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Continuing education the best move for recent UC grad

Newly minted DAAP alumna commits to grad school amid changing career landscape

Stephanie Knechtly was set to jet off to Orlando, Florida, to embark on a postgraduate internship with The Walt Disney Co. when the COVID-19 pandemic brought her plans to a screeching halt.

Now, the newly minted University of Cincinnati graduate has decided to stay a Bearcat by pursuing her graduate degree.

Knechtly studied interior design at UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, with minors in architectural studies and communications. She settled on DAAP for her undergrad due to its location in her hometown and its offering of cooperative education.

“I was born and raised in Cincinnati, so coming to DAAP was an easy choice with its high ratings and co-op program,” she says.

Student sits in a wooden architectural feature

Stephanie Knechtly on campus at UC.

As a student, Knechtly’s co-ops brought her to Cincinnati companies including Macy’s headquarters to develop brand initiatives in retail spaces, BHDP Architecture to conduct occupancy research and design workplace interiors and Camden Homes to design a residential model home. Most recently, she worked at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, California, designing in-park retail and restaurant spaces.

“My undergrad at DAAP was challenging and wonderful,” she says. “I feel like the persistent and difficult coursework pushed me to be better at time management and to be a better designer.”

In DAAP’s School of Architecture and Interior Design, Knechtly excelled within the rigorous curriculum. In 2018, she won first place in the PAVE Student Design Competition, an international retail design contest in partnership with the Home Depot. And just this past semester she won both the DAAPworks Director’s Choice Award and DAAP’s Outstanding Student Award for Interior Design.

Rendering of a public pool stationed on an industrial barge floating on the Ohio River

Knechtly's award-winning capstone project centers on a public pool stationed on an industrial barge floating on the Ohio River

Change of plans

Knechtly was in a senior capstone review when she learned that UC classes would be remote for the rest of the semester.

“It was really emotional and surreal for me knowing that this was my last day being at DAAP as an undergraduate student with all of the people that shared five years together,” she says. “I am grateful that we were able to be together as a class and recognize that it was our last time all together.”

She acknowledges the efforts made to make her final weeks at UC special, but says it just wasn’t the same.

Woman and man stand in front of a theme park with ferris wheel

Knechtly and her boyfriend pose in front of Mickey's Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure.

And the changes kept coming.

After her Walt Disney Imagineering co-op, she was offered another internship, this time in Orlando, Florida, as an extension of her previous work with the company. But due to worldwide park closures amid the pandemic, Disney cancelled all summer and fall internships and furloughed many employees.

“Working at Disney has always been my dream, so this news was crushing,” Knechtly says, “although it was completely understandable.”

But Knechtly continues to look ahead.

She has committed to pursuing her master’s degree in architecture at DAAP.

“I think continuing my education would only push me further in my career and as a designer,” she says. “I would love to be able to explore the dichotomy between architecture and interior design even further in my graduate education. Building upon my undergraduate studies, not forgetting my love for interior design, but rather bolstering it from an architectural lens as well. It is in my personality to continue to push my own limits, take my creativity and abilities as far as they can go, and learn in the space between.”

Featured image at top: Stephanie Knechtly celebrates her graduation outside of the DAAP building. All photos provided.

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