Faculty Spotlight: Cynthia Milota
Program: Interior Design
As a child, whether it was visiting model homes with her mom or creating “modern” Barbie houses under the dining room table, Cynthia Milota was curious about space.
"I was always interested in drawing and creating 3-D spaces," she said. "In high school, I enrolled in a drafting class and was hooked."
During her career, Milota has worked for several large architectural/design firms and now owns her own business, with clients ranging from a 10,000 square-foot suburban advertising agency to a multi-location regional bank.
"With my partners, I am personally involved in every aspect of these projects, which might be talking to a contractor about installing a floor in an existing building lobby or developing an online survey questionnaire or specifying a fabric," she said. "We do everything from research and benchmarking on industry trends to establishing the square footage of the project, to space planning, lighting, finishes, furniture, construction drawings and post occupancy assessments to see how the project is performing.
"My day job is part interior designer, part researcher and part workplace activist."
The desire to teach came when she and her partner began their first office design business.
"We had no entry-level staff, and I came to realize that I missed those interactions," she said. "When you have to explain it you have to know it. So within a year of establishing that first practice, I began teaching at College of DuPage.
"My teaching and my practice nourish one another. I am a better designer because of my teaching and I know that my students also benefit from my real-world perspective. Teaching makes interior design new for me. Expanding my classroom beyond the confines of campus, I have professionally grown and expanded my horizons."
Milota hopes her students take away the stories from her class.
"It doesn’t matter how good a designer’s ideas are if they cannot communicate to their client," she said. "So, in addition to developing students' visual communication skills, I particularly stress their narrative building. In the same way I enable students to turn their designs into a memorable narrative, I also use these strategies in the classroom to re-enforce content. I’m always delighted when meeting a former student and they come back with some story from class that has stuck with them.
"When I need inspiration, I come back to this Simon Sinet quote: 'It is not what we do, but why we do it.' ”
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