RISD Appoints Interim Academic Leadership
Rhode Island School of Design has tapped three RISD alumni, professors and department heads for key leadership positions for next academic year.
Professor Rosanne Somerson 76 ID, head of the Furniture Design department, has been named interim provost for academic year 2011-2012 while a national search for a permanent chief academic officer proceeds. ProfessorBill Newkirk 68 GD, head of the Graphic Design department, has been appointed interim dean of Architecture + Design and Professor Anais Missakian 84 TX, head of the Textiles department, will serve as interim dean of Fine Arts.
In an email to the RISD community, President John Maeda wrote that Somerson’s strong administrative experience and faculty perspective will help maintain “both stability and momentum” with regard to RISD’s academic initiatives. He noted that she previously served as interim associate provost from 2005–07 and brings firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be both a faculty member and a student at RISD.
“Professor Somerson understands the many sides of RISD, and I believe that her leadership will help us to maintain continuity and sustain momentum in the departments and in Academic Affairs,” Maeda wrote. Two of her initial priorities when she starts on July 1 will be to work with the deans on the selection of an interim associate provost and on clarifying the academic initiatives in RISD’s strategic plan.
Throughout the selection process for an interim provost, Maeda was assisted by an Advisory Group of RISD faculty and department heads as well as the current deans, the EVP of Finance + Administration, and the SVP of Students + Enrollment.
An accomplished studio furniture maker, Somerson graduated from the Industrial Design department at RISD at a time when furniture design was a program within ID. She joined RISD’s faculty in 1985 and ran the ID graduate furniture program for 10 years before helping to conceive of and found RISD’s first freestanding Furniture Design department, which simultaneously launched BFA and MFA programs in 1995. Since then she has served as department head (except for when she served as associate provost for two years) and has helped to establish the department’s solid reputation in the field.
In addition to her academic responsibilities, Somerson designs and makes furniture for exhibitions and by commission through her own studio. As a partner in DEZCO llc, she worked with several colleagues in Furniture Design to custom design and manufacture the furnishings for RISD’s15 West student residences. She has exhibited extensively in museums including the Louvre (Paris, France), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA). She was an honored subject of the Oral History Artists Project of the Smithsonian Institute and has received citations for her work as a designer, artist and teacher, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Crafts Educator Award.
A long-time Graphic Design and Foundation Studies professor, Newkirk has been named interim dean of Architecture + Design succeedingDawn Barrett, who will move on to a new role aspresident of Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt).
Newkirk previously served as dean of Foundation Studies from 1989–96, and has been department head of Graphic Design since 2007. He studied architecture and graphic design at RISD and has taught at RISD since 1975.
Through his work with Malcolm Grear Designers Newkirk has designed museum catalogues for institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum, Fogg Art Museum and the RISD Museum of Art. He now works independently on projects such as logo design and architectural signs, with a focus on exhibition catalogues for individual artists.
A professor of Textiles, Missakian has been department head since 2004 and served as director of the graduate program from 2000–04. As interim dean of Fine Arts, Missakian will succeed ProfessorDeborah Bright, who will return to teaching in RISD’s departments of Photography and the History of Art + Visual Culture (HAVC).
An honors graduate of RISD, Missakian spent six years in New York working as a designer for textile companies before returning to RISD to start her teaching career. She has served on numerous institutional committees, including RISD’s Instruction Committee, Academic Standing Committee, Financial Aid Committee, European Honors Committee, the Committee for Faculty Appointments and numerous search committees.
She has spent the last 25 years designing textile collections for the interior market as a design consultant. Through partnerships withLaura Lienhard 87 TX/MFA 95 and Elise Contarsy 84 TX, clients have included Sunbury Textile Mills, Quaker Fabric Corporation, Malden Mills, Martex, Macy’s, Westpoint/Stevens, Lenox China and Dansk.
Somerson, Newkirk and Missakian will begin their new positions on July 1, 2011.
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