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President Providence, RI

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) seeks its 18th president.  This is a serious job that opens at a critical moment both in the trajectory of the institution and the trajectory of history. Founded in 1877, RISD is a relatively small, independent college that plays an inordinately large role in the spheres of art and design – at the very moment when art, design and creative thinking are ascending as essential methodologies for shaping livable futures.

The challenges that humans living on earth face are myriad and momentous. RISD has a responsibility to nurture a new generation of serious-minded, creative, inspired leaders that will engage these challenges. The college’s next president must understand the urgency, accept the responsibility, and embrace the potential to unify the community, enact change, and imagine RISD’s role in creating a more just, fair, and sustainable society.

RISD has always occupied a singular space in the art education sphere. The college remains deeply committed to visuality, materiality, and craft while also having one of the largest, most-wide ranging liberal arts programs of any art school in the world. RISD has a robust, active, vocal full-time and part-time faculty of dedicated innovators, makers, and thinkers. It has the third largest academic art museum in the nation that plays a vital role in the education of students and the cultural life of the community. RISD has an urban campus comprising a constellation of studios, shops, labs, foundries, looms, glass, metal, and wood fabrication facilities that are the platform for the intense creative energy of the place that engages making as an essential form of thinking.

RISD’s 2500 students come to the college from all over the globe. These are the kids who recognize their difference early on and have a gift – often inchoate, under-recognized, even casually disregarded – that may not be captured in the routine methods of measurement and celebration employed by a typical school. They may draw like a young Delacroix, create elaborate digital spaces, design their own wardrobes, imagine new forms of games, or go deep into the weeds of typography inventions, but all have the courage and conviction to value their closely held passions regardless of external affirmation. Developing the creative mind is an art in itself, and that is the art to which this school has dedicated itself for almost 150 years. RISD understands these rare minds, these talents. RISD treats them with a special combination of care and rigor that transforms the raw into the effective.

This job requires more than what can be listed in an official document. On top of experience, education, and wisdom, the president must bring receptivity, an aesthetic sensibility, the skill to communicate in spoken and written word to a community that trades in images and materials, and something even more: a deep, abiding empathy that can bind the entire RISD community together.

Sheryl Ash and Ben Tobin are leading this search with Carrie Alexander and Talik Watson.

Rhode Island School of Design is an equal employment institution.

RISD is looking for equity-minded applicants who represent the full diversity of the globe and who demonstrate a sensitivity to and understanding of the diverse academic, socioeconomic, cultural, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and ethnic backgrounds present in their community. When you join the team at RISD, you can expect to be part of an inclusive, innovative, and equity-focused community that approaches higher education as a matter of social justice that requires broad collaboration among faculty, staff, students, and community partners. In deciding whether to apply for a position at RISD, you are strongly encouraged to consider whether your values align with our Mission + Values, our SEI Accountability Commitments, and our Strategic Plan.  

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