Land & Environment

Student Provides Facelift for USU Salt Lake Parking Lot Landscape

By Marcus Jensen |

Diana Whitney poses in front of the monument sign in front of the Utah State University Salt Lake Center. Whitney designed the landscaping project for the campus.

SALT LAKE CITY — Over Summer 2023 and into the fall, the Utah State University Salt Lake Center has gone through a series of renovations and upgrades, including interior and exterior changes. Among these changes was an update to the landscaping around the expanded entrance to the campus, designed by recent USU graduate Diana Whitney.

"It is always rewarding to see students apply what they learn, and I am proud of what Diana designed,” said David Vernon, associate vice president for the USU Wasatch Region. “The Residential Landscape Design & Construction program is a key part of USU Salt Lake’s identity and everyone who visits will see her work. I am grateful she accepted this opportunity."

Whitney graduated from USU in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in Residential Landscape Design and Construction, a hybrid program of horticulture and landscape architecture. She began attending USU Salt Lake before finishing her degree at USU Kaysville.

“I came to USU because I was interested in plants, specifically ornamental plants in landscapes, but I learned so much more,” Whitney said. “I learned how to build a healthy landscape literally from the ground up.”

While looking to complete her degree, Whitney needed a few extra credits and approached Rachel Broadbent, senior lecturer of horticulture at USU Salt Lake, about doing a special project. After discussing some ideas, Broadbent asked if Whitney would be interested in taking on the challenge of designing the landscape of the redesigned parking lot and entrance at the USU Salt Lake Center.

"One of the great things in our horticulture program is the opportunity to get your hands dirty, literally, when it comes to learning,” Broadbent said. “Our post-traditional students come from all over the region, with a wide range of experiences and expertise which they bring to the program and share. It makes the learning and teaching much more than what I bring to classroom. Diana is a great example of such a student, she stood out immediately with her plant knowledge and willingness to engage in learning.”

Whitney was initially intimidated by the opportunity, because it would be a bigger project than she had ever taken on before. However, after some soul searching, she decided to accept the challenge.

“I initially wanted to decline,” Whitney recalled. “Designing a landscape that would be seen by thousands of students and faculty over the years, it was overwhelming. However, I knew it would also be a great learning experience­­– one I hope more students will endeavor to take as the opportunities come up. This project gave me the experience to overcome some of my fears and understand the challenges faced in low-water landscape design.”

Whitney got an initial vision from Broadbent about what the space would need. Whitney then had additional meetings with both Broadbent and Vernon to ask questions and set out a plan for the area. After having a rough draft of the design, Whitney then met with Jim Huppi, who works in planning, design, & construction for USU Facilities. Together they made tweaks to the design over several meetings.

“After putting together a few different designs, I brought my best to our next meeting and got feedback,” Whitney said. “I then took those changes in stride as I prepared the final plan for Jim Huppi’s approval. After getting approval, I met with the team a few more times and turned the design over to the landscape architect to plan irrigation.”

Whitney was proud to have been a part of the project and to see it finalized after so much time in the planning process. She was thankful to all the professors and advisors that helped make the project a success, including Broadbent as well as senior lecturer Anne Spranger.

“They gave me the tools and support to be successful,” she said. “They helped me with their own experiences to make it a beneficial process. Professor Spranger prepared me not only for design through her classes, but I especially enjoyed her Sustainable Design class, where we studied low-water landscape plants and how to use them in design.”

After graduating in spring 2023, Whitney now works part-time at a local nursery and now has the time to return to working on her own landscape and the projects she has put on hold.

Located in the heart of the Salt Lake Metropolitan area, Utah State University Salt Lake Center offers students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university. With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings, USU Salt Lake Center offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


David Vernon
Associate Vice President for the Wasatch Region
USU Statewide Campuses
(801) 597-0640


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