Hannah Cole’s passion for interior design provided the impetus for an unexpected, life-changing experience this summer as an intern with global architectural firm Gensler in New York City.
Cole, a University of Southern Mississippi senior from Belleville, Ill., spent 10 weeks (June 1-August 5) working with Gensler’s Digital Design Team. The company, which boasts more than 2,700 clients worldwide, occupies three floors of famed Rockefeller Center in New York. Gensler operates 46 offices in 16 different countries.
“This experience has been a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime chance, for sure, especially since this was not the field that I am currently studying,” said Cole. “I came into the internship not really knowing how this team functioned at all, or even how it was supposed to function. I got to watch how their relationships with other departments in the office worked, how they worked together as a team, using others’ strengths to give back the best quality product possible.”
Cole’s first time living and working in the Big Apple might not have happened without the keen eye of Southern Miss Associate Professor and Interior Design Program Coordinator Claire Hamilton.
“She knew of my interest and skills in the digital aspect of interior design and suggested I apply, even though there were only two-and-a-half weeks left before the application deadline,” said Cole.
Gensler officials were obviously impressed with Cole’s portfolio, which came as no surprise to her mentor Hamilton.
“Hannah’s position with the Digital Design Team was nationally competitive and reflects highly on her passion and commitment to excellence,” said Hamilton. “Having interned with the No. 1 architectural firm in the country, there is no limit to where she can go with her career. We are looking forward to having her return this fall to show off her new skill-sets that she has learned in digital technology.”
Hamilton has witnessed first-hand her star student’s desire to learn and excel – noting Cole’s ardent interest in the technology aspect of interior design. In fact, Cole once had so many software programs working simultaneously on her laptop that she blew its circuitry.
“I recall during Hannah’s first year in the program that she literally overworked her laptop to the point it burst into flames while in her dorm room causing an evacuation and visit from the fire department,” said Hamilton.
Cole stayed in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of New York as part of program called NYCInterns that leases out rooms in apartment buildings across the city to the influx of summer interns. Her first New York experience produced a wide range of emotions as she navigated the city’s diverse and overwhelming landscape.
“It’s very loud, dirty but dazzling, extremely crowded and very fast paced, but you get used to it,” said Cole. “It’s actually much greener than I expected it to be, which was a pleasant surprise. Ironically, I was more comfortable out at night – it was a little more relaxing for me, kind of hazy and magical.”
Cole is the daughter of Southern Miss alums Dr. Robert Cole and Julia Cole. Her father is an Associate Professor of Education and Director of Teacher Education in the School of Education at St. Louis University. Her mother works an Information Systems project manager at the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District.
Cole’s short-term goals include graduation, getting her own place, and obtaining a good job – perhaps even back in New York City.
“If I could return to Gensler, that would be amazing, in pretty much any location,” said Cole. “If not, there are plenty of other firms developing teams like the one I’ve been on, or looking to, and I would really like to be a part of that as well.”