Organization: Rhode Island School of Design

Location: Providence, RI

Express Interest



The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) seeks an accomplished leader for the role of Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration (SVP).  Reporting directly to the President, the SVP will be the institution’s senior finance and administrative leader and will partner with the President, Provost and senior leaders to provide strategic fiscal and operational leadership across the school and ensure that planning, operational and budget activities support institutional goals.

About RISD:

Founded in 1877, Rhode Island School of Design is one of the oldest and best-known colleges of art and design. RISD is recognized for its accomplished faculty of artists, designers, and scholars, the breadth of its specialized facilities, and its immersive approach to studio-based learning. Each year approximately 2,400 students from around the world pursue a creative, studio-based education at RISD, which offers rigorous bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in 19 architecture, design, fine arts and art education majors complemented and animated by essential study in the liberal arts.

The RISD Museum, with the third largest university
museum collection in the country (approximately 100,000 works of fine
and decorative art), is an integral part of the institution and a resource for the larger community. The RISD Library was founded in 1878; its collections include more than 155,000 volumes and 320 periodical subscriptions (print) and offer unusual depth and richness in the areas of architecture, art, design and photography. The library is noted for its artist’s book collection, its rare books and outstanding visual and material resource collections.

RISD is located at the base of College Hill in downtown Providence, and the campus is contiguous with the Brown University campus. The two institutions share social, academic, and community resources and offer cross-registration and a dual degree program. RISD, considered to be one of the top art and design schools in the nation, is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD), a consortium of 42 leading art schools in the United States.

RISD’s 27,000 alumni stand out in their fields and make  enormous impact on the world, with 10 alumni to date recognized with MacArthur Awards (including painter Nicole Eisenman in 2015) and many others influencing the world of business (both Airbnb cofounders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, are RISD alumni), entertainment (TV and film directors Seth MacFarlane and Gus Van Sant), fashion (Nicole Miller, Marcia Patmos) and fine arts (Janine Antoni, Jenny Holzer, Shahzia Sikander, Kara Walker, Julie Mehretu).

The RISD Mission

The mission of Rhode Island School of Design, through its college and museum, is to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge, and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship, and innovation.

Providence, Rhode Island

Aptly deemed The Creative Capital, Providence, Rhode Island has earned a reputation for being an arts and cultural mecca. With the largest number of working artists per capita in the country, the city boasts a vibrant mix of galleries, theaters and museums. Providence combines the accessibility and friendliness of a small town with the culture and sophistication of a big city. Rhode Island’s capital city is home to seven colleges, waterfront parks, renowned restaurants, dance and theater companies, and extraordinary history and historic architecture.

Culture of Inclusivity

RISD recognizes diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to a creative community and integral to an art and design education. Just as the studio environment fosters curiosity, flexibility, empathy, imagination, and progressive thinking, these are values the RISD community shares. As a global community, RISD strives to:

  • create and sustain inclusive perspectives and practices.
  • embrace and celebrate differences in its campus community.
  • attract, develop, and retain a diverse population of students, faculty, and staff.
  • engage with its ever-changing communities in meaningful ways.

Strategic Plan 2012–17

After a planning process that engaged and energized the RISD community, RISD adopted its current strategic plan, Critical Making | Making Critical, in 2012. The plan established institutional priorities and new initiatives with an emphasis on teaching and educational excellence. The plan also ranked research, critical making and innovation, student engagement, technology and systems, and diversity among its top current priorities. This summer, RISD began to develop the framework for its next strategic planning effort.


Rosanne Somerson, President

An accomplished educator and academic leader, Rosanne Somerson has deep roots at RISD—first established when she was an undergraduate student here in the 1970s. After an international search, the Board of Trustees appointed her president in 2015.

A dynamic professor and talented studio furniture designer and maker, Somerson has helped to articulate, revitalize, and lead RISD’s academic mission since 2011, when she was appointed interim provost. The well-respected faculty leader also served as interim associate provost for Academic Affairs from 2005–07, and in 2012, a search process led to her full appointment to provost.

An eloquent speaker, writer, and thought leader, Somerson frequently presents at museums, conferences, corporations, and schools around the world, has served on many panels and juries, and appeared in several videos and television segments. She is an honored subject interviewed for the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art oral history project and has received citations for her work as a designer, artist, and teacher, including two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Crafts Educator Award.

In addition to her various academic roles at RISD, Somerson has maintained her own studio since 1978, where she designs and makes furniture. Her work is featured in numerous books and publications, and has been exhibited throughout the US and internationally, in museums such as the Louvre in Paris. It is also included in a host of private, corporate, and museum collections, most notably at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Huntsville [AL] Museum of Art, the RISD Museum of Art, the Smith College Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In 2013, Somerson and Mara Hermano, Vice President for Integrated Planning, co-edited The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice (Wiley, 2013), an influential book that describes RISD’s approach to making and how it leads to innovation that has been subsequently translated into Korean, Chinese and Japanese. 

Pradeep Sharma, Provost

Before joining RISD as Dean of Architecture + Design in 2012,
Provost Pradeep Sharma was head of the Bath School of Art and Design at Bath Spa University in England, where he managed the school’s operations, finances, facilities, assessment and academic program development as well as the student experience. Despite a challenging economic climate, he was responsible for developing new undergraduate and graduate degree programs, expanding research activity and building collaborative industry relationships.

