Berkeley Today

Interior Design Students Benefit From the Professional Experience of Faculty Members

Roueda Radwan planned to pursue a teaching career until she discovered a flair for interior design during her senior year of high school. After reviewing the Interior Design program and meeting with faculty members at Berkeley College, she changed her career goals.

Ms. Radwan graduated from the Paramus location with an Associate’s degree in Interior Design in 2005. When Berkeley began offering a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design Management in 2007, she didn’t hesitate to return to Berkeley for additional training.

"I always loved the fact that all of my Berkeley professors were professional interior designers or architects. That just brought everything that we were doing in class to a different level because they were able to share their experiences with us," said Ms. Radwan, who graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in 2010 and works as a design consultant for the award-winning Diane Durocher Interiors in Mahwah. 

Faculty bring years of experience to classroom 

This lifetime experience is true from the top down. Interior Design Department Chair Kevin Byrne, ASID, has 13 years of experience in the industry and owns and operates Kevin Byrne Interior Design. His company primarily focuses on high-end residential design, but also works within the educational segment of the commercial design market. Recently, Mr. Byrne was featured in ELLE DÉCOR magazine, discussing his company’s redesign of a compact Manhattan apartment space in one of architect Richard Meier’s glass towers overlooking the Hudson River. 

"Berkeley College Interior Design graduates are successful because of the quality and commitment of the faculty, who add tremendous value to their teaching with their extensive professional experience,"said Mr. Byrne, who is a NJ Certified Interior Designer and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the Interior Design Educators Council, and the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications. 

Instructor Jason (Kyong) Lee brings 12 years of professional experience into his classrooms – including his current role as an interior designer with the JWK Architect Company based in Manhattan. 

"The industry is changing rapidly because the trend is toward sustainability and going green. Since I am working in the business, I can keep my students up-to-date on these changes," said Lee, who is currently working on design projects that include private residences in SoHo, a gallery in Tribeca, a restaurant in New Jersey, and a casino in Massachusetts.

Faculty members are happy to go the extra mile for students 

Outside of the classroom Mr. Lee conducts Portfolio Development, Photoshop, and Digital Rendering workshops, all designed to give students an edge when competing for jobs. He also serves as the Advisor of the Student Chapter of ASID. In this capacity, Mr. Lee takes students on tours of showrooms in Manhattan and to conferences where they can interact with industry leaders. Earlier this year, he mentored students who competed in ASID design competitions. Two of those students received awards.

"It takes perseverance to participate in this competition," said winning student Christopher Dobles, who is on track to graduate in 2012 and hopes to work in the commercial design field. "I was able to do this because Professor Lee set aside his own time to help. He drew out my creativity."

"By participating in the competitions students gain experience, publicity, and the privilege of citing the competition entry on their resumes," Mr. Lee said. 

Through his strong connections within the industry, Instructor Norris Cannon – who has worked as a professional designer for more than 30 years – invites guest speakers into the classroom to provide students with a behind-the-scenes perspective. His connection with renowned designer Jamie Drake, who presided over the most recent redesign of Gracie Mansion, led to a special invitation for Berkeley students to tour the Federal-style mansion. 

"Berkeley College students really benefit from our close proximity to New York City. We don’t only explore design concepts in New Jersey – which tend to be more residential – we also explore commercial buildings in Manhattan," said Mr. Cannon, who is a member of ASID and the American Institute of Architects. 

In addition to his role as instructor, Mr. Cannon accompanies his classes on tours of the Decoration and Design Building in Manhattan. Here students are exposed to more than 120 showrooms, which represent more than 3,000 leading manufacturers. 

"We’ve also taken field trips to SoHo to visit retail stores. It’s important for students to understand resources, to learn how to dress professionally, and to get used to asking company representatives about materials," Mr. Cannon said.

Last year Mr. Cannon served as a mentor for two alumni who worked pro bono on a redesign of the lobby at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, NJ. 

"Norris met us in Manhattan and took us to visit key showrooms. He was extremely helpful in guiding us as we pulled the project together," said Alumna Sandy Dolin. "I had Norris for several classes, and it was a great learning experience to work with him on this project."