Michelle L. Kirkpatrick

Interior Design

Interior Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Michelle L. Kirkpatrick

Work hard for what you want, whether it's a grade or a job. Michelle L. Kirkpatrick , Interior Design Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I always enjoyed art and design but I never really thought about a creative career until high school. I loved sketching, painting, and color, but felt I was missing something. I enrolled in a computer-aided drafting course, and soon learned I was the only female to ever take the course. It not only opened my eyes to computer-aided drafting and design, but gave me the confidence and courage to pursue a career that combined my technical skills and creative interests.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I share insights and samples of work from my own career. I explain what I learned from each project and every experience. I want students to know that, even as professionals, we never stop learning. As we go through the design process, I discuss what we’re doing—and why—to connect each task to a real-world client scenario.

How would you describe your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I take a genuine interest in my students, and motivate them to learn and grow in a non-threatening, welcoming classroom community. My studio classes are very much a collaborative effort where we all encourage alternative viewpoints and opinions during group critiques. I challenge students to take their work to the next level, in part by linking assignments to the demands of the real world.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?

Students can become absorbed in their own thoughts and ideas; seeking insights from others can open their minds to new perspectives. Collaboration is important in any career path—whether commercial, residential, hospitality, or institutional design, every niche in the interior design field requires teamwork.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Work hard for you want, whether it’s a grade or a job. Sometimes that means sacrificing and pushing yourself to new limits.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

If you don’t do what it takes to succeed in this competitive industry, someone else will.

Anything else you’d like to share?

It’s very rewarding when one of my students thanks me for pushing them beyond what they thought they were capable of doing.