Society of Presidential Fellows
“This fellowship has not only alleviated daunting financial obligations, but also has given me additional time because I no longer have to work multiple jobs. I can be involved with the community, pursue projects more earnestly and immerse myself in RISD.”
The Society of Presidential Fellows program endeavors to dramatically enhance RISD’s competitiveness in recruiting and retaining its most sought-after students. These students work with faculty on research and creative projects, elevate the educational experience for all students and enhance the reputation of RISD’s graduate programs.
Presidential Fellows are selected through a highly competitive process and receive full-tuition funding for the duration of their graduate program. They also participate in special programming designed to enrich their studies and advance their careers, including opportunities to connect with RISD alumni mentors who are creative thought leaders.
2022 Presidential Fellows
Husna Swaleh Abubakar MFA 24 GD
Husna Swaleh Abubakar earned a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design and Business Management from Pensacola State College. While her undergraduate interests included typography, fashion editorial work and fashion graphic design, she plans to focus her work at RISD on exploring the Swahili identity through in-depth research of her cultural identity. She wants to challenge her knowledge of her own culture and be able to differentiate between an orientalist structure and an occidentalist perspective as a more authentic account of the Swahili culture.
Husna plans to explore this work through print design as well as through the use of typography, print media, photography, textiles and film. She looks forward to being a part of RISD’s guiding and open environment in order to further her research and expand her creative practice. As the first in her family to attain a degree past a bachelor’s she values the personal significance of this opportunity.
Husna’s fellowship is made possible by the LoveFrom, Presidential Fellowship.
Yasmine Awad Hassan earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University in 2017 and is pursuing a Master of Industrial Design from RISD. Her goal is to discover new ways to empower marginalized people to reshape their environments and examine how designers can create affordable, culturally-competent educational opportunities within formal and informal contexts. Following her experience with robotics, art, carpentry, and youth advocacy work, Yasmine wants to stay in the Providence area to grow in her profession and inspire the next generation through counter-cultural, D.I.Y. spaces.
Yasmine’s fellowship is made possible by the Building Tall Presidential Fellowship.
Anuj Malla MFA 24 FD
Anuj Malla earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2018 and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Furniture Design at RISD. Everyday objects fascinate Anuj and he has used them in his work in relation to how we identify in everyday life. He is confident that RISD’s Furniture Design program will help him excel as an artist and designer.
Aaron Neal earned a Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Interior Architecture from Auburn University. Aaron is mastering what makes a space. He has explored concepts such as light, transparency and redundancy. He is pursuing a Master of Arts in Adaptive Reuse from RISD. Aaron is looking forward to exploring the relationship between adaptive reuse within African American communities and its impact on the environment–ultimately stitching communities back together.
Aaron’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Boluwatife Promise Oyediran MFA 24 PT
Boluwatife Promise Oyediran studied Fine and Applied Arts at Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo, Nigeria, majoring in painting and graphics and graduating with the Best Student in Drawing Prize. He is a writer and contemporary painter working primarily with figuration and text. His practice is informed by a deep commitment to reimagining and reorienting blackness in the canons of history, religion and Western art, using cotton as an essential symbol of interrogation. In recent years, his works have been exhibited extensively; his recent achievements include a 2021 Visiting Fellowship at the Noldor Artist Residency, a 2022 Artist-in-Residence program at Gallery 1957, and an invitation by Adjaye Associates to paint a mural at the National Cathedral of Ghana. Boluwatife is currently at work on his first novel. His latest writing, published by Iskanchi Press in the United States, is forthcoming in “The Best of Isele Anthology'' in fall 2022. He is excited to join the literary and artistic community at RISD + Brown, and is looking forward to a rigorous studio experience, mentorship opportunities, critique and interdisciplinary explorations in his work.
Boluwatife’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Shey 'Rí Acu' Rivera Ríos (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist, community organizer, and cultural strategist. Rivera uses storytelling across mediums to create immersive worlds of magic and liberation. Rivera was born and raised in Borikén/Puerto Rico and is based in Providence, RI -land of Narragansett and Wampanoag peoples. They are a mixed race, nonbinary/queer, and proud Taino/Boricua artist who is pursuing a Master of Global Arts and Cultures at RISD after 12 years of experience in the arts sector. They are passionate about helping communities and artists realize justice through creative practice with a social impact.
