RISD using $10M anonymous gift to launch tuition-free fellowship

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island School of Design is using a $10 million anonymous gift – the school’s largest ever earmarked for financial aid – to provide full tuition to some graduate students.

The new fellowship program, called the Society of Presidential Fellows, is designed to attract the highest-quality students worldwide to obtain an advanced degree at RISD. The fellowship will also provide professional development opportunities to those graduate students, RISD said.

The school said the Society of Presidential Fellows was kick-started by the anonymous $10 million donation, and another “significant” gift from RISD alum Hillary Blumberg that the school called the largest known gift it had received from a RISD graduate in support of financial aid. RISD is not specify a dollar figure.

“It’s wonderful to be able to establish this first-of-its-kind fellowship program at RISD thanks to the incredibly generous support of two donors,” RISD President Rosanne Somerson said in a news release. “RISD’s rigorous form of graduate education produces the world’s greatest creative thinkers, leaders and makers. We’re intent on dramatically enhancing our competitiveness in recruiting and retaining the top tier of prospective graduate students and with this fellowship we can now increase access to this education, bringing unique and critical new voices into our community. These exceptional students will work with faculty on research and creative projects, elevate the educational experience for all students and enhance the reputation of RISD’s graduate programs.”

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In addition to receiving full-tuition fellowships for the duration of their studies, students will connect with thought leaders in art and design through special events and with alumni through dedicated mentors, RISD said.

All students admitted to RISD’s graduate programs will be considered for the fellowship, beginning with the class entering in fall 2020.

“As I know firsthand, the RISD experience is second to none for fledgling artists and those pursuing the creative professions,” Blumberg said in a news release. “Yet the simple fact remains that however strong its reality and reputation, a RISD education is beyond the financial means of many. I share President Somerson’s vision for attracting and developing the world’s most promising grad students via full fellowships and innovative programming.”

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