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May 12, 2021 By IIDA HQ
Campus Center Spotlight: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The IIDA 2021 Campus Center Award Winners discuss the importance of building legacy, alumni involvement, and resiliency in uncertain times.
By IIDA HQ May 12, 2021
Published in

IIDA is committed to being a force for change in the industry and future of interior design—beginning with our student members. For students, being involved in their IIDA Campus Center can mean the opportunity to gain leadership and professional development experience outside of the classroom—in the association, on their campus, and with their peers. This can include everything from program development, budgeting, marketing, and event planning, to learning how to navigate within the structure of an organization.

Every spring, IIDA recognizes a campus center through the IIDA Campus Center Awards, supported by our partner OFS, for exceptional achievement in program development that contributes to the local interior design community and profession. Each center that applies for the Best Thing Ever Award is considered for the Campus Center of the Year award and is recognized by their local chapter at a local event, featured on IIDA.org and in the student newsletter QUAD, and is eligible for the $1,000 prize.

Our 2021 Campus Center of the Year and winner of the Best Thing Ever submission is the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Campus Center, part of the IIDA Tennessee Chapter. In a year like no other, members recognized the need for a more dynamic system of support and community for student members, and set out to lay the framework for a lasting legacy and supportive alumni network. With a revitalized identity as IA Collaborative, revised mission, expanded officer positions, and programming dedicated to development and mental health, the campus center provided the resources and opportunities necessary for students to stay connected, be supported, and continue to develop their leadership and professional skills.

We reached out to the submitting student members at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) Campus Center to discuss the importance of building legacy, alumni involvement, and resiliency in uncertain times.

You’ll hear from:

Caitlin Turner, Student IIDA, President, University of Tennessee Campus Center
Sam Richwine, Student IIDA
, Programming Chair, University of Tennessee Campus Center
Allie Bierman, Student IIDA, Vice President, University of Tennessee Campus Center
Delaney O’Brien, Student IIDA
, Philanthropy Chair, University of Tennessee Campus Center

Tell us a little bit about how IA Collaborative – what is it, and how did it come to be?

Caitlin Turner:
After being sent home last spring, our IIDA Campus Center at the time lost energy, as many did, and we saw a need to create a space to support one another. The structure of the campus center had been failing for some time though, so I contacted a friend and classmate, Allie Bierman, in May of 2020 and we decided to do something about it. As many students lost their internship opportunities last summer, we took that time to work hard and develop new officer positions, create a brand kit, and lay out our short and long-term goals for the organization. Overall, IA Collaborative fosters a community of students with a similar desire to grow as designers, support one another, and to give back to and build relationships with the surrounding community. We have especially devoted energy to establishing a community and a framework for future student leaders to build on in many years to come.


How did the goals and mission of your campus center change throughout the events of 2020 – the pandemic, social upheaval, and generally the ways in which you are able to connect with yourselves and your community?


Sam Richwine:
As everyone has experienced throughout 2020 and 2021, the pandemic really impacted how everyone interacts with each other on a daily basis. In order to keep our members and community safe we followed all CDC and social distancing guidelines, prompting us to be creative in how we engaged with our members and how we encouraged members to stay involved.

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University of Tennessee, Knoxville Campus Center's IA Collaborative branding, image courtesy of the campus center.
University of Tennessee, Knoxville Campus Center's IA Collaborative branding, image courtesy of the campus center.

For all events throughout the year, we offered virtual options and socially distanced in-person options—to help counteract the “Zoom fatigue” that we have all faced during the pandemic, we offered mental health events such as yoga and meditation. To encourage professional engagement we hosted portfolio workshops and had guest lecture series with local professionals, and to engage in the community we had several volunteer opportunities outdoors and socially distanced.

We also employed many different forms of communication to stay in touch with our members; for example, we made use of our Instagram page for announcements and to showcase student work and we sent out bi-weekly newsletter to help members feel more connected. Although Covid-19 has changed the way we interact in-person, we were able to think of solutions and activities that could still be done safely.

Why should Campus Centers apply for the Best Thing Ever, and what does the award help you to accomplish going forward?

