The Movies, Coming to the U.S. and Her Passion for Teaching: Five Things You Didn’t Know About Interior Design Professor Oksana Alfredson

Oksana Alfredson is a JJC Interior Design associate professor. She currently teaches Intro to Visual Arts, Theory and Fundamental Design, Color for Interior, and Auto Desktop-Architectural classes. She immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine in 1997.

Oksana Alfredson pictured with her students.

Fact #1: In the 1990s, she worked as the youngest movie production designer in the Ukraine.

Three years after earning her degree in architecture, Alfredson became the youngest movie production designer in the history of her native country. In her position, she had to draw up designs of what the set would look like depending on the theme or era of the movie. Many times research was involved before she even put anything on paper. “There were several stages. First, taking into consideration the concept of the movie, I’d put together a big painting demonstrating the environment, the lighting, the type of furniture,” Alfredson said. “Then I’d design the set and work with the construction department to make it seem as realistic as possible.” (See Alfredson’s IMDB page here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0007166/)

Fact #2: She was a student at JJC before becoming a faculty member.

Alfredson moved to the United States in February 1997, right after she got married. She became a JJC student in 1998, at first just taking English classes. One day, she was eating lunch in the cafeteria in J-Building and something piqued her interest as she was talking to English instructor Bill Yarrow. “There were these pictures on the wall, from the interior design program,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I have a master’s degree in architecture. I could do that.’ So I met with Barb Pergande and I began my first semester as an interior design student.”

Fact #3: She almost quit teaching after her first semester at JJC.

Alfredson enjoyed her time at JJC in the interior design program, so when Pergande asked her about becoming a faculty member, she jumped at the chance. But that first semester was a difficult one. “After that first semester of teaching, I said never again,” Alfredson laughed. “I was teaching Codes and Mechanical Systems, which is difficult, but even more difficult because English was not my first language.” Alfredson was ready to quit, but after talking with Pergande she decided to give it one more try – and because the second time she knew what to expect and she took things a little less seriously, she had a much better experience. Teaching is truly her passion today.

Fact #4: She still gets annoyed about one particular cultural norm in the U.S. – but is thankful for another.

Though she’s been a United States citizen for almost 20 years, Alfredson is still not fully adjusted to one thing – the sedentary lifestyle that comes with being an American. In the Ukraine, in metropolitan areas and big cities, Alfredson said there were only few choices: either walk or use public transportation. She lived on the fourth floor of a building and there were no elevators, so she enjoyed getting her exercise into her daily life without thinking about it. As for what she enjoys about American life – one benefit is that there is more educational freedom. In the Ukraine, if a student were to take a year off from classes, it would look bad on their resume and future employers would question them about it.

Fact #5: Her favorite part about teaching is seeing her students do well.

Just last year, two of Alfredson’s students, Victoria Frentzel and Susana Alzamora, won first and second place respectively in the National Kitchen and Bath Association student competition. “It’s such a star moment for an instructor when your students do so well,” Alfredson said. “It’s such an honor working with such bright students – and they did such a fantastic job and I’m so proud of their accomplishments.”

Oksana’s Advice for Interior Design Students?

“You need to have the desire to learn, not only in your classes, but beyond that. Learn about travel; go to a museum, read literature. All these elements boost your imagination and creativity, which will benefit you if you want to be an interior designer.”

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