The Department of Interior Architecture and Design recently initiated a unique collaboration with Gensler, the world’s largest architecture and design firm. The program, entitled FSU/Gensler Scholars, pairs Florida State MFA students with key industry leaders during the course of their thesis research. Janet Pogue McLaurin, a Principal in the firm and Workplace Sector Leader, proposed the idea to the Gensler Board of Directors, following an earlier collaboration between her office and the Department’s new Advanced Visual Communications course. During this new collaboration FSU students are matched with practice area leader in one of Gensler’s 46 offices. In addition to networking opportunities and exposure to the firm, participating students receive industry insight and additional feedback about their selected thesis topic. Each collaboration extends three semesters, during which the students meet their mentors via video conference call.
Two MFA candidates, Kathryn Cullen and Kristen Millican, in conjunction with their major professors Dr. Jill Pable and Steven Webber, have volunteered to pilot the program. Kathryn Cullen is studying salutogenic classroom design and stated about her Houston-based mentor team
The Gensler Scholar program has been a very supportive and positive experience. I have enjoyed meeting with design professionals and building a relationship with my mentors. They have been extremely instrumental in making my research data collection come to life by facilitating contact with furniture manufacturers and making helpful suggestions for my thesis research.
Major professor Jill Pable agrees that this program is invaluable, providing emerging student design researchers with guidance from working professionals, strengthening the research studies’ real-world connection and relevance.
The program has also afforded Kristen Millican with newfound populations to survey during her research on office worker retention and amenities, as her DC-based mentor team has arranged for her to survey some of their own clients. Kristen stated,
The feedback and collaboration with my mentors throughout my thesis process has been pivotal in shaping my research focus and in the implementation of my survey and data collection. Their guidance has helped push my thesis topic to greater levels and has provided me with the resources and opportunities to actualize my research and learn more about research in workplace design. It has been a very valuable and inspiring experience to collaborate with my mentors.
Nearing the end of the collaboration, the students will generate research videos documenting their findings and travel to their respective mentors’ office to share their results. The firm will host the student-created research videos on their website, crediting the student, their major professor, and Florida State University. The students retain their rights as authors, while the firm benefits from the knowledge of research outcomes. Amy Huber, FSU Assistant Professor and former Gensler Associate, said of the program “this type of collaboration is unique to our industry, and should prove fruitful to our students, Gensler, and the Department of Interior Architecture and Design.”