Interns Finding Summer H-OK!


ST. LOUIS — To work among the best, you have to be the best. Two Maryville University art and design majors are proving that this summer through internships they secured at St. Louis architectural firm Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK). HOK is widely regarded nationally and internationally as one of the top firms in its field.

Senior interior design major Kristi Pearson of St. Charles, and senior graphic design major Kate Schmitz of South County, were chosen for the coveted internships from a field of applicants from across the United States, said Mike Plotnick, HOK’s director of media relations. The students started on June 1 and will work at HOK through August 24. Both women already have made significant contributions to ongoing projects. “Kate hit the ground running and was able to produce quality, creative work right from the beginning,” said HOK graphic designer Julie Hick. “She has been a tremendous asset to our graphics department and a joy to work with.”

Schmitz was encouraged to apply for the internship by one of her instructors, Cherie Fister, associate professor of graphic design at Maryville University and director of the University’s program. Fister was confident that Schmitz would thrive at a firm like HOK. “In addition to being a strong designer, Kate’s very thoughtful and independent,” Fister said. “I expected she would thrive in this challenging atmosphere.”

Pearson applied for her position after talking with Darlene Davison, assistant professor of interior design at Maryville University and director of the University’s program. “Kristi is full of energy, enthusiasm and real passion for interior design,” Davison said “She is one of our most motivated students, eager and ready for challenges to push her to do her best.”

Maryville is one of only a few universities in the Midwest to have a fully accredited interior design program. And its graphic design program has produced graduates who work in some of St. Louis’ leading companies. “I felt really prepared to work here,” Pearson said. “I wasn’t interested in health care (design) before I interviewed here. But it’s definitely more challenging than I thought it would be.”

Pearson is among a team of HOK staff members designing new lobbies and other interior spaces for Air Force medical facilities at bases around the country. “Kristi has far exceeded our expectations, and we are very pleased with her performance,” said Heather Lents, interior designer, HOK Health Care practice. Both Pearson and Schmitz are appreciative for the practical experience and the opportunity to display their creativity outside the classroom. Schmitz has designed several promotional posters for HOK-sponsored events. “I definitely enjoy it; it’s a change of pace,” she remarked. “I like the fact that you get pushed hard to do your best.”

Schmitz and Pearson are among 17 interns working at HOK this summer in a variety of capacities, Plotnick noted.

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.

Photo cutline: Maryville University art and design majors Kristi Pearson, left, and Kate Schmitz are working as summer interns at architectural firm HOK. Photo by Jason Oatis/HOK