Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Students help veterans’ center

Interior design students experienced a change of heart after pairing with the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center to help prepare an exhibit for the facility honoring veterans.

“We were trying to understand what it was like to design for people in special populations, under special care and in retirement homes,” Lauren St. John, a junior majoring in interior design, said. “In order to do that, you kind of have to step into their world.”

The class separated into five groups: photography, storytelling, sports, food and art therapy. They were able to gather information from the veterans to then memorialize the veterans in an exhibit titled “A Sentimental Journey: a Therapy Collaboration Between Interior Design Students and Veterans Affairs Residents,” which will open May 2.

“The students went back there doing more in-depth service projects with the veterans, working closely with the recreation therapy team,” professor Stephanie Sickler said. “The recreation therapy team has activities and things that we’ve scheduled with them that the students planned.”

Interior design students from CTD 325, design for special populations, first worked with the VA to help design floor plans for the new cottage-style housing and went back this semester for CTD 326, exhibition design, pairing with the Tuscaloosa VA to provide volunteer rehabilitation activities with the veterans. What started as a school project ended with a new understanding and respect of local veterans.

St. John garnered a new respect for the veterans after being a part of the photography team.

“At first, we were asked to volunteer and help Mrs. Sickler with this project and it was just going to be a few of us, but by the time she explained it the whole classes wanted to join in because you kind of become attached to these people,” St. John said. “It was kind of emotional the last day for me; you understand them and they just need someone to talk to. I gathered so much for the future.”

Kayla Pendley, a junior majoring in interior design, was also a part of making the photography exhibit.

“Actually getting to talk to them and hearing their stories, working on this project for them really makes you proud and you really want to make them proud,” Pendley said. “I have respect for the men over there now, but the men who already served, you don’t want them to be forgotten. You want them to know that they’re still respected. It’s an honor to get to work with them.”

Department chair Shirley Foster emphasized the importance of community engagement within the University.

“It gives them an opportunity to talk with community partners and engages them on a personal level,” Foster said. “I feel like students are more invested in something when they know that its got a level of professionalism attached to it.”

The exhibit will remain at the VA until Memorial Day. The exhibit was requested to be a part of The Way We Worked next spring, a Smithsonian traveling exhibit that will eventually make its way to the Tuscaloosa area.

“Stephanie has taken this in a lot of directions. The end result being evidence that can be shared,” Foster said. “It’s what we call evidence-based design and so the idea that exposing students to all different kinds of design. It’s an experience that’s much broader than any class syllabus.”


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