RISD has long emphasized the value of public engagement and social responsibility as driving forces behind the approach to education here. Students research and study important contemporary issues through their studio and liberal arts courses and are encouraged to create work that addresses the public good. Through research, service initiatives, projects and programs in the public realm, they often work directly with local communities in developing ideas and solutions to specific needs.

In the studio + beyond

RISD continues to build on its tradition of fostering responsible innovation and ethical engagement by offering travel and on-site courses, lectures, symposia and partnered studios with nonprofit organizations; co-curricular public service and volunteer opportunities; and extracurricular pathways for community service, projects and partnerships.

In recent years, students and faculty have been particularly focused on projects dealing with environmental sustainability, climate change, health care, urban renewal/adaptive reuse and community-based art and design initiatives.

Each year incoming students get involved with community service projects through the Pre-Orientation Service Experience (POSE) and current students volunteer to work with local children on the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service.

Community service opportunities

To enable students to engage in meaningful community service and other civic-minded activities, the Center for Student Involvement offers a voluntary workshop series called RISD LEADS, along with programs such as Alternative Spring Break and the annual MLK Day of Service. Students may also apply for a Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) Fellowship, a year-long service program that grants $1,200 in support of educational expenses for 300 hours of public service.

In addition, Rhode Island Campus Compact (RICC), an affiliate of a national organization founded in Rhode Island in 1985, is a statewide coalition of colleges and universities committed to teaching the values of civic engagement and public leadership. It actively promotes public and community service as vital components of a well-rounded college education.

Volunteering through Project Open Door

Through Project Open Door (POD) student volunteers provide local teenagers from low-income families with free after-school art classes and portfolio preparation to help them apply to college and prepare for creative careers. As a program housed in RISD’s department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design, POD not only gives underserved teens access to a high-quality art education, it provides aspiring artist-educators and in-service teaching professionals with a rewarding teaching experience.

Teenagers from urban public schools come to RISD to learn about drawing and the fundamentals of design. Since 2006 more than 500 teenagers have participated in Project Open Door and all seniors in the program apply to college, with the vast majority going on to earn degrees.

Opportunities at the RISD Museum

The RISD Museum offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to engage with the general public through meaningful educational programs. Many gain service learning experiences working behind the scenes with curators and assisting with programs geared towards children and families.

Dorner Prize competition
Each year undergraduate and graduate students are invited to submit proposals to create site-specific installations in the museum. Students selected to participate receive a cash prize and implementation funds for their projects.

Museum Guild
Selected undergraduate and graduate students participate in an intensive program on object-based learning that prepares them to facilitate public tours, discussions and other programs related to the museum’s collection.

HAVC Museum Fellows
Students pursuing a concentration in the History of Art and Visual Culture can apply for semester-long internships to work in a curatorial or education department and earn credit for the experience.

Check the museum’s site for a more complete list of assistantships, fellowships, work study positions and internships available to both undergraduate and graduate students.


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