Career Research Workshops and Entrepreneurial Mentorship Initiative Among New Alumni Programs
During the past year, Art Center’s Office of Alumni Relations has been busy at work, partnering across the College to expand the range of programming available to alumni. The fruits of their collective labor can be accessed in the Alumni Benefits Brochure. Two relatively new programs deserve special mention: career resource workshops and an exciting mentorship program for entrepreneurs.
Last January, Alumni Relations began hosting free career research workshops for alumni looking for advice or simply to network with fellow alumni. Topics have included strategies for landing a job, honing interview skills, perfecting your resume and intellectual property. Held at South Campus, the workshops have featured guest speakers such as Chuck Pelly PROD ’58, who spoke about how he weathered career ups and downs over four decades; and Art Center faculty member and creative consultant Tony Luna, who spoke about rediscovering one’s passion and crafting a meaningful career. The next workshop, “Hyphen8,” will be held on August 28 at South Campus. The all-day workshop will focus on wearing multiple hats in the creative environment. Plans are also in the works to host career resource workshops in other cities, including Portland and New York.
According to Ophelia Chong FINE ’89, who helped organize the workshops, there has never been a greater need for this kind of programming, especially given the recent economic recession. She said the workshops are resonating with alumni while helping them reconnect with the College. “An alum who hadn’t been back at Art Center since the 1970s told me that while he receives plenty of materials from Art Center, this workshop was actually something he needed—this is what feeds him, and he can take what he learned here and apply it right away,” she said.
The Entrepreneurial Mentorship Initiative (EMI), meanwhile, launched in May 2009 in response to the growing number of alumni who are seeking to develop new business ventures. EMI’s mission is to encourage, mentor and guide designers in translating their existing ideas into business opportunities, as well as work with those who have a business in operations. Spearheaded by entrepreneur and Art Center trustee Sam Mann and faculty member Mateo Neri GRPH ’93, the co-founder of Söyu Naturals, EMI currently consists of two initiatives: a class and mentorship program. The class, “Taking Your Product or Idea to Market” is open to both students and alumni and is taught by Neri with a focus on entrepreneurialism and product feasibility. (To help nurture the alumni/student dialogue, alumni are also invited to join MINT— a student-run entrepreneurial group on campus.)
The mentorship program, which is open to alumni and graduate students by application only, pairs mentees with entrepreneurs (including Mann, Neri and Entertainment Design faculty Bill Wallen as well as those outside the College) who meet with them monthly for one-on-one sessions, helping them take their concepts to market. “The program is, in effect, an incubator—building skills, confidence and real marketplace understanding of a specific entrepreneurial opportunity,” said Neri. Also in the works is a peer-to-peer roundtable where EMI members can share ideas and resources.
Currently about 15 alumni mentees are in the program, representing all disciplines and levels of development. Since its launch, EMI has proven to be an invaluable opportunity for alumni who want to take a great idea, whether it’s a product or service, and make it a real and successful business. For example, EMI’s first mentee, Product Design alum Spencer Nikosey ’08 has launched KillSpencer, a Los Angeles-based manufacturing company crafting high-end quality bags. Nikosey said that EMI gave him the support, connections and knowledge to make KillSpencer a competitive brand within his industry. “EMI taught me many things I didn't even know I had to do as a business owner,” he said.
Alumna Laura Crawford MDP ’05 had a similar experience with EMI. “Putting your heart and soul into a start-up is no easy task,” said Crawford, who with the help of EMI and partner Jennifer Gruskoff, started Goodkin, a lifestyle-focused website for today's modern family. In just two short months, Goodkin has attracted 25,000 unique monthly visitors and is growing rapidly. The website is just the first step in Goodkin's overall vision to create a destination where like minded families can be reflected, entertained, inspired, and feel a sense of community. “As an Art Center alumni it is nice to know you have support—real mentors who know the pitfalls as well as best strategies for success,” she said.
Another Art Center alum, Ryan D'Orazi GRPH ’09, along with his partner Scott Randolph have launched a venture called Towel Safe, a pocketed towel product line that is carried by Sport Chalet. They are currently working on other large retail and private labeling projects as well.
“We’re trying to help alumni get to the next level,” said Neri. “As we continue to refine and work out the kinks, our long term goal is provide resources that can benefit alumni across the nation. ” Alumni are invited to attend a free EMI Workshop on July 22, 2010 in New York.
If you would like more information on Career Resource Workshops or EMI, or any other alumni programs, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.