By Jacquie Moore
When a curious, creative kid grows up watching her father make the world more walkable, more playful and more beautiful, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone when she follows in his footsteps.
Taking a winter break from her soaring career as an architectural designer in L.A., Caitlyn Browning, MArch'14, recently sat down with her dad, Gary Browning, MEDes'86, of Browning Designs Inc., to ask him the sorts of nosey, heartfelt questions children rarely ask their parents.
The reach of Gary Browning’s legacy extends beyond his own family: his newly created Browning Design Inc. Entrance Scholarship in Landscape Architecture for students in UCalgary’s Master of Landscape Architecture program will support generations of exceptional future designers. Last month, the inaugural award was given to a meritorious — and jubilant — student from China’s east coast.
When renowned Calgary landscape architect Gary Browning created a scholarship for exceptional students enrolled in UCalgary’s newly minted Master of Landscape Architecture program, he had no idea his gift could mean the world to a family nearly 10,000 kilometres away.
Chen Chen is an international student in EVDS’s new graduate program — the first of its kind to be launched in Canada since 1980. Chen was drawn to the program from her home town near Shanghai, China, for a couple reasons: certainly, she was swayed by her brother’s successful move to Calgary two years ahead of her but, more than anything, she saw an opportunity to broaden her horizons, both literally and figuratively.
A long-time student of drawing, Chen studied fine art for four years before later completing an undergraduate degree in landscape design at the China Academy of Art. “I’ve always drawn and I’ve always enjoyed the natural world,” says Chen. “Landscape architecture puts together these two things that I love.” In seeking out a graduate program, she was keen on rounding out her heavily theoretical and academic education with, as she puts it, “something different, something new, something very engaging.”
Despite her successful admission to other programs in Vancouver and Toronto, Chen was ultimately beguiled by UCalgary’s unique MLA. “The style of the program is very different from what I’m used to,” says Chen, adding that she’s also smitten with the wide-open spaces in and around the city. “The courses allow so many opportunities to engage with the community and connect with all sorts of different planners and professionals — it’s already enlarged my ability to understand so much about the discipline and its policies.”
If Chen had any lingering doubts about her capacity to flourish in her field — and in a new program, in a new country and in a recently learned language — they vanished last month when she was chosen by members of her faculty as the first recipient of the Browning Design Inc. Entrance Scholarship in Landscape Architecture. “I was so surprised and so honoured to get that call,” says Chen, who was tapped for the $5,000 entrance award on the basis of her application to the program including her GPA, background preparation, letters of reference, portfolio and statement of interest.
“It encourages me for future study, and makes me want to work even harder because the faculty thinks I can do it.” The best part of all, she says, was sharing the news with her mother, grandmother and brother in China. “I felt so good telling them about that. They are all so proud and so happy for me. That is such great motivation.”