An abbreviated version of who I am and what I do…

I moved to Chicago from my home state of Michigan to attend the University of Chicago after falling in love with the neo-Gothic campus architecture. Graduating with a degree in Gender Studies (thesis topic: sexual representation in comic art), I did my time waiting tables and packing boxes, and then gravitated to graphic and web design work, a natural fit for a creative type with a technical streak.

I worked for a small start-up web company for several years before taking a position as the web design manager at Loyola University Chicago, where I redesigned their home page and numerous other websites. This higher education web experience led to my next position of senior site developer at the University of Chicago, where I have had the opportunity to work on many engaging projects including the college admissions site, arts site, and diversity and inclusion site.

My interest in landscape architecture and gardening developed while I was working as a web designer, and I decided to pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which I completed in 2013. The studio projects in my portfolio reflect my engagement with natural systems and the built environment, as well as a deep commitment to sustainable design. I currently work as a landscape designer at WRD Environmental, a firm that shares my belief in environmental stewardship.

I am interested in using design to solve problems, whether it is a landscape that isn’t in tune with the needs of the entire community, or a chemically dependent lawn with the potential to become a verdant garden.

When I’m not working or in the garden, I enjoy reading (graphic novels, comics, books, minds), playing soccer, spending time with my pet rabbits, and photographing sometimes beautiful, sometimes silly things. I am passionate about plants, animal welfare, sustainable agriculture, progressive politics and sports. For a quick snapshot of things I care about, check out my links page.

Questions? Comments? Have a plant division to share? Email

Dena van der Wal

Yes, this is me, not looking at the camera.
photo: Poonam Thaker

Malcolm, Tula, Clooney

Malcolm, Tula & Clooney as Bunzilla!
photo: Toni Greetis

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