The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilized, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out.
– Albert Hadley
Working with his students, Tina-Marie Dust, Alyssa Hofilena and Amisha Singh, on the interior space of a Chinatown restaurant, Matthew Higgins carefully reviewed their choices of color and textiles, reminding them that a room is a behavioral space that sets the mood.
Higgins started at Chaminade University as a visiting professor with the Environmental + Interior Design program a year ago and only recently accepted the position as its program coordinator. In his new role, he will help set the vision for the department and ensure that it retains its Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) accreditation.
“I never take anything for granted,” says Higgins, referring to the program’s CIDA accreditation. “It’s a rigorous process, which requires a three-day on-site review by a visiting team to determine whether a program meets the standards for interior design education.”
A significant element in this peer review process is evaluating student work to determine achievement levels as an indicator of the adequacy of the required curriculum. Additional factors include academic and professional qualifications of the faculty in relation to the purposes and objectives of the program; adequacy of the facilities for the educational program; administrative structure of the program and its relationship to the institution as a whole; and program assessment methods, and the program’s continued development and improvement as a result of assessment.
“The scope of design has expanded and much broader now,” Higgins explains. “Here at Chaminade, the program added ‘Environmental’ to the curriculum in attempt to breakdown barriers, and to think beyond windows and doors.”
A licensed Realtor, Ruth Simmons decided to attain her BFA at the university, citing that she wanted to be able to offer her clients interior design recommendations. “I see it as complementing my skills as a Realtor,” she says. “The more you can provide your clients, the better.”
Also in their last semesters, Angela Huber and Laura Flor both hope to land jobs with an interior design firm when they graduate. The two seniors agreed that they’ve learned real-world skills that will help them execute the design process.
“Students can consider a room as behavioral space and change the mood of that room with interior design,” Higgins explains. “They can play with different materials, forms and hues. They get a really good grounding on the principles of interior design in this program.”
Higgins also appreciates the fact that Chaminade students are working toward a BFA (Bachelor’s of Fine Art) instead of a BA, distinguishing that the former demands more diligence and detail, and encompasses a host of topics, including color theory, textiles, sustainability in design, the history of furniture and much more.
“Chaminade has the only CIDA-accredited interior design program in Hawai‘i,” Higgins points out. “And, if for some reason, you didn’t want to stay in Hawaii, the next closest programs are in California or Japan.”