Catherine Seavitt Nordenson was elected to serve as the next chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture in the School of Design.
Seavitt will begin her appointment as tenured professor and chair on July 1, according the announcement made on March 27. Seavitt is currently a professor of landscape architecture and directs the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the City College of New York. She will succeed Richard Weller, who served two terms as department chair after his appointment in 2013.
The department was established in 1924, and Seavitt will serve as the third female department chair. Landscape architecture is the study and practice of designing indoor and outdoor landscapes in order to achieve environmental, social-behavioral, or aesthetic outcomes.
“I have long admired the landscape architecture department at Penn for its multi-scalar, multi-species ecological approach to the public realm,” Seavitt told PennDesign. “I’m very excited to advance the design inventions and pedagogical transformations that have been hallmarks of the program for decades.
Seavitt's work centers on adapting urban environments to address climate change. Her research and publications explore the intersection between landscape architecture, sustainability, political power, and public health. She is also a registered architect and a registered landscape architect.
PennDesign Dean Frederick Steiner said that Seavitt will focus on fighting for numerous social justice issues in her new role.
“Catherine is deeply invested in confronting the ethical crises facing the design professions, from climate change and decarbonization to racial justice and public health,” Steiner said. “She understands that higher education has a special role to play in advancing this work.”
Seavitt previously taught at the Cooper Union, Princeton University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Parsons School of Design, Louisiana State University, and the University of Virginia.
She has received several honors within her field, including being elected to the Council of Fellows by the American Society of Landscape Architects, becoming a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and receiving a Fulbright Fellowship.
Seavitt told PennDesign that her years of working with students taught her to continuously adapt her teaching style to accommodate different experiences — a skill she hopes to exemplify in her new position.
“I strive to create an open atmosphere and provide mentored pathways to success for both faculty and students, with an acute awareness of the unique gifts that diverse perspectives will offer,” Seavitt said.