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Pivot & MillerKnoll to Host SJSU Senior Show

We sat down with SJSU Professor and Program Chair Diana Seah and Assistant Professor Eleanor Pries to learn more about the event and what it means to the students who will be presenting their work.

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Pictured above: SJSU Professor and Program Chair Diana Seah (left) and Assistant Professor Eleanor Pries (right).

Building our pipeline of talent through education is critical to the future of the design profession. Pivot is proud to partner with the San Jose State University (SJSU) BFA Interior Design program to host Identity – the 2023 senior portfolio showcase – at our Santa Clara showroom on May 18, 2023.

What is the purpose of the SJSU BFA senior show?
: I see the purpose of the show as twofold. First and foremost, it represents the culmination of multiple years of study and a way for students to reflect deeply on the work they want to showcase. All of our students have grown over the course of the program and have had the chance to develop their design agenda – whether it is focusing on environmental matters, or social justice, or form and aesthetics. Equally important, this event is also a prime opportunity for students to network, meet and engage with professionals in the workforce, build connections with local firms, and practice pitching their design work in a celebratory setting. Some of our students get job offers at the show!

What is the history of this event, and how has it changed over the years?
: The show was established in 2001. Historically, the event has been a final milestone celebration of the four-year BFA program that the students are completing, to give students a chance to display and share their work. In addition to the industry professionals, we include families in the event to raise awareness about how the program and curriculum works, and allow the students to share what they are most proud of at graduation.

In our current (and future) state of education, we have gone back to almost entirely in-person teaching at SJSU. At the same time, some classes are hybrid and we do offer some online options. Initially it was challenging to re-integrate students into the in-person experience because online is so convenient. How do we foster connections among the students? The more we work in-person, the more the students and faculty see the benefits of being together. Now, this event also represents the power of connection, and the benefits of collaborating and sharing face to face.

How does this program support our design industry pipeline? And specifically, how does it support diversity in our design professional pipeline?

: We are incredibly proud of our interior design program at SJSU, which was recently declared the top 4program in the nation. While enrollment was impacted during COVID, I believe this shows the trajectory design careers are now taking – our classes are full, and there is a high demand for the program. Individuals and corporations need designers to help reimagine and reinvent the spaces for living and working.

To support the pipeline, we focus on teaching technical understanding to prepare our students to enter the workforce. To keep our students on the cutting edge, our studios also feature innovative conceptual design content on robotics, parametrics, digital fabrication, and new visualization with AI. The BFA at SJSU is attainable financially and offers flexibility to students who have other demands on their time. By embedding flexibility, a larger number of prospective students can enroll and manage the program. Many of our students work full or part time while taking classes and we have a wide range of socioeconomic, cultural and generational backgrounds in our classes. We are also a designated Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) and Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS). Typically our classrooms have over 30% Pell Grant recipients, which means they have extreme financial hardship and may be the first-generation in their family to attend college. Graduation with the BFA and the senior show represents a great achievement and bright futures for our talented designers.

How did the name “identity” come about?
: The students chose this theme to represent the idea that they began their journey at SJSU searching for their identity and where their strengths and talents lie. Over the course of the program, they gradually find their niche – their identity, which they get to share at this event.

: I also think that this year’s group is motivated to think about their personal role in design – how can they individually make a positive impact? We have a diverse group of designers and the Identity theme allows each student to advance their agenda and position a career toward causes they care about.

Can you share any significant student accomplishments in past shows?

Diana: During the show, we bring in A&D community professionals to do impromptu design reviews and interviews – it’s a great way to support the design pipeline and also prescreen the students for job opportunities! We have had a few seniors get job offers after the show, which is always very rewarding.

: We have had some great past venues, such as in 2019 where we held the show in the San Jose Art Museum Lobby. This year we are excited to hold the event in a larger space at the Pivot Interiors Santa Clara showroom, to expand our audience and networks. The showcase at Pivot will bring the students into the industry limelight and celebrate their work. We look forward to celebrating how far they have come.

Learn More About the SJSU Senior Show

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