Denson Recognized for Work with Design-athons

Assistant Professor Moira Denson has been recognized by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) for bringing a unique series of workshops to the Marymount University campus and into its curriculum. The “Universal Design-athons” let students and design professionals engage with individuals with varying disabilities in order to develop design solutions to help them.

Denson and a peer from Mount Ida College in Massachusetts, Stephanie McGoldrick, shared a merit award for the events they coordinated for participants ranging from first-year to graduate students. The professors were recognized with a $2,000 check as part of CIDA’s 2016 Award of Excellence competition.

The two-day Universal Design-athons also featured talks from design experts, workshops to  develop design solutions to everyday problems, and empathy exercises that allowed students to experience various simulated disabilities and limitations in order to experience the challenges encountered. Teams then created design proposals and prototypes that were judged by a panel of experts. Examples include a cell phone case that provides greater ease of use for someone with dexterity issues and a wearable device that detects water temperature for those with sensory limitations.

Marymount hosted an Aging Well by Design-athon in 2015 and an Active by Design-athon in 2016. 

“We couldn’t have this great learning opportunity for our students without the commitment from the entire community: the user experts, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, the mentor professionals (designers, health professionals, caretakers) and of course, the students and the faculty,” Denson said.

She singled out her Marymount colleague, Barry Erdeljon, chair of the Communication and Media Design Department, for the work he and his students did to produce a video highlighting the Design-athons. The video was ultimately part of the contest entry.

“We could never have done this without Barry Erdeljon’s talent and hard work,” Denson said. “Both Barry’s program and the Interior Design Department’s Design-athon program will be the recipients of the winnings distribution portioned to MU. We are excited to bring these resources to our students.”

MU will hold its third design-athon March 30-31. Strong By Design-athon aims to raise awareness of the needs of veterans with disabilities and inspire the design, technology and healthcare communities to embrace Universal Design, which produces buildings, products and environments that are accessible to older people and people with disabilities.

For more information, go to

The Council for Interior Design Accreditation is an independent, non-profit, accrediting organization responsible for setting standards and evaluating degree granting interior design programs. All the winning contest entries can be seen at:

Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines. For more information, go to

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Moira Denson