Jan. 13, 2010

Ivy League's only interior design program gets reaccredited

Cornell's interior design program -- the only such program in the Ivy League -- has been reaccredited by the Council of Interior Design Accreditation.

The accreditation certifies that the program, which is in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis in the College of Human Ecology, meets the most rigorous standards for interior design education and that students at Cornell clearly demonstrate an understanding of the principles of sustainability, the implications of designing in a world market and the theories of human behavior.

The rigorous review process and the subsequent report reaffirmed the quality and depth of Cornell's interior design program, said Shelia Danko, professor and chair of the department.

"During the review process, we demonstrated time and again the scholarly underpinning of our students' design work, their understanding of practical applications and their ability to be innovative problem-solvers," she said, noting that the program was first accredited in 1986 and is reaccredited every six years.

The program received high rankings in seven areas: sustainability, global perspectives, human behavior, evidence-based design, contemporary issues, group dynamics and community service.

At the start of the review process, the department submitted a 60-page report detailing how the program addresses 16 educational standards measured by the council. The department also set up an entire gallery of student work produced over the past three years. During the accreditation review, a team of design educators and practitioners spent three days on the Ithaca campus reviewing course syllabi, lecture notes and the student gallery.

"This is an evidence-based review process, which means the council wants to see teaching concepts and goals reflected in what the students actually produce," Danko said. "Every course, every project assignment, every exam is reviewed. It's a 'show-me' versus a 'tell me' process."

The review team commented that students in the program "demonstrated a strong understanding of the concepts, principles and theories of sustainability as they pertain to building methods, materials, systems and occupants" and "an understanding of globalization and the implications of conducting the practice of design within a world market."

The team also commented that students demonstrated the ability to apply human behavior theories in their work and "an understanding of team work structures and dynamics."

"The program teaches design-thinking and creative problem-solving skills that span human behavior, social issues and strategic business planning," Danko said. "We're training our students to envision new opportunities for design impact and to use design to develop solutions that help people and communities," she said.

In national ranking by DesignIntelligence magazine, the undergraduate interior design program is ranked fourth in the nation, and the graduate program is ranked third.

Sheri Hall is assistant director of communications at the College of Human Ecology.