Rhonda Gilmore
Senior Lecturer
Human Centered Design

2419 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall


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.

•  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 2019, our 6th year for this event.  We had over 75 DEA and 30 non-DEA students particiate in this networking and interviewing opportunity.

•  Faculty Represenative for Student Chapter of IIDA (Commercial Interior Design Association)

     Continue to work with this dynamic group of pre-professional designers to coordinate resume reviews, mock-interview sessions, service learning opportunities, and coordinate their efforts with DEA's recruitment fair, PURSUIT.

•  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.

 Member - National Council for Preservation Education

 Member - National Trust for Historic Preservation

 Member - Preservation League of New York





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

Year of Water :  client    Water Resources Institute   Cornell University

Students were given the prompt to educate both Cornell and the local community about the ways in which water infrastructure is a valuable resource for:

a.  water treatment :  Cornell provides all of its own water from Fall Creek and has its own water treatment facility on campus

b.  hydro-electric power :  Cornell creates 15% of its power by harnessing the water that flows through the gorges on campus

Students collected data on these water infrastructure facilities, touring several to see first-hand how water is harnessed to support the functions of the University, and met with the client on multiple occasions to solicit design criteria and project goals.  Each group developed design responses to these programmatic needs and they each produced professional-quality final presentations that were submitted to the client.  These will be used by the client to construct and install the exhibits during 2020-2021.

•  Homeless Shelter for Local Young Adults  :   client  Tompkins Community Action (TCA)

Working with Prof. Gary Evans' class, DEA 2500 The Environment and Social Behavior, students collaborated to design temporary housing for young people in Tompkins County.  There are many youth-at-risk in the county, and to address this need, TCA has decided to renovate a portion of their administrative offices and create a homeless shelter that would provide a place to sleep, bathe, do laundry, and receive training.  DEA 2500 gathered the data / research on this demographic and their needs, providing the basis for the evidence-based design solutions created by the design students.  Both classes collaborated on the final solutions and the members of the studio DEA 2203 designed / designated four distinct areas within the facility to meet the research objectives :

1.  intake and staff :  this area would process the youth, provide counseling, medical services and arrange for resources (job interviews, etc.) 

2.  common area :  designed to be a lounge and community space for temporary residents, this area incorporated two levels in order to provide increased privacy and services such as a small kitchen and place-making chalk boards

3.  laundry and restrooms :  located near the back of the facility for privacy, washers and dryers and a folding area incorporated a wall-display schedule for residents to select times for laundry / restroom use.  The restrooms were divided into two distinct areas :  a sink (4) area and private toilet / shower rooms.  Usage of these services would be monitored by the staff and scheduled using the large display wall near the laundry area.

4.  sleeping area :  students designed custom sleeping berths or bunkbed units which incorporated task lighting, screens for varying levels of privacy and storage solutions for these temporary residents.

Once financing is secured by TCA, they intend to begin construction on this facility, using the students' work as the basis for their design solutions, another very practical and useful connection between academia and a local non-profit organization.

•  DEA 4401  adaptive re-use projects for upper-level design students

The popularity of adaptive re-use has increased dramatically due to the economy, increased sensitivity to sustainable practices, and the cultural shift towards a renewed respect for older structures.  For this studio in 2019, we traveled to Philadelphia where we worked with a local real estate developer, Arts & Crafts Holdings, who was interested in the students' proposals for one of their properties, 421 N. 7th Street in downtown Philadelphia.  The class toured the historic structure, a former General Electric switch manufacturing facility in the industrial portion of downtown.  Each student documented the building, conducted research including the demographics of this city, the current and projected trends for building renovations, and selected a use based on these mechanisms.  Projects ranged from boutique hotels to art galleries, to plastic re-manufacturing facilities.  Each student completed every phase of the design process, from concept / programming to design development / construction documents.  These proposals were then sent to Arts & Crafts Holdings who intends to use these projects as references while renovating the building.

DEA 4250 :  Restaurant Charrette   client   Aurora Ale & Lager Co.   Aurora, NY

Multidisciplinary students worked in groups to provide design interventions to this existing facility / brewery located a few miles south of Aurora, NY.  After a site visit and introduction to the clients, students generated everything from branding to packaging to the design of an enhanced user experience at their current cafe / lounge.  Since manufacturing is on-site, students created design solutions for wayfinding, parking, exterior landscaping suggestions, code-compliant dining facility proposals, and ways in which the current owners can augment their current operations to more fully engage the patrons who visit their establishment.  The clients intend to use the student work as they expand and create a venue for wedding receptions and larger gatherings.


