Senior Yves-Olivier Mandereau 15 CR/GD fell in love with ceramics as a high school freshman in San Francisco – a love that inspired him to attend RISD’s Pre-College Program in the summer of 2010. Based on the positive experience, he ultimately applied to and got accepted at RISD, choosing to pursue the visual arts over his passions for piano and foreign languages (Japanese was his first language and he's fluent in three others).
The son of a Lebanese mother born and raised in Bolivia and a French father born in Norway and raised in Morocco, Mandereau is openly gay and a living embodiment of diversity. After meeting Tony Johnson 93 SC, RISD’s director of Intercultural Student Engagement (ISE) at an LGBT event when he first arrived as a freshman, he went on to work in the ISE office.
Mandereau is ambitious, to say the least. Until recent restrictions were placed on the number of credits students are allowed to earn each semester, he was taking six classes per term, working toward his dual major in Ceramics and Graphic Design. He loves the juxtaposition between the two mediums – the fact that clay is so physical, so “alive,” and graphic design is so metaphysical and abstract. Yet, the same basic question applies to both courses of study, he says: “How will the user approach and engage with the thing you’ve created?”
Mandereau also frequently takes classes at Brown, pursuing his interests in linguistics and international relations. “I spend a lot of time up at Brown,” he says, “and have a lot of friends there. The racial diversity at RISD is not that complex. There are a lot of international students, but the LGBT community is not very prevalent. But Brown has a much larger student body and activity in this area, so I’m glad the two schools have a close relationship.”
The classes he takes at Brown feed into Mandereau’s “obsession” with communication and his design work at RISD. “Even as a kid,” he says, “I understood that the same word in different languages has different connotations and meanings. I try to explore that idea in my graphic design work. Who is my audience and how can I best reach them with the layout of this poster? What happens to their perception if I rotate this element 60 degrees?”
Although Mandereau has had some great professors at RISD, he’s always known that a large part of the learning experience would come through his peers. “Even though the teacher has experience and can provide guidance about how to approach a problem, that’s only one opinion,” he explains. “You have to learn from the other students around you. Their opinions count just as much.”
A huge fan of RISD’s emphasis on critique, Mandereau says that the key to succeeding here is realizing that the feedback is about your work, not about you as a person. “If you take the criticism personally,” he says, “you shut down and stop hearing anything. Then the next week you come back with the same level of work.”
Mandereau is eager to engage with his peers and hungry for feedback. “The biggest thing I’m taking away from my RISD experience is how to engage with the world – with everything around me,” he says. “And I’ve learned at RISD that finishing something is not always the goal. It’s more about exploration, getting from point A to point B and letting that experience drive your engagement with the material.”
Assistant Professor of Ceramics David Katz revels in the resources, community and mix of disciplines he’s discovering at RISD.
After leaving her home country of Myanmar, Soe Yu Nwe MFA 15 CR finds that she’s now fully focused on anchoring herself through her work.
Sophomore Mei Lenehan 18 GD finds value in selecting classes that intellectually complement one another.