HPU’s School of Art and Design: Creating Experiences Beyond the Classroom

This story is featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s school of Art and Design inspires students to explore ways they can apply their knowledge outside the classroom.


Walking into Norton Hall, you will see students’ artwork on display around every corner. Photography, paintings and drawings of all sizes showcase projects they’ve completed.

Beyond the foyer, in the high-tech studios and classrooms, students in High Point University’s School of Art and Design aren’t just creating works of art.

They’re building their future.

Here, students are inspired by their professors to take on new opportunities, try new techniques and explore how they can apply their knowledge outside the classroom.

Dr. John Turpin, dean of the School of Art and Design, knows professors are the key to unlocking students’ potential.

“I believe this has everything to do with the faculty and staff and the example that they set,” Turpin says. “It begins with the inspiration offered by HPU President Nido Qubein and what he has done at HPU. Then it becomes more about those meaningful moments between a faculty mentor and student.”

A Place to Call Home

The kitchen walls were painted a 1950’s mint green. The living room’s dusty maroon and gold colors were dark and uninviting. But with help from HPU students, these spaces now resemble something from a magazine.

Last fall, assistant professor Catherine Hillenbrand-Nowicki and three interior design students gave Leslie’s House, an emergency shelter for women experiencing homelessness, a much needed facelift.

It was an experience that benefited their community while providing skills they can take beyond HPU and into the real world.

Dana Bentley, manager at Leslie’s House, contacted Hillenbrand-Nowicki just a month before the 10th anniversary of the shelter’s opening for help updating the space.

Professor Catherine Hillenbrand-Nowicki, Lauren Yoder, Maureen Coleman and Dana Bentley stand in the women’s shelter that they updated.

Hillenbrand-Nowicki knew which students to call: Lauren Yoder, Maureen Coleman and Emily Kendall, each presidents of interior design clubs on campus.

Together, they secured funding from the International Interior Design Association of the Carolinas, which allowed them to purchase new paint and accessories for the kitchen and living room.

Although each had worked independently in the class-room, learning to communicate and collaborate with group members and community leaders was a valuable learning experience.

“We do a lot of projects and a lot of drawing and drafting, but this allowed us to see the space come to life,” says Yoder. “It was a good experience to be able to see the project from start to finish.”

The trio also got to see their designs being executed in the space — an opportunity that will set them apart when they graduate.

“Paying it forward, our design students are helping to make the lives of the women that Leslie’s House serves more beautiful,” says Hillenbrand-Nowicki.

Prepared to Succeed

Nick Bellamy completed several internships at the High Point Market working in sales for showrooms before landing a position at Pottery Barn.

Nick Bellamy, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in visual merchandising, knows he wouldn’t have achieved his dreams without the experiential learning opportunities provided by HPU.

Bellamy began his career immediately after graduation as an assistant buyer for Pottery Barn in San Francisco. His duties include creating furniture lines and negotiating contracts with vendors.

According to Bellamy, being encouraged by his professors to complete internships, including an internship at Pottery Barn Teen, connect with faculty mentors and take life skills courses, like a course in sales, helped him get to where he is today.

Kendall agrees that guidance from her professors helped her succeed at her internship this past fall with Hooker Furniture at the High Point Market, a furniture trade show for interior designers and buyers from large furniture companies.

“My professors have taught me to be confident, to network and to talk to people,” says Kendall. “High Point University prepares you to be confident and empowered and to take that into the workplace. That helps me see myself as a professional doing this.”

HPU’s interior design students are at a distinct advantage because of their close proximity to the High Point Market, which attracts 100,000 industry leaders to the city. In addition, the city’s rich history as the Furniture Capital of the World provides the ultimate out-of-the-classroom experience — hundreds of furniture showrooms and companies located in the city’s downtown.

Each year, those companies seek HPU students to work in their showrooms. These experiences allow students to learn life skills, such as collaborating with team members to achieve goals and communicating directly with customers.

Bellamy also completed internships at the High Point Market and used them to build his resume. Interning at furniture companies allowed him to network with professionals and build experience in the furniture industry. This helped him land an internship with Pottery Barn Teen the summer before his senior year, which then led to his employment at Pottery Barn.

“Internships are a great way to show off what you can do. Even if you don’t think people are watching, they notice the hard work you put in,” says Bellamy.

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