With the understanding that new technology is changing the way we produce art and design objects and the built environment, he worked to incorporate digital technologies into various disciplines at Bath, while remaining committed to the hands-on studio learning that contributes so deeply to a RISD education.

Prior to Bath, Sharma was head of Art and Design at the Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Studies at the University of Glamorgan, UK and a research fellow and senior lecturer at United Institute of Technology in New Zealand. He has maintained a design management and consultancy practice since 2002. He holds a BA and an MA in Electrical and Information Sciences from Cambridge University, an MA in Industrial Design Engineering from Teesside University and a Doctorate in Management from the University of Hertfordshire.

The Opportunity:

Reporting to the President, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration is the chief fiscal and fiduciary officer.  Working in partnership with senior leadership and the Board of Trustees on financial planning, budget modeling, and major resource allocation matters across all areas of the school, the SVP will work collaboratively to oversee all finance, budget and treasury, campus services, public safety, integrated planning and institutional research, general counsel, technology, and human resources functions.  The selected candidate will build a dynamic, strategic, and integrated finance and administration structure that encourages collaboration, fosters innovation and provides leadership in the development and execution of strategies, approaches, and solutions to address both short and long-term complex, multi-factor, and intricate financial and operational issues of the institution. The SVP will have oversight of six functional areas, including 10 direct reports, and have responsibility for a $60.1 million budget.

RISD seeks an individual with strong strategic communication and leadership capabilities who has the vision to anticipate and respond to the challenges and opportunities in higher education in general and art and design education in particular.  A demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion and an ability to connect with others and cultivate relationships based on mutual trust and respect through active listening and direct dialogue are required. The SVP will operate with the highest levels of integrity, honesty, and transparency, and create strong and enduring collaborative relationships with leaders across the college as well as with faculty, staff and external constituencies. The SVP will serve as a key, trusted advisor to the President, the Board of Trustees, and to other senior leaders.

Specific responsibilities of the SVP include:

  • Advising the President and Board of Trustees (as appropriate) on institution wide strategic and financial policy, frameworks, parameters, risks, and direction; working with the President and other leaders on the development and implementation of strategy, goals, desired solutions, and outcomes;
  • Serving as the institution’s chief financial officer on financial matters and guiding the financial positioning of the institution and all of its components;
  • Working closely with the committee chairs of the Board of Directors, serve as the primary liaison to the audit, investment and finance committees to set agenda, recommending improvements and implementing changes;
  • Leading and overseeing a team of senior leaders responsible for Technology Services; Integrated Planning and Institutional Research; and Campus Services; and, with dotted lines of report to the President, Human Resources and General Counsel; directs major finance and administrative functions in areas that include financial services, annual planning and budget development, procurement operations and risk, emergency and property management;
  • Providing leadership, direction, and strategic advice regarding the execution and fulfillment of the Campus Master Plan in prioritizing the physical plant and capital needs of the institution, and in providing the financial strategies to support the full realization of the plan’s objectives. Seek efficiencies through innovation and technology that improve administrative processes and allow for the strategic reallocation of financial resources.

Candidate Profile:

The successful candidate will be a person who leads with integrity and transparency.  The SVP will be a proven financial leader with a minimum of ten years of experience leading financial and administrative functions in complex organizations and creating and sustaining a culture of excellence and accountability. The SVP will have strong financial and business skills, will be a savvy and insightful partner, and will have the demonstrated ability to work in a mission-driven environment where excellence, creativity and innovation are the norm. The SVP must have an established record of visionary and proactive approaches to complex financial management, comprehensive problem solving, and relationship building. Superb communication and collaboration skills are paramount.

In addition, the incoming SVP will possess many of the following abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • Progressively responsible experience in senior-level strategic, operational, financial, and administrative leadership in a comparably complex organization/institution;
  • An excellent record of executive-level and practitioner-level management/leadership in institution-wide operational change, strategic planning, and financial planning;
  • Knowledge of a broad range of strategic, financial and operations principles and practices;
  • Technical acumen in strategic financial planning; budget development and management; not for profit accounting principles; endowment spending, capital structure, debt financing and financial risk management;
  • Experience developing, refining, and articulating comprehensible financial data, fiscal policies, procedures, and programs to multiple audiences;
  • A leadership style that encourages clarity, performance, results, and teamwork, yet prioritizes constructive influence and informed decision-making;
  • Experience in a union environment;
  • Demonstrated approachability and a style that conveys and engenders respect, openness and thoughtful discourse;
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion and an ability to connect with others and cultivate relationships based on mutual trust and respect through active listening and direct dialogue;
  • Curiosity, high level emotional intelligence, energy, and enthusiasm;
  • Ability to effectively deal with ambiguity, complexity, multiple demands, multiple sources of input, and change while providing steady leadership;
  • Experience in supporting governing boards, and in staffing committees or subgroups on matters of a financial, capital investment, or administrative nature; and
  • A record of attracting, mentoring and retaining high-quality talent and building vibrant, empowered teams from ambitious, individual contributors.

A bachelor’s degree is required, and a MBA or related master’s degree preferred.


RISD has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume to Liz Neumann, Amy Sugin, and Kristine O’Brien here.

Rhode Island School of Design recognizes diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to its learning community and integral to and art and design education. RISD welcomes candidates whose experience in leadership and higher education has prepared them to contribute to our commitment to diversity and excellence. RISD is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetics, or any other protected characteristic as established by law.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, educational institutions and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information, visit