Shey’s fellowship is made possible by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Presidential Fellowship.
Photo credit: Cat Laine, Painted Foot Studio
Rosanna Valencia MArch 24
Rosanna Valencia earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture with a minor in Environmental Design from the University at Buffalo. During her undergraduate studies she was selected to conduct research at the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, where she applied her interests in community engagement and people centered design. Her research focused on the effects of design on food accessibility in the cornerstones of an under-resourced neighborhood. Rosanna is passionate about advocating for students. As an undergraduate student she was a founder and served as president of AASAP, a student-led club catering to African American Students of Architecture and Planning. Her artistic interests in painting are inspired by her upbringing in the Dominican Republic and they include exploring the roles of migration and memory in space-making for migrant groups. At RISD she is looking forward to being engaged with the artistic community, interdisciplinary classes and mentorship opportunities to expand on her talents and interests.
Rosanna’s fellowship is made possible by the Building Tall Presidential Fellowship.
Angie Zou MFA 24 IL
Angie Zou earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2016 and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration from RISD. Her interest in art sparked from her experience growing up in a polygynous Hmong and Chinese household in suburban Michigan. Her work in visual arts aims to cross the boundaries of age, language and socioeconomic barriers.
Angie’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Presidential Fellows Cohorts
Denzel Amoah MLA 24
Denzel earned a Bachelor of Science in urban studies with a concentration in planning and public administration from Worcester State University. Throughout his undergraduate studies Denzel explored issues of poverty, housing discrimination, urban exclusion, public space and business zoning through a creative lens, drawing on his photography and design skills to investigate and research these topics. His passion for landscape architecture reflects his focus on the intersection between human ecology and urban greening. At RISD, Denzel is looking forward to immersing himself in the study and practice of landscape architecture that enhances the environment it occupies through innovative and compelling design.
Denzel's fellowship is made possible by the Rosanne Somerson (76) Presidential Fellowship.
Dina Khorchid MFA 23 TX
Dina Khorchid (Palestinian, b. 1987) is a visual artist and designer. She earned a Bachelors degree in Visual Communication from the American University of Sharjah and was a fellow at the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program (HWP, 2018-2019) and the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF, 2016-2017). Dina’s work has been showcased in various group shows in the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Lebanon, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. At RISD she is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Textiles. She looks forward to a rigorous, hands-on studio experience and mentorship opportunities to expand on her practice, skills and interest in navigating through personal spaces, landscapes and languages of connection, in relation to the fragility of loss, preservation and memory access.
Dina's fellowship is made possible by a Presidential Fellowship.
Ayesha earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts with a concentration in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis. She is a metalsmith, photographer, and graphic designer with a passion for working with non-profit organizations and in support of voluntary initiatives. Through the study of jewelry and metalsmithing at RISD, she looks forward to exploring and communicating “the internal and external, religion and spirituality...the body and soul.” Ayesha’s awards, honors, and accomplishments include being named an Annika Rodriguez Scholar, a John B. Ervin Scholar, being awarded the 2015 Caroline Risque Prize in Sculpture, and exhibiting at the Benaki Museum during the 2019 Athens Jewelry Week.
Ayesha's fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Victor earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a minor in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His artistic and research interests include environmental aesthetics, green urbanisms, nature in visual culture, design and indigeneity, and ecosemiotics. At RISD, Victor will explore divergent value systems and aesthetic aspirations that shape the disparate availability of urban ecosystem services. Drawing upon visual research methods, he will research and shed light on the entanglements that exist within and among the interstices of urban life and the environment. Victor’s future goals include doctoral studies, informed and enhanced by design strategies for tangible change.
Victor's fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
A graduate of the San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy in Havana, Cuba, Mari earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in painting from the University of the Arts, Havana (ISA). While developing her art practice for the last seven years, Mari worked as a professor at ISA, notably authoring a paper on critical positioning in third-year students which was recognized by the school for its importance to the field of art education and instruction. In addition to teaching she has conducted theoretical research, regularly showed work in solo and group exhibitions (including public collections at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Cisneros-Fontanals Art Foundation in Miami) and secured numerous internationally-funded grants and fellowships. Mari is excited to work closely with our faculty to expand her theoretical, methodological and aesthetic frames of reference, and looks forward to taking an interdisciplinary approach to her practice.
