Giving Back, By Design

By Becky Jensen (’93)

Kira Koldeway (‘03) manages to have a little fun during 2014 flood relief efforts in Glen Haven, Colorado.

Kira Koldeway (‘03) cleans up debris during 2014 flood relief efforts in Glen Haven, Colorado.

While other little girls were playing house with dolls, Kira Koldeway (apparel and merchandising, ’03) was ripping her play house apart with a pry bar. “I was constantly remodeling my fort,” says the 35-year-old Greeley, Colorado native, who was installing carpet and a makeshift skylight by age nine.

“I loved building something with my hands, and changing things up to make the space feel better than before.”

In 1998, Koldeway pulled on her work boots and jumped into Colorado State University’s construction management program with both feet. Brian Dunbar, executive director of the Institute for the Built Environment (IBE) and professor emeritus at Colorado State, was a standout instructor.

“It seems so simple, but he took the time to answer my questions outside of class,” says Koldeway, who appreciated the extra encouragement. The support gave her more confidence in the male-dominated major.

Then Koldeway took her first interior design course and found her calling.

“I liked my construction classes, but I loved the creativity of interior design,” she says. “The sketching, and learning about scale, balance, colors, textures – I was totally hooked.”

kiraBut competition was stiff and Koldeway started to doubt herself. “There was a point when I didn’t think I was good enough. I was close to throwing in the towel and walking away from my passion.”

Professors Karen Hyllegard and Jennifer Ogle in the Design & Merchandising Department saw Koldeway struggling and stepped in.

“They refused to let me disconnect and fade away. I remember Karen saying she believed in me. She told me I was going to do great things in this world.’ I carry her words with me today.”

Hyllegard assigned Koldeway to measure and interpret buyer behavior patterns during the grand opening of the REI flagship store in Denver. By the time Koldeway earned her degree from CSU in 2003, she was able to add public relations and consumer marketing skills to her designer’s toolbox.

“Why do I love CSU? My professors never gave up on me. They took me under their wings when I needed it, and then challenged me in ways that helped me grow. They inspire me to do the same for others.”

HighCraft

Ram pride on display at HighCraft Builders

Fast-forward to 2008. The owners of HighCraft Builders recognized Koldeway’s design talent, marketing experience and construction chops, so they tapped her to join their Fort Collins-based remodeling company. Koldeway created the design and marketing departments from the ground floor, allowing HighCraft to grow as a fully integrated design-build company.

Today, Koldeway is a member of HighCraft’s leadership team. She manages five creative professionals, and oversees the interior design of more than 50 residential remodeling projects each year – projects that have earned her company national “Master Design” and “Market Leader” awards from Houzz.com, Qualified Remodeler magazine and Professional Remodeler magazine.

Koldeway sees each recognition as a team victory. “The best design is always a team effort – from the designer to the homeowner to the electrician, and everyone in between.” Koldeway insists she’s a better designer because she learns something from tradesmen, clients, peers and project managers every day.

Koldeway feels grateful for her rewarding career as an interior designer, so she finds ways to connect and give back to her college community that made it all possible. It’s no coincidence she works for a company that adores CSU, feels like family and shares her commitment to making their community a better place. She says with a grin, “If HighCraft’s favorite colors were black and gold, I don’t think I would last here very long.” Koldeway is celebrating seven years with the company, which is located just a few blocks north of the Oval. It’s the office with the green and gold “Go Rams!” yard sign out front during Homecoming week.

Through HighCraft, Koldeway coordinates food drives and volunteer work days that support local nonprofits, including the Food Bank for Larimer County, Fort Collins Rescue Mission and Respite Care. She still reaches out to help the residents of Glen Haven, Colorado, as they continue to rebuild after the flood of 2013 nearly wiped them off the map.

When Koldeway says her experiences at CSU inspire her to pay it forward, she means it. She’s a founding member of the NoCo Chapter of the International Interior Design Association, where she organizes continuing education classes for peers, career expos for students from CSU and other schools, and community outreach events. When Koldeway was invited by the CSU student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers to speak on a panel this year, she warmly accepted. And when an interior design student from CSU asked to interview Koldeway about her career to date, she didn’t hesitate.

I’d like to think the CSU student’s notes might have read:

Kira never gave up on her passion.
She is building things with her hands.
She is changing things up.
She is leaving things better than before.
Kira believes in me. I’m going to do great things in this world.