March 11, 2024 IDEC Recognizes Dean with National Teaching Excellence Award 

The Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) presented Assistant Professor Felicia Dean with the 2024 Teaching Excellence Award at the organization’s annual conference in New York City on Thursday, March 7. The award recognizes an individual or group’s success in the development and delivery of a specific educational experience that yields exceptional student learning. 

Felicia Dean

“I put a lot into thinking about the experience that students have in the classroom and to see the work that’s produced and that how that’s been recognized is huge,” said Dean. “It’s not your typical kind of interiors studio in the sense that of how it looks at textiles, how it looks at culture through objects and artifacts that the students are learning by literally through their hands. By understanding culture through making so it, it feels fantastic for that to be recognized as a form of learning that’s successful.”

Since joining the faculty in 2019, her courses, such as Woven Spatial Identity and The Politics of Seating, engage students in essential discussions and design investigations by layering culture, history, identity, craft with analog and digital fabrication methods. 

“It’s not just about them researching something in a book or learning from a video about a culture. They’re not necessarily going there, but they’re getting an aspect of immersion through the craft, weaving, or quilting. 

“The students have responded positively to taking a break from working on their computer and this kind of slower movement to produce something. It grounds them a bit, gives them time to breathe,” she said. 

Dean is the second faculty member from the School of Interior Architecture to receive the award at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Assistant Professor Rana Abudeyyah received the award in 2022, and Milagros Zingoni, director of the school, received the award in 2019, prior to joining the college. 

Dean’s creative scholarship examines hard and soft material configurations, identity, visual communication, and their correlated implications. In 2021, Dean’s research investigation of latent stone and fabric material identities as a method of reconciling space and place was supported by a grant from the the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. 

Her project, Perception of Misconceptions: Intersecting Stone and Fabric Material Identities, examines digital and hand fabrication processes, stone carving and Appalachian and Italian quilting techniques. The study includes a collaboration with the partnership she has developed with the Tennessee Marble Company and participation in the Digital Stone Project Residency in Italy. 

While at the IDEC conference, Dean will present her findings, which were applied through the fabrication of furniture designs. Last year, she was invited to disseminate her scholarship of teaching and learning at Toronto Metropolitan University by leading one of their BEHR sponsored workshops at their Design + Technology Lab. This year she has accepted invitations to teach workshops as part of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln’s initiatives for their Angelo Donghia Foundation award, and at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

“Felicia’s dedication to crafting immersive learning experiences for our students has always been unparalleled,” said Zingoni. “Her ability to intertwine culture, history, and craftsmanship within the classroom not only fosters exceptional learning but also inspires creativity and critical thinking. The recognition of her tireless efforts with the 2024 Teaching Excellence Award is a testament to her unwavering commitment to education and innovation in interior architecture. We couldn’t be prouder of her accomplishments and the impact she continues to make within our academic community.”