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​Interior design program offers international collaboration

CMU students to learn alongside Chinese students, faculty

Contact: Heather Smith

Design knows no boundaries, and this fall, Central Michigan University interior design students will have even more opportunity for intercultural collaboration.

In 2014, an agreement between CMU and Anhui Jianzhu University in China solidified an interior design program where Chinese students spend three years learning at AHJZU before applying to finish their degrees at CMU. Upon completion of the program, students will receive an undergraduate degree from each university.

This fall, the first Chinese students will arrive at CMU as part of the agreement.

AHJZU, an architectural university, was identified as a potential partner because of its similarity to CMU.

“When we compare the curricula, they’re almost identical,” said Julie Zuo, CMU associate professor of interior design. “We see the transition as natural for their students coming here to CMU.”

Depending on their English language level, the students will study at CMU’s English Language Institute before beginning the interior design coursework alongside CMU design students.

“Design is a global profession. The potential for collaboration and competition is not just down the street, it’s half a globe away,” CMU interior design faculty member Stephen Skorski said.

The Chinese students will learn together with CMU students in upper-level interior design courses, but the cultural exchange isn’t one way.

“For CMU students, that exposure and connection of working alongside international designers is going to enrich their experience of learning and encourage them to think differently,” Zuo said. “It’s going to be a great experience for them to immerse themselves in a different culture in order to understand it and be more creative.”

The agreement also has taken the expertise of CMU’s interior design faculty across seas.

Last winter, Zuo traveled to China to teach for three weeks, while Skorski returned this spring from teaching three-week courses in two-dimensional foundation design and interior design history.

Currently, Skorski and two ELI instructors are heading back to AHJZU for four weeks to teach more design and English language courses as both universities initiate more faculty collaboration in teaching.

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