K-State professor re-thinks healing for wounded vets

Volunteer community member and sound board technician, Chris Moore, works with professor Vibhavari Jani to set up her microphone for her sound check. (Photo Courtesy of Jim Correll, ICC.)

In over 22 years of practice in the U.S.,Vibhavari Jani, associate professor of interior architecture and product design, said she has worked in the architecture and interior design industry managing large projects for major corporations, health care, education, government and hospitality clients. Jane will give a TEDx Talk at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas, today.

She said she credits her experience as a health care designer at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit as giving her the background research and knowledge needed for projects that involve service members’ needs.

“I was involved in research for providing health care for aging populations and how to engage them in community activities including gardening, involving them with children and adults of the community, music programs, storytelling as alternative therapy that can contribute in their healing and wellness,” Jani said. “Many aspects of these past projects (are) directly related to soldiers’ needs.”

Jani will be presenting her talk “Rethinking Rehabilitation, Health and Healing Environments for Wounded Warriors.”

Jani said she has been working with Gary LaGrange, Manhattan resident, U.S. Army veteran and founder of the Service-members Agricultural Vocational Education (SAVE) Farm in developing designs for the farm and healing center for wounded veterans. Jani is a board member for the SAVE Farm and also serves as a member of the SAVE Farm’s Design, Building and Land committee.

Jani said that, as of 2015, graduate students in interior architecture and product design have worked with the SAVE Farm officials to develop a master plan for the farm training and healing center with Jani’s mentorship. Phase I of the design is complete and Phase II will continue in the fall 2016.

“(Jani) and her students worked on this project with great passion,” LaGrange said. “They engaged a team of professionals to help them see the requirement more clearly; soldiers, farmers, agricultural specialists and engineers, Veteran’s Administration representatives and many others. Her passion was inspirational for her students. She passed that passion on to them. For them to connect their design project to a real-world need was extraordinary.”

According to LaGrange, the SAVE Farm will include facilities to train wounded veterans in all aspects of agriculture and a healing center that will provide psychological, physical and family counseling on the site.

In her TEDxICC proposal application, Jani said she cited a 2015 Pentagon Congressional Research Service report indicating more than 300,000 service members suffer from traumatic brain injuries. She also said according to the Wounded Warrior Project website, as many as 400,000 service members live with combat-related stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to Katherine Ankerson, professor and department head of interior architecture and product design, Jani was selected for TEDxICC through a competitive process based on submission of an abstract.

“It is quite an accomplishment and honor as TEDx has high standards for what is accepted,” Ankerson said.

Jim Correll, facilitator and business coach of the Successful Entrepreneur Program and director of the Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, said he contacted Ankerson about the TEDxICC opportunity after having seen firsthand the “creative thinking and self-efficacy” of the architecture, planning and design students at K-State.

“So, when it came time to contact people that might help us solicit proposals for our TEDxICC theme of ‘Rethinking the Future,’ Katherine came to the top of the list,” Correll said.

Ankerson said this talk presents a great opportunity to showcase the role of design and how it affects where people work, heal and play.

“Work on the SAVE project is incredibly significant as it builds on four years of research and exploration of design solutions that assist returning wounded warriors and veterans as they return to their communities scarred physically and psychologically by their experiences in our current conflicts and wars,” Ankerson said. “The tragedy and prevalence of suicide among this population is inexcusable, and we know that design can make a difference.”