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Saddleback College Student Stephanie Towers-Brooks Turns Her Passion into a Profession Student Success Profile
After 15 years of working in the restaurant industry, Stephanie Towers-Brooks was ready for a career change. The restaurant she was working in went through a design remodel and she was hooked on the process. However, her decision to return to school was not easy.
“I had just turned 33 years old; I felt awkward returning to the classroom and wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Stephanie of the choice to enroll in Saddleback College’s Interior Design program. “Once I was there, it solidified my decision. It is such a diverse mix of students – some that just graduated high school, some older students, and many that wanted a career change like me. It was a program that truly welcomed everybody.”
Stephanie threw herself into the program, taking as many design classes as she could, while still working full-time nights and weekends. Saddleback College’s unique Interior Design curriculum offers students the option of an Associate in Science Degree or three, leveled Certificates of Achievement of Interior Design in Interiors and Merchandising, Design Assistant, and Design Professional. The certificates are stackable and students are eligible to sit for design certification exams, such as the IDEX California or national NCIDQ after levels 2 and 3.
“I love how well-rounded the program was,” says Stephanie. “From products and materials to AutoCAD and more specialized skills like rendering and color theory. It has everything you could want to learn about interior design.”
Beyond the classroom, Stephanie became president of the Interior Design Club and took on leadership roles in several professional design organization student chapters including American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), Network of Executive Women in Hospitality (NEWH) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).
“She spearheaded several club initiatives, including a trip to the Modernism Week in Palm Springs where students from all levels of the program toured homes, attended lectures, and interacted with on-site designers,” notes Farida Gabdrakhmanova, Assistant Professor and Interior Design Department Chair at Saddleback College. “The tour was a powerful tool for building and sustaining connections on campus and with the design community.”
When Covid-19 forced a transition to virtual education, Stephanie started Virtual Happy Hours, providing tips to stay motivated and exchanging contacts among students to create a support network. For her student leadership, she was selected as one of the national ASID Student Volunteer of the Year Finalists.
Even with student activities, work, and family commitments, Stephanie still maintained a 4.0 average. She won the NEWH SoCal scholarship, placed second in the IIDA SoCal student charrette, and earn multiple Saddleback showcase awards.
For her final internship, Stephanie knew exactly where she wanted to go – the company that sparked her interest in restaurant design three years earlier, Hatch Design Group in Costa Mesa.
She was confident that her years working in restaurants, gave her a uniquely valuable insight to what works for both design and practical application. Even though their offices had been closed due to the pandemic, she kept calling and sending emails. In early 2021, she earned the internship and after graduating in May, became a full-time Hospitality Designer with Hatch.
Stephanie loves her new career in hospitality design. Every day is different, she may be in the office choosing material or on site overseeing an art installation. Hospitality design gives Stephanie the creative opportunity to make spaces that stand out and are unique.
“It is really easy to make things pretty,” says Stephanie. “But for me, the work is in creating an experience, something that makes you think, something you will remember.”