Alex Potess may be the most humble trash talker at ACU.
As the student worker for the Office of Campus Aesthetics, Potess has had a unique and influential role in selecting the décor and furniture of the newly built AT&T Learning Studio and the in-progress Royce and Pam Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
From paint colors to desk chairs and, yes, trash cans, Alex, a senior interior design and pre-architecture major from Lubbock, has discovered and won approval for many of the little touches providing the atmosphere for two of ACU’s most eagerly anticipated projects.
“Alex pushed us in the direction of things to consider” in the Learning Studio, said Mary Reyes, director of Campus Aesthetics, and as work heats up on the wellness center, “Alex will be heavily involved.”
Reyes must say that because Alex usually demurs when discussing her role in selecting the bold colors and stylish furniture of the Learning Studio.
“We’re still looking at furniture options,” Alex said about her work on the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, which is scheduled to open by early September. “I’m kind of in charge of the trash receptacles.”
‘Fell in love’ with ACU
As a high-school student, Alex was adamant that she would not attend ACU. Both of her parents were Wildcats, and she resisted her mother’s suggestions that she follow their lead.
Then she visited campus.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I just loved the atmosphere, how it was smaller and there was more of a personal relationship with the professors. I liked the idea of a faith-based education. It wasn’t something I’d had before.”
Alex was drawn to architecture because it combined her artistic and creative interests with the environmental concern she inherited from her parents and her love for travel.
She plans to attend graduate school to receive her architecture degree, then work overseas for a nonprofit building organization such as Architecture for Humanity.
“Interior design and architecture, they can feel very superficial and materialistic, but our professors showed us how to make that into something more meaningful,” Alex said. “Interior design and architecture is designing for the health, safety and welfare of the public. Ultimately, you’re designing for the greater good of people.”
Alex said she sees it as a way to use her education to change the world in whatever way she can.
“That would be like mission work,” she said. “It’s all based on your interaction with people. Even if it’s just building homes for people or community centers or schools, you’re doing God’s work in a different way, and people can see that.
Coming to life
Attending ACU may not have been a question once she visited, but paying for it certainly was.
In her four years, Alex has received eight scholarships, joining the more than 90 percent of ACU students who rely on financial aid to defray the cost of their education.
Alex said she is grateful to the donors who made those scholarships possible and smoothed her road through college.
“Every little bit does make a difference,” she said. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help others.”
The effects of those gifts will be evident years after Alex leaves campus.
Her influence on the Learning Studio, a high-tech home for digital collaboration on the third floor of the Brown Library, is arguably the first thing a visitor notices.
Vibrant colors with names such as Balsamic (a dark purplish brown), Jive Clive (a vivacious green) and Bright Bittersweet (a neon orange) dominate rooms that house stylish, comfortable chairs with equally provocative names: Cobi and, simply, Think.
“They’re bold, bold colors,” Alex says, smiling as she takes in the studio. “It could have been a hit or a miss, and I’m really glad they worked out.”
The Learning Studio, funded through a grant from AT&T, opened during ACU’s Connected Summit in March 2011. For Alex, the opening was an opportunity to see her work jump from the computer screen and the drafting pad onto the walls and in the rooms of the center.
“It was really cool,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen something I’ve worked on come to life. I can actually walk through and experience it for myself.”
Now she turns her attention to the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the 112,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of the Gibson Health and Physical Education Center.
With new offices and classrooms to furnish and a large lobby area to decorate, Alex is once again applying practically the theory she’s learned from faculty in the Department of Art and Design.
Aside from trash-can selection, Alex is researching recycling options, as well — ways for environmental wellness to be a visible, vital component of the new facility. And, as with the Learning Studio, she’s researching colors, fabric and furniture styles for items faculty, staff and her fellow students will see and use every day when the facility opens.
“I’ve had a lot of growing and life-changing experiences here through ACU,” she said. “I feel like I’ve definitely grown being here. I became more independent and learned more about myself.”