U of I sophomore achieves continued success at Alaskan interior design firm
Following the end of her freshman year, Elisabeth Bowker began a paid summer internship at SALT, an all-woman interior design firm that provides comprehensive design services for corporate, healthcare, education, retail, and hospitality projects in Anchorage, Alaska. Now a sophomore, Bowker applies the hands-on experience gained at her summer internship in the University of Idaho’s Interior Architecture program and has been able to reflect on her journey thus far.
Searching for internship advice and guidance during her freshman year led Bowker to Jen Smith’s office at Career Services. During these meetings, Bowker was advised to tailor her resume specifically to the design industry, and to create a strong portfolio to present to firms.
“Design fields are very portfolio driven. When your work is visual based, you need to demonstrate visually what you’re capable of,” Smith said. “Which is why it was so impressive that Elisabeth was able to make one as a first year student.”
For Bowker, the advice and help that Smith provided during their one-hour meetings proved instrumental to obtain an internship, and by the time Bowker sat down to interview with SALT she was able to showcase the work she accomplished and experience she gained during her first year at the U of I.
Bowker acknowledged that applying for internships can be intimidating as a first-year student, but she reminded herself to be confident in her abilities. “You’re not design students, you are designers,” Bowker said she was told in one of her design courses. “You’re not aspiring to be designers, you are a designer now.”
Resilient in her pursuit for an internship, Bowker attained her position at SALT based not only on a well-constructed resume and portfolio, but also her dedication to her studies and active involvement at the U of I.
Holding a passion for design work is what initially drew Bowker to a degree in Interior Architecture. Bowker says one of the aspects she loves about the program are its courses. Designed to be intentionally rigorous, these courses equip students with invaluable tools and are taught how to work in a real-world setting.
Spending all day in a studio behind a drawing board isn’t something uncommon for design students like Bowker. In her field, Bowker says that attention to detail and thoroughness are required in order to produce the best work in her courses.
“They make the design courses difficult, which I really appreciate, because I don’t like when people think that interior design is just about fur pillows, and the right color of paint,” Bowker said. “It’s a lot more. We have to memorize fire codes, lighting plans, analyze proper construction, it’s a lot of information.”
Bowker’s work ethic and passion are shown not only in her classes, but also in her involvement on campus through Interiors UI, the U of I Honors Program, and Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. Bowker has also taken part in professional interior design events, including the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) REVEAL Product Expo in Spokane, WA. Bowker does all this while working 15 hours a week in Moscow and manages to maintain a 4.0 GPA.
One of Bowker’s past professors, Miranda Anderson, an associate clinical professor through the College of Art and Architecture, said of Bowker, “In my experience, individuals that are self-motivated and can effectively work alone, but also thrive in the collaborative environments of group work, often make the best students and employees. Elisabeth personifies this description. She has consistently excelled on individual projects as well as been a successful contributing member of group efforts and has really established herself as a leader amongst her peers.”
Because of Bowker’s successful academics and self-drive, she has received scholarships from the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), Gaines and Steel, American Society of Interior Designers Alaska Chapter, ASUI Leadership, Interior Design Program, and the U of I Honors Program.
Furthermore, Bowker will return to SALT in the summer of 2019 for her second internship in as many years. In the future, Bowker hopes to combine her love of design with her passion to help others post-graduation.
“I am not interested in purchasing $2,000 throw pillows for people’s couches,” Bowker said. Instead, Bowker would like to apply her skills toward a more humanitarian focus, such as doing design work to build orphanages, working with lower income housing, or collaborating with hospital construction. Bowker also notes how wildfires are common in Alaska, so she may narrow her focus to the reconstruction of homes after natural disasters.
“That’s one thing I love about design,” Bowker said. “There are so many options and so many things to go into and that makes me really excited.”