“I think landscape architecture really does shape the world…it’s visible everywhere,” shared Nina Bisbee (’81 B.S. Landscape Architecture). Bisbee is vice president for facilities planning at the Philadelphia Zoo and said her training at Penn State continues to surprise her in the ways it influences her work. “The diversity of my education at Penn State exposed to me to so much. I got good at analyzing a problem and coming up with solutions. Even as a planner, I often lean on what I learned as a landscape architect.”
After graduating from the Landscape Architecture program in 1981, Bisbee went on to earn a master’s degree in urban planning at the University of Michigan. She has spent the majority of her career at the Philadelphia Zoo, where she is instrumental in the implementation of the zoo’s long-range development and facilities master plans, particularly those related to sustainability initiatives. “Landscape architects have always been trained to have a positive impact on the environment,” she said. “Now, sustainable development has become mainstream.”
Some of her award-winning projects at the zoo include the Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo and Faris Family Education Center/KidZooU (a LEED Gold project), the McNeil Avian Center, the Bird Lake Wetland Project, and the Big Cat Falls Exhibit, all of which advanced the zoo’s sustainability efforts.
Bisbee remembers Penn State Landscape Architecture faculty like Dan Jones and Mark Taylor as encouraging mentors, sharing, “I distinctly recall working on a land analysis project that felt like magic at work; it solidified my passion.”
Although her current work is very different from what she prepared for as an undergraduate student, it leads her to encourage current students to follow their instincts. “You never know where they might lead you…While I’ve never been a landscape designer, I’ve had great opportunities to influence design, and everything relates back to land planning.”