Auburn Interior Design Seniors Travel to Hawaii for Capstone Project

Laura Sellers Brooks | Multimedia Specialist

Interior Design students in the College of Human Sciences scored a “first” for the program when they said, “Aloha,” and headed to Oahu, Hawaii, for their capstone project. Students enrolled in the Advanced Design Project studio course, led by professors Lindsay Tan and Taneshia Albert, were challenged to redesign a downtown hotel into a multistory, multipurpose community building.

Each student worked individually to incorporate their choice of residential, office, retail, hospitality, healthcare, and educational spaces based on their area of interest and identified community needs.

“We selected Hawaii, specifically the island of Oahu, as the location for the interior design senior capstone project because this island is an ideal case study at the intersection of culture, sustainability, and quality of life,” said Tan.

Over the course of a week, the students travelled throughout Waikiki and Honolulu as well as up to the North Shore. They learned about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and history at sites such as the Bishop Museum and Polynesian Cultural Center and through interaction with the locals. Students also chose from tours of the Iolani Palace, Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and Honolulu's art museums.

“Visiting spaces such as Iolani Palace and the Bishop Museum were extremely helpful for creating inspiration to apply to my projects within this class as well as providing future inspiration for my design career,” said Julie Sterndorf, senior in Interior Design. “The most beneficial experience I had during the trip was spontaneously meeting a local family on the beach who taught us the various ways to eat and prep fresh coconuts and kindly gifted us hats they made from palm fronds.”

The design students also studied the island’s ecology through visits to places such as Hanauma Bay Marine Life Conservation District and Diamond Head, with opportunities to study the Ko'olau Range and urban development patterns. They also had daily opportunities to study architectural precedent and interview local residents to better understand the needs of their communities.

“One of my favorite experiences during the trip was snorkeling at Hanauma Bay,” Lindsey Malone, senior in Interior Design, said. “This bay includes over 100 acres of protected coral reef that is home to an extensive amount of marine life, including the Hawaiian state fish the reef triggerfish. Through this experience, we learned about the endangered reefs and marine life, as well as how passionate the island is about protecting its natural habitat. This hands-on experience provided cultural information and memories that we couldn’t make in the classroom.”

This was the first time the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences has taken such an ambitious trip, according to Tan, and they plan to take the next cohort of seniors back next year.

“The trip was highly successful as a learning experience. This is a great example of a high-impact practice - a shared and immersive global learning experience on-location as the capstone to their interior design education,” said Tan. “We are very pleased that we were able to work with existing University systems to offer the trip all-expenses paid upfront via their professional fees, rather than through post-trip reimbursement, which allowed every single student to participate regardless of financial status.”

For more information about the interior design program at Auburn University, visit