From student to director of space planning, interior design

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From student to director of space planning, interior design

Julie Helton is helping to create better environments for Baylor students. Photo courtesy of Julie Helton.

By Sarah Wang | Staff Writer

Originally from South Korea, Julie Helton graduated from Baylor in 1991 with an interior design degree. In 2015, she returned to Baylor’s campus, where she now serves as director of space planning and interior design.

Helton worked for various architectural firms for nearly 25 years before returning to Baylor. With a background in commercial design and expertise in churches, banks, schools and corporate space planning, she contributed to the new sanctuary for Antioch Community Church and the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Waco, which was designed for sustainability and LEED won gold.

While working at RBDR, an award-winning architecture and planning firm in Waco, she participated in several projects on Baylor’s campus, including furniture selection for Teal Residential College, Earle Hall, Marrs McLean Science Building and Memorial Dining Hall.

“Baylor is a great place to work and allows me to do what I love,” Helton said. “At the architectural firm I was much more involved in the detailed drawings and specifications of materials, and at Baylor I spend most of my time coordinating projects and helping with facility improvements.”

Helton showed special emotion toward two projects she worked on at Baylor: a renovation of the Waco Hall lobby — because it was “so dark and outdated” — and Tidwell Bible Building.

“The Tidwell renovation was a great project that I’m proud of, and I love how it transformed Miller’s Chapel into a beautiful two-story office space,” Helton said. “I was married in that chapel, like so many others, but it had never been updated and was very underused for many years.”

Currently, Helton is working on more than 50 renovations while providing input for Baylor’s major projects, including the Foster Basketball Pavilion, Ruth Collins Hall, the Fudge Football Development Center and the Hurd Welcome Center.

“[The Hurd Welcome Center] is going to be an amazing building that will lead the way in how universities bring admissions, visitors and alumni together like never before,” said Helton. “The high ceiling and light towers in the Grand Hall will create an incredible space that every high school student and parent will want to come and see.”

The routine Helton goes through for a project starts with a request and is followed by a meeting with the client to determine a scope of work. Helton said they coordinate projects with architectural or engineering firms that provide bidable drawings, and they then work with project managers or contractors who estimate construction costs.

Loaded with many tasks, Helton said the biggest challenge she faced was running out of time.

“There’s never enough time in the day to stay ahead of all the emails, questions and issues that come up with managing so many projects,” Helton said. “But it’s exciting and fun at the same time.”

Helton said interior design holds many meanings for her. She said it’s more than just decoration; it is to create a space or atmosphere where people feel comfortable or joyful in their surroundings, and this is more often achieved with subtleties through scale, placement and color.

Helton said good design should not only be seen, but also felt.

Patrick Carley, associate vice president of facilities and operations, said Helton is a “dedicated professional and impactful leader on the facilities management team.”

“Julie gives her all every day to ensure that Baylor students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders have the best possible facilities experience,” said Carley. “Baylor is a better place because of Julie Helton, and we are all very fortunate to have her on our team.”

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