Rosanne Somerson appointed Interim Provost

Dear RISD Community,

First of all, I would like to thank all those who responded to my request for nominations for the position of Interim Provost. Of the 10 candidates put forward by 29 faculty members, four chose to proceed for final consideration and submitted a statement of interest and qualifications and a CV.

I consulted with a variety of advisors during this process. An ad hoc group of faculty — with representatives chosen by the Faculty Meeting Steering Committee, the Department Heads, and the Graduate Program Directors — including Professors Mark Sherman, Anne Tate, Ellen Driscoll, Lindsay French, Dean Snyder, Shawn Greenlee, Daniel Hewett, Nancy Skolos, and Gwen Strahle, volunteered their time and gathered on May 16 to provide their perspectives. In addition, I consulted with the Deans, Bill Decatur, EVP of Finance + Administration, and Jean Eddy, SVP of Students + Enrollment.

These advisors consistently reinforced the need for an Interim Provost to bring to the job a commitment to bringing our community together and the administrative skills and experience needed to accomplish the incredible amount of work in Academic Affairs for the next year. The Advisory Group was extremely helpful in providing candid information about the candidates in light of these critical responsibilities and the other desired characteristics that I had put forth.

We were fortunate to have four talented individuals in the pool of candidates. I spoke personally with each of them and was impressed with their common desire to be of service and to help RISD heal from recent events.
In making my decision, I took into account the need to maintain both stability and momentum in a year with several interim academic leaders in place. It was also clear to me that a deep knowledge of what it means firsthand to be a faculty member and a student at RISD was a perspective that has been missing in my leadership team. I was looking for  “strong administrative experience” and the “faculty perspective” in making my choice.

With that in mind, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Rosanne Somerson as Interim Provost. Professor Somerson is someone described by our faculty as a “fair and gifted administrator” who “understands undergraduate and graduate needs, as well as full and part-time faculty perspectives.” As someone who has personally experienced and benefited from the formative power of our Foundation Studies program, the rigors of our Liberal Arts curricula, and the depth of a discipline-based education, I see her as bringing a key cultural fluency that is needed to inform how our campus will move forward. In addition to being a RISD alumna, professor, and Department Head, Professor Somerson garnered immense respect for her successful management skills when she served as Interim Associate Provost from 2005-2007. She is also engaged as a successful artist and designer in her own practice.

Professor Somerson understands the many sides of RISD, and I believe that her leadership will help us to maintain continuity and sustain momentum in the departments and in Academic Affairs. Together with the Deans, she can help us clarify the academic initiatives in the Strategic Plan this fall.

Lastly, I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Professors Sherman, Tate, Driscoll, French, Snyder, Greenlee, Hewett, Skolos, and Strahle for sharing their thoughts and insights in this process, and to the faculty members who submitted nominations. And I hope that all of you will welcome Professor Somerson starting July 1 in her new role in service of RISD’s future. As a first order of business, Professor Somerson will begin to work with the Deans to consult on the selection of an Interim Associate Provost.

Best wishes,
John Maeda, president

Division of Architecture + Design, Rosanne Somerson

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