Farhath Ahmed is a third-year student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. She is studying interior design at the Wilson School of Design and recently won first place and $5,000 in the IA Interior Architects Diversity in Design scholarship.
This scholarship was presented by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and was awarded after Ahmed submitted an essay on the creation of diversity in the design industry.
The IIDA presents various memberships to people, from students, educators, architects and designers. Ahmed is a student member and she says she was interested in applying for the scholarship because the requirements asked for actionable steps the interior design industry needed to take to ensure diversity. Ahmed says she was intrigued by the scholarship, so she decided to apply and began writing the essay.
“Diversity and design is also about how we can include people. Designers who are actually doing all the work, what about when we’re entering the industry,” she says.
“I was chipping away at it slowly, then I finished it and I’m so glad I did because I had things that I wanted to say. I’m so glad I got this opportunity to say what I think should be some changes the firm [and] industry can take to have a more inclusive workplace,” she says.
Ahmed says working in the interior design field is about making change, and people in the field are increasingly trying to design spaces in a functional and holistic way while making sure to add the right aesthetics for the people who will be using the space.
Ahmed also shared some of her favourite excerpts from her essay:
“If we want minority students to aspire and be successful in the field, they need to see someone who represents them in senior roles in firms, someone they can look up to and be inspired by their success.”
“If students don’t see diversity in the future workplace and see that capable, senior and talented folks never make it to the top, they aren’t going to be as motivated to join an industry that doesn’t enable minority growth to the top levels.”
When did you join the KPU community, and why?
I joined the interior design program at KPU in 2019. I chose KPU because I loved the cohort program that they had. I like the whole idea of working together and supporting one another versus being a student in a huge class, where you don’t know everybody on such a personal level. And it’s more competitive, versus being team-based, and working and supporting one another.
That was a big draw for me to come here, with the class sizes, as well as the program structure itself. I’m glad because towards the end of my first year, we went into the pandemic and had a whole year of online learning for our second year. Being in that close cohort program was valuable to us because we had those bonds, we had those relationships, and we all supported one another through the online learning experience and the pandemic.
I feel that if you’re in a different program, or you don’t have all those connections, it would have been even harder. So that’s an example of the strength of the programs.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
Being in the close cohort in the program. We all experience the day in a similar way. We all have a break together and then we always have a Tim Hortons coffee run. We’ll have a nice break, and everybody chitchats and has laughs together.
I think just that everyday experience is really valuable and something that I enjoy. I think that’s a lot of fun.
What is something you’d like to say to people new to the community?
KPU is an excellent place where you can make bonds with not only your peers and classmates, but also your instructors. I find that the instructors are very passionate about what they do in our program. They go above and beyond accommodating students and being flexible, but they’re also really good teachers.
That’s a really big thing that I would say to anybody new to the KPU community, is to make the connection, and it’s really easy to. So, that’s a good thing that I think is different for our school.
What are you working on right now?
We just finished our third year in the program and now we have a break until we start our fourth year, but I’m working on building my portfolio for interior design. I’m going to be looking for summer internships as well.
What is something you would like people to know about you?
I want people to know that I am a mature student and I returned to school after a very long time. I was on a different career path before I decided to pursue interior design. I feel that people in a similar position in their life should not be scared of going back to school, because it can be done — like having a family, having another job and balancing things.
You shouldn’t be scared and you should always follow your passion, because then it just makes everything more fun and easier to go through.