Fath'Ma Shabani

About Fath'Ma:

Hometown: Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Degree Program: Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture '24


What kind of questions or curiosities did you have when you decided to pursue a degree in landscape architecture?

I was curious about the design process for large-scale projects like parks and botanical gardens. These are elements that I did not grow up seeing, and I wanted to understand what it takes to create sustainable yet recreational spaces for communities that lack outdoor recreational spaces. I was initially interested in Architecture, but after my admission at Cornell,  I changed my mind. I wanted to do Landscape architecture for its purpose. Many people realized that we needed more outdoor spaces after Covid, but some people did not even realize that as they don’t have any public space to refer to.  

Some questions I had: How much science goes into the design process, how much research should be done before starting to design, what are the limitations of landscape architects, what is the relationship between civil engineering and landscape architecture.



How would you characterize your design ethos? How has that been adapted since arriving at Cornell?

Less is more, sustainability is the priority, the functionality should be the focus. I have been able to experience these elements here at Cornell through the different conferences I attended or guest speakers who get to talk about their work.  I am always challenging myself to include these three elements in my designs. I have the chance to get feedback from my professors and that helps me reshape my understanding of some design processes. 


Are there any particular courses at Cornell that leverage your interests?

Software engineering. I am highly interested in coding and web development and this was one of my top backup majors. Just like landscape architects put circles, triangles, and rectangles together to come up with designs, software engineers use code to come up with what the code is intended for. In truth, they are all designers.


Reflecting on your interests, how did you define/are you defining your concentration in the program?

I am interested in so many things and this makes it hard to pick an area of concentration. However, on my top list, I have environment and sustainability. With this concentration, I would like to work on botanical gardens, and parks for the public sector, and green roofs for the private sector. I would also like to get more involved in research about sustainable materials for landscape designs. 


What kind of organizations or activities have you become involved in within Ithaca?

I am involved in activities that reflect who I am here at Cornell. As a Christian and an international student who enjoys research, I am part of: Cornell Christian community, Cru Worship team, International Students Admission Ambassadors, Cornell Undergraduate Research Board


What would you tell your younger self from ten years ago? What would you tell your future self ten years ahead?

To my younger self: Thank you for being responsible, driven, and true to yourself even at that young age. I haven’t been doing great lately, but I promise I will keep working hard, staying focused and determined just like you were.

To my future self: Relax and take a break, you are doing great, you are a great person, and you are successful in your own ways. Spend more time with your family (mom, siblings, maybe husband and kids), take some time for yourself, and know that God is in control!