In a significant honor, the Interior Design Education Council has awarded Environmental + Interior Design Associate Professor Joan Riggs its Community Service Award in recognition of her many contributions to the field, to her students and to the broader community.
Riggs will be presented with the award at a virtual ceremony in February during IDEC’s annual conference.
In notifying Riggs that she had won, IDEC President Ellen Fisher praised the professor for incorporating interior design into a long list of community service projects. Over the years, Riggs has challenged students to incorporate their interior design skills in community-centered spaces, from youth correctional facilities to safehouses for human trafficking victims to training centers.
She has also helped students reimagine interior design in nursing homes and healthcare facilities.
“The essence of Joan’s character, as well as her approach as an educator, is to serve the greater public good through design,” wrote Professor Dr. Elizabeth Lockard, in nominating Riggs for the community service award. “Service-learning is at the core of her pedagogical philosophy.”
Lockard added that Riggs sees interior design as a profession with an obligation to serve the underserved, elevating everyone’s wellbeing and quality of life. She has a particular passion in “universal design,” which seeks to underscore the social value of designing for inclusivity.
Riggs, who joined the Environmental + Interior Design faculty in 2003 and has served as its program director for the last 12 years, said placing service learning and community service at the center of design education gives students an awareness of their impact—and a greater compassion for those they serve.
“In partnerships, they deepen their ability to adapt—their thinking, their perspective and their understanding—with respect to how diversity is a strength and problem solving is a gift to be shared,” she said. “As an educator, what greater reward than to see students emerge as skilled, compassionate and successful designers? I am truly blessed to be part of this process.”
Her award, she added, is icing “on a marvelous multi-layered cake.”