Interior Design program transforms into an award-winning powerhouse

Alex Tsung

Photo: Alex Tsung

As Alex Tsung stepped into the bright lights of the ANDYZ awards at the annual Las Vegas Market, the announcer listed some of the unique aspects of her winning design.

“It was incredibly nerve-wracking, so I’m grateful I didn’t have to say anything on the stage,” Tsung said. “Mingling after the awards ceremony, hearing people praise my forward-thinking. It reinforced my personal mission as an interior designer.”

Based around a hypothetical “Crescent Wetlands Museum” along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Tsung’s design promotes community action to restore and protect Louisiana’s coastal wetlands while providing flood protection and wildlife conservation. 

What’s unique about her project is that while the museum’s interior provides interactive exhibits and an aquarium for visitors, the exterior uses bioswales and rain gardens, which are essentially engineered marshes that naturally filter greywater while prompting native plant growth. These gardens clean the water flowing from street gutters into the Mississippi River and have the added benefit of providing flood protection. The design also includes a green roof which reduces the heat island effect of the building and provides passive heating and cooling, conserving energy.

“My mission as an interior designer is to create sustainable environments that balance aesthetics with functionality and enhance the wellbeing of the community,” she explained. “I’m very passionate about sustainability and making a positive environmental impact, and that focus is what drove me to submit my capstone project to the ANDYZ Awards.”

Tsung, who graduated in May, is proud of her accomplishment and has plenty of thanks to give. “It is the second year in a row that a Fresno State Interior Design student has received the award. I feel happy to know that it brings more recognition to our great program. My professors Holly Sowles, Silvana Polgar, and Glenn Terpstra have all been invaluable mentors.”

Alex Tsung holds her ANDYZ award at the Las Vegas Market ceremony.
Alex Tsung holds her ANDYZ award at the Las Vegas Market ceremony.

Tsung’s achievement is just one of a string of recent triumphs in the Interior Design program. The unique aspect of these highlights is the synergistic way they are interconnected through the program and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Student Chapter at Fresno State.

As Tsung mentioned, this is the second consecutive year a student from Fresno State has won an ANDYZ Best Student Design Award. Marisol Coria achieved that honor in 2020 for her “Centro de Justicia” project. 

While Coria was a student in 2019-20, she served as Student Representative to the Board of Directors of the Central California and Nevada Professional Chapter of ASID. She started a peer mentorship program to help new students get past some of the enormous technical hurdles required when learning interior design software. In Fall of 2020 Marisol was also appointed as a Young Emerging Professional to the Board. 

Kayla Martin
Kayla Martin

The following year Tsung was elected vice president, and Kayla Martin, who coordinated the mentorship program, served as Social Chair in ASID. Together they expanded the program by reaching out to first and second-year students to offer support and guidance and advocating that each upper-division student mentor two or three newcomers. The peer mentoring program has proved invaluable in keeping students engaged through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through ASID events and the mentorship program, we experienced a 43 percent increase in memberships. Our program had a 98-99 percent retention rate through the tough online learning format,” said Martin, who now serves as President of the local ASID student chapter.

The peer mentorship program has caught the attention of the national ASID organization who has named the Fresno State program as a finalist for the Student Chapter of the Year award. 

In her nomination letter, Assistant Professor Holly Sowles said, “As the Academic Advisor to the ASID Student Chapter and Interior Program Coordinator, I have been truly inspired and impressed by the dedication, leadership, and kindness that the Chapter has shown each student in our program during this extraordinary phase.”

Kayla Martin
Kayla Martin

Martin, who Sowles called a “driving force” in ASID, was selected as one of three finalists for the Student Volunteer of the Year award. Martin recently traveled to Washington D.C. for the National ASID Student Summit to receive the club and personal recognition in person. 

In addition, Martin recently received the Thermador Diversity in Design IDS scholarship, a prestigious award of $10,000 in aid, a membership to the Interior Design Society (IDS) and a one-year mentorship with a design professional.

Beyond the awards and accolades, the students and faculty are breaking new ground in the Interior Design program while paving the way for those behind them and inspiring them to achieve even more.

Posted by

Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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