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Valerie Settles, Ph.D.
Valerie came to design relatively late in life; she was not one of those creative geniuses always developing new ideas or constantly rearranging their furniture for a more pleasing appearance or more functional flow through the space. Loving math but not wanting to teach math, a teacher encouraged her to pursue engineering. Twelve years and two degrees later, Valerie decided that engineering just wasn’t very fulfilling and took a leap of faith with an evening course in interior design at a local vocational-technology school. With that, she “turned away from the dark side” and decided to pursue a third degree, this time in Interior Design rather than Industrial Engineering. Although they sound worlds apart, there are many similarities in the two fields: precision, attention to detail, working with people, ability to understand technical requirements and an emphasis on functionality and efficiency. Turns out, there are many kinds of designers, and you don’t have to be a creative genius to be a good designer.
While her path to design was somewhat circuitous, that experience is invaluable as an educator. Not every student is the same; they have different skills, temperaments, and goals. Unfortunately, most students believe that the television image of a designer is the only option; Valerie often shares her experiences with those who struggle with meeting the idea of “normal” and help them to understand that their path is their own - and it’s perfectly acceptable to take a different one than their peers and be something they didn’t even know existed.
As an educator, she constantly strives to create designers who are thoughtful; this incorporates the ability to listen to a client and develop a concept that meets all of their needs (even those they didn’t know they had) as well as making sure all the practical details are considered so that implementation of the design can be completed as easily as possible. Thoughtfulness doesn’t come easily or quickly; it is a habit that requires long and dedicated work, but if she can start my students out with a good foundation, they should have many years in which to practice this trait as they develop into successful designers. She also strives to cultivate thoughtfulness in herself as an educator, in her research and in service to the university and the community. Truly listening to students or others helps her know what issues must be considered and how best to address those issues so that the end result is not just adequate, but helps to solve the problem in a unique and comprehensive way.
There is a quote from Robert Bresson, a French filmmaker that says “Make visible what, without you, would perhaps never be seen.” Valerie believes this applies to all aspects of her life at UCO. As an educator, this sums up where all her efforts are directed as she works to help students learn about all aspects of whatever subject they are studying so they can be well-prepared to serve their clients.
- Intro to Interior Design
- Charles Evans Studio
- Competition Studio
- History of Interior Design
- Historic Preservation
- Interior Design Portfolio Development
- Interior Design Practice
- Internship in Design
- Design Studio I & III
- Design Research I
Education and Certifications
Ph.D. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, May 2014
Doctor of Philosophy, Human Environmental Sciences / Design, Housing, and Merchandising
Title of Dissertation: Factors That Influence and Impact Property Ownership in Oklahoma Historic Districts
M.S. University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma, August 1995
Master of Science, Human Environmental Sciences / Living Space Design
M.S. University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, May 1992
Master of Science, Industrial Engineering
B.S. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, August 1986
Bachelor of Science, Industrial Engineering
Tuesday: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Wednesday: 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Friday: By appointment only
Research, Published Work, and Scholarly Activities
Recent Conference Presentations
“Preservation and Interior Design Education – Working Together for Community Revitalization”
June 2018: International Conference, Environmental Design Research Association, Oklahoma City, OK (Refereed)
“So Many Terms, So Little Time: Searching for Best Practices in Teaching Interior Design History”
March 2018: National Conference, Interior Design Educators Council, Boston, MA (Refereed)
“You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play: Integrating Competition into the Interior Design Curriculum”
October 2017: Regional Conference, Interior Design Educators Council, Dallas, TX (Refereed)
“University Resources: Designing a Museum Gift Shop”
October 2016: National Conference, Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Oklahoma City, OK (Refereed)
August 2016: 17th Collegium on College Teaching Practice, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK
“Historic Preservation and Interior Design: Community Engagement at Work”
March 2016: National Conference, Interior Design Educators Council, Portland, OR (Refereed)
“Historic Preservation and Interior Design: Community Engagement at Work” (Poster)
March 2016: Oklahoma Research Day, Northeastern University, Tahlequah, OK
“Joy in Wavy Glass”
October 2014: Regional Conference, Interior Design Educators Council, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR (Refereed)
Having worked as a professional interior designer, I have first-hand experience of the knowledge required of designers in the field. As an educator, I strive to insure that students will be prepared in both practical knowledge and professional demeanor. I feel one of my main responsibilities as an educator is to teach students how to think and to seek out information independently, as this will be required more frequently in life than mindlessly repeating facts and figures, and will foster an atmosphere of life-long learning and exploration so critical to designers.
Clients who are willing to place their trust and finances in a designer’s hands deserve a designer who is a competent professional. As a design professor, I remind students that their graduation date is not magic—if they are not exposed to knowledge and expected to stretch themselves to achieve excellence in their work while they are in school, they will not be prepared for the professional work environment. Personally and professionally I set very high standards for myself, and I extend those high standards to my students.
Interior designers are often misconstrued by the general public, as well as other design professionals, and are capable of much more than selecting pillows and matching paint colors. In order to give themselves and the design profession a good name, I strive to insure that students develop a high level of versatility in their design skills by providing them with a variety of projects in which to experience the diversity of future professional situations. I also incorporate a variety of teaching techniques to accommodate the different ways in which students learn - these include students as teachers, real-world projects, and introduction of risk, among others.
It is extremely important to maintain contacts with the professional community to stay current and to provide students opportunities to interact with professionals who also need to view students as intelligent, creative, and valuable future colleagues. This belief drives my decisions about what content to include in each course. I always strive to include information and techniques that are most relevant to the current marketplace in which the students will be soon be working; this information may result from professional designers, attendance at professional conferences or continuing education seminars and workshops, or from students themselves who often suggest topics they are interested in or have learned about during internships or other activities.
I strongly believe in making myself available to students outside of class periods; I don’t consider my obligation to students at an end when I leave the class room, and I always encourage students to contact me any time they have a question. I also serve as the faculty sponsor for our student organization, the Student Interior Design Association. This role allows me to bond with students outside of the classroom environment, and lets students interact with me in a more informal situation, which in turn further strengthens our connection inside the classroom and often begins the relationship that will continue after they graduate and we become professional colleagues.
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