West Virginia University’s program in interior design has received a six year re accreditation from the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research (FIDER). Housed in WVU ’s Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, it is the only accredited interior design program in West Virginia.
Faculty in the program view the re accreditation as an endorsement of their holistic and hands on approach to the profession of interior design.
“Philosophically, we’re very much concerned with interactive and experiential student learning,”said assistant professor Cindy Beacham.”We’re always trying to expand the education beyond the campus, connecting students with working designers. All of our faculty members have extensive professional experience in the interior design industry, and we’re constantly building bridges between our students and interior design professionals.”
Students from the program recently attended a trade show in Baltimore, Md., and closer to home, toured the soon to be completed suites and penthouses at the Radisson in Morgantown’s Wharf District.
A relatively new component of the program is the study abroad requirement. Juniors in interior design choose an approved program in a foreign country and study for a semester. Initially developed through a cooperative agreement with universities in Canada and Mexico, the program has since taken students to Italy, England and Sweden.
Beacham notes that incoming students whose primary exposure to interior design is TLC ’s”Trading Spaces”are surprised at the depth of knowledge and range of skills required for success in the profession.
“A big part of our responsibility is to make sure our students are a good fit for the field,”said Barbara McFall, assistant professor.”It’s really important that we help our students understand the responsibilities of the profession and learn how to communicate those responsibilities to their clients.”
The undergraduate program uses a studio based approach, taking students from the exploration of abstract design concepts in early semesters to fully realized designs by the end of the term. Students are exposed to various areas of design, from residential to commercial and contract projects, which include businesses, health care facilities, the hospitality industry and others.
Some courses offer insight into the ins and outs of construction techniques, building codes and use of materials; others focus on the psychological aspects of how individuals respond to the spaces around them.
“And, of course, there’s the artistic, aesthetic component,”McFall noted.
Many graduates of the program go to work at interior design and architectural firms; others apply their skills in more unexpected settings. Recent graduate Brandon Smith of Beckley, Class of 2000, works with a residential house designer, modifying packaged house plans to meet specific client needs. Jennifer Sale, Class of 2003, of York Haven, Pa.., just joined the Disney Corp. As an”Imagineer,”helping create rides and attractions for Disney’s theme parks. As a result of the re accreditation, the Davis College is renovating studio space for the interior design program in the Agricultural Sciences Annex on WVU ’s Evansdale Campus. This will give the program three adjacent studio spaces, reinforcing collaborative learning and providing upgraded facilities.
Beyond the physical expansions under way, faculty in the program are also considering new areas of study.
“The health care industry and wellness facilities in general are some of the fastest growing areas of interior design,”Beacham said. While health care design is already included in coursework, the faculty are developing an area of emphasis that prepare students specifically for this niche market.
FIDER, founded in 1970, is an international non profit organization that accredits post secondary interior design education programs in the United States and Canada. Its primary purpose is to ensure a high level of quality in interior design education to meet the needs of students, the interior design profession and society.
For more information about the interior design program at WVU , contact Beacham at 304-293-3402.