Q&A Session with Cindy McLoed

Ask most architects in Indianapolis where they went to school… they will most likely say Ball State. But not Cindy McLoed! Cindy’s architectural allegiance is to Mississippi State University, home of the Bulldogs.




Why Mississippi State University?
I was born in Mississippi, and my Dad’s side of the family is firmly rooted in Starkville (home to Mississippi State University). I grew up going to all the games and have always been surrounded by family who are fans.

It seems like I always knew that I was going to be an architect. I have always loved buildings. Even when I was playing with toys as a child, I was more interested in creating the buildings and spaces for them. Artistically, most kids would draw a picture of their house while I was busy creating the spaces from building blocks and anything that I could find. Since Mississippi State had an accredited School of Architecture, it only made sense that I go to school there. My son, Oliver, is also attending State now, and we still go down to many of the games and follow the teams.

And you are still connected to the area as well?
My family owns property in the Starkville area. My dad started a 300-acre managed tree farm in the 1960s growing Loblolly Pine Trees. It is now a family company with shared ownership between my parents and us “kids”. We are certified by the American Tree Farm System which promotes responsible forest management for private forests. Basically, they set standards for wildlife habitats and managed growth plans emphasizing staged harvest with no clear cuts. In my lifetime, I have seen giant trees come down, but they have always been followed with new ones coming up.

Tell me about your family.
I married Marty in 1994, and we have two kids—Oliver (18) and Neely (21). Marty works in IT for LSC Communications and is always working on our home or landscape projects. As mentioned, Oliver graduated from Brownsburg High School and is attending Mississippi State—majoring in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture with a focus in Conservation Law Enforcement. Neely is getting a degree in Ministry Leadership and went to Guatemala in August 2018 for long-term mission work. My furry children are Yogi and Yeager, two Golden Doodles. They have their own Instagram account—@yogiandyeager.

Do you collect anything?
I had an awesome neon collection in college. We would find abandoned neon at old buildings around town and create new arrangements with the tubes. The thing many people don’t know is that there is an art to learning the wire neon. I definitely got shocked a few times learning to do it. Unfortunately, the transformers were all made out of lead, so I got rid of all the neon and transformers when I had kids. Now my collecting is a bit less adventurous—I collect patches from places we have visited.

Do you keep anything special at your desk?
Beyond the mess, I have a Mississippi State banner. Being an out-of-state trained architect, I like to show my allegiance and love for my school.

If you ever have architectural questions, want more Golden Doodles pictures, or are a Mississippi State fan — give Cindy a call!


Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle MillerSteve SchaecherMyrisha Colston Drew Morgan, Steve Spangler, and Bill Gruen

5 Ways to Improve School Safety through Site Design

Physical design features are only one piece of enhancing school safety and security that we—as designers—can directly play a part in. School Corporations regularly tell us student and staff safety are their top priority when taking on a new project, as it is ours as well.

School safety includes crime prevention as well as traffic safety. Looking at the outside of a school, we have 5 main ways to improve school safety through site design alone:

1. Fencing

  • Fencing helps to designate a sense of place, maintain lines of site, and restrict access to areas of the school that might not be highly visible.
  • Fences around playground areas help keep kids in a safe area while running around at recess, separate the “little kids” from the “big kids”, and keeps others out. Including fencing around vehicular areas, providing separation between walkways and drop-off/pick-up areas, can help to keep kids from darting into traffic.
  • Choose a material that is easy to see through but difficult to climb or vandalize—often wrought iron or ornamental fencing.
West Lafayette New Intermediate School - Fenced Playground

West Lafayette New Intermediate School – Fenced Playground

2. Security system

  • Include real-time security on the premises that local police can have access to in the event of an emergency.
  • Making the security cameras highly visible can also deter criminal activity before it starts.

