Brent Lewis excellent teacher

Lewis Leads ‘Lifelong Learning’

Brent Lewis, university landscape architect, is the first-known F&S employee recognized as an ‘Excellent’ teacher.

Each semester since the fall of 1993, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students have ranked their professors, with a popularly published list of ‘Excellent’ ranked teachers released and celebrated. The ratings are based on Instructor and Course Evaluation (ICES) questionnaire forms maintained by Measurement and Evaluation, Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (CITL).

Students in Landscape Architecture 390: Woody Landscape Plants ranked Lewis ‘Excellent.’

There, students “learned the different woody type plants (trees, shrubs, vines) and be able to identify them from memory, and know their cultural needs to design with them appropriately,” Lewis said.

‘Sincere’ with students

“I really enjoy the fact that students come in knowing little, if anything, about plants,” Lewis said. “To them, all trees look the same. By the end, they look at the world differently as they see how unique each plant really is and how they all occupy a different place in our ecosystem.” 

But just as importantly, the teacher connects with the students in a way that includes their lives outside of work.

“It was clear the students saw that I had the best of intentions for their learning and growth,” Lewis said. “I make an effort to be very sincere in my approach with students. With over 20 years of experience, I know that this can be a difficult degree and that learning is a long arc for landscape architects.

“I do my best to relate to them as young professionals and pepper in mentoring conversations about their work, about future jobs, and a work-life balance. Many of them appreciated it. I have provided projects for classes, done a campus tour, and provided historical plans to assist teachers in their classes. In general, I have done my best to be a resource to our faculty and students here in support of our broader mission.”

White’s words

Longtime colleague and Acting Director of Capital Programs and Associate Director for Sustainability Morgan White credits Lewis admirably.

“He cares deeply about the class subject: trees!”

Morgan explained, “It is great to have someone like Brent who has teaching experience in his past, and is great at explaining the landscape practices and teaching. It is wonderful that Brent is now able to share his expertise in a formal class for UIUC students.”

Lewis’ experience is that of a true expert in his field: he taught as a graduate student, then again in Landscape Design for a semester at College of DuPage. This after a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and a master’s in Landscape Architecture. He holds a State of Illinois landscape architecture license and is an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist.

While in his role as the landscape architect, and with F&S, Lewis has also lead and engage the campus community with the Campus Landscape Master Plan. He also spoke at the university Arbor Day celebration and helped plant a new tree.

“Teaching pushes your own knowledge and skill,” Lewis said. “Teaching allows you to connect with the next generation of people who will actively change our world.”