Update from the President February 24, 2010

Dear Faculty,

As president of RISD, my job is a combination of the outside and the inside. The percentage of effort on outside versus inside varies from month to month. So I will be using this space to keep you apprised of those things on the outside and inside that I am doing on behalf of RISD.

On the fundraising front, our highest priority is increasing support for scholarships. The Institutional Engagement group continues to rebuild itself, and we have begun to see some successes from these efforts. We have recently received three six-figure gifts for scholarships, and alumni participation in our Annual Fund has increased despite tough economic conditions.

On the finances front, the new EVP of Finance and Administration, Bill Decatur, began work in January. Bill brings a wealth of experience in managing large higher-ed enterprises from a financial, operational, and legal perspective. Professor Todd Moore, Dean Deborah Bright, and Curator Jan Howard served on the advisory group convened to evaluate candidates for the job, and Bill stood out as a strong match for our organization and someone who could be a close partner on our leadership team.

On the admissions front, we continue to wrestle with the reality that there are fewer and fewer of the types of students that we have typically attracted in the world. Ed Newhall gave a presentation at the November faculty meeting that explained what is happening with respect to changing demographics. There will be increased pressure to intensify our recruiting efforts nationally and internationally, and we may call on faculty to help us in the work of recruiting students that lies ahead.

I’ve recently traveled to Hong Kong, Switzerland, London, and Sweden, to help spread the word about RISD to potential students and parents through public talks and media interviews.  It was a successful trip, with interviews by Hong Kong’s largest paper, the BBC, the successful launch of a Hong Kong Alumni club, and much fundraising activity.  I also traveled to the Davos World Economic Forum to meet diverse leaders from around the world, speaking on panels to advocate for the arts and creativity.  It became more and more clear to me that that leaders are looking for new perspectives and that the time is ripe for art and design to play a significant role. I also felt that 2010 is a year of potential recovery in the world, and how we choose to participate as global citizens is more important than ever.

RISD’s voice has always been strong. Our job right now is for it to become even stronger. By doing so, we will reveal the importance of art and design as the RISD way – a way that has been practiced for over 133 years and has inspired millions of people to choose the creative way of life. Our country and the world needs our inspiration. You are all participating in this cause by the work that you do every day, and by the scholarship you bring to your fields. So thank you for what you do. And let’s focus on the recovery of our world and our country. The world needs RISD now.

I’ll stop here and plan on posting more information as it comes along. Thanks for all that you do, and let’s see what we can do together.

John Maeda

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