An international search

When RISD launched an international search for its 18th president last winter, the institution’s Board of Trustees convened a 15-member search committee that included RISD faculty, staff, alumni, parents and trustees, and an 11-member student advisory council. The committee was supported by Isaacson, Miller—a search firm with substantial art and design knowledge and experience identifying higher-education leadership nationwide.

To ensure that the search was informed by the breadth and diversity of RISD’s global community, active participation from all members of the community was highly encouraged. Thanks to the effort and dedication of everyone who contributed to the search, the committee vetted more than 100 candidates and built a robust pool that included an impressive range of talented professionals from around the globe in order to identify our new president.

Search committee

Board of Trustee members Hillary Blumberg 92 FAV, Ilene Chaiken 79 GD/P 18, Karen Hammond and Tavares Strachan 03 GL served as co-chairs of the presidential search committee. With each co-chair bringing a unique perspective and deep involvement in RISD to the process, together they assembled a search committee that represents the many facets of our community.

Committee members

Jessica Brown MID 09, Assistant Professor, Industrial Design
Gabrielle Bullock BArch 84, Board of Trustees
Shepard Fairey 92 IL/HD 21, Board of Trustees
Richard Gann MFA 87 PR, Senior Critic, Illustration
Robert Glass P11, Board of Trustees
Ijlal Muzaffar, Associate Professor, Theory and History of Art and Design
Michael Rock MFA 84 GD, Board of Trustees
Matthew Shenoda, Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion and Senior Advisor to the President
Jack Silva, Vice President, Campus Services
Kajette Solomon, RISD Museum SEI Program Specialist
Ramon Tejada, Assistant Professor, Graphic Design

The committee co-chairs also convened a student advisory council to the search committee. This critical component of the process provided an essential conduit to our most important constituents: our outstanding student body. The council is comprised of eight undergraduate and three graduate student representatives.

Student advisory council members

Aya Alganmeh 21 IL
Julius Cavira MFA 22 SC
Selassie Davies MA 21 GAC
Gwynna Dille 23 PT
Caitlin Dippo MArch 22
Michael Farris BArch 23
Kai Ji MFA 22 FD
Franyelly Rodriguez 21 TX
Javiar Syquia BRDD 21 GD
Andy Wang 22 IL
Jonas (Blue) Williger 22 IA

Search process and milestones

One of the first steps in the committee’s work was to solicit insights and ideas from the RISD community, and to seek nominations. Over the winter, the committee conducted a six-week listening tour and Isaacson, Miller issued a community survey, collectively gathering responses from hundreds of RISD students, faculty, staff, alumni, families, supporters and trustees. This helped ensure that the presidential search was informed by the breadth and diversity of the RISD community.

Informed by community input, a position description was published in mid April and guided the search committee’s work to build a robust candidate pool throughout the spring. The search progressed through the retirement of President Rosanne Somerson on June 30, at which time Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Dave Proulx assumed the role of interim president, as announced by the Board of Trustees in May.

After vetting more than 100 candidates, Isaacson, Miller narrowed the pool in early summer, and the search committee selected a group of highly qualified candidates to interview. The search reached the finalist stage in October and, in December, Crystal Williams was selected to become RISD’s 18th president.