What’s your job? Physical Plant interior design with Kirstin Selchow

What’s your job? is a series focused on the work of FP&M employees. As the largest and most diverse nonacademic unit on campus, it can be challenging to learn everything our division is responsible for. These stories shine a light on FP&Mers and what they do to keep campus safe, sustainable and successful.  

Have you ever wondered who the brilliant minds are behind the vibrant and functional indoor spaces across campus? Meet one of FP&M Physical Plant’s interior designers, Kirstin Selchow

Kirstin looking at design plans and fabric swatches for upcoming projects. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

Kirstin works as one of the interior designers within the FP&M Physical Plant department. Her responsibilities range from designing and managing projects related to furniture finishes, signage, and space planning, to working collaboratively with architects & engineers to ensure seamless integration. She currently has 60 ongoing active projects!  

As Senior Interior Designer, Kirstin developed the Physical Plant finish standards, including guidance on paint and carpets. She also looks at pricing estimates, design finishes, walls, furniture, signage and more for numerous projects around campus.  

A recent project Kirstin worked on was the student common area for the School of Pharmacy, creating community and group workspaces to work with developing student and faculty expectations. Throughout her 16 years working on campus, her passion for the work never ceases.  

“One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to collaborate with the architects, engineers, and other designers within our department as well as with the Trades and construction managers. I have learned a lot from my coworkers over the past 16+ years and particularly enjoy working with the Trades to develop new solutions to whatever challenges we are presented with,” said Kirstin. 


Growing up, Kirstin always possessed a love for arts and crafts. She is a Madison native and attended UW-Madison as an undergraduate student. Her journey as an interior designer started with an internship at the School of Medicine and Public Health that turned into a full-time opportunity. After working on a project with the Physical Plant remodeling group, she decided to pursue her career at FP&M where she has worked for the last 12 years.  

Kirstin’s favorite aspect of her job is the problem-solving component, whether it is coming up with creative solutions to accommodate student and faculty needs for the space or communicating her visions with the construction team. 

“When budgets are limited, it’s common for end-users to assume that means limited design options, but one of the things I really enjoy is figuring out how to improve the functionality and aesthetic of a space within tight constraints,” she said. “It’s both challenging and rewarding to find solutions that meet both the budgetary and design goals.”

One of the most demanding parts of her job is the time constraints. 

“For the Red Gym Black Cultural Center we designed under Chancellor Blank, we worked to give a group of students a space with only two months to design it,” she explained. “The turnaround time was very short.” 

Black Cultural Center in Red Gym design by Kirstin. Photo by Veronika Dethart.

Another notable project involved revitalizing the Bascom Hall corridors, which required life cycle cost analyses to determine a durable wood floor and upgraded lighting solution. Kirstin’s work allowed for the preservation of one of the most iconic buildings on campus so faculty, students and staff could continue to use it. 

Kirstin’s perseverance is shown through in her work when finding ways to accommodate the needs of all during big projects or finding common ground and compromise for designs. 

“Working for a large public university means that our spaces are often used by multiple groups including students, faculty, staff and the general public,” she said. “This means we are frequently asked to design spaces that will meet a wide range of needs.”

While not one to mention it, Kirstin has been recognized by her FP&M coworkers in the past. In  2020, she received the division’s employee recognition program award for Creative Solutions.

“Kirstin’s relentless pursuit of a better way to design spaces and to improve the environment for the people that work and learn in them truly embodies the Wisconsin Idea.” said Missy Nergard, Director of Sustainability, who nominated Kirstin. “The WELL Accredited Professional credential enables her to bring a level of expertise to designing spaces for positive health and learning outcomes.” 

Kirstin is excited about moving forward and continuing to take her role to new heights in the future and working with even more of the UW community.  

Want to learn more about the design team at Physical Plant? More information is available on the Physical Plant Campus Renovation Services webpage. You can get in touch with Kirstin at kirstin.selchow@wisc.edu 

By Hannah Rifkin and Megan Wu

Hannah Rifkin is a strategic communications student intern with FP&M Marketing & Communications. She is a senior at UW-Madison majoring in Journalism. Hannah has been working at FP&M since Fall of 2023.

Megan Wu was a strategic communications student intern with FP&M Marketing & Communications last year. She graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and a Business Minor at UW-Madison in 2023, and now pursues a Masters degree at New York University.