• Faculty

  • Rhea Alexander

    Assistant Professor of Strategic Design and Management


    Office Location
    Parsons Faculty Hotseat

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    Rhea Alexander


    Rhea Alexander is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Design & Management in the School of Design Strategies (SDS) who served as Assoc. Director for the undergraduate BBA Strategic Design and Management Program (2020) and Co-director for the MS Strategic Design and Management program (2016-18). She is an affiliate faculty at the Tishman Environment and Design Center and part of the Platform Cooperativism Consortium. 

    As an educator, she has developed a unique approach to teaching that combines theory and practice, encouraging her students to use design as a tool for positive change.

    One of Alexander's most notable contributions is her work in strategic design education at Parsons School of Design. She has been a leading voice in promoting design strategies as a tool for solving complex problems. Through her teaching, she has helped countless students develop the skills needed to approach design challenges from a holistic systems perspective, considering their solutions' economic, social, and environmental impacts. In addition, her teaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of empowering students to become active participants in their learning rather than passive recipients of information. More so, her advocacy for design-driven methods has helped shape Parsons's leadership in reimagining entrepreneurship education. 

    In addition to her work in education, she has used her platforms to highlight the importance of equitable design practices, co-creating with marginalized communities, and promoting design practices that reduce harmful conditions and bias. 

    Before her faculty appointment, Rhea practiced architecture and product design and became an award-winning impact entrepreneur in the lifestyle sector, working with artisans using sustainable practices.  She is a serial impact entrepreneur, founding D.I.G.S. (Duchamp's Irreverent Guiding Spirit, inc.), an award-winning sustainable and just wholesale design company in (1991), D.I.G.S. Consulting Agency in (1995), D.I.G.S. E-commerce (2000) For over 20 yrs; her clients included many top retailers and museum stores such as Barney’s, Lane Crawford, MoMA Store, and Mandarin Oriental.

    With her experience pioneering design-driven triple-bottom-line values, she has consulted for NGOs in the int’l economic development sector and USAid working with SMEs and artisans in over 16 countries. Her work took her from Nicaragua to Tanzania, West Bank to Vietnam, and beyond.

    She recently co-founded MakeOurFuture.coop (2022), a global consulting cooperative helping organizations transition to more equitable practices while reimagining the agency model for transparency and pay parity. 

    Currently, Rhea is a board member of the NYCIC, focusing on creating pathways for underserved entrepreneurs.

    As the founder and director of Parsons Elab, Alexander created an innovative interdisciplinary space where external partners, students, faculty, and alums can collaborate on entrepreneurship initiatives exploring the intersection of design, technology, equity, and business. The Elab conducts research, publishes, provides resources, incubator programs, workshops, panel discussions and connections to the greater innovation ecosystem, and has helped launch successful ventures since its inception. Through her teaching and mentorship, she has encouraged a new generation of more inclusive and responsible entrepreneurs to use their businesses as forces for good.

    Alexander has spearheaded a new book, "A Design Driven Guide for Entrepreneurs: Strategies for Starting Up in a Multiverse," which builds on her experience and research. It offers a practical guide for entrepreneurs looking to integrate design strategies into their startup process to create more just and verdant organizations and communities. She regularly gives talks at conferences and accelerators and facilitates workshops.

    Degrees Held

    Rhea received a BFA in Environmental Design from Parsons School of Design and an MA in Media Studies from The New School.

    Professional Affiliation

    NYC Innovation Collective, The National Arts Club, Women in Innovation (Win) 

    Recent Publications

    A Design-Driven Guide for Entrepreneurs: Strategies for Starting Up in a Multiverse, 2023, Routledge, [ISBN: 978-1-032-12994] Co-Authors Rhea Alexander, Rose Pember, Joseph Press, and Kiely Sweatt https://www.routledge.com/A-Design-Driven-Guide-for-Entrepreneurs-Strategies-for-Starting-up-in-a/Alexander-Pember-Sweatt-Press/p/book/9781032129945


    Practice What We Teach, Journal of 21st Century Education, 2016, [ISSN 2330 1236]     Co-authors Rhea Alexander and  Aaron Fry


    Design-entrepreneurship in the post-recession economy: Parsons ELab, a Design School Incubator, Cuadernos del Centro de Estudios de Diseño y Comunicación Nº 64, 2016 [ISSN: 1668-0227] Co-authors Rhea Alexander, Aaron Fry and Samar Ladhib

    Breaking Boundaries: A Unique Inter-University Program Addressing the 21st Century Skills Gap
    Co-authored by Rhea Alexander, Matthew Stewart and Shane Snipes https://www.academia.edu/40757691/Breaking_Boundaries_A_Unique_Inter-University_Program_Addressing_the_21st_Century_Skills_Gap

    Managing Vulnerability and Uncertainty: Building designerly ways of doing within non-designer teams https://www.academia.edu/40757689/Managing_Vulnerability_and_Uncertainty_Developing_design_competencies_within_an_American_healthcare_non_profit_20191027_111886_1iiogdk   Co- Authors: Rhea ALexander, Sarah Jones and Vinay Kumar Mysore

    Future Pathways for Design-Driven Entrepreneurship Education Future Pathways for Design-Driven Entrepreneurship Education (pp 365-378)

    Strategic Design and the Future of Work-and-Wellness https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/t2K99IfB52yfQ3xNynfp/full?target=10.1080%2F24735132.2019.1584024&  Co-authors Rhea Alexander and  Aaron Fry

    Research Interests

    Design-driven impact entrepreneurship, new business models, sustainability, social justice, and education.

    Awards And Honors

    Nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award, 2022-23

    Current Courses

    Design Strategy Capstone
    PGDM 5300, Spring 2024

    Senior Project 2: Capstone
    PUDM 4121, Spring 2024

    Future Courses

    Creatives and Entrepreneurship
    PSDS 3160, Fall 2024

    Design Research 2: Integration
    PSDS 3100, Fall 2024

    Senior Project 1: Capstone
    PUDM 4120, Fall 2024

    Past Courses

    Creatives and Entrepreneurship
    PSDS 3160, Fall 2023

    Design Research 2: Integration
    PSDS 3100, Fall 2023

    Senior Project 1: Capstone
    PUDM 4120, Fall 2023

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