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Jan 13, 2023 By Vasia Rigou
Chapter Spotlight: IIDA Ohio/Kentucky
Leading the way to becoming a true advocate for diversity
By Vasia Rigou Jan 13, 2023
Published in Articles

“Diversity is so much more than the color of our skin,” says Tory Leuthold, IIDA, the newly-appointed VP of outreach at the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter (IIDA OH/KY). With a focus on community impact, EDI goals and programs, and the execution of philanthropic initiatives, the Chapter leads the way to becoming a true advocate for diversity and for a more inclusive future for all. Leuthold, together with former Chapter President, Bethany Williams, IIDA, Isoke Miller-Harris, IIDA, Columbus city center director, and Hunter Miller, IIDA, Columbus city center outreach co-leader, provide a behind-the-scenes into the Chapter’s purposeful efforts. Aligning their strengths and harnessing their passion for change—both at a personal and a collective level—they prove that a world where all voices are heard is indeed possible.

Firstly, can you give us an insight into the Ohio/Kentucky interior design audience?

We are a Chapter of 650+ members located in major midwest cities stretched across our two states: Cincinnati/Dayton, Cleveland/Akron, Columbus, Louisville/Lexington, and Toledo. We are home to numerous universities with interior design programs, thirteen of which are Campus Centers with our Chapter.

Pushing to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter (IIDA OH/KY Chapter) has recently created the new VP of Outreach position and a committee. What was the driving force behind this?

Over the past five years, our Chapter Advocacy team has pursued legislation in the state of Ohio, some of which impacted EDI. In order to allow our Advocacy committee, the proper time to focus on their efforts we created our new Outreach committee specifically to put more energy into EDI. Led by the VP of outreach, they will work on community impact and relations, Chapter EDI goals and programs, and the execution of philanthropic initiatives. The two committees will work together to achieve shared Chapter goals moving forward.

What makes the EDI leader’s role so crucial and why is now the right time to introduce this position?

EDI is a continuous focus in our Chapter. Ensuring all voices within our membership and communities are heard is crucial to our industry if we are serious about becoming a more inclusive profession. Now is the time to take action!

In what ways does the Chapter help diversify and develop opportunities for careers in interior design and architecture?

It is clear that our profession is not the most diverse. There are prevalent barriers to accessing the education and professional resources required to break into our industry. IIDA OH/KY has been working on initiatives to make it easier for everyone to pursue interior design. A good example is reaching out to local community programs to teach very young students about their career opportunities through our coloring book initiative: Our members have created coloring book pages that showcase aspects of interior design and what it means to be an interior designer. Then the Outreach committee members at each city center passed the books out to organizations working with youth in underrepresented communities.

What are some of the greatest challenges facing the next generation of designers in terms of EDI? How can we collectively address and overcome them at a regional level?

Awareness of the profession, especially for students (and parents) entering higher education, is one of the challenges of EDI in our industry. Another of the biggest barriers is finances—being able to pay for the education and certifications to enter into this industry can be difficult. The Chapter is working to create programs that reach out to local community organizations and students to help educate them on the profession of interior design. Additionally, we are hopeful that in the future we’ll be able to provide scholarships to our local community of future designers.

Camp students present color wheels and material boards created during the Interior Design workshop. Photo courtesy of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter
Camp students present color wheels and material boards created during the Interior Design workshop. Photo courtesy of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter
Camp Architecture & Design 2022 - Students developing color wheels at Ohio State University. Photo courtesy of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter
Camp Architecture & Design 2022 - Students developing color wheels at Ohio State University. Photo courtesy of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter

Tell us about the types of programs and projects you’re involved with including the chapter-wide Friday Forums as they relate to EDI efforts. What are they and what does the audience response look like?

In 2021 we realized we needed to make more of an effort as a chapter to address equity, diversity and inclusion. Before we implemented a plan for our membership, we wanted to first educate ourselves—the board. At our last quarterly meeting in 2021 we engaged business consultant, executive coach, mentor and facilitator, Priya Klocek, president and CEO of Consultant On The Go LLC, to speak with the board about EDI. It can be a daunting subject, but Priya made it fun and interactive making us feel at ease taking this on as a chapter. We liked her so much that we invited her to come back to speak with our entire chapter membership for a virtual Friday Forum at the beginning of 2022. We had an amazing turn out for this event, and it was a great introduction to the topic. Later in 2022, we brought in Brooke Cartus, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Seminole Hard Rock Support Services, to join in the fall virtual Friday Forum and talk about the myths surrounding EDI. Following an introduction to the topic earlier in the year, Brooke went further in depth discussing tough subjects seen in the workplace. Both sessions were interactive and kept the audience engaged. We were thrilled to have both of our speakers this year and could not say enough positive things about them.

What are some of the ways you’re looking to build community relationships with your role, and what kind of partnerships do you envision?

There are so many great organizations within our city centers that have existing programming we would love to join or contribute to. One valuable partnership we have had over the years is with the Center for Architecture and Design in Columbus, Ohio. Together we hold an event called Camp Architecture every year that promotes our industry to youth in the community. Additionally, our outreach committee has begun brainstorming to find other potential partnerships throughout our chapter. Some of the organizations listed are the Boys and Girls Club, ACE, and the Habitat for Humanity. We also find importance in keeping other industry organizations close like ASID, AIA, and CIDQ. Together we can make a bigger difference.

How does one become a true advocate for diversity?

We must be committed to educating ourselves and others as well as increasing and enhancing our knowledge and understanding about diversity. With an expanded awareness and appreciation for diversity, we can create actions and opportunities for better outcomes that will help to increase diversity in our Chapter and in our industry. One of the biggest takeaways we have learned so far as a Chapter is the importance of belonging. For us to advocate for diversity, it is essential that we build an organization where everyone is welcome.

With EDI in mind, what are your plans moving forward?

We plan to continue to educate our IIDA leadership, firm leaders, and IIDA members through programming, and establish partnerships within our local communities to provide connections and opportunities within our industry. It is just the beginning of our journey, but we are passionate and inspired to make an impact on our local design community.

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