Rhonda Gilmore


Rhonda Gilmore

Senior Lecturer
2419 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Phone: (607) 255-1951 Fax: (607) 255-0305
Email: rg35@cornell.edu
View Cornell University Contact Info
Curriculum Vitae
Biographical Statement:

As a design educator, I believe in balancing critical inquiry with skill development:  teaching students how to use their intellect and utilize their skills to problem-solve for a design-hungry world is both challenging and immensely rewarding.  This combination of left brain / right brain functions known as the design process improves the human condition and I view my role as a guide for students as they endeavor to learn from those problems that require and even plead for a designed response.

Teaching and Advising Statement:

Balancing skill development for professional practice with inspiring, innovative design thinking brings my role as educator into focus.  To encourage students to value their personal investment in their design education, each course I teach incorporates increasingly independent learning opportunities.  There's also an emphasis on communication:  building confidence in sketching and visual skills, teaching effective, empathic listening techniques, oral presentation organization, and business basics such as contractual agreements and multi-tasking in project management.

Advising and mentoring both undergraduates and teaching assistants brings meaning to my work:  I strive to combine my previous business experience with my years as a design educator to provide realistic yet hopeful advice about how to navigate both academic realities and future employment settings.  A considerable amount of time is devoted to strategizing the job search process and portfolio reviews.

The commitment I feel to my students is demonstrated in both my teaching and advising and in activities outside the studio / my office:  I coordinate DEA's annual recruitment fair, PURSUIT 2017, which brings both DEA alumni and other professionals back to campus for two days of intensive networking and interviewing opportunities for both our undergraduate and graduate students.

Current Professional Activities:
•  Coordinator, DEA LightLAB

         Utilizing this campus-wide resource for both lighting instruction and research, I work with students in DEA 2750 to identify and analyze multiple light sources in the Lab.  The space is also used for lighting installations designed and constructed by students in DEA 2750.  The exhibit of these lighting explorations was viewed by over 70 visitors the day of the exhibit opening.

•  Academic Coordinator, PURSUIT :  DEA's Career Fair

        Organizing our Department's recruitment event for our students continues to be a success:  14 firms came to campus to present their work and interview prospective applicants in the Spring of 2016 

•  Faculty Represenative for Student Chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers)

     Continue to work with this dynamic group of pre-professional designers to coordinate resume reviews, mock-interview sessions, service learning opportunities, and coordinate their annual Materials Fair, where over 23 manufacturer representatives traveled to the College to display their products and network with students from DEA, AAP, and the Hotel School in the Fall of 2016

 Member - National Council for Preservation Education

 Member - National Trust for Historic Preservation

 Member - Preservation League of New York





Current Public Engagement Activities:

•  DEA 2203  two projects in this course provided students with opportunities for public engagement:

   -  Teknion NEOCON Showroom:  students worked with Canadian furniture manufacturer, Teknion, on the design of their space for the June 2016 NEOCON event at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.  The owner of a Teknion dealership and a sales representative took the students to Toronto to tour the factory and their new showroom space.  Students provided collateral for Teknion's showroom space as well as feedback as millenials who are future specifiers.

-  Fischell Band Center:  the studio was approached by Sarah Fischell, one of the primary donors for the new Cornell Marching Band practice facility near Schoellkopf Field, to provide branding designs for this dynamic group of musicians.  Students interviewed band members, researched the organization and its history, conducted site visits and produced design solutions that were presented to a group of band alumni, current members, and Sarah Fischell.  After incorporating feedback, the students produced final deliverables that were approved and then implemented / constructed over the summer of 2016.  This project was published in Ezra Magazine, Cornell's alumni publication, Fall 2016.


•  DEA 4401  members of this studio worked with the City of Elmira to generate adaptive reuse solutions for The Federal Building, a local landmark and registered property (National Trust for History Preservation) that is currently vacant.  Students documented the 1911 building on a site visit, interviewed stakeholders in the project and created a variety of uses for this majestic Beaux Arts stone building in downtown Elmira.  Presentations of the student work is scheduled for January 2017 to Elmira City Manager and other members of the community dedicated to saving this significant property.

