RISD Selects Crystal Williams of Boston University as Next President


PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island School of Design has a new president, Crystal Williams, Boston University Vice President and Associate Rector for community and inclusion.

It will start on April 1.

Williams was selected after an international search for a leader with the passion of educate artists, designers and academics for a rapidly changing future, a “with a global vision to guide RISD’s role in creating a more just, equitable and sustainable society,” RISD announced Thursday morning.

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“When we started looking for the 18th President of RISD, we were looking for candidates with not only the experience, education and wisdom required for the job, but also receptivity, aesthetic sensitivity, the ability to communicate in a community that trades in images and materials, and something even more intangible: a deep and lasting empathy that can bind us all together, ”said Michael Spalter, Chairman of the Board of RISD. “We found all of this and more in Crystal Williams. ”

Williams will be the 18th president of the college.

The board established a 15-member research committee that included faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and RISD administrators, as well as an 11-member student advisory council.

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After reviewing over 100 applicants from around the world, the search committee unanimously recommended Williams to become the next RISD leader.

Crystal Williams’ experience

Williams has spent the past 20 years in higher education.

Williams began her career teaching at Reed College, where she was appointed the college’s first dean for Institutional Diversity.

She took on similar roles at Bates College, where Williams was the college’s Senior Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, then at Boston University, where she was Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and finally vice-president and associate vice-president for community and inclusion.

Williams also published four collections of poems, and his work is part of the Museum of Modern Art’s Poetry Project, a tour of poems responding to pieces in the museum’s permanent collection.

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The daughter of an educator and musician, Williams grew up in Detroit and Madrid, Spain, and graduated from New York University and Cornell University.

“I entered this research because I believe in the value of art and design in uplifting and amplifying the human experience, and in telling about who we have been and who we can become,” said Williams. “Art, education, equity and justice are the three fundamental pillars of my life and everything about me – who I am as a teacher, writer, leader, friend, girl and human – is in accordance with the mission of RISD. “

Williams succeeds Rosanne Somerson, who becomes the institution’s first President Emeritus. RISD Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Dave Proulx has served as Interim President since Somerson retired in late June 2021.

Linda Borg covers education for the Journal.


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