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.
December 2013 - May 2017
president; team member
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.