Interior design seniors put thesis projects on display

ID Students
Four soon-to-be graduates of the Mercyhurst University Interior Design Department are showcasing their senior thesis projects in Cummings Gallery during May.

The Interior Design Senior Thesis Exhibition – featuring work by Megan Apa, Rebecca Cratty, Lauryn Donikowski and Bradyn Heseltine – opens with a reception on Thursday, May 1, at 7 p.m. The exhibit continues through Sunday, May 18.

“The Senior Thesis Exhibition is a comprehensive expression of what the students have learned in Interior Design,” said Kathy Weidenboerner, chair of the department. “The number one thing that employers will look for in a portfolio is the senior project because it’s a culmination of four years of studio work.”

Each senior is challenged to research a design issue, analyze previous attempts to address the problem, and propose a better solution to the problem at hand.

As they develop their projects, students participate in several critiques, presenting their work to mentors who are professional designers and architects.

The exhibits on display include:

Megan Apa

Exhibit Title: Horizons, a virtual retail and design center

About: This imagined retail store sells sustainable building products to homeowners, while educating consumers on how to build and design in a sustainable fashion. Sustainable products can potentially save the customer money because they may last longer than other products that are cheaper and may include harmful materials and chemicals.

“I developed my thesis due to a concern for the ignorance that many people face because there is a lack of understanding and knowledge about how to make positive choices that will benefit the environment,” said Apa. “Because many building practices and procedures cause a lot of debris and off-gassing, I wanted the customer to be able to make smarter building choices for their own homes that will help the environment rather than impair it.”

Future Plans: Summer internship with Erie Insurance


Rebecca Cratty

Exhibit Title:
Octa Connect, pre-fabricated modular university housing

About: Octa Connect is a fabricated facility that can create apartment-style building communities on university campuses. These buildings are designed to meet the needs of incoming students, supporting both recruitment and retention without sacrificing space efficiency and cost effectiveness.

“I was influenced by Mercyhurst University housing and wanted to create a new design for upper-level student apartments,” said Cratty.

Future Plans: Hired by Hospitality Furnishings and Design Inc. in Zelienople, Pa.

Lauryn Donikowski

Exhibit Title:
Ohana, a women’s cancer recovery center

About: This imaginary cancer recovery center provides therapy and education to women in a non-clinical setting. It would evolve to provide individual and group therapy along with cooking classes and other activities for patients and their families.

“My thesis started as a place that women could go to get away from the hospital environment and continue to socialize with women going through similar experiences, while building relationships, which is helpful for a successful recovery,” said Donikowski.

Future Plans: Hired as an interior designer by WorkScape Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa.


Bradyn Heseltine

Exhibit Title:
St. Joseph’s Church, adaptive reuse

About: As church properties are abandoned, many spaces with historical significance may be demolished unless they can be repurposed for secular functions. An abandoned building owned by St. Joseph Church will be preserved and reused in order to adapt to a changing environment around it.

“I have always been interested in residential design and flipping homes,” said Heseltine. “I noticed the amount of abandoned churches, specifically in my home town, and thought apartments would be a good use for an otherwise unused space.”

Future Plans: He plans to start a business doing residential renovations and flipping homes.


Cummings Gallery is located in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on the Mercyhurst campus. It’s open weekdays from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. and weekends from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 824-2092.

Photo ID: From left to right, Lauryn Donikowski, Bradyn Heseltine, Rebecca Cratty and Megan Apa are eager to showcase their senior thesis projects. 

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