5 IIDA Student Members Share Their Memorable Moments from the IIDA Student Conference

Last year, the Trustees of the IIDA Foundation added a new initiative to the Designing for the Future Campaign: A portion of the funds raised from the campaign sponsored five IIDA Student Members for an all-expenses paid trip to the 2018 IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter’s Student Conference. The annual Student Conference brings together an array of top students, educators, and design industry professionals for a multi-day professional enrichment experience that includes project and firm tours, mock interviews, and a variety of other networking opportunities. Here, these five students talk about what they took away from the experience, the value of portfolio reviews, and what getting outside of your comfort zone can do for yourself and your career.

Making Fast Friends

With my sponsorship from IIDA, I was able to attend the 18th annual IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter Student Conference, an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have financially been able to do. I was the only student from my school and from the state of Utah to attend the conference — I was pretty nervous. However, on the first day, I rode the bus from the hotel to the pep rally at the Haworth showroom. I randomly sat by another student who was also there by herself from Kansas. We realized that we were both recipients of the same sponsorship from IIDA. That evening we met another student from California who had been sponsored to attend the conference and we all quickly became friends.

I participated in the portfolio review and mock interviews. I was nervous but I was paired with incredible designers who were very genuine, talented, and eager to help me. They gave me great feedback and comments on my portfolio and how to interview with ease.

Allison Newell, Student IIDA, Utah State University, Inter Mountain Chapter

Realizing What You Want to Focus On 

I’ve always been told that to be the best designer, you have to walk out on a limb, make that extra effort, and step out of your comfort zone. Well, in my two years of traveling from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Houston and Dallas, I can say that this conference has taught me some of the most valuable and interesting lessons about being the best designer I can be!

This year my experience was nothing short of amazing. Each year the Texas/Oklahoma Chapter make us Alabama students feel so welcome with their generosity and hospitality. Seriously, these volunteers who put together this conference give their hearts and souls to making this the most educational and rewarding experience for students. I have always known that I wanted to be a commercial designer, however, it was at last year’s student conference that I realized I wanted to focus on corporate and office design and create spaces that make work environments enjoyable.

Carmen Jenkins, Student IIDA, University of Alabama, Alabama Chapter

Surrounding Yourself with Passionate People

This was my first time ever attending the IIDA Student Conference. I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect but the whole time being there was such a learning experience because I got to meet so many students that were just like me who knew what it was like to stay late in the studio to complete projects. It was so inspiring to see how passionate other people are about interior design, why they chose this career path, and what they are striving to be. There was so much to take in and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Nicolle Soriano, Student IIDA, Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific Chapter

Learning How to Stand Up for Your Design

Any professional that I met, I made sure to grab their business cards. If they didn’t have one, I took a picture of their name tag. I now have a phone full of name tags and business cards. Each one of the professionals encouraged us to tap into their resources, ask them questions, email them about products, ideas, resumes, portfolios, etc. They wanted to help us succeed.

Our keynote speaker for the event, Primo Orpilla, co-founder of the firm Studio O+A, left all of us with some very wise words. He told us to find our voice, define our narrative, leverage space types to building flexibility, and to customize and curate success. We need to be in control of the design. Stand up for our design. We need to understand the things that make the space a memorable experience. Have empathy for the client and the space, not sympathy. He concluded his talk by reminding us that our design can change attitudes and how the users treat one another. Your designs have an impact!

Kellie DeVries, Student IIDA, Michigan State University, Michigan Chapter

The Power of a Portfolio Review

Our final day was loaded with panels and speakers, filling my head with very valuable information about stepping out into the world after school successfully. The best part of my day, however, was the portfolio review. After two conversations with a very kind Susan Bellson from JSI she pulled me over and set me up to do my review with Elizabeth Trupiano from Corgan and I got very lucky with that. Elizabeth asked great questions of me, listened intently and gave helpful critiques, and then sat and answered all of my questions until we ran out of time. I loved making friends and connections that I’m sure will last me years.

Chelsea Bainbridge, Student IIDA, Kansas State University, Mid America Chapter

To learn more about IIDA student membership, including professional development and leadership opportunities, visit iida.org.

Up Close with Philadelphia University

IIDA Campus Center: Philadelphia University

IIDA Chapter: Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter

Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Board Members

Co-Presidents: Christine Migliore, Student IIDA, and Rachel Thode, Student IIDA

Secretary: Kaitlyn DeBeras, Student IIDA

Events Coordinators: Caitlin Bakofsky, Student IIDA, and Bridget Sax, Student IIDA

Treasurer: Julia Strange, Student IIDA

IIDA Liaison: Emily Nelson, Student IIDA

ASID Liaison: Chela Humber, Student IIDA

AIAS Liaison: Gabriela Morales, Student IIDA

Social Media Coordinator: Paige Hocker, Student IIDA

Number of Student Members: 93

IIDA Campus Centers are the first point of contact interior design students have to IIDA. Each one is unique in design, programming, and initiatives, which makes for a varied student experience across chapters. We want to highlight the diversity of IIDA Student Member experiences by introducing you to a handful of campus centers. From how they run their group to what activities garner the most student interest, here is what we learned after sitting down with the IIDA Campus Center at Philadelphia University.