  • M.A. 1994 - Cornell University Interior Design
  • B.S. 1982 - University of Cincinnati Architecture, Art and Planning
  • NCIDQ  Interior Design Licensing Exam   Passed - 1988
  • LEED Associate Professional  Passed - 2009
  • LEED Commerical Interiors Certificate - Passed 2013

Courses Taught:


DEA 2203 - StudioSHIFT

•  Brand Foward Environments :  students designed a large-scale exhibit environment for NEOCON at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, IL.  Working with furniture manufacturer Teknion, students traveled to Teknion's world headquarters in Toronto, toured their manufacturing facilites and learned about branding / marketing strategies in this competitive commercial furniture industry from in-house designers, sales and marketing leadership.  Each student created site-specific installation recommendations through 2/D deliverables as well as a scaled model of the showroom space at the Mart, which were then presented to the leadership group from Teknion.

•  Exhibit Forward Environments :  after being approached by Sarah Fischell, one of the primary donors to the Fischell Band Center facility located on campus near Shoellkopf Field, the studio took-on the challenge of bringing branding solutions to this recently completed facility.  Working in groups, the students developed design proposals for:  banners illustrating historically significant moments in this organization's trajectory, displays for previous drum majors' uniforms, incorporations of the alma mater, messaging displays, and digital displays of archival photos and donor lists.  After several presentations where the students received cogent feedback, final design development solutions were actually constructed in the building over the summer of 2016.  The significance of this project caught the attention of the Alumni Affairs office and an article outlining the students' work was incorporated into the Fall 2016 "Ezra" Magazine including student drawings and photos of the new banners installed in the primary practice space.


Course Evaluation :  4.53 of 5     66.7% response rate


DEA 3030 - Introduction to Materials, Finishes, and Furnishings

After the study of interior materials' characteristics and capabilities, the course moved onto the sustainable approach to the selection and specification of "green" interior materials. LEED criteria were connected to the study of creating sustainable interiors with an emphasis on earning points for design decisions. Field trips exposed students to "materials in action" and provided examples of use / maintenance issues. Skills such as life cycle costing and writing green specifications were incorporated into the course, as were group work / presentations on current sustainable material options for the built environment.  The last assignment focused on the study and familiarity with one material from three categories:  grown / oil-based / mined from a new book by Chris Lefteri called Materials for Design.  Each student selected a material from one category and compiled information ranging from where the material is sourced, how it is used, and its advantages and disadvantages.  Then the students designed an innovative product or system using their material as the generator for ideas and applications.  Documentation of this process was illustrated in the graphic design of posters for this MyMaterial assignment, which were displayed in the DEA Gallery.


Course Evaluation:  4.30 of 5    61.9% response rate


DEA 2750 - Light In•Forming Space   Lighting Desgin Studio

As an extension of the creation of the College of Human Ecology LightLab, this course was created to teach both the fundamentals of lighting design and provide students with the opportunity to manipulate / design / build lighting products and environments.  During this evening course, students learned the rudiments of light, perception, color, categories of luminance and then designed / constructed their own luminaire (light fixture).  Continuing the tradition of creating lighting interventions, groups of multidisciplinary students designed and built lighting installations in the LightLab, with a variety of sensory stimuli.  Over 70 visitors attended the Opening, bringing together students, staff, and faculty to experience the luminous spatial environments, transforming the LightLab from a lighting laboratory to an exhibit of light-space.  To prepare for professional practice, students were taught how to document lighting decisions in architectural environments through reflected ceiling plans and lighting legends:  these RCPs were then used to re-lamp an existing space in MVR, changing the lighting from fluorescent to LEDs, a more energy-efficient solution while complying with ASHRAE standards for re-lamping existing installations.