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.  As a community-building activity, I invite all of my advisees to tea at the beginning of each semester:  we often talk more about their lives outside DEA, but the opportunity to learn more about their challenges and their aspirations provides invaluable information that I can utilize while advising them throughout the year.

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, 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.  I also feel a sense of responsibility to bring professional organizations to DEA, and for 2019 / 2020, we are establishing a student chapter of IIDA to introduce students to the many benefits of licensing, taking the NCIDQ, and other career support services available both now and in the future.

DEA 2203 - StudioSHIFT

•  Year of Water Pop-Up Exhibits :  client  Water Resources Institute Cornell University

Students in this advocacy studio worked on two public engagement projects, the first being the Year of Water for WRI.  The expose the local and Cornell communities to how hard water works in their backyards, students created 4 proposals for educational exhibits to be installed in three separate locations:  one near Beebe Lake (to illustrate how Fall Creek is used for the campus water source), one near the Suspension Bridge (to raise awareness of Cornell's use of hydroelectric power for 15% of its energy needs), and one near The Johnson Museum of Art (to raise awareness of the infrastructure of Lake Source Cooling).  

•  Youth Homeless Shelter for TCA   Tompkins Community Action

Students collaborated with Prof. Gary Evans' class, DEA 2500 The Environment and Social Behavior, to create a temporary housing solution for local youth.  TCA would like to renovate a portion of their administrative offices to provide a shelter for homeless youth and the students worked together to provide design responses to the existing space and the evidence-based design guidelines provided by DEA 2500.  Four distinct areas were suggested:  intake / staff, lounge / community room, laundry / restrooms, and sleeping area.  Once financing has been secured, TCA intends to construct this facility while using the student work as a guide.

Course Evaluation :  3.69     57.1% response rate


DEA 2750 - Light In•Forming Space   Lighting Design Studio

Due to the night-time offering of a studio, this class attracted students from across campus, making this a multi-disciplinary experience for all participants.  Since many students are anxious to create their own product, the first assignment was a luminaire based on a conceptual approach using lighting prose from literature.  Each student created multiple study models and then, using the Design and Fabrication Studio, a final model was built that replicates the actual light fixture.  Graphic documentation of the luminaire included branding, cross-sectional view, and exploded isometric view of the luminaire.  To teach architectural lighting, each student was asked to select a previous project they had completed and focus on the lighting design of the space / building.  The students selected projects from the adaptive re-use project from DEA 4401, architecture projects for those AAP students, and for those students without previous projects, they were asked to re-lamp an existing space to all LED luminaires.  The class also taught lighting design and human behavior, how to complete an RCP (reflected ceiling plan) and lighting legend, as well as to select luminaires / cut sheets that meet ASHRAE standards, to reduce the energy for this installation.  These projects will be submitted to the SOURCE Lighting competition offered by Eaton Industries (the parent company of Cooper Lighting) and two students received national honors:

:  Alexina Federhen  Honorable Mention      Cayuga Pediatric Mental & Behavioral Health                                                                           Facility

:  Jasmine Chow      Award of Recognition   Merchandise Mart Showroom

Course Evaluation:  4.30 of 5   64.7% 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 first assignment asked each student to manipulate a material to test its potential and pitfalls, resulting in three-dimensional material explorations that stretched their sensibilities about what a material could and could not do.  And the last assignment focused on the study and familiarity with one material from three categories:  grown / oil-based / mined from the 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, the format of which was proposed by a member of the class and then voted on to be used as the class format.  These posters will be displayed in the DEA Gallery in the Spring of 2020, along with their material manipulations, tracking the beginning and end of their search for material "truth."

Course Evaluation:  4.84   46.2% response rate


DEA 3100  - Mentoring in Higher Education

Served as a "mentor to the mentors" of this dynamic program led by Prof. Gary Evans.  While providing support to new students to Cornell, this effort gives vital connections to other students whose socio-economic backgrounds do not include family members who have attended college or those how are in need of a stabilizing presence in their first semester at Cornell.  


DEA 4401 - Adaptive ReUse Design Studio

This preservation studio is the only comprehensive studio experience for students focusing on interior design in DEA's 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.  

