“Without addressing the root systemic causes of inequity and how we can upend them collectively, we cannot work towards creating a socially just community”

Matthew Shenoda | Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion


The work of cultivating a genuinely diverse and inclusive institution, defined by equality of access, opportunity, and a re-centering of forms of knowledge requires both centralized leadership and a strong and coherent vision for galvanizing the myriad components of our community at the macro and micro levels.

Center for SEI Overview

The Center for SEI supports various initiatives aimed at engaging and addressing issues of social equity and inclusion on our campus and serves as a central hub for cross-institutional collaboration for faculty-centered initiatives.

The Center for SEI supports:

  • Academic departments’ SEI Action Plans.
  • Various programs (including internal grants) for faculty research related to SEI.
  • SEI Faculty Fellows Program.
  • An ongoing series of workshops and public lectures by renowned artists and scholars including RISD’s annual MLK Keynote Lecture and Indigenous Arts Series.

Mahler Ryder

1938 - 1992

Mahler B. Ryder, Jr. was an artist, educator, and a faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design from 1969 until his death at age 54 in 1992. His work centered the experiences of people of color and he championed diversity and inclusion at RISD.

Center for SEI Staff

Nicole Merola

Dean of Faculty
Professor of Literary Arts & Studies


Nicole M. Merola focuses in her teaching on the environmental humanities and American literatures. She came to RISD in fall 2005 from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she received her PhD.

Merola’s teaching and research interests encompass anthropocene studies; biodiversity and extinction studies; literary, visual and performance-based approaches to climate change; contemporary environmental literary, visual and material culture; critical animal studies; green film studies; the polar regions; oil and extraction cultures; science studies and the intersections of science, literature and art; the socioecological pasts and presents of Narragansett Bay; and theories of natureculture. Her on-campus courses include Contemporary Ecological Fictions, Ecopoems/Ecopoetics, Green Cultural Studies: Film, Narrating EvolutionRepresenting “Unrepresentable” Environments: Climate Change and Theorizing the Anthropocene. She teaches off-campus courses in the environmental humanities in Guyana and Portugal.

Merola has published scholarly essays on Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain; on the ways landscape photography can intervene in politico-legal conversations about wilderness preservation; on photographer Jill Greenberg’s animal portraits; on Don DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis; and on Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia. Her article “T.C. Boyle’s Neoevolutionary Queer Ecologies: Questioning Species in ‘Descent of Man’ and ‘Dogology’” appeared in the anthology America’s Darwin: Darwinian Theory and US Literary Culture, edited by Tina Gianquitto and Lydia Fisher. She has also published the articles “For terror of the deadness beyond: Arctic Environments and Inhuman Ecologies in Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter” and “Materializing a Geotraumatic and Melancholy Anthropocene: Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods.” Her article “Engaging the ‘Eaarth,’” in Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, focuses on climate change cultures in the context of art and design education. An article on the work of poet Juliana Spahr is forthcoming in the anthology Affective Ecocriticism: Emotion, Embodiment, Environment. Her current research projects focus on the roles literature, film and visual and performance art play in conceptualizing the Anthropocene.

Tony Johnson

Associate Dean of Student Social Equity & Inclusion

(401) 454-6638

Tony Johnson is an “artivist” (artist-activist) who bridges the realms of creative endeavor, equity, and educational policy.  He is the Associate Dean of Student Social Equity & Inclusion at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In this role, he provides strategic leadership in realizing an environment where advancing inclusion and equity are at the core of the college student experience and where artist and designers achieve the personal and socio-cultural development required to meet today’s global contexts.  His previous positions have included, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Director of Intercultural Student Engagement, and Admissions Officer specializing in the recruitment of under-represented communities.

In addition to working with arts institutions, Johnson serves on regional and national committees and boards dedicated to promoting cultural understanding, systemic reform, and human justice. Johnson is chair emeritus of RISD’s annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Series.  During his chair tenure, he facilitated a vision and plan for sustainable alliances between arts institutions and justice leaders including: Angela Davis, Harry Belafonte, Marian Wright Edelman, Danny Glover, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Emory Douglas. 