Course Evaluation:  4.14 of 5    47% response rate


DEA 4401 - Design Studio VII

This adaptive re-use / preservation studio is the only comprehensive studio experience for students focusing on interior design in DEA's new curriculum.  Students learn the benefits of historic preservation relevant to sustainable design, incorporate the LEED system in their projects, and study an existing historic structure to use as the context for their interior design solutions.  

Keeping in closer proximity to Ithaca, students worked on a National Trust for Historic Preservation listed property in downtown Elmira, NY:  the 1911 granite Beaux Arts Federal Building.  As one of the more ornate buildings for this studio, the site visit and documentation of this structure inspired students to study further the Beaux Arts period in architectural history.  In order to replicate the realities of professional practice, students moved through every phase of the project beginning with interviews of the primary stakeholders since the building is in jeopardy of being torn down (it has been vacant for more than ten years).  Placed in use groups by use-type, small groups of students conducted critiques during each segment of the process of bringing new life and ideas into this valuable structure.  Deliverables included:  adaptive reuse assessment (documentaiton and analysis of existing structure), program documents, contractural agreement, concept, schematic design, design development, and construction documents.  A final presentation is scheduled for January, 2017, when students will present their work to the city manager and staff of Elmira, NY.


Course Evaluation:  4.73 of 5     28.6% response rate



Related Websites:



Administrative Responsibilities:

•  CIDA / IFMA Accreditation Reviews :  Spring 2016

This was my 5th CIDA / IFMA review process and I coordinated the exhibit of the student work in the CIDA display spaces.  We designed and installed signage and graphics for all elements of the display, alloted space for each course, worked with faculty to assist them in meeting deadlines, coordinated specific display strategies for specific courses, installed displays for faculty on leave or visiting lecturers, assisted in the downloading of all digital work for review, and arranged for refreshments for the visiting jurors.  The positive feedback after the review was encouraging and despite the enormous effort to pull this together, it was rewarding to see the students' impressions of all their work in one space...inspiring.


•  PURSUIT 2016 :  DEA Recruting Event

Now in its third year, we decided to collaborate with AAP / Architecture's Career Services Office for 2016.  Selecting the date and marketing both PURSUIT and their Career Forum events were coordinated by both departments.  14 architecture and design firms (12 DEA alumni) came back to MVR Hall to present information about their work, attend a faculty luncheon, and interview both our undergraduate and graduate students.  Feedback from participants indicated that the event was another success:  we established a working relationship with the firms, our students received offers of employment, and we changed the culture of our department, demonstrating to our students a solid commitment to professional practice.  One take-away from the collaboration with Architecture was that firms did not send the same representatives to both events:  only one firm participated in both PURSUIT and the Career Forum, so for 2017, we will focus on bringing a more diverse group of firms to DEA, but still maintain a working relationship with AAP and their efforts.


•  Faculty Advisor to DEA Student Chapter of ASID:  Annual Materials Fair

Continue to work with students in this dynamic group (ASID:  American Society of Interior Designers) who have taken the intiative to conduct regular meetings where students are given feedback on their resumes, taught interview skills, etc.  Also worked with the group to host our third annual Materials Fair, where over 23 manufacturer representatives came to CHE to display their hospitality products and network with current students from DEA, AAP, and the Hotel School.  Attendance was 82 students, faculty, and staff.


•  DEA Student Advisor 

Had the privilege of working with 13 undergraduate students in the Spring and Fall of 2016.  Consistent issues seem to be course selection and job search strategies, as well as salary negotiations.


•  DEA LightLAB:

LightLab is an open resource to be used by both student groups and Cornell staff to test new lighting prototypes and possible lighting retrofit samples.


•  DEA Graduation Reception :  May 2016 

Assisted graduating seniors with their reception the afternoon of commencement and worked with the design students to complete a Gallery Exhibit of a sampling of their work over the past four years.  Event was attended by over 112 family members and friends.

Selected Keywords:
design education, historic preservation, adaptive re-use, sustainable design, LEED certification, exhibit design, lighting design, interior design professional practice, high school design education

The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.