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Grazyna Pilatowicz
Department: Interior Design
Initiative: Development of the MA in Sustainable Interior Environments program, and course ID472 Ecology and the Built Environment

How would you categorize your initiative?
Development of a course for undergraduate program and the development of a graduate program in Sustainable Interior Environments.†

Please describe your activity and its relevance to sustainability in the† curriculum.
In 2007 I initiated a proposal, and then with a group of colleagues specializing in various disciplines related to the interior design, developed a new graduate program in Sustainable Interior Environments. The new Master of Arts program that launched in 2011 is a part of the FIT School of Graduate Studies. Within this program I developed or co-authored four segments of the (1) Graduate Seminar: Fundamentals, Exploration, Analysis and Directed Research; (2) Future of Sustainable Interiors; (3) Pro-seminar: Critical research and writing, verbal and visual communication and presentation skills; and (4) Universal Design and Ergonomics course.

Before that, I initiated and developed, a course for the Interior Design Program entitled Ecology and the Built Environment. We started in 1998 by offering this course as a continuing education option in the evenings, then as an elective in BFA program, and in 2004 the course became required part of the upper division curriculum. I have been teaching and coordinating this course since its inception.

Have you incorporated this activity in your teaching?
Sustainable strategies for interior design are an inherent part of every course that Iím teaching.

Briefly describe your experience implementing your activity.
Students are always interested in new ideas and methodologies in design, and they have been interested in sustainability for long time. More and more of them come to FIT already with an awareness and some knowledge of the subject. What they need is help in organizing information into a coherent body of knowledge, and above all, learning the tools to navigate and critically evaluate the avalanche of available information.

Do you anticipate any next steps in your sustainability initiative?
In the future I would like to see both the program and the course change their character in response to sustainability becoming an inherent part of the entire interior design education.

The graduate program is just starting this and it requires a lot of work to get established. At this point, the main challenge is to inform the industry about it and to assure healthy recruitment.

The Ecology and the Built Environment course is a part of the required BFA Interior Design curriculum and is now offered in the last eighth semester of the program. In response to sustainability becoming an important part of the mainstream professional practice, and to requests voiced by students, we are planning to offer this course earlier in the program. This will allow students to experiment with the inclusion of sustainable methodologies in their design studio projects.

Based on your experience, do you have any suggestions or advice you might give to other faculty interested in incorporating sustainability into the curriculum?
A lot of work has been done already by many of the FIT faculty in the last few years! One by one, all of the design disciplines acknowledge the importance of sustainable strategies. If the task feels overwhelming, start with one topic and then add on new information every semester. Iím finding also that students are great partners in the process of learning!

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