3. Management of access points

  • Create a welcoming main entrance to the building through a secure vestibule which leads directly to the main reception area. Access into school corridors are controlled from here. Including card readers to monitor when a door is being opened and by who also helps with access control.
  • Limit the number of access points so school personnel can better monitor the comings and goings throughout the school day.
  • Physically separate school bus drive, parent drop-off/pick-up routes, and parking areas to help alleviate the chance of traffic-related issues. Clearly mark all separate areas with signs and include traffic flow directions for clear orientation. This is helpful in guiding students, parents, and emergency personnel.
Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

4. Natural surveillance – maximize visibility from within

  • Give people who might consider committing a crime on the school grounds a sense that they are being watched. This alone can help prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.
  • There should be clear lines of sight from road/parking lot/entry for school personnel. Make sure any landscape elements are maintained and trimmed regularly so bushes or trees do not block this line of sight.
  • Include windows in main office area so staff can monitor parking lots and entry walkways.
  • Sufficient exterior lighting eliminates potential hiding spots and increases overall visibility from school personnel.

5. Territoriality

  • By creating a well-defined and appealing exterior, incoming visitors will know they are coming into a protected, cared for, and proud space. This can be done through:
    • Clear, recognizable main entry.
    • Exterior door numbering for the public and authorities in emergency.
    • Utilizing school colors to define walking spaces from vehicular traffic areas.
    • Landscaping elements like shrubs, trees, stones, and fencing that are low to the ground for visibility and well maintained.
    • Site signage that clearly identifies school name, front entry, and other specific destinations such as athletic fields and performing arts entries.
  • Ongoing maintenance is important, such as repairing and updating doors and windows before they begin to “really show their age”.
  • Landscape elements should be low to the ground or have a high canopy to prevent spaces that can’t be supervised or monitored.

LaPorte High School – Performing Arts Center Entrance

There are many approaches to take when it comes to improving school safety through design, this is in no way a be-all-end-all list. Each school has a unique site and a specific set of needs, but these five simple tactics can be used as part of an overall strategy.

It is also important to note there are no school safety measures that are 100% reliable—despite the best plans and precautions. Please reach out if you are interested in learning about what is best for your school, have questions, or would like additional safety tips. Our K-12 team is ready to work for and with you!

5 Tips for Designing More Interactive Classrooms

Interactive learning is one of the best ways for teachers and educators to make sure their students are actually grasping the knowledge and skills they are sharing.

An effort to combat Mark Twain’s famous sentiment of higher education being “a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes without passing through the brains of either,” interactive learning encourages students and educators to get actively involved. In fact, some of the best interactive classrooms can, at first glance, look chaotic because of this type of engagement and often physical movement.

But, as research shows, not giving students an opportunity to interact is likely to impede their ability to really learn – not just memorize and repeat. And teachers agree. In a recent survey, 97% of all educators said that interactive learning experiences undoubtedly lead to improved learning.

Here are some tips for building and designing more interactive classrooms that will benefit both teachers and their students.

1. Provide Flexibility

An interactive classroom needs to be a welcoming, easy-to-use classroom. When designing the space, it’s important to make sure all students, including ones with disabilities, find it easy to move around, join in conversations, sit at tables, etc. Furniture layouts should be flexible, going from lecture-based to project-based collaboration spontaneously. The more a classroom is able to adapt to the subject or project of the day, and whims of the teacher and students (think about including elements like movable tables, rolling/swiveling chairs, comfortable furniture), the more interactive it will be.

2. Smart Surfaces

From large interactive walls to mobile smart boards, the surfaces in the classroom need to be functional and attractive. Teachers should also have access to multiple surfaces, preferably not just at the front of the room, to help facilitate conversations and offer guidance for specific subject material. Increasing flexibility even more, mobile teacher presentation carts allow the teacher to un-tether from a wall location and move about the room.

Mary Castle Elementary

Multiple Writing Surfaces & Mobile Technology Boards for Teachers – Mary Castle Elementary

3. Adjustable Lighting

Light plays a big role in the classroom environment. To help students feel comfortable and relaxed while interacting with each other and teachers, design lighting fixtures that can be adjusted and controlled. Dimmers as well as ambient lighting, not just the standard overhead lights, allow the environment to be changed as needed and will better facilitate conversations, presentations, etc.

