Join us in celebrating RISD’s class of 2019 May 31 – June 1
Providence, RI

Bookmark this page for more in the coming weeks about this year’s ceremony, related events and other helpful information.

Plan ahead

April 29

deadline for students to reserve tickets, caps and gowns

May 27 – May 30

CommenceFEST

A series of social gatherings to celebrate the collective success of the Class of 2019

May 31

Graduate hooding ceremony + special receptions

June 1

Commencement 2019

Doors open at 9:30 am. Admission is free but tickets are required to enter. Students may reserve up to six tickets for their families in early spring. Event seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The ceremony generally runs until approximately 1 pm, to be followed soon after by an alumni toast at Market Square (outdoors next to the RISD Auditorium).

Families

If you’re coming to RISD from out of state or out of the country, you’ll need to consider various transportation options from those that are listed below. It’s also important to book a place to stay as early as possible since hotels in and around Providence tend to fill quickly.

For those unfamiliar with campus, RISD is located just off of I‑95 and I‑195 in the College Hill neighborhood of Providence. Our official address is Two College Street.

Information for international families + friends

If you are coming from outside the US and require a visa, you will need an official letter of invitation from RISD. Graduating students should contact the Office of International Student Services (OISS) to initiate the invitation process.

Homesharing + other options

Guests can rent short-term accommodations in Providence through Airbnb, the global hospitality marketplace founded by RISD alumni Brian Chesky 04 ID and Joe Gebbia 05 GD/ID.

For families seeking an affordable space on campus, there will be limited accommodations in traditional-style residence halls. Please email housing@risd.edu for more information.

Transportation

Airports

Providence is about a 15-minute cab ride from Green Airport (PVD) in Warwick, RI. You can find information on flights at pvdairport.com or by calling +1 401 737-8222. Once you are at the airport, you can take the shuttle to your hotel.

If you are flying into Logan International Airport in Boston, MA (BOS), you can find flight information at massport.com/logan-airport and +1 800 23-LOGAN (+1 800 235-6426). Logan is about an hour’s drive from Providence, depending on traffic.

Trains

If you are planning to arrive in Providence by train, you can find schedules and fares at amtrak.com or +1 800 USA-RAIL (+1 800 872-7245). Information concerning service between Providence and Boston on the Attleboro/Stoughton Line can be found at mbta.com and +1 617 222-3200.

Buses

Peter Pan bus company offers daily express service to Logan Airport in Boston and Green Airport in Warwick, RI, as well as to major metro areas such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Schedules are available online or by calling +1 401 751-8800.

Greyhound bus schedules and fares are available online or by calling +1 800 229-9424, +1 402 330-8552 (if you’re calling from abroad without toll-free access), +1 800 752-4841 (for assistance for passengers with disabilities) or +1 800 345-3109 (TDD).

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) offers local bus service for easy and inexpensive transportation within Rhode Island, including Providence/Newport ferries.

Rental cars

If you are traveling by plane and need to reserve a rental car, you can find a list of rental services on the Green Airport and Logan Airport websites.

Ridesharing and car-sharing

On-demand transportation is available through Uber and Lyft, and at dozens of zipcar locations on or near campus.

RISD shuttle service

Guests with mobility needs requiring transportation from campus to receptions on Friday, June 1 or the Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 2 should call RISD Rides at +1 401 427-6915.

Dining

Restaurants in Providence feature a wide variety of cuisines and dining experiences, many within a short walk of RISD’s College Hill campus and the downtown area surrounding the Commencement venue. Just a short drive away, the historic Federal Hill and eclectic West End neighborhoods offer even more popular dining options. Tables fill up fast throughout the city during Commencement week, so be sure to plan ahead as soon as possible.

Commencement day

About the ceremony

Doors open at 9:30 am, and we anticipate a crowd of 4,500 people on the day of the event. Guests will need general admission tickets to enter the convention hall. Seating will be available solely on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors will close at 10:15 am for approximately 15 minutes as the stage party and graduating students proceed into the hall. Guests should plan to arrive prior to 10:15 am or prepare to wait until the doors reopen at approximately 10:30 am. See here for a map of student seating and surrounding seating for guests.

