STARKVILLE, Miss.--Before they may receive bachelor's degrees, Mississippi State seniors in the university's interior design program must complete a field internship.
This past summer, the entire 16-member class interned at firms across the country, and individual presentations of students' internship experiences were their final requirement before graduation.
"We require an internship because it gives students that working experience to really understand the profession they graduate in," said Beth Miller, program director. "Ninety-six percent of the time, firms don't want our interns to leave, so students are offered a job."
Miller, also interim associate dean of MSU's College of Architecture, Art and Design, said the internships are important on two levels since they provide opportunities for students "to gain experience and for companies, with no more than a 10-week obligation, to see if a particular graduate would be a fit for their company."
Elizabeth "Corley" Ingram, daughter of David and Betsy Ingram of Brandon, completed an interior design internship at Upholstery by Design in Jackson. The cum laude graduate said the experience working for the upholstery and fabric design consultant was key in preparing her for the workforce.
Additionally, MSU students worked at some of the nation's top firms, Miller said.
Keeton E. Craig of Starkville worked at Gensler, the global interior design and architecture firm that generated the most revenue of any U.S.-based architecture firm last year--for the second year in a row. Margaret A. "Meg" Jackson of Germantown, Tenn., interned with Atlanta's Hirsch Bedner Associates, one of the top hospitality firms, ranked fifth in the nation for 2013 by Interior Design magazine.
Craig worked in Gensler's Dallas firm. The daughter of Dan and Laurie Craig, she was an August summa cum laude honors graduate in interior design and international business.
While in Dallas, Craig worked on a variety of projects, with responsibilities including site analysis visits, accessories purchasing and fit-outs, construction documents and redlines, and project presentation assembly, among others.
"I am glad that we were required to do an internship," Craig said. "I feel it gave me a glimpse of real-world interior design work."
Craig began a full-time job in September at VeenendaalCave, an Atlanta-based interior design firm.
Jackson, the daughter of Kevin and Allison Jackson, credits the MSU program's internship requirement for her new job with HBA. Halfway into the internship, she was offered a full-time position as a junior designer at the firm.
"Honestly, to get your foot in the door at any top design firm around the country, an internship is a strict requirement," Jackson said. "I would not have even been a candidate for the junior designer position at HBA if I had not been an intern.
"I learned a lot about the world and other cultures," she continued. "HBA is an international company, and right from the get-go I was thrown into a project in Manila, Philippines."
Jackson said she also was challenged with learning about the hundreds of different HBA vendors that that supply wall coverings, furniture pieces, flooring and more.
"I thank MSU every day for what the interior design program has taught me," she said.