4. Maximize Visibility

The best interactive classrooms don’t have a designated “front of the classroom”. Create spaces with your design that allow student seating to be optimized from every point of the room. Students should feel connected with their teachers – not separate from them. By eliminating the ability for students to be placed in designated “back” and “front” of the classroom, design can help equalize the playing field for all students.

5. Technological Savvy

Almost all modern design incorporates the latest technological needs, but perhaps it’s most important when applied to the classroom setting. In order to create interactive classrooms, technology almost always needs to be incorporated. Wireless technology provides the most flexibility in connecting students and teachers to projectors, monitors, and each other for sharing work. Provide multiple charging locations, including floor boxes with USB ports, throughout the room for both students and teachers.

While every classroom can be tailored to specific subjects and grade levels, all interactive classrooms will share the same basic fundamentals. And, because the best interactive designs allow space to be easily reconfigured, these types of classrooms are highly adaptable, making them a great asset for schools across the country.


If you think we would be a good fit for your next project, reach out to us!

7 Principles of Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the framework, backed by research, that guides the development of learning environments to accommodate individual learning differences.

Universal Design for Learning recognizes the different needs that are unique to those with visual, hearing, motor, or learning/cognitive disabilities while also designing for able-bodied users as well. UDL provides us, as designers, with guidelines to create an environment that is built for all users to learn, play, and develop together while reducing limitations.

  1. Equitable Use: provides the same means of use for all users with diverse abilities, and design is appealing to everyone
  2. Flexibility in Use: design to accommodate a wide range of preferences and abilities
  3. Simple & Intuitive: easy to understand and use regardless of the user’s experiences, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level
  4. Perceptible Information: communicates necessary info effectively, regardless of surrounding conditions or sensory abilities
  5. Tolerance for Error: minimizes hazards and adverse consequences of unintended actions
  6. Low Physical Effort: efficient and comfortable while minimizing chance of fatigue
  7. Size & Space for Approach & Use: design provides appropriate size and space regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility


Some of the most basic ways we design with these seven principles in mind:

Universal Design infographic


Need help making sure your project meets UDL standards? Ask our experts!

The Value of Long-Standing Relationships

As part of developing good relationships, personally or professionally, you need to learn about the person. What do they like or dislike? What is their communication style? Do they want coffee, donuts, or both in an early morning meeting? Getting to know a client on a personal level and professional level is something we enjoy here at Schmidt Associates. It is great fun when we get the chance to work with past clients again!

For recent additions to two Westfield Washington schools, Anna Marie Burrell and I reconnected with original principals Scott Williams and Robin Lynch. But first, here is a little back story.

15 to 20 years ago, Anna and I had the chance to design several elementary schools for Westfield. The district chose to make the design of the first elementary school, Carey Ridge, a prototype and their corporation standard. The second and third iterations of the prototype were Oak Trace, with Principal Robin Lynch, and Washington Woods, with Principal Scott Williams.

At Oak Trace, we collaborated with Robin throughout construction to morph the prototype building into something more unique and specific to this school. The building was picked up, so to speak, and flipped so that it was a mirror image of the original prototype. This fit the site better, and allowed us to customize the school to reflect Oak Trace.

Anna Marie and I met with Scott for the next new elementary, Washington Woods. Scott was inspired by the proposed wooded site of the new elementary. He worked with us to adapt the prototype materials and colors to blend the building into and compliment the wooded environment.

Fast forward 15-20 years, and we reconnected to work on an addition to the original prototype, Carey Ridge Elementary. As the surrounding community grew, the administration and Principal Susan Hobson realized there was a need for four more kindergarten rooms and a community room to be added to the existing school.

In response to Westfield’s overall growth, the same spaces were then planned as additions to Oak Trace and Washington Woods. Since we had worked with both Scott and Robin on their original buildings, the design meetings started off at an accelerated pace. Ever enterprising, each principal jumped right in and told us how they could use the space best. Neither were shy about delving knee-deep into our materials library to select finishes.

