AMES, Iowa — Two Iowa State University interior design students are recipients of 2023 Association of University Interior Designers scholarships. The AUID aims to support and connect campus designers while advocating for the practice of interior design in higher education.

Junior Rachel Luchsinger (pictured above at left) is one of six undergraduate student recipients. Heliya Ahmadi (pictured above at right), a graduate student working toward her master of arts in interior design and master of science in human computer interaction, is the sole graduate scholarship recipient.

Luchsinger, from St. Paul, Minnesota, aspires to preserve and renovate historical buildings and transform them into “third spaces” like coffee shops, small businesses and libraries. She has always been drawn to studying how interior design can impact a community and the user experience, she said.

“Communities need spaces that bring us together, whether they are restaurants, bars, clubs or book stores,” Luchsinger said. “My focus as a designer is to ensure everyone has access to those places so they can connect, interact and share resources with others.”

Originally from Tehran, Iran, Ahmadi seeks to fuse interior design with virtual reality through her graduate research. Her work explores a novel pathway to enhance arousal regulation — the process of managing one’s state of alertness, emotional responsiveness and physical activation — among college students, potentially offering a blend of aesthetic, immersive and healing experiences to foster academic success and emotional well-being.

“Virtual reality meditation is believed to be an effective tool that could help some students regulate if they are experiencing stress, homesickness or anxiety,” Ahmadi said.

“I want to design a VR experience that simulates calming interior designs that help students achieve a state of relaxed alertness, which is ideal for learning and performing well in the classroom.”


Rachel Luchsinger, Interior Design junior,
Heliya Ahmadi, Interior Design and Human Computer Interaction graduate student,
Lauren Johnson, College of Design Communications Specialist,