About Presidential Search

January 12 2021 Update

Update from the Board of Trustees

Members of the RISD Community:

I hope you are staying safe and well during this difficult time. As we return to campus both in-person and virtually in this new year, on behalf of the RISD Board of Trustees, I want to share additional information related to the search for RISD’s eighteenth president.

To start, we want to commend our extraordinary students who have weathered an unprecedented year with resilience and creativity. This certainly was not the experience you had imagined or likely hoped for, but we have been amazed to watch your determination to keep moving forward, and your great successes in doing so. We also acknowledge the parents, families, partners and others who continuously sacrifice so much to support our students.

We also want to thank our over 1,250 brilliant full- and part-time faculty and staff along with the dedicated administrative leaders who always find ways to nourish, educate and tend to our students. To our 30,000 alumni in over 90 countries who continue to demonstrate RISD’s excellence and impact around the globe, we are constantly grateful. Lastly, we want to thank President Somerson again for her more than three decades of service and dedication to RISD.

With the support of my fellow trustees, President Somerson and the entire RISD leadership team, we will continue to ensure a smooth transition and move forward on our priority initiatives.

In 2019, we launched the institution’s latest strategic plan, NEXT: RISD 2020-2027, that will guide RISD through its 150th anniversary milestone. The plan is comprehensive and ambitious on a number of fronts. While much progress has been made, our number one priority is fulfilling RISD’s commitment to Just Societies. We must ensure all members of the RISD community are treated equitably and are included, embraced and celebrated for their talents, perspectives, backgrounds, cultures and creativity.

As one of the first steps in the presidential search process, I have asked my fellow Board members Hillary Blumberg 92 FAV, Ilene Chaiken 79 GD/P 18, Karen Hammond and Tavares Strachan 03 GL, to serve as co-chairs of the presidential search committee. Each of our co-chairs will bring their unique perspective to the process as artists and changemakers, and each has been deeply involved in the RISD community. Tavares and Hillary are RISD alumni, Ilene is both an alumna and parent of a recent RISD graduate and, as a Providence business leader, Karen has been a strong advocate for both the Museum and the College. I am grateful they have accepted this responsibility.

In the coming weeks, this group will complete work to identify additional members to fill out the search committee along with other advisory groups representing our key stakeholders that will support the committee. They also will soon be engaging in a broad “listening tour” to gather additional perspectives from across our extraordinary RISD global community. All of us are committed to ensuring this group embodies, and is informed by, the breadth and diversity of that community, of which you are all a part.

I recognize this process is important to all of us and I am committed to providing regular updates to our community as new information becomes available. Additionally, I encourage you to visit the search web page that has been established to document the progress as we move forward and will be regularly updated with new information. We welcome active participation from all members of the community through this platform – including, at the appropriate point, nominations of potential candidates.

My fellow Board members and I are prepared for this important moment in our history and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. With the guidance of the search committee, the support of expert advisers and the active involvement of our entire community, we are confident that we will collectively meet the full promise and potential of RISD’s role and influence as the world’s preeminent college of art and design.

Thank you for your continued commitment and pride in RISD.

Yours in art + design,

Michael Spalter
Board Chair, RISD Board of Trustees