Faculty Members Honored
Matthew Bird and Avishek Ganguly earn the 2019/20 John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching.
At RISD’s September 8 virtual Convocation ceremony, President Rosanne Somerson and Provost Kent Kleinman welcomed back to campus the college’s incredibly dedicated faculty, among them the 2019/20 winners of the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching, Matthew Bird 89 ID and Avishek Ganguly.
Established in 1968, the annual award honors one full-time and one part-time faculty member who have an enduring influence on student learning. Prospective honorees are nominated by members of the RISD community and then reviewed by a committee of their peers, who consider not only their awards, exhibitions and scholarship but also their class syllabi and the evaluations students submit at the end of each semester.
Associate Professor Avishek Ganguly, who teaches in the Literary Arts and Studies department, was selected among full-time faculty for his focus on post- and decolonial perspectives that challenge students and colleagues alike to reexamine their positions as scholars and makers. “Avishek’s deeply researched syllabi and probing pedagogy present complex ideas in accessible ways for students across art and design disciplines,” notes Kleinman. “He mobilizes theories of performance, translation and politics to prepare students for material practices that are both reflective and proactive.”
Ganguly joined the RISD faculty in 2010 and has since earned numerous awards and fellowships for his scholarship, including a 2017–18 fellowship at Freie Universität in Berlin and a 2020 UGC-SAP Visiting Fellowship from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi (where he earned one of his master’s degrees). At RISD, he earned the 2014 Robert Turner Theatrical and Performance Design Grant and served as the inaugural Global Faculty Fellow in 2015.
Matthew Bird is a senior critic in the Industrial Design department, where he earned his own undergraduate degree in 1989. “His infectious energy, laser focus and good humor shape his large lecture courses and hands-on studios,” says Kleinman. “Matthew cares intensely for his students and is known for memorizing every single name and face on a 50-student list before each course begins.”
When COVID-19 first rocked the RISD community in March, Bird worked tirelessly to transform his hugely popular History of Industrial Design class for sophomores into an engaging virtual experience students were able to tap into from multiple time zones around the world. His videotaped lectures use more than 4,000 images to communicate the history of design in a compelling and accessible way.
“The class helps students to identify their own interests and concerns by examining the work of other designers,” says Bird, “using history to avoid distractions, false starts, pitfalls and unnecessary mistakes in their own work.”
Industrial Design sophomores are tuning in from around the world for Matthew Bird’s popular course on the history of everything.
Ceramics Department Head Katy Schimert earns awards from both the Guggenheim and the Joan Mitchell foundations.
Faculty members Deborah Zlotsky and Yevgeniya Baras and alumna Jennifer Garza-Cuen MFA 12 PH win 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships.