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December 01, 2005

Mount Royal College Interior Design Degree Program Earns International Gold Star

Accreditation Bodes Well For Calgary Home builders and buyers

L. Sara Bysterveld

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As the only interior design degree program in Alberta, the Mount Royal College Applied Degree in Interior Design is recognized as a great source of interior design graduates and work-term students for the Calgary design community.

Now, they have received international recognition with accreditation from the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER).

FIDER sets standards for education in interior design, mainly in North America, and is supported by professional societies and organizations. While there are 145 FIDER accredited schools in North America, Mount Royal College is one of only nine in Canada and three in Western Canada.

Previously a diploma program, the Mount Royal program was accredited by FIDER until 1998, when the Foundation made the decision to only accredit degree programs, and introduced new standards for the accreditation. At that point, the college began offering a degree in interior design and started the process of gaining accreditation for the new program.

“Graduating from a FIDER-accredited school is becoming more of a standard for membership in professional associations, for licensing and for registration in associations,” says Janice Smith, acting chair of the Mount Royal College Department of Interior Design. “So, accreditation is very important to our students as they progress in their careers.”

Randi Wagner, BAID, design consultant for Cardel Custom Homes and a Mount Royal College graduate, says she chose the college based partly on their previous FIDER accreditation. She attended the program while the school was working on re-obtaining the accreditation, and is proud that her work and the work of her peers was used to apply for and earn the accreditation.

The program “has a really great reputation in Calgary,” she says, adding that the two work-terms required as part of the applied degree program help students to become established in the industry. “It definitely puts you ahead, having the experience and the contacts in the industry - it is pretty tight knit in Calgary.”

Cardel has a strong, ongoing relationship with the Mount Royal College program. Andrew Davidson, Cardel Designs manager, points out that more than half of the ten design consultants working in Cardel's design centre at this time are Mount Royal graduates. Cardel also takes on a work-term student from the college each January, and often one in the summer months as well.

“Because Cardel is international, (the FIDER accreditation) lends the credibility that we're not just building boxes here. … We have the skill and the ability to help a customer move into a home that is right for them,” says Davidson of hiring Mount Royal grads. “The accreditation lends credibility … (since) Mount Royal College is internationally recognized as a design school.”

In order to gain the accreditation, the college renovated the classrooms and design facilities for the program, enhanced the curriculum and increased the size of the interior design faculty.

Students in the program learn a range of skills and concepts, from interior design to the general problem solving and people skills that come with any degree. Employers like Davidson appreciate these skills. ““I think it's just a great program; the skill set is extremely impressive,” he says.

Smith explains that students start by gaining an understanding of the elements and principles of design, move on to the specifics of corporate, residential and hospitality design, and finish off their degree with a major final project in their senior year. The program also includes streams of study in the technical and construction aspects of design, as well as business courses and the study of universal (accessible) design.

Having FIDER-accredited graduates working in the Calgary design industry bodes well for Calgary homebuyers. With Mount Royal College interior design graduates working in design firms, architectural firms and the design centres of Calgary homebuilders, among other careers, the FIDER accreditation feasibly affects the entire Calgary design industry in a very positive way.

There are approximately 120 students enrolled in the program at any one time, with 35 graduating each year. These students now have four new scholarships available to them, thanks to Cardel Custom Homes. The series of four scholarships, two for first-year students and two awarded for excellence in residential design, amount to $10,000 annually in total.   NHS

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