College of Human Sciences Social Impact Trip to Scotland highlights connection between Nonprofit Studies and Interior Design

Graham Brooks | Communications Editor

For many Auburn University students Spring Break can be a time to relax and get away from their studies, but for some fortunate students in the College of Human Sciences, the break served as a life changing experience in the form of a week-long study abroad social impact trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Ten College of Human Sciences students with varying majors that include interior design, philanthropy and nonprofit studies, and global studies, along with two faculty members and a student from the College of Liberal Arts made the trip from Auburn to Edinburgh the week of March 4th discovering how the apparently very different fields of nonprofit studies and interior design are in reality deeply interconnected.

Dr. Peter Weber, assistant professor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies and Dr. Anna Ruth Gatlin, assistant professor of interior design, co-led the inaugural trip that focused on the unique connections between philanthropy and nonprofit studies and interior design.

“I think one of the things we all took away was the connection between our two different fields and that interior design can affect the way that philanthropies and nonprofits offer programs and services and maybe even help with the success rates of their different programs and services,” Gatlin said. “We, as designers, need to be thinking not just about the process and the client but also about the community as a whole. So really designing for social impact from both of our perspectives — it was really neat to see that moment happen in our group.”

One of the ways a visit to Edinburgh highlighted this connection was through a trip to Rock Trust, an organization that serves as Scotland’s youth homelessness charity. Rock Trust’s goal is to end youth homelessness in Scotland and those who come through their doors will have access to expert youth specific services.

Lindsay-Rose Sheffer, a junior majoring in interior design who just declared a minor in philanthropy and nonprofit studies, was on the trip to Edinburgh and described the Rock Trust visit as moving but also eye-opening.

“The Rock Trust organization would house youth and give them a home and a budget to design their own home and have something they can call their own and that just boggled my mind,” Sheffer said. “I think we were all on the edge of tears at the end of that meeting because it was so moving to see that your space does matter. Design isn’t just something that’s pretty, it’s something that’s catered to someone and you have to know that person in order to meet their needs. Just seeing those intertwine was very moving and also exciting because there’s something out there like that that exists.”

While the trip mainly focused on learning and highlighting connections, the trip was also for students to get a cultural experience like traditional sight-seeing that included seeing the Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, a visit to the National Museum of Scotland, going on a hidden and haunted tour and more. For Gatlin, Scotland was very interesting because of the wide array of structures you might encounter on a single stroll down the street.

“From an interior design angle, Scotland is an interesting place to visit because geographically you are able to navigate it pretty easily,” Gatlin said. “It’s not huge, so from the centralized point of Edinburgh we went east to St. Andrews and west to Glasgow each on day trips so we were able to see a snapshot of different types of buildings and building technologies. We got to see a cross-section of architecture from the 1100s to the 2020s and you can’t just go anywhere and find intact or even ruins of architecture that go back that far. In Edinburgh specifically we got to see a castle which was built in the three digit years and then we walked from the castle, down the road to a palace.”

Another reason for choosing Edinburgh, Scotland was to learn more about the famed Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

“There is a connection with Scotland because Scotland is Andrew Carnegie’s home country,” Weber said. “With his funding of public libraries and his Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie is often consider as one of the fathers of modern, scientific philanthropy. We wanted to retrace his steps and visit his birthplace in Dunfermline. So, to reflect on the similarities and differences between the U.S. tradition of philanthropy and practices and approaches exemplified by the organizations we visited in Scotland.”

Alana Joseph, a senior majoring in philanthropy and nonprofit studies, would like to work within a development or advancement office upon graduation and after going on the trip to Scotland, she would advise other students to take a study abroad trip because of what she gained by going overseas. “I would encourage every student, if financially feasible, to attend a study abroad program,” Joseph said. “I completely understand the fears in visiting a different continent and not really knowing your group. I had those same concerns and really had to talk myself into going. After attending the trip, I have answers. If I had not gone, I would have lost the opportunity to learn about my career options and the experience of a lifetime. I could gain lifelong friends, professional contacts, pictures that I will share with future kids, joy, adventure, knowledge, and the chance to learn about a culture different from my own. I am so glad I attended the social impact trip.”

Following the inaugural trip in 2023, Weber said the plan is to offer the social impact trip next year to a new group of students who want to experience Edinburgh, Scotland.

“The biggest takeaway for us is the connection between our programs and it’s really how we want and we hope to structure this specific program in the future,” Weber said. “We want to make this trip a place where we highlight these connections and make students realize that at the center of both of our programs and disciplines we have human sciences. When people think about interior design or philanthropy they would not necessarily make the connection but the connection is there and our study abroad is a place where we highlight it.”

For students wishing to stay up to date on current study abroad programs in the College of Human Sciences, visit the Office of Global Education Instagram @AUGlobaledu, Facebook @auglobaleducation and the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad in Italy program @auburninitaly_jsb for the most updated information including student study abroad testimonies and spotlights.