In August 2013, Matt Keane and Whitney Regan, co-presidents of the American Society of Interior Designers Tidewater Community College (TCC) student chapter, left the ASID Virginia Student Leadership Summit feeling inspired to help every student member of the chapter to become a successful designer. When they took the reins of the TCC ASID student chapter, enrollment was low, participation was minimal and the entire program was in a state of transition. To turn things around, Keane and Regan decided to co-lead, each taking on certain tasks and sharing the responsibilities of leadership.
During a strategy session fueled by smoothies and coffee, Regan and Keane outlined immediate chapter goals, discussed possible fundraisers and identified ways to engage members. The first rule they gave themselves was to think completely “outside the box” — nothing was off limits. They wanted to renew the chapter and, to do so, they knew they needed a new approach. Keane and Regan took the time to talk with the chapter’s members, students and professionals to gather recommendations for a meaningful and engaging chapter project. Although the suggestions varied, a common thread in all was the idea that the project should help students further their careers.
With this focus in mind, Keane and Regan began to consider the needs of their local community. The Tidewater/Hampton Roads region includes a large population of active and retired military members. Keane is a veteran himself, having served as a Navy photographer from 1999 to 2005, and Regan has military ties through family members. They both believed in the goal of helping to support people who have served in the military.
At the semester kickoff “Wine and Design” recruitment event in September 2013, Keane and Regan proposed that the chapter hold a silent auction fundraiser. As they explained to members, the auction would feature “repurposed” furniture, with each member contributing a piece of furniture he or she refinished, repurposed or otherwise transformed. The chapter decided that half of the proceeds would be donated to a special military budget to help deck the halls for the holidays, catering specifically to deserving military families, while the other half of the proceeds would go to the designer of each piece.
The furniture pieces were displayed in the TCC gallery for three weeks before the auction, which was open to students, faculty and the general public. Once news of the fundraiser began to spread among the five connected TCC campuses, the project gained momentum and took on a life of its own. Members of the TCC community donated bags and boxes of Christmas decorations to support the cause, and the school newspaper featured the group as the TCC Highlight on the college webpage. All of this exposure helped the ASID TCC student chapter gain recognition and exposed the general public to the work of the its talented designers. Moreover, the event gave students an opportunity to create a market and develop client relationships. Backing from ASID gave the students and emerging professionals credibility that allowed them to market themselves to clients with a greater degree of professionalism. After the auction, each designer contacted the winning bidders and delivered the furniture in person, providing another opportunity for the designers to connect with potential clients.
The fall 2013 semester was an eye-opening and challenging experience for these new leaders. Despite the challenges they faced, and with the help of teachers, advisors, professionals and the hard work of the entire ASID family, Keane and Regan made a real difference in the community while gaining valuable design experience and knowledge.
Author: Matt Keane, Student ASID, is co-president of the American Society of Interior Designers Tidewater Community College (TCC) student chapter.