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Roger Mandle Bio

Educator, art historian, and former head of major museums, Rhode Island School of Design’s (RISD) Roger Mandle is the president presidents turn to. A veteran of 35 years in arts and humanities education, Mandle (who was appointed by Reagan and George H. W. Bush as a member of the National Council on the Arts) has long helped steer the country’s art and design agenda.Under his leadership, RISD college has entered the 21st century guided by the premise that to design is an art and to make art requires design. A self-professed ‘right-brain thinker,’ Mandle is not your typical college president. Although a strong advocate for the arts, he also recognizes the need for ecological sensitivity and encourages student artists and designers to consider environmental issues in creating works of cultural aesthetic benefit.“My mission, my vision,” he says, “is to contribute to our humanity and quality of life and to make Providence and the Rhode Island School of Design a globally recognized center of art, design and right-brained thinking.”Mandle came to RISD in 1993 from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where he served as deputy director and was involved with every aspect of museum management. This experience positioned him well to forge ahead with his unique approach of preserving the old and embracing the new within a widely diverse institution located in the heart of a city experiencing its own renaissance.The coincidence is not lost on Mandle as preservation and sustained renewal is one of his passions. Look around the campus and downtown Providence and you’ll see evidence of it; from new dormitories built in revitalized old buildings, to the soon to be built $43 million dollar Chace Center, designed by famed Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, which will house an array of new galleries, studios and classrooms.Mandle’s ability to see beyond the norm by combining innovative student programming and private and public collaboration has positioned RISD as one of the premier institutions in the world offering students unique learning opportunities in design diversity, multiculturalism, urban renewal, integrative technology learning and overall good citizenship.The fruits of his labor have garnered much attention and success. Renowned artist Yo-Yo Ma recently partnered with the college and relocated his Silk Road Project to RISD.Ma founded the Silk Road Project in 1998 to explore the interaction of ideas and cultures among the peoples who live along the Silk Road, the vast trade route that stretched from the Far East to Rome.Last year, the $3.8-million project moved its headquarters from New York City to Providence and announced a major collaborative effort with RISD, to see how art and music can interact with each other. “One of the greatest advantages,” said Mandle, “is opening doors and windows to other cultures in ways we never thought of before. It’s a profound opportunity we all have.”Branching out into new territory requires funding and under Mandle’s stewardship, the college has secured several new grants, tripling its endowment to $220 million dollars. This has allowed the school to spearhead new initiatives such as cutting-edge masters programs in media, interior architecture and textiles as well as establish new departments like furniture design.What keeps Mandle motivated? Collaboration is key and he cites RISD’s partnership with the Business Innovation Factory as an example. This summer, BIF and RISD embarked on a unique effort to understand and improve a pivotal piece in the healthcare puzzle: the interaction between patients and primary care physicians.The BIF/RISD Healthcare Innovation Project leveraged the expertise of industrial, architectural, and graphic designers, interviews with patients and primary care providers, and feedback from stakeholders in the Rhode Island healthcare system to create a detailed visualization of how patients experience the primary care system.Healthcare models being investigated and re-modeled by art and design students?Absolutely, says the right-brained thinker. “We’re ideal partners because we seek new connections between pubic and private entities that have not been undertaken before. This fosters excitement, a sense of flexibility and the spirit of innovation that eludes larger, more bureaucratic universities. By embracing this understanding we are taught to think big, take risks and believe in the enduring value of art and design.”Contact a speaker booking agent to check availability on Roger Mandle and other top speakers and celebrities.


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