Serving Communities + Making Connections
As part of this year's POSE program, Sophie Chien BArch 20 (right) and other students made paintings with adults at Resources for Human Development-Rhode Island.
After last year’s Pre-Orientation Service Experience (POSE), Riley Embler 18 GL was more than ready to volunteer again at Resources for Human Development-Rhode Island (RHD-RI), a nonprofit that emphasizes the importance of making art as a way for adults with developmental disabilities to develop new skills. “I wanted and needed to come back here,” the Glass major affirmed as she, Sophie Chien BArch 20 and a group of incoming first-year students made paintings with the adult participants at RHD-RI.
“Everyone here is so excited to make art with other people,” says Embler, one of 16 student leaders of this year’s five-day POSE program, which invites incoming students with an interest in public service to come to campus early to volunteer with community organizations in the greater Providence area. Organized by RISD’s Center for Student Involvement, POSE has grown in both scope and participation since its inception five years ago, with first-year student involvement increasing from 8% in 2012 to 14% of this year’s incoming class.
This year POSE volunteers worked with 18 community partners, including nonprofits like Riverzedge Arts, The Steel Yard, DownCity Design and RHD-RI. “It’s this total mix of RISD students doing what they want to do and then getting inspired by the work that our artists do,” notes Lucy Stevens, an artist and teacher at RHD-RI. While last year’s collaboration resulted in an outdoor mural in the entryway to the nonprofit’s headquarters in downtown Pawtucket, RI, this year the large-scale paintings participants produced are being shown as part of the Pawtucket Art Festival, which continues through September 26.
“POSE is such an important part of how I relate to RISD,” says Embler, one of many students who believe in connecting studio work with public service. Chien, who participated in POSE last year as an incoming student, returned to campus from a summer internship in Alaska for a week of leadership training before welcoming this year’s new students. “I was super excited to share the experience as a POSE leader,” said the Architecture major, who led two days of direct service at RHD-RI, along with another POSE session at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island.
Chien hopes that the week of service learning will inspire participating students to volunteer with local organizations throughout their years at RISD. After completing POSE last year, she chose to continue community service work at Providence’s Mt. Hope Learning Center as a 2015-16 Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) Fellow.
First-year student Kat McCann 20 EFS opted to participate in POSE to become better connected with Providence and its residents, and to help “bridge the gap” that sometimes exists between higher educational institutions and the cities they call home. Taking part in some of POSE’s other programming—like a meet-and-greet with RISD staff and an offsite immersion experience at the local arts organization AS220—helped her feel more at home in her new surroundings.
Chien admits that “planning how to best introduce Providence, service and RISD—all together—was no small order,” but she thoroughly enjoyed connecting this year’s POSE participants with people who can benefit from the positive energy and creativity RISD students contribute to the community.
–Robert Albanese / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
For this year’s Alternative Spring Break, emerging student activists turned their attention to environmental conservation in the Delaware Water Gap.
Students involved in RISD’s Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) program develop valuable skills through volunteer work with local nonprofits.
Rising senior Lucy Crelli 17 AP hopes to pursue a career at the intersection of art, design and activism.