Nothing But Professional
Interior Design students make great waves at HCTV
Tom Wright, the executive director of Hastings Community Television, was looking at a major remodel of the HCTV office and studio space located in Hastings High School. He wasn’t sure how to proceed, but he had recently worked with a college program for a logo redesign project—and the experience had been wholly positive.
“I went online looking for a college interior design program and DCTC was the first website I tried,” Wright said. “I was impressed right away with the instructors and the curriculum.”
Wright soon met with Kathy Huus, the director of the DCTC Interior Design program. They took a tour of the station with Wright explaining his ideas for the remodel. They quickly saw the full potential for a collaborative venture. Wright had found a way to realize his dream of creating a distinctive, expressly functional workspace his staff could call their own, and Huus had found a way for her students to get professional, real-world experience through an amazing service-learning project.
“The staff at HCTV was seeking to upgrade their space and build a stronger brand identity for their station,” said Huus, who enlisted five volunteers to work on the pro bono project from her class of second-year students. At first, the plan was to provide a space efficiency evaluation as well as new finished materials such as carpeting, paint and logo-aligned signage for a more visible presence at the school and in the community.
“As we worked along, the project grew, which was a great learning opportunity for the students,” Huus said. “They got the chance to select ceiling tile, look at lighting and really delve into effective space planning. I coordinated with the vendors and contractors, but our students were truly the designers on this project.”
Besides working with an actual client—not a hypothetical client in a studio class, the students also had the chance to test their skills against a tight timeline and a tighter budget.
“There were some challenges,” said Huus, who pointed out that the remodel began midsummer 2010 yet needed to be completed by the time Hastings High School started classes at the end of August. “Deadlines and budget issues are very normal in real-world projects so this was a good experience for our students.”
The Designers *
Angela Colomb, 40, of St. Paul, Minn.
A University of Minnesota grad with a B.A. in art history, Angela Columb always wanted to earn a degree in interior design. She found the DCTC program after talking to a friend, who gave it a strong recommendation. She enrolled with the goal to work at a design or architectural firm as a professional interior designer.
“I’ve talked with different people out in the industry and everyone respects highly Dakota County Technical College’s program,” said Columb, who is originally from Delano, Minn. “Everyone knows it’s a rigorous program—and there are a lot of people from the program that are working right now, which is great in this economy.”
The mother of three, two boys and a girl, Columb also runs a remodeling business with her husband. She volunteered for HCTV project, knowing it was leap forward in preparing for her career.
“The client has been overwhelmed and really happy with the work we’ve done,” said Columb, who worked on space planning, furniture options and lighting. “He was shocked by the amount of professionalism we brought. I think the finished project is going to be fantastic for them.”
Curtis Rottweiler, 41, of St. Paul
Curtis Rottweiler had heard nothing but good things about the DCTC Interior Design program prior to enrolling, especially the intensity of the curriculum. “The technical side of design was my main reason for returning to school,” he said. “Choosing DCTC was sort of a no-brainer for me.”
He enjoyed the team dynamic he experienced during the HCTV project. “We were brought in at the design development phase,” he said. “We presented to the client and came up with a lot of different ideas, which meant a lot of brainstorming.”
Originally from Riverton, Wyoming, with a background in visual merchandising, Rottweiler ranked client interaction as a key learning element of the project. “As an interior designer, you need to know how to coordinate, manage and direct the conversation to get the job done.”
Gina Atkinson, 41, of Lino Lakes, Minn.
As the mother of five-year-old twins, Gina Atkinson doesn’t have much free time, but that didn’t stop her from taking part in the HCTV project. Atkinson has always had a creative streak, but neither her degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin nor her 15 years of experience in the insurance industry gave her the outlet she needed to express that aspect of her nature. Interior design proved the perfect career choice.
“I don’t want my job to take away any energy that I’m giving to my kids,” said Atkinson, who eventually took a night class at DCTC called Design Fundamentals. “I came home the first night and said to my husband, ‘This is what I need to do.’”
When she started the program, Atkinson was mostly interested in residential interior design. Her horizons expanded after discovering the scope and depth of the curriculum, which she believes really prepares graduates to enter the profession and get a job. The Appleton, Wis., native quickly encountered the world of commercial interior design. She sees that as a great career option.
On the HCTV project, she worked within the confines of a not-for-profit budget to select lounge and office furniture that was affordable and multifunctional. “This was an unbelievable opportunity to work on an actual project and see it from beginning to end,” she said. “The budget was a challenge, but that’s a challenge we’re going to have to figure out how to work with in the real world.”
* Patricia Gray and Rachel Addison also worked on the five-student design team
Now that the remodel is complete, Tom Wright and his staff of eight at HCTV couldn’t be more pleased. HCTV broadcasts three channels, CH 14 Public Access, which won the 2009 Upper Midwest Emmy for Best Community TV Newscast, CH 15 Education/Classics Channel and CH 16 Government Access. The station received three Emmy nominations in 2010.
“I completely recommend working with the DCTC Interior Design program,” said Wright during the final stages of the project. “The students have been nothing but professional, nothing but talented and nothing but reliable. I feel like I’m working with a team of interior designers.”