HGTV Showhouse a Winner for Cassandra LaPorte

Hadlyme, CT student's education prepares her for internship work on challenge.

For Cassandra J. LaPorte '12, an interior design major at Cazenovia College, some luck, along with talent and skill, made her 2011 interior design internship a success. Luck was on her side when she emailed Christine Jones, of CJ Interior Design Studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asking if an internship was available, and again when Jones was selected to design rooms in a home for HGTV's Showhouse Showdown. All the rest was talent, and skills learned in her classes.

LaPorte's internship with CJ Design Studio in Pittsburgh led to an opportunity to be involved in the design work for the HGTV television show, for which LaPorte did renderings of the design concepts and assisted with other projects for the house that won the showdown. ( In addition, she maintained a regular schedule with CJ Design Studio clients, occasionally sitting in on meetings when her supervisor was involved in other projects.

LaPorte didn't always expect to become an interior designer. When she thought of life after high school, she considered becoming a chef or a pilot. Unlike most prospective students, she was not at all worried about choosing a major because of her varied interests. She applied and was accepted at Cazenovia College, and the offer of a Presidential Leadership Scholarship helped her make her choice.

She says, "I hadn't even visited Caz before I accepted; I relied solely on the information on the website. Once I was here though, the summer before freshman year, I was really happy with my decision. I loved the size of the campus and felt really at home on my first visit.

When she searched the website, she was impressed with the Equine Education Program. She says, "I initially chose the equine major because I have been riding horses since I was 12, and started learning how to train them when I was 16, so it felt like a good fit. But then I changed my mind."

Just a few months before freshman year began, LaPorte made the decision to follow a passion. She didn't give up on horses, but because of her love for art and a desire to have a definite structure to guide her work, she decided to major in interior design.

She says, "To be honest, I had almost no knowledge of the interior design field and no idea that this was going to be my career path until I was already on it. I have a tendency to start something on a whim and never want to stop. There are very few things I don't enjoy, so I wasn't too worried about where I would end up when I went to college. And the longer I stayed with interior design, the more I loved it."

"The best thing about Caz is the small campus environment," says LaPorte. "I'm really glad to have been able to form friendships with so many professors, and it's a really great feeling to know that they want us to do as well as we can. As an art major, being able to work one-on-one is so important that I couldn't imagine a school that didn't work like this."
LaPorte's varied interests have been noted by her professors. Maggie Judge, visiting instructor of interior design, says, "It has been a pleasure to watch Cassie grow and mature as a student, as well as become a more thoughtful designer. She has many, many varied interests and a whole list of things that she wants to accomplish!"

Judge is impressed with LaPorte's enthusiasm for her projects and her ability to work independently, also noting that she was never afraid to ask questions. She says, "Cassie has a delightful and easy-going personality, which I have enjoyed on a personal level, as she has shared her personal and professional goals and successes with me. That, to me, is the beauty of the Cazenovia College experience – small classes that allow the instructors to get to know each student and be able to guide them according to what their future goals may be."

LaPorte notes that Judge is among the instructors who offered her the most encouragement, saying, "She is great about giving guidance, but leaving enough room for students to make their own decisions."

Judge responds, "Especially in the Interior Design Program, the studios allow us to work with students individually. There are so many different types of classes that the students, at some point, find their skills and likes, and focus on those toward a possible career path. Cassie has found out, through classes and her very successful internship with CJ Design Studio, where her strengths and likes are. She has some great opportunities ahead of her."

Participation in extracurricular activities is a plus for LaPorte, according to Judge. LaPorte's varied interests have led to her role as vice president of the College's Interior Design Club; she is a member of the dance club – another of her passions; a member of her residence hall council; the tennis club and the craft club. She has been a regular member of Up 'til Dawn, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Hospital; she has been on the Dean's List every semester since the spring of 2009. And she still finds time to ride horses on occasion.

LaPorte says her internship duties and the television show gave her a broad overview of what running a small business is like. She is interested in designing for the health care field, but says, "I love having to work within strict guidelines, while still making spaces fun and inviting, so I would be happy doing anything in the commercial field. I don't have my heart set on one particular thing, but look forward to where this field takes me."