Jahi Lendor MFA 23 PT
Jahi earned a Bachelor of Arts in visual art and graphic design with a minor in art history, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a specialization is graphic design from Rutgers University. He views language, medium, materials and objects as ways to process the world around me; collapsing the limitations of painting, sculpture, installation, design and assemblage. Through his work, Jahi strives to show an honest representation of everyday ‘blackness,’ ranging from trauma to beauty. Through various mediums and creative methods he explores identity, collective memory, and erasure. At RISD, Jahi is seeking growth and exploration of his practice through rigorous studio time, curriculum, and critique. He relishes the opportunity to push the boundaries of his comfort and create more room for artistic development. He is looking forward to forging artistic and professional connections and embedding himself in the creative community here at RISD.
Janice Lardey MFA 23 PR
Janice earned a Bachelor of Fine Art, majoring in painting and sculpture, from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science And Technology in Kumasi, Ghana. Janice developed her early love of design and form into a diligent and observational practice, investigating ideas of loss, material effects, ecological changes, human interactions, decay and impermanence. Drawing inspiration from artists like Aboubakar Fofana, Anni Albers and Zora Opoku, Janice’s practice is informed by the “charged histories” embedded in the materials she sources. By deliberately blending artistic techniques traditionally practiced by men in her community, she subverts stereotypical ideas and patriarchal limitations. With an eye toward global discourse and expression of her artistic voice beyond the borders of Ghana, Janice is looking forward to immersing herself in creative practice at RISD, seeking critique, new inputs, perspectives and exploration of techniques to support her artistic vision.
Janice's fellowship is made possible by the Distinguished Alumna Presidential Fellowship.
Gabriel earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. Since graduating in 2018 he has exhibited extensively, showing work at dozens of venues as well as virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gabriel’s recent achievements and awards include several residencies and fellowships, and his public art has been commissioned and displayed throughout Tulsa and Stillwater for years. Immersing himself in his local artistic community, Gabriel founded a biennial exhibition for local emerging artists in Tulsa. He also worked as an assistant for multiple artists of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship including Yatika Fields, Hoesy Corona, and Shane Darwent. Always seeking to create “productive tension” in his painting, Gabriel’s influences interplay throughout his work, building up in layers with disparate references ranging from ancestral heritage, to biological systems, to science fiction and graffiti. With a practice rooted in emotion, improvisation and a drive to explore the materiality of painting, Gabriel is thrilled to join the artistic community at RISD and in Providence, to work closely with our faculty and his fellow students, and to experiment with other media and interdisciplinary practices in his work.
Gabriel's fellowship is made possible by the Roger (Hon. 09) and Gayle (MFA 97 PT/PR) Mandle Presidential Fellowship.
Maximilian earned a Bachelor of Industrial Design from the University of Washington. Maximilian is an industrial and product designer who thrives as a collaborative learner. He is passionate about sound, nature, touch, form, the experiences of others and critique.
Maximilian's fellowship is made possible by the Building Tall Expendable Presidential Fellowship.
Jay earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Jay is interested in the dialogue between people and places. They explore how design may provide memorable, resilient, and equitable solutions in a shared environment.
Jay's fellowship is made possible by the Building Tall Expendable Presidential Fellowship.
Elbert earned a Bachelor of Science in Technology and Engineering Studies from Brigham Young University. Elbert's approach to design is rooted in his "blue-collar" background. His work centers around finding accessible, natural and functional solutions to the problems that need solving.
Elbert's fellowship is made possible by the Building Tall Expendable Presidential Fellowship.
Aaron Christopher Jelinek MArch 23
Jelinek earned a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Building Design and Construction accredited; Construction Documents Technology certified; and a member of the Construction Specifications Institute. His personal life experiences have disrupted old ideas as to what constitutes architecture, and he is interested in exploring architecture beyond the physical life of structures. Jelinek is excited about rigorous studio work where he will have the opportunity to test his ideas, to try and to fail, and to grow as a spatial designer. He is interested in sustainability and passive design as well as finding new channels to harness creative energy.
