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Interior design students to create new spaces for local nonprofit clients

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When interior design majors from Mercyhurst University evaluate spaces in need of TLC at two Erie nonprofits this spring as part of the First Impressions project sponsored by The Nonprofit Partnership of Erie, they’ll not only get a glimpse into the professional design world, they’ll be making a difference in the community.

Eight students from the corporate studio class will work with the Multicultural Community Resource Center. They are Taylor Schaffron, Erica Andrews, Michael Nguyen, Roxie Oglesby, Candace Gonnella, Maggie Trott, Teighlor Rice and Melissa Salerno. Another 11 students from the retail/hospitality studio course will partner with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania. They include Erica Albornoz, Lauren Agnoli, Melissa Salerno, Tiffanie Bell, Gabbi Kasten, Leanne Zitzka, Jaisa Siler, Rachel Lane, Dane Rimko, Leyla Dombrowski and Silvia Swanson.

Students will develop plans to improve the entryway, lobby and/or reception areas of these organizations — the spaces that influence a client’s first impression of an organization.

“This is the same process used in the professional design world; Mercyhurst students are working with ‘real’ clients with tight budgets in a real scenario as opposed to a case study in school,” said Stephanie Heher, instructor of the studio courses. “They are also learning from the perspective of how improved interior spaces can have a positive effect on the clients/patrons of a non-profit organization or business.”

Both groups will propose a concept, image boards, schematics, preliminary floor plans and suggested materials to their respective clients. Plans to implement designs are scheduled to begin in summer 2014.

The studio courses emphasize the development of space planning and problem-solving skills related to different environments, such as corporate offices, retail stores, hospitality and entertainment facilities. Students study theory of the design process and design research involving physical, social and psychological factors, while considering the aesthetic qualities of design.  

This is the second year that the Mercyhurst Interior Design Department has signed on for First Impressions projects, a program designed to strengthen and support nonprofit organizations in Erie County, in part, by providing recommendations on how to improve a nonprofit’s “image.”

Previously, students worked with Centre City Arts — now known as Bloom — and a women’s shelter in Meadville through the First Impressions program, which launched in August 2011.

PHOTO: Students take measurements at Second Harvest Food Bank.