Student and faculty member looking at drawing
Jun 8, 2023
Marisa LaFalce
In College of Human Ecology, Human Centered Design

Cornell Human Ecology’s design and environmental analysis (D+EA) major received re-accreditation from the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), an independent, nonprofit accrediting organization for interior design education programs at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. The D+EA major is part of the College’s Department of Human Centered Design.  

CIDA certification ensures compliance with industry fundamentals and preparation for students’ future professional growth, and interior design programs must apply for recertification every six years. The year-long process was led by Rhonda Gilmore, senior lecturer and D+EA director of undergraduate studies; Mardelle Shepley, professor; and So-Yeon Yoon, associate professor. It is now D+EA’s fifth successful accreditation.  

“Most states require a rigorous licensing process to practice interior design,” said Gilmore. “This accreditation streamlines the licensing process for our students who choose that path. After graduation, they can work under the mentorship of a licensed interior designer for two years, and then they are eligible to take the NCIDQ Certification exam.”  

"The CIDA certification affirms our unique approach in creating licensed interior designers that are also bold thinkers and strategists."

Rhonda Gilmore, director of D+EA undergraduate studies and senior lecturer
Human Centered Design

The CIDA accreditation is a multi-step process that begins with an internal self-study comprised of 188 unique standards in 16 categories such as regulations and codes; light and color; environmental systems and human well-being. Gilmore, Shepley and Yoon also needed to document every course in the D+EA curriculum to demonstrate learning outcomes and student work. 

Next, CIDA sends a visiting team to conduct a three-day, on-site review. The visiting team includes an educator and a practitioner who meet faculty, students and administrators. While on site, the team evaluates the teaching and curriculum, including an evaluation of academic rigor. After the on-site review, the accreditation commission makes a final decision on the program’s status. 

“Our graduates possess the tools, skills and strategies to become industry leaders, visionary academics and pioneering practitioners,” said Yasser Gowayed, Lau Family Professor and chair of the department. “The work by Rhonda, So-Yeon and our faculty on this accreditation demonstrates their commitment to our students.” 

Cornell’s D+EA major is a unique course of study. Students learn the skills necessary to become licensed interior designers—and the CIDA accreditation supports that pathway—as well as aspects of humanities and social sciences, environmental psychology, ergonomics and human factors to provide deeper understanding of design and greater breadth. 

“We have an unconventional design curriculum that extends beyond interior design and allows our students to immerse themselves in a thematic area of interest,” said Gilmore. “The CIDA certification affirms our unique approach in creating licensed interior designers that are also bold thinkers and strategists.”  

The curriculum explores how the physical environment impacts daily experiences. Working with Human Centered Design faculty from a broad range of disciplines, students combine academic course work, field experience and applied research to solve real-world problems. Courses within the Cornell Human Ecology and the University’s other colleges provide graduates with critical thinking skills, exposure to multiple disciplines and a holistic scholarly approach to design.  

After graduation, students who major in design + environmental analysis go on to careers in interior design, interior planning, UX design, product design and design strategy. 

“Our curriculum gives students academic and career flexibility,” said Yoon. “One-quarter of our D+EA majors go on to careers in interior design. We are proud to be at the forefront of our industry, charting the course for interior design education.” 

Photo at top: Gilmore and student discuss work in Adaptive Reuse Studio. Photo by Darcy Rose.