The procession, speeches, awards presentations and other pomp and circumstance generally take more than two hours. Even though the Class of 2018 now numbers more than 650, RISD still prefers to read the name of each individual graduate as they walk across the stage. Graduates receive their official diplomas immediately after the ceremony.

Parking

Paid parking is available in a garage attached to the Rhode Island Convention Center. For other options visit parkdowntownprovidence.com. For guests with mobility needs, accessible parking spots are available in the Convention Center garage.

Accessibility + accommodations

The Convention Center is an accessible building, and the ceremony takes place in a single-level convention hall without stairs. Graduating students can let us know about the special seating needs of their families when reserving tickets for Commencement, and you may email us at commencement@risd.edu or call +1 401 454-6776 well in advance for information on entry and seating arrangements.

An ASL translator will be on stage during the Graduate Hooding Ceremony as well as at Commencement. In addition, Commencement programs will include an insert with ceremony information translated into more than 20 languages.

Alumni Toast

After the ceremony there will be a brief gathering on campus at Market Square to welcome the Class of 2019 into RISD's global community of alumni.

Commencement photographer

GradImages is the official photographer for RISD Commencement. Please go to their preregistration page to receive commencement proofs via email. Proofs may be ready to view and shared electronically as soon as 48 hours after the ceremony. GradImages also mails paper proofs and provides optional text message notifications. GradImages guarantees your privacy and will keep your information confidential.

If you have any questions about ordering photos, please email the GradImages Customer Service Department or call them at +1 800 261-2576.


Graduating students

This year 700 of you—486 undergraduates and 214 graduate students—are expected to accept degrees at our exceptionally festive and colorful ceremony. With that in mind, please feel free to embellish your cap and gown however you’d like or wear whatever feels most appropriate for celebrating this major milestone.

Tickets + seating

In March you received an email about reserving tickets for Commencement. Complete the Commencement 2019 ticket order form by April 29 to reserve up to six (6) free tickets for your guests and to request additional tickets if desired. Based on demand, extra tickets will be allocated closer to the time of the event. Only requests by graduating students will be processed.

Students who place an order by the deadline will receive an email in early May with more information about picking up tickets, which will be available May 22–24 and May 28–30, between 9 am–4 pm.

Seating is open and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Requests for special seating (for elderly, disabled or hearing-impaired guests, etc.) can be made at the time of the reservation. Guests can also contact us at commencement@risd.edu to inquire about accessibility concerns for your family.

Caps + gowns

To reserve your cap and gown please complete the order form by Wednesday, April 24.

Caps and gowns will be available for pickup at risd:store on May 22–24 between 8:30 am–4 pm and May 25 from 10 am–4 pm. If you have not already placed an order, you may still be able to pick up a cap and gown the week before Commencement on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you have questions about your cap and gown, email risdstore@risd.edu.

Rehearsal + student lineup

Rehearsal for Commencement is Friday, May 31 in the Convention Center at 10 am. All graduating students who wish to participate in the ceremony must attend rehearsal in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly on Saturday. After rehearsal students will receive their design diploma and many also pick up their RISD alumni card.

On the day of Commencement students need to arrive at the Dunkin Donuts Center at 9:30 am in order to line up for the ceremony.

Diploma pickup

Every graduating student receives an academic diploma designed by the late John Howard Benson, a distinguished sculptor and calligrapher who taught at RISD from 1931-56. Each spring Experimental and Foundation Studies faculty member Alba Corrado BFA 60 PT handwrites the names in calligraphy on each student’s graduate diploma. At the commencement ceremony, you will be handed a scroll of paper in lieu of your official Benson Diploma, which will be available for pickup immediately following the ceremony at the registrar’s table in Exhibition Hall D and at the Registrar’s Office on June 3–5 during regular business hours. Any remaining diplomas will be mailed to students on Thursday, June 6 following an email notification.

Yearbooks

Each year graduating seniors create an original design for the RISD Yearbook. If you pre-ordered a yearbook, you will receive an email your copy arrives in May.

Please email csi@risd.edu with any questions.

Commencement at risd:store

risd:store offers a variety of diploma and picture frames, ornaments, jewelry and other accessories to commemorate your achievement. You may also visit the store’s commencement page to order personalized announcements, thank you cards and other custom items.