IIDA HQ: Tell us about your campus center – What does your Board of Directors look like? How does your campus center operate?

IIDA Philadelphia University Campus Center: Our board consists of interior design students of all grades. We have a secretary, event coordinators, a treasurer, an IIDA liaison, AIAS liaison, ASID liaison, and a social media coordinator. We hold monthly board meetings, which allow us to come together and gather our ideas and plan events. These meetings are typically held a week before our monthly campus meeting where all ideas and events are then discussed with all of our campus center members. These meetings allow us to get any feedback from all of our members on any suggestions for events we hold, as well as answering any questions they may have.

Co-presidents and Board Members

Philadelphia University Campus Center Co-presidents and Board Members

IIDA HQ: What kind of events and activities do you host at your campus center?

PU: This past semester we held Milkshake Monday to help raise money for future IIDA events. This was open to all students and faculty on campus to gain awareness of IIDA.

Milkshake Monday

We also hold a mentor-mentee program within our campus in which we pair underclassman with upperclassman. This gives the underclassman an extra resource to go to for help regarding design and any other classes. We held a pizza social to introduce the mentees to their mentors. At the end of the semester we also held a potluck, which was open to all students in our interior design program – not just those who are IIDA members. This allowed everyone to come together and encouraged those who are not already members to join.

This upcoming semester we plan to hold firm and showroom visits as well as host our annual product showcase to help familiarize students with the industry.

IIDA HQ: What are your favorite or most successful events and activities that you host?

PU: Our potluck was our most successful event that we have held so far. We had a significant turnout that included not only our students but faculty as well. This event allowed everyone to get involved since it was open to all of interior design. It was also a relaxing event to have before the end of the semester.



IIDA HQ: And because we have to ask: What is the biggest benefit of being an IIDA Member and having an active campus center?

PU: The biggest benefit is that we have a constant support system. This support system is created through our mentor-mentee program. Since we do hold events that are open to all of the interior design students on campus, another benefit of being an IIDA Student Member is becoming involved with the Philadelphia Chapter through networking events and competing in competitions. There is always an opportunity for networking and meeting so many new people! Being a member also allows students to participate in the IIDA Student Mentoring Program, which is beneficial in gaining further industry knowledge.

Follow the IIDA Philadelphia University Campus Center on Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about IIDA Campus Centers, visit iida.org

Campus Center Highlight: Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University

IIDA Campus Center: Kendall College of Art & Design of Ferris State University (KCAD)

IIDA Chapter: Michigan Chapter

Where: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Board Members: Kelsey Ballast, Student IIDA, Campus Center President

Alanna Sanchez, Student IIDA,  Campus Center President-Elect

Ashley Newton, Student IIDA, Senior Class Representative

Number of Student Members: 34

IIDA Campus Centers are the first point of contact interior design students have to IIDA. Each campus center is unique in design, programming, and initiatives, which makes for a varied student experience across chapters. Starting today, we want to highlight the diversity of IIDA student experiences by introducing you to a handful of campus centers. From how they run their group to what activities garner the most student interest, here is what we learned from IIDA Student Members Kelsey Ballast, IIDA Campus Center President, and Ashley Newton, Senior Class Representative.

A Winning Organizational Structure 

The KCAD Campus Center Board of Directors consists of five students with representatives from each school class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior). Each representative has individual responsibilities and everyone is voted in by their cohort. Board members meet monthly with a faculty advisor and schedule separate meetings on top of campus center meetings. What gives KCAD’s Campus Center structure extra support is the role not just of a campus center president but a president-elect. The president-elect, a junior, shadows the president, a senior, for the year with the intent of being well-familiarized with what exactly the president role entails. Says Kelsey, the president-elect position is “locked into being the president the next year, especially being a club at our university. There are more strings attached.” 

Events That Engage

Two of KCAD’s most popular events encourage students and design professionals to network. “Students always want to take advantage of those opportunities and those are the things that get a high turnout and a lot of interest from our student members,” said Ashley.

At monthly update meetings, working professionals from a firm or manufacturer, with a focus on Kendall alumni, are invited to speak to students. Lunch and Learns are a more formalized affair with lunch provided (“Always a popular thing to be at,” said Kelsey) and professionals from the field bring samples of their work and explaining what they do to students. Representatives from Steelcase and Haworth are just some of the big names that have presented – an advantage of living in a historic furniture manufacturing center.

