A vibrant celebration, Commencement offers a joyous opportunity for family and friends to mark this significant milestone with graduates of both our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Graduating students are encouraged to have fun and transform their caps and gowns in idiosyncratic ways to make a more personal artistic statement.

Celebrating the Classes of 2020 and 2022

The RISD community comes together to honor graduating students driving change and to welcome new president Crystal Williams.

Read about our 2022 speakers and honorees

Cheryl D. Miller | honorary degree & Commencement speaker

Graphic designer, educator and author Cheryl D. Miller aims to end the marginalization of BIPOC designers through her civil rights activism, industry exposé trade writing, rigorous research and archival vision. A nationally recognized advocate for equity and inclusion in graphic design and founder of the NYC social impact design firm Cheryl D. Miller Design, Inc., she currently serves as distinguished senior lecturer in design at the University of Texas–Austin (where she was the 2021 E.W. Doty fellow) and adjunct professor at Howard University.

In 2021 Miller was an AIGA Medalist “Expanding Access,” a Cooper Hewitt “Design Visionary” awardee and an Honorary IBM Design Scholar. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Vermont College of Fine Arts and the President’s Global Advisory Board of Maryland Institute College of Art.

Miller earned a BFA in Graphic Design from Maryland Institute College of Art, an MS in Communications Design from Pratt Institute, an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary and an honorary degree in Humane Letters from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her essays appear in PRINT and Communication Arts, and her D&I-related professional research is archived in the Cheryl D. Miller Collection at Stanford University.

Nick Cave | honorary degree

Artist/educator Nick Cave works in a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, video, sound and performance. His much-lauded Soundsuits, sculptural forms based on the scale of his body, were created in response to the police beating of Rodney King in 1991 and serve as a visual embodiment of both brutality and empowerment.

Throughout his practice, Cave has created spaces of memorial by combining found historical objects with contemporary dialogues on gun violence, death and catastrophic loss. His work reminds us that while there may be despair, there remains space for hope and renewal. From dismembered body parts stem delicate metal flowers, affirming the potential for new growth.

Cave encourages a profound and compassionate analysis of violence and its effects as the path towards an ultimate metamorphosis. His works ask how we may reposition ourselves to recognize societal issues such as global warming, racism and gun violence, come together on a global scale, instigate change and—ultimately—heal.

Shahzia Sikander | graduate hooding speaker

Pioneering Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander MFA 95 PT/PR is widely celebrated for expanding and subverting pre-modern and classical Central and South-Asian miniature painting traditions and launching the form known today as neo-miniature. By bringing the non-western art-historical visual vernacular into dialogue with contemporary international art practices, her multivalent work examines colonial archives to readdress orientalist narratives in western art history.

Interrogating ideas of language, trade, empire and migration through imperial and feminist perspectives, Sikander’s paintings, video animations, mosaics and sculpture explore gender roles and sexuality, cultural identity, racial narratives and colonial and postcolonial histories. Her innovative work led to US survey exhibitions at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and, most recently, the RISD Museum. She has also presented her work in solo exhibitions around the world, including MAXXI Museo Rome, the Asia Society Hong Kong, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Sikander’s work can be found in the permanent collections of many prestigious institutions, and she has won numerous awards, grants and fellowships, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the National Medal of Arts. She is a member of RISD’s Board of Trustees and lives and works in New York City.

Brian Selznick | Class of 2020 speaker

Brian Selznick 88 IL is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a Caldecott medal winner and the basis for Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning film Hugo. His other books include Wonderstruck, for which he wrote the screenplay for director Todd Haynes’ film adaptation, The Marvels, Kaleidoscope and Live Oak, With Moss—his first for an adult audience based on 12 poems by Walt Whitman.

Selznick has collaborated on several other books, including The Doll People Trilogy by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, the Caldecott Honor book The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, and Baby Monkey, Private Eye, a beginning reader he created with his husband David Serlin.

In addition to his books, Selznick has also worked professionally as a puppeteer and written for the stage, including an updated version of The Nutcracker performed at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon. Together they are currently collaborating with Ryan Scott Oliver on a musical adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Julius Cavira | graduate student speaker

Julius Cavira MFA 22 SC grew up in Chicago, IL. He took free art classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), where he later earned a BFA. After two tours to Iraq, Cavira honorably discharged from the US Army. His work in the Sculpture MFA program—which recently earned him a prestigious St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award—translates his experiences with the military, religion and identity into potent, poignant forms. In the fall Cavira will pursue a second master’s degree, in RISD’s Teaching + Learning in Art + Design department.

Joshua Coverdale | undergraduate student speaker

Joshua Coverdale 22 FAV shares life events through storytelling to create work about inequalities of the Black experience. His thesis, a five-episode docuseries called Work Ethic: In Conversation with Five Black Artists, celebrates the artistic talent of RISD artists as they challenge expectations to represent race-related trauma, instead emphasizing new narratives and personal voice. In the fall he will attend Northwestern University’s MFA program in documentary media.