MTSU Professor, Students Bring Cultural Awareness and Global View of Interior Design

MURFRESBORO, Tenn. – MTSU interior design majors get a global view of their future professions after participating in a project designed to help them avoid cultural bias in their work.

MTSU sophomores in an interior design process class and juniors in a business design class teamed up with students from other North American universities in February for a project that took them challenged to discard old assumptions and overcome the obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic to work together.

Janis Brickey, associate professor of interior design, said that with technology the international nature of design work has changed, so it is more important than ever to appreciate the diversity of cultures, generational differences and backgrounds. individual.

“Over the past 15 years our field has changed tremendously due to changes in materiality, our awareness of global warming and global warming means we (have to) have sustainable products,” Brickey said.

In addition to MTSU, participating institutions included Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois; Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York; Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Kean University in Union, New Jersey; and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

During the first week, students were required to write personal reflections on cultural awareness, produce an icebreaker video, collaborate on a team contract, and complete a cultural bias worksheet. They were also tasked with creating a product or other platform to communicate issues of cultural bias that they had become aware of.

With the end result representing 10% of their final course grade, students came up with innovative ideas that included a coloring book, coffee, dolls, face masks, cookbook, hair salon, games interactive tables and an interactive table suitable for libraries.

Maria Pina Valencia, a junior interior design student from Antioch, Tennessee, designed the Nexus Table, an interactive table that includes the world map. This painting represents international connections and how different cultures and minds can work together.

“Our poster includes our design process which explains how we used our four different ideas for our final design, the challenges we faced throughout the project, our different sketches and ideas and, finally, our result,” said declared Valencia.

“We wanted to show how four completely different minds can create something that brings a unique interactive experience that allows you to learn and communicate with others while being functional by adding hidden compartments.”

Ellie Kyrousis, a senior interior design student from Rye, New Hampshire, and her team created a poster called “The Equalizer,” an interactive product that used individual filters to show people in different ways.

“The goal of our model was to create a sense of equality among all people, whether they were disabilities, skin color, gender or religion,” Kyrousis said. “People using the filters would see everyone the same, without judgement.”

Brickey said collaboration and communication are important when designing for a variety of people, especially in commercial design.

In this specialty, the client could be involved in hospitality, education, religion, restaurants, or offices. Since the pandemic prompted millions of employees to work from home if they could, a new specialty called “resimercial,” a combination of residential and commercial design, has emerged.

“Companies are repurposing environments so they can have spaces where people can work in multiple places in a given environment,” Brickey said. “It’s very important because it gives people the freedom to be able to work and come together as a group when they need to and then be quiet when they need to.”

This is MTSU’s first foray into such a project, but Brickey said she thinks the students learned a lot.

“This experience was out of my comfort zone, but my group made it really fun and easy,” Valencia said. “It really showed me that no matter how many challenges we faced, as long as we all put our minds to it and worked with each other, we could do it just the way we wanted to.”

“When starting the project, I was nervous about working with other design students, fearing that my ideas might not be as good as theirs,” Kyrousis said. “However, as I got to know my group, I learned that they all felt the same way. It helped us bond in our work because we were open and honest with each other. with each other from the start.

“It was a harsh reality for our students, but the results that came out of it – it’s just amazing what they produced,” Brickey said.

For more information about MTSU’s Interior Design program, contact Brickey at 615-566-7604 or, or go to

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Rozella J. Cook