Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Interior design faculty prepares program for accreditation

Monday, October 22, 2012
A floor plan for a bathroom designed by an interior design student in Scully Building. Photo by Nathan Hamilton

The Department of Human Environmental Studies' interior design program is on the verge of acquiring its first accreditation this March and already is planning for its second accreditation, which would make it one of only four programs in the nation to obtain both.

National Kitchen and Bath Association is for all interior design professionals in the kitchen and bath industry, according to NKBA's website.

Council for Interior Designers Association is an organization that accredits college and university interior design education programs, according to CIDA's website.

The faculty of the interior design program started the NKBA accreditation process in 2008. Carol Nesler is the NKBA accreditation facilitator, Shelby Hicks is CIDA accreditation facilitator and Michelle Brune is the curriculum coordinator.

"We really looked at it because it establishes credibility for our program, and that's what we were looking to do," Nesler said.

Credibility is one reason why accreditation is important, but it is also important because of the appeal of an accredited program for future students coming to Southeast Missouri State University.

"That's one of the first questions that [future students] ask, 'Are you accredited?' because they're doing their homework and realizing that that gives them more marketability, more ability to get a job potentially," Brune said.

NKBA and CIDA accreditation gives students many benefits.

While students still are in the interior design program, both accreditations will give them more opportunities to submit their work into competitions for NKBA- and CIDA-accredited schools only. Accreditations will also save students time when they take post-graduate exams.

"When they graduate, they normally would have to sit for the Certified Kitchen Designer Exam or Associate Kitchen Designer exam," Nesler said. "For the academic portion of that exam the students have to have two years of field experience. Going through this program waives that two-year work experience requirement."

The first step in the process was to complete a self-study, which required interior design faculty to look at the entire interior design program and analyze whether it was meeting the NKBA body of knowledge objectives, and if it was missing those objectives, how they could be incorporated into courses.

Accrediting organizations each have a body of knowledge that are specific goals and objectives a program has to meet in order to gain accreditation.

"Developing a timeline for each course and each class period and what part of the body of knowledge would be covered and how it would be covered was very daunting and time consuming," Brune said.

The NKBA reviewed the interior design program self-study and gave it a "supported" status in December, which meant that it was fulfilling the requirements of the body of knowledge and allowed it to continue to the next step in the process, Nesler said.

The second step in the NKBA accreditation process was submitting general information, such as the history of the interior design program at Southeast, the history of the university and how many faculty and credentials the interior design department has, Brune said.

Along with this step, the interior design faculty members had to submit letters of support from administration.

"That's a big part of the accreditation is that we have the support of the people around us," Brune said. "Otherwise, we probably wouldn't be able to continue to stay accredited."

Lastly, an Advanced Kitchen and Bath Design course had to be added last spring to meet the body of knowledge objectives and the work from students in that class was sent to the NKBA to be evaluated. The student work received a rating of "outstanding to very nice," which allowed for the scheduling of the accreditation site visit March 24-27, Nesler said.

"We've secured some space for students' work to be displayed, and we have a learning laboratory," Nesler said. "They will visit in March, and then in the first part of April we have a CIDA consultant who will visit and also review that student work. They'll do a report, and we hope that will be kind of a path or map to show us where we need to take the program."

When future students considering studying in Southeast's interior design program ask about accreditation, they ask about the CIDA accreditation because that is the accreditation to get, Nesler said.

CIDA and NKBA are both concerned with the health, safety and welfare of the public, but CIDA standards are much broader, and the body of knowledge covers a lot more.

"We looked at the NKBA accreditation as a step toward CIDA accreditation because it's kind of the same thing on a smaller scale," Nesler said. "And so it was kind of a step in that direction."

Nesler, Hicks and Brune expect enrollment in the interior design program to increase after obtaining these accreditations and that it will give students higher confidence to succeed in the professional world.

"It's a great way to create a path for them because they can either choose kitchen and bath or go into commercial development or residential design, and it won't matter because they'll have everything they need," Hicks said.