Aaron White studied political science and business administration at the University of North Carolina, after which he became a first-grade teacher. After one year of teaching, he was ready for a change and to pursue a master’s in interior design. He graduated from NYSID's MFA-1 program in 2013 and currently works at Incorporated Architecture and Design.
Why did you decide to change careers and come to NYSID?
I was an elementary school teacher, working with children with disabilities. I was interested in teaching, but I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. I might still want to teach someday, but on the college level.
The MFA-1 program was attractive because it allowed me to get my master’s without a previous background in interior design. I didn’t want to get another bachelor’s degree or have to do a foundation year, and this was one of the few schools that had such a program. I also liked that NYSID felt like a tight-knit community within New York City, which is so huge. I knew I wanted to move to the city where everything is happening, but it also felt overwhelming. At NYSID, I had the best of both worlds — small classes and lots of contact with instructors as well as the culture and excitement of New York.
Why was it important to you to get an advanced degree?
Education has always been important to me and my family. When you have a terminal degree, you really become an expert in your field. For me, it’s important to have that credential. I wasn’t interested in putting my career on hold to go back to school. And having a master’s means I can teach, which, as I said, is something I’d like to do. I think more and more people will trend toward getting a master’s degree in design, so I want to be on the same playing field. It feels like the industry is moving in that direction.
What was your experience like?
It was really good. It was very challenging; you have to be fully committed to it. I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would. I expected to come to NYSID to learn how to decorate, but it was so much more than that. I gained the kind of technical skills that enabled me to converse with architects and contractors. My dad is a contractor, and now I can talk to him about construction methods — how things are built — and drafting spaces in AutoCAD. A few years ago I didn’t have any idea what that was.
I also really liked that the students came from such different backgrounds. Some were teachers, lawyers, or had jobs on Wall Street, and others previously studied hydraulics and civil engineering. The students brought a wide array of life experience and it was interesting to see how that affected one’s design sensibility.