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Different By Design

Honored Graduating Student: Abby Kjar (PWS)

This past March, BYU took first at the 2022 National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC), an annual four-day competitive event attracting hundreds of students majoring in landscape-related programs from colleges and universities across the country. Three students won first place in their individual competitions—and one of those winners was Abby Kjar (‘22), who competed in interior landscape design.

Honored Grad Abby Kjar Headshot
Photo by Nicholas Rex

Like many students, Kjar initially had difficulty deciding on a major. She was a self-described jack-of-all-trades with many interests and skills. In an effort to figure things out, she took a career exploration class at BYU, and “landscape architect” was one of the options identified on personality tests. Later that same semester, Kjar attended a major career fair and saw a sign—literally. The sign promoting landscape design said, “Are you interested in art, businesses, and science?”, and it checked off all the boxes in her mind. Soon after, she enrolled in her first landscape design class, and things instantly fell into place.

“The major, it’s just great. All the professors and the students in it are like a family. It’s small, but it’s really good,” Kjar says. “[The program] has just been the combining of everything that I love.”

Kjar has been especially fond of her design classes and being a TA within the program. This past summer, she also participated in a research project with plant and wildlife sciences professor Phil Allen and recent graduate Alyssa Brown (‘21), studying seed germination of sub-alpine species.

“That whole summer, we just went hiking and collected flowers,” Kjar remembers.

Working in landscape design has also allowed Kjar to foster meaningful connections in unexpected ways. In one of her advanced design classes, she was able to participate in preservative design work for the Joseph and Emma Smith mansion house, which is owned by the Community of Christ. From the opportunity, she was able to see how her work could be used to benefit others—not just by cultivating beautiful landscapes, but by leading to mutually beneficial relationships.

The culminating event of Kjar’s BYU experience was participating in NCLC. She had wanted to participate in the annual event for several years. but COVID-19 cancellations interfered. Although she was scheduled to graduate in December 2021, Kjar decided to prolong her time at BYU to finally participate in the competition. She is proud of her achievements, not just within her individual competition, but as part of BYU's winning team.

“[I loved] being a part of that team, helping people, and seeing everyone get so excited; they worked really hard,” she says. “And it was really cool for me to finally participate in the event I’ve practiced for over the past three years.”

Kjar is currently enjoying her work as a landscape designer for Big Rock Premium Landscaping and Design, and may consider getting a master's in landscape architecture in the future. Kjar and her husband are also expecting a baby in September, and she hopes to find a balance between continuing work and raising a family by consulting or starting her own business. Whatever her future holds, though, there’s no doubt that her plans will all be by design.