Designed for Success: Interior Design at Converse
The interior design program at Converse College is intentionally designed to grow student creativity and ingenuity, give students real-world applications, and foster student success.
One of only two schools in the state of South Carolina that is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), Interior Design at Converse not only nurtures and equips students while they are in school, but thoroughly prepares graduates for the workplace.
With intimate class sizes, invested professors, personalized projects and a supportive community, future interior designers will gain a unique experience earning their degree unlike any other in the southeast region.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Interior Design graduates Hallie Lycans ’20 and Harley Haynes ’20 adapted during the semester, leaned into the Converse community for support, successfully graduated and are now flourishing. Hear from Hallie and Harley on their transformative experiences.
How did you decide to attend Converse?
“My senior year of high school, I participated in a summer soccer camp at Converse, since I wanted to play soccer in college,” said Hallie Lycans. “I wasn’t really considering Converse, but after the camp and after a tour of campus, I got into the car with my mom and she was waiting for me to say something. I said, ‘I absolutely love it and don’t want to apply or go anywhere else. This is where I want to be.’ And my mom said, ‘I felt the same way, but didn’t say anything because it’s your decision!’”
How did you become interested in Interior Design at Converse?
“I came into Converse my freshman year as a pre-dentistry major, and did a 180-degree turnaround,” said Hallie. “I had a realization that something else might be right for me, so I called Ruth Beals who was the Ownings Associate Professor Emerita of Interior Design, and asked about the program. She talked on the phone with me for almost two hours and we just talked through everything. I started in the program my sophomore year and never looked back. As soon as I was in the program, I was like, ‘This is what I should have been doing all along.’”
What was your favorite part of the program?
“My favorite part of this major were the real-world applications,” said Harley Haynes. “We got to do so much within the community, like touring company spaces and making projects for them. Some days company leaders would come into our classrooms and give us real problems they needed solved in their space. Having those interactions with business-owners and corporate leaders was really beneficial. It prepared us for networking and we made some really good connections.”
What were some of the projects you worked on?
“My junior year, we had the opportunity to present design ideas to the Spartanburg Mental Health Center,” said Hallie. “We went into the space that was already built, and we got to examine the space that had real problems that needed to be fixed.
The students in our major were divided into teams, and we had a real budget to work with our ideas on how we were going to solve these problems through design. It was sort of a competition within the program, and we presented our ideas and solutions to the corporate leaders.
In the end, they picked an element from each of our designs and we had to make a whole cohesive design with everyone’s ideas. It was really cool to be in a space giving practical and artistic solutions.
For my capstone project, we were assigned to redesign a space. I love Converse, so I chose to re-design the Weisiger Center, which was the fitness area and gyms. I recreated it to be more functional for student-athletes and the community, and turned it into a recreational center with better workout areas and with additional locker rooms. I did research and found out what the community wanted. Harley Haynes and I worked together to redesign the Montgomery Student Center. Through the capstone projects, we used software for creating digital walkthroughs of spaces. We were able to add music and present the digital walkthroughs in our final presentation. I was able to use that project in my job interview as well.”
How did you adapt during the COVID-19 outbreak?
“During the COVID-19 outbreak and the quarantine period, I was really glad that everyone in the program was really close,” said Harley. “It really helped that we all had a tight bond and could bond over our common disappointments with what was going on in the world, and cheer each other on to keep going. I think that is a testament to Converse itself. The community you have at Converse is really essential to your success.
Our professors were really supportive through that time and they care about our success not just in school, but in our futures and careers after school. They are really invested and give so much of themselves to the students. That definitely made it easier– just having encouraging professors who understood what we were going through being at home and other students and friends in the program who could encourage each other.”
What makes the Interior Design program at Converse stand out?
“Converse is accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) and that is a really big deal in the interior design world,” said Harley. “If you were to get a degree somewhere else, it wouldn’t hold as much weight on a resume. You also couldn’t ever take the CIDA exam for interior designers which is a national test similar to a bar exam. Converse is one of the only schools in South Carolina with that accreditation and our professors put a lot of work into keeping that accreditation current.”
“I also think that the exposure to the variety of software programs Converse provides was really helpful. Knowing the industry-standard softwares is essential, and for some of our projects, we were given the freedom to pick which ones we wanted to use in order to become more familiar with them. We take whole semester classes on softwares, so you know them really well. All of the professors know what projects each student is working on, and they tie in our projects to what we are learning in class as well.”
Why Spartanburg, SC?
“I think Spartanburg is such a good fit for Interior Design at Converse because we got to go out into the community,” said Hallie. “We got to go to Miliken, Hubbell Lightning, the Spartanburg Mental Health Center and more. We got to tour spaces and solve real design problems. It’s also not too far away from the High Point Market, which is the largest home furnishing industry trade show in the world. Converse students get to go to High Point Market their sophomore, junior, and senior years, and I know some peers who attended other schools, and they only got to go once.” (note: High Point Market was cancelled in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19.)
What are you doing now after graduation?
“Currently, I work as a Design Manager at a design and building company in Cashiers, NC,” said Hallie.
“We specialize in high-end residential homes in that area, and many of the homes have been featured in Southern Home Magazine. I’m very grateful because I wouldn’t have had this job if it weren’t for Converse. One of my friends in the Interior Design Program who graduated before me was doing some part-time contracted work designing landscape site plans for this company, and she gave them my contact information. I did a phone interview, then an in-person interview, and got the job on the spot.
I couldn’t have gotten this job without the community I had at Converse, the CIDA accreditation, the professors, and the big projects I did while in the program. I feel like everything about the program prepared me for where I am now. When you do get into the workforce, it really connects the dots as to why you learned what you did. I honestly owe everything to Converse and the Converse community.”
Who will curate programs designed for success and provide students with door-opening opportunities? We Will.
*Please note that photos were taken prior to COVID-19