Join us in celebrating RISD's Class of 2020
May 29 – May 30
Bookmark this page for more about the ceremony, related events and other helpful information.
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.
Hotels in Providence
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 email@example.com for more information.
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.
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.
Ridesharing and car-sharing
RISD shuttle service
Guests with mobility needs requiring transportation from campus to receptions on Friday, May 31 or the Commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 1 should call RISD Rides at +1 401 427-6915.
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.
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.
The procession, speeches, awards presentations and other pomp and circumstance generally take more than two hours. Even though graduating number around 700 students, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 15 languages.
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.
2019 Speakers + honorees
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.
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 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.
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.
graduate speaker / MLA 2019 Landscape Architecture
Ramon Solis MLA 19 says that the most apt description of who he is came from Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy in 2011, who singled him out at a concert as “the person at a rock show with most pens in his front pocket.” He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Davis, where he also reached a personal peak as a DJ for the college radio station. In his thesis research at RISD, Solis explored the use of film and observational drawing as a design tool in landscape architecture, and also worked to build community as a leader of the Graduate Student Alliance.
undergraduate speaker / BFA 2019 Printmaking
On June 3rd, 2017 Qualeasha Ivonne Wood BFA 19 PR proclaimed on Facebook: “Just telling you now I’m speaking at 2019 graduation.” Two years later, she is. Wood creates work that, in her words, “realizes black potential by portraying black femme bodies as they existed, currently exist and may one day exist.” At RISD she served in several leadership roles and co-curated two exhibitions on campus that highlighted the talents of artists of color within and beyond the RISD community. In the fall, Qualeasha will move on to Cranbrook Academy of Fine Art, where she has earned a full scholarship to pursue an MFA in Photography.