Melissa Brown is a second-year MFA candidate. This semester you can find her in WJB Room 2009 teaching Business Practices or in the grad lab furiously working on her thesis. She will be graduating at the end of the summer.
IAD: To start, can you give us a little insight into your experience in the field?
MELISSA: I worked in the commercial sector and was a part of several teams that worked on a wide range of projects. They included workplace, healthcare, aviation, and even a sports facility for hockey (I know more about Zambonis now than I ever thought I would) and spanned every stage in the design process. My very first position out of college was with a conceptual and schematic design department that was heavily architecture based.
I was tasked with setting up work shared BIM files for the entire company, linking topography models, and skinning the exteriors of large buildings. I had NO idea what I was doing. That experience has proven invaluable to me. It humbled me and forced me to be resourceful. I sought out the most experienced architects and designers in the firm and Googled like crazy to grow my knowledge and improve my skills. I would not be the designer I am today without that experience and the relationships I formed during that time.
IAD: What led you back to grad school and what made you choose the program here at FSU?
MELISSA: Just before graduating from FSU with my undergraduate degree in Interior Design, I strongly considered applying for and pursuing my master’s immediately. I ultimately made the decision to enter the workforce and begin my career as a practicing designer. The idea and allure of grad school lingered in the back of my mind while practicing and once I felt I had a firm grasp and a wider perspective on the interior design profession, there was no stopping me from returning to the institution where I realized my place in the world.
IAD: What is something you are looking forward to most after graduation?
MELISSA: The one thing I’m looking forward to most after graduating is reuniting with my husband. He has been extremely supportive in my pursuit of this graduate degree, but we have had to live apart for most of this past year and a half, going on two. It’s been difficult not being able to come home after a long, stressful day to receive a comforting hug from the person I love most. It’s been quite the sacrifice, but we know the outcome will be worth it.
IAD: What do you plan to do after earning your degree?
MELISSA: Upon graduation, I will hold a Master’s in Fine Arts, which will provide me the opportunity to become an instructor in higher education. I’ve always admired and desired to be a part of an organization that values the art and science of developing and expanding minds. I also plan to continue my research into designing supportive spaces for people experiencing symptoms from mental illness. It is a topic that is near and dear to me. Several of my family members have been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. It is something that has heavily influenced my life since I was a young child and I hope to make the best of this adversity by helping others with my research.
IAD: Can you share some words of encouragement or a quote with our students?
MELISSA: A quote from an expert in leadership, Andy Stanley, has been an inspiration and reminder to me these past few years. It goes, “if you devote yourself to more than yourself, you will have more than yourself to show for yourself.”
I encourage every designer to find someone they are designing for. I believe the question should be WHO motivates you not WHAT motivates you. Something I make a conscious effort to do is to set goals that are centered around helping others; I didn’t come back to school for myself, I’m here to better myself so that I can better serve and design for others. Other lessons I’ve learned are kindness begets kindness and through enriching the lives of others, one enriches their own.