Rhonda Gilmore
Rhonda Gilmore
Senior Lecturer, 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 4020  : Independent Study : Professional Practice Review

DEA 4020: Independent Study : Materials Exhibit for DEA Gallery

DEA 4230: Restaurant Charrette

DEA 4401: Adaptive ReUse Design Studio

DEA 3100: Mentoring in Higher Education

DEA 3030: Introduction to Materials, Finishes, and Furnishings

DEA 2750: Light In•Forming Space Lighting Design Studio

DEA 2203: StudioSHIFT

•  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.


Dean Search Committee, College of Human Ecology

Faculty Advisor, DEA Student Chapter of ASID / New IIDA Student Chapter

DEA Student Advisor

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

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

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