Kicking Off a New Year at RISD
Kicking Off a New Year at RISD
The fall 2021 semester gets underway with student move-in, orientation activities and an inspiring livestreamed Convocation event.
Student volunteers welcome RISD’s Class of 2025.
New and returning students were welcomed back to campus last weekend with sunshine, blue skies and a host of masked volunteer helpers. Thanks to a community-wide COVID vaccination rate of more than 95 percent, they’ll enjoy an in-person, “near normal” RISD experience, taking advantage of the college’s well-equipped studios and the impossible-to-quantify benefits of shared spaces for making and learning with mentors and peers.
“Campus has come alive over the past week as first-year students arrived for orientation and returning students moved into their residence halls and apartments around Providence,” says Interim President Dave Proulx. “Our approach to a safe start to the fall semester relies on a high vaccination rate among faculty, staff and students, regular PCR testing, indoor masking and limiting the number of external guests and visitors on campus.”
“Campus has come alive over the past week as first-year students arrived for orientation and returning students moved into their residence halls and apartments around Providence.”
Proulx kicked off a virtual September 7 Convocation address, which also included Interim RISD Museum Director Sarah Ganz Blythe, Provost Kent Kleinman, Vice President & Associate Provost for Social Equity and Inclusion Matthew Shenoda, Dean of Architecture and Design Scheri Fultineer, Interim Dean of Fine Arts Brooks Hagan MFA 02 TX, Dean of Experimental and Foundation Studies Joanne Stryker and Dean of Liberal Arts Damian White. Ganz Blythe invited RISD’s 700 new students, staff and faculty to explore the RISD Museum, which she described as “an artist’s museum and a catalyst for experimentation and the generation of new ideas.”
Kleinman referenced the words of late scholar and architect Michael Sorkin, who described bodies in motion and proximity as indispensable conditions for democratic thought. “Proximity sets the stage for interactions, including the ad hoc collisions with the unknown that shake your consciousness and change your life,” Kleinman said. He encouraged incoming students to think of RISD as a “complex, messy, dense, stimulating, unpredictable place” where their creative expression can flourish like nowhere else.
“Proximity sets the stage for interactions, including the ad hoc collisions with the unknown that shake your consciousness and change your life.”
Kleinman went on to lead a roundtable discussion with RISD’s academic leaders focused on what we’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic and how that learning will shape the coming academic year. Shenoda says he is excited to welcome the eight new full-time faculty members focused on race and decoloniality who join RISD as part of the cluster hire initiative launched last fall, while crediting the entire faculty community for making great strides over the past few years in terms of rethinking curriculum, pedagogy and collaborative pathways for students focused on SEI issues.
In the liberal arts arena, White describes the recently developed six-continent art history survey class for first-year students as “a new pedagogical adventure that considers [the history of] creative endeavor not as a simple linear story reacting to Europe but rather a complicated set of histories in reaction to modernism.”
Stryker is proud of the way that the EFS curriculum has evolved in response to student input, world events, the SEI initiative at RISD and new hires who bring new perspectives and expertise to the community. And Hagan sees last year’s integration of new technologies into the classroom as an enormous step that “drew outside voices from around the world into the conversation at RISD.”
Fultineer also references hybrid studio learning as a key COVID takeaway, noting that RISD students and faculty are now using tools like online Miro whiteboards and digital video cameras to collaborate with people near and far and “craft new narratives about their work.”
Proulx summed it up nicely in his remarks, urging students to “go to crits, attend lectures, visit the library and the museum, make new connections and take advantage of the amazing resources and opportunities RISD has to offer.”
—Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
Academic leaders convene at Convocation 2020 and invite the community back to a radically reenvisioned campus.
As part of ongoing Orientation activities, the president and provost welcome new students and faculty at Convocation 2019.
With a community-wide vaccination rate surpassing 90 percent, returning students can expect in-person studio and extra-curricular experiences come September.