“I have so much pride in our students!” exclaims Jonsara Ruth, director of Parsons' new MFA Interior Design program. “They are so diligent and committed, and they’re struggling with some very big questions.” But it’s not just the students that are tackling a challenge. When creating the program, Ruth and her peers embarked on an exciting and ambitious journey. The goal of the MFA is, according to Ruth, “to broaden the definition of interior design and explore what the future holds for the profession and discipline.” What does that exploration look like in the classroom? One fundamental issue that Ruth and her students ponder is the environmental sustainability of interiors. “The impact of interior environments on human health and our responsibility to the planet are something that the interior design discipline needs to fully embrace,” says Ruth, who stresses the little-known fact that indoor pollutants—from circulating air systems and material emissions—are more harmful to humans than toxins in outdoor air.
“When starting a new program, one has an opportunity to make these ideas a fundamental part of the education rather than ones that are applied later,” she explains. “We can’t just continue established patterns of human consumption; we have to start taking a position. Let’s be very responsible about what we use in our interiors and use fewer products that just become landfill waste.” Ruth’s own designs set a good example. She creates a line of children’s furniture, called Q Collection, that is made of eco-friendly, fully biodegradable materials. Says Ruth, “My passion and experience as a designer are the thread that ties my work to this program.”