Rhonda Gilmore
Rhonda Gilmore
Director of Undergraduate Studies in Design + Environmental Analysis
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.

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 1050: Design Your Life : Career Explorations

DEA 1101: Design Generation[s]

DEA 2203: StudioSHIFT

DEA 2750: Light In•Forming Space Lighting Design Studio

DEA 3030: Materials for Design & Sustainability

DEA 4230: Design Without Reservations : Restaurant Charrette

DEA 4401: Adaptive ReUse Design Studio

DEA 4020  : Independent Study : Professional Practice Review

DEA 4020: Independent Study : DEA Course Documentation for CIDA

•  Academic Coordinator, PURSUIT :  DEA's Career Fair

        Our department's recruitment event for our students continues to be a success:  24 firms presented their work and interviewed prospective applicants in the Spring of 2023, our 9th year for this event.  We had over 75 DEA and 30 non-DEA students participate 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:

•  Cayuga Nature Center

The design brief for this year's service learning project includes three design opportunities:

1.  way finding :  how might we enhance the user experience for hikers / bikers on the trails, families who come to the Nature Center for their programs and educational opportunities, and campers, young children who come to day camp in the summer?

2.  children's room :  this space is designated for the early learners and is used primarily by staff and young children who attend the Nature Center's summer camps.  How might we renovate this space so it is an engaging and inspirational spatial experience about nature?

3.  donation boxes :  how might we engage visitors to consider making a donation to the Nature Center through design prompts?

•  Tompkins County Cooperative Extension

Using change management techniques, the students will be surveying the existing facility to determine how best to bring back staff (after COVID) and better optimize the office and programming spaces at the facility.

Previous Projects in DEA 2203 :

•  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 2022, we traveled to Rochester where we worked with a local real estate developer, Home Leasing and Cornell graduate, who was interested in the students' proposals for one of their properties, the Hickey-Freeman Building.  The class toured the historic structure during a site visit, 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 a charter high school.  Each student completed every phase of the design process, from concept / programming to design development / construction documents.  These proposals were then sent to Home Leasing who intends to use these projects as references while renovating the building.

DEA 4250 :  Restaurant Charrette   Hangar Theater

Multidisciplinary students worked in groups to provide design interventions to this historic airplane hangar located near Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, 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.  As thought leaders for adaptive reuse, students created design solutions for way finding, parking, exterior landscaping suggestions, code-compliant dining facility proposals, and every phase of a design project all within one weekend of activity.  This experience provides students with the opportunity to better understand their role in group development and focus their energies on just one project in just one weekend.


Director of Undergraduate Studies, DEA

Coordinator : PURSUIT Career Fair for DEA Students

Faculty Advisor, IIDA Student Chapter

Design Team : MVR 1101, DEA

Coordinator, dLib DEA's material resource library

1994, M.A., Interior Design, Cornell University

1982, B.S., Art and Planning, University of Cincinnati Architecture

View all people