University of Northern Iowa: 2021 Senior Class Portfolio Review

Back in February, I was asked to assist the seniors at my alma mater, University of Northern Iowa, in their interior design portfolio review and mock interviews. I was thrilled by the consideration my former professor, Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi, so I said yes!

I remember going through the same process my senior year in 2017. Several UNI Interior Design alums came to campus and into the classroom to view our portfolios and take us through a mock interview. At the time, it was considerably overwhelming and intimidating. I wanted everything to be perfect, but welcomed the criticism of someone older than myself who had been out “in the real world” for a while.

This year, due to COVID regulations, things were quite different than they were in 2017 for the senior class. Everything I had experienced as a student, was now virtual with the 2021 senior interior design class. In fact, things were already different last year in 2020 when the pandemic began. Professor Betrabet recalls, “COVID-induced changes are sometimes opportunities in disguise – this year, like last year, we were able to expand the connections of our students to alumni and design professionals who might not normally have been able to travel to UNI for an in-person portfolio review and interview. The capacities of Zoom enabled simultaneous reviews that were much longer than previous years – each student could make full use of the mock interview plus an informal mentorship session. We are forever grateful to the alumni who gave so kindly of their time to support their newest design peers!” Each interviewer was assigned 5-6 students to review their portfolio and ask mock interview questions in a 30-minute time period. I had the pleasure of interviewing so many awesome young women ready to get into the design world!

One student who sticks out to me is Madison Daniels. Madison was the first student I interviewed of the morning. She was absolutely delightful! I think she stood out to me the most because of the reason she is becoming an interior designer:

I discovered my love for Residential Interior Design during my childhood helping my mom, by doing projects around the house. I loved doing every part of the project, from getting my hands dirty to picking out the finishes, color scheme, and decor that will go in the space. The end result is so satisfying it almost becomes addicting and doing that for a living is even better,” Madison stated. 

Madison with one of her peers in the design studio.

I believe Madison is very lucky to have known she wanted to be an interior designer from such a young age. Not everyone knows what their calling to life is! And to have worked so hard for the last 4 years knowing that a portfolio show is on the horizon at the end of senior year, it’s even that more exciting to graduate! 

Madison working in Revit on a project in the design lab.

Madison said, “I am very excited for the UNI Senior Portfolio Show in May. Having family members, friends, and coworkers come and see all the hard work that we put in over the 4 years that we have been in school will really be rewarding! The only people that have seen our work have been classmates and professors, so it will be great to show it off on the day that we graduate.” For me, it was one of my favorite times as a student to have your friends and family see your hard work come to fruition. 

My 2017 Portfolio Show at UNI

At the end of the spring semester for each senior, an internship is required for graduation. My internship was here, with Elizabeth Erin Designs. I learned so much during that summer, and so I encourage anyone seeking an internship in the future to reach out to with your resume. I would love to work with another UNI graduate! I’m also excited for our interns, Marah (freshman) and Ashtyn (junior), who are currently UNI students, to return this summer!

I truly enjoyed my time interviewing each student during their portfolio review sessions. It was an honor to assist in this process for them, as well as Prof. Betrabet. It would be an honor to work with any of the senior design students in the future, and I wish them success upon their graduation in May!