Virtual Homecoming

Large, colorful Welcome to RISD sign

In Pivoting During a Pandemic—a dynamic panel discussion featuring RISD alumni Ashleigh Axios 08 GD, Tiffany Cooper 12 FAV, Brandon Kim MID 18 and Bruce Werfel BArch 89—participants agreed that institutions of every stripe have shifted to remote models of working and embraced digital strategies allowing for social distancing. Indeed, the panel itself was part of the all-virtual RISD Weekend 2020, four days of online programming bringing together RISD alums and families from around the world.

“This is a truly remarkable moment in history, and students are navigating a very different college experience than what they imagined.”

president rosanne somerson

“You are part of an incredibly rich, varied and creative community,” said President Rosanne Somerson in her October 6 welcome. “This is a truly remarkable moment in history, and students are navigating a very different college experience than what they imagined.”

Executive Director of Health & Wellness Bob Samuels
Executive Director of Health & Wellness Bob Samuels explained RISD’s quarantine process to new families.

The Alumni & Family Relations team reinvented the annual event, preserving many of the core elements that provide parents a glimpse into the RISD experience. Guided by Lois Harada 10 PR, viewers were able to participate in live virtual tours of key campus spaces, such as the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab and Co-Works Research Lab, where they got to hear directly from staff who ae working to keep their operations safely available to students.

There was also a presentation from the RISD Museum, and Career Center Director Kevin Jankowski 88 IL offered a comprehensive overview of the resources his team provides students and alums. New Executive Director of Health & Wellness Bob Samuels teamed up with Health Education and Promotion Coordinator Elyana Kadish to explain RISD’s quarantine process and how campus has been modified to provide a safe learning environment during the pandemic.

Autumn leaves on campus

Vice President of Institutional Engagement O’Neil Outar announced that this is the last event to be planned by Executive Director of Alumni & Family Relations Christina Hartley 74 IL, who will retire in March. “Chris has architected and implemented new programs for alumni, families and students to engage with each other, and she has been a resource and connector for generations of alumni,” he notes. “The impact of her contributions to RISD will be felt for a long time to come.”

“I took on a lot of leadership roles as a student at RISD, which really helped me come out of my shell.”

art director tiffany cooper 12 fav

Hartley hosted the Pivoting During a Pandemic session and encouraged panelists to look back on their RISD experiences and consider how they may have foreshadowed their professional careers and ability to be flexible.

“I took on a lot of leadership roles as a student at RISD, which really helped me come out of my shell,” says Tiffany Cooper 12 FAV, who now works as an art director at a global ad agency based in Miami, FL. “Now that I’m working from home, I have to remind myself to take breaks and use yoga and meditation to prevent myself from getting derailed by the constant influx of news.”

Brevite cofounder Brandon Kim MID 18
Brevitē co-founder Brandon Kim MID 18 reflected on his RISD experience.

Industrial designer Brandon Kim MID 18, who co-founded Brevitē, a direct-to-consumer brand that creates backpacks for photographers, says that he was a bit of a black sheep at RISD but has flourished since graduating. “Translating the design skills I learned at RISD into a production environment was tricky,” he notes, “but not as difficult as RISD was!”

RISD flags in flight

If circumstances allow, RISD alumni will gather in person this spring for Commencement 2021. In the meantime, regional alumni clubs are planning a series of upcoming virtual events, including a talk with the lighting designers behind Brooklyn’s celebrated Rich Brilliant Willing, a studio tour with award-winning children’s book author Jarret J. Krosoczka 99 IL and a talk with author/artist Nell Painter MFA 11 PT, whose Old in Art School memoir—a finalist for the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Award—was described by Essence magazine as “a smart, funny and compelling case for going after your heart's desires, no matter your age.”

Simone Solondz/campus photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

Visit and for more news and events

Related Stories

New Executive Director of Integrated Health and Wellness Bob Samuels is building a culture that values physical and mental well-being.