Top's Taste of the Real World - An Architecture, Interior Design & Marketing Student Collaboration

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Top’s Taste of the Real World

An Architecture, Interior Design & Marketing Student Collaboration

For generations college students have asked themselves the same questions: How do I pro-actively navigate through college to better prepare myself for “The Real World’? Answer: Internships.

How do I set myself apart from the vast amount of students vying for the few internship slots available? Answer: Project-based learning.

Why is this important? According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, 70% of college graduates launch a career due to outside-the-classroom experiential learning opportunities.

For that reason, Top’s Appliances & Cabinetry developed a leading-edge program to put students’ education to the test and help mold the Millennial Generation to excel in their career path. Investing in changing lives with passion and purpose.

Education meets Industry - During the 2016 UL Spring Semester, Top’s Appliances & Cabinetry introduced a unique program to provide real life experience for the top third-year students at the university. Add a twist of competition and you have the innovative program called Top’s Taste of the Real World, An Architecture, Interior Design & Marketing Student Collaboration.

“For the first time in the history of our school, architecture and interior design students will work together in the manner that professional do,” says Hector LaSala, a 40 year Architecture Professor at UL. “The marketing students will join us this summer.”

The assignment for the ten teams in the design competition was to develop the McKinley St. Urban Lofts project. Each week Top’s licensed & certified designers would meet with students to critique their progress and give professional feedback on their designs which included products from today’s market, all to help bridge the gap between education and industry.

Top’s NCIDQ Licensed Interior Designer, Melanie Blasingame explains, “This collaboration is a tremendous opportunity for students to get an insight into how those they will be working with in the field think & operate. Plus, being able to use actual specifications and know how products relate to the other elements in their designs are essential for success.”

 “The contest guidelines mirror what Licensed Interior Designers & Architects follow in the workforce. We deal daily with working on teams, meeting needs, requirements, and restrictions that clients face on each job. This project challenges students to do the same,” says Top’s NKBA Certified Kitchen Designer, Kim Harman.

Adding to the value of this competition, the students were invited to two forums that provided leadership and direction: A Strengths-Based Training Seminar and a National Kitchen and Bath Association Chapter Meeting and Membership Drive. “Learning about your strengths is the beginning of understanding how to effectively communicate with others. This is a key component to any kind of collaborative process whether you work with colleagues, manage others or consult with clients,” says Wendy Hornung, owner of Hornung Creative Consulting & Coaching. Pete Webb, Top’s Cabinet Division Manager and recipient of the NKBA La/Miss/Ark Chapter 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award echoed this sentiment, “Being part of this premiere association means communicating with some 60,000 members who understand consumer demands worldwide and share ideas toward excellence for all living environments. Collaboration defines success.”

While this project provided a networking opportunity between professionals and their future workforce, it revealed much more than prize winners. It gave experts an insight into students’ work ethic, their problem solving skills and their passion for the business. For the students, the benefits were profound. It brought about an awareness that will forever shape their decisions for future designs as students and as designers in the real world.

Congratulations to all those involved and a special thanks to the sponsors, Top’s Appliances & Cabinetry, Sub-Zero / Wolf & Wood-Mode Fine Cabinetry, for making the following awards possible.


1st Place - $3,000 Valued Trip to 2017's Design & Construction Week in Orlando, FL, featuring the International Builders’ Show, Kitchen & Bath Show, International Window Coverings Expo, and The International Surface Event.

2nd Place - $750 Innovative Student Scholarship

3rd Place - $300 Innovative Student Scholarship

Scholarships will be doubled if used for study abroad.