McGee Awarded 2019 Polsky Prize

By Rosa Medina

The College of Design, Construction and Planning is proud to announce Beth McGee, Interior Design Ph.D. student, as the recipient of the 2019 Polsky Academic Achievement Award for outstanding research dissertation.

The ASID Joel Polsky Academic Achievement Award recognizes undergraduate or graduate students contributions to interior design through print or digital communications. This $5,000 award is the highest recognition for dissertation or thesis research produced in the field.

“It is truly a blessing to be honored with the ASID Joel Polsky Prize,” McGee said. “I hope that it helps disseminate to practitioners the work I have done trying to help designers use nature as a tool to aid wellbeing through design.”

Submissions for this award addressed the needs of the public, designers and students on topics like educational research, behavioral science, business practice, design process, theory or other technical subjects. Entries were judged on innovation of subject matter, comprehensive and original coverage of the topic, organization, graphic presentation, bibliography and references.

McGee’s submission provided insight on how biophilic design offers a type of “neurological nourishment” in applying nature to the built environment and offers health benefits.

Stephen Kellert proposed a list of biophilic attributes in 2008, which he used to develop the Biophilic Design Matrix (BDM) to operationalize biophilic design for interior designers in 24 different spaces.

McGee’s study further refined BDM through a participatory design that used designer’s feedback, including a request for online access. The revision process included a systematic instrument development with cognitive interviews of 24 expert interior designers.

These interviews offered proven benefits for instrument development and aid validity and reliability, incorporating user needs to fine-tune the language and avoiding jargon.

Each designer completed a questionnaire both before and after their use of the BDM. The results showed the revised BDM had a strong reliability. The designers’ knowledge about biophilic design increased after use. One designed even noted that the BDM “is a valuable reference tool as we approach wellness goals of the space.”

It was further tested with students in a studio course. They increased their knowledge, confidence and perceptions of the importance of biophilic design.

These outcomes showed that the designer-driven tool is not a checklist, but a language useful throughout the design process.

Nam-Kyu Park, an associate professor in the Department of Interior Design, said she is glad to see McGee’s hard work pay off at the end of her doctoral journey by receiving the 2019 ASID Joel Polsky Prize.

“I believe Beth deserves this award because her dissertation focusing on biophilic design for an interior environment will make a great contribution to the field of interior design by helping the public, students and practitioners,” Park said.

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