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Congratulations are in order for Crystal Williams, who will become the first Black president of the more than 140-year-old institution, Rhode Island School of Design!

President-Elect Crystal Williams by Jo Sittenfeld MFA '08

“Art, education, and equity and justice are the three foundational focuses of my life and everything about me—who I am as a teacher, a writer, a leader, friend, daughter, and human—are in accord with RISD’s mission, areas of focus and social equity and inclusion goals,” Williams said in a statement (Skanner News).

A poet first and foremost, Williams started out in performance, reciting her poetry at slam events while waiting tables, before turning to long-form poetry as a deeper means for expression and reaching a larger audience. Eventually, she found her path into higher education after earning her BA from NYU and MFA from Cornell University.

She brings a strong belief in the importance of the liberal arts as a tool for communication and elevation into all of her work. She currently serves as Boston University's inaugural vice president and associate provost for community & inclusion, and her previous roles include serving as associate vice president for strategic initiatives, a professor of English, and senior advisor to the president, as well as at Reed College where she served as a faculty member and later a dean.

“Crystal shares our strong conviction in the critical role art and design play in shaping our world, and she has the expertise and qualities of leadership needed to meet the urgency of this moment and take RISD into the future,” RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter said.

She is slated to take the post on April 1, 2022. We look forward to witnessing all of the knowledge and talent she will bring to her latest leadership role.


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