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Jennifer L. Thomas

Assistant Professor

As an educator and scholar, Professor Thomas explores landscape architecture as a cultural medium that reflects social complexities and cultural ideologies and discrepancies through built form.  Primary research and teaching subjects in her work include the history and theory of landscape architecture, cultural heritage studies, and landscape preservation, with a special interest in the controversies surrounding historic statues and monuments, as well as the design of historical institutional landscapes, their present iterations, and future potentials.

In teaching, she emphasizes how collaborative processes, systems, qualitative research, writing, materiality, and visual culture fundamentally contribute to landscape architecture within historical and contemporary contexts.  Her dissertation, "Landscape, Madness, and State: The Emerging Insane Asylum System of Nineteenth-Century New York State" (2019), focuses on intersections between landscape design, architecture, and the history of psychiatry and medicine at major state-funded facilities. Multiscalar in scope, the work examines historic site-specific designs and professional interdisciplinary collaborations, which reveals several under-recognized regional, statewide, national, and international interconnections. 

Institutional Histories and Adaptive Reuse, Nineteenth-Century Insane Asylum Landscapes & Landscapes of Medicine, Statue and Monument Controversies in the Built Environment, Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Studies, Landscape Architecture History/Theory

LAR 2254: Social and Cultural Landscapes
LAR 2015: Design Studio--Place and Process
LAR 3016: Design Studio--Site, Program, & Community II
LAR 5334: History of Landscape Architecture
LAR 5304G + 4304: Topics Seminar--Iconoclasm & the Built Environment Spring 

Thomas, Jennifer L. “The Insane Asylum Landscape Designs of Olmsted & Vaux.” Paper publication in the symposium proceedings Olmsteds: Landscapes and Legacies, National Park Service and the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site. 2022

Thomas, Jennifer L. Book Review of Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape, by Sara Jensen Carr. In Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, 29.2 (Fall 2022): 126-129.

“The Conolly and Kirkbride Treatises: A Nineteenth-Century Asylum Design Comparison.” Paper presentation, American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Conference (95th), Saratoga Springs, NY, 21-24 April 2022.

Invited expert witness to testify at the Illinois General Assembly’s first public hearing of the bipartisan Statue and Monument Review Task Force, Springfield, Illinois, 21 April 2021.

"An Exemplar Design Turn: Early Landscapes of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane and Thomas Story Kirkbride." Paper presentation, American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA, 10-13 May 2018.

Thomas, Jennifer L. “Bodies at Work and Leisure: Therapeutic Landscapes of Early Nineteenth-Century New York State Insane Asylums” in Healing Spaces, Modern Architecture, and the Body, edited by Sarah Schrank and Didem Ekici, 150-168. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

Principal Investigator for the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU) and National Park Service Grant--$18,000 Project title: “CESU-Establish Youth Partnership for Future Design Professionals.”

New Faculty Mentoring Grant, Provost Office – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and

State University, Blacksburg -- $1,500

Illinois American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Student Merit Award. Studio project "URBAN FLUX" received a Merit Award for “General Design-Undergraduate Project” that was produced in the Fall 2019 Regional Design Studio I taught:"Data, Narrative, and Design in the Calumet National Heritage Area (Illinois & Indiana)."


Ph.D., Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MLA, Landscape Architecture, University of Colorado Denver

B.A., Art History, University of Oregon