Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts class in Old Library

At RISD the exploration of both studio arts and liberal arts makes for a powerful experience. In fact, RISD stands out among art schools for its emphasis on liberal arts study. Doctorate-level faculty lead diverse classes spanning anthropology, biology, creative writing, literature, history, performance studies, philosophy, religion, sociology and more.​

Liberal Arts departments

History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS)

HPSS offers a wide variety of courses on the nature of human life, past and present. The curriculum spans many disciplines, from anthropology and religion to political science and American studies. 

Literary Arts and Studies (LAS)

The courses students take in LAS provide a basis for engaging in culture as artists, designers, writers, performers and citizens.

Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD)

Offering a Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), this graduate-level department fosters innovative teaching in art and design within and beyond traditional education settings.

Theory and History of Art and Design (THAD)

Spanning time periods and embracing diverse perspectives, THAD courses offer a deeper understanding of artistic expression across cultures and throughout history.

Liberal Arts concentrations

The Liberal Arts division also offers undergraduate concentrations (which are similar to an undergraduate minor) in HPSS, LAS and/or THAD. Students can also elect an interdisciplinary concentration in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies

These concentrations offer an intensive curriculum for students to focus liberal arts studies within a specific field. Students may also work one-on-one with faculty through Independent Study Projects (ISPs).​

Interdisciplinary graduate programs

Liberal Arts also offers two 1.5-year master’s programs for scholars interested in the intersection of the humanities, social sciences and art and design: Global Arts and Cultures and Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies.

Global Arts and Cultures (GAC)

Uniting the humanities and social sciences with studies in visual, performative and literary arts, GAC fosters inquiry into making in relation to systems of power and resistance.

Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies (NCSS)

Working closely with Liberal Arts faculty, NCSS MA students develop expertise in the growing field of interdisciplinary environmental studies.

The mission of Liberal Arts is threefold: to provide a strong general education, to offer possibilities for focused study, and to deepen and enrich art and design practice. In Liberal Arts classes students articulate ideas with independence and confidence. They learn to think creatively, critically and analytically, and develop a lifelong curiosity about the world.

For more information

Gail Hughes
Division Coordinator, Operations and Administration
401 454-6572

Karen Montecalvo
Division Programming and Communications Specialist
401 454-6569

Anna Cimini
Division Coordinator, Academic Programs
401 454-6570

Tina Egnoski
Division Assistant, Academic Programs
401 709-8406