About Presidential Search

April 19 2021 Update

Presidential Search Update: Position Description

Dear RISD Community,

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I write with an update on the search for RISD’s next leader.

Thanks to our community’s thoughtful input, a thorough and detailed Position Description has now been published. The contributions from the community were invaluable in helping to craft this document. I trust that you will agree that it authentically reflects the RISD of today, and our collective aspirations for its future.

The search now enters the next phase, when our search consultants will focus on identifying potential candidates, assessing their potential and building the candidate pool over the next six weeks. This will be, by design, a quiet period, during which it is unlikely that there will be updates to share with the community.

Our goal is to have a transparent, robust and thorough search for RISD’s eighteenth president. However, it is crucial that we also ensure a confidential process for potential candidates. So we are committed to sharing as much information with you about the search as we can, while also protecting the confidentiality of the candidate pool.

We are dedicated to allowing this search to take as long as is needed to find the best next leader for our cherished institution. As we anticipate this process extending past President Somerson’s retirement at the end of the school year, we will likely name an Interim President. We expect to update you on those plans by the end of May. We remain grateful to the extraordinarily professional and dedicated administration who has led us so valiantly this past year and soon through our transition.

Thank you to those of you who have submitted nominations for candidates. We continue to welcome additional suggestions for the search, particularly ideas for candidates. If you have a nomination for the position, please submit it confidentially to Isaacson, Miller. The search website will be up to date with the latest announcements, and I hope that you will refer to it as needed.

The Search Committee has already completed important work, so I’d like to thank them again for the time and effort they are dedicating to the search process. Led by Trustee Co-chairs Hillary Blumberg 92 FAV, Ilene Chaiken 79 GD, Karen Hammond, and Tavares Strachan 03 GL, the committee has created a powerful Position Description. Thank you, each and every one of you.

  • Board of Trustees representatives: Gabrielle Bullock BArch 84, Shepard Fairey 92 IL, Robert Glass, Michael Rock MFA 84 GD
  • Faculty representatives: Jess Brown MID 09, Richard Gann MFA 87 PT, Ijlal Muzzafar, Ramon Tejada
  • Staff representatives: Matthew Shenoda, Jack Silva, Kajette Solomon
  • Student Advisory Committee: Aya Alghanmeh 21 IL, Julius Cavira MFA 22 SC, Selassie Davies MA 21 GAC,Caitlin Dippo MArch 22, Kai Ji MFA 22 FD, Franyelly Rodriguez 21 TX, Javier Syquia BRDD 21 GD, Jonah Williger 22 IA

We cannot end without recognizing our students for their strength and determination in persevering through a year none of us could have ever imagined. Not only did they have to navigate new learning and creating environments defined by social distancing, isolation, testing, and quarantines, they also experienced a year of racial reckoning, sparked by a stream of violent incidents on Black and Brown bodies, a cresting wave of violence against the AAPI community and the ravages of COVID-19 on the world. Our students have earned our respect and admiration. Thank you for showing the way.

As the semester comes to a close, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, I wish all students a strong finish to what has been an astonishing year, and look forward to celebrating the class of 2021.

Yours in Art + Design,
Michael Spalter