This year, Metropolis Magazine named 50 interior design and 50 architecture senior undergraduate students in North America for its 2021 Future 100. Among the select students is Michaela Cook, 21, a University of Wisconsin - Stout interior design student. Metropolis calls the group of designers and architects advocates “for openness, equity, and inclusion through their work and extracurriculars. They are leaders on their campuses who are sure to be forces in the industry.” Cook, who calls River Falls home, has always known she wanted to pursue interior design. She will graduate this fall with a degree in it. 

What inspired your senior capstone project or how did you decide to pursue it? 

I did not know what kind of interior design I wanted to do when I first started the program. At first, I thought that I would do residential design. But once I started working on commercial design projects in my interior design studio classes, I instantly knew that I wanted to be a commercial interior designer. I would attend networking events to understand what other interior designers do. 

I grew to love hospitality design and corporate design. My senior project is a mix between the two. I am designing a retail store and office space for a black and queer owned company. One of my biggest goals as a designer is to ensure diversity and inclusion. I knew that I needed to make sure my senior capstone project really spoke upon my beliefs as a designer and as a person living in a society that does not always reach towards diversity and inclusion. I am doing research and developing strategies to include COVID-19 safety precautions in the design. The pandemic impacted every sector of interior design, especially workplace design. I am eager to start working with other designers to develop new and innovative designs in response to the current pandemic we are all living in.

When and how did you find out you had been named in the 2021 Metropolis Magazine Future 100? How did it feel and what does it mean to you?  

I found out that I was selected as one of the Metropolis Magazine Top 100 Future Designers of 2021 back on January 26. The list officially went live on April 1.  When I first found out, I was shocked. I did not know how to react. I have always been proud of my work, but this achievement has made me feel even more confident in knowing that being an interior designer is exactly what I should be doing. I have a very strong connection with my professors and instructors. They have given me so many opportunities and I will always be grateful for them. I was nominated by Shelley Pecha, the interior design program director, and my professor.  I took my first ever interior design class with Shelley and I am now taking my senior capstone class with her. She is an incredible person who I have looked up to since the beginning.  

What do you hope to do/accomplish in your future? 

What I really want to do is work with other designers on a project outside of school. I am looking for opportunities where I can share my passion for interior design. What I want more than anything else right now, is to learn and grow as a designer, while being surrounded by other amazing designers. You learn so much in school, but you learn so much more when you are working with a design team and are gaining professional experience. I want to strengthen my skills and enhance my education.  

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