Baker Expands Interior Design

October 13, 2004
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MUSKEGON — The launch of a new graduate degree in interior design at Baker College of Muskegon is part of a broader effort to expand the program in the years ahead.

Baker College recently announced it wants to grow enrollment in the interior design program and add new courses in the future.

Included could be as offering a minor in environmentally friendly “green” design, an addition that’s presently under consideration.

In seeking to elevate the program, Baker College of Muskegon is working to accommodate increased student interest and meet growing demand for interior designers, as well as create a far greater overall awareness.

With a current-year enrollment of about 200 students — including 80 students who are enrolled to work toward a newly added four-year degree — the program has grown steadily over the years.

Sylvia Coon, the department chair, said she expects that growth to continue as new courses are added and evolve in the future.

“It’s really starting to blossom and bloom,” Coon said.

“Every year we are raising the bar in the quality of work coming out of here.”

The single biggest hurdle Baker College faces in growing the interior design program is awareness. Many students who want to study interior design often don’t consider or associate Baker College with their chosen field, Coon said.

As a career college, Baker College tailors curriculum toward preparing students for getting a job after they graduate.

Coon said she is positioning the interior design program within that context.

She said the goal is to produce graduates who have a well-rounded education in the profession and are prepared to jump directly into the workplace after graduation.

She said that could mean working for themselves, or at a design firm, or on the retail level at a popular home-improvement center such as Lowe’s or The Home Depot that have become job options for graduates.

The program offers a mix of design theory with practical business lessons that give students “a good, solid base of understanding” on which they can launch their careers, Coon said.

“I want this to be better known as a program and much more solid as far as producing designers that are functioning and can do work,” Coon said.

“I want to get this program to a point where my students can walk out of here and go out and function and they have an understanding of design.”

Baker College of Muskegon, which sports a 99 percent job placement rate among gradates, this fall added a four-year undergraduate degree to its interior design program, which previously offered only a two-year degree.

The college also added certificate courses in kitchen and bath design.

The college launched the four-year interior program in response to growing student interest and state regulations that require three years of education for designers to take their licensing exam, Coon said.

The interior design program’s curriculum is fashioned to provide students an understanding in the creative aspects of design, technical expertise and business acumen, the latter of which involves working with clients, contracting and pricing a job, staying within budget parameters and maintaining good communication with clients.

“It’s such a people business,” Coon said of interior design. “You’ve got to be able to talk to people and deal with people and take their problem and turn it into a solution.”

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