May 24, 2019 Abudayyeh Receives Inaugural Professorship

Profile Photo of Rana Abudayyeh

Asst. Professor of Interior Architecture Rana Abudayyeh has been named the recipient of the inaugural Robin Klehr Avia Professorship.

The professorship recognizes and awards faculty excellence and strengthens the faculty recruitment and retention program at the College of Architecture and Design.  It was established by alumna Robin Klehr Avia, regional managing principal for Gensler, in February 2019.

“I am grateful for and humbled by this honor,” said Abudayyeh.  “I will continue to work earnestly to advocate for the integral role design plays in shaping our lives, interactions and identities,” she said.

Abudayyeh joined the College of Architecture and Design in 2015 after teaching at the University of New Mexico and working in private practice on numerous federal, public and private projects, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.  She is a licensed architect in her native country, Jordan, for which she is currently researching architecture’s response to transient needs in refugee camps in the Middle East.  Other ongoing research includes developing “smart” houseplants and integrating them into interior spaces to act as health monitors for inhabitants.

Using her belief in the critical impact of architecture socially and experientially using a commitment to innovative design, Abudayyeh challenges her students to investigate and use computational design, digital fabrication and novel material logics.  She teaches first-year studios for both Interior Architecture and Architecture students as well as intermediate and advanced Interior Architecture studios, design development and construction detailing and digital representation and fabrication for Industrial Design.

“Professor Abudayyeh brings her impressive professional and pedagogical interests into her studios for the benefit of students,” said Scott Poole, dean of the College of Architecture and Design.  “She teaches her students to be inquisitive designers, and their work is consistently inspiring.  Her innovative research addresses responsiveness and intent in architecture and interior architecture, and her innate sense of curiosity opens new horizons for her students and pushes the boundaries of the design profession,” he said.

The professorship provides generous funding to support the research and academic initiatives of the recipient.  As the Robin Klehr Avia Professor of Interior Architecture, Abudayyeh will be able to focus more intently on leveraging theory, technology and interdisciplinary exchanges as integral aspects of her teaching and research.

“I intend to pursue new digital trajectories that are specific to interior spaces and geared toward rethinking how we approach the design and construction of interiors,” Abudayyeh said.  “Such research venues cater to understanding the performative aspects of interior settings, generating spaces that are responsive to their occupants and adaptable to their needs.”

“I’m thrilled that Professor Abudayyeh received the professorship,” said Klehr Avia.  “Her body of work, evidence of success in the studio, compassion for her students and groundbreaking research represent the best that faculty can be,” said Klehr Avia.

Robin Khler Avia
Robin Klehr Avia

In May, Klehr Avia hosted Abudayyeh and Interior Architecture student Brooklyn Poff for an informational visit to Gensler in New York.  Poff is the 2019-2020 recipient of the Robin Klehr Avia Scholarship, which was established by Klehr Avia in 2016 to support out-of-state Interior Architecture students.

“Being awarded the incredibly generous Robin Klehr Avia Scholarship has meant more than everything to me,” said Poff.  “I come from rather humble beginnings, and scholarships are the only way I can put myself through school.  I am overwhelmed with gratefulness.”

Brookly Poff, Robin Klehr Avia, Rana Abudayyeh at Gensler
Robin Klehr Avia (C) hosts student Brooklyn Poff (L) and Prof. Rana Abudayyeh (R) during a visit to Gensler in New York in May 2019.

After graduating from UT in 1976 with a degree in Interior Design, Klehr Avia joined the New York office of Gensler, the top-ranked architecture and design firm in the world.  At Gensler, she serves as the regional managing principal of the Northeast and Latin American regions and a member of the board of directors and executive committee.

In 2012, Klehr Avia was recognized with an Alumni Professional Achievement Award from the UT Alumni Association, and in 2016, UT bestowed upon Klehr Avia its 11th honorary degree, a Doctorate of Fine Arts.

Endowments are vital to the financial security of the University of Tennessee. Earnings from matured endowments are invested to fund key programs. The UT Chancellor’s Faculty Support Challenge allowed the college to begin benefitting from Klehr Avia’s endowment immediately and award the professorship without delay.


Read more about Prof. Abudayyeh’s research: