From student to director of space planning, interior design

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Julie Helton helps create better environments for Baylor students. Photo courtesy of Julie Helton.

By Sarah Wang | Personal editor

Originally from South Korea, Julie Helton graduated from Baylor in 1991 with a degree in interior design. In 2015, she returned to the Baylor campus, where she now serves as Director of Space Planning and Interior Design.

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

While working at RBDRan award-winning architecture and planning firm in Waco, it has been involved in several projects on the Baylor 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 allow me to do what I love,” Helton said. “At the architectural firm, I was much more involved with detailed drawings and material specifications, and at Baylor, I spend most of my time coordinating projects and helping with facility improvements.”

Helton showed particular emotion towards two projects she worked on at Baylor: a renovation of Waco Hall – because it was “so dark and outdated” – and Tidwell Bible Building.

“The Tidwell renovation was a big 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 got married in this chapel, like so many others, but it had never been updated and very underused for many years.”

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

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

The routine that Helton follows for a project begins with a request and is followed by a meeting with the client to determine the scope of work. Helton said they coordinate projects with architectural or engineering firms who provide tenderable drawings, and 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 arise with managing so many projects,” Helton said. “But it’s exciting and fun at the same time.”

Helton said the interior design meant a lot to 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 most often accomplished 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 operationssaid Helton is a “dedicated and impactful professional leader within the facilities management team.”

“Julie works hard every day to ensure Baylor’s students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders have the best facility experience possible,” Carley said. “Baylor is a better place thanks to Julie Helton, and we’re all very lucky to have her on our team.”

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