Alumni Mentorship Program: Spotlight on Ashley Dai & Erin Wells

Launched in the fall of 2013, NYSID’s Alumni Mentorship Program pairs students with established alumni for a year-long professional growth opportunity. This year, fourteen pairs participated. Erin Wells (BFA 2004), who works as a Principal in the Interior Design firm Ageloff Associates, mentored Ashley Dai, a current MFA-1 student. Both share insights about their experience here.


What drew you to the mentorship program?
EW: I got my BFA at NYSID after a BA at Oberlin and a foray into a career in marketing for a firm that stored and transported art. When I found NYSID, I struck on a way to have a career that enables me to have a creative life that’s also economically sustainable. NYSID taught me how to be artistic and business-minded and it’s very important to me to give back to this institution that has afforded me so many opportunities. That’s why I’ve served as the head of the alumni association, and it’s also why I’ve taught at the College. This experience has been different, non-academic, and very fulfilling, because together Ashley and I look broadly at the city and the world of design.

AD: I was a serious tennis player, so focused on National Championships during my undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I’ve played tennis my whole life, and I’ve had a coach my whole life. When I stopped playing tennis, I really missed having that support, that person who has been through what I’m going through, someone to guide me. I thought a mentor might fill that void, and it’s been better than I could have imagined.

What do you do together?
AD: Erin and I go on city adventures together. She gives me a list of the most interesting design experiences in New York, and I pick one and we go. We’ve gone to the Tenement Museum, Bryant Park Library, and the New York Public Library. We soak in everything New York has to offer, and it helps me see the bigger picture, and remember why design is so important.

EW: It’s easy for New Yorkers to spend our time rushing through every day. There are so many great opportunities for inspiration in this city. It’s been amazing to set aside the time to see the city, to have someone to process the experience with, especially someone who brings a fresh perspective.

What do you value most about your mentor or mentee?
AD: I value Erin’s optimism. She always sees the glass half full. She reminds me I will never be able to go back again to the pure experience of being a graduate student. When I am stressed, she reminds me that I got into interior design so I could enjoy it.

EW: Ashley is an incredible person. Not only does she have abundant passion, she follows her passion. She’s driven, caring and talented. It’s going to be exciting to see where her path takes her.

Will you continue your relationship beyond the formal year-long mentorship?
EW: I want to keep doing this! I’ve been speaking to a friend who is working on the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and I’d like to take Ashley there. I also want to go to Prospect Park.

AD: Let’s set a date!

Phyllis Greer