Global Initiative

RISD Global Initiative (GI) is a student-run organization on a mission to make RISD a home to creative global leaders. With a diverse student body representing over 50 different countries and the ever increasing globalization of our society, we believe that being able to understand and respond to the world around us is an inherent part of our art and design practice. GI exists to make seemingly distant global issues accessible and relevant to RISD students through strategically designed events and opportunities.

I served as the president of GI for 3 years after joining as a freshman. I was in charge of leading over 20 students who are all dedicated to our mission of global engagement and who conduct individual initiatives underneath the umbrella of GI. As a result, I constantly learned new lessons about collaboration, community outreach, mobilization, community building, effective organization, effective leadership, and managing the sensitivity and emotional health required to address topics of inequality. The culture of apathy on campus has definitely shifted since I arrived four years ago, and I am sure that GI had something to do with it.

PROJECT DATES

December 2013 - May 2017

Role

president; team member

PARTNERS

Rhode Island School of Design
Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island (DIIRI)
Edesia
James Victore
Emory Douglas

FOCUS

international education; community building; service-learning; community service; social activism; social design; culture; politics

 
 

GI Eats | Eat the World

Every year GI hosts RISD's only international food festival, featuring student-run food booths from over 25 countries, student performers, and community collaboration. The photo below is from our third annual event in which we collaborated to fundraise with Edesia, a local nonprofit that works to manufacture nutrition supplements to fight malnutrition globally. For our fourth festival, we partnered with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island to make buttons declaring support of refugees. GI works closely with RISD Dining, RISD ISE (Intercultural Student Engagement), and RISD CSI (Center for Student Involvement) in order to achieve this.

 
This photo features RISD's first self-choreographed dance team  JALWA . Photocredit: Jennifer Mai

This photo features RISD's first self-choreographed dance team JALWA. Photocredit: Jennifer Mai

 

GI Eats | Edible Issues

In a special collaboration with the RISD Dining, GI takes over the Portfolio Café every year to feature food from a country that the United States is in conflict with. We raise awareness of an issue within that country while also highlighting various aspects of the culture. Students have the opportunity to learn and reflect over traditional dishes for a full week while also enjoying artisan workshops, performances, streamings of music, films, and visual art, and an informative display arranged through the Fleet Library. 

 
This photo is from our most recent Edible Issues: Nigeria in which we highlighted the internal Boko Haram conflict and advertised a new initiative of ours called the  Solidarity Color Campaign , which works to improve visibility on issues of islamophobia.

This photo is from our most recent Edible Issues: Nigeria in which we highlighted the internal Boko Haram conflict and advertised a new initiative of ours called the Solidarity Color Campaign, which works to improve visibility on issues of islamophobia.

 

GI Speaks

GI seeks out artists who are activists within their field to come share their wisdom with our campus to show that art and activism aren't mutually exclusive. In 2014, graphic designer James Victore spoke about the course of his career and how to maintain your passion for change in your work. In 2017, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party Emory Douglas was invited as RISD's 2017 MLK Honoree, part of a collaboration between GI and the annual MLK Series.

 
Emory shared his work with the Black Panthers and insights from his long career to a packed auditorium. Photocredit: David O'Connor

Emory shared his work with the Black Panthers and insights from his long career to a packed auditorium. Photocredit: David O'Connor

 

As part of Emory's visit, GI also curated and installed an exhibition called -isms: Exploring the Intersectionality of Identities. Exhibited in 4 different locations on campus and featuring a wide range of disciplines, we sought to engage with a visiting artist in a more in-depth manner, to unite the campus in a cross-departmental collaboration, and to formally stimulate conversations about identity. Because of our unique capabilities as artists and designers, it is important for us to have the tools and opportunities to address sensitive issues in an informed manner. This responsibility extends beyond making work about identity or social issues to include the difficult conversations that emerge as a result. 

Emory Douglas participated in our initiative by hosting an open critique of a selection of pieces from the show, joined by 3 RISD professors. By engaging in a discussion about identity-based work with a visiting activist artist and the student artists themselves, the campus was able to learn how to have these difficult conversations effectively and sensitively. 

 
This is a view from RISD's Architecture Department, one of the gallery locations hosting the -isms show. Photocredit: David O'Connor

This is a view from RISD's Architecture Department, one of the gallery locations hosting the -isms show. Photocredit: David O'Connor

 

GI Chats

GI Chats are one of our most popular programs, as they bring together students who are passionate about the same issue. GI helps to facilitate casual conversations led by students who are seeking a community of like-minded people to sit down and discuss solutions. Highlights include "Mizzou: Nationwide Racial Inequality on College Campuses", "Mass Shootings in the US", "Refugee Panic", and "Manchat".

 
GI Chats make use of our beautiful campus by chatting everywhere from the Carr Haus lounge to Ewing House (pictured above). Photocredit: CJ Ormita

GI Chats make use of our beautiful campus by chatting everywhere from the Carr Haus lounge to Ewing House (pictured above). Photocredit: CJ Ormita

 

GI Responds

The GI Responds team was formed upon realizing that our most effective programs were the ones that fully engaged with the current happenings in the world. GI monitors the daily news, initiated a university New York Times subscription, and finds creative ways to respond in ways that reflect the current needs and interests of our campus. We will oftentimes host a Chat as a result, like the one discussing the refugee crisis, but can also drive fundraisers or even candlelight vigils

 
This photo was taken at a  candlelight vigil  responding to the string of terrorist attacks in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, and several other countries. Photocredit: CJ Ormita

This photo was taken at a candlelight vigil responding to the string of terrorist attacks in Paris, Baghdad, Beirut, and several other countries. Photocredit: CJ Ormita

 

GI Votes

GI streamed all of the debates and news coverage (including Election Night and the inauguration) for the 2016 Presidential Election, encouraged voter registration by providing and mailing registration forms, and created a line of infographics that remind the student body of important upcoming dates and vocabulary.

 
Politically-active RISD students watching one of the presidential debates in the Portfolio Cafe. Photocredit: Sophie Chien

Politically-active RISD students watching one of the presidential debates in the Portfolio Cafe. Photocredit: Sophie Chien

 

GI Stands

The initiatives listed above are our mainstays, but we also have a slew of things underway that don't fall within these categories.

Community Outreach | In addition to partnering with Edesia with Eat the World, we also work closely with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island to create Orientation programming and other events.
GreenRoom Program | One initiative is working to mandate environmental standards for campus dorm life and supplementing it with programs for Orientation.
Watch the World | GI collaborates with RISD Dining to stream international movies over a casual meal.