This month we connect with Juli (Diaz) Hartwig, whose appreciation for nature, gusto for art and design, and desire to make a positive contribution to society have led her to a rewarding career as Washington State’s Design Landscape Architect.
What year did you graduate from St. John’s School?
Class of 1995
What did you do the year following High School graduation?
I attended the University of Washington.
Can you tell us about the career path you chose after college?
After earning my bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Washington, I worked for a multi-disciplinary engineering firm for three years. While working in the private sector, I developed an interest in public projects. My next career move was accepting a landscape project lead position for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Moving to the public sector was a natural next step for me because working for the overall public good is satisfying and has been even more rewarding than I anticipated. I gained valuable design and construction experience through numerous projects involving wetland mitigation, roadside restoration and habitat restoration. Obtaining my licensure as a landscape architect was the highlight of my career. I’ve been the statewide design landscape architect for WSDOT since 2016. My primary role is to develop and champion the agency’s roadside policy and manage specifications relating to roadside development for the entire state.
Outside of work, what other activities/organizations are you involved in?
I serve on the Washington Community Forestry Council because I value their mission. The Council provides leadership to create a self-sustaining urban and community forestry program that preserves, plants, and manages forests and trees for public benefits and quality of life. The program does this by teaching citizens and decision-makers about the economic, environmental, psychological, and aesthetic benefits of trees.
What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
Since my career aligns with my personal values and interests, it doesn’t feel like work especially if I am able to contribute to something positive. For example, I appreciate nature and plants in particular because of the suite of benefits they provide to people. My employer values the health of pollinators and environmental stewardship and I’m happy to support these important issues through my line of work.
How did you become interested in your field of study or work?
The creativity involved during the design process drew me to the field initially. Over the course of my study and practice, the multi-disciplinary approach to achieve environmental, social-behavioral, or aesthetic outcomes confirmed that I found my niche. There are many paths you can take as a landscape architect. Even though my work focuses on transportation corridors, we design and restore spaces for the public that are not only functional but also beautiful and harmonious with the natural environment.
How has attending St. John’s prepared you for success in college and in the workplace?
St. John’s was a nurturing environment with high expectations and the advanced curriculum challenged me academically. In addition to my amazing Mom, it was the faculty, staff and my classmates (friends) that motivated me to not give up when things got tough. It was this sense of community that set the bar and made this school so special to me. I’m grateful for such a positive learning experience and the great friendships that developed at St. John’s.
Do you still keep in touch with your St. John’s School friends?
Absolutely! The friendships I developed at St. John’s will last a lifetime.
What experiences from St. John’s are the most memorable? Do you have a favorite teacher, mentor or counselor?
My senior year was the most memorable. It was a bittersweet experience having to wrap up my time at St. Johns with my friends knowing we’d be going our separate ways at the end of the school year. Many of my teachers had a positive impact – it’s not easy to choose a favorite. However, my art teacher Mr. Skvaril not only wrote a letter of recommendation for me to get in the BLA program at UW, but he also helped me to discover my ability to paint and my passion for art. I still have several paintings I completed in Mr. Skvaril’s class that I am very proud about, will cherish and will pass down to my daughter.
What would you say to a prospective family who is considering St. John’s School?
I highly recommend St. John’s because it was one of the best decisions my mom made for my future. It provided a strong foundation that prepared me for college and my career. Learning the value of hard work and how to navigate through challenges at such an early stage of my life set me up for success.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m happy to share information about landscape architecture with students who are interested in learning more about this field.
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