Class rings

RISD does not offer an official class ring, but several alternative options are available at RISD WORKS.

Undergraduate + graduate student speakers

Each year two students—one undergraduate and one graduate—share their message with the RISD community by delivering speeches at Commencement. You can apply to speak at Commencement by completing this form by April 8.

CommenceFEST

Running from May 27 through June 1, CommenceFEST is a series of events that brings graduating students together in celebrating one another and the collective success of the Class of 2018. These social gatherings also help students discover resources that will aid them in achieving their goals as RISD's newest alumni.

Brown|RISD Dual Degree Class of 2019

In concluding their unique academic experience, all Brown|RISD Dual Degree (BRDD) graduates give capstone presentations demonstrating the connections they’ve made between different fields of study and how the pursuit of a dual degree has advanced their work and learning.

Presentations will be held from noon to 5 pm on Tuesday, May 28 and Wednesday, May 29 at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts’ Martinos Auditorium located on the nearby Brown University campus. All presentations are free and open to families, the Brown and RISD communities and the general public.

The two days of presentations will be followed by a recognition dinner at the Brown Faculty Club on Thursday, May 30 at 6 pm. Graduating BRDD students are asked to RSVP through an email to be sent to both their Brown and RISD email addresses and can reserve up to three (3) tickets for family and guests to attend.

Commencement week housing

If you live on campus, your housing will automatically be extended through Commencement week. All graduating students must move out by noon on Sunday, June 2.

If you live off campus and your lease ends on June 1, you can sign up to stay in the first-year quad through Commencement. Housing will be available from May 31–June 2 and must be reserved by Wednesday, May 1. For more information and to sign up, please log in to the RISD housing portal and navigate to “Off-Campus Applications” to find the Commencement Housing 2019 form.

Questions about housing? Contact Residence Life at housing@risd.edu.

The weekend

Graduates, family members and friends begin celebrating with departmental receptions on Friday afternoon, when a Graduate Hooding Ceremony for those earning master’s degrees also takes place. The festivities continue on Saturday morning with the Commencement ceremony itself. Exhibitions of student work offer visitors a view into the amazing output of this year’s graduates, and the RISD Museum welcomes graduating seniors and their families with free admission throughout the weekend.

Friday, May 31

Special ceremonies + departmental receptions​

Throughout the day various divisions and departments host celebratory gatherings and awards presentations open to graduating students, family members and friends.

Film/Animation/Video Senior Festival screenings

RISD Auditorium • 7 Canal Walk

History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Concentration Reception

Memorial Hall • The Tap Room • 226 Benefit Street

Literary Arts + Studies Concentration Reception

College Building • Old Library (room 521) • Two College Street

Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies Concentration Reception

20 Washington Place • Room 128 A+B

Theory + History of Art + Design Concentration Reception

RISD Museum • Danforth Room • 20 North Main Street

Graduate Hooding Ceremony

First Baptist Church in America • 75 North Main Street

Graduate students will have a special hooding ceremony in the First Baptist Church in America as part of Commencement celebrations. (Students should be seated by 12:45 pm, and doors will open for guests at 1 pm.)

Fine Arts Reception

Woods-Gerry Gallery • 62 Prospect Street

Furniture Design Reception

RISD Museum • Danforth Room • 20 North Main Street

Graphic Design Reception

Graphic Design Commons • 31 Canal Walk

Architecture Reception

20 Washington Place • Auditorium

Landscape Architecture Reception

Bayard Ewing Building Gallery • 231 South Main Street

Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Reception

TLAD + Project Open Door Studio Lab • 355 South Water Street

Digital + Media Reception

The Eddy • 95 Eddy Street

Industrial Design Reception

ID Building • 161 South Main Street, 6th floor

Saturday, June 1

throughout the weekend

Grad Show 2019

Rhode Island Convention Center • One Sabin Street

a massive public show of work by master’s-degree students from the graduating class, the annual thesis exhibition transforms a 28,000-sf space into a network of smaller galleries, affording students an opportunity to showcase multiple pieces from a final body of work.

