In 2009, LAEP developed a rubric to aid in assessing learning outcomes during the junior year of the BLA. The first data to be collected from the rubric is made available during the 2009/2010 academic year, and continues to be gathered each spring.

Exit Assessments

In 2009, LAEP began conducting exit surveys and exit interviews for the first time. Data from those surveys is compiled and analyzed annually.

Data-Based Decisions

LAAB Professional Accreditation Standards

Both of the recommendations from the 2005 LAAB review team’s report were pursued by the Faculty the year following the team’s visit. The mission was rewritten (see Mission Statement) and the curriculum was thoroughly evaluated, resulting an all-inclusive course competencies matrix (see Learning Objectives).

Advisory Board Review

Due to the lack of consistent reporting of recommendations, no actions were taken as a result of the Board’s review in2008. Previous years have been reported as showing a more consistent series of reports and responses. In spite of this lack of data, the 2008 Board was generally very positive, reporting a strong show of enthusiasm from the students the Board interviewed. Notable areas of concern included quality of studio environments and the condition of equipment (e.g., drafting tables). The department has been actively pursuing remodel of the Graduate Studio in response, and will have that remodel completed by the convening of the fall 2009 Board meeting.

Public Juries

Public juries serve a unique, continuous form of assessment. Corrective action within the courses during which juries occur emphasize assistance to the student (e.g., graphic presentation methods), and, to a lesser extent, the instructor (e.g., framing of the project). Consequently both manifold decisions resulting from both types of assessment are not findings readily reported here.

Portfolio Review

Patterns across the years regarding quality of work seen in the portfolios cannot be examined. LAEP has maintained a policy of returning students’ portfolios to them. That policy has been changed for 2010. Although this change will, over time, mean that portfolios can be examined, it should be noted that the validity of such comparisons will be suspect; it is Program’s intent that past portfolios of the highest quality will be shared with upcoming sophomores to form a pattern of continuous improvement in quality, creativity and content.

Internal Curriculum Review

In 2006, following an extensive self-assessment process, LAEP outlined a set of curriculum changes. In response to weaknesses identified in that process, the LAEP Faculty subsequently identified each course’s capacity to effect improvements for those weaknesses. Decisions for course-specific change to the curriculum included:LAEP 1350 Introduction to Landscape Architecture

  • Implement a departmental standard of citation using the Chicago Manual with author - date.

LAEP 1200 Graphics

  • Add an introduction to computer-generated graphics, focusing on what is the appropriate application for what program. Introduce a working knowledge of scanning, Photoshop, importance of file size, and Powerpoint. No development of 3-dimensional models.

LAEP 1350 Theory of Design

  • Work on reducing the number graded projects.

LAEP 2300 & 6230 History of Landscape Architecture

  • Course load is a bit heavy. Cut the term paper and have the writing requirement fulfilled in other LAEP courses.

LAEP 2600 Construction I

  • Must add current stormwater management issues and bio-engineering options.

LAEP 2650 Architecture and the Built Environment

  • Add the development of a working knowledge of Photoshop. Focus on LEED certification and other sustainability issues.

LAEP 2700 Site Analysis

  • Reduce to 3 credits from 5 to reduce overall credit load in the curriculum. Maintain focus of 1st 5 weeks on human behavior and the last 10 weeks on the development of site inventory and analysis skills. Add a requirement for literature review in journal literature. Also, have an introduction to the use of GIS, and use Illustrator to produce boards.

LAEP 2720 Site Planning

  • Institute a department-wide jury to review products.

LAEP 3120 & 6320 Residential Design

  • Focus on the use of GIS for problem solving.

LAEP 3500 & 6350 Planting Design

  • No changes recommended.

LAEP 3610 Construction II

  • Remove vertical and horizontal road alignments from the course in 2008 and move to Construction I.
  • Remove the bridge assignment that is duplicative of the assignment in Architecture and the Built Environment.