Caitlin Turner:
Being the recipient of the IIDA Campus Center Award has meant a lot to us as a source of recognition for all of our hard work over the past year. When discussing whether or not we would want to apply for this award, we decided it was worth at least setting a precedent for future officers to have something to always work towards. One of our main goals this past year was to create a foundation and legacy that will only grow stronger in the future. This award will allow IA Collaborative to do just that. My hope for this recognition is that it will inspire our members and future leadership to never shy away from a challenge. I also hope that this recognition will inspire others across the IIDA community in the same ways that many campus and city centers have inspired us.

Sam Richwine:
IIDA Campus centers should apply for the Best Thing Ever award to highlight and be recognized for their achievements. This award strives to showcase the work that was put into growing the organization and supporting young design students through professional events. Receiving this award has helped us to spread the word about how IA Collaborative has taken the values and goals of IIDA to support the community of design students in Knoxville, and how we have served the greater Knoxville community as a whole through networking and philanthropic events.

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Halloween for Essential Employees gift bags for the essential employees maintaining the UTK campus Art and Architecture Building, image courtesy of the chapter center.
Halloween for Essential Employees gift bags for the essential employees maintaining the UTK campus Art and Architecture Building, image courtesy of the chapter center.
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IA Collaborative student practicing self-care, meeting up in person and socially distant, image courtesy of the campus center.
IA Collaborative student practicing self-care, meeting up in person and socially distant, image courtesy of the campus center.

Why is it important to highlight campus center activities and projects to the greater IIDA membership community?

Allie Bierman:
In the beginning of my academic career getting involved in professional organizations seemed extremely overwhelming and out of my reach. It was hard to imagine spending time on things that didn’t directly benefit my studio classes or other projects. But after seeing other student work being highlighted through newsletters and social media, it became clear that being involved could benefit me in so many other ways. Highlighting student and campus center activities excites the community and in turn makes it easier for more people to stay engaged. Investing in student relationships and celebrating the successes of campus centers also creates meaningful connections. These connections not only can serve as employment opportunities, but also inspire students to feel valued in the greater IIDA community and continue in leadership roles as future professionals.

Why is it important for students to get involved in their communities whether through philanthropy or volunteering?

Delaney O’Brien:
One of my 2021 New Year's Resolutions was to get more involved in the Knoxville community. Being philanthropy chair for IA Collaborative created the perfect opportunity for me, as well as all IA Collaborative members, to achieve that. Members were able to volunteer for various events throughout Knoxville and learn more about the community and its rich history. As interior architecture students, we often research communities and their topography, demographics, and history, but we have often never been to these communities. Volunteering provided us the opportunity for hands-on research in Knoxville, while creating a positive impact. I cannot wait to continue volunteering with IA Collaborative and witness the good spread throughout our community.

(Lead image, IA Collaborative volunteers at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, image courtesy of the campus center.)

What is most exciting about working with your chapter now and looking to the future, and how does the professional community support your members?

Delaney O’Brien:
Coming into college, especially a program like interior architecture, is scary. IA Collaborative has provided a space to form friendships and mentors that will last during and after college. There is an incredible mentor-to-mentee relationship created by the members, and I believe many will continue working with the program upon graduation. The professional community has provided extraordinary support for IA Collaborative and has set up events to aid members—we have had the opportunity to create amazing connections with people during a time where connections were really hard to make. I personally have learned so much due to the influence of older members and the professional world, and cannot wait for younger students to experience this as well.

Allie Bierman:
As a graduating member of IA Collaborative, I am most looking forward to continuing to serve the students at UTK as a mentor and professional connection. When IA Collaborative took shape this year, a large goal of the team was to lay the groundwork for a supportive alumni network for our members, and I am excited to be able to serve in this new role. I will begin to support my campus center with the other amazing professionals who have poured their resources into students by creating Speed Mentoring Nights, Volunteering opportunities, and social events. With their support I know the UTK Campus Center will continue to be an essential resource for students.

Click the image below to view the 2021 Best Thing Ever project presentation from the University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus Center.


University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus Center 2021 Best Thing Ever



Visit the IIDA Campus Center Awards page
to view our 2021 entrants and their projects.

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