Interview with Rhea Alexander and Patty Beirne

March 23, 2015
Rhea Alexander and Patty Beirne, SDS faculty and mentors for the ELab

Rhea Alexander and Patty Beirne, SDS faculty and mentors for the ELab

Rhea Alexander and Patty Beirne, faculty of the School of Design Strategies co-founded the Entrepreneurial Lab along with Dean Alison Mears and Eduardo Staszowski of DESIS lab to bridge academic and professional practices for a select group of recent alumni from the Parsons School of Design Strategies graduate programs. The ELab’s distributed network model leverages the new collaborative economy to provide recent graduates with key opportunities to realize their entrepreneurial ventures.





What do you look for in a candidate alumnus for the ELab grant?

First ideally we look for well thought out plans that have a proof of concept and a good handle on numbers. We look for ideas that are innovative, that deliver a service in a unique way (the differentiation), that have clearly articulated value proposition and competitive advantage, and most importantly that present a plan on how the idea will be making money.In the grantees themselves we look for characteristics like self-motivation, drive, tenacity, integrity, humility, energy, vision, reliability, commitment, excellent communication skills, respect, comprehension of what it takes, that they can stick to their word, and that not only can they articulate their passion, but also display their ambitions through actions.

We also look for innovative, motivated, conscientious alumni who have a track record of learning from “failure” in order to drive their projects to more successful outcomes. This program is most appropriate for alumni who seek to build a long term practice of entrepreneurship.


What does the ELab bring to Parsons and the SDS program specifically?

The Elab is an opportunity for a select few post-graduates to fast-track into entrepreneurs. We offer a little extra support, facilitation and connection that the alumni can then later develop on their own. In order to serve a community that has emerged from a suite of programs forging new territory for design practitioners, the ELab has created an agile model of extended mentorship that focuses on the professional implementation of the ideas and methodologies that our alumni have nurtured and applied both during and immediately following their graduate studies at Parsons.


What does a mentor do in the Elab?

As mentors in the Elab, we focus on identifying the needs of our grantees and match those needs with opportunities afforded by our strategic partners. In order to best identify those needs, we work closely with them on crafting a message that best communicates the value that their work offers and the contexts in which their work can be applied. We have regular check-ins each semester with them throughout the length of the time they are in the program. We hold midway assessments, develop workshops and organize talks. We’re on call should they have questions. We advise and facilitate introductions to potential stakeholders, partners or advisors. We supply them with needed material and content, and help them stay on track by setting benchmarks. We review assets and materials, and give critical feedback.

We act very similar to how a board member or advisor would outside of the program but the difference here is that the cost is covered by the program. And most importantly, we are there for moral support, to believe in them, push them and cheer them on, because everyone needs a cheerleader!


Stay tuned to the ELab news and future preparatory workshops and application processes.


website SDS Parsons eLab
twitter @ParsonsELab

website SDS Parsons
twitter @SDSParsons

website SDM Parsons
twitter @SDSDesignManage