Samford’s Department of Interior Architecture works to connect its students with alumni and the design community. Its faculty members are design professionals who combine classroom experience with opportunities to meet and work with designers, architects, vendors and suppliers. Interaction starts in the freshmen “Survey of the Profession” class which presents an overview of the industry and its variety of career paths. In addition, the class introduces students to networking.
According to adjunct professor, Jim Griffo, who has been Involved with the Samford program for over 20 years, “Students learn to be ready to network at all times.” Communication is often the number one skill they will need to succeed in their profession and networking is a great way to hone that skill. He also wants them to be aware of every opportunity. He says they learn to present themselves in a professional manner including how to dress and shake hands. Griffo is a semi-retired design professional who began helping the program through juries and critiques.
Having design professionals and Samford alumni come in and review the students' work is also an important networking experience. Students receive an outsider’s perspective on their work and make valuable connections.
“We are lucky to be in Birmingham with a diverse and involved design community,” says Griffo. The survey class is 80% field trips and Griffo notes that the area businesses never say “no” when asked to host our students. “They are interested in our students and looking for future qualified employees,” Griffo says. The field trips introduce students to a variety of design related businesses including interior design and architecture firms, furniture dealers and construction sites.
This summer, Griffo reached out to the Birmingham design community and assembled “Welcome Back Packs” for Samford students. The bags contained tools and materials that introduce the students to area vendors and suppliers. Because of COVID-19, he knew this fall would be a different experience for the students and wanted to welcome the seniors, juniors and sophomores with a little something extra. The freshmen will get their welcome bags next semester when they are in his survey class which was switched to the spring with the hope that, by that time, students will be able to travel more freely.