But the students at KCAD are also very proactive about making sure these programs and resources are available. They work with their faculty advisors that have connections with larger industries and maintain lines of communication with the larger Michigan Chapter. The reciprocal relationship is a defining characteristic between the IIDA Campus Center at KCAD and the Michigan Chapter. “This becomes a big family that you can leverage later on. You get to know most people through your time here that you never know when they’re going to be able to help you out or give you input, advice, or experience with anything,” says Ashley.

We’re a Big Family

The IIDA Campus Center at KCAD has specific campus center board members that act as additional liaisons with Michigan Chapter leaders. This has been instrumental in forming close relationships that feel like family. “Being a freshman coming into design school, I was a little worried of not feeling that community and feeling very competitive all the time. IIDA has definitely softened that and has created a community here at our school and then a community of designers broader in our region,” said Kelsey. 

Ashley echoes the sentiment: “Kendall is a commuter campus and so having that opportunity to be in a group with our students that is outside of schoolwork and extends to more professional events, or gives you a glimpse into what you do outside of school and beyond school, has been fantastic for both social and professional reasons. The opportunities of networking with and meeting people — it becomes a lot more fun to go out and have those conversations when we’re either interviewing for jobs, even just talking to other professionals in general.”

The Student Perspective: Orgatec 2016

Today’s post is written by Kelsey Ballast, Student IIDA, winner of the inaugural IIDA Booth Design Competition at Orgatec. The competition provided students the opportunity to design a trade show booth at this year’s Orgatec Trade Fair in Cologne, Germany, on Oct. 25-29. Kelsey received an all-expense-paid trip to Orgatec to see her design concept realized, courtesy of Vitra, as well as a tour of the Vitra campus.

The amount of incredible design that I have been immersed in over the last couple of weeks has been completely overwhelming in the best way possible. I was fortunate to have been selected as the winner of the IIDA Booth Design Competition at Orgatec, where I was flown to Cologne, Germany to attend Orgatec, an event billed as “the leading international trade fair for the modern working world.”  

As I wandered through the chaos that was the day before Orgatec’s opening, hoping to find the IIDA booth, I was overwhelmed and in awe. The mess of boxes and people running around setting up complicated and massive showrooms made me feel a bit anxious to see my design. I was hoping that it all came together and would be able to fit in among these other impressive spaces.


Kelsey inside the booth she designed with IIDA International Board Members (from left) Scott Hierlinger, IIDA, LEED AP, Marlene Liriano, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, and Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, and James Kerrigan, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C. All the furniture in the booth is by Vitra.

As the booth came into view, relief overcame me when I saw that it had actually come together. The team wandered through the booth, but I found myself observing. Seeing the team interact with the space – knowing the thought and intention behind it all – I was overjoyed. 

On the first day of the show, we arrived early to get all of the IIDA brochures and accessories in place. At 9 a.m., the PA system echoed through the halls, signaling the show was now open. Not 30 seconds later, crowds of people were streaming past our booth. Visitors stopped in and took photos of different areas and elements in the booth. I did not expect this at all! As the day went on, the atmosphere around the booth was very positive. The space was used exactly as I had hoped – as a place of respite and relaxation for visitors to sit and have a conversation with one another or just kick their feet up for a minute.  

I was also able to spend time exploring the hundreds of showrooms spanning almost 1,400,000 square feet. The part that amazed me the most was that all of these showrooms were constructed solely for the show. They were all within large halls, so each vendor constructed their own architecture to define the space.


Shots from Orgatec. Inside the Cascando booth.

It was such an eye opening and inspiring experience to explore the madness that is Orgatec. The amount of innovation, new companies, and variety widened my perspective of the industry and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of a career in interior design.

The next part of my trip was a tour of the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which is near the border of Switzerland. The hillside surrounding the campus was covered in the warm golden tones of the changing fall leaves and harvested fields. The juxtaposition of nature’s perfection with the clean lines of the many buildings at the Vitra Campus was something from a dream. I witnessed the brilliance of multiple architects’ and designers’ work, including Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Zaha Hadid, just to name a few. 


Exterior of the Vitra Fire Station by Zaha Hadid Architects.

These buildings were like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before. Every element was intentional and thoroughly designed in the purest way. But don’t take my word for it: Check out vitra.com for a virtual tour of the campus. 

I am so thankful to IIDA and Vitra for providing me with this opportunity. Everything I was able to do and see has altered my view of design for the better and enhanced the way I see and will execute my designs going forward. My time in Germany has taught me that design should reflect authenticity, purity, and the value of experience, and that’s a lesson I won’t soon forget. 

See Orgatec from Kelsey’s point of view by visiting the IIDA HQ Instagram feed and searching #iidatakeover.