Q&A with Sharran Parkinson

Sharran Parkinson, a chair and professor of VCU’s department of interior design, was recently honored as one of the 30 most admired educators for 2013 by DesignIntelligence, a journal published by the Design Futures Council with research and advice for designers and architects.

Parkinson earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic art from Stephens College, her master’s degree in interior design from Florida State University and holds a doctorate in comparative arts from Ohio University. Parkinson has been teaching interior design at the university level for over 20 years. The list of most admired educators was selected by professionals, academics and students.

Parkinson talked about her career and newest honor via email:

What does it mean to you to be voted one of the most admired educators by DesignIntelligence?

Each year, the council honors excellence in education and education administration by naming 30 exemplary professionals in the fields of architecture, industrial design, interior design and landscape architecture. Thousands of design professionals, deans, department heads and students from across the United States and Canada give input into the selection. With this in mind, it is a great honor to be recognized.

Why do you think you were awarded this honor?

I was selected because I lead one of the strongest interior design departments in the country. And I have forged relationships with the national and international design associations to calibrate programs in ways that students will have marketable skills upon graduation.

What inspired you to start in the interior design world?

My passion for all of the arts, coupled with the desire to create well-designed, beautiful and useful interiors where people can thrive. Design thinking is problem-solving, developing concept and deriving solutions.

What advice do you have for VCU interior design students?

I have been advising students for many years and not just interior design students. I stress the importance of critical thinking, of learning to learn, of the synthesis of multiple subjects and general education, of understanding other cultures and of collaborative teamwork with other students and professionals as the most important skills that they must possess upon graduation. I always urge students to be prepared to continually research their ideas and the assignments before the creation process. Be prepared and be intelligent.

What is your favorite thing about VCU?

I enjoy working at an urban campus that prizes diversity. The faculty and administration at VCUarts are very ambitious and we expect the best from each other and our students.

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