Following a rigorous peer review process, Converse College’s program of interior design has been awarded accreditation by the Council of Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).
Six institutions nationwide received CIDA accreditation this year, including the Academy of Art University (CA), Art Institute of California, Drexel University (PA), Mississippi College (MS), and Sam Houston State University (TX). Converse becomes one of only two accredited programs in South Carolina and 178 accredited programs worldwide.
According to CIDA, achieving accreditation is a strong signal of a program’s commitment to delivering a quality professional-level education that prepares students for interior design practice. Programs seeking accreditation voluntarily place themselves before the scrutiny of interior design profession by participating in a rigorous peer review process. This process requires a thorough self-evaluation of compliance with CIDA Professional Standards and an extensive display of student work for CIDA’s review, both of which are the basis for accreditation decision by CIDA’s Accreditation Commission.
CIDA-accredited programs provide thorough preparation for the certification exam administered by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), which provides necessary credentials for graduates to practice as professionals.
Ruth Beals, coordinator of the Interior Design Program at Converse, led the intensive faculty and student effort to prepare for and undergo the accreditation review process. “The process included a demanding and continuous self-study that insured the interior design program improved each year, by reviewing what we taught, how we taught it and the success of the students’ learning,” she said. “The CIDA team worked long hours throughout their three-day visit and were very thorough. They do this work voluntarily in order to promote excellence in interior design education.”
Beals and her colleagues are pleased to have had 99 out of 101 CIDA’s expectations to be fully met during the review process—an uncommon accomplishment. The CIDA visiting team noted the following as particular strengths of the Converse curriculum:
- Globalization in design practice
- Multi-disciplinary collaboration
- Written communication
- Verbal presentation while integrating their drawings, materials and finishes
- Fabrication and installation of materials
- Lighting design
“CIDA-accreditation assures the public that interior design education prepares students to be responsible, well-informed, skilled professionals who make beautiful, safe, and comfortable spaces that respect the earth and its resources. It assures students that our program meets the highest standards and that what they will learn is what they will use in the profession,” said Beals.
Interior Design: Defined
“Many people use the terms ‘interior design’ and ‘interior decorating’ interchangeably, but these professions differ in critical ways,” according to the NCDIQ. “Interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design.
“Interior designers apply creative and technical solutions within a structure that are functional, attractive and beneficial to the occupants’ quality of life and culture. Designs respond to and coordinate with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology—including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process—to satisfy the needs and resources of the client.”
The Converse College Interior Design Program
The Converse Interior Design Program is directed toward both the residential and commercial aspects of interior design, incorporating historical background, environmental considerations, drawing proficiency, technical knowledge and presentation methods with an emphasis on creativity and professional practice.
Converse has prioritized partnerships with such industry leaders as Hubbell Lighting, which hosts Converse students for seminars at their Lighting Solutions Center; and NXT Health, which involved Converse students in flooring research for its award-winning Patient Room 2020 project. “The opportunity for Converse students to put their knowledge into practice, to work alongside professionals, and to see firsthand how collaboration among experts from complimentary fields can result in meaningful innovation is an important part of their educational experience,” said Beals.
The Converse program also benefits from close proximity to many historic sites in the Spartanburg area, affording on-site experiences as students study historical preservation, restoration, recreation, and adaptive reuse of campus and community projects.
Over the last three years, Converse interior design majors have enrolled in graduate programs at the New York School of Interior Design, The Academy of Art (CA), Corcoran College of Art & Design, (DC), Savannah College of Art and Design (GA) and Clemson University (SC). Recent graduates are employed with firms such as John Bossard Design, Rowan Company, Alfred Williams, Palmetto Interiors and Young Office, among others.