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, led by doctorate-level faculty in archaeology, anthropology, biology, cognitive science, creative writing, literature, history, art history, performance studies, philosophy, psychology, 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—spanning a wide variety of disciplines, from anthropology and religion to political science and American studies. 

Literary Arts and Studies (LAS)

The diversity of courses students encounter in LAS provides a solid foundation for engaging in contemporary 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 innovation in the field of art and design teaching within and beyond traditional education settings.

Theory and History of Art and Design (THAD)

With focuses spanning time periods and embracing diverse critical perspectives, THAD courses offer students a deeper understanding of the value and function 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, as well as an interdisciplinary concentration in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies. These concentrations offer a more intensive curriculum for students who wish to focus their liberal arts studies within a specific field. Liberal Arts faculty are also open to working with students one-on-one through for-credit Independent Study Projects (ISPs).​

Interdisciplinary graduate programs

The Liberal Arts division also offers two 1.5-year master’s programs for scholars interested in research at the intersection of the humanities, social sciences and art and design practices: 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, the GAC program fosters deep inquiry into diverse forms of making in relation with systems of power and resistance.

Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies (NCSS)

Working closely with faculty in the humanities and social sciences, students in the NCSS MA program develop scholarly expertise in the rapidly growing field of interdisciplinary environmental studies.

The mission of the Liberal Arts division is threefold: to provide a strong general education, to offer possibilities for focused study, and to foster opportunities for deepening and enriching art and design practice. In Liberal Arts classes students learn to articulate ideas with independence and confidence; 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