After years of preparation, Interior Design was recently reaccredited by The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
Because accreditation involves extensive preparation, the art and design department has been preparing for six years–the standard time frame for accreditation.
To be accredited, the department is required to provide thorough evidence that the program, including professors and classes, meets all the CIDA standards.
“It gave us a really good understanding of where we are today and how well we actually are doing,” Kelly Mann, interior design instructor said. “It’s basically like a nice self-assessment but to have it confirmed by someone else.”
In January 2017, the CIDA changed its standards and they had to work extensive hours to finish everything on time.
By December 2017, they turned in a 65+ page program analysis report, including descriptions of every class and how they met the standards along with syllabi, project reports and student work for the evidence.
Ronnie Rama, director of interior design and architecture and associate professor in the department of art and design, was in charge of the reaccreditation process, but relied heavily on help from students and instructor Kelly Mann.
“It was very helpful to have students on board because from a teaching perspective we see what we are trying to achieve but the reality is are we actually achieving that,” Mann said. “So having the student perspective was a nice addition, because we know where we are heading and then were able to bounce that off the students.”
If the program was not reaccredited, then they would have gone on a two-year probation period to fix all of the inadequate standards. This not only affects the faculty, but the students would not have been able to become licensed Interior Designers.
Rama explained how amazed CIDA was with the interior design students, “They commented on how impressed they were of the students, because of how involved and the sense of community that the Interior Design program has and their sense of investment. They understand the significance that this has for their professional careers.”
Annelise White, senior pre-architecture and interior design major from Abilene and organizer, helped take photos, contact students and proofread the report.
“My first main job was going through the massive report, making sure it answered all the questions and making sure it looked professional,” White said. “That was a lot of work, we worked on that for three or maybe two months. There were a lot of late nights and weekends. I was going to professor’s houses and we would just sit at the dinner table working on the same google doc for three or four hours.”
Once the report was turned in, they focused on prepping for the site visit. The art gallery was set up as a student work exhibit which showcased everything they had put in the report.
They had to create binders for each class and a map so that the inspectors could easily match the report with each class and find further proof that the program was up to standard.
Arlene Kasselman, administrative coordinator of art and design, helped manage the communication between people, plus supplies and hospitality. Her job includes helping students from their visitation day all the way until the exit interview for graduation. She is a key contributor to the interior design community since she gets to see the whole picture and as such helps with communication and management of the department.
After years of preparation, three visitors from CIDA came to campus for a site visit in February.
Mann explained how the site visitors had already read the report and used the exhibit to cross-check certain things. They wanted to tour campus, especially the Maker Lab, so they could see all the resources available to students. She also said the visitors sat in on classes and met with students.
Hannah Scherr, junior pre-architecture and interior design major from Boulder, Colorado, “There were a few students chosen from every year to be on the student panel. We met every week for a month and half or so to study the standards and prepare for the CIDA people’s questions. When they came, we met them for an hour and answered their questions and told them about our program.”
Even though the visit took place in February, the official accreditation came through in August.
“When they left they shared their positive recommendation,” Rama said. “The site visitors write their own report and make a recommendation to the council itself. The council meets and decides whether or not to uphold that recommendation.”
The recommendation included 13 program strengths. Mann explained that most schools have three to four strengths, so it’s incredible how they went above and beyond in 13 areas. However, just because the program went above and beyond in this accreditation does not mean they will stop preparing for the next one.
“In six years when we have to go through the process again we want to take ACU up a whole other level,” Mann said. “We want to make sure we are not stagnating, we are proud of this program, I’m proud of this program. Having that pride has been a good thing for our students. Knowing where we stand and having a goal for where we are heading to bigger and better things. To produce more students that are succeeding and doing well.”
White was thrilled that the CIDA visitors recognized the unique community of ACU’s design program. She said the department is like family, and any art and design students would agree.
“We understand each other’s passion for design in a way that no one else can,” Scherr said. “We don’t just support one another in design, but in life. We’ve walked through seasons of trouble and seasons of joy with one another, prayed for one another, celebrated one another, and held one another when we’ve cried. I don’t know if I could find a community like this anywhere else. When I visited the ACU Interior Design department as a high school junior, I could tell it was special, and now that I’ve been here for two years, I know deeply what special community it is, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”