Johnson’s twenty plus year involvement in the performing arts has included performances and collaborations with Grammy, Dove, and Stellar award recording artists as well as respected theatre companies. Ultimately, he seeks to leverage the universal powers of visual art, music, and theatre as ways to build communities of understanding and peace.

Johnson holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a MS degree from the University of Rhode Island in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in College Student Personnel.  A Philadelphia native, he is married to Caribbean fine artist, Monique Rolle-Johnson ’92 PT and the father of a young-adult drummer.

Dimitris C. Papadopoulos

Instructional Designer


Dimitris (he/him) is a researcher, educator, and technologist working at the intersection of built and mediated, informational environments for teaching, learning, and research.  He has collaborated with scholars, students, and practitioners in cultural and educational institutions on developing digital resources and infrastructures for research, pedagogy and public outreach. He has also worked on several research projects focusing on the question of socio-cultural space and combining tools and disciplinary perspectives from anthropology, architectural history and digital and environmental humanities.  

In 2020-2021 he was the NEH CARES Digital Humanities Instructional Technologist in the Division of Humanities and the Arts at the City College of New York,  and an instructional designer at the Building Performance Lab, the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, also at City College.

He has taught at Lehman College (2014-2016), Kalamazoo College, and Western Michigan University (2017-2020), and he was a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University (2014-2016). He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Technology and Communication from the University of the Aegean.

At the SEI Teaching & Learning Lab, Dimitris  supports faculty in using RISD’s learning management system (Canvas), and in integrating instructional technology and digital pedagogy tools that best fit learning objectives and that facilitate engaging and inclusive learning in campus-based, hybrid and online modalities. For more info about workshops, consultations, and resources, you can visit the instructional design page.

Personal website: http://dimaterialist.net

Justine Bubar

Faculty Recruitment & Development Coordinator

(401) 709-8482


Justine Bubar is the Faculty Recruitment and Development Coordinator here at RISD. She graduated with a BA in English from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2010.

Justine supports the Faculty Search Process in conjunction with the goals and initiatives of the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion. Additionally, Justine supports the T&L Lab SEI Workshop Series, the Frazier Award Committee,  the Faculty Steering Committee,  and Sabbatical and Professorial Presentations.

Mia Nilo

SEI Coordinator and Administrator

(401) 709-454-6479


Mia Nilo joins SEI after cutting her teeth in the nonprofit world post-graduate school, where she pivoted from studying diplomacy and public policy to doing  grassroots criminal justice organizing in the Capitol District and doing community based anti-poverty work with the New York State Community Action network. In her role as the SEI Coordinator and Administrator, Mia provides a wide variety of administrative support to the Dean of Faculty and V.P. & Associate Provost for SEI and Associate Dean for Student SEI, as well as gives support to the SEI Faculty Steering committee, SEI Faculty Research Fellows, and other committees that fall under the SEI umbrella. Additionally, she coordinates activities of the Center for SEI and Teaching and Learning Lab and maintains the budgeting and website for the center. Mia is also a familiar face at campus events, ceremonies, and as many student activities as she is available for. 

Mia is originally from Southern California where she graduated with distinction from San Diego State University with a BA in English. She experienced her first true winter while studying abroad in New College, Oxford and then subsequently moved Northeast and its challenging seasons after attending graduate school at UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy where she received a Master’s of International Affairs with a concentration in diplomacy and global governance. She moved to Rhode Island with her partner, who geekily showed her his homemade NERF blaster YouTube channel when they started dating four years ago and now works at Hasbro as a NERF design engineer. 

When not working Mia can be found cooking or consuming extravagant meals which are lovingly curated on her Instagram, exploring craft breweries and local wineries, creating neurotically detailed travel itineraries, journaling, sketching, finding novel activities to do with friends like axe throwing or going on owl prowls, and either reading indulgent romances or angsty literary fiction, preferably featuring queer POC main characters.


SEI Fellows 

The SEI Research and Teaching Fellows Program hosts scholars, artists and designers who teach across RISD's curriculum and focus on a research project that advances issues of social equity and inclusion in their respective fields.

