Janet Silbernagel Balster

Geodesign graduate program adds longtime educator and specialist to faculty

UNIVERSTY PARK, Pa. — The online graduate program in geodesign, which is offered exclusively through Penn State World Campus, has welcomed Janet Silbernagel Balster as a part-time faculty member starting fall 2021. She brings a wealth of practical knowledge and expertise to the role, having worked as a landscape ecologist and landscape architect with the U.S. Forest Service prior to beginning an academic career that spans more than 25 years.

She will be teaching GEODZ 826: Geodesign Models III: Representation and Change, a key course for both the graduate certificate and the master of professional studies degree.

A landscape architecture faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1999, Silbernagel Balster became an emeritus professor in fall 2020 and founded Silvernail Studio for Geodesign, LLC. The private practice offers multifaceted services that span professional geographic information system (GIS) map products to landscape conservation strategies and sustainable landscape architectural design.

“Janet brings decades of experience teaching geodesign and landscape architecture to her new role with us here at Penn State, and her current role as a professional practitioner will be beneficial to our students — most of whom are working professionals themselves,” said Kelleann Foster, director of the Geodesign graduate program and a professor in the Stuckeman School’s Department of Landscape Architecture. “Janet is a regular participant at the International Geodesign Summit, so she is well known in the field, and we are delighted she’ll be sharing her expertise with our geodesign graduate students.”

During her time in Madison, Silbernagel Balster developed and taught online curricula and geodesign courses for nearly six years. As professional programs director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental studies from 2010 to 2018, she designed and developed two professional graduate programs in environmental conservation and Earth observation. She taught applications of GIS courses as well as a regional design studio, and she focused her research on green infrastructure and conservation.

Prior to her time in Wisconsin, Silbernagel Balster was an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University where she taught courses in construction, CAD, GIS and ecological design.

Her work has been published numerous times and she has earned various awards, including being voted “Best Lightning Talk” at the 2020 Esri Geodesign Summit.

Silbernagel Balster earned master’s and doctoral degrees in forest science from Michigan Technological University, and an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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