Rhode Island School of Design Names Touba Ghadessi Provost


Rhode Island School of Design Names Touba Ghadessi Provost

Currently serving as Wheaton College’s provost and a professor of the history of art, Ghadessi believes that knowledge, in all its forms, is what constructs a just and innovative society.

PROVIDENCE, RI – April 24, 2023 – Following an extensive international search, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is pleased to announce the appointment of Touba Ghadessi as provost, effective July 10, 2023.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Ghadessi join our community as RISD’s next provost. Throughout the search process, she quickly revealed herself as someone with an uncanny ability to synthesize complex ideas and as a deeply collaborative colleague who believes in the power of deploying thoughtful action to achieve equitable outcomes for students and faculty alike,” notes RISD President Crystal Williams. “Dr. Ghadessi is ideally positioned to be a powerful advocate for all art and design disciplines at RISD, as she understands the value of cultivating expansive and elastic thinking and making to shape and create the ideas of our world. Added to these qualities, Dr. Ghadessi is an extraordinary human being whose insight, wisdom, collaborative impulse and leadership style is precisely what RISD needs as we look optimistically to the future.”

Ghadessi is currently the provost and a professor of the history of art for Wheaton College. She holds a PhD in Art History from Northwestern University and previously served as co-chair of Wheaton’s Art and Art History Department and the college’s associate provost for academic administration and faculty affairs. During her term, she worked on internal operations and external engagements, supporting plural avenues of research and delineating strategic expansion of institutional reach. Of Iranian ancestry, Ghadessi was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, where she grew up in an international environment that emphasized the importance of diplomacy, cultural curiosity and dialogue.

As a scholar of early modern art history, Ghadessi’s work focuses on the examination of difference, expressed through human monsters. Her recent research explores alternate bodies and their implications for ruling epistemologies. Ghadessi has been awarded publication grants and awards to study at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales; conduct archival research in Paris, Florence and Rome; and participate in the Centre national de la recherche scientifique’s sponsored seminars in Paris. Her work has been published in such books and journals as Harvard University’s I Tatti Studies and Oxford University’s Journal of the History of Collections.

Among her leadership roles, Ghadessi has served as chair of the board of directors of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, on the board of the Providence Athenaeum and as a founding member of the New England Humanities Consortium, where she is currently on the executive committee for the Faculty of Color Working Group.

“It is my immense privilege to be invited into an institution I have admired for years. Throughout my conversations at and about RISD, I witnessed passion, expertise, and true dedication to student learning,” notes Ghadessi. “I observed how the imbrication of art, design, and the liberal arts determines the academic core of RISD, and how their conjugation speaks to complex interdisciplinary and global manifestations. Such a strong practice holds grace, and I am overjoyed to support it by honoring RISD’s mission and amplifying its educational vision for the world it will shape.”

As RISD’s chief academic officer, Ghadessi will set a vision for student learning, academic affairs and the academic program, championing and advancing the core values of the institution across all efforts. Among Ghadessi’s priorities will be creating systems and policies that robustly advance teaching and learning and faculty development at a time when conceptions of what constitutes knowledge and how it can be shared are in meaningful flux; advancing interdisciplinary work that is increasingly oriented toward the ongoing effects of colonial histories, ecological devastation and economic injustice; and supporting ongoing antiracist initiatives, the development of new research activity and new strategic partnerships. Ghadessi will also lead the college’s efforts in recruiting, developing, retaining and—crucially—diversifying the faculty along a variety of lines of difference.

Ghadessi succeeds Anais Missakian (BFA 84 Textiles), who has been serving as interim provost since July 2022. Before assuming the role of provost, Missakian was the Pevaroff-Cohn Family Endowed Chair in Textiles and professor and graduate program director of Textiles. She has held a full-time faculty position in RISD’s Textiles department for more than 30 years, including as department head for more than 15 years.

About Rhode Island School of Design
RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is a creative community founded in 1877 in Providence, RI. Today, we enroll 2,620 students hailing from 59 countries. Led by a committed faculty, they are engaged in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and supported by a worldwide network of over 31,000 alumni who demonstrate the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society.

Beyond facts and figures, what is the spirit of this community? Through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of studio-based learning and rigorous study in the liberal arts, RISD students are encouraged to develop their own personal creative processes, but they are united by one guiding principle: in order to create, one must question. In cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD seeks to activate a critical exchange that empowers artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world. RISD’s mission, at both the college and museum, is not only to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, but to transmit that knowledge and make global contributions.