Interior Design College of Design

Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Ph.D.

Northrop Professor and Director of Interior Design Program

“A story is the shortest distance between two people,” they say. I see myself as a storyteller: I create platforms for people to talk about their stories, I collect stories, I find ways to share stories with diverse audiences, and I employ stories to inform theoretical paradigms, policy-making, design practice, and pedagogical approaches. My focus are the stories of community members whose voices are often not heard, such as:

  • Refugees, immigrants, and members of minority groups.
  • Victims of sex trafficking, and
  • Children with mental health challenges.

The driver behind my interdisciplinary and community-engaged scholarship is my belief that social inequalities are partly spatially constructed and are therefore, malleable. Design matters and can be leveraged for innovation and change to create healthy and connected communities in which everyone can thrive, what I call Culturally Enriched Communities (CEC).

Selected Scholarship

The Right to Home book cover

Toward Culturally Enriched Communities —

Use this resource to find best practices for how to work toward healthy and connected communities in which everyone can thrive.

The Right to Home book cover

Hadjiyanni, T. (2019). The Right to Home – Exploring How Space, Culture, and Identity Intersect with Disparities. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book uses stories from Hmong, Somali, Mexicans, Ojibwe, and African Americans in Minnesota to explore how the spatial characteristics of homes can support or suppress peoples’ attempts to create meaning in their lives... READ MORE

Interview on The Right to Home

The making of a refugee book cover

Hadjiyanni, T. (2002). The Making of a Refugee – Children Adopting Refugee Identity in Cyprus. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Through an examination of interviews provided by 100 children of refugees in Cyprus, born after their family's displacement, this book illustrates the formation of a refugee consciousness, an identity adopted by many children who never experienced the actual displacement of their family... READ MORE

Hadjiyanni, T. (2015). Transbodied spaces - The home experiences of undocumented Mexicans in Minnesota. Space and Culture, 18(1), 81–97.

Strickland, A., & Hadjiyanni, T. (2013). "My school and me" – Exploring the intersections of insideness and interior environments. Journal of Interior Design, 38(4), 17–35.

Hadjiyanni, T., Hirani, A., & Jordan, C. (2012). Toward culturally sensitive housing – Eliminating health disparities by accounting for health. Housing & Society, 9(2), 149–165.

Vahaji, S., & Hadjiyanni, T. (2009). The spatiality of veiling – Muslim women living in Minnesota homes. International Journal of Architectural Research, 3(2), 35–50.

Hadjiyanni, T., & Helle, K. (2009). Re/claiming the past – Constructing Ojibwe identity in Minnesota homes. Design Studies, 30(4), 462–481.

Hadjiyanni, T. (2009). The aesthetics of displacement – Hmong, Somali, and Mexican home-making practices in Minnesota. International Journal of Consumer Studies - Special issue on Consumer Issues in Housing, 33, 541–549.

Hadjiyanni, T. (2007). Bounded choices – Somali women constructing difference in Minnesota housing. Journal of Interior Design, 32(2), 17–27.

My work in the Design+Sex Trafficking arena is founded on the premise that, as a medium for social justice, design can be the catalyst in the formation of collaborations and synergies that can curtail modern day slavery by inspiring action, raising public consciousness, and creating design interventions that support the needs of victims and communities.

Design Against Trafficking website screen capture

Design Against Trafficking

This website shares resources and examples of how design can be used in the fight against trafficking—from architecture to clothing and graphic design.

When Place Speak exhibit image

When Places Speak

This is a photography exhibit that provides a forum for places associated with trafficking to tell their story: from places where victims are recruited to places used by purchasers to meet victims, places used by law enforcement to stop trafficking, and places where victims can transition.

Design Guidelines for Transition Housing

The Design Guidelines for transition housing we developed support the needs of all victims, regardless of background, and can be used for awareness, fundraising, and planning. As estimates point to 60-80% of sexually exploited youth being Native, Native needs are pulled out and separated. The Guidelines contribute to the No Wrong Door model’s recommendation to “Ensure access to safe and supportive housing” for all sexually exploited youth.

Hadjiyanni, T., & Johnson, K. (2018). Dress and place in sex work – Attracting customers through virtual environments. In Annette Lynch & Katalin Medvedev (Eds), Fashion, sex and power: Performing agency, following script. New York, NY: Bloomsbury, pp.17–185.

Hadjiyanni, T., Povlitzki, M., & Preble, H. (2014). The placeness of sex trafficking – Instilling consciousness through Minnesota’s experience. Journal of Interior Design Special Issue on Interior Design Collaboration, 39(1), 1–16.

This NSF-funded study is a collaboration between the College of Design, College of Science and Engineering, and the Medical School that explores how environmental parameters intersect with mental health. Helping reveal insights that could remain hidden through conventional methods and approaches, the study challenges how mental health is understood and studied and expands tools for early diagnosis and treatment.

Hadjiyanni, T., Robinson, J., Young, A., & Bernstein, G. (2015). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Infusing person-environment questions in studies of mental health. Invited for a Special Session at EDRA 46, Los Angeles, May 27–31.

Bernstein, G. A., Hadjiyanni, T., Cullen, K. R., Robinson, J. W., Harris, E. C., Young, A., Fasching, J., Walczak, N., Lee, S., Morellas, V., & Papanikolopoulos, N. (2016). Use of computer vision tools to identify behavioral markers of pediatric OCD: A pilot study. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. Listed as a High Impact Article.

Selected Pedagogies

My interdisciplinary and community-engaged pedagogies aim to nurture global citizens by sharpening students’ understanding of the factors that can impact the creation of Culturally Enriched Communities and the role design can play in the process.

The Mapping Resilience Project

The Mapping Resilience Project shares digital stories made by students that highlight examples of places in the Greater MSP region that support the creation of Culturally Enriched Communities: healthy and connected communities in which everyone can thrive. You can search for stories by group or type of place.

Hadjiyanni, T. (2014). Beginning with concept – Deconstructing the complexity of “culture” through art in design education. International Journal of Education Through Art, 10(1), 23–39.
Hadjiyanni, T. (2013).Rethinking culture in interior design pedagogy – The potential beyond CIDA Standard 2g. Journal of Interior Design, 38(3), v-xii.
Hadjiyanni, T. (2008). Beyond concepts - A studio pedagogy for preparing tomorrow’s designers. International Journal of Architectural Research, 2(2), 41–56.

Selected Honors and Awards

  • 2018 College of Design Outstanding Contributions to Equity and Diversity Award
  • 2018 Faculty Fellow – Institute for Advanced Study (Spring)
  • 2017 Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) Service Award
  • 2017 Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) Service Award
  • 2016 College of Design Outstanding Research Award
  • 2016 Featured in the University of Minnesota's Driven to Discover Campaign
  • 2015 Featured in the University of Minnesota’s Improving Campus Climate Office for Equity and Diversity
  • 2009 College of Design Outstanding Teaching Award


240 McNeal Hall

1985 Buford Avenue

St Paul, MN 55108-6136

Curriculum Vitae

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