By Kayla Cooper
Community service has always been close to Jennifer Whitehead’s heart.
As an interior design instructor at the University of Central Arkansas, Jennifer believes that good design should not be limited to those who can afford it.
With this sentiment in mind, Jennifer has sought out design opportunities which benefit the community as well as students in her design communications class. A variety of groups and agencies have received quality design expertise and the students have had an opportunity to interact with actual clients to gain real world experience in their field.
Work on a new home for HAVEN (Help for Abuse Victims in Emergency Need) in the fall of 2004 was the first project undertaken.
With the help of UCA students and instructors as well as others in the community, the project included a refurbished living room, office, bedrooms, bathrooms, and an upstairs area. Plus, the student designers finished the semester with a sense of accomplishment in helping others.
This semester, UCA students are returning to HAVEN to offer a helping hand in updating the home. (Readers interested in being involved in this project through monetary donations or contributions of needed items should contact 501 LIFE at 501.327.1501.) The project will be featured in a future issue of the magazine.
In addition to HAVEN, UCA students have worked on spaces for several other nonprofit organizations including the Faulkner County Humane Society, the Faulkner County Boys and Girls Club, CASA, guest rooms in residence halls at Central Baptist College, the Conway Regional Marketing Department in the Frauenthal Estate, the guest house at the Ward Mansion Bed and Breakfast, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Sallie Cone Elementary School.
In addition to the support given to these programs, Jennifer’s students recently helped with the design of the new 501 offices. Upon need for expansion, Sonja Keith approached Jennifer about the offices becoming a project for students, and in the summer of 2008, 501 received a beautiful space.
After such success with the offices, students were brought in again to assist with the development of the first 501 Holidays Event, held in November. Hours of decoration design and setup were dedicated to the making of the event.
“The students did an incredible job in helping us come up with an effective layout as well as a beautiful setting for 501 Holidays,” Sonja said. “We can’t thank the students enough for their hard work.”
Jennifer considers the community service aspect of her class as important as the technical skills that students are developing. “Students are being taught to be thoughtful human beings by creating atmospheres within their community that inspire other people in their daily life,” she said. “Design is more than pretty chairs and picking out curtains. Good design revolves around the health, welfare and safety of the community. These students are accomplishing this task with this mindset and will be a part of a generation of designers that look to better their cities and communities.”