School of Design

The School of Design students, faculty members and alumni are from the architecture, graphic design, interior design, landscape architecture and studio arts programs.


Maria Swanson, Interior Design ’16, is a graduate student working toward her Master of Science degree in architecture with a specialization in interior design at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “During my undergrad, one of the projects that really stood out for me was our product design studio. It included designing furniture for early childhood education facilities while following the Reggio Emilia teaching pedagogy based on inquiry-based learning.

“We incorporated this philosophy into our design and created a stool that works for both the student and the teacher. It was great to work with our industry partner, Kodo Kids, an early childhood toy manufacturer based in Colorado, and with the Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education.

“I loved all of it because, for me, designing anything is such a joy. Designing for educational spaces is my favorite.

“If someone asked me what advice I would give to college freshmen in interior design, I would say ‘be willing and ready to work really hard because, in the end, it will all pay off.’ We invested so many hours into our projects, but looking back on it now, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“For now, my dream job is to be a professor of interior design. I was so influenced by my own professors, and I would love to do the same for someone else.”

By Emily Meyer, agricultural communications senior from Orient
Photo by Kelly Reppe Evans


Thomas Schneider is a landscape architecture major from Sioux Falls. He was part of a team that won a National Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“I knew when I started my college search that I wanted to pursue landscape architecture as a major. Ultimately, I decided on South Dakota State University because it had the program that I was looking for, provided numerous scholarship opportunities and the location was a good fit for me.

“‘I am going to be a landscape architect when I grow up’ is not something I ever said growing up. I sort of stumbled upon the career when I was doing research on architecture, and I am glad that I did. I knew that I wanted to do something creative that would provide a new challenge every day, and that is exactly what you get with landscape architecture.

“During the spring semester of my sophomore year, I was enrolled in a Planting Design Studio. Our final project was an exploration into the diversity of plant material across the state of South Dakota. Our professor, Kevin Benham, encouraged us to submit this project to the American Society of Landscape Architects for its 2016 professional and student awards.

“The project was selected to receive a National Honor Award in the communications category. The competition was open to both graduate students and undergraduate students, and our team was one of three undergraduate teams to win. Last fall, I was able to travel to New Orleans with other members of our team to collect our award at the annual meeting and expo for the American Society of Landscape Architects.

“My goal after graduation is to become a registered landscape architect. Ideally, I would like to end up working for a firm that does landscape architecture as well as architecture, engineering and interior design. Landscape architecture is very project based and will require some long nights, but having a final project to show for all the hard work makes it worth it.”

By Steph Hennen, a senior agricultural communication major from Morris, Minnesota


Whitney Ziebell is an interior design major from Sioux Falls. She is president of the SDSU student chapter of South Dakota Interior Designers.

“We are a brand-new organization for interior design majors. We just became a student chapter of SDID, which is South Dakota Interior Designers.

“I am currently the president, so I facilitate the board meetings and general meetings. Basically, I help figure out what events to attend or hold and what needs to be done.

“Communicating with other people, especially as the president of ID Club, I have learned a lot about leadership roles. “We do a lot of networking and professional development, so we work with a lot of interior designers out of Sioux Falls. We get to know them, and they get to know us, which helps when we get out of school and look for jobs.

“The two main things that I gained from my involvement in this organization are professional development and networking. It is very beneficial for students to be a part of it because you get to know both your classmates and upperclassmen and professionals in the area. “We take a professional development trip each spring. This year, we went to Kansas City; last year we went to Des Moines; and the year before that we went to Minneapolis. It varies from year to year.

“We also take daytrips to Sioux Falls each year where we spend the day touring different locations and meeting with the interior design professionals and getting to know them. We took tours of new or previously built buildings under renovation to study the build environment.

“Our club also does community outreach with the Boys & Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity.”

By Courtney Johnson, agricultural communications senior from Brookings
Photo by Audra Stoebner


Taking what she calls a “leap of faith,” Lenae Schwartz is an interior design alumna who took the plunge and opened her own interior design business located next to an architecture firm in downtown Sioux Falls. She has been thriving there ever since.

“Well, I had grown up in Volga and am a small-town girl. I grew up on a farm and probably was thinking that SDSU was my obvious choice where I should go to college. I actually started in home economics teacher education, but I realized halfway through that wasn’t my true calling.

“I had taken my first interior design class for my major, and I absolutely loved it. So, I changed my major that semester, and I’ve been doing design ever since. It was being in the right place at the right time, realizing where I fit and understanding that I had a creative side to myself that allows me to do this. It was where I landed, and I loved it.

“For my internship, I landed at Canfield Business Interiors. They ended up hiring me out of college. I worked there for 26 years and had risen through the ranks of starting as a designer moving into design/sales and then ultimately, into management.

“The last several years I was there I was working more with people and doing less and less design. After realizing I was moving further and further away from what I truly love to do, a couple of years ago, I took a leap of faith and started Lenae Design.

“It has been an incredible journey with the clients. I get to design all day, and it has been so rewarding to see the reaction of the clients. Not only was I able to take the step to go off on my own but I’ve also been able to improve the quality of the work I have been able to produce along with Kelly, my co-worker. It has been a great journey, a little nerve-racking, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

“A big part of our business is commercial design, but I also have a chance to do residential design, hospitality design and retail design. It’s broadened quite a bit, and it is really fun to have the chance to do all types of design. The work varies with different types of clients, different types of materials and different types of solutions from one project to another.

“When I start a project, I first get an idea of how the space will lay out. Next, I find out what finishes for the walls that my clients are looking for and the fabrics on the furniture as well. “Lenae Design does projects in the state and the region. We do projects from all over the state and have gone as far as a retail store in Des Moines.

“My favorite projects to do are retail and hospitality because they have so many details. This fall, my daughter will be attending South Dakota State University as a freshman and majoring in interior design, just like her mother. I frequently visit the SDSU interior design classes and tell students, ‘If you find something you love, then it won’t feel like work, and I am lucky enough to feel that way for the last 28 years.’”

By Maggie Vander Laan, agricultural communication senior from Beresford

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