Landscape architecture graduate on a mission to support Kaupapa Māori

09 May 2023 | News

An unexpected result of studying landscape architecture for 2023 graduate Isobel Happy has been discovering how she can use her skills to help support Kaupapa Māori.

During her time at Lincoln, Isobel learned that her Māori heritage greatly influenced the way she viewed environments and people.

"My study helped me to understand the potential role landscape architecture has in providing for iwi and hapū," she said.

"It’s something I now want to be a part of when it comes to growing the profession.

Isobel is graduating on 12 May 2023 with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, after spending the past few months on a research scholarship with her iwi, Te Whakatōhea, through the university.

She’s also completed an internship at Beca, a role she secured through the practical work requirements of her study programme.

Now she’s keen to gain more knowledge, having just begun a Master’s thesis at Lincoln, exploring how traditional māra kai practices can be reincorporated into papakāinga to improve the food sovereignty of Te Whakatōhea.

Isobel’s Master’s thesis is giving her the opportunity to "connect back to my iwi in a way that I hope will positively impact my people".

"I feel this is leading me into the path that will bring out what I want to achieve from my career and I’m excited to see where this year at Lincoln leads me."

It’s a long way from where she started out and the small size of Lincoln really helped to set Isobel on the ideal path for her.

"When I first found landscape architecture, I never imagined myself where I am now – it has been all about finding the right people and opportunities," she said.

If it wasn’t for the small classes and one-on-one interactions with lecturers and tutors, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. I found that people at Lincoln genuinely care about you and your career, making sure your passions and skills are utilised in the industry.

Isobel grew up in Auckland, "but I whakapapa to the East Coast of the North Island on my Dad’s side and Northland on my Mum’s side".

She said she finished school feeling unsure about what she wanted to do next and after two years of attending career fairs and completing online quizzes, she visited a careers counsellor.

"I was by no means an academic person but had put all my energy into making sure I passed NCEA and trying to keep my career options open that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was interested in at the end of my secondary education."

The careers counsellor suggested landscape architecture and the rest is history.

"I came back from the session buzzing about this new profession I had found, spending the next few months reading about the various study options," Isobel said.

"The programme at Lincoln stood out to me – smaller classes, development of practical skills for the workplace and generally more support for people like me, who hadn’t had much previous experience with art or design.

"What initially attracted me to landscape architecture was being able to design outdoor public spaces to function better and this could have a positive impact on the people using it. The thought of being able to visit a playground I had designed and see people enjoying themselves greatly appealed to me."

After beginning her study, Isobel quickly found that one of her favourite aspects about the programme was being able to use her practical creativity.

"I love thinking out of the box about ways that something could work, how environmental systems function, and how people might function within a space. Landscape architecture allows you to do this, across multiple scales."

Asked about her highlights of her time at Lincoln so far, she said "definitely the people".

"I would have found it much more difficult to get to know people at a larger university. Spending my first year in the Halls of Residence gave me the confidence and support I needed to be away from home.

"I’ve made some great friends from studying at Lincoln and being able to explore Te Waipounamu with those people has been a bonus."