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Appalachian’s Interior Design Program Joins Department of Technology

BOONE–Students pursuing a degree in housing and interior design at Appalachian State University will join the Department of Technology effective July 1. The move is the result of a two-year review to provide additional opportunities for students interested in positions in the furniture and related industries.

The interior design program formerly was housed in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. The program currently includes three full-time faculty and approximately 100 undergraduate majors.

“The fact that the interior design program and curriculum has now been included in the same department as the other specific furniture courses is encouraging,” said Alex Bernhardt, chairman and CEO of Lenoir-based Bernhardt Furniture Industries.

“Our entire industry should benefit from these initiatives, but it is particularly helpful to those furniture businesses located in the central and western parts of North Carolina,” Bernhardt said.

In addition, the department plans to further strengthen the business requirements within the industrial technology degree by focusing on management-related courses, according to Dr. Mark Estepp, chairman of the Department of Technology.

The new emphasis in management and leadership is in response to needs expressed by individuals in the furniture industry, the American Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (AFMA) and at the university. Appalachian’s goal is to offer the industry a continuous flow of graduates from the Department of Technology and the Walker College of Business.

“The curriculum that is being developed for a broad range of furniture managerial positions, in addition to the significant number of undergraduates currently studying furniture, all speaks well about what Appalachian is doing for our industry,” Bernhardt said.

Addressing the present needs of industry leaders to secure competent graduates, the industrial technology program at Appalachian builds on core competencies with skills in management, marketing and communication to meet the evolving needs of the furniture industry.

“Our industry has become global and we need high-quality students,” said Steven Kincaid, president of Kincaid Furniture in Hudson, and a 1970 graduate of Appalachian. “This re-alignment will help prepare students to meet the changing environment of design. Appalachian is now positioned to be the major source of talented employees for the furniture industry.”

Students in the department’s furniture manufacturing degree track take 59 semester hours of courses including wood technology, contemporary industrial finishing, and applied furniture design and construction. A general business minor is required and includes courses in management, marketing, finance and accounting.

“A curriculum which includes furniture manufacturing/management and leadership courses from the Department of Technology, along with a minor in the Walker College of Business is well designed,” Kincaid said. “The graduates from this program will have a well-rounded education which should serve them well in the furniture industry.”

During the past year, the Department of Technology also has strengthened its ties with the home furnishings industry through its executive-in-residence program conducted by Fred Preddy, former CEO of Hammary Furniture. Preddy teaches seminar courses in furniture industry management and in leadership, and helps bring furniture industry CEOs to campus to meet with students in the program.

“A faculty member’s expertise is well respected by the students, as it should be, but hearing their comments reinforced by someone from the industry who is dealing with manufacturing and management every day makes all the difference to the students,” Estepp said.

More than 400 Appalachian alumni are employed in the furniture and home furnishings industries. They include graduates of the university’s management, technology, interior design, accounting and marketing programs.

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Contact: Mark Estepp, (828) 262-3111