CSU interior design graduate student awarded national scholarship for mentorship in interior design education

Alea Schmidt prepares a virtual reality demo on the computer

Alea Schmidt (B.S. interior architecture and design, ’20), a master’s student in interior design in Colorado State University’s Department of Design and Merchandising, originally moved to Colorado because of her passion for the outdoors and the environment. Now she is harnessing that passion into her work and research in interior design by prioritizing Eco-Cultural Design Logic and sustainability. Schmidt has been awarded a scholarship from the Interior Design Educators Council  Foundation to continue her research at CSU and experience mentorship in becoming an interior design educator.

IDEC Foundation Graduate Scholarship

The IDEC Foundation Graduate Scholarship is awarded to interior design graduate students who have shown great potential to be interior design educators. Schmidt was given the opportunity to attend two mentoring sessions with interior design educators to learn about their experience and get advice on a range of topics, including the pursuit of doctoral study. Scholarship recipients were also invited to the 2022 IDEC Annual Conference, in which Schmidt co-presented with her adviser, Assistant Professor Jain Kwon, on a research-based neurodesign project.

Once the conference was over, Schmidt attended a final mentoring session. “All of the pre- and post-conference meetings were great experiences that allowed me to learn more about what it takes to become an interior design educator, how to navigate the many decision-making processes that happen along the way, and other great general life advice,” Schmidt shared. “It was an honor to be able to interact with the mentors.”

A home at CSU

Alea Schmidt enjoying the mountainsSchmidt earned her bachelor’s degree in interior architecture and design at CSU as well. Upon moving to Colorado, Schmidt planned to study environmental sciences. At the last minute, she switched her major to interior design so she could also channel her creativity. Global Environmental Sustainability became her minor area of study.

The Department of Design and Merchandising proved a good fit for Schmidt as she took on many student leadership roles in student groups such as American Society of Interior Designers student chapter, International Interior Design Association student chapter, and the CSU Snowriders. She also led her classmates in the planning of the Interior Architecture and Design Senior Show, a celebratory event with students, faculty, donors, and industry to celebrate the completion of the senior capstone project.

Interior design research projects

It was during Schmidt’s undergraduate studies and through her leadership roles that she first participated in research by taking a course offered by Kwon. “This course was my first look into understanding neurodesign research for real clients,” said Schmidt. “Along with three other students, we organized eye-tracking experiments and collected data with participants.” The project was put on pause in Spring of 2020 due to the pandemic, the same semester Schmidt graduated with her bachelor’s degree.

Schmidt decided to stay at CSU to pursue her master’s degree and now conducts research as part of Kwon’s Spatial Perception and Cognitive Experience (SPACE) Lab as well as her own thesis research.

“Now, as a graduate student, I am able to continue the work I did as an undergraduate student and help to lead the undergraduate students and new members of the lab through the process of evidence-based, neurodesign research projects,” said Schmidt. She helps keep the lab organized with scheduling as well as designing in Revit (a digital interior design program), collecting and analyzing data, and more.

Alea Schmidt leads a virtual reality demonstration

Schmidt’s research for her master’s thesis differs from the work in the SPACE Lab. “It is focused on the socio-cultural aspects of sustainability, and how that connects to interior architecture and the reuse of buildings,” said Schmidt. “More specifically, my research looks into Eco-Cultural Design Logic and how to connect this to interior design.”

After graduation, Schmidt hopes to work for a company that prioritizes sustainability, especially the socio-cultural aspects of designing sustainability, and where her research skills will be a part of her work.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.