News & Insights

Projects with Passions: Three Landscape Architecture Analysts Nationally Recognized


Good things come in threes. Three former Kimley-Horn interns—who are now full-time employees at the firm—are using their passions and landscape architecture experience to connect with local communities. Autumn McNinch, Katherine Herrera-Lai, and Maryam Abutabikh recently received national recognition for projects they completed as part of their college programs—each with a unique approach focused on bettering communities through landscape architecture. Autumn and Katherine received National Student Honor Awards from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and Maryam was recognized as a National Olmsted Scholar from the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF).

Children's Book and Learning Games on Indiana Native Plants & Habitats

In her senior year at Purdue University, Autumn McNinch participated in a project with her professor and fellow classmates that focused on engaging students within their local community. Together, they created a book to help children learn more about the local plants and habitats of Indiana and a related board game for children to play and apply their knowledge—with the hopes of exposing them early on to landscape architecture. By educating children through the book and the associated board game, the group also hoped to educate parents as well.

For their project “Children’s Book and Learning Games on Indiana Native Plants & Habitats,” Autumn and her group received the 2023 ASLA Student Honor Award in Communications.

Autumn participated in Kimley-Horn’s co-op program from 2021 to 2022, during which she was able to work on projects with a variety of different teams, gaining exposure to “a little bit of everything!” Today, she is a landscape architecture analyst who puts her passion for community into her everyday work—she’s currently working on master plans for communities and parks, creating community boards, and hosting workshops to gain public input.

“My favorite part about landscape architecture is the culmination of culture, people, and community. I also enjoy how landscape architecture has both technical and artistic aspects.”

Autumn McNinch

2023 ASLA Student Award in Communications

Art (that) Works: Design Guidelines for Equitable Public Art

Combining her experience in landscape architecture, her love of art, and her passion for equitable public spaces, Katherine Herrera-Lai created a set of design guidelines for equitable public spaces and artwork—intended for use by artists and landscape architects alike—as a component of her master’s report at Kansas State University. Katherine interviewed nine artists and five site designers about their work and the strategies used in landscape architecture and art to spatially and experientially include persons with physical and cognitive disabilities. She learned that one in four people has a disability and shared that “as designers, we should be considering all people who use our space—not just an idealized type of person—because at no point should we ever exclude someone because of their disability.”  

“I love how artistic landscape architecture really is. It's much more than just placing shrubs in parking lots or benches in parks. I also enjoy the research aspect of it—the findings from my research have inspired a life-long passion for equitable public artwork and public spaces.”

Katherine Herrera-Lai

2023 ASLA Student Honor Award in Communications

Katherine interned twice with Kimley-Horn before joining full-time this past July. Both internships gave her impactful and realistic, yet different, experiences from which she was able to better understand the profession of landscape architecture.

As a landscape architecture analyst today, Katherine enjoys projects that are inspired by storytelling, and she is interested in work that engages communities and focuses on equitable public space and artwork design.

Bridging Belonging

While finishing her senior year at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Maryam Abutabikh completed a capstone project focusing on her experience as a daughter of two Iraqi immigrants. Her project aimed to create opportunities for integration and assimilation and explore urban solutions for the refugee population in El Cajon, California. Maryam grew up in a community with a large refugee population, and as a child, her mother always encouraged her to be involved with helping refugees and giving back to their community. “Many refugees experience trauma and hardships, so my project sought to identify solutions and improvements to alleviate that trauma.”

For her “Bridging Belonging” project, Maryam received an ASLA Student Honor Award from her university’s chapter and was also recognized as the 2023 LAF Olmsted Scholar—the first undergraduate student from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo to receive this award. As part of her recognition, Maryam also received a $15,000 award to further her career and put her proposal into action. With support and encouragement from her team at Kimley-Horn, Maryam plans on using the award to bring to life some of the aspects of her project for the refugees in El Cajon.

Last summer, Maryam interned with the Landscape Architecture team in Kimley-Horn’s San Diego office and worked on a variety of different projects, including commercial sites, schools, and hotels. Towards the end of her internship, she received a full-time offer to join the firm—which she accepted the next day.

As a full-time landscape architecture analyst today, Maryam has been busy working on the landscape for a housing development to help conserve water, bringing to life her childhood dream of working in the realm of design combined with a passion for sustainability.

“I love the idea of encouraging people to go outside, and I love working with different concepts like sustainable design. I also enjoy working with plant material and coordinating with architects to beautify their spaces!”

Maryam Abutabikh

2023 LAF Undergraduate Olmsted Scholar

At Kimley-Horn, we create an environment for our people to flourish and encourage them to follow their passions—inside and outside of the office. The projects completed by Autumn, Katherine, and Maryam are reflective of the authenticity and care our employees put into their work, making a positive impact on their local communities.


Get in touch with our Landscape Architecture specialists.