Graduate Admissions

Portrait of Allison

Allison Nkwocha


Name: Allison Nkwocha

Hometown: Monterey, CA

Education Background: Environmental Design, Scripps College

Degree Program: MLA/MSHP ‘23

How did you get interested in your field?
I was introduced to landscape architecture when I first learned about playground design. An undergrad internship with two local activists and architects broadened my understanding of what design could do and who could do it. I became interested in historic preservation years later when I was working in architectural salvage.

What was your background prior to coming to Penn?
After a few post-college years of bouncing around between different jobs, I found my niche in architectural salvage. I picked up woodworking and light fixture restoration as hobbies while working as a salvage specialist, and then went on to take a job doing historic window restoration. After that I worked as a carpenter and did design-build projects with teens, which is what I was doing up until I arrived in Philadelphia.

Why did you choose Penn?
I was struck by my interactions with professors during the Open House and my communication with them through the admission process. I anticipated passion, but their kindness and accessibility even to prospective students exceeded my expectations. Additionally, the student community seemed very creative, collaborative, and supportive, which has proven true both in person and virtually. I knew that I would be able to learn from and with genuinely curious people and would have opportunities to dive into interesting research right away. It felt like the best place to self-direct my studies while building professional relationships with my professors and my classmates.

What has been your favorite class so far?
Definitely my first studio. I don’t come from a studio background, so it was truly a completely new way of thinking, experimenting, and challenging myself creatively. I also loved History and Theory of Landscape Architecture, which I took at the same time. Writing and researching help me think more expansively about my design work, and my design work helps me be a more exploratory writer. I’m a dual-degree student and I started with Landscape Architecture, so I’m eager to begin my Historic Preservation coursework to see how the two intertwine.

What do you like best about Philadelphia?
The historic architecture and the walkability of the city. One of my favorite things to do here is just wandering around on foot.

What kinds of activities and/or organizations are you involved in?
I’m a member of Inclusion in Design and part of the Landscape Architecture Department’s Design Justice Working Group. I also work with Monument Lab. Outside of Penn, I’ve recently started working with Design As Protest.

What are your career ambitions?
I’m looking forward to using the remaining three of my four years here to figure out how landscape architecture and historic preservation will best converge in my career. My ambitions are varied and always evolving, but converge around environmental justice, social equity, and using design as a means of capacity-building in BIPOC communities.

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