Ernest Bryant

2020-22 SEI Research Fellow


Ernest A. Bryant III, L.P.I., is an artist and critic from the USA. He has a background in interdisciplinary art. He earned an MFA from Yale University, School of Art, where he focused on critical theory, new media, and printmaking; and earned a second MFA in Art Writing & Criticism from the New York School of Visual arts, where his focus was art and society’s relationship to nature, molestation, conservation, and homelessness. In his work he uses nature, video, image-making, history, positionality, theory and humor to examine the ontological conflicts that arise between different aesthetic and cultural values. Currently, Bryant has been developing a method of augmented drawing that he describes as “a form of drawing that uses line to explore value, labor and its displacement.”

Over the years he has taught mural painting, and studio art to teens. He worked for a non-profit Black art organization as an independent exhibition curator. Most recently he taught a class in prison, for Yale Prison Education Initiative, served as a resident critic and teaching fellow at the Yale Norfolk School of Art, and as a guest critic, in Graphic Design, at Pratt Institute.

He was in residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, did a self-designed residency in Santiago, Cuba, and was in residency at the Shangyuan Art Scene in Beijing, China, after which he taught in China for 4 years. He has received fellowships for his work from the Jerome Foundation, and the Bush Foundation, and published the book, “Surviving the next four to Eight Years in the United States of America 2017-2025, For Sufferers of a Recrudescent Ideological KRISIS” in 2017.

German Pallares

2021-23 SEI Research Fellow


Germán Pallares (Ph.D. in Architecture) is a Mexican architect and scholar.  His research lies at the intersection of modernization, cultural relations, borders, and politics in the context of Latin America and the United States. Pallares’ work is interdisciplinary, drawing on fields such as Border, Chicano, and Gender Studies, Environmental History, and Urbanism, and explores Post-colonial and De-colonial concepts that refine understandings of territories, nations, identity, and migration as they relate to architectural and urban conditions. He views borders as increasingly important sites for understanding politics, human rights, and economic equity; as geographies of conflict that exceed their physical and political delineations and resonate across constructions of identity and networks of connection, communication and collaboration. 

His dissertation, Life on the Border: Constructing the México/US Borderlands. 1961-1971 positions the urban projects of the 60s and 70s in the borderlands as agents of modernization, industrialization and culturalization, offering a perspective on the construction of identity -national and local - in border spaces. It reveals the built environment as a projection of the socioeconomic and cultural policies that characterized the relations of the US with México during the Cold War. Pallares was an HUD Mellon Doctoral Dissertation fellow at Penn during the period 2019-2020, and a Penn Predoctoral Fellow for Excellence through Diversity 2020-2021. 

Pallares has taught History & Theory courses at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Previously, he was a professor and Chair of the School of Architecture at Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Santa Fe in Mexico City, teaching both Studio and History & Theory courses. At Tec de Monterrey he initiated and managed collaborative academic projects with international offices, such as Zaha Hadid Architects. 

Pallares holds a Master’s in Theory and Practice of the Architectural Project from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (ETSAB) in Barcelona, and a Ph.D. in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania.  

He has been a guest critic in México, Spain, and the U.S. and has collaborated with Legorreta Arquitectos as a Project Designer/Manager for the Aga Kahn Foundation’s University and Hospital Campus in Tanzania, Africa.

Teaching & Learning Lab Fellows 

Tom Doran

2019-21 T&L Lab Fellow


Tom Doran comes to the Teaching and Learning Lab with a background in inclusive and student-centered writing pedagogies, writing across the curriculum, environmental rhetoric, and the history of composition curricula in American colleges and universities. Over the last 12 years, he has taught academic, professional, and creative writing at six different postsecondary institutions, developing a pedagogy that emphasizes informal writing, multimodal composition, collaborative writing, blended learning, and hands-on content creation. He earned his PhD in English from UC Santa Barbara, focusing on environmental discourse and the rhetoric of animal protection among indigenous and Euro-colonial naturalists in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century Americas. As a Research Fellow for UCSB's Environmental Humanities Initiative, he developed and supported various research projects, interdisciplinary teaching initiatives, and community programs around the topic of climate justice. Before earning his PhD, he was an MA Teaching Fellow in SUNY New Paltz's Composition Program, where he taught first-year writing, regularly contributed to faculty-led workshops on writing pedagogy, participated in curriculum design and assessment, and tutored multilingual learners in college writing. Tom teaches courses at RISD on comics art, environmental justice, poetry, natural history, and environmental theory.

