Hosted at Tennessee State University, OFS Sponsors IIDA Student Roundtable Focused on Growing a Career in Design

Hosted at Tennessee State University, OFS Sponsors IIDA Student Roundtable Focused on Growing a Career in Design

by Adriana Davila

NASHVILLE, TN, FEBRUARY 7 - - OFS was proud to sponsor the 2023 IIDA Student Round Table hosted at Tennessee State University. 

A panel of design experts was brought together by OFS and IIDA for an interactive discussion and Q&A session with students to explore strategies for developing a successful career in design, which included topics such as internships, mentorships, job applications, and navigating early stages of a design career. 

The panel featured distinguished guests, Mike Johnson, Associate Principal and Director of Interiors at Hickok Cole, Sofia Acosta, Designer at Gensler Houston, and Tonya Spry, Director of Human Resources at Gresham Smith who shared their insights in dialogue with moderator and IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA.


About the IIDA Student Roundtable

OFS has been a proud sponsor of IIDA's round tables for over five years, providing a platform for professionals in the design industry to discuss a wide range of topics. These student round tables offer a valuable learning opportunity, as the students attend as an audience and actively listen to the panelists sharing their expertise and insights on important topics.

Cheryl Durst, Sofia Acosta, Mike Johnson, and Tonya Spry

Mentorship as a key ingredient to career growth

Although many topics were discussed, a key takeaway from the group centered on the critical role mentorship plays in building a successful career. Each panelist offered clear examples of how a mentor guided and supported them through the ups and downs of their careers and had been instrumental to their success. “I've had some really great mentors and I think it's really important to have those because not only are they helping you learn and be a better designer, but they help navigate those things that you might not necessarily know about,” said Mike Johnson, Associate Principal and Director of Interiors at Hickok Cole. 

Tonya Spry,  Director of Human Resources at Gresham Smith, echoed the importance of developing relationships with experienced professionals and seeking guidance from those who have already walked the same path saying, “you get different things from different mentors, and I would always encourage everyone to have multiple mentors at once. You may have one mentor that really helps you along that technical path and developing within your design skills. And another one who's showing you the path to leading and collaborating and teamwork.”

A diverse and equitable team drives innovation and creativity

The panel also covered the important role of diversity, equity, and inclusion within successful teams and organizations. As discussed during the roundtable, diverse teams drive innovation and bring unique perspectives into the conversation, “ true diverse teams are a mix of many backgrounds. The more diverse your team is, the more creative they are and the better they produce work because you're getting thoughts and ideas from people from all over,” said Mike Johnson. The panel addressed how they have incorporated these insights into their own practices and professional lives, as well as how we, as an industry, can collectively work towards change.

Watch and listen to the full discussion here!



OFS is a family-owned contract furniture manufacturer dedicated to crafting experiences and products that contribute to places where people want to be. Founded in 1937, OFS provides furniture and logistics solutions for office, healthcare, education, lifestyle, hospitality, government, and home office markets worldwide, offering seating, tables, casegoods, and open plan products. The brands, Carolina and Bryan Ashley are OFS companies. OFS is based in Huntingburg, Indiana.


Imagine a Place Productions gathers industry-leading voices that can inspire the design community through storytelling and broaden our creative horizons. The goal of Imagine a Place Productions is to further elevate the belief that the places we make and the ways we design them matter in our lives.

OFS Press Contact: Adriana Davila -