Southeast Student Following Passion for Career as Senior Living Space Designer


Soon-to-be Southeast Missouri State University graduate Kelli Sargent may count herself a Millennial, but her heart is set on providing comfy and efficient living spaces for aging Baby Boomers.

Her interest in designing senior living spaces drew her to a recent internship opportunity with Spellman Brady & Company (SBC), a design firm in Clayton, Missouri. The company specializes in senior living, healthcare and higher education design.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to work for SBC is because I am interested in senior living design,” said the senior interior design major from Ironton, Missouri. “The need for senior living facilities is increasing as the Baby Boomer population is getting older, and their generation deserves well-designed spaces that improve their quality of life.”

Her internship primary responsibilities included updating and organizing a finish library, which stores samples designers pull during the schematic and development phase of a project. She met with sales representatives, discussed new product and stocked the library with the newest finishes. She also assisted designers in fabric and paint selection, and assembled presentation boards for clients.

“I learned how to interact with design professionals and sales representatives, and in the process, I learned some of the design jargon,” she said. “I also gained knowledge of different product in the industry.

“I most enjoyed watching the design process. From showing a potential client around the office to putting together the finished project manuals, I observed how the designers complete large-scale projects,” Sargent said.

She also enjoyed the environment of the family-owned SBC, that held contests for their employees, such as a FitBit Step Challenge, and celebrated the personal and professional accomplishments of their staff.

“The SBC work environment encourages community among the employees, and I couldn’t have asked for a better internship experience,” she said.

Sargent said she landed the SBC internship after being hired as a design assistant for Midamerica Hotels Corp. in Cape Girardeau after completing her first year of study at Southeast.  At that time, Midamerica began a new project requiring extra design work.

“I am certain that experience allowed me to get the internship at Spellman Brady & Company,” she said.

She credits Southeast’s dedicated interior design instructors for the knowledge she has gained as she prepares to enter the workforce.

“Because of their commitment, Southeast’s program was accredited by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation,” a process she says she was given the opportunity to participate in as a student. “The program also is National Kitchen and Bath Association affiliated. Design firms seek graduates from programs with these accreditations.”

Reflecting on her SBC scholarship, Sargent said the experience allowed her to view her education in the context of an actual work environment. Now just eight weeks from completing her college degree, Sargent said she is career-ready and prepared to enter the interior design world.

“Interning at SBC confirmed my interest in designing for senior living. The experience also confirmed that I chose the right career path,” Sargent said. “Connecting with the designers and the sales representatives gave me a solid start on building a network.”