After selecting a building in downtown Philadelphia due to its proximity to nearby adaptive reuse activity, the studio traveled to this urban area just north of downtown Philadelphia for their site visit.  While there, students documented the entire structure, including interior and exterior building materials, the condition of each floor, existing fenestration, and the site in general.  Students then studied the demographics of the city, accessing if there were opportunities for services in this area that were as-yet not offered and then made proposals for the design of the interior of this historic General Electric switch manufacturing facility, constructed in 1912.  As the students moved through each phase of the design process, they documented their iterative studies, space planning decisions and crafted a schematic design presentation that was reviewed by both DEA faculty and visiting local professsional architects and designers.  By the end of the semester, each student had compiled final deliverables, including:  adaptive reuse assessment (documentaiton and analysis of existing structure), program documents, contractural agreement, concept, schematic design, design development, and construction documents.  

Course Evaluation:  4.55 of 5     80% response rate


DEA 4230 - Restaurant Charrette

Working with a local client, students from DEA, the Hotel School, the Architecture Department, Engineering and other multidisciplinary backgrounds came together to create design interventions for the Aurora Brewing Company, located several miles south of Aurora, NY.  At this facility, the client manufacturers and sells their products and provides food on the weekend from a wood-fired oven.  Students were tasked with enhancing the user experience and working in groups, they made design recommendations for:  wayfinding, signage, branding, packaging, landscape architecture interventions, venue proposals, and user experience enhancements to the Aurora Brewing Company's existing food service facility.  At the end of this one-weekend intensive, the groups pitched their ideas to the owners of the company which intends to use the collateral as they expand their operations.


Course Evaluation:  4.67 of 5   44.4% response rate


DEA 4020  Independent Study  :  Materials Exhibit for DEA Gallery

Worked with two DEA seniors as they designed and installed a materials exhibit in the DEA Gallery to promote the dLib collection.  Students completed all research, materials acquisition and installed a variety of graphics, storytelling, materials on a very short deadline.


DEA 4020  Independent Study :  Professional Practice Review

Worked with a DEA student who had taken a one-year leave while she worked at 4 distinctive firms / job opportunities.  Monitored her output, provided professional practice advice, and coordinated a review of her experiences for course credt.


  • 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
  • WELL Building Standard :  completion of webinar series

•  PURSUIT 2019 :  DEA Career Fair

This recruitment event continues to bring a vitality to our program, bridging what is learned in the classroom with how that might become the basis for professional practice competencies.   For this year's event, 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 our students.  Feedback from participating firms indicated that the event was another success:  they felt our students were prepared, had a diversity of project experiences in their portfolios, and were able to articulate their career goals. 


• College of Human Ecology :  Dean Search Committee

Member of group interviewing candidates and coordinating the search process of a new dean for the CHE.


•  Faculty Advisor to DEA Student Chapter of ASID / New IIDA Student Chapter 

Due to a graduating class that was unable to recruit new officers, the former ASID group did not transfer their experiences to other underclassmen so a new effort is being launched to create an IIDA student chapter for 2020.  Preliminary planning took place in the Fall of 2019 and renewed interest in a student-run organization brings much hope for further engagement and support for the annual Materials Fair, scheduled for the Fall of 2020 (once construction of MVR is completed...)


•  DEA Student Advisor 

Had the privilege of working with 7 undergraduate students in the Spring and Fall of 2019.  In order to facilitate more communication with my advisees, I continue to offer a "tea" by inviting all my advisees to share a cup of tea / biscuits as a group.  6 freshmen attended in the fall of 2019 and I have continued this tradition:  the students appreciated the social aspect of this gathering and incorported advising questions and talked about the transition to college.  In light of the CHE considering a course for freshman to help with advising, I feel this effort is a very personal way to connect to our incoming students and encourage them to make an appointment in the future to discuss more pressing issues as they develop throughout their academic careers.  I also assist graduating seniors and graduate students with their career planning process:  many appointments during February, March and April revolve around portfolio reviews, how to make connections with DEA alumni, and how to find the right fit for that first job after graduation.


•  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 2019

Assisted graduating seniors with the design of the invitation for this annual event and helped with the reception the afternoon of commencement.  Event was attended by over 100 family members and friends.


•  DEA Website :

Participated in the creation and curation of the DEA website, including meetings with the website designers, tutorials by CHE staff for maintenance, and weekly meetings with DEA support staff to continually craft an effective and timely digital presence for the department.

DEA 2203 :  Course Website


DEA 2750 :  Course Website


DEA 3030 :  Course Website


DEA 4401 :  Course Website


DEA 4230 :  Course Website


DEA 3030 - Materials for Design & Sustainability

Instagram account for students to share images of materiality studies on campus:




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