Elizabeth Maynard

2020-21 T&L Lab Fellow


Elizabeth Maynard is a doctor of art history, a licensed massage therapist, craniosacral worker, meditation facilitator, and a 500 hour certified yoga teacher. In Rhode Island, she teaches social art history at RISD and Rhode Island College. Her art historical work on the representation of trauma and the body led her to pursue trainings in somatic education. Her current interests include discerning the rich possibilities in being attentive to how intellectual and creative pursuits intersect with somatic awareness, embodied social justice as art practice, and thinking about how to create sustainable and fecund spaces for teaching and learning.

Ulli K. Ryder

ISE Director


Ulli has earned degrees in English and American Studies, Afro-American Studies, Professional Writing and her Ph.D. is in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Her dissertation topic was “As Shelters Against the Cold”: Women Writers of the Black Arts and Chicano Movements, 1965-1978. 

Coming most recently from Bristol Community College, Ulli served as Dean, Arts and Humanities. In this role she managed approximately 300 faculty and 400 courses per semester across 4 campus locations and online. In addition, she oversaw the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery, which is designed to support the educational mission of innovation and creativity of college and the southeast Massachusetts region; the LusoCentro, which is dedicated to the study of language and celebration for the Portuguese and Lusophone cultures; and supported the art and theatre programs and international club as well as the Women's Center. In addition, Ulli has experience as a McNair Scholarship mentor, as Academic Director of a women's leadership program with the US State Department, was a member of the Rhode Island Commission for Health Advocacy and Equity, and is Scholar-in-Residence in the Office of the Chaplains at Brown.

Jade Johnson

Assistant Director for Diversity Programs


Jennifer Recinos

Assistant Director for First Generation Student Support


Sydney Lake

Title IX Coordinator 


Sydney Lake serves the RISD community as RISD's Institutional Discrimination Officer + Title IX Coordinator. Sydney's educational background includes a Masters of Science Degree in Higher Education Administration and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art. Sydney has extensive experience investigating and adjudicating cases of discrimination, gender based violence and harassment, sexual misconduct and abuse as well as other forms of organizational misconduct. Sydney also has a background, certifications, and experience in Civil Rights Investigations, Title IX, Behavioral Intervention and Assessment as well as Crisis Intervention and large scale emergency management. Sydney has developed procedures and aided in the development of institution wide policies related to discrimination, harassment, and Title IX. She has also trained professional staff and student leaders on best practice in responding to harassment, sexual misconduct and Title IX. Sydney has worked closely with campus partners as well as local agencies including law enforcement, the court system, hospitals, and area support centers to ensure our community is monitoring trends and best practice for response to issues not only on campus but in the greater Providence community. 

Simone Tubman

Director, Institutional Discrimination + Deputy Title IX Coordinator 


Simone Tubman earned a Juris Doctor from the Northeastern University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from Providence College. Simone serves as RISD's Institutional Discrimination Officer + Deputy Title IX Coordinator charged with supporting and investigating complaints filed under RISD's Title IX, Sexual Misconduct, and Non-Discrimination policies. Simone has authored and revised campus policies related to discrimination, harassment, and Title IX. She is a trained Civil Rights Investigator and Title IX Coordinator; as well as a licensed attorney in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts and has extensive experience and expertise in investigations and responding to complaints. She also has a deep commitment to working with our community on taking proactive steps to educate themselves on the best ways to approach difficult interpersonal situations and hosts programs on these topics. She also partners regularly with Rhode Island colleges, local law enforcement, the court system, and Providence area agencies who provide support to our campus community. 

Institutional Partners


Office of Intercultural Student Engagement
Center for Arts and Language
Institutional Discrimination & Title IX
RISD Museum