Prior Things

Chace Center • Gelman Student Gallery • 20 North Main Street

curated by Maya Cannon 19 PR, Justin Han 22 PT + Megan Molina 19 IL

Selections

Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery • 169 Weybosset Street

graduate work from the Class of 2019

Senior Invitational

Woods-Gerry Gallery • 62 Prospect Street

undergraduate work from the Class of 2019

Speakers + honorees

Bryan Stevenson

commencement speaker / honorary degree

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a social justice nonprofit based in Montgomery, AL. A widely acclaimed public interest lawyer, he has dedicated his career to helping people dealing with poverty or imprisonment, winning challenges against unfair sentencing practices, institutional abuse of inmates, youth incarceration and other major legal issues. He has successfully argued several cases in the US Supreme Court, including a recent ruling that banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger.

A 1995 MacArthur Fellow, Stevenson has also earned the ACLU’s Medal of Liberty, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award and the National Civil Rights Museum's Freedom Award. In 2018 he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize as well as the American Bar Association Medal, the highest honor given by the ABA. The New York University School of Law professor has also written the award-winning memoir Just Mercy.

Theaster Gates

graduate hooding speaker / honorary degree

Based in Chicago, Theaster Gates creates sculptural and performance-based work focusing on space theory, land development and the productive possibilities discoverable in the “life within things.” Drawing on his background in urban planning and preservation, he redeems spaces that have been left behind and cleverly turns art values, land values and human values on their head. In all aspects of his work, the artist engages with the relationship between space and people of color as a formal exercise shaped by collective desire, artistic agency and pragmatic tactics.

Gates has exhibited and performed extensively, including at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Fondazione Prada in Milan and Whitechapel Gallery in London. In 2017 he received a Légion d'Honneur commendation from the government of France and in 2018 won the Artes Mundi 6 prize and the Nasher Prize for Sculpture.

Chimamanda Adichie

honorary degree

Chimamanda Adichie is a writer, thinker and activist whose voice has helped shape some of the most pressing discussions of our time. Originally from Nigeria, she moved to the US at age 19, earning degrees from Eastern Connecticut State University, Johns Hopkins and Yale. Her widely translated books include the award-winning novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, along with the short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck.

In 2012 Adichie sparked a worldwide conversation about feminism with the TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists, which was published as a book in 2014. A 2008 MacArthur Fellow, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been named to TIME’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World as well as Fortune’s list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Published in 2017, her most recent book is Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

Nadya Tolokonnikova

honorary degree

A cofounder of the Russian art punk feminist movement Pussy Riot, conceptual artist and activist Nadya Tolokonnikova is known as a powerful voice in the fight against tyranny worldwide. After a 2012 public performance protesting the Putin-led Russian government, her two-year imprisonment for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” brought wider awareness to state-sponsored injustices in her homeland.

Since her release, Tolokonnikova has remained outspoken and vigilant in denouncing global authoritarianism. In 2014 she cofounded Mediazona, an independent media agency focused on law enforcement and judicial issues in Russia. She has also collected her political thinking into two books, most recently the 2018 essay collection Read and Riot: the Pussy Riot Guide to Activism. A recipient of a LennonOno Grant for Peace and co-recipient of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought, she has addressed the US Congress, the British Parliament and the European Parliament on issues of global human rights.

Joseph A. Chazan

President's Medal of Honor

The first-ever recipient of this new award, Joseph A. Chazan is being recognized for making an enduring impact on RISD and our regional community through his lifelong generosity. A professor emeritus at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, the longtime art lover, collector and advocate has donated more than 600 objects to the RISD Museum and currently serves on its Board of Governors and Fine Arts Committee.

From 2008–16 Dr. Chazan helped promote contemporary artists in Rhode Island through NetWorks, a multimedia approach to profiling the practices of more than 100 accomplished local artists. His significant support for organizations ranging from the Newport Art Museum and the Rhode Island Philharmonic to WaterFire Providence, AS220 and the Steel Yard helped earn him the Pell Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Arts in 2013 and an Outstanding Philanthropic Citizen designation from the RI chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2018.

Contacts

Commencement questions?

please contact Institutional Engagement

RISD's main phone number

Registrar's office

degree requirements / academic status

Diane Walker or Brianna Smith

+1 401 454-6151

registrar@risd.edu

Office of International Student Services

Student Financial Services

billing questions / financial matters

Information Technology Services