Student Stories: Valerie Jardon

Valerie Jardon

Major: Interior Design

Valerie Jardon was switching careers and a brand-new mom when she began taking classes at College of DuPage.

“My goal was to stay home with my daughter during the day and take classes at night,” she said. “COD was perfect for that – the cost, close proximity to home and ability to take classes that fit my schedule.”

Adult Student Admissions at COD

She was drawn to the Interior Design program because of the diverse opportunities available and flexibility of class offerings.

“I was ultimately won over by the balance of creativity and technical aspects. I loved how challenging design school was,” she said. “The classes I took gave me an amazing foundation for the real world that has allowed me to flourish in my career. It also opened up a door for me to give back to the profession through teaching and mentoring, which helped me grow personally.”

After earning her Associate in Applied Science degree and the CAD certificate, Jardon transferred to the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg as part of the 2+2 transfer agreement and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She spent the first six years of her career in educational and municipal design and then moved to corporate design. She passed the NCIDQ, registered with the State of Illinois, and passed the LEED AP and Fitwel Ambassador certifications exams. Most recently, she completed her Executive Masters in Business Administration and received her Change Management Practitioner Certification from Prosci in 2023.

She currently works at IA Interior Architects in the Chicago office as the director of workplace strategy overseeing strategy for the U.S. market.

“After years of designing, I found my passion really lies in the upfront problem solving, programming and deep dive conversations that lead people to the best design solution to support their needs and goals,” she said.”

In addition to working, Jardon volunteers her time to the profession. She currently chairs the Interior Design board for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and has played an active role in getting legislation passed for interior designers in Illinois to stamp and seal their own drawings, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2023. She was an International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Illinois board member for five years and served as the chapter president, during which she was the founding co-chair of the RED Awards and started the chapter’s Educational Fund. She then joined the Executive Board for Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), was one of eight people selected from the U.S. and Canada to work on the Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ) committee to re-write the definition of interior design regularly used in legal language, and completed her first white paper called “Happiness by Design: Multi-Sensory Wellness Spaces in 2019.

In 2021, Jardon was one of three local designers to bring the non-for-profit organization Project Color Corps to the Chicago area infusing color, brightness and energy into their first project, which was for the Boys and Girls Club at the James R. Jordan Club.

A professional muralist transformed the buildings’ white stucco exterior via kaleidoscopic environmental graphics incorporating the club logo, while students and community members painted benches and planters to beautify the surrounding school area.

“Investing the time and resources to paint the center in more vibrant shades in consultation with the kids gives them both a sense of hopefulness as well as the feeling that they are important — that their views count,” Jardon said. “With a professionally executed paint job, the hope is that the school will become a beacon in a challenged neighborhood.”

The mission was to not only revive the physical building but also engender positivity and hope in the students. Many come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and they come to the club to find friendship, leadership and a sense of peace, Jardon said.

“Weighing in on everything from the concept to the color palette, the students got the chance to play client, designer and artist,” she said. “We teach students about color, the power of color and how color can impact their lives.”

This degree can take you so many places if you have the drive to get there.

Valerie Jardon

As for COD, she has worked as an adjunct instructor and may see her children attending.

“My oldest still remembers sitting on my lap in COD classes when childcare fell through. She is now a COD alumna and returning student. Upon finishing her Associate in Arts in 2023, she shifted her focus to the Nursing program and just wrapped up her first round of clinicals,” she said. “I love how life goes full circle!”

Jardon’s ultimate goal is to always be relevant and growing while continuously giving back to the profession.

“This industry is always changing and I want to stay in front of that change,” she said.

As for students considering COD’s Interior Design program, Jardon advises them to jump in and give it their all.  

“The real world isn’t HGTV. Expect to be exposed to a lot of technical skills in addition to design in your classes,” she said. “This degree can take you so many places if you have the drive to get there. Embrace the teachers who give you real and honest feedback. In the moment, it may seem harsh, but later in your career you will appreciate it greatly when you realize how much better it made you.”

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