Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice



Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Master Plan Amendment: Villa Maria College, Bachelor of Fine Arts Program, Interior Design



April 22, 2005



Goals 2 and 4





Executive Summary


Issue for Decision


          Should the Regents approve a master plan amendment authorizing Villa Maria College to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) program in Interior Design as its first baccalaureate program?


Proposed Handling


          This question will come before the Committee on Higher Education and Professional Practice on May 16, 2005 for consideration on its consent agenda.  It will then come before the Full Board for final action on May 17, 2005.


Procedural History


          Regents approval of a master plan amendment is needed because this will be Villa Maria College’s first baccalaureate program in the discipline area of engineering. 


Background Information


          Villa Maria College, Buffalo, Erie County, is an independent, two-year coeducational institution chartered by the Regents in 1961.  It offers associate degree programs in the discipline areas of business, education, the fine arts, the health professions, the humanities, and the physical sciences.  The New York State Taxonomy of Academic Programs includes interior design at the baccalaureate and higher level in the disciplinary area of engineering.


The College proposes to expand upon its well-established A.A.S. program in interior design and its liberal arts framework to offer a B.F.A. program in Interior Design. The College will continue to offer the A.A.S. program.




The Department has determined that the proposed program, if approved, would meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.


The Regents should amend the master plan of Villa Maria College to authorize the College to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts program in Interior Design.


Timetable for Implementation


          If approved, the Department will proceed to register the program. Villa Maria College will begin offering the program in the fall 2005 term. This amendment will be effective until May 31, 2006, unless the Department registers the program prior to that date, in which case master plan amendment shall be without term.  This amendment does not authorize additional baccalaureate programs at Villa Maria College without further master plan amendment approval.


Information in Support of Recommendation


Academic Review


A. Institutional Information.  Villa Maria College, Buffalo, received a provisional charter from the Board of Regents in September 1961, and an absolute charter in November 1968.  Villa Maria is a two-year coeducational institution founded by the Felician Sisters in the Franciscan Spirit.  Villa Maria’s charter authorizes it to award the degrees of Associate in Arts (A.A.), Associate in Science (A.S.), Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.), and (pursuant to Section 3.50 of the Rules of the Board of Regents) Associate in Occupational Studies (A.O.S.).  It offers A.A., A.S., and A.A.S. programs in the disciplinary areas of business, education, the fine arts, the health professions, the humanities, and the physical sciences. In the fall of 2004, the College had a total enrollment of 381 full-time and 131 part-time students.  The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Villa Maria.


B. Curriculum.  Villa Maria proposes to offer as its first baccalaureate program a B.F.A. program in Interior Design.  The new program would complement the College’s existing associate degree programs in the fine arts, graphic design, interior design, and photography.  It would expand on the College’s well-established, two-year interior design program.  The proposed program includes 128 credits.


The College’s proposal to offer its first baccalaureate degree program in this field is motivated in part by the decision of the accrediting agency for interior design, Foundation for Interior Design Education Research (FIDER), to cease accrediting two-year interior design programs.  It would allow the College to further prepare students with knowledge and skills in artistic and design elements and principles, professional presentation, and ethical business practice.  Development of the baccalaureate proposal also was prompted by student requests and by the projection of job opportunities in interior design in the Buffalo area. 


The proposed curriculum is relevant to interior design practice in the 21st century.  Use of technology is integrated in a studio-based environment.  Progressive development of independent study skills culminates in a thesis design course advised by program faculty.  Strong linkages to interior design practice are reinforced in two required internships - one of which may be international. 


A new first-year experience course, program orientation, program faculty advisors, mandatory use of the Learning Strategies Center, and an early warning system support retention.


To promote access and provide educational options, the College will maintain the associate degree program in interior design that is currently registered as satisfying the educational requirements for licensure in Certified Interior Design. 


C. Students.  The College expects an enrollment in the B.F.A. program of 50 students in the first year and 124 in the fifth.  Seventy-five percent will be full-time students.  The student body will be comprised of recent high school graduates and students graduating a number of years ago.  The student population will be drawn from alumni, current students, transfer students, and first-time college students.


D. Faculty.  Villa Maria has 77 instructional faculty members across the institution, including 25 who are full-time.  They include one full-time professor, four associate professors, 5 assistant professors, 15 full-time instructors, 9 part-time adjuncts and 43 lecturers.  In interior design and architecture, the College currently has two full-time faculty members with M.Arch. degrees.  It plans to add one assistant professor in interior design/architecture supplemented by the cadre of part-time faculty who are practicing professionals, as well as one faculty member with a Ph.D. in a liberal arts field. 


E. Resources.  The College recently renovated and added classrooms.  Existing facilities are in the process of being renovated to add two studios, a shop facility for woodworking and metalworking, and a lighting lab.  The College has budgeted $237,000 over the next five years for renovations and purchase of supplies and equipment, including hardware and software, that supplement existing resources.  To increase print and non-print materials, including additional electronic databases, an additional $34,000 is budgeted to expand the current library collection that meets FIDER standards


F. Program Registration.  The Department has determined that the proposed program, if approved, will meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.


Planning Review


G. Need.  Since 1990, in New York State, only a person licensed as a Certified Interior Designer may render or offer to render “services for a fee or other valuable consideration, in the preparation and administration of interior design documents (including drawings, schedules and specifications) which pertain to the planning and design of interior spaces, including furnishings, layouts, fixtures, cabinetry, lighting, finishes, materials, and interior construction not materially related to or materially affecting the building systems, all of which shall comply with applicable laws, codes, regulations and standards [Education Law, §8303].”  The requirements for a license include “at least seven years of professional training consisting of academic study and work experience relating to interior design,” including “at least two but not more that five years of post secondary education, including an associate degree or the equivalent, in an approved program of interior design [Education Law, §8305].” 


On a national level, career options for interior designers for residential, commercial, and institutional interior design, as well as retail store planning, corporate design, furniture design, lighting design, and space planning and programming promise rising demand for interior design Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates.  A variety of long- and short-term Western New York building projects are anticipated to support local designers through 2025.



H. Effect on Other Institutions.  Statewide, nine institutions offer programs leading to licensure as Certified Interior Designers.  Only two of them are in the Regents Western Higher Education Region: Villa Maria College and the SUNY College of Technology at Alfred.  Of the two, only Villa Maria College’s program has FIDER accreditation.


Villa Maria’s proposed B.F.A. program in Interior Design would be the first baccalaureate program in the subject field of interior design in the Western Region.  Across the State, only four institutions offer baccalaureate programs in that subject field: Cazenovia College, the New School University, the New York School of Interior Design, and Syracuse University.  New School University and New York School of Interior Design are located in New York City.  Cazenovia and Syracuse are in the Regents Central Region


Four institutions responded to a canvass of all colleges and universities in the Western Region.  Three had no concerns about or objection to the proposed program: Niagara University, Hilbert College, and Houghton College.  The State University College at Buffalo expressed concern about the availability of appropriate adjunct faculty, locations, and building projects to support quality educational experiences for a larger number of interior design students.  It also questioned whether there is sufficient employment potential in the area for graduates of two FIDER-accredited baccalaureate programs.  Despite that expression of concern, there is no registered baccalaureate program in interior design in the Western Region.  


Villa Maria College responded that it offered additional options for Western Region students interested in interior design-related careers, such as: a small, private, religious-sponsored campus environment; a substantially different curriculum; and two required internships with possible sites in the Western Region as well as other major cities.  It also cited the support of a highly involved group of alumni and advisory council members who tutor and promote graduates in entrepreneurial endeavors.