Rhode Island School of Design President Rosanne Somerson Receives 5-Year Extension

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) recently announced that the Board of Trustees has unanimously voted to extend President Rosanne Somerson’s appointment as the leader of the institution for an additional five years, to June 30, 2025.

In 2015, after an extensive international search for RISD’s seventeenth president, the college selected President Somerson because she is a gifted and inspiring leader with an instinctual understanding of RISD born out of her experiences there as a student, alumna, faculty member and administrator. The Board of Trustees believed then that she was perfectly suited to lead their extraordinary institution into the future and, every day since, instincts have been validated.

Since stepping into office, President Somerson has dramatically advanced RISD while holding true to its legacy. Nothing exemplifies this more than the launch of NEXT: RISD 2020-2027. Embodying the collaborative and inclusive way President Somerson leads, she created this plan with robust input from the community. It reflects the progress made over the past five years and sets RISD on an ambitious path toward their 150th anniversary, one that uniquely prepares students for the future and brings innovative creative practices to bear on the most pressing social, political and environmental challenges of our time. In addition, infused throughout the plan is President Somerson’s unwavering focus on expanding access to a RISD education and building a more inclusive and diverse campus community.

When the Board came together to discuss extending President Somerson’s appointment, they reflected on all that has been achieved under her leadership through the efforts of President Somerson herself along with those of the leadership team she has assembled and all the dedicated members of our community.

Highlights include:

  • Applications from prospective students increased 57% at RISD over the last five years, with enrollments up from first-year diverse students and members of historically underrepresented groups being up 16% and 18%, respectively.
  • Hiring 10 new faculty members last year, with a focus on diversity. Twenty-one percent of full-time faculty identify themselves as people of color, and the school has appointed almost 40% of its full-time faculty since 2014.
  • Advancing graduate education by creating new liberal arts master’s programs and launching the Society of Presidential Fellows, which provides full-tuition fellowships to selected graduate students.
  • Creating RISD’s first Social Equity and Inclusion plan, leading to the appointment of the school’s first vice president of social equity and inclusion, and launching the Center for Social Equity + Inclusion and the Teaching and Learning Lab.
  • Seeing a record $30.6 million raised for the school in 2019, showing a commitment to build RISD’s fundraising capacity to support students and make a sustainable financial model at the school.

These highlights only begin to scratch the surface of what has been accomplished with President Somerson at the helm. Michael Spalter, Chair of RISD’s Board of Trustees, “She has been a tireless champion for RISD and for the importance of art and design in the world, and for that we extend our heartfelt gratitude to her for her exceptional dedication and service to our beloved institution. There is no one more prepared and better situated than President Somerson to lead us into the uncharted territory of the future.”

A selection of high-resolution images is accessible here.

Media contact: Christina Allan