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Award-winning new Georgia Southern graduate lands dream job in Nation’s Capital

Emma Franceschina’s childhood bedroom rarely had the same look twice.

Her passion for interior design started at a very young age when she would frequently rearrange her bedroom furniture.

“My mom is kind of the inspiration for that,” she said. “She’s always moving around our furniture in the house. Every time I go home, something’s different. The furniture is shifted around in the living room or in the kitchen or in the dining room or something.”

This week, she will walk across the stage to receive her diploma from Georgia Southern University with a degree in interior design. Afterward, she will be moving to Washington, D.C., to use her talents at a global interior design firm. She was pursuing jobs overseas, but said she’s excited to be working for a firm near her hometown in Maryland.

Her mother is an artist and her father is an engineer. She attributes her passion to design a room with “function and form” to the freedom she was allowed in her upbringing.

“It wasn’t until after high school when I was about to move to France and I visited my dad’s colleagues who run an architectural firm in Washington, D.C.,” she said, about her decision to pursue a path in design. “I talked with all the designers, architects, landscape architects and different people. That was what solidified that this is the kind of environment I want to be in for the rest of my life or my career.”

That blended family background of artistic creativity and math is now leading to what she hopes will be a successful career.

A community college student in Maryland, Franceschina transferred to Georgia Southern in 2019. She was impressed with the impact the program was making. So, she transferred within the Academic Common Market, which is a multi-state network of universities allowing students to pay in-state tuition for a school outside state borders.

Not only did this transfer connect her with her field, but it also connected her to her family. It wasn’t until after she applied for Georgia Southern when she discovered she had family who had attended the school as well decades ago.

“I have cousins that are from Georgia,” she said. “They met their spouses at Georgia Southern, got married and had kids. It was totally random, because I didn’t know that they went here before coming here.”

Upon arriving on campus, she found the faculty and staff to be thoroughly engaged in their students’ development. Franceschina said her instructors would stand in her corner when she faced opportunities she worried she was underqualified for.

“I would think, ‘I can’t apply for that yet because I don’t have two or three years of experience,’” she said. “But they would tell me, ‘No, you should apply for it. You are perfectly valid for that position and you should go for it. You will get there.’”

Interior Design program, Franceschina was making connections with industry leaders and gaining the attention of her professors and mentors with her skills and talent. 

“Professors would bring people in to speak to us and tell us what the real world is like, and I actually got some jobs that way,” she said. “My second studio was in my second semester in the program. We had someone come and we did a little competition with our studio. My team ended up winning.”

This wouldn’t be the last award she would win for her work with her designs. Franceschina has a collection of awards from reputable organizations.

In the coming weeks, she will be traveling to NeoCon, an interior design conference in Chicago, to see a work pod she designed for a contest come to life.

“I’m getting to see something I’ve designed actually come to fruition at NeoCon, and I’m going to be able to touch it and walk into it and see it, which is going to be so cool,” she said. “Last year, I went to NeoCon by myself wandering the halls like this little itty bitty design student just like a little fly on the wall. And this year this is going to be a very different experience.”

The upcoming graduate notes the COVID-19 pandemic may be transforming her industry; changing the way people think about their living and working environments.

“It was a great step forward for people realizing the importance of interior design,” she said. “I think the industry will see an uptick in people seeking out designers who know what they’re doing, and who know the way around some issues: if you live in a smaller space and have that space for work versus play.”

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