LAEP 3700 City and Regional Planning

  • Integrate the lectures of this course into 3120 Residential Design.
  • LAEP 4100 & 6140 Urban Design

LAEP 4100 & 6140 Urban Design

  • Lecture on the design of posters.
  • Extend the scale of the problem to site details.

LAEP 4110 Construction Document Prep

  • Require the use of CAD.
  • Develop CAD standards.

LAEP 4120/4130 Emerging Areas

  • These are faculty-driven projects often related to current faculty research projects or projects of interest. These should change each year with several options for students.

LAEP 4920 Professional Practice

  • This course should be given earlier in the curriculum. The course should be split and be offered as one credit in the Junior year and one credit in the Senior year. Since 2006, the above curriculum changes have been implemented with the following exceptions:

  • LAEP 2650 was removed from the curriculum, negating needs for the proposed changes. It was also determined that the following course-independent changes be implemented:

    • Implement a departmental standard of citation using the Chicago Manual guidelines.
    • Integrate computer generate graphics and GIS mapping use throughout the curriculum.
    • Add a working knowledge of LEED certification, stormwater BMP’s and on-site stormwater management to the curriculum.
    • Emphasize presentation skills and critiques throughout the program.Make digital copies of assignments (selected) a requirement (either digital file or digital photo).

Since 2006, the above curriculum changes have been implemented with the following exceptions:

  • LEED certification has not been integrated
  • Presentation skills have received limited emphasis


Rapid turnover in administrators in LAEP has meant that continuous monitoring of data-based decisions has not occurred. Consequently, 2009/2010 will be the first year that the department returns to the process since 2006. Discussions have been started for a curriculum review to occur during this academic year. These decisions will be based upon disciplinary emphases that the faculty determines to be the direction for the program.


Spring of 2010 will see the first use of the newly created rubric. As an assessment of the capstone work of juniors in the BLA the rubric’s data will aid in decisions relating to the curriculum’s success in achieving the targeted learning objectives at that junction in the degree.

Exit Assessments

The first collection of exit survey and exit interviews occurred in 2009. Those data will be analyzed and response decisions made during the 2009/2010 academic year.

LAAB Accreditation of BLA and MLA

First accredited in 1966 (BLA), LAEP was the 19th landscape architecture program accredited in the U.S. In 1987 the MLA 1st Professional Degree was also accredited. Landscape architecture programs across North America are accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB). Programs are reviewed every 6 years by visiting teams that include an academic, a professional, and an academic administrator. The 4-day on campus reviews consider all facets of undergraduate and graduate programs (see Standards). The MLA and BLA at Utah State University are both fully accredited programs, having been most recently reviewed in Spring 2017, with each being granted 6 additional years of re-accreditation (Next review: Spr. 2023). Findings, in the form of Recommendations and Suggestions, are provided for each program by the LAAB. Those documents for the 2017 review are available here:

Public Information Policy

The Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) requires accredited programs to provide reliable information to the public on accreditation status and performance. This information is intended to help potential students make informed application decisions.


The Utah State University (USU) Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA; 4-year) and first-professional Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA; 3-year) programs are fully accredited by LAAB. Both programs were fully re-accredited in 2017, and will next be reviewed in 2023.

Reports for the 2017 reviews
Find more information on LAAB

Student Achievement

Degrees completed by LAEP students in recent years are as follows:

Cost of Attendance

Following are the estimated 2014-15 costs of full-time enrollment for Utah State University in the listed degrees.

2014/2015 Utah State University Student Costs
USU students may gain Resident status after one full year of living in Utah or attending a Utah university. Residency requirements are listed on the USU Admissions office webpage.

The following information is summarized and provided for reference from the Office of the Registrar

The Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning (LAEP) program at USU is committed to providing an excellent professional education at an exceptional value. We conduct routine studies of peer programs’ tuition costs. Based upon our 2009 and 2013 surveys, USU’s tuition costs have risen at the same percentage of the national average.

Graduate Facts