Lilly E. Manycolors MA 22 GAC
Manycolors holds a bachelor’s degree of Individualized Studies in Decolonization from Goddard College and was a finalist in 2019 for Wellesley College’s Prilla Smith Bracket Award and recently received a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts: Creative City Boston, NEFA 2020. Her two signature projects for 2020 include The Return of First Womxn, a mixed-media performance series throughout Boston and Providence that tells the Indigenous story of First Womxn’s instructions upon her return to earth, and MISODOODISWAN Red Lodge: Witnessing/Healing of MMIWG2s, an installation at the Boston Common of a sculptural rendition of a sweat lodge made from red dresses that address the need for acknowledging murdered and missing Indigenous Womxn.
Manycolors’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Zoë Pulley MFA 23 GD
Pulley earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in Fashion Design from Virginia Commonwealth University and is a two-time recipient of a Cotton Inc. Scholarship and a recipient of a Cooper Union Summer Scholarship. She was recognized by Ink magazine in 2016 as part of their designer spotlight series. Her interest in telling stories of Black experiences is reflected throughout her work and extends to Gran Sans, a jewelry brand that is an extension of generational practice in making work inspired by her grandmother, Sandra, the project’s namesake, where she is a designer and producer—as well as her most current project called Black Joy Archive, a collection of crowd-sourced images accessible online and in a limited print book release. Pulley believes it is crucial to create opportunities that encourage people of color to tell their stories within design spaces, without the obligation that the stories have a certain look or feel.
Pulley’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Diana Sanchez MFA 22 D + M
Sanchez earned a master's degree in Design, with a focus on Social Innovation and Design Research, at the University of Los Andes. She is an artist, designer and computational poet from Bogotá, Colombia. She has a background in poetic computation, creative writing and research, and her work bridges art, design, science and technology. She is the founder of Correo Patafísico, a project that inspires young girls to explore the world through scientific and technological activities with an artistic approach. This project has been featured at different conferences, such as New Direction in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and Cumulus Letters to the Future in Bangalore India. Sanchez led a talk on botanic interfaces at the Design Science Symposium, Inclusive Narratives from Nature at the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab in September 2019.
Tzyy Yi Young MFA 22 FD
Young holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in Three Dimensional Forum from the University of Washington and has participated in several residencies and workshops including the Murano Residency, Pilchuck Glass School/ Laguna B, Murano Italy. In 2019 she was an artist in residence at Pottery Northwest in Seattle, Washington and the Advanced Sculpting in Glass Workshop at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Although her focus has been on ceramics and glass, she wants her work to embrace people and therefore is studying furniture design to explore how function, interaction and aesthetics come together.
Young’s fellowship is made possible by the Hillary Blumberg (92 FAV) Presidential Fellowship.
Learn more about the Society of Presidential Fellows
Eleven outstanding graduate students who began their studies at RISD last September share their global perspectives with the larger community.
Since August 2019 RISD has raised $15 million to fund a new program that recruits and supports outstanding graduate students.
Thanks to two generous gifts, exceptional graduate students selected for the Society of Presidential Fellows will have tuition-free access to a RISD education.
Endow a Presidential Fellowship Fund
Society of Presidential Fellowship Fund – $1,000,000
The Society of Presidential Fellows was launched in 2019 as a direct line of support for improving RISD’s recruitment and retention of highly talented graduate students, many of whom have been opting for competing institutions that offer more generous financial aid packages. Our goal in the next five years is to secure funding for RISD’s top 50 graduate students.
Endowed Society of Presidential Fellowships fund a student's full tuition for one to three years of study, depending on the length of their academic programs. Fellows apply to programs through existing processes; department heads and deans then select their most exceptional applicants and final selections are made by the President and Provost. The society is simply a way to guarantee that resources are made available to our most promising applicants.
In addition to providing financial support, the Presidential Fellowship is a notable award that adds to each recipient’s professional credentials. Fellows receive a special certificate signed by the President emphasizing the prestigious nature of the award and identifying the benefactor responsible for their award. Presidential Fellows are also invited to participate in special events throughout the academic year with creative thought leaders, and each Fellow is assigned an alumni mentor for the duration of their studies.
As an endowment donor, you will receive annual stewardship reports, which include a financial statement, an overall endowment performance update, biographies on all students in the cohort, an invitation to the annual fall induction ceremony and communications from named fellow(s).
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