Academics

History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences

students sitting at desks in a HPSS class

An interdisciplinary liberal arts department, History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS) offers a wide variety of courses on the nature of human life—past and present—in its psychological, social, political, intellectual, philosophical and cultural contexts and manifestations. Courses in world history, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, political science, sociology, religion and American and cultural studies are designed to help students broaden their knowledge while developing stronger critical thinking, reading and writing skills.

HPSS concentration

As an HPSS concentrator you support your degree studies with liberal arts coursework in one of nine tracks, with focuses including environmental studies, belief systems, gender, sexuality and race, and more.

In (and out of) the classroom

RISD’s Kyobo Fund supports the development of innovative new courses that are team-taught by liberal arts and studio faculty. As a result, HPSS continues to offer an ever-evolving array of interesting interdisciplinary courses such as The Art of Scientific Communication (with Illustration), The Witness Tree Project (with Furniture Design), Aqua Incognita (with Photography), Representing the “Real” (with FAV) and Producing Meaning: Theories of Technology Since 1850 (with Architecture).

Featured stories

Visual Narratives that Inspire Change

Students in a fall studio highlighting humans’ impact on the natural world get encouraging critique from returning alum and wildlife artist Walton Ford.

Expanding Pedagogical Perspectives

RISD welcomes 13 new full-time faculty members, including a second cohort of Race in Art & Design hires.

Witness Tree 2022 Examines Conservation

Students in this year’s Witness Tree Project studio-seminar create objects out of beetle-infested maple from Vermont’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. 

student reading through a packet

HPSS also offers a growing curriculum of science courses available as Liberal Arts electives. Developed for art and design students interested in biology, ecology, cognitive science, mathematics, physics, geology and the natural world in general, each course emphasizes science literacy and encourages connections to studio work where possible. Increasing numbers of students now welcome classes such as Concepts of Math for the Visual Artist, Investigating the Botanical World, Urban Ecology and Visual Perception.

lines from old Italian text