Undergraduate Study

studio crit chace center classrooms

All undergraduate students at RISD take first-year studios in Experimental and Foundation Studies, followed by a major course of study in a specific fine arts or design discipline beginning sophomore year. Rigorous courses in Liberal Arts enrich studio learning. Students graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and deep disciplinary knowledge along with strong critical thinking skills and the agility to problem solve and connect the dots across a wide range of fields.

Undergraduate degrees offered

faculty reading from book hands closeup

Undergraduate students have the option of building on their degree programs to concentrate in one of six additional areas of study beyond a studio major. Concentrations at RISD are similar to “minors” at other colleges and universities. Totally optional, they offer important context and perspective while enriching the overall educational experience both in and beyond the studio.

Liberal Arts concentrations

  1. As an interdisciplinary department focused on the psychological, social, political, philosophical and cultural aspects of life, the 24-credit concentration in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences is built around nine focused tracks: Belief Systems; Environmental Studies; Gender, Sexuality and Race; Global Processes; Media, Technology and Cultural Studies; Mind, Self and Behavior; Politics and Policy; Regional Studies; and Scientific Inquiry.

  2. Drawing on a wide range of literary traditions, genres, periods and theoretical approaches, the 27-credit concentration in Literary Arts and Studies enables students to pursue in-depth studies in literature and writing, emphasizing the fundamental relationships between reading, writing and creative processes. It supports the development of sophisticated critical thinking, reading and writing skills, along with a strong writing voice and a nuanced understanding of the role of literature in world culture.

  3. Embracing a wide range of media and critical perspectives, the 27-credit concentration in Theory and History of Art and Design emphasizes critical thinking and analysis, clarity of written and verbal communication, and an understanding of the value of artistic expression across cultures and throughout time.

Interdisciplinary concentrations

  1. The Computation, Technology and Culture curriculum integrates instruction in writing programming languages with critical, historical and theoretical frameworks for understanding the software, platforms and other technologies that shape society and culture. The 15-credit concentration provides students with the opportunity to incorporate digital technologies into art and design practices.​

  2. RISD’s concentration in Drawing offers an opportunity for deep engagement with a key aspect of research at RISD: the notion of drawing as speculation. Through studios highlighting the discipline’s fundamental connection to innovation and discovery, students come to understand drawing as both a practice integral to all art and design disciplines, and as an end in itself for the creation of resolved works of art. Students are encouraged to think critically about the history and evolving presence of drawing in the world, and consider the evolution of their own work in this context.​

  3. The interdisciplinary concentration in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies invites undergraduates to shape individualized courses of study focused on the environmental humanities and the interconnected phenomena of contemporary life. Through the 21-credit concentration, students pursue issues related to biomimicry, emerging technologies, global warming, hybridity and sustainability, among other options, while developing an informed planetary perspective and broad-based critical thinking and problem solving skills.