Lilianna Cooper never thought that the time she spent rearranging and updating her room as a child might one day lead her to recognize a true passion— let alone a pathway to a career. But fast forward to the spring of 2022, and Cooper is being honored as an Academic Excellence Award recipient, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Dunwoody College.
Before making the decision to attend Dunwoody, Cooper was not entirely sure what her path was going to look like after high school. She knew the more traditional fields like medical, law, and business were not for her, but she was curious to know what other options might be out there for her.
After a close friend who was attending Dunwoody spoke highly of the College, Cooper decided to visit an open house. She ultimately found herself applying for the Interior Design program and never looked back.
“I loved how organized and career-focused Dunwoody was, along with the hands-on learning environment and small class sizes,” she said. “I chose Interior Design because it didn’t sound like a typical career you hear about all the time. Until my time at Dunwoody I didn’t realize how much of a passion I had for interior spaces, architecture, and its history and how it is all involved in our everyday lives.”
And it wasn’t just what she learned from the courses during the last four years that shaped her overall education.
“The professional relationships and friendships I have created with my classmates and instructors have played a huge role in my time here,” Cooper said. “In my cohort, ages range from 19-40, which allowed for variety of perspectives, lifestyles, and skill level. Having this same group of classmates throughout my educational experience at Dunwoody gave me the opportunity to not just learn about Interior Design, but more about life and all its parts.”
Cooper’s commitment to her work, the program, and the profession stood out to her instructors.
“Lily has grown so much in the time she has been a student at Dunwoody, consistently creating work that is thoughtful, strong, and inventive,” said Interior Design Associate Professor Lisa Loudon. “She served as the vice president on our IDSS board where she organized and presided over meetings and events and has proven to be an excellent student, strong leader, and overall positive influence in our program. Her fellow students enjoy her positivity in the classroom and look to her for support and advice.”
When Cooper learned that she had been chosen to receive the Academic Excellence Award from the School of Design, she was truly surprised. At the same time, she was pleased that all her hard work from the last four years paid off.
“Dunwoody has been a place where I was taught to bring my ideas to life,” Cooper said. “Knowing that I have the perseverance and endurance to accomplish something difficult gives me hope that I can strive to reach for higher and more challenging goals in my future.”
And Cooper is already off to a great start, gaining experience working for KJ Design, a small residential design firm in North Branch where she draws entire house plans for new builds, remodels/additions, and custom log homes.
She is looking forward to designing spaces in homes for people that offer a sense of meaning, place, and environment. In other words, perfect spaces to create memories in.
“Home for me has always been a safe place – a place where one feels the most themselves,” Cooper said. “I believe a home can be a reflection of one’s personality and visually tell their story. I look forward to creating those spaces for others.”
When asked what some of the most valuable lessons she has learned at Dunwoody are, Cooper simply says “Do you! Be confident in your ideas, and as cheesy as it sounds, if you don’t believe in yourself nobody else will.”