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Sep 08, 2022 By IIDA HQ
Member Spotlight: Chesenia Burgos, IIDA
Finding joy in her work, and meaning in representation, IIDA PA/NJ/DE’s first Hispanic Chapter President shares her achievements and goals for IIDA and her design work
By IIDA HQ Sep 08, 2022
Published in Articles

Joining IIDA as a student, Chesenia Burgos, passion for interior design can be seen in her continued leadership in the industry. Recognizing in herself a passion for creative work and an interest in the impact of a created space at a young age, she is now an NCIDQ-certified, associate, interior designer at Stantec’s Philadelphia office. In her continued work with IIDA, she strove to have a bigger impact on her community and the industry being elected VP of Advocacy, and just this year was named IIDA PA/NJ/DE Chapter President.

Serving as an Advocacy VP showed Burgos the importance of empowering interior designers—and as the first Hispanic Chapter President for her chapter, empowering other young Hispanic designers. She notes that advocacy isn’t only about passing legislation but exposing people to what designers do, advocating for the diversification of thought in the industry, and ultimately design a better future through leadership. Speaking at the 2022 IIDA Chapter Leadership Council Advocacy panel, she reflects on the achievements of members like her, who have contributed to the success in recent years in attaining legal recognition for the profession.

Below: Chesenia Burgos at work, image courtesy of Stantec Philadelphia


Can you tell us about how you found your way to a career in interior design, and a little about your practice?

Growing up I was always doing something creative and I have my parents to thank for that. They were constantly providing me with new opportunities to explore my creativity through small projects and artistic platforms. Coloring and drawing notebooks, puzzles, DIY craft books, games involving city development and design, and helping my father with his own projects. In high school, I found myself gravitating toward interior environments and the positive psychological impacts a well thought out space has on people. I realized what I wanted to do was interior design. Now as a practicing professional, I continue to find joy in what I do as an interior designer, through designing inclusive and efficient spaces that also happen to be aesthetically pleasing.

What drove you to become involved in IIDA, and specifically advocacy work?

I became involved in IIDA as a student member. I was a campus co-director, assisting to expose students to the profession. Upon graduating, I continued my involvement with the local city center. With many years of event planning under my belt and a supportive network of passionate professionals, I wanted to ‘do more,’ in the sense of expanding my volunteer impact across the chapter. I was elected as VP of Advocacy, a role that continued to fuel my passion not just for interior design, but also for continuing to empower and promote our diverse community. While the role does touch the legislative side of interior design, it also encompasses educating people on what we do, exposing people to the profession, and working alongside volunteers and other organizations for the betterment of our collective future. Now as chapter president, I look to continue strengthening our inclusive and diverse culture through city center unification, volunteer engagement, and student outreach.

"I know the feeling of seeing someone that “looks like you” or has a similar background, and the psychological impact that can have on someone’s future"
Chesenia Burgos, IIDA, NCIDQ
Chesenia Burgos, IIDA, NCIDQ

You are the first Hispanic President of your chapter – what does it mean to you to provide that representation to other designers and IIDA members?

It’s truly an honor. To be in a position where our community is made more aware of the diversity within our profession or lack thereof is an opportunity I do not take lightly. More importantly, I think about the younger generation. It’s no secret that growing up with a specific cultural background has a huge impact on who you are and how you view the world. My heritage, “first generation” upbringing, and being bilingual—all of it makes me who I am and molds the way I think and process information. One topic I raised at our Summer Board Retreat this past July was the engagement and outreach of students. I’m proud that we’ve increased our student member engagement at the collegiate level, however, I challenge our chapter to go beyond that. What does our impact look like at a K-12 level, reaching underprivileged communities who may not know that a career in design exists or what it entails? As we continue to figure out what this outreach looks like for our chapter, I personally want to make sure we reach as many kids as possible in our region, regardless of location. I know the feeling of seeing someone that “looks like you” or has a similar background and the psychological impact that can have on someone’s future.

What do you aim to achieve in this role?

In my role as an IIDA Chapter President, I aim to be an advocate for interior design and our younger generation. To not just encourage conversations surrounding interior design education, professional development, and youth outreach, but to help facilitate steps towards actionable items even at a micro level. Another big part of this is unification, our chapter has worked hard over the past several years to reconnect our city centers on a singular mission. This has been achieved through expanding and coordinating our signature events across the region, cohesive marketing, and having passionate and dedicated board members. All of this has allowed us to reach more members and potential members.

What advice do you have for young Hispanic designers?

If you dream of it, you can achieve it, but you have to put in the effort. “Life isn’t fair,” we’ve all heard it, we’ve all felt it, and it’s something I imagine feels less and less as ancestries progress over time. We must care not just about our own success but for the future of our lineage. At least that is one motivation that keeps me going. I find passion not just in interior design, but in the empowerment this profession gives me to encourage and promote my heritage. So, if you have a passion, chase it, and give it 110%. Remember that there are always people willing to help you along the way if you just ask them. Your successes can help inspire and motivate future generations.

Below: Penn Medicine, Lancaster General Health - Seraph-McSparren Pediatric Inpatient Center by Stantec, Philadelphia Office. Photography by Jeffery Totaro


How are you driving the pursuit of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in both your work and your chapter?

I’ve always found myself to be an open minded individual—I tend to listen to conversations and find myself analyzing the various perspectives. By respectfully trying to understand one another, we can grow in a positive direction. Through design, I listen to our client’s needs and their vision for their future. I assist my teams in providing more efficient workflows and creating purposefully designed spaces for both their needs and the needs of all who will interact with their interior environment. Through our chapter, as past VP of Advocacy, I coordinated a four-part EDI workshop series for our members. This was well received, and our new VP of Advocacy looks to continue those conversations and programs surrounding EDI. These conversations, while they should be second nature to us as interior designers, are certainly helping us think on a broader spectrum.

Do you have a favorite project, design or otherwise, that you have worked on or completed in the past few years?

Upon receiving my interior design degree, I had always dreamed about making an impact in the community I grew up in. Within five years, I was doing just that. (Reminder: if you dream it, you can achieve it!) I was brought on board and my wonderful team allowed me the opportunity to truly make it my own as the lead designer. This project also fueled my passion for pediatric design (both within healthcare and education). Not only was the client amazing to work with, but their passion for the work they do made the collaborative efforts to make this pediatric unit fun yet sophisticated while allowing it to offer a sense of place for all, made the project that much more rewarding.

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