Design educator Katherine Ankerson applied her $50,000 Nuckolls Fund grant to develop and produce Lighting Across the Design Curriculum

Dean Katherine S. Ankerson of the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  was convinced that design students needed more exposure to lighting design than the single course often squeezed into one semester.

As a practicing architect and then as teacher and mentor to design students. she could foresee an electronically delivered program that would encourage instructors around the world to introduce lighting design concepts early in the fields of study for architects, landscape architects, interior designers and architectural engineers. And importantly, to continue developing the concepts throughout their education. It was too big a project for a single educator with teaching and administrative responsibilities.

You were a practicing architect as well as a design educator. What drew you to the teaching of lighting?

It became important to me to take a pro-active approach to expanding the place of lighting in the design curriculum. Lighting should have a continuing place in the student’s design education. Starting with awareness of lighting’s contribution to basic design issues at the freshman level, on to advanced energy decision-making and integrating the quality of light, I felt sure that a collaborative process to structure a program was the best way to go about achieving success from the academic community.

How did you decide to fund a project with this type of broad user reach?

As design and lighting educators, it’s up to us to better prepare the next generation of design professionals with the knowledge and skills to apply lighting technology and lighting design artistry to benefit the client organization and the ultimate users. I decided that an approach that combined outside funding and contributed content from other experienced lighting educators could achieve my objectives. I outlined a program to develop a seven-module video adaptable to various design courses. It would evolve from a two-year planning and development program that I would lead, with input of other design and lighting educators.

What approach did you take to seek a sponsor?

Of the professional design organizations that sponsor awards and grants to advance the study of lighting, I felt that The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education could best accessible teaching tool. The fund announced a special $50,000 grant. I decided that if my proposal were to be the recipient,  it would provide the necessary financing to move forward.

Who did you select to be the other design instructors to collaborate with you?

The title for the program, Lighting Across the Design Curriculum, was selected so it would be clear that the course wasn’t only for those students who were already interested in lighting. I prepared a list of 10 lighting instructors who were innovating techniques for their lighting courses. They were contacted and invited to be included in the proposal for $50,000 to develop a format that would emphasize the benefits of integrating the final program.

I explained that the video would advance the theory that lighting is critical to all aspects of design, and that the study of light and lighting must be initiated early in a student’s design education with multiple topics throughout the design educational process. The time line extended to two years, from initial content development to activation on the Nuckolls Fund website.

What did you state in your proposal to convince the Nuckolls Fund board to approve the grant

Positive responses were received from the invited participants for the development of a comprehensive instructional resource for the study of light and lighting. The team of educators at four major universities from architecture, interior design, and architectural engineering, agreed that a series of modules that all educators use to bring awareness of the role of light in environments should extend throughout a design students’ education.

From basic design issues at the freshman level, the modules are paced to introduce advanced energy impact decisions balanced with quality of lighting contribution at the upper levels.

What did you state in your proposal to convince the Nuckolls Fund board to approve the grant?

I emphasized that the intent of the modules was to introduce to students the concept that lighting as a design element has a distinct purpose and is interwoven with other design elements in the built environment.

Topics covered include: Light as a Design Element; Digital Interface of Lighting; Light Shade and Shadow Informing Design in 3D; Historical Examination of Use of Light; Effect of Light on Material Application; Topic-based Modules for Upper-Level Studios; and Lighting for a Sustainable Future. Lighting Across the Design Curriculum was two years in the planning and development before it went live.

The Nuckolls Fund previous largest grant had been $20,000 for one or two participants in a project. What was their response to your proposal for multi-contributors to carry out your project?

The Nuckolls Fund board evaluated the multi-source approach and approved funding of the $50,000 grant in 2010 that allowed me to move forward and implement the program. Nuckolls Fund president Jeffrey Milham, when he presented the grant, confirmed that it was an important aspect of its long-range plans to become a major supplier of instructional materials and information for use by educators in the teaching of lighting design.”

What has been the feedback from lighting design instructors who have been utilizing the module?

I am in regular contact with the original team of contributors. They utilize the program’s modules in their own course. Mary Ben Bonham at Miami University, when the final version of Lighting Across the Design Curriculum became available, she includes it in her building systems course.

Lindsey Bahe, who teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has shared the online format with other faculty members as they have created a Lighting and Acoustics course. Nancy Kwallek, now retired from the University ot Texas at Austin, had taught the history of interiors for many years. She notes that Module #4, Historical Examination of Lighting, presented a valuable overview of styles from the Roman period up through contemporary lighting fixture designs.

(Lighting Across the Design Curriculum can be accessed at no charge from the Educational Resources section of The Nuckolls Fund’s website,


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Lighting Across the Design Curriculum Achieves its Objectives: Reports from representative members of the multi-university collaboration.

Mary Ben Bonham, Miami University of Ohio

Lighting Across the Design Curriculum emphasizes an often overlooked element in design education. I had developed project-based lighting design activities in my building systems course about qualitative and quantitative aspects of architectural lighting. I have used the website myself in a variety of courses. When students who aren’t in my classes come to me with lighting questions, it’s been helpful to forward links to specific present views of quality lighting with issues related to architectural space, economics, energy efficiency, and the environment.

Lindsey Bahe, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This was a great opportunity for me as a junior faculty member at the time to learn about the process of grant writing and executing proposals into complete projects. I was intrigued by the method of distributing the content online, and the idea of “open source” knowledge and benefits of sharing our work through non-traditional means. I have shared the online format with two other faculty members as we have evolved and developed our Lighting and Acoustics course.


Mary Ben Bonham, shown here with design students at Miami University of Ohio, was a member of the multi-university collaborative responsible for the instructional video. Lighting Across the Design Curriculum, funded by The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education.

Dean Katherine S. Ankerson of the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, directed the two-year planning and development program that created the instructional video. Lighting Across the Design Curriculum, funded by a $50,000 grant from The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education. It is posted in the Educational Resources section of the Fund’s website,  

Editor’s Note: The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education was founded  in 1989 to honor lighting education pioneer James L. Nuckolls through a program .of grants and awards. In the Fund’s grants programs, it seeks proposals from colleges and universities for the development and expansion of lighting design coursework as well as proposals from lighting educators for internship possibilities. The Fund’s awards program gives monetary awards to outstanding students enrolled in established lighting design programs. In 2017, the total amount presented by the Fund since it was established  reached over one million dollars.

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