“What a century it has been,” says Leslie Burns, chair of the Department of Design and Human Environment. “From our humble beginnings teaching sewing and home decorating to now being one of the top research programs in the country, we are definitely inspired by our past and designed for our future.” She credits the high standards and foresight of faculty, the quality of students, and partnerships with industry over the decades for the evolution to a nationally renowned program. “We have a reputation for teaching to the highest standards, responding to the needs of industry, providing valuable internships, and conducting pioneering research,” Leslie says proudly. Ground-breaking research currently underway includes the application of “smart” textiles for high-tech functional apparel that maintains body temperature, the design and ethics of aging-in-place technologies, and the design of effective internet shopping websites. Faculty and student teams are researching social responsibility and sustainability in industry and the design of spaces to enhance student learning — from pre-school design to university classroom design.
Graduates of the program compete with the best, says Shannon Farrigno ’97, architecture and design consultant with SmithCFI in Portland, whose job includes product research, brand recognition, and trend forecasting. “My education gave me an understanding of the entire spectrum of the design business and the connections to successfully launch my career. Through a series of decisions, some wonderful mentors, and abit ofluck, I ended up with an education that is the foundation of a career that I expect to enjoy for a lifetime.” Her connections came from the annual DHE Career Symposium that brings together more than 400 current and prospective students, graduates, and industry representatives for workshops, mock interviews, portfolio review sessions, and networking opportunities that often lead to internships and jobs. In 2007, DHE faculty were awarded OSU’s Student Learning and Success Teamwork Award for the symposium, an event that has been organized by faculty and students since 1986.
“We are shaping futures every day,” says Leslie, who talks about the abundant opportunities for students, including internships, research with faculty, international experiences, professional development, and community engagement. ” Examples include the annual Design Your Dream Kitchen workshop for the community, the recycled fashion show, and our annual design exhibition and runway show.” A world traveler herself, Leslie has developed partnerships with international universities and programs in Asia and South America and companies in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. “We want our students to be strong professionals and global citizens.” With world-class faculty and opportunities like these, it’s no surprise that students consistently win national and international design and merchandising competitions.
Leslie has great plans for the next century, including creating a School of Design and Human Environment. “I’m confident that with our history, our alumni, and our extraordinary faculty, we can make this happen.”