By helping design the layout and plan the budget for a cultural center in the Philippines, Chaminade University students acquired real-world experience benefiting their future careers while learning about the Filipino culture.

Leading this excursion to the island of Negros were Associate Professor Elizabeth Lockard, M.Arch, Ph.D. of Chaminade’s Environmental + Interior Design (E+ID) program, and Assistant Professor of Accounting Aaron M. Williamson, Jr. from the School of Business and Communication.

Also assisting was Dr. Frederique Kandel, a biology lecturer with the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Dr. Kandel advised students on ocean-related issues impacting design considerations for the eco-friendly structure.

The construction project is the Pantawan Arts & Learning Center, which will facilitate cultural exchanges among local and international artists, educators, tourists and residents. The four-story building in the City of Bais will also provide creative and educational workshops for underprivileged Filipino students.

Design considerations included:
– Sensitivity to local culture and customs;
– Adherence to international building standards;
– Security precautions;
– Flexible spaces to accommodate numerous activities; and
– Natural ventilation to counter the tropical heat.

Spearheading the construction effort is Dr. Eva Washburn-Repollo, a commissioner with the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and Arts, along with her husband Curtis. Inspired by the foundation’s collaboration with public schools on Hawaii’s Art in Public Places – Artists in Residence initiative, the couple decided to introduce a similar program on Eva’s home island of Negros.

Reflecting on this educational and humanitarian outreach to the Philippines, Dr. Lockard said the trip was “transformative” for her Chaminade students. Not only did the undergraduates tackle advanced design challenges, she said they “developed a deeper cultural empathy through this process and learned to see the world differently.”

“The most authentic learning comes from working on a live project, and so this in itself has been an invaluable experience for the students,” Dr. Lockard said. “But also to provide a center for arts and learning that will serve a community in need shows how design can substantively contribute to quality of life and the betterment of society.”

According to E+ID student Gerlie Valdez, the most difficult aspect of the project was designing the building and interiors so they’re “sensitive and appropriate for the client and the location.”

“This is the first time we’ve ever done an international project,” she pointed out, “and the challenge is to be able to obtain a good knowledge of the people’s culture and their way of life and to integrate it in how they use spaces.”  

Valdez added that her biggest takeaway from the excursion was “doing something honorable and giving back to my native country as a real designer.”

“It was incredibly humbling to be able to see the site, meet with architects, furniture manufacturers, designers and the local people of the community overall,” Valdez said. “With that, I gained a lot of confidence and knowledge in helping me move forward with the project.”

E+ID student Petrice Goto said the trip “changed me as a person.”

“I experienced people living in the provinces that had little to no money, but they were happy with the little they had,” Goto said. “I have begun to not take things for granted and to appreciate everything I have.”


Chaminade University offers the only accredited, degree-granting Environmental + Interior Design program (E+ID) in Hawaii. Since its accreditation in 2013, the employment rate for graduates seeking a full-time, entry-level position in an interior design or architectural firm is more than 80 percent and has been increasing every year. The  E+ID program extends beyond the traditional scope of interior design to encompass the broader aspects of the environment into the design process. 

Chaminade’s School of Business and Communication offers a Master of Business Administration degree along with undergraduate programs in Accounting, Business Administration, Communication, International Trade and Computer Information Systems. Undergraduate degree programs in Business Administration and Management are also available through PACE (Professional and Continuing Education) online and evening courses.