RISD’s 2023–24 Academic Year Begins After Eventful Move-In Weekend

Orientation leaders hug during President's Welcome ceremony

At Convocation on September 6, RISD’s leaders stepped onto the stage in full regalia to welcome the Class of 2027. Electronic music selected by students Femi Shonuga-Fleming BArch 23, Clinton Van Arnam MFA 24 GD and Elliott Romano 13 PH/MFA 25 GD pulsed through the RISD Auditorium before President Crystal Williams offered inspiring words to this year’s incoming students.

“I hope you will care enough about this community we are co-creating to continue calling each other in to be the best version of who we can be,” she said. “None of us knows everything, and in the context of the wide world, most of us know very little.”

Museum Director Sarah Ganz Blythe took to the podium to invite students to build relationships with the RISD Museum, and new Provost Touba Ghadessi introduced students to academic department heads before offering a bit of advice. “Quiet the noise and listen to what matters as you move forward,” she said. “You have persevered. You already know how to surmount obstacles while honoring the core of who you are.”

New provost Touba Ghadessi speaks at 2023 convocation ceremony
Provost Touba Ghadessi introduced students to academic department heads at Convocation before offering students a bit of advice.

“Leave room for joy. We are unified by art, not as a commodity but as a principle.”

Provost Touba Ghadessi

Convocation followed an energy-filled weekend of move-in and orientation activities, including a very personal welcome from President Williams on Sunday. As first-years and their families hauled boxes of clothing and art supplies into their dorm rooms, Williams went door to door greeting them individually before addressing the entire incoming class at the First Baptist Church in America.

In her welcome speech, Williams advised incoming students to take time for themselves to experience the world. “At root, art making is a contextual endeavor,” she said. “And as artists and designers, our context is humanity. Go bird watching. Go bowling. Go with friends for pizza or dumplings. Developing the habit of being in the wider world will not only feed your spirit; it is an antidote to becoming myopic and artistically cynical.”

Those attending the First-Generation to College Pre-Orientation Program two weeks earlier were the first to set foot on campus. The extended orientation program supports first-year students whose parents did not attend or complete college. Participating students attended info sessions, went dorm shopping together and got an early introduction to on-campus studios.

Res life students hug during 2023 move-in
President Crystal Williams takes a selfie with new student at 2023 move-in
President Crystal Williams greeted first-years and their families during move-in.

After more than 2,500 students had settled into their dorms and apartments, campus brimmed with excitement during the first week of classes. New students had the opportunity to attend Welcome Week, a series of events that helps first-year students build community while getting to know campus. They were invited into the RISD Museum after hours for craft, food and music and offered free donuts on the first day of classes. A Saturday block party in the upper quad also allowed students to learn about RISD’s many different clubs and athletic teams.

At Convocation, Ghadessi encouraged students to consider the world of possibilities they will encounter on their journey. “Leave room for joy,” she advised. “Allow it to feed your story, to nourish you. We are unified by art, not as a commodity but as a principle.”

Isabel Roberts / photos by Jo Sittenfeld
September 11, 2023

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First-year students from around the globe experience the start of the 2022–23 academic year at RISD.