CURO student among first recipients of LAF Ignite scholarship

Ezra Lewis of Atlanta, a second-year Honors undergraduate at the University of Georgia, was one of four students selected for the inaugural cohort of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Ignite program. She joins students from the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Washington and University of Pennsylvania.

A multi-year, nationwide program for landscape architecture students who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, LAF Ignite provides an annual scholarship of $10,000, paid summer internships and ongoing mentorship. The inaugural cohort starts its programming this month, and as new cohorts are added, they will gather for virtual meetings and peer-to-peer mentorship.

The scholarship is the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s focused effort “to make the discipline of landscape architecture as diverse as the communities in which landscape architects work.” For the first two years, it is open to Black/African American students and will then open to all students of color.

“To be named to the initial cohort of the LAF Ignite program is truly outstanding, and we are so proud of Ezra,” said Meg Amstutz, dean of the Morehead Honors College. “We can’t wait to see where these opportunities lead for the betterment of communities and the environment.”

A CURO Honors Scholar in the Morehead Honors College, Lewis is majoring in landscape architecture in the College of Environment and Design with a minor in horticulture from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Lewis plans to use the built environment to promote sustainable and reciprocal relationships between communities and the environment. She wants to design spaces that could be used for horticulture education and food production for local communities to address food deserts, while spurring community investment and emphasizing historical preservation.

“We are so proud of Ezra and this incredible opportunity,” said Sonia Hirt, dean of the College of Environment and Design. “To be one of the first awardees of the new LAF Ignite Program is a remarkable accomplishment. We look forward to supporting Ezra’s continued success as she finishes her education and can’t wait to see what positive impacts she will make in the future.”

With Alfred Vick, Georgia Power Professor in Environmental Ethics in the College of Environment and Design, Lewis conducts research in biophilic design, which centers on human connectivity to the natural environment. Lewis’ research focuses on ranking and recording biophilic spaces on UGA’s campus and recording the effects that being in these spaces have on students’ mental health.

“By designing spaces that uplift the community and contribute to the health and safety of a population and their environment, I believe that I can help spur generational change that will last long after I am gone,” Lewis said. “After completing my degree, I am excited to put this hypothesis into practice when I enter the workforce.”

Lewis is a resident assistant with UGA Housing and a contributing writer with the Georgia Landscape Magazine. She interned with the UGArden Student Community Farm in spring 2022 and was a member of the NCNW UGA Chapter, which fosters community and support for Black women on UGA’s campus. As a high school student, Lewis served on the Atlanta Public Schools Equity Advisory Policy Taskforce.

Each year, three to five students will be selected to participate in the LAF Ignite program until they have completed their landscape architecture degree. The program is designed to overcome particular barriers faced by BIPOC students to stay in school, graduate and enter landscape architecture practice.