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Rhode Island School of Design Appoints Rosanne Somerson as Provost


PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is pleased to announce the appointment of Rosanne Somerson as provost. Somerson, who currently serves as RISD’s interim provost, will officially assume the position on July 1, 2012.

Somerson’s RISD roots run deep. As a student in the Industrial Design department (BFA ’76), she personally experienced the depth and rigor of RISD’s departmental curriculum, which she now champions so eloquently. In 1995 she played a significant role in founding the Furniture Design Department, which has produced stellar students and alumni whose flexible thinking and passionate making have informed their field and beyond.

“Rosanne’s career as a respected teacher and sought-after practitioner exemplifies our vision for RISD’s role in art and design education. After working with Rosanne this past year as she served as interim provost, and observing her leadership of the academic mission with the deans, I am confident that Rosanne will perform this role with generosity, courage and integrity,” said RISD President John Maeda. “She will bring a passion and energy that embodies the finest values we try to instill in our students and will continue to bring out the best in our community.”

“With our new strategic plan in place, RISD is more poised than ever to develop and lead academic excellence here and in the world. We will continue to steward the disciplines that we teach with such rigor at RISD, and we will champion new developments in art and design education,” said Somerson. “What we teach at RISD is more critical to culture than ever. I am honored and enthused by the support of so many, and look forward to helping RISD to continue to contribute both to the development of our students, and to the future that they will help to shape.”

“A Provost Search Committee that included faculty, students, and other college leaders was convened in December 2011. Over a six-month period, the Committee reviewed and interviewed impressively qualified candidates and, in May, brought three finalists for interviews and meetings with RISD constituencies and the campus community,” said Patricia Phillips, interim associate provost and chair of the Provost Search Committee. “Based on a range of criteria that spanned academic vision, critical and creative rigor, commitment to inclusive leadership, and a vivid understanding of RISD's distinctive character, mission, and potential, the Committee's overwhelming support went to interim Provost Rosanne Somerson, and we sent the decision to offer her the position to President Maeda. We are delighted with the successful completion of this international search and extend our congratulations to Rosanne.” 

In her many roles at RISD over the years – as a professor, department head, interim associate provost and interim provost – Somerson’s considerable achievements include building institutional partnerships, nurturing collaborations between RISD and Brown, including the RISD-Brown Dual Degree program, providing greater opportunities for faculty development, and bringing a focus to academic facilities and technology. Somerson has fostered this progress through collaboration, building a solid academic leadership, and thoughtful listening. In addition, her experience as an international lecturer, juror, exhibitor and evaluator allow her to apply both local and global perspectives to her work.

Somerson’s robust creative practice keeps her firmly rooted in the sphere of making. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the world and is represented in many prestigious museum collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Renwick Collection of the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC, and our own RISD Museum of Art. She has served on the boards of the Haystack Mountain School, ME, the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, is a named Fellow of the American Craft Council, and is the subject of an interview that forms part of the Smithsonian Institute Archives of American Art Oral History Program. Later this year she will receive the Award of Distinction from the Furniture Society for lifetime achievement in the field of studio furniture. 

About Rhode Island School of Design 

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit or



At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.