Schmidt Associates used a highly visible, transparent approach at Oak Trace and Washington Woods to demonstrate a design with the children’s best interests at heart. With support of the community, these projects delivered spaces that support the before and after school care, the all-day kindergarten, and a community room for flexible use.








The casual, but professional client to architect relationship helped make these projects a pleasure to be a part of. It was fun to reconnect with the principals after several years and see them so successful in their elementary homes!


But don’t just take it from us, take it from two Westfield Washington elementary school principals:

Robin Lynch – Oak Trace Elementary

For me, the biggest thing is trust. You never know what you are going to get when you start working with a new vendor, contractor, or company. Having a long-standing relationship like I’ve had with Schmidt Associates’ K-12 leadership team means that I have been able to build trust over the years.

When we were planning our recent Kindergarten expansion, I had no hesitation having worked with Anna Marie Burrell and Cindy McLoed in years prior. I knew that working with them meant we would get exactly what we wanted and needed, and we would stay within our budget. It is important to me that our school delivers what the kids need most and function specifically for the Westfield community. Schmidt Associates knows how to take a generic design and tweak it until it uniquely serves our needs.

Working with the K-12 team from Schmidt Associates ensures that we are going to get the most child-friendly environment for our students, and that makes me very happy with their entire process. I truly have enjoyed working with them over the years.

Scott Williams – Washington Woods Elementary

I’ve worked with Anna Marie and Cindy for over 15 years now, when the first school project started. Schmidt Associates’ K-12 team has been good listeners and supportive to our school community. Their team really heard us, really considering what we needed and providing us with options. They strive to find what we uniquely need for our school here at Washington Woods.

Anna Marie, specifically, was the first person to bring me a design that didn’t include the “Westfield green” trim along the outside, which made me realize that we were on the same wavelength. Our ideas seemed to be in sync from there on out.



Designing for Accessibility

At Schmidt Associates, we’ve been sensitive to the design needs of those with disabilities for a long time. For one of our more recent projects, The Erskine Green Training Institute and Courtyard Muncie, we met with Self-Advocates from The Arc of Indiana before jumping into the planning and design process. Several Advocates use wheelchairs and demonstrated for us how they perform everyday tasks. This helped us figure out what we needed to do beyond accessible design guidelines to fill the gaps so that they would have an easier time maneuvering through the spaces.

One of the biggest eye-openers for us during this process was recognizing that some people only have the use of one hand. This helped us realize that an accessible room may follow all design guidelines but would still be unusable for some people. Creating mirrored accessible rooms provides options for guests of the hotel.  Those rooms have grab bars and plumbing fixtures set up according to right or left hand use. The location of a shower and toilet grab bars may not seem as important to someone with the function of both hands, but this is just one way our design integrated greater accessibility.

Courtyard by Marriott – Arc Hotel Accessible Bathroom


Another design aspect that allows better access is the use of automatic doors. Most buildings have door actuators (push pads) or automatic sliding doors to operate the doors. From our conversations with the Self Advocates, it was determined that it would be suitable to place automatic door openers on the accessible hotel guest room entry doors. This convenience factor makes it that much easier for guests to navigate through the doors.


To make facilities more accessible for those that use wheelchairs, there are other design ideas we provided at the hotel to make it easier to move around: wider door openings, sliding doors, and minimal floor transitions.

  • Creating wider door openings is a simple design change that makes it easier to maneuver through in a chair.
  • Sliding doors were used in several locations instead of swinging doors in the hotel guest rooms. The sliders won’t get in the way of the chair turn-around space.

Arc Hotel Room with Sliding Doors


  • The transition between tile and carpet flooring materials was minimized by feathering under the carpet to build up to the tile height. This allowed the threshold to be smooth and easier to pass over in a chair.

We appreciate the chance to learn things from the Self Advocates of the Arc of Indiana that we can use on other buildings!