Jennifer L. Thomas (Jenn) is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Practice at Virginia Tech. Prior to this position, she taught landscape architectural history, theory, cultural heritage, research methods, and studio courses at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. As an educator and scholar, she explores landscape architecture as a cultural medium that reflects social complexities and cultural ideologies and discrepancies through built form. Primary research and teaching subjects in her work include the history and theory of landscape architecture, cultural heritage studies, and landscape preservation, with a special interest in the controversies surrounding historic statues and monuments, as well as the design of historical institutional landscapes, their present iterations, and future potentials.
In teaching, Professor Thomas emphasizes how collaborative processes, systems, qualitative research, writing, materiality, and visual culture fundamentally contribute to landscape architecture within historical and contemporary contexts. Her dissertation, Landscape, Madness, and State: The Emerging Insane Asylum System of Nineteenth-Century New York State (2019), focuses on intersections between landscape design, architecture, and the history of psychiatry and medicine at major state-funded facilities. Multiscalar in scope, the work examines historic site-specific designs and professional interdisciplinary collaborations, which reveals several under-recognized regional, statewide, and national interconnections. Professor Thomas has presented aspects of this research at various conferences, including the Society for Architectural Historians, the American Association for the History of Medicine, and as an invited speaker to the conference Feeling Dis/ease: New Perspectives on Modern History at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. More recently, before coming to Virginia Tech, she testified before the Illinois General Assembly as part of the newly formed state Statue and Monument Review Task Force.