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Landscape architecture grad found her future at ASU

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Early in her college experience, Kaylee Antill was advised that it would be difficult to undertake a time-consuming major like landscape architecture, especially as a student in Barrett, The Honors College, and also achieve success in intercollegiate athletics. Instead of backing down, Antill doubled down, demonstrating excellence both in her academic work and on the Sun Devil track and field team.

Originally from Zanesville, Ohio, Antill started at ASU as a biomedical engineering major but switched when she found landscape architecture. This May, she graduates with a Bachelor of Science in landscape architecture (BSLA). She also received three Pac-12 all-academic honors; earned a varsity letter and competed in the discus throw, shot put and weight throw for ASU; was an NCAA National qualifier in the hammer throw and stood as an All-American in that sport in 2018. 

According to landscape architecture program director Joe Ewan, given the heavy course load associated with the professional curriculum in the BSLA, it is unusual for any student to graduate with a GPA of 4.0 or higher. But Antill is an exception, ranking first in her senior BSLA cohort of 29 with a GPA of 4.08.

“Kaylee handles everything thrown at her with a graciousness and strength that just is awesome to see,” Ewan said. “She is the epitome of excellence as a student, an athlete, a peer and classmate. She will continue to represent the landscape architecture program, The Design School, Barrett Honors College, the Herberger Institute and ASU with a glow of professionalism and enthusiasm.”

Antill answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My “aha” moment, when I realized I wanted to study landscape architecture, was when I found out that this major existed! When I was younger and people asked me what I wanted to be, I would say either a vet or an architect. I also really enjoyed science and math and wanted to help people. This led me to biomedical engineering. This major was interesting, but I did not want to be in a lab setting. Then, thanks to the hundreds of majors at ASU, I found my future major of landscape architecture. I also really enjoy drawing and painting, so this major allows me to be creative, help others and help the environment. It is the perfect major to combine all of my passions.  

Kaylee antill

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was recruited by many great Division I and Ivy League colleges and athletic programs for both track and my great academic work in high school, but ASU was the best fit: the awesome desert vegetation and beautiful weather for training, great coaching staff and teammates, and great academic programs. I wasn’t sure about going to a huge university so far away from home, but I am thankful I did because of the many programs that are offered and connections around the world that ASU has due to its large alumni backing. 

Q: How has it been balancing your academic work with your track and field commitments; and why did you want to make sure you pursued both of these fields?

A: I understood coming into college that managing both athletics and academics at the next level in college would be an even greater challenge than it was in high school. I was ready for the challenge as it is what I dreamed of doing since sports came into my life: competing and learning at the highest level. The time commitment is tremendous for track athletes as we practice nearly year-round and sometimes 40 hours a week and we have both indoor and outdoor seasons. We compete from January-June. My school curriculum also is very intense due to five-hour studio classes and many projects as well as completing required Barrett Honors contracts for classes that I take.  

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The teachers in the landscape architecture program have taught us many valuable lessons and given us new perspectives. I have learned about ecology, sustainability, horticulture, design, construction and urban impact on the environment. This major has such a large number of factors that go into creating memorable landscapes that last and enhance the local ecology. One thing I learned from Professor Joe Ewan is that it’s great to share with our clients, city officials, architects, engineers and planners our knowledge as we are the bridge between these other professions. Helping to educate people in a caring way will help our clients understand the connections between the built and natural world.  

Q: What advice would you give other student athletes, or any ASU student? 

A: Advice I would give other student athletes is to enjoy the journey and to push the limits of your body and mind so that you can finish your collegiate career knowing you gave it your all. To all students, everyone’s college experience is different, and that is what makes it a rewarding adventure. Not everything will go as planned, and that’s OK. So pave your own path to what inspires you and run with it!    

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: For students who are still in school, keep an eye out for a topic within your major that really interests you or inspires you to want to learn even more about that topic. That may help you find your niche in your major that can lead to more rewarding opportunities for your future. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: One of my favorite spots to study before class or to sit and eat lunch is at the College Avenue Commons on the second floor on the balcony with the misters and the sound of the water feature below with views of “A” Mountain. I also spent a lot of time at the Carson Student Athlete Center attached to Sun Devil Stadium. There were many naps taken here as well.  

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, my plan after graduation was to go into the job force and work in Arizona, Colorado, or back in my home state of Ohio, on becoming a licensed landscape architect. I will work under a licensed landscape architect for three years, then take the L.A.R.E exam to become licensed. Now, due to being granted another season of eligibility for track and field, I am looking into academic options and master’s programs.   

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle a problem that I have witnessed throughout communities, which is restoring brownfields after the landscape has been left contaminated and abandoned from the prior industrial activities on the site. Brownfields are obsolete industrial or manufacturing sites that do not provide ecological or community benefits. I would love to rejuvenate these locations into beautiful public parks, outdoor athletic fields, or whatever the community would see fit. 

deborah.sussman@asu.edu