URI landscape architecture graduate selected for prestigious Olmsted Scholar Program

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 14, 2021 – In her four years, Miranda Hulme certainly left her mark on the University of Rhode Island’s landscape architecture program. Her dedication to the department and the field of landscape architecture was recognized recently by the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s 2021 Olmsted Scholars Program.

Started in 2008, the Olmsted Scholarship honors students from around the country who show exceptional leadership potential. This year, it awarded monetary prizes to a national graduate and undergraduate winner and six finalists from the 51 graduate and 36 undergraduate students nominated by their faculty. In addition to the winners and finalists, the graduate and undergraduate nominees are recognized as 2021 Olmsted Scholars. Hulme was selected as an undergraduate recipient.

“We were fortunate this year to have an extremely strong class of graduating seniors,” said William Green, chair of the URI landscape architecture department. “But based upon her exceptional design and communication skills, academic achievements and commitment to the profession, we unanimously nominated Miranda for the Olmsted Scholarship. Not only does Miranda possess academic credentials and the willingness to work hard, but she has a unique passion for the profession and compassion for her peers.”

“To get this recognition from the Landscape Architecture Foundation means a lot,” said Hulme, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a minor in community planning. “It’s a nice feeling to have your hard work recognized. Just being nominated as an Olmsted Scholar is such a huge honor within itself.”

Hulme, who grew up in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, found her interest in landscape architecture working on her family’s garden. Unknown to her while growing up, Hulme had dyslexia, and she struggled in reading and writing. It caused her to be shy and hesitant.

“I felt more assured in nature and was able to find myself,” she said. “As I got older my dad introduced me to our backyard garden, and I loved helping him dig in the dirt and watching the plants grow.”

Her choice of URI to pursue landscape architecture was part emotion and part pragmatism. When she stepped foot on the Kingston campus during her college tours, she immediately felt at home. But she also considered the rate of URI landscape architecture students who found work after graduation and found it compared favorably with other schools. 

While carrying a 3.7 grade-point average over her four years at URI, Hulme proved a leader who students listened to because of her hard work and skill as a communicator, said Green in his Olmsted nomination letter. Hulme quickly joined the student chapter of the Rhode Island American Society of Landscape Architect (RIASLA), and as chapter president her senior year, she grew student membership by 85 percent.

During the pandemic, she helped develop mentoring programs for first and second-year students to help strengthen connections as students dealt with isolation. She was also a mainstay in the department office, assisting students who had questions and volunteering with the annual lecture series as it moved online during the pandemic. She also served as a teaching assistant for junior design studios and provided talks and critiques in the sophomore studios.

Her proudest accomplishments as RIASLA president was putting together a virtual student showcase, which helped many students land jobs and internships; and helping to set up online workshops for design studios during the pandemic so seniors could continue to help sophomores and juniors with project questions.

“Getting involved in RIASLA allowed me to help my peers get more opportunities to learn and connect with professionals,” she said. “My mom was always involved in my school growing up and wanted the best learning environment for her kids and other kids in town. She made a difference and I wanted to be like her and make a difference.”

The classes she valued the most at URI were the design studios, the program’s core classes in which students take part in projects with local communities and organizations. “They are where you have to use all the knowledge from other classes and come up with creative solutions,” she said. “The projects that help the most are when communities are involved. They allow us to work based on real-life scenarios and collaborating with once we graduate.”

Hulme, who is living in Lincoln, Rhode Island, is currently interning with BETA Group Inc., drafting, rendering and creating models for projects, and taking part in public meetings.

“I do think URI helped me hit the ground running. In school, I was taught to go through a similar design process and I was taught the necessary skills to be able to use the computer programs effectively and efficiently,” she said. “URI also taught me the plant knowledge needed to identify woody plants when needed on a site. It is a great base to build off of and continue learning as I start my career. 

“Landscape Architecture is very unique,” she added. “I went into URI thinking I would be designing backyards and now I’m working on public projects helping communities have gathering spaces. There are so many directions you can go and working in the field I have seen every day is different.”

Hulme’s career goals are focused on social justice and building green spaces in urban cities.

“I was fortunate how I grew up,” she said. “I had a safe place to play outside with my siblings and I know that not everyone gets that opportunity or has that privilege. My goal is to change that to make it a right instead of a privilege.”