CSULB Design Student Wins Steelcase NEXT Competition

CSULB Design Student Wins Steelcase NEXT Student Design Competition

Gworls being gworls
From left to right: Leah Budd and Genesis Fajardo.


CSULB Interior Design student Leah Budd earned first place in a national student design competition held annually by Steelcase, a global design and architectural space thought leader focused on the world of work. The Steelcase NEXT Student Design Competition invited students from throughout the nation to imagine the workplace of the future – an approximately 12,000-15,000 square foot environment that could and would support the changing work behaviors and expectations of the workplace. Each student’s proposal included inclusive design principles, hybrid flexibility, and the encouragement of collaboration.

Approximately 1,400 submissions were received from more than 80 interior design programs from universities and colleges around the country. As the Semifinalists and Honorable Mentions were announced, three CSULB students made the cut – Leah Budd and Genesis Fajardo were named as Semifinalists, and both undertook this project under the guidance of Design Professor Eduardo Perez, and Hanna Marzouk earned an Honorable Mention. She entered the competition through a class with Design Faculty lecturer Britt Griffith.

“Leah Budd and Genesis Fajardo, our two semifinalists, are two distinct and talented designers who share a common trait which is passion towards their major with their own distinct critical lens,” explained Eduardo Perez. “This shared characteristic and relentless work ethic allowed them to embrace a challenge like this competition and meet both their own personal expectations and those of our rigorous program. They are trained for moments like this and the profession as a whole. I could not be any prouder of both of these students as they are both winners with huge futures ahead of them.”

At the end of February, Leah and Genesis joined the other three semifinalists in flying out to the Steelcase Global Business Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Each semifinalist presented their projects to the judges, defended their concepts, and communicated their design decisions during a Q&A that followed their presentations. In announcing the winner this year, the Steelcase NEXT Development Team of Jerry Holmes and Denise Calehuff stated, “these were the five best collective presentations as a group of students we have had in our eleven years of NEXT. All five of the semifinalists did an excellent job and it was a very tough and narrow decision. Ultimately, it was Leah Budd from CSULB who was selected by the judges.”

Leah and her program will both receive $2,500, and the remaining semifinalists and their programs each receive $1,250. In addition to the prize money awarded, each semifinalist and honorable mention student will receive their own custom designed Steelcase chair.

“The Steelcase NEXT competition submission is the single most detailed and consuming project our first semester juniors take on each fall,” Britt Griffith said. “This project is massive for our students, as we are competing with other juniors, as well as seniors, and graduate level students throughout North America. Students must pull from every skill learned over their previous years, which is a testament to the student and all the faculty teaching our core foundational courses. I am so very proud of Hanna Marzouk and of all our students who participated.”

CSULB Design has a long and impressive history of success in national and international competitions, with major wins and recognitions in this and many other Design competitions. In 2020 CSULB’s Jen Khor received the Steelcase NEXT top honor. She is now working remotely in Malaysia for Long Beach design firm, The Retail Design Collaborative and helping the firm to grow in the hospitality sector in Asia.

In discussing the history of exceptional results in this and other competitions, Debra Satterfield, Chair of the Department of Design said, “The Steelcase NEXT competition challenges students to imagine the workplace of the future and design for the ever-changing needs and expectations of that new reality. It is exciting to know that our students in the Interior Architecture program at CSULB are well-prepared to be award-winning industry leaders and change agents. We are very proud of Leah Budd and her CSULB Interior Architecture faculty members, Eduardo Perez and Britt Griffith, for their dedication to excellence.”


Link to Leah Budd's award-winning project here.