|Gina Porcelli has made it a priority to supplement her interior design students’ classroom work with opportunities to network with industry professionals.
Interior designer Gina Porcelli, AFDI, has spent her career transforming interiors, from the corporate headquarters of General Electric and Norstar Bank (now Fleet Bank) to her own turn-of-the-century Victorian home near New Paltz. Her latest project is Marymount's interior design program, which has been getting a makeover of its own since Porcelli was hired as a visiting assistant professor in September 2003.
Over the past year, Porcelli has expanded the curriculum, re-launched a student organization, and elevated the reputation and visibility of the program.
“She's done a lot in a year,” said Chantele Rabbah (FCLC ’04), who, with approval from the dean, supplemented her FCLC visual arts degree by taking interior design courses at Marymount. Rabbah said she wouldn’t have landed her internship with a Westchester architecture and design firm without Porcelli's guidance. That internship turned into a full-time job and helped her gain acceptance into Pratt Institute's interior design graduate program.
Marymount's close proximity to New York City, an international design center, is one of the program’s greatest assets, according to Porcelli. But when she arrived, she found that many design students weren't taking advantage of the city's resources. To remedy this, she revived Marymount's student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the leading organization for professional designers, and took on the role of adviser.
Students began attending professional events including an exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt, the Architectural Digest Home Design Show and networking events, where students were able to mingle with interior design professionals. The student chapter was recognized for its level of participation by the ASID’s New York Metro Chapter.
“[The ASID] is great for the students to get out and network and try to find people, because you never know when you'll run into that job opportunity,” said Rabbah, who was chapter president and landed her internship through a contact made at an ASID event.
Porcelli has also added resources to the department's design library in Marian Hall by soliciting donations of samples and finish materials from area manufacturers. And in cooperation with the office of campus ministries, she organized students to help build a Habitat for Humanity house in Peekskill, where they were charged with redesigning a master bedroom closet. The students sketched out a solution on the spot, and the project manager showed them how to frame it out.
“Gina has very high standards and expects a lot from her students,” said David Holt, M.F.A., chair of the art department at Marymount College at Fordham University. “She has forged relationships with the community at large, which has helped raise the profile of the University.”
The interior design field is growing, and Porcelli plans to keep her students educated on the hottest industry trends, such as green building and connecting interior design to health and well-being. "These are the more difficult aspects of design to teach,” she said, “but these are questions we're trying to think about and trying to get the students to address above and beyond the skills."