DCTC Welcomes New Interior Design Instructor

Theresa Rae Bauer brings an array of interests to her program

A professional interior designer with extensive management and design experience on both residential and commercial projects, Theresa Rae Bauer, LEED AP, ID+C, augments her creative side with pursuits that include fractals, permaculture, sustainable environments and wildlife conservation. Bauer began teaching in the Interior Design program at Dakota County Technical College fall semester 2013.

Bauer’s professional portfolio contains project management work on more than 70 retail and administration sites at a bank holding company ranked in the top 15 on the Forbes Global 2000. Projects ranged from small workstation reconfigurations to large-scale, all-over building remodels with more than 300 phased staff relocations. She was responsible for all phases of her projects, beginning with the client programming, developing the budgets for approval, designing fit and space plans, hiring contractors, vendors and vested team members, specifying and procuring all finishes, furniture and signage, and managing the construction and installation process through the client move in and punch out process.

She is well-versed in residential design, having owned a log environment company for six years, designing, preparing sites and assembling log homes in the Upper Midwest. This past summer, Bauer designed and assisted with the construction of a small, sustainable homestead located high up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Perched on the top of granite boulders overlooking a steady mountain stream, the tiny home was designed for the owner to live “affordably and abundantly” while communing with the natural environment.

As a complement to her service in the design industry, Bauer taught at Brown College for 12 years, developing and administering interior design and interdisciplinary design courses. Her expertise in design software covers Autodesk AutoCAD and Revit, SketchUp Pro, and Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.

Bauer has a Master of Arts in Interior Design and a Bachelor of Science in General Home Ecomonics, both from the University of Minnesota. She is on schedule to complete her Ph.D. in interior design, also at the U of M, in 2013. Her dissertation, “Occupant Satisfaction with Indoor Environmental Quality of Alternative Workspaces in Office Environments,” centers on Hanson Hall on the U of M Twin Cities campus.

“I place a strong emphasis on evidence-based design and environmental psychology,” Bauer said. “For instance, when researching design for the aging, my students learn firsthand about ergonomic issues from the perspective of the client. They wear glasses coated in Vaseline to simulate visual impairment, which alters the legibility and color of the environment. They also wear gloves to simulate changes in dexterity and grasping.”

Field trips are an important part of the learning process. In September, students in her Materials and Estimating class traveled to Chatfield, Minn., to visit the Tuohy Furniture Corporation. Founded in 1952, Tuohy designs and manufactures furniture for workplace environments around the world. The tour provided students with an opportunity to see how pallets of wood veneers enter in one door and later—through several well-honed engineering processes—exit out the other door as finely crafted pieces of furniture.

Next, the students drove to the Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center in Lanesboro, Minn., where they visited the home of the campus director, Joe Dreden. Positioned high up on the bluffs overlooking the Root River, the home was retrofitted in 2011 with added insulation, new windows and energy-efficient lighting, changes that resulted in a deep energy reduction of 70 percent annually. In addition to the important change made to home’s design, students were able to learn more about Eagle Bluff’s goals to foster sustainable lifestyles by teaching food growing techniques and other energy conservation practices.

Bauer showed her attunement to the influx of green practices in the design industry by earning her LEED AP, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, a flagship accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council. Her interest in sustainability and conservation led her to join a 2007 research project at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Ariz. Thanks to an Earthwatch Research Fellowship Award, she worked on a team studying the diversity and abundance of caterpillars in the Chiricahua Mountains. Her team collected more than 400 individual caterpillars representing 19 families and 54 species. The team’s findings showed that understanding the diversity relationships across ecosystems is necessary when directing the management of those very same systems.

In 2012, Bauer earned a certificate in permaculture design from Midwest Permaculture at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Permaculture is an ecological design system focused on sustainability across all facets of human enterprise. Bauer practices permaculture at home by planting and cultivating her own lasagne garden. “This year, I had a bumper crop of butternut squash,” she said.

One of Bauer’s creative outlets involves generating works of art using fractals. Easy definitions for fractals are in short supply, but here is one simpler than most: A fractal is a geometric shape that has symmetry of scale, aka self-similarity. In other words, you could zoom in on any part of a fractal an infinite number of times and it would still look the same.

The concept of fractals is relatively new to science. Coined in 1975 by Benoit Mandelbrot, a Polish-born mathematician, the term fractal stems from fractus, the Latin word for “broken.” The strangeness of the fractal experience is illustrated by the way fractals, natural and computer-generated, can feature an infinite perimeter in a finite area. Mountain ranges, coastlines, watersheds, lightning, snowflakes, ferns and broccoli are examples of fractals housed in nature. The study of fractals finds purchase in the fields of medicine, computer science, education, geography, mathematics, design and more.

“I use a freeware program called Apophysis to create fractals,” Bauer said. “Fractals can be very complex and beautiful. It’s easy see to see how fractals can be applied to interior design through furnishings and art.”

For more information about Interior Design at DCTC, contact: