Student Spotlight: Sara Venecek
Major: Interior Design
Sara Venecek initially earned her bachelor’s degree in art but never made a living at it, instead working as an administrative assistant.
“I was looking for a career that allowed me to be creative, and I always loved design,” she said. “I started at another college and liked their program but not the tuition. And since I already have a bachelor’s degree, I didn’t need to earn a second one.”
Venecek visited College of DuPage and was impressed by the new facilities and labs.
“The strength of the Interior Design program is its technical focus,” she said. “We learn more in two years than some students learn at four-year schools.”
In 2016, Venecek and fellow student Allison Schutz took first place during a design charrette sponsored by the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. Students and emerging professionals from across the state participated in the one-day event at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, and Venecek and Schutz earned first place in the Contract Division. The team’s project was to design a high-end guest suite for an actual hotel – the Park Hyatt Chicago. They were told about the client’s design aesthetic and given a budget, while photos of the hotel provided inspiration.
“We came up with a menswear concept,” Venecek said. “We incorporated pinstripes and used tweeds and leathers for fabrics, along with Navys and greys with a red accent for colors. We were literally running through the Merchandise Mart because we had one hour to collect samples and pricing.”
Also in 2016, Venecek earned The Michelle Roberts Student Award during the Illinois Chapter of the International Interior Design Association’s fourth annual professional design competition, the Recognizing Exemplary Design (RED) Awards. The event attracted 81 submissions from more than 40 Illinois-based design firms and designers, with entries for the Michelle Roberts Student Award coming from design schools across the state.
Venecek also received an award of $2,000 for her entry entitled “Localese,” which consisted of a six-page slideshow of images representing her design.
“Just as important as receiving the RED Award was being honored in front of so many design professionals, my future peers,” she said.
Venecek earned her Associate in Applied Science degree and graduated with highest honors. Her goal was a career in the commercial sector and specifically in hospitality, and she now works at Studio K under the direction of Karen Herold, who is well-known in the design world. Studio K’s past clients include high-end restaurants like Girl and the Goat, Maple & Ash, and Monteverde.
Venecek knows College of DuPage provided her with a strong foundation that is helping her reach her goals.
“I am a big advocate for community colleges in general,” she said. “I went to a community college straight out of high school on my way to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and I felt it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made. I was able to complete all of my general education requirements at a fraction of what I would have paid at the four-year college I later attended, but I graduated with the same bachelor’s degree. So I had no hesitation in considering COD when I decided to make a career change and go back to school.
“COD’s Interior Design program prepares you to be successful in the real world of interior design. The instructors are engaged and incredibly supportive, as are the students. It feels like a family. I would like to thank one of my instructors, Shelly Mocchi, because my Localese project was an assignment given in her class. Shelly gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do, then pushed me to do my best work. Her expertise was so valuable to me in executing this project.”
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