For the past four years, Armstrong Flooring has partnered with Thomas Jefferson University (Jefferson) on its Master’s program in Surface Imaging. Through the program, the Lancaster, PA, global flooring company explores future flooring and surface trends while students gain professional experience with research-based projects.
Morgan Lucente, a flooring design manager for Armstrong, says the company has strong ties with the university, as it’s had designers and employees are who alumni. The company’s involvement with the program sprung from its desire to work more with local organizations in the community—and expand on the idea of the internship.
(Photo: Armstrong Flooring hosts Jefferson student project presentations; Courtesy of Armstrong Flooring)
“How could we build some kind of program that’s similar, but with our take on it?” Lucente says, adding: “Every year we’ve enhanced or improved, and year after year we take away more from the program.”
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Real World Projects
Armstrong meets with Jefferson’s surfacing imaging Master’s students in their final semester and oversees their capstone project. The company creates the project outline and requirements.
“We kick off with the students for a full-day session and give them a high-level overview of the flooring industry, who Armstrong is, how we participate in the industry and share with them what the project will be that year,” Lucente explains.
Each year, the capstone project’s theme changes based on class size and current trends in the industry. The most recent group of students were assigned projects that focused on luxury vinyl tile (LVT).
“It’s the hottest and fastest-growing flooring category,” Lucente says. “Each student focused on a different segment [such as healthcare, education or multi-family] with LVT flooring in mind.”
The students conducted their own research to explore the needs in their segment, then determined how design can influence and impact those needs. They ultimately used that research to create a curated collection.
(Photo courtesy of Thomas Jefferson University)
Throughout the semester, Armstrong conducts “milestone reviews” and mentoring sessions with each student in person, either on campus or at the company’s offices. At the end of the semester, students present their final collection in front of an audience at Armstrong headquarters.
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“This has been a great learning experience for our students in the Master of Science in Surface Imaging program at Jefferson,” says Hitoshi Ujiie, director and professor of surface imaging at Jefferson, in a press release. “This is a part of our essential trans-disciplinary course work, in which students combine design, engineering and business skills into real-life industry experiences.”
'Most Refreshing' – Students Take a Thoughtful Approach
Lucente says each year of the program, she always appreciates and is impressed by the research conducted by the students.
“They’re very focused on understanding and identifying a trend, and researching why that’s the trend, and how to identify trends,” she explains. “That’s always the most refreshing piece of [the program]. … What rang loudly and clearly in the project this year is the idea of keeping the customer in mind—and how floor impacts the space and how that space needs to function at the end of the day.”
(Photo: Armstrong Flooring Jefferson Master of Science in Surface Imaging program Group; Courtesy of Armstrong flooring)
The annual collaboration with Jefferson students leaves Armstrong designers inspired by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the next generation.
“[With the students], there’s definitely an energy around a thoughtful approach to design,” Lucente says. “When I say that, I mean a more holistic design of not just making a space look beautiful, but understanding the functionality of the space. How does that space impact productivity in an office or healing in healthcare? There’s definitely an energy in newer designers and younger students to really focus on that side of things.”
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