The Charger Blog

Interior Design Major’s Honors Thesis Draws on Her Father’s Military Background

Brooke Cuthbertson ’24, who will be recognized as part of the University’s 2024 Commencement, envisions a therapeutic camp that would support the children of military service members. Her plan is inspired by her own childhood, as well as her interior design coursework at the University.

February 23, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 and her fellow Chargers at an intramural flag football game on campus.
Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 and her fellow Chargers at an intramural flag football game on campus.

For Brooke Cuthbertson ’24, growing up as the daughter of a U.S. Navy crewman inspired a sense of pride, as well as some difficult emotions. Her father’s 26 years of service brought him on tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and that often meant that Cuthbertson and the rest of their family had no contact with him for long stretches of time.

Cuthbert’s childhood experiences are now inspiring her as she completes her Honors thesis. An interior design major, she is, as part of her project, imagining a summer camp that would serve the children of members of the military. She envisions it offering them the support that she wished she had when she was growing up.

Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 (right) and Jordan Ziesse ’26 at a volleyball tournament.
Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 (right) and Jordan Ziesse ’26 at a volleyball tournament.

“As a child it was very difficult for me to cope with the emotions that I was feeling from missing an integral part of my family dynamic,” she explains. “Although our country does well in making sure our veterans have the resources they require to a point, I believe there is a gap in support for their immediate family, who suffer trauma, pain, and separation at the hands of the service as well.”

Cuthbertson believes that offering kids a community of their peers who understand what they are going through would be therapeutic. The community would, she hopes, help alleviate the stress of service while helping kids to learn healthy ways of coping. Cuthbertson is excited to bring together her own experiences as well as her coursework and background in interior design as part of her thesis.

“As an interior design student, I’m able to bring a unique perspective to this project that a psychology or a business major might not be able to,” she said. “I understand how building form and design attributes affect a user in either a positive or a negative way. Therefore, I can shape the built environment of the camp to cultivate the kind of community I want to form between campers. After all, the basis of a community is the ground it stands on.”

‘My job on campus has helped me to network’
Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 and her coworkers at the Spring 2023 ChargerREC end of the year celebration.
Brooke Cuthbertson ’24 and her coworkers at the Spring 2023 ChargerREC end of the year celebration.

Cuthbertson will accept her bachelor’s degree as part of the University’s 2024 Commencement, which will comprise ceremonies over three days in May on the University’s main campus. In addition to her time as an Honors student, Cuthbertson has immersed herself in being a member of the Charger community. She enjoys her position as a building supervisor, club sports supervisor, and creative team senior specialist for the University’s Beckerman Recreation Center.

An active member of the University’s intramural sports program, Cuthbertson is captain of the Women’s Club Volleyball Team, and she’s now in her third season with the team. She was also recently the captain of a flag football team.

“I really enjoyed participating in intramural sports during my four years on campus,” she said. “I’m still close with the friends I made playing intramural volleyball my first year. I also really enjoy hanging out with my coworkers at ChargerREC in-between shifts. My job on campus has helped me to network with so many different members of the University community, including faculty, staff, and alumni.”

‘Grow immensely as a student’

Cuthbertson has been applying what she’s been learning in the classroom. As a design intern at Wendy Mauro Design in Charleston, South Carolina, last summer, she gained experience communicating with clients and contracted employees, as well as with budgeting and sourcing materials.

“I loved seeing homes go from plans on paper to physical productions,” she recalls. “To experience this in such a beautiful city was even more of a blessing.”

As she looks forward to completing her thesis and her degree, Cuthbertson is thinking about where she will begin her career. She’s considering a commercial interior design firm in a larger city, and she’s recently been exploring the possibility of a residential design firm in a coastal community in New England. She now has a few prospects, and she’s planning to make a decision later this spring.

Cuthbertson says she’s grateful for the support and the experience she’s gained as a Charger that she expects she will continue to draw on throughout her career.

“I appreciate the rigor of academics at the University, including the classes I’ve taken in both the interior design and Honors programs,” she said. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to study a wide range of topics, which is something I’ve truly enjoyed. Interior design, as a small program, made it easy for me to create bonds with my professors, which has helped me grow immensely as a student.”