Story: Lisa Sollie | Photos: Cody Ingram

Meridian native Jillian Lewis enjoys her part-time job at Emily G and Co., a small business specializing in home décor and interior design in Livingston, Alabama. For Lewis, a junior integrated marketing communications (IMC) major at the University of West Alabama, the store offers the perfect creative outlet to incorporate skills she’s developing through IMC and its new multidimensional interior design track introduced at UWA in the fall of 2023. IMC majors may also choose three other tracks: traditional, graphic design, and sports communication.

According to IMC instructor Audrey Poole, the multidimensional interior design track gives students a general knowledge of interior design, history, eras and periods, space planning, ADA accessibility, principles, and design elements, texture and lighting, and 2D and 3D computer modeling. In the final course of the track, Interior Design Agency, students hone their design and presentation skills as they work with real residential and commercial clients.

“In Design Studio I and II, we delve into 2D modeling using AutoCAD software, where students and learn how to do computer drawings, including floor plans, interior elevations, and lighting and electrical plans, and then we move on to 3D modeling using another software, Sketchup, that enables students to design 3D models and walk clients through the different spaces they are designing. While this is not a full interior design program,” Poole added, “students will be well equipped with the knowledge of ideas, principles, and software they would need on a job site.”

Regardless of what track IMC majors choose, IMC program chair Greg Jones is confident the hands-on practical approach of each course expands students’ career options exponentially. Whether multimedia experience in graphic design, photography, web design, social media, news writing, and video production, as well as the specific content each track provides, “everything done in IMC revolves around our ‘See, Do, Teach’ philosophy,” noted Jones. “Students see or watch, they do it, and when they can demonstrate or teach the skill or technique to someone else, we know they’ve mastered it. “

IMC’s philosophy and hands-on practical application attracted Lewis and Tuscaloosa native Kymaya Walker to the program.

A transfer student from Wallace State Community College, Walker was an elementary education major at UWA until she learned about the IMC program from a friend.

“I’ve always had an interest in photography, and I had a good side hustle taking photos; I just couldn’t believe I could do this sort of thing as a job,” she noted.

Walker, who began the IMC program in the sports communication track, changed her mind when Poole approached her. “I was the kid who would rearrange my room at 3 in the morning,” she recalled with a laugh, “so I thought this might be a good fit.”

Lewis loves that the IMC program allows her to “dabble in a little of everything.” Growing up, she always had a creative outlet, whether decorating Christmas trees with her mom for doctors’ offices in Meridian or redecorating their home and the home of a family friend. When Lewis started college, however, she pursued a degree in elementary education. And although she didn’t dislike the field, she “felt it was not what God wanted for my life.”

Instead, online research led her to the communications field and ultimately to UWA’s IMC program.

“When most people hear interior design, they think of a decorator. It’s what I thought, too,” remarked Lewis, “until I started taking some design classes and learned there were so many elements I didn’t know about.”

Poole is pleased with how well IMC course offerings and the multidimensional interior design classes have complemented one another.

“In IMC, students learn how to market themselves or a business and, through the design courses, how to make schematic presentations using software they’ve been trained on. Last semester, I had students use both skills for one of their final projects: to pick anywhere on UWA’s campus or in town they thought could be more functional and redesign it. These projects were a win-win for everyone; community members got free feedback and suggestions, and my students gained hands-on experience working with clients.”

Jones says these experiences look good in a student’s web-based portfolio, a requirement for all IMC majors. “Everything our students do is portfolio driven. We want potential employers to see what our students are capable of.”

Walker has learned she is capable of much more than she ever dreamed.

“I still can’t believe all the skills I have, the software I know how to use, and the friends I’ve made through IMC. Now I just need to figure out whether or not to enroll in IMC’s graduate program after I graduate this summer or look for a job.”

Lewis, who won’t graduate until Spring 2025, is focused on finding an internship, another requirement for all IMC majors. “Until now, all I’ve ever done is retail, so I hope to intern in public relations or a similar profession this summer. Whether I’m fortunate to find something in interior design after I graduate in Spring 2025,” she added, “I’ll have my portfolio, resume, and tons of hands-on experience. So I know I will succeed.”