Laura Cole – Advocating for green design

Design and Merchandising instructor Laura Cole smiles outside of the Nancy Richardson Design Center

Laura Cole joined the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University as an assistant professor in the Interior Architecture and Design Program. Cole has a passion for sustainability and with her research, she works to educate the public about green building design. 

Tell us a bit about yourself!  

I was born in the Midwest and spent almost my whole life there. I came to love the rolling hills and lush landscape of Missouri after growing up there, bouncing around, and then returning there to work at the University of Missouri. This is my first time living in the mountainous west, and I’m already falling in love with my new ecosystem and, of course, the spectacular view of mountains in my daily life. I previously studied at the University of Missouri (B.S. in environmental design) and the University of Michigan (M.S./Ph.D. in architecture & natural resources and environment).  

Outside of academia and despite being an interior designer, over the years I have deepened my interest in the spaces outside my home. I love to garden and experiment with growing a variety of plants that can be used in cooking and herbal concoctions. I enjoy cycling and biked 70 miles on my mom’s 70th birthday this summer. I also enjoy creative play with my two young boys, who often keep me busy as the villainous Thanos battling the Avengers or Bowser thwarting Super Mario’s plans. 

What brought you to Design and Merchandising at CSU? 

The Department of Design and Merchandising has a stellar faculty who teach design in an inspired space. The university is committed to sustainability and social justice, which is a great alignment of values for me. When I interviewed here, I fell in love! I also have close family in Denver and was excited to be in proximity. 

What are your research and/or teaching interests, and how did you get interested in that topic? 

My research focuses on educating youth and the general public about green building design. My lab information can be found online. I became interested in this after years of working in practice as a commercial interior designer in Chicago. I worked on many certified “green” projects and grew curious if those buildings could become a catalyst for occupant education and culture change.  

There are so many connections at CSU in the realms of both STEM education and green building design. The broader community is also very supportive of green practices. I hope to start building my network here and learning ways to advance green building literacy in nearby communities. I will continue to bring my passions for environmental and social sustainability into my teaching at CSU and look forward to helping our majors grow their own careers in this direction. 

What is your teaching philosophy?  

I have a very active teaching style that involves discussion and hands-on participation. Whenever possible, I orchestrate experiential and/or service-learning opportunities for my students. I try to meet my learners where they are and elevate my students to their unique, best potential. I am also a proponent of work/life balance and encourage students to sustain themselves through the rigors of design education. 

What is your favorite thing about CSU and the campus?  

I love the authentic commitments to people and planet that are visible in university policy and practices. And the trees on the Oval are just spectacular! 

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