Claudia Wilburn, associate professor of art and design/studio art program director at Brenau, explains some of the work being done by Brenau students to Li Wing, Zhan Xeujun and Wang Lin, faculty members at the Anhui Academy of Fine Arts, from back to front, as Yu "Carol" Lei, a visiting professor from Anhui Normal University, center, translates. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau Adds Environmental Design Program for National and International Students

May 1, 2017
Kristen Bowman

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges recently approved an undergraduate degree in environmental design at Brenau University. Prospective students can now apply for classes that will begin in August at

The accreditation organization gave quick approval to the program because Brenau already offers approved bachelors, masters and Master of Fine Arts degrees in interior design, which comprise much of the same content and use the same faculty and resources as the environmental design program. The difference is all of the interior design studies have additional accreditation from the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, which develops professional standards for interior design education at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. The new degree program is designed for students who do not need CIDA accreditation.

Although the environmental design program will use existing courses, it also will included some new courses developed and taught by current faculty, including a new track in architectural studies.

Brenau developed the Bachelor of Science in environmental design with international students in mind. Brenau has collaborative programs of study for students from Anhui Normal University in China. The 2+2 programs enable students to spend two years studying at Anhui Normal University and then complete the final two years of their undergraduate studies at Brenau. With agreements for early childhood education, English and nursing majors already in place, Brenau President Ed Schrader and ANU President Zhu Jiacon – exploring possibilities for more collaborative programs – came up with the idea for the environmental design degree.

“The Anhui faculty and students wanted a more comprehensive residential design program with a touch of interior landscaping and a focus on the environment,” said Interior Design Department Chair Lynn Jones, who traveled to China last year to begin work on developing the program. “So they requested a program with some commercial design, but also with a residential design focus that included an emphasis on interior design and landscaping, ecology and green design. I think we’ve created just the program they were looking for.”

Although any student can enroll in the environmental design major now, the first cohort of ANU students is scheduled to arrive in Gainesville for the fall 2019 term. Faculty from China visited Brenau’s Gainesville campus in April and viewed design classes taught by Jones and Claudia Wilburn, the studio art program director.

“The purpose of their visit was relationship building,” said Jones. “They will teach the freshmen and sophomores in China, and we will teach the students as juniors and seniors here, so the faculty were here to understand how we teach our classes. I also wanted to learn what they’re accustomed to in the classroom. We want to be confident that what they teach students will assist and prepare them for their junior and senior years in the United States.”

The visiting instructors observed the classrooms, design tools and projects created by current interior design majors. In Jones’ commercial studio class, they viewed one student’s design for a Parisian restaurant, including the seating area’s furniture, flooring, lighting, finishes and more.

The environmental design program will include both residential and commercial projects with less focus on corporate design than that featured in Brenau’s existing interior design program. The new program will be available on both the Gainesville and North Atlanta/Norcross campuses. For more information, go to