UNA interior design program gains elite status with CIDA accreditation

Professor Dhrumil Patel discusses a project with interior design student Kaitlin Wallace. Patel said the department could not have gained accreditation without students’ work.

by News Editor Anna Brown

After a decade of planning and work, the Department of Interior Design gained accreditation through the Council of Interior Design Accreditation Aug. 10.

The accreditation ensures UNA’s interior design graduates are prepared to design beautiful, functional facilities that follow safety standards while protecting the earth and its resources.

“This accreditation is what all major design schools in the country seek,” said professor Dwight Bunn. “We are now in the top tier of interior design programs in the country. It’s a win in every way that you could possibly think.”

It is not unusual for it to take 10 years or more for a school to gain the accreditation, Bunn said.

While in the process of gaining CIDA accreditation, professor Dhrumil Patel said the interior design department also gained accreditation through the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

“We are the only interior design program in the state of Alabama to hold accreditation with both of these associations,” he said.

Because the interior design department works closely with the art department, it is also accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, said chair of the Department of Human Environmental Sciences Jane Wilson.

She said this means the department is technically accredited through three entities.

As part of CIDA requirements, student must complete a 350-hour internship to graduate, Wilson said. She said she thinks the accreditation will open doors for students to not only find more internship opportunities, but also better internship experiences.

“Many firms ask that question, and now students can say, ‘Yes, I am from a CIDA-accredited program,” Bunn said. “I think that this will give them a leg up when they go out and seek internships and even entry-level jobs.”

Assistant professor and UNA interior design alumni Kendra McLain said this accreditation is the industry standard for interior design.

“Architects and design firms look for students who come from CIDA-accredited universities,” she said.

Senior interior design student Amy Nazarchyk said she chose UNA because it offered the only NKBA-accredited program in the state.

“Now with the CIDA accreditation, I am more confident that I will be marketable and competitive in the industry,” Nazarchyk said.

Eighty percent of the accreditation is based on student work, Bunn said. The council must see proof students understand and can apply the curriculum before they grant accreditation.

“Our students really rose to the occasion,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Patel said UNA hired him in 2007 to help the interior design department gain CIDA accreditation. He said much time, planning and effort went toward revamping the curriculum and building classes in line with CIDA standards.

Gaining CIDA accreditation was the department’s goal when it began, Bunn said. He said he thinks this accreditation is a great marketing too not only for the department, but also for the university.

McLain said many of UNA’s interior design graduates have gone to work for large design firms around the country.

She used to work for Interior Design Associates, based out of Nashville, alongside other UNA students, she said.

“CIDA is very important for interior design students because you have to have a degree from a CIDA-accredited school to get certified through the National Council for Interior Design Qualification,” said senior Heather Fields.

Senior Rebecca Armour also said many design firms want graduates who come CIDA-accredited schools.

“I’m very excited that UNA’s program is accredited now,” she said.