Hawkeye is Happy in Show-Me State


Though she has at least another year before she enters her chosen field of interior design, Nicki Steffen already has learned the first rule of the profession. “Never call us interior decorators, that will be sure to get you a nasty look,” Steffen said with a laugh.

Steffen of Iowa City is a junior majoring in interior design at Maryville University of St. Louis. A graduate of Regina High School, Steffen chose Maryville because it is one of the few universities in the Midwest to have an interior design program fully accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. She learned about Maryville through the Internet and through some friends. “I visited the campus twice and by the second time, I knew I wanted to go there.”

Steffen said she has known since junior high school that she wanted to pursue a career in either interior design or education. “In high school, I liked science, math and art,” she commented. “I took every course in art that was offered.”

Steffen jokes she has found that interior design involves ” a lot more math than I thought.” That realization has become clear in her work as an intern at Faciltec, a St. Louis-area commercial design firm. “I’m a design assistant. I organize things and do field measurements. That’s where you go to an office site and measure the workspace.” Steffen noted Faciltec’s clients include The Boeing Co., and Scott Air Force Base, located in nearby Southern Illinois.

Steffen also got a taste of the real world of interior design during a recent trip she and other Maryville students took to the worldwide headquarters of Kimball International, based in Jasper, Ind. Kimball manufactures a diverse array of products including systems furniture.

“There’s a lot of process that goes into the furniture making business,” Steffen said. “It takes a lot more time than you think. There are rules and regulations you have to follow and they (Kimball) go above and beyond.” Maryville students toured the plant and had the opportunity to help put some furniture together. Steffen said the trip helped to crystallize the design process for her. “It was like everything just clicked,” she remarked. “Everything I’ve learned in my classes and in my internship just kind of came together.”

Darlene Davison, director of Maryville’s interior design program, said such trips serve as great practical experience for students nearing graduation. “Our students are their (Kimball’s) future specifiers. They learned so much more than they can in a classroom,” Davison said.

Steffen would like to continue working at Faciltec after she graduates. “I like the freedom I have there,” she said. “People are giving me opportunities to learn and grow in the field.”

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.