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Rhonda

Gilmore

Senior Lecturer
2419 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, New York
Design + Environmental Analysis

Biography

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 2017

 

 

•  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 18 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 2017

•  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 80 visitors the day of the exhibit opening.

• . Vice-President :  Board of Trustees :  The History Center of Tompkins County

This local resource for history education, archival stewardship, and community outreach is committed to preserving the past while preparing for the future.  Working as a member of the executive committee of the organization, we collaborated with Tompkins County to purchase and renovate the Tompkins Trust Bank building on the Commons.  This new "home" will offer exhibits, programming, and archive access to both the local community and visitors to the area.  The Board also worked with several local non-profit organizations, "the partners," to secure space for their offices as well:  

Community Arts Partnership
Dorothy Cotton Institute
Historic Ithaca 
Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation                                                                        Sustainability Center
Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau 
Wharton Studio Museum

 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:

   -  Knoll NEOCON Showroom:  students worked with this iconic furniture manufacturer on the design of their space for the June 2017 NEOCON event at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.  Traveling to New York City to tour the Knoll showroom and then visit Gensler, one of the world's most prominent architecture / interior design firms, provided a level of engagement not often found in higher education, when students can network with and develop their skills working with such prestigious companies.

-  Dog Trot Project:  working with Cornell's Facilities Department, students proposed sensory engagement design solutions for the tunnel leading to the Ag Quad, a pedestrian walkway through Mann Library.  Using data collected by the University for this landscape architecture intervention gave the students an opportunity to create evidence-based solutions.  Having a real space and real clients established professional standards for their work and gave them the chance to flex their design skills in preparation for summer internships.

 

•  DEA 4401  members of this studio worked with a Cornell alum interested in desigin proposals for a former BeechNut manufacturing facility located in Rochester, NY.   Students documented the 1901 building during a site visit, interviewed stakeholders in the project and created a variety of uses for this industrial structure in a neighborhood struggling to survive.   Presentations of the student work is scheduled to be installed in the gallery at the Community Design Center in Rochester, an organizationn working to shift the zoning legislation in this downtown where pedestrian traffic and live-ability is jeopardized.

Also, design reviews for the schematic design phase of this project were conducted by local architects and designers coming to DEA to review the student work.  I am committed to connecting local firms with our students so that there is less of a stigma around professionals, and students benefit from these practitioners who enjoy coming "back to school."

 

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, 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.

 

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 Knoll, students traveled to Knoll's 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 :  as a continuation of the re-design of the Cornell Ag Quad landscape architecture installation, students in DEA 2203 were asked to generate design interventions for the "Dog Trot," a pedestrian tunnel connecting parking areas on East Campus with the Ag Quad.  Utilizing research and data collected prior to the re-design of the Quad, students created evidence-based design recommendations for sensory engagement for a more enhanced user experience in this underutilized and uninspiring walkway through Mann Library.  Students presented schematic design and design development collateral to members of the Facilities group, receiving pertinent feedback and recommendations for the implementation of their design solutions.  Due to a large gift by a Cornell alum, one of the student group's work will be incorporated into the final design which is scheduled to be installed by 2019.

 

Course Evaluation :  4.43 of 5     42.9% 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 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, 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 were then displayed with the material manipulations, tracking the beginning and end of their search for material "truth."

 

Course Evaluation:  4.70 of 5    48.0% 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 that replicates the actual light fixture.  Graphic documentation of the luminaire included branding, cross-sectional view, and exploded isometric view of the luminaire.  The second project was a group opportunity to manipulate interior space through lighting by designing lighting installations leading to and including the DEA LightLab.  Evocative light was incorporated for wayfinding for the installations in the MVR staircase, immersive reflected light provided the focus for the entry to the LightLab and then two unique light installations were incorporated in the Lab itself, encouraging patrons to interact with the light / space constructions.  Over 80 visitors attended the opening and it was documented on the CHE website / Facebook feed.  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:  4.09 of 5    76.5% 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.  

The historic structure for this year's studio was a former BeechNut manufacturing plant in Rochester, located in an at-risk neighborhood.  Patrick Dunn, a Cornell alum and real estate developer in Rochester, asked the students to generate a variety of uses for the property, as he hopes to secure financing for the project using the student projects as visionary collateral when approaching financial institutions for funding.  In order to replicate the realities of professional practice, students moved through every phase of the project beginning with interviews of the primary stakeholders and a visit to the Community Design Center in Rochester, an organization working to make this city more pedestrian and zoned to encourage downtown living.  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.  The student work is scheduled to be displayed at the Community Design Center's gallery in early 2018, to bring attention to this structure and encourage the neighborhood to re-think underutilized industrial structures in the area.

 

Course Evaluation:  4.92 of 5     44.4% response rate

 

DEA 4230 - Design Without Reservations    Restaurant Charrette

This dynamic course structure provided students with an immersive design experience, the chance to work with students from across campus to create an innovative dining environment in just one weekend.  Team taught with Prof. Edson Cabalfin, Director of Interiors at the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati, students gathered on Friday night for team-building exercises and the project overview.  By that evening, they had preliminary design concepts and menu selections.  On Saturday, after a visit to the site (the Livestock Pavillion here on campus), student groups used the computerized white boards in the living / learning classroom to create branding, space planning, preliminary visualizations, and these units facilitated quick ideation skills. Sunday brought design development and their final presentations to two local restaurant professionals:  the chef and owner of Simeon's Restaurant on the Commons and a Hotel School instructor and architect, Brad Wellstead.  Each group was commended for their productivity in such a short amount of time and students  appreciated the opportunity to focus on one subject during a weekend without the distractions of their other courses.  Students also commented that this immersive group experience taught them more about team work than many of their other group projects.  

 

Course Evaluation:  4.84 of 5     78.6% response rate

  • 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

•  PURSUIT 2017 :  DEA Recruting Event

Now in its fourth year, the event has changed the culture in our department, creating a commitment to summer internships throughout our undergraduate and graduate student demographic.  More DEA students have internships in the summer than in previous years, and we believe that PURSUIT has had a significant impact.  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. 

•  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 18 manufacturer representatives came to CHE to display their innovative products and network with current students from DEA, AAP, and the Hotel School.  Attendance was over 80 students, faculty, and staff.

 

•  DEA Student Advisor 

Had the privilege of working with 13 undergraduate students in the Spring and Fall of 2017.  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 2017 

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 100 family members and friends.