Alumni Mentor Interior design students


Tim Dolan, assistant assistant professor of interior design at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, pairs students from his fourth-year studio with alumni who serve as professional mentors. Knowing that the coronavirus pandemic would hamper the search for internships this year, Dolan has made this opportunity available to his students to help them prepare for their future careers.

“The challenges of the pandemic have forced us all to reconsider how best to meet the needs of our students,” Dolan said. “I knew that many, if not most, of my students lost their internship over the summer, and I was hoping this opportunity to team up with professional designers will not only provide them with an advanced understanding of the practice and design. collaboration, but also greater awareness of resilience and adaptive capacity, ”he said.

John Ballentine of Flux Collaborative offers advice via Zoom to Sarah Catherine Kirk.

Virtually all of the mentors participating in the studio are alumni of the College of Architecture and Design who were students of Dolan.

Student Sarah Catherine Kirk said: “The best advice I got from my mentor, John Ballentine, was to just design, create and make my idea come true. It’s simple, but he was talking about the point where, as designers, we can get caught up in the creative process and end up doing nothing.

Whitney Manahan, who graduated with a BA in Interior Architecture in 2009 and works for McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects & Interior Designers, mentors student Sam Richwine. “One of the main things I have shared is keeping an open mind for opportunities in the profession that may not be a typical career path,” said Manahan. “I had this experience after school, and I think it’s reassuring for the students to see a wide range of career paths. “

Former Whitney Manahan is Sam Richwine’s mentor.

Being able to discuss career goals was an advantage for the students. “Meeting a professional mentor throughout the semester allowed me to take the pressure off knowing exactly what my niche is when I graduate,” Kirk said. “It allowed me to take a second longer to dream about what I really want to do.”

“The mentor’s experience really broadened my perspective on design,” said Richwine. “[Whitney’s] perspective takes a very different approach than mine, and it really helped me think about architecture differently.

All of the professionals immediately agreed when Dolan asked them to serve as mentors. “I feel that we [alumni] have a responsibility to help our students excel in any way they can, and I think it’s important to seize the opportunity at times like these, ”said Manahan.

Each mentor is individually matched with a student. Mentors include these professionals:

  • John Ballentine, Flux Collaborative, Austin
  • Polly Ann Blackwell, LRK, Memphis
  • Kailey Calkins, Perkins + Will, Atlanta
  • Bonnie Casamassima, Entrelacs
  • Geneva Frank, Zimmerman Weintraub, Chicago
  • Lauren Higdon, Gresham Smith, Nashville
  • Alexis Jolley, Smith Group, Detroit
  • Erin Lynch, Gensler, New York
  • Whitney Manahan, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Knoxville
  • Hannah Starnes, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Knoxville
  • Ben Thornton, Clark Barnes, Spokane
  • Makenna Wood, Studio R2R, Knoxville

“I have witnessed the resilience of our students. It seems that in many ways they are adjusting to what they went through last year, ”Manahan said.


Amanda Johnson (865-974-6401, [email protected])

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