Servicescape and Student Engagement Level: For Students, By Students

Presented by: Dr. Rula Awwad-Rafferty, Michael McCollough

Problem Interior design education thrives with opportunities that engage students in real world, interdisciplinary, service learning experiences. Such opportunities enrich programmatic capacities and engender a collaborative team approach to meeting complex problems. There is an exciting increase in interior design program participation in these types of projects, as evidenced by the CIDA standards (2016). Pedagogical approaches used may become stagnant, and not stand up to the potentials to expand growth in new and innovative ways inherent in these situations. How do we engage in breaking beyond internally and externally imposed paradigms and allow for depth and breadth of learning from and with interdisciplinary service learning situations? How do we assess risks and support for such pursuits? How do we measure the learning that occurred? This collaborative presentation features a case study of a yearlong engaged participatory, interdisciplinary service learning project at a land grant institution, facilitated by two professors, one in interior design and one in marketing. Method/Strategy The term Servicescape is used in marketing and business in reference to the tangible environment, “The environment in which the service is delivered and where the firm and the customer interact, and any tangible commodities that facilitate performance or communication of the service.” (Zeitham, Bitner; 2013). This “tangibaliizing” of a service is made through both the physical space that carries with it an identity, an expectation, and a presence; i.e. design. Clue management is another marketing term, it refers to the process of clearly identifying and managing all the various clues that customers use to form their impressions and feelings about the company. These terms were introduced in a two-semester long interior design special topics course in community based studio, and started a journey of discovery and innovation. In a collaborative endeavor between two professors, blending of language, process of discovery and making, and theories generated an engaged and fluid learning space while meeting a redesign challenge for student engagement level in the college of business and economics. The following points highlight key hallmarks for the strategy engaged in this partnership: • The project evolved through pedagogical design and management and became a project for the students by the students; faculty were continually aware of positionality and power; they served as facilitators and advisors. • Breaking barriers, overcoming stereotypes and learning a new language, constructs elaborated, commonalities found, differences utilized to prompt questions and moving beyond the expected • Evidence based interdisciplinary decision making was key as business and design practice. • Prompt and informed stakeholder engagement: continual, strategic, informative, and with transparent feedback loop • A characteristic hallmark was the broadening sphere of stakeholders. Students participated in entrepreneurship elevator pitch competitions, investing what they won in fund raising campaign for the project • For a project to become real, it must meet standards and necessary approvals. Engaging with facilities and university purchasing representative was critical, and empowering • Advisory board members are key stakeholders who provided insights and support to bring the project into life Conclusion and Implications: Students provided significant feedback in 360 evaluation conducted at the conclusion of the year. The number one comment was “this project is real”! Students compared their efforts here with other service learning projects and found a great difference in their roles and outputs. Students felt “empowered” and ready to be “in the world”. The project afforded an interdisciplinary, hands on opportunity to investigate, envision, and create a tangible servicescape third place for student engagement and learning, while growing as citizens.


  • Zeitham, V., Bitner J., Gremler B., Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm. McGraw Hill. 2013.
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