Taneshia W. Albert has changed perspectives all her life.
She convinced her family that interior design was a better career choice for her than being a lawyer. She persuaded contractors and architects to consider her expertise, and together they remodeled a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. After consulting for a black-owned architectural firm in St. Louis, she came up with the idea of entering academia and encouraging young people to reflect their power and worth in their designs.
“For me, teaching is an extension of practice,” said Albert, assistant professor of interior design at Auburn College of the Humanities. “Good design helps you be more of who you are, and I want to make our students more capable than they think. That’s my goal.
“These are my little social justice warriors, and they are going to come out and make our world a better place.”
The American Society of Interior Designers, or ASID, took note of Albert’s career and named him among the recipients of the Ones to Watch 2021 program, an honor bestowed on just 20 interior design professionals. She is one of only two academics on the list and one of eight laureates to be recognized as Ones to Watch Scholar.
Albert, who came to Auburn in 2019, called it an incredible honor and “crazy” to be recognized by ASID and “even crazier” to be on its list of scholars. This distinction means that she is participating in a two-year leadership development training program.
According to ASID, academics first learn to leverage their unique perspectives and backgrounds to excel in their careers, then move on to thought leaders and subject matter experts creating learning content. and serving as mentors to the next class of ASID Ones to Watch Scholars.
Albert is the first person in Auburn to achieve recognition since ASID launched the program in 2017.
“It’s a good thing for them to do it, but I don’t see myself as a leader. What about academia? What? It can’t be, ”said a positively skeptical Albert.
But then, grateful Albert realized that the Ones to Watch program is meant to recognize industry professionals who, as ASID puts it, “represent authenticity, innovation, leadership, inclusion and dedication to the profession. The company prioritizes participants whose backgrounds are currently under-represented in leadership positions within the interior design industry, including women, members of ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ and people with disabilities. .
“I’m happy to see a professional design organization telling others to open their eyes and see us,” Albert said. “It’s great for ASID to recognize us and to elevate us.
“This is what Pam [Ulrich] and Auburn’s interior design faculty are doing it for me now.
Albert gives a lot of credit to her new colleagues, most of whom she has only known for two years, one of whom was in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, she did know one person well. Lindsay Tan, Associate Professor W. Allen and Martha Reimer Reed, met Albert while they were both in the same master’s program at Florida State University.
The couple collaborated on research projects for some time, including their recent work on the slave house on Goree Island, which was published in the “Journal of Interior Design”.
Albert had met some teachers at a conference not so long ago. Although she remembers feeling instant chemistry with them, she didn’t consider joining their team.
However, after a lot of prompting from Tan, Albert applied. When interviewing Ulrich, head of the Department of Consumer Sciences and Design at the Faculty of Humanities, she told him she shouldn’t hire him.
Albert admitted to being a difficult employee, difficult to manage because she will push her students and herself.
“I cannot sit still. My eight hours a day must count for something, ”she said. “I work and think at a different pace, and I won’t take no for an answer. Some may find it difficult to manage.
It turns out that kind of resolve is a trait that Albert was born with and that Auburn is happy to have.
Albert grew up in California after his family left the southern region as part of the Great Black Migration. At seven, she was sure she would become a lawyer. She said she was familiar with the U.S. Constitution and legal lingo, unlike the rest of her peers, as she spent a lot of time after school at the Oak Park area law school library in Sacramento.
With the approval of the family, Albert worked hard at school and decided to go to Dillard University in New Orleans. She studied international business, Spanish, public policy and finance.
In her first year, Albert participated in a scholarship program with the Institute for International Public Policy, which is part of the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation, so that she could work as an international corporate lawyer, helping Spanish-speaking countries to get out of debt. .
The program aims to address the recruitment of minorities and diversity in global affairs.
Between his time at Clark Atlantic University and the University of Maryland, Albert had a revelation.
“It really got me thinking about politics, how it relates to everything, even design,” she said. “It changed my life”
When Albert studied abroad in Spain, she first recognized the connection between architecture and the self, and how design could connect with a community. This convinced her to pursue interior design.
Albert graduated from Dillard as planned in 2005 – becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college – but his future would no longer involve the law.
She joked that her decision wasn’t exactly right for the family. They considered it foolish to give up a promising legal career “to puff up pillows for the rest of your life,” she said.
Albert would eventually prove them wrong, but with a college degree and no job, she wasn’t sure how to begin this new journey.
Fortunately, she found a program at Florida State that has helped people without a bachelor’s degree in interior design gain a graduate degree in the discipline. The program no longer exists, but it helped Albert obtain a Masters of Fine Arts in Interior Design.
By the time she finished, Albert was married and had a child. Another graduate and unemployed, she stayed at FSU and volunteered without pay, helping the rental department convert old drawings into computer-aided design. It would also help the design and construction area of the facilities department.
Eventually, because of the quality of the work she did, they created a paid contract position for her. The experience led to a full-time interior design position at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC
Albert then returned to New Orleans as an interior designer at Ochsner Health Systems, working on their biggest project at the time – moving their womens and infant wards to the Ochsner Baptist Hospital, which was still Significantly damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
She worked with hospital staff, construction workers and local architects to establish a facility that met the diverse needs of staff, patients and visitors. They even created an alternative birth unit at the Orleans Parish Hospital.
Albert said she learned everything in the hospital – from anesthesia and surgical units to where bodies and supplies are stored – to be the best designer she can be.
“A construction document is essential, but are the plans working? Half a second in a space like this can be the difference between life or death, ”she said.
“I was hired to see it all.
Albert was ready to use the new birthing unit on her own, but about a month and a half before the birth of her second child, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. A company had recruited her to be the design director.
This decision lasted about 18 months, when a former FSU professor and mentor encouraged Albert to apply for a teaching position at Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal. Upon taking on the new role, she joined WA Architects Inc. in St. Louis as a consultant.
Albert worked for the black-owned business until the Assistant Professor position began and beyond. She said the experience opened her eyes to the struggles of black architects and designers more than any experience she had.
“I hadn’t seen a lot of black architects or designers before, not even at school,” she recalls. “It was really amazing working in WA and seeing others like me.”
WA director Wade Price became an oblivious mentor, encouraging Albert to explore St. Louis design and architecture and learn what had been done by those who came before him.
“It was all for me to learn from him,” she said. “You don’t think of yourself in design until someone tells you to think about yourself, your cultural background, and how that pushes your design perspective. You also realize how lonely you are until you are no longer the only one.
In the classroom
Albert may have felt a bit out of place in teaching – she had some experience as a graduate teaching assistant – but she relied on her personal and professional experience to inspire her students to be competent and capable in their work.
“My job as an educator is not to shove things down their throats, but to help them build their toolbox,” she said.
Albert had moved to St. Louis several months before Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer near Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The incident was still in her head when she started teaching in 2016.
“I encouraged my students to open their eyes and see the world around them,” she said.
Albert was arrested again when confronted with the death of his mother in 2016 and of her stepmother two years later. She coped with remembering all the “strong black women” who supported her in her life and used their wisdom to inspire others.
Albert realized that in addition to many strong black women, there were certain people throughout her career whose mentorship shaped her to be the woman she is today. As part of the Ones to Watch program, Albert will be a mentee and mentor.
“I believe in mentoring,” she said. “Right now, Veena [Chattaraman] is my mentor. She’s all I want to be when I grow up.
Chattaraman is a colleague and professor in the Clothing Merchandising, Design and Production Management program of the Department of Consumer Sciences and Design.
“It shapes my career, makes me stronger and stronger in academia,” Albert said. “If I can do for someone else what she did for me, then I can sleep well at night.”