IIDA Student Members Take on Real-World Design

Four IIDA Student Members at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) got a taste of what designing in the “real world” is like after taking part in a project that laid the foundation for a new healthcare facility at the university’s Medical Center (UNMC).

IIDA Student Members Nicki Ahlschwede, Ashley Wojtalewicz, Teresa Fibich, and Justine McCarty worked alongside fellow UNL interior design and architecture students to plan design concepts for UNMC’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI), a healthcare facility that focuses on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The students were involved in the entire planning process, from picking a site and research to conceptual designs. They met with MMI to learn its needs and wants, review plans and research, and gain knowledge about strategic layouts that would seamlessly flow for doctors, nurses, clients, clients’ families, and students. They were also told what key elements needed to be present in their designs.

Wojtalewicz worked to make the facility have a non-clinical feel: “With our material choices the concept doesn’t really feel clinical at all, but yet it still supports clinical activities, and that’s what we were going for as a team.” She added that her instructor, Stacy Spale, IIDA, played an integral role in the project with her experience in healthcare design.

The collaboration between MMI and UNL was made possible through the efforts of Sheila Elijah Barnwell, College of Architecture Instructor at UNL, who caught wind of UNMC’s plans to build a new facility for MMI. After contacting MMI and presenting her proposal to involve interior design and architecture students, MMI believed it was a win-win situation for the students and MMI. “Since we are part of the training institution of Nebraska, this was an ideal way to have UNMC collaborate with UNL on a project that would benefit the students as well as the families we serve,” said Dr. Wayne Stuberg, Professor and Interim Director of MMI.

By the end of the semester long project, 12 teams impressed MMI administrators and directors with their conceptual proposals. Their creative, professional ideas and research will be given to the contracted architectural firm.

“I think the students always care more when it’s a real client, and it has real potential,” said Spale. “In five or six years, some of the ideas our students presented might end up in the real new Munroe-Meyer Institute. That’s really exciting and inspiring. It gave them a sense of purpose and direction. It’s not just an academic exercise; it has the potential to really change things.”

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