Daily Egyptian

What’s NEXT for Sara Diesburg?

By Jessica Brown | @BrownJessicaJ, Daily Egyptian

An SIU student was named one of the top-five finalists for a national interior design competition, which included about 800 college students.

Sara Diesburg, a senior studying interior design from Paxton, was named a finalist for the competition, called NEXT, on Dec. 11.

The contest is sponsored by Steelcase Education—an organization that helps schools create new learning environments that cater to students’ and educators’ needs.


Diesburg had to create interesting design aspects of a fictitious college campus.

“For the project we had to design four different classrooms, a faculty lounge and a cafe area,” she said.

This project explores how spaces can better support learning and improve student outcomes. Most education spaces are inadequate learning environments, according to Steelcase’s website.

NEXT was Diesburg’s first time participating in a design competition.

“My professor for interior design studio pointed us towards it,” she said. “Our whole studio did the projects together, then the professor picked two of us to enter into the competition.”

Her class then had about a month and a half to complete its designs.

“It was an opportunity to take on a challenge that wasn’t set up by the professors,” Diesburg said. “It was interesting to see what professional people out in the real world can put together for students, and to understand what they want to see.”

The fictitious college the competitors designed for was set in Norfolk, Va. Norfolk is home to a major U.S. Naval base and because of this, her designs were inspired by colors and symbolism from the Navy.

She brought her design to life by using a 3D computer generated modeling program.

As a top-five finalist, Diesburg flew to Grand Rapids, Mich., on Jan. 11 where Steelcase’s headquarters is located, and stayed in a hotel for three days with the other finalists. During that time, she presented her designs to a panel of five judges and others who were sponsoring the project.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” Diesburg said. “I was presenting in front of all of these professional people who were potential employers.”

Diesburg was not chosen as the winner but will receive a free desk chair from Steelcase for being a finalist.

The winner of the competition, Emma Montgomery from Kansas State University, was awarded $1,000 and a $1,000 contribution will be made to her school’s design program or a charity of her choice.

Though she did not win, Diesburg said her experience was positive.

“It was really neat to be with all the people up in Grand Rapids, because I met a lot of professionals,” Diesburg said. “Not only in the design field, but also product designers, researchers… Steelcase is a very research-oriented company, so it’s really interesting.”

Diesburg said NEXT helped widen her perspective on what she would like to do with her degree.

“I really want to go into hospitality design, but after experiencing the educational side of design, it’s interesting to me, too,” she said.

Diesburg said she would also consider designing restoration projects of old homes and is set to graduate in May.

Jessica Brown can be reached at [email protected]


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