Fostering Community Through Interior Design – Helina Biru

When Helina Biru, ’18, arrived on the Meredith College campus in 2014 from Ethiopia, she couldn’t anticipate just how much she would achieve in four years.

“When I came to Meredith, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in an academically challenging environment but I was not prepared for the level of strength development Meredith invests in its students,” said Helina.

The biggest challenge Helina faced was integrating her identity with American culture. “I needed to learn more about myself and my roots. I also learned that as much as I held on to my values from my upbringing, I immersed myself in a culture very different from mine at Meredith.”

Helina, an interior design major with a minor in graphic design, graduated Cum Laude in May 2018 as an Honors Scholar.

She held several other titles on campus, but spoke passionately of her role as president of the Meredith International Association (MIA). “MIA offered me a platform where I could exercise leadership to promote the welfare of students. I was an advocate for international students … I was mainly determined to foster an environment where international students felt welcomed and supported.”

At the 2018 Celebrating Student Achievement (CSA) Day, she was awarded the Student Leader of the Year, the MIA Outstanding Leadership Award, and Student Organization of the Year for her work in MIA.

She credits the diverse array of students, professors, and staff she’s come to know for her success and for encouraging her love of learning. “My professors, especially Dr. [Martha] Burpitt, contributed to my strength and success. She prepared me for the professional world and constantly followed up with me about internships and opportunities.”

As an intern for the Copy Center and technology services, Helina learned a number of skills beneficial to her career development.

She sought to use the skills and resources she gained to influence her community in her hometown of Addis Ababa. In the summer of 2017, Helina received the Shepard K. Halsch Academic Enrichment Fund to conduct undergraduate summer research on the physical accessibility of public environments and buildings for persons with mobility disabilities.

“Using my interior design skills and my passion to solve accessibility issues, I worked on recommendations to create inclusive and accommodating spaces for everyone,” said Helina.

Helina presented her findings at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium, Meredith’s Taste of Research, and CSA Day.

“Choosing to attend Meredith was easy,” said Helina. “Not only does Meredith embody women’s excellence, but it offered a strong accredited interior design program I was passionate to join. It was the right place for me to take a leap of faith in achieving my dream of becoming a strong woman with a successful career.”

By Nikkia Wertz, ’19

Learn more about Meredith’s interior design program

Explore Meredith’s undergraduate research program