Department of Interior Design

Research Areas

The faculty, as a composite, have professional practice experience (Carmel-Gilfilen; Bosch; Valipoor) and academic expertise in color theory (Portillo), design history and adaptive reuse (Cunningham), environmental-behavior (Bosch), healthcare (Bosch; Carmel-Gilfilen; Valipoor), lighting and environmental technology (Park), pedagogy (Carmel-Gilfilen; Meneely; Portillo), sustainability (Park; Valipoor), and technology (Meneely).  Professor Carmel-Gilfilen and Park are LEED AP accredited; and Professor Bosch, Carmel-Gilfilen, Park and Valipoor are EDAC certified.

The faculty members have degrees in interior design, architecture, fine arts, historic preservation and psychology. All faculty remain current in their areas of expertise and are active in research, publication and presentations at national and international conferences.  Several members of the faculty have been awarded teaching and mentoring accolades. Others have served as faculty advisors for students who garnered national design awards and scholarships


Sheila Bosch, PhD
Candy Carmel-Gilfilen
Erin Cunningham, PhD
Jason Meneely
Nam-Kyu Park, PhD
Margaret Portillo, PhD
Shabboo Valipoor, PhD


Photo of Sheila Bosch

Sheila Bosch, PhD

Faculty Publications
Improving Healthcare Quality and Safety through Design

Research has demonstrated that the physical environment is an important contributor to one’s experience in healthcare settings and can be an important tool for improving patient, family, and staff wellbeing. Working with diverse collaborators, we have investigated staff perceptions regarding the benefits of single-family neonatal intensive care unit design, family presence and family-to-patient interactions in an intensive care unit designed to support patient and family-engaged care, the influence of visibility on other health-related outcomes, and how design can improve the care experience for Veterans with mental health needs.

Enhancing the Quality of Life for Older Adults through Design

Globally, the population of persons 65 and older is on the rise. As we age, we often experience declining physical and cognitive performance, but improving the design of the physical environment may support our ability to live safely and with dignity. Our research has challenged the use of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements in situations where older adults need assistance transferring on and off of the toilet, and we have identified wayfinding strategies that can improve the travel experience for older adults.

Design to Improve Teaching and Learning Outcomes

Early research investigated the relationships between the design of K-12 educational settings on teaching and learning outcomes. Current research, funded by the American Society of Interior Designers, is investigating how mixed-use learning environments in higher education settings can best support individual and collaborative activities, as well as structured classes, with a particular focus on the millennial generation.


Photo of Candy Carmel-Gilfilen

Candy Carmel-Gilfilen

Faculty Publications
Candy Carmel-Gilfilen’s research is defined by interdisciplinary aspects that transverse design pedagogy, and holistic healthcare and applied security design.

Design Pedagogy and Student Development

Research in design pedagogy is guided by the Perry Scheme of Intellectual and Ethical Development which aims to identify patterns of thinking and learning that can be used to enhance classroom learning. Research to date has revealed a relationship between learner outcomes and student thought development suggesting that those with more advanced thinking generally had higher grades and greater educational experience in interior design.  Future research is focused on determining strategies to propel students to the highest levels of development which encompass ethical dimensions and life choices with commitment. These studies provide rich data that can be used as case models to enhance teaching approaches thereby creating thought leaders in design.

Holistic Healthcare and Applied Security Design

Research in applied security design has emphasized the potential of the physical environment to create secure environments via a holistic approach.

Field research with two leading big-box retailers uncovered specific strategies that marry design and security techniques including natural surveillance, access control, and strategic placement of fixtures and cash wraps. These tenants of design security have been expanded to the healthcare environment to create secure, human-centered spaces for patients, family members, and staff.  Ongoing research and creative scholarship continues in studios funded by Herman Miller.  This model informs pedagogical strategies that enhance student learning experiences and promote empathetic design within education. Further, strategies to cultivate human-centered design steeped in research and collaboration can be promoted in design education to inform, educate, and influence invested leaders in healthcare


Erin Cunningham

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Erin Cunninham, PhD

Faculty Publications

Dr. Cunningham’s specific research, published in both peer reviewed and invited papers, focuses on the history and preservation of 19th and 20th century interior spaces, including social settlement houses, vernacular architecture, and public housing interiors. In both teaching and research, Erin explores interior space from a socio-historical perspective, drawing on disciplinary knowledge from interior design, historic preservation, and design history.
History and preservation of 19th and 20th century interior spaces

My investigations into preservation, history, and professionalism are shaped by my interests in interior spaces and everyday life. I write about the preservation of the Hull House Settlement – arguably the most famous settlement houses in America. In the 1960s, all but two of its 13 buildings were demolished and the remaining Hull House mansion was transformed into a house museum. The preservation of Hull House was hotly contested, and invigorated a national audience. This research forms the basis of my current book project where I emphasize the importance of everyday stakeholders – their words, ordeals and recollections – in the preservation of the interior environment. In addition to the preservation of Hull House, I also examine the historical development of interiors. In a current, interdisciplinary, project, titled “A Vernacular of Pain: The Architecture of New York’s Lower East Side,” I examine how pain was used to organize and map the spaces of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1890s. Finally, my investigations into the preservation and history of the interior environment have inspired me to questions about the nature of the interior design profession, and how the practice of design is constituted and shaped from below.

Jason Meneely

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Jason Meneely

Faculty Publications

Design strategies for enhancing creative performance in individuals, teams, and organizations.

Using technology to support creative problem solving

The application of Virtual Reality Headsets in design education and evidence-based research

Design thinking and pedagogy

Nam-Kyu Park

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Nam-Kyu Park, PhD

Faculty Publications
The overarching mission of Dr. Park’s research is to optimize well-being, health, and human behavior through the design of the built environment. Under this umbrella, her research has developed into four content areas including lighting environments, environmental design for special needs populations, effect of culture on design, and sustainable design. These interlocking themes build upon each other to holistically understand the broader spectrum of human-environment relationships within the built environment. Theories of environment-behavior and social psychology thread together in her research program, which employs a mixed methods design. Building on a human-centered approach, her lighting research has extended to study on supportive and inclusive environments, through the lens of focusing on the needs of diverse populations including immigrants, the elderly, at-risk newborns, persons with ADHD, and children through adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Luminous environments

Environmental design for special needs populations

Effect of culture on design

Environmental and social sustainability

Margaret Portillo

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Margaret Portillo, PhD

Faculty Publications
statement on research


Shabboo Valipoor

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Shabboo Valipoor, PhD

Faculty Publications
Dr. Valipoor’s research centers on understanding the role of the built environment and its integrated objects in improving or impairing both physical and psychological health.  Her focus is more on healthcare facilities and environments for the elderly, where a small alteration in the physical environment can make substantial changes in lives of a vulnerable population.  She is committed to evidence-based design and multidisciplinary research to address issues of safely, quality of care, patient outcome in healing and living environments.  She collaborates closely with scholars in medicine, nursing, physical therapy, engineering and computer science.  their research findings have sought to inform policy and practice through peer-reviewed publications and national and international conferences.  Her current research projects explore the ways of: decreasing patient falls in inpatient rooms, improving patient flow and managing overcrowding in emergency departments, and creating safer furniture for elderly patients.

Healthcare Design

Human Factors

Environments for the Elderly