Landscape architect and University of Virginia alumna Kate Orff has officially earned the right to call herself a genius.

Orff is one of 24 promising professionals to receive a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship – colloquially known as “genius grants.” The prestigious fellowships, announced Tuesday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, honor exceptionally talented and creative leaders in a variety of fields. Each fellow receives a $625,000, no-strings-attached grant to further his or her work.

Orff is the first landscape architect to receive the honor. Other members of the UVA faculty who have received MacArthur Fellowships include then-English Professor Deborah Eisenberg in 2009; Terry Belanger, University Professor emeritus, former director of the Rare Book School, 2005; Janine Jagger, epidemiologist and research professor of neurosurgery, 2002; and Brooks Pate, professor of chemistry, 2001.

“I was shocked and deeply honored. It’s amazing to be named a MacArthur Fellow and to be asked to raise the game even higher,” Orff said, writing from Amman, Jordan, where she is currently conducting research. “I am thrilled to be the first landscape architect, but I am also pretty sure there will be many more to come. Creative, political landscape practice is becoming more and more critical to the future of humanity and the planet.”

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