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RISD to offer inaugural liberal arts graduate programs

Nature-Culture-Sustainability, Global Arts, Culture tracks to make debut in fall

The Rhode Island School of Design is bolstering its selection of graduate degrees by offering its first-ever graduate school programs in the liberal arts departments. This fall, students will be able to pursue Master of Arts degrees in the new Global Arts and Culture program as well as the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies program.       

The NCSS  program emerges from a current undergraduate concentration, whereas the GAC program is completely new, said Eric Anderson, associate professor of history of art and visual culture. They are made possible through interdisciplinary cooperation among the three liberal arts programs already offered at RISD: History of Art and Visual Culture; Literary Arts and Studies; and History, Philosophy and Social Sciences, said Nicole Merola, department head and professor of literary arts and studies.

The programs were inspired by an interest in taking advantage of the untapped potential of collaboration between the departments, said Andrew Robarts, assistant professor of history, philosophy and social sciences. RISD’s approach to liberal arts is unique in that it is not constrained by boundaries that exist at traditional liberal arts colleges, Anderson said.

To implement the changes, the faculty and dean involved in the new programs have been working to develop curricula, recruit prospective students, construct the website and converse internally. The majority of their work has gone into developing the core courses, Anderson said. In creating these courses, those involved identified the intellectual content of the courses and considered how they wanted to incorporate them into the syllabi.

One of the core courses for GAC is “Critical Globalisms,” which intends to expose students to global exchange, economy, politics and production of art and literatures. The purpose of the program is to provide an overall theoretical framework for future studies, Anderson said.

Students of NCSS will take “Theories of Nature Culture,” which is likewise meant to provide a theoretical framework, and “Inventive Political Ecologies,” which focuses on creative production in the arts and humanities as it relates to environment and nature, Anderson said.

The faculty involved are waiting to see how these new programs will become a part of RISD, Robarts said. Current undergraduate students may be good candidates, since they already know and have potentially worked with the faculty, he added. Those involved in the programs may also consider students coming from undergraduate programs at more traditional colleges.

RISD’s culture has always been closely tied to critical and theoretical inquiry as well as the liberal arts, and these new graduate programs will build upon this legacy, Anderson said.   


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