Graduating Brown | RISD Dual Degree Students Deliver Powerful Capstone Presentations

a robot on the surface of water, using vibration to stay afloat

From a talk about Indigenous erasure in art history by Rachel Moss BRDD 23 PT to performance art about the different sides of self by Susie Zhu BRDD 23 PR, this year’s Brown|RISD Dual Degree (BRDD) capstone presentations offered a captivating view of the multidisciplinary work produced by this year’s graduating class.

Students in the BRDD program spend five years studying at Brown University and RISD before graduating with degrees from both schools. “I’m grateful for the multidisciplinary education that I’ve received through the dual degree program,” says Hannah Skye Dunnigan BRDD 23 ID, who spoke about her work with student clubs RISD Space Design and Brown Space Engineering. “It has shaped my problem-solving approach, encouraged me to think outside the box and underscored the value of collaboration.”

Twin sisters Sofia Karadogan BRDD 23 PT and Lara Karadogan BRDD 23 PT delivered talks on individual creative practices—both artists work primarily with clay and painting—that center around language, touch and evolution. On the science side, Annie Chen BRDD 23 ID recounted her work in climate change cartography, a methodology she developed for holistic, systemic climate action, and how she implemented it to address climate issues faced in fishery and aquaculture in her work with Zoe Lee 24 NCSS/ID at SCUP Aquaculture.

a blue, pink and yellow comic by emma capps about being in a coma

Two models holding hands and leaning back while in blue and yellow draping garments by Seabass Immonen
Above, Emma T. Capps wrote and illustrated an autobiographical instruction manual How to Be in a Coma. Below, Seabass Immonen incorporated body politics into their collaborative apparel design project with Davi Sapiro-Gheiler and Zeinab Azizkhani. Photo credit Jaleel Marques-Porcha.

In Exploration as Chimera, Emma T Capps 23 IL BRDD dove into her work in comics and sequential art, through which she focuses on her experience living with a form of cancer called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. “I’ve never perceived myself as an autobiographical artist, but I’ve learned to let myself lean into these nascent artistic impulses,” says Capps.

During the talk, Capps read aloud How to Be in a Coma, her autobiographical instruction manual that won a 2021 Feldman Prize in Fiction from Brown. She also spoke about the TEDx talk she delivered in 2022 about her work with comics, which she began making at age 14. “When I was struggling through chemotherapy and illness, I could never imagine I’d be well enough to give a TED talk,” she says.

While Capps’ work centers around autobiography, Sarah Woo BRDD 23 IL is interested in portraying surreal and dreamlike environments through a variety of mediums, including oil on canvas, clay, 3D digital art and virtual reality. Seabass Immonen BRDD 23 AP spoke about incorporating body politics into their collaborative apparel design projects. Their collection The Left Lung Breathes focuses on the relationships of their five “leftist” runway models with politics and clothing. 

Later, Sherenté Harris BRDD 23 PT (Narragansett, Turtle Clan) began their talk with a passage from Tradition Keeper, a manuscript they are writing about growing up as a two-spirit child, their experience of generational trauma and colonialism. “During my time at Brown and RISD,” they say, “I have realized that my family, my home, my people are the cause and purpose for all of the work that I do.”

Harris is featured in Being Thunder, a 2021 documentary that chronicles their life from ages 14–18 as a two-spirit fancy shawl dancer, a ritual traditionally performed by women. “In order for [my art practice] to speak to the heart of our people,” they say, “to the sacred knowledge of our stories, it must happen in reciprocity with my people and my world.”

a drawing of a person with long black hair in a red long sleeved shirt looking in the mirror and brushing their hair by sherente harris
Sherenté Harris centered their thesis work around their two-spirit identity and the Indigenous culture of storytelling.

“Being in the dual degree program has helped me become a better collaborator, a better teammate, a better friend, a better person.”

BRDD Senior Eugene Rhee

In Grids, patterns, and the Native American urge to belong nowhere, Laney Day BRDD 23 PT/FAV discussed the concept of grids and how colonialism used them to divide and sell land and displace Indigenous communities. “The grid has been a tool to eliminate and eradicate us,” they say. “To equate the grid with the modern is to equate the modern to a world without Native people.”

Day has applied the concept of “the grid” to their work, which includes everything from beading to writing to animation and more. The artist explains that they are “trying to understand patterns by splitting them up into smaller bits and then trying to put them back together.”

Moving into the realm of design, Eugene Rhee BRDD 23 ID focused her capstone around community collaboration in design and engineering. Through Brown|RISD Design for America, Rhee first designed ShopEase, a mobile app and grocery store shopping assistant for people with limited vision. “I think being with the people who are impacted by these problems every day is absolutely my favorite part of the design process,” she explains. “I end up learning so much from them, and I’m constantly reminded to check my own perspective and bias.”

Later in her studies, Rhee and classmates developed SurferBot, a robot that uses vibration to glide along the surface of water. “I think being in the dual degree program has led me to understand people better,” she says. “It has helped me become a better collaborator, a better teammate, a better friend, a better person.”

Isabel Roberts / top image and work by Eugene Rhee and Robert Hunt
June 27, 2023

Related Stories

Brown | RISD Dual Degree students present their capstone presentations to a live and virtual audience.