Tennessee Tech announces new degree in design studies

COOKEVILLE – Beginning this fall, students in the School of Human Ecology at Tennessee Tech University will be able to get their Bachelor of Science in design studies. The existing concentration of housing and design will become architecture and interior design. Merchandising and design will become a fashion merchandising and design concentration within the new bachelor’s degree. 

“This new degree is one of the first in the state to combine merchandising and housing into their own unique degree program, beyond a traditional human sciences setting, with a focus on the study of design and how it relates to individuals, families and communities,” said Hannah Upole, assistant professor of merchandising and design. 

Reasons for creating the new degree in design studies were driven by student and employer feedback. Employers were asking to see “design” in the title of graduate’s degrees and students were asking for a degree title that clarified what they were studying. Prospective and current students seeking an architecture, interior design or fashion merchandising program of study can now easily find this new degree on Tech’s majors list. 

Restructuring the design classes into its own degree clarifies the department’s offerings for the students and their future employers. The new design studies curriculum will also enable collaborations with other Tech departments to provide students with even more opportunities for hands-on learning.

“We talked to the engineering department about offering two new construction classes,” said Aeric Gunnels, lecturer in the School of Human Ecology. “It also offers cross collaboration with the College of Agriculture, cross collaboration with fine arts, environmental studies and the Appalachian Center for Craft.” 

Upole added, “Tech has a really unique opportunity here. For example, if a student wants to do interior design, I don’t know of another place in the state – or really any places across the country – that they could literally go to the Craft Center, build a chair right in the woodworking department, weave their own fabric and use it to upholster the chair. That is something that other institutions, they just they just don’t have. They don’t have the capabilities for it.”

This fall will welcome the first freshmen into the new program. Students graduating this December will still have the human ecology label on their degree, but starting in 2023, all students already in the program will have the opportunity to switch their degree to design studies. The School of Human Ecology will also maintain their B.S. in human ecology with the existing concentrations of child life, human development and family science, family and consumer sciences education and nutrition and detetics. 

“We’re really trying to create an integrated and comprehensive approach to design from start to finish,” said Gunnels. “So, learning how to take something that’s in your mind, something that you want to create, and being able to develop the tools, the knowledge and skills to be able to breathe life into it – bring it into the real world.”

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