Published on December 17, 2021 by Ashley Smith  
MISA Fairfield Project

Samford University and Miles College have established a cultural partnership. Community members from both institutions developed a framework for this endeavor over the past year and the MISA Collaborative was officially put into place during a signing at the inaugural event, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, on Oct. 30, 2021, at Samford University. The theatre production was directed by Chalethia Williams, a member of Miles’ theatre faculty and featured several Miles’ alumni cast members.  Both Samford’s President Beck A. Taylor and Miles’ President Bobbie Knight took part in the signing. 

“The MISA Collaborative's joint efforts fall within a tradition of cooperation between Miles College and Samford University that dates back to 1965 when the SGA at each of the institutions clandestinely integrated a concert on Samford's campus. During that period, it was illegal for blacks and whites to accommodate one another at a single location. Cooperation between the races was unlawful then, and while the socio-political situation is not nearly as dire today, there remains room for collaboration, especially in the awakening of the need for black people to experience social justice. I hope this collaborative cements the two institutions together to use their resources to trade various aspects of culture among the institutions and the communities we work with,” said Bala Baptiste, joint chair of the collaborative team and chair and professor of communications, Miles College.

The next project is focused on the Fairfield community, home to Miles College. Samford senior interior design students reimagined the use of a building at 4420 Gary Avenue.  The 15 seniors initially presented 15 ideas to the city in Oct. of 2021 and then, based on feedback from the community and City leadership, fine-tuned three scenarios that were shared at a meeting on Dec. 14.  These included a culinary education kitchen and restaurant combined with a  boutique hotel, a business incubator with apartment living, and a local grocery market with student housing.

“The City of Fairfield is currently creating a ‘Vision for the Future’ of Fairfield to encourage economic development.  They are developing a master plan for the city, and the student projects will be used as catalysts in this endeavor,” said Jeannie Krumdieck, chair of Samford’s Department of Architecture & Interior Design.

Fairfield Mayor Eddie J. Penny was enthusiastic in his remarks about the students’ work.  “They have done a marvelous job, providing outstanding concepts that offer a great starting point for discussions among our community members,” said Mayor Penny.

Miles’ students have been instrumental in gathering community data to guide the design solutions. Additionally, each team has been assigned a design professional as a preceptor.  The preceptors include: Kris Nikolich, AIA, Owner, Design Initiative; Jeremy Cutts, AIA, Associate, Williams Blackstock Architects and Jacquelyn Hart, AIA, Goodwyn, Mills & Caywood Architects & Engineers.

The project allowed seniors to apply their skills to a real client and project.  “I have learned about the practical side of design and working with a client. We have had the privilege of visiting Fairfield and hearing from some of their community members. This really influenced the design concept. It was helpful to make considerations with a client in mind, instead of just designing for ourselves. I also learned about working with a team of designers and the many small parts and pieces that go into a cohesive design,” said Mollie Ottsen, senior interior design student and leader of the Cultivate Kitchen team.

“I have enjoyed having a physical space to work with. In our past projects, we have just had to visualize what our building was going to look like, but with this project, we actually got to visit the site and take measurements. The community members also gave us feedback about what they would like to see in their town,” said Ottsen. 

The MISA Collaborative is currently developing additional opportunities for collaboration this spring.  

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.