Internship Leads to Full-Time Design Job for Southeast Alumna


Internships often serve as a way for students to learn new skills and gain applicable experiences. For Southeast Missouri State alumna Kelli Sargent, an internship became a full-time design position.

The summer before her senior year, Kelli accepted an internship at Spellman Brady & Company, a design firm in Clayton, Missouri. Her outstanding work as an intern inspired the company to keep her on as a full-time designer after her graduation in May 2018.

“As an entry level designer, I have been going through a lot of training which has given me exposure to several phases of the design process,” said Sargent. “Spellman Brady & Company has been training me to help support the designers who specify office systems furniture and in artwork layout and design. During my training, I have gotten to play a small part in several projects which has given me a well-rounded perspective on the industry and design process.”

In her work as a designer, her focus has been working on senior living design projects. Sargent  has studied design concepts unique to senior living, such as the accessibility considerations of seat height, arm height, and overall scale of dining chairs. Her design work has led her to collaborate with contractors, installers and other designers and to travel to cities across the country.

“I am currently working on the renovation of a dining area in a senior living community in St. Louis, and with the assistance of my project manager, I am selecting new flooring, paint, millwork artwork and dining furniture,” she said. “I have also been able to help out on another senior living project located in Seattle, Washington. It’s interesting to see the different preferences in projects in various regions of the country.”

One of her favorite projects thus far has been assisting with an install at a high-end senior living community in Phoenix, Arizona.

“It gave me a better understanding about specifying product for seniors,” Sargent said. “I was able to test the ease of movement of dining chairs, which is an important consideration for seniors, and see how patterned fabrics upholster. I enjoyed watching the interaction among the contractor, the installer, designers, and the client as we worked together to complete the project.”

For Sargent, the best part of her new job is to be part of something that starts as a conversation and ends up as a finished project that affects people’s lives.

“It’s cool to see a once-imagined space become a reality with the finishes, furniture and art we selected,” she said. “I love that we have the resources and technology to design spaces to improve the well-being of others.”

Sargent credits her success to Southeast’s interior design program, which is accredited by the Council of Interior Design Association, the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Because of this accreditation and Southeast faculty, Sargent knew she would receive a valuable education at Southeast.

Sargent advises future graduates not to be apprehensive about starting off small.

“By networking, I was offered an internship, which turned into a full-time position after I graduated.” she said,

Sargent recently passed the Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer exam and is looking forward to growing in her career at Spellman Brady & Company.

“SBC is a very organized and goal-oriented company. They recognize hard work and celebrate accomplishments together. They support the growth of their employees and strive to create new opportunities for their employees,” she said.