At the end of the academic year, a graduating senior from each major is named the Outstanding Senior for that department. Today in part seven of our 10-part series, we interviewed senior Justin Highlander (CCAD 2011), who was named Outstanding Senior for the Interior Design department.
Q.) When did you realize that this is, without a doubt, what you want to do?
A.) Sophomore year. Our final project had to be entirely hand-drafted, and I was at the point where I re-hand-drafted my floor plan about fifteen times—and it took a couple hours each time. So I was at the point where I really started questioning if this was really what I wanted to do and if this was the industry I wanted to be in. Am I really going to have to do this fifteen times just to get it right?
But it now serves as a sort of traumatic experience that has gone well. This is how it works. This is how it is done right. You can’t just turn anything in, you can’t turn in junk work. It is real work that goes to a real client. And that’s what makes it so exciting.
Q.) Do you have a job lined up for after graduation?
A.) Not right now, but I’m looking to get into the commercial and retail industries. I’ve applied to about 15 places, and I’m looking for contacts. I’m willing to go anywhere that the opportunity presents itself—basically whoever wants to hire me, and if it’s a good place, and a good company, I’m game.
I did my first internship through Career Services, and they helped me with my first portfolio as a junior and my resume and interviewing skills. It is a great department at the school, and I hold a huge respect for those who work there.
Q.) What’s your sales pitch? Why should someone hire you?
A.) I always tell people about everything I’ve self-taught myself. I’m pushing my knowledge, sort of as, ‘if there is something new that you guys don’t know how to use, I’ll learn it, I’ll teach myself.’I think it’s very important to learn something new, so every semester I taught myself something new (outside of the curriculum) to help push my projects. I realized early on that this is what the industry wants and what the industry needs. It helped my projects and it helped me as a person, but it’s also helping me to apply for jobs, saying that I do know how to use these programs that others may not know how to use.
Q.) What’s the dream job?
A.) The dream job is working for one of those companies that gets a new client every three months, so you can do the ultimate design for every new project that you do. I would reference Chute Gerdeman as the dream job. I mean, M&M World! Plus, as a CCAD student, I’ve gotten to work with them, to go to their offices, to meet some of our alums who work there.
Q.) What word always reminds you of CCAD?
A.) Crane. Crane reminds me of CCAD. When I come to CCAD on the weekends, I come to Crane. When I go to classes, I come to Crane. I mean, I basically live in Crane, so of course it will always remind me of this place. Someday, I’ll see a crane and be like, ‘oh, yep, CCAD.’
Q.) Can you describe what graduating feels like in one word?
A. Ecstatic. Finally done. That’s two though. Some more? Congrats. Hooray.
Q.) If you could give yourself a do-over, what would it be?
A.)Leave myself a note sophomore year that said, ‘Push yourself farther. Do more.’ I learned my lesson after two years that I can accomplish so much if I continue to push myself, but I wish I would have learned that sooner.
To learn more about Justin, visit his Coroflot profile.
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