Who We Are
Stephen A. Glassman, President & CEO
Stephen A. Glassman joined the Design Center as its President & CEO in June 2011. Steve practiced architecture as the principal of his own Maryland and Pennsylvania-based architectural firm—Art and Architectural Design—for 25 years. His residential and commercial work appeared more than 100 times in national publications and won numerous awards and citations, including Metropolitan Home magazine’s award for Outstanding Renovation of the Year.
Steve has advanced degrees in architecture and art history from Brown and Yale Universities and has taught at the college and graduate school levels at institutions as diverse as Morgan State University (an HBCU), the Maryland Institute College of Art, Kutztown University and Yale University.
In addition to his architectural practice, Steve served a five-year term as Baltimore City’s Civic Design Commissioner, responsible for the administration of its “1% for Art” program and the identification and placement of public artwork throughout Baltimore City under Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Mr. Glassman co-chaired the first national conference on “Diversity in the Design Professions,” sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and served for five years as the Vice Chair of the Diversity Committee of the AIA national board of directors.
His curatorial experience includes design of the “Richard Brown Baker” exhibition at Yale University Art Gallery Museum and assistant curator of prints and drawings for the Fountainebleau exhibition at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Mr. Glassman completed a one year Museum Training program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts while he was completing his Masters of Architecture degree at Yale University.
For eight years before joining the Design Center, Steve served as the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, an appointment made by the governor in which he was twice confirmed unanimously by the State Senate. He is a 2005 graduate of Harvard University’s JFK School of Government program for senior executives in state and local government. His many awards and recognitions include the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Architecture. Mr. Glassman has spoken around the country on Human Rights issues, Architecture and Furniture Design, LGBT equality and has been featured in major media publications ranging from The New York Times and The Washington Post to NPR’s Morning Edition, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and All Things Considered. He has also appeared with Martha Stewart on CBS This Morning, as well as an episode of the sitcom Frasier. Steve has addressed the House of Lords in London, England on Muslim-Jewish relations and the Han Ban Institute of Education in Beijing, China as part of state diplomatic missions during his tenure at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Alicia R. Bekeny, Project Coordinator
Alicia Bekeny joined the Design Center team as Project Coordinator in April 2013. Her role is to coordinate event logistics and support the Design Center’s strategic development and communication efforts. Alicia is passionate about leveraging regional cultural and workforce assets that help Pittsburgh thrive as a community.
A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Alicia earned a B.A. in Honor Economics and Honors Political Science. She studied in Poland, China, Vietnam, and most recently in Hungary, where she supported educational outreach and English-language publications for Holocaust memorial sites through the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture. Alicia was a 2011 graduate of the Pittsburgh-based Fast Track Baker Leadership program, and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate in Rhode Island. These collective experiences inspired her commitment to outreach and development work in the nonprofit sector.
Thor Erickson, Programs Manager
Thor joined the Design Center in September 2011 as the Community Programs Manager. Thor received a B.A. in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado and earned a Masters of Community Planning from the University of Cincinnati with a focus on international development and environmental planning. His experience is extensive and varied, including serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working for a foundation in the Philippines developing programs and working with at-risk-youth and orphans, as a neighborhood advocate in Covington, Kentucky as well as a variety of odd jobs.
Thor was interested in working for the Design Center because of its mission to advocate for the value of good design, planning and public policy. Thor’s main planning passion centers on the intersection of design and community, and how that relationship helps shape neighborhoods that have exciting vibrant spaces with outstanding folks. Thor’s passion for cycling allows him to explore the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and discover the hidden gems of the city.
Jennifer Fox, Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer Fox has been with the Design Center since 2000 and currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer. She oversees all operations and administration for the Desgin Center. During her tenure at the Design Center, Jen has worked on many programs and projects including overseeing the coordination of Pedal Pittsburgh for more than a decade. She was instrumental in growing the event from 1800 to 2800 riders. Jen has served on Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Outdoor Amenities Team, the Urban Cycling Committee, and Highmark’s Wellness Initiative Community Committee, the UltraViolet Loop Advisory Board. Prior to joining the Design Center, Jen worked as the Administrative Manager for Princeton Executive Suites and in the finance department of GNC throughout college. Jen graduated with a B.A. in Sociology with minors in Biology and Environmental Science from John Carroll University, in Cleveland. In her spare time, Jen enjoys running and cooking. She resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband and daughter.
