Interview with Laura Smith Cole

November 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Laura Smith Cole is an Assistant Professor who has a passion for sustainability and going green.  She is always looking to make the world a better place, and is finding ways to put the same drive in her students.  She is a remarkable leader for the IARc community to have and we are lucky to get a chance to learn from her.

What is your educational and work background?
Laura: I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, where their program is similar to the IARc program with a mix of architectural and interior design. I interned with a group in Chicago which helped me get a job at Perkins and Will, Chicago. While working there on a variety of green projects, I became interested in researching green buildings. That led me to the University of Michigan to get my PhD in Architecture and Natural Resources.

What organizations are you involved in? Or what lectures do you give?
Laura: I am a member of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the Interior Design Educator’s Council (IDEC) and the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). I typically teach upper-level studios, research methods for graduate students and Professional/Business Practices for [3rd] year IARc students.

How do you tie in teaching with your other profession endeavors?
Laura: One way is hiring undergraduate students to help with research so they can get hands on experiences with faculty research. Teaching studio, I am always using my background for projects. This means that sustainability, social factors, and research are often tied into the studio projects I assign.

What made you want to start teaching?
Laura: While in design practice, I felt my day-to-day decisions were so small toward making a positive impact. I chose to teach because it helps me to keep learning and gives me the chance to work with emerging designers on issues of importance for a sustainable future.

Are there any achievements you are really proud of?
Laura: After finishing my undergraduate degree, it was a thrill to work for the firm Perkins and Will. The next major achievement, of course, was earning my PhD. Those achievements made it possible for me to be at IARc (my most recent accomplishment!) where I am using the totality of my previous experiences to teach and conduct research.

What has been the most challenging professional endeavors?
Laura: Everything I have done professionally has had its own unique challenges and its unique awesomeness. I think the toughest time of my life was actually surviving design school, so take heart that quality of life can improve after graduation!

Do you have any advice for the next generation?
Laura: Yes, more advice than I can capture here. Get as many different experiences as you can while you are in college. Work toward emotional resiliency by learning to cope with difficult situations. Take care of yourselves and each other. Go to office hours. Learn to be a steward of planet earth. We can’t keep expecting more and better while simultaneously degrading the natural systems around us. A beautiful, sustainable, and just future is in our hands, so learn what it means to be a designer who contributes positively to that future!

Contributed by Celeste Holley [1st] year

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