About Presidential Search

February 16 2021 Update

Presidential Search Update

Dear Members of the RISD Community,

On behalf of the RISD Board of Trustees, I am pleased to share updates on the search for RISD’s eighteenth president. RISD continues to build on a distinguished history of providing innovative leadership in art and design education through its commitment to creative experimentation and risk taking. This progressive, inquisitive attitude permeates our campus culture, supporting more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, along with the 1,000 faculty members, curators, administrative and support staff who form our community.

Today I write with news about our search committee, search firm and upcoming listening tour.

Search committee

As I previously shared, our search is co-chaired by four of our esteemed Board members – Hillary Blumberg 92 FAV, Ilene Chaiken 79 GD/P 18, Karen Hammond, and Tavares Strachan 03 GL. Each brings unique perspectives as artists, designers, business leaders, and RISD alumni and parents.

Over the past several weeks, our co-chairs have worked diligently to assemble a search committee that will represent the many facets of our community. In particular, we want to thank the faculty and the Faculty Steering Committee for nominating members for this committee. Today, with gratitude for the responsibility they are each accepting, I am pleased to announce that the members of the search committee are:

  • Jessica Brown MID 09, Assistant Professor, Industrial Design
  • Gabrielle Bullock BArch 84, Board of Trustees
  • Shepard Fairey 92 IL, Board of Trustees
  • Richard Gann MFA 87 PR, Senior Critic, Illustration
  • Robert Glass P 11, Board of Trustees
  • Ijlal Muzaffar, Associate Professor, Theory and History of Art and Design
  • Michael Rock MFA 84 GD, Board of Trustees
  • Matthew Shenoda, Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion and Senior Advisor to the President
  • Jack Silva, Vice President, Campus Services
  • Kajette Solomon, RISD Museum SEI Program Specialist
  • Ramon Tejada, Assistant Professor, Graphic Design

Search firm

The committee will be supported by Isaacson, Miller—a national executive search firm devoted to recruiting exceptional leaders for mission-driven organizations. Isaacson, Miller knows RISD well from leading many previous searches for us, and brings substantial art and design knowledge and experience identifying higher-education leadership nationwide.

Community listening tour

While the search committee plays an essential role in selecting RISD’s next leader, the participation of all community members is critically important. In the weeks ahead, our search consultants and the Board of Trustees Search Committee will conduct a community listening tour. Through both small group meetings with stakeholder group representatives and a survey that will be sent to all students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents, we will seek insights and ideas to inform the search, as well as nominations. I hope you will participate and help shape this important process.

Student Advisory Council

In the next few weeks, we will be convening a Student Advisory Council to the Search Committee. This is a critical component of the process and an essential conduit to our most important constituents: our outstanding student body. It will comprise four undergraduate and three graduate student representatives.

My fellow Board members and I are deeply committed to conducting a process that is thoughtful, inclusive and transparent. As such, I will continue to provide updates as this process proceeds. Please also know that while we are focused on ensuring a smooth leadership transition upon President Somerson’s retirement on June 30, we are dedicated, first and foremost, to identifying an outstanding candidate. If we do not have our next president in place by that time, we will appoint an interim president to guide us through the months ahead.

I thank you in advance for your participation in this vital process and for your continued dedication to our cherished institution.

Yours in art + design,

Michael Spalter
Board Chair, RISD Board of Trustees