Scott Greer, Executive Assistant
Scott Greer joined the Design Center in April 2012 as the Executive Assistant. Scott supports operations, events, development, the President & CEO and the Board of Directors. He also plays a supporting role in fundraising and in cultivating relationships that advance the Design Center’s strategic goals and more.
Scott has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Relations, has earned scholarships to study in Europe and in China and has a passion for languages and different cultures. Professionally, Scott brings fundraising, campaign and event management experience to support the Design Center’s Mission and Vision. Scott has an interest in all things design and a sensible approach to problem solving.
Chris Koch, Director of Programs
Chris Koch joined the Design Center in July 2012 as Director of Programs She is responsible for management and execution of the Design Center’s education activities, public policy efforts, and three core programs—the Design Fund, Design Consults, and Design Allies.
Prior to joining the Design Center, Chris was Chief Operating Officer of GTECH Strategies, the non-profit social enterprise she co-founded in 2006 as a graduate project. Among her many projects at GTECH were the Green Toolbox, a green asset analysis-to-action tool for community decision-makers, and SPARC (Seeding Prosperity and Revitalizing Corridors), a collaborative market-driving vacant land project. Prior to co-founding GTECH, Ms. Koch served for six years as the Graduate Program Coordinator, Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She also worked at Handypersons, Inc. in San Francisco for three years where she was responsible for bidding and estimating construction projects, and project managed residential and commercial contracts.
Chris has provided expertise on urban blight reduction strategies and social entrepreneurship to organizations such as the Brookings Institute, Princeton University, and has been honored at the White House as an emerging leader in the field of social innovation. In 2008, Chris was named an Echoing Green fellow for her work with GTECH, selected as one of 19 of the most innovative social enterprises worldwide, out of a pool of 1,500 applicants. In 2011, she was honored as one of the 15 “Women Greening the Pittsburgh Region” by the Women and Girls Foundation. She holds a Masters of Public Policy and Management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in History from the same.
LaVerne joined the Design Center in April 2013 as the Community Programs Manager. LaVerne is a native of Cleveland and received a BA in Management from Malone University in Canton, Ohio and received a MUP (Masters in Urban Planning) with a focus in Community Development and Urban Management from the University at Buffalo, SUNY.
Prior to joining the Design Center, LaVerne worked for the Hill Community Development Corporation, as a nonprofit Executive Director in Buffalo, New York, and worked at the University at Buffalo’s Center for Urban Studies.
Cate Rassman, Community Programs Coordinator
Cate joined the Design Center in March 2012 as a Green Cities Sustainability Fellow with the Student Conservation Association. Upon completion of the 10-month Fellowship, Cate formally joined the Design Center staff as Community Programs Coordinator, and she directly oversees the Design Consults program. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010, receiving a B.A. in Urban Studies and a minor in Sociology. During the summer of 2011 she completed a landscape architecture course at Cal Berkeley that reinforced her passion for sustainable design. Cate’s previous experience includes internships with Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, a community development organization, and a real estate investment trust. She enjoys connecting residents with resources that improve the livability, sustainability, and value of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.
Dhanya Elias, Community Programs Intern
Dhanya joined the Design Center in November 2012 as a community programs intern. She recently graduated from Cornell University in August 2012, receiving a Masters in City and Regional Planning with a focus on international studies and environmental planning. She also holds a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the National Institute of Technology Calicut and a Master’s in Architecture specialized in Urban Design from the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology Ahmedabad, in India. Her experiences abroad working in various capacities provide her with a unique perspective and skill set which she contributes to support the Design Center’s larger mission of encouraging sustainable and equitable community engagement and development processes in Pittsburgh.