She’s Got Game: Destined for School of Design

As published June 6, 2018 at WSU Foundation Meet Our Students

When Sarah Rosenthal was old enough to use a computer, she got hooked on playing the SIMS, a life simulation video game where the player creates characters and builds houses for them. In the game, Sarah built homes with wood, stone, drywall, and landscaped yards. She developed eccentric but functional houses with patios and pools, massive balconies, and secret passageways. She preferred building the homes to creating the characters, and some nights, stayed up so late playing, she fell asleep on her keyboard.

By the time Sarah was enrolled in college, she started to realize her computer science and fine arts classes weren’t keeping her engaged. Luckily, the years of playing SIMS came back to her, and she learned Washington State University had a rigorous Interior Design program. “Finally,” she said, “it occurred to me. Design was what I was supposed to be doing!”

picture of Sarah Rosenthal       Sarah

Sarah left the Seattle area where she was born and raised, and transferred to the WSU Interior Design program in Pullman. Once enrolled, she couldn’t get enough. “School is hard,” she said, “and the program is strenuous. Fortunately, I developed good study habits early on, so I can handle the rigor. Outside my three-to-five hours of daily classes, I spend anywhere from 8 to 16 hours, head down in the studio, even on weekends. You have to be committed to excel in this program.”

Private support has also helped Sarah remain successful. She received the Crimson Transfer Award, an Institutional Grant, Home Economics Endowed Scholarship, Foundation Scholarship, and support from the Coug Parents Endowment Fund, said, “I couldn’t be more grateful. Especially for the Coug Parents Endowment Fund. Those donors enabled me to buy all the supplies I needed for the semester: textbooks, the required top-of-the-line drafting markers and pencils, and specialty tools, like T-squares, triangles, high-quality vellum, and a drafting board. . . You’ve helped shape a life. Your generosity and influence won’t be forgotten.”

These opportunities combined with real-world experience have kept this big city girl at home in Pullman. Sarah explains, “The Pullman community is incredibly supportive of the School of Design and Construction. Evidence of our work punctuates the entire town. You just have to know where to look. Pullman welcomes the SDC students and likes to give us opportunities to demonstrate our abilities. In fact, my class designed an apartment for a local couple according to ADA standards. Pullman offers opportunities to make a difference in the community.”

Because design is an iterative process, Sarah often repeats rounds of analysis and revision while drafting. With each draft or iteration, she gets closer to the finished project. She said she spends hours composing her ideas before she lays pen to paper. “I think my peers work faster than I do,” she said. “I’m always in the studio. I live there.” Still no word on whether she’s fallen asleep on the drafting board.

Sarah is a member of the Interior Design Club, the WSU chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Her second semester in the club, she applied for a government position and served as the ASID National Representative for the WSU chapter. The ASID provides an inclusive learning environment for new and continuing interior design students, so they can learn the meaning behind and responsibility of the profession.

Unlike playing the SIMS back when she was younger, Sarah spends more time with her peers than alone. “When you’re in the design studio with the same people so many hours a day,” she said, “you get to know them well. When someone runs out of bond paper or needs a fine tip marker, or wants feedback on a design, they can turn to a neighbor. You might think it would be competitive, but that hasn’t been my experience. Everyone wants to be here.”

After earning her interior design degree, Sarah plans to attend graduate school. She wants to work at a small firm and eventually start her own. “I have big dreams,” she said, “like everyone else. But no matter where I go or who I meet, I’ll be able to create a fulfilling life for myself, and that’s what really matters.”