Touba Ghadessi


As RISD’s chief academic officer, Touba Ghadessi sets a vision for student learning, academic affairs and the academic program, championing and advancing the core values of the institution across all efforts.

Before arriving at RISD in 2023, Ghadessi served as provost and a professor of the history of art for Wheaton College. She holds a PhD in Art History from Northwestern University and previously served as co-chair of Wheaton’s Art and Art History Department and the college’s associate provost for academic administration and faculty affairs. During her term, she worked on internal operations and external engagements, supporting plural avenues of research and delineating strategic expansion of institutional reach.

Of Iranian ancestry, Ghadessi was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, where she grew up in an international environment that emphasized the importance of diplomacy, cultural curiosity and dialogue. As a scholar of early modern art history, Ghadessi’s work focuses on the examination of difference, expressed through human monsters. Her recent research explores alternate bodies and their implications for ruling epistemologies.

Ghadessi has been awarded publication grants and awards to study at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales; conduct archival research in Paris, Florence and Rome; and participate in the Centre national de la recherche scientifique’s sponsored seminars in Paris. Her work has been published in such books and journals as Harvard University’s I Tatti Studies and Oxford University’s Journal of the History of Collections

Among her leadership roles, Ghadessi has served as chair of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, on the board of the Providence Athenaeum and as a founding member of the New England Humanities Consortium, where she is currently on the executive committee for the Faculty of Color Working Group.