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Little World Changers – Q&A with Diondraya Taylor
Diondraya Taylor, Marlborough’s “Entrepreneur in Residence,” gives us a glimpse into her world as she mentors and inspires the next generation of world changers.
Diondraya Taylor is affectionately known around campus as Marlborough’s Entrepreneur in Residence. She has taught courses in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and now spends the majority of her time mentoring students one-on-one, utilizing her unique expertise in entrepreneurship and venture consulting. As an entrepreneur herself and founder of Mindset & Milestones, an entrepreneurship education curriculum company, Ms. Taylor has now completed her first year at Marlborough with new learnings, appreciations, and ideas for catapulting the school’s Entrepreneurship program to new heights. We checked in with Ms. Taylor so that she could offer the community a glimpse into her world.
How do you think about teaching entrepreneurship to young people?
Diondraya Taylor (DT): One of my favorite TED Talks of all time, by the founder of Girls Who Code, discusses how we teach girls to be perfect and we teach boys to be brave. That kind of teaching can follow girls well beyond childhood, and it has some serious ramifications for what we believe is possible. I use entrepreneurial education as a tool to undo some of the things we have been taught about who we can be. It is my hope that I can be a safe space for students and support them as a trusted mentor so that they can experience mindset shifts, develop true agency, and understand just how capable they are.
In terms of the nuts and bolts, any time I am designing curriculum, I work backwards. I start with, “What is my objective for this course?” For example, in Entrepreneurship 101 the objective was for every student to have an idea that is developed enough for them to be able to write and give a solid business pitch by the end of the semester. To achieve that goal, I analyzed what tools students would need to effectively work towards meeting it. In this case, the components included understanding what entrepreneurship is: how to decide on a problem you want to solve, come up with a proposed solution, test your ideas, and prepare a polished presentation that represents all your hard work.
What is a typical day like with our students?
DT: I primarily get to meet one-on-one with students to talk through their ideas. Last year, I taught two courses – Entrepreneurship 101 and Design for Social Impact – so my time on campus was spent in the classroom and in meetings. This year, the CEI team rethought the way the entrepreneurship ecosystem works at Marlborough which gave us the opportunity to re-envision my role within it to focus much more on consulting. I enjoyed teaching my courses but supporting students individually is really what I love. We use our meeting times to discuss their business or venture ideas and where they might be coming up against roadblocks. What do they need to problem-solve effectively? Are they missing an element of their idea that would take it to the next level? I strategize with them on ways to fill in gaps and find creative solutions.
What has been your biggest discovery about the Marlborough community?
DT: Marlborough students are really, truly special. They are motivated, worldly, have a lot of opinions and passion about what is going on around them, and are completely unafraid of big ideas. I rarely have to push them to think bigger or ask them how to expand upon their idea to scale it for real impact. They already think with that mindset and they collectively have a profoundly thoughtful vision for the future of our global community. The students are driven to make change on a large scale. Marlborough is a special place because students get to guide their own learning and are excited about that opportunity. My job is to help them figure out how to take the first steps on that journey.
What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
DT: There is an invincibility about being an entrepreneur. It is the best confidence builder in the world! You create something that did not exist before. You can look at your finished product or business, or whatever it might be, and say, “I made that.” I love that I get the opportunity to give that experience to my students – my little world changers – to encourage innovation, goal setting, and boldness. I like to say to them that it isn’t about making room at the table; it is about building new ones.
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