Meramec Interior Design students take The Windy City

Posted on 22 April 2016 by admin

A 3-day trip gives insight and knowledge to aspiring designers



The city of Chicago is well known for being cold and windy. It is also a place where students from STLCC-Meramec are able to gather inspiration for their future careers.

For the past three years, the interior design program at the Meramec campus has been taking students to Chicago for a 3-day trip which involved architectural boat tours, various museum visits and overall, an eye-opening experience – according to students.

STLCC student Jessica Mendenhall said the trip made her even more excited about the interior design profession.

“Interacting with people who do this for a living and kind of also just seeing the scope of what you can do in design has been a really neat experience,” Mendenhall said. “I think this is the kind of thing that year after year I can see myself coming to do to just keep that excitement up – it just kind of reminds you why you’re in the field.”

Mendenhall has learned plenty being enrolled in this program, she said.

“Thinking about what I learned since last summer has been pretty incredible,” Mendenhall said. “Starting from knowing essentially nothing, other than liking design, and now knowing how to put together drawings, space planning and finishing off an entire home – it’s pretty incredible.”

STLCC – Meramec interior design professor and organizer of the trip, Virginia Heisler, has been with the campus for six years. With an undergraduate from the University of Missouri – Columbia in housing and interior design, and a master’s of science from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville in environmental studies, she said the trip has a lot to offer students.

Heisler has worked for about 10 different firms, residential and commercial, and has owned her own business before she decided she would go back to college to teach, she said.

“I liked it [college] a lot, I always wanted to come back to a college –even when I was in school. I loved the college atmosphere,” Heisler said.

Heisler spent some time teaching at Maryville before applying for a full-time position at Meramec.

“I was adjunct at Maryville and many of my students were from Meramec,” Heisler said. “I was very impressed with the quality of the students and found out that there was a full-time opening and thought I’d give it a shot, I ended up getting the job and 6 years later I’m still here.”

The trip went into action three years ago, when students overheard how fun it was, Heisler said.

“I think everybody enjoyed it, and the people that didn’t go said ‘well I’m going next year’ so that’s how that started,” Heisler said.

The greatest benefit students can get from going on this trip is seeing more than just what’s in the classroom, she said.

“Exposure to what design actually is, what’s out there,” Heisler said. “I just think it’s invaluable to get out and see,” Heisler said.

Mendenhall agreed and said she would advise other students to go on the trip.

“Definitely go, I think it’s well worth it,” Mendenhall said. “You get to see some of the behind the scenes stuff – I would not have known where to go or what to do if I was here by myself.”

Being taken around
the city has really been phenomenal, she said.

“Now I feel like I’d be more comfortable coming and doing this stuff again,” Mendenhall said.

Besides the trip, the interior design program at Meramec can offer much more – including that which a four-year university does, Heisler said. Based off of experience, if students want to go on to achieve a four-year degree, Meramec has a strong variety of classes that will transfer to Maryville University and the University of Missouri – both CIDA (council for interior design accreditation) accredited schools.

“We have a really strong transfer with the two CIDA accredited schools. That’s the top accreditation for your interior design schools, so if they’re accepting our credits and our program, then it’s definitely good quality or they wouldn’t do it,” Heisler said.

Other than newly enrolled students wanting to achieve a four-year degree, the school receives a lot of returning students who already have degrees with this program and are very successful, Heisler said.

“If you transfer to Maryville you save around $40,000 by doing two years here and two years there,” Heisler said. “You would save substantially with Mizzou too – you’re not paying the housing and your degree is still going to say University of Missouri or Maryville University.”


enrolled  in       the program should look into internships, Heisler said.

“Doing internships – I think that’s a really good way to test out what you want to do,” Heisler said. “It’s a big city but it’s a small design community. It’s a
really nice way to work
at different places to see what kind of culture they have and how you feel there.”

Interior design has given Heisler a lot of opportunities that she would have never otherwise had, she said.

“I’ve been fortunate where I didn’t have a job where I just sat behind a desk – I love the fact that I do something different every day and even when I was in practice full time you do something different everyday – it’s never the same,” Heisler said. “And that’s why I try to emphasize that with every job, I do some type of research – you don’t just start – you need to understand what you’re dealing with and it’s more than color. We are not just pillow pickers and color choosers.”


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