Interior Design walks the walk
Just for perspective, in the fall of 1971, Qatar declared independence from Great Britain, Walt Disney launched the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., and the NASA space probe, Mariner 9, dropped into orbit around Mars. That same fall, some 39 years ago, the Interior Design program at Dakota County Technical College—then known as the Dakota County Area Vocational-Technical Institute—set up shop in Rosemount High School and began delivering a front-edge curriculum to students seeking careers in a multifaceted profession that is an almost perfect synthesis of technical know-how and artistic expression.
Today, the DCTC Interior Design program is housed in first-rate facilities on the college’s main campus in Rosemount, Minn., building on a legacy that has produced a host of accomplished alumni educated by a brigade of distinguished faculty, past and present.
“When students entered our program, they frequently lacked insights into what life was like in such a sophisticated and demanding field. Part of our job was to teach them to grow as individuals both intellectually and in a business sense.” —Karen Doyle
Interior design as a field certainly predates written histories, going back at least 50,000 years when nomadic early humans were busy staking claim to random interior spaces. Few authorities would suggest Homo neanderthalensis ever tried to feng shui a cave, but function, safety and aesthetics were almost certainly key considerations—just as they are now when an interior designer directs the architectural detailing of a private residence or works out the traffic pattern of an office complex.
Jean Roberts and Karen Doyle are legendary Interior Design faculty. Both retired in 2006, Roberts after 17 years, Doyle after nearly 29, and both chaired the college’s Design department. They continue to serve on the program’s Advisory Committee.
“We have an amazing faculty leading the program into the future. They are superbly credentialed and have years of experience directing major projects at top-tier architecture and design firms.”—Jean Roberts
Roberts entered her teaching career with a strong background in both residential and commercial design. She also had experience running her own business, CR Interiors, Inc., which she still runs today. She views the Interior Design program at DCTC as a treasure trove of interior design knowledge with a deep vault of industry and professional connections.
“We have an amazing faculty leading the program into the future,” Roberts said. “They are superbly credentialed and have years of experience directing major projects at top-tier architecture and design firms.”
Doyle pointed out that the Interior Design program is centered on delivering the best possible education to students who are passionate about joining a profession that their instructors not only love, but also understand from the ground up.
“When students entered our program, they frequently lacked insights into what life was like in such a sophisticated and demanding field,” said Doyle, who augmented her teaching skills by earning a Master of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. “Part of our job was to teach them to grow as individuals both intellectually and in a business sense. They came in as quiet, little people and left savvy and brimming with confidence.”
Kathy Huus, the director of the Interior Design program since 2007, embodies the finest qualities of the interior design professional. Also an instructor in the program, Huus conveys a world of industry experience to her students, having held project leadership roles at such prestigious architectural firms as Ehrlich-Rominger (merged with HDR to form one of the largest design firms in the U.S.) and Perkins+Will, an international firm with a presence on four continents, including a location in Minneapolis.
“Our graduates leave our program with a solid technical foundation and the understanding that interior design is a people business.”—Kathy Huus
Her list of credentials is equally impressive: CID, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP—the latter standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, which is the blue-chip certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Two other instructors in our program are also LEED AP, Anne Farniok and Coco Early,” said Huus, “which signifies not only our commitment to sustainability, but also the importance of giving our students the knowledge and tools to compete in an industry that grows greener by the day. All the top international firms employ a LEED AP presence because more and more clients are tuned to sustainability and looking for built environments certified by the LEED Rating System.”
Mirroring the quest for professionalism championed by her predecessors, Huus makes sure that her students have endless opportunities to network, connect and learn from interior designers already established flourishing in their chosen field. The program is affiliated with a king’s gallery of professional organizations, including ASID, IFDA, IIDA, NEWH and NKBA. The latter acronym, of course, refers to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, which recently granted re-accreditation status to the program.
During their last semester, students secure a 224-hour internship with an interior design or architectural firm, or design showroom. Following the internship, students give a presentation about their experiences to their classmates, further expanding an appreciation for the depth and complexity of interior design.
“Our faculty, including six to eight adjuncts at any given time, and our curriculum are second to none,” Huus said. “Our graduates leave our program with a solid technical foundation and the understanding that interior design is a people business. They leave with the skills, both soft and hard, to collaborate with other designers as well as with architects, engineers and contractors to deliver interior environments that are smart, green, safe, attractive and matched to the needs of their future clients.”