“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 (PhD, English Literature, University of Washington) is Professor of Environmental Humanities & American Literatures. She teaches courses on a range of environmental humanities topics, including biodiversity and extinction studies, climate change cultures, discourses of the anthropocene, ecological literary studies, and theories of natureculture. In these and other courses, she asks students to consider the role mediating technologies, such as novels, poems, photographs, paintings, built environments, and critical theory, play in apprehending and interrogating structures of classed, gendered, and racialized socioecological relationship. 

Dr. Merola’s current environmental humanities scholarship focuses on the intersection of affect, form, and socioecologies in contemporary culture. Key aims of this work are to particularize and historicize environmental emotion and highlight bodily vulnerability at scales from the personal to the planetary. Additional areas of research interest include: community-based learning, critical and inclusive pedagogies, models of cross-disciplinary co-teaching, and place-based learning.

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 manages the SEI funds for research, programming, conferences, and Decolonial Teaching in Action Program. Additionally, she coordinates events for the Center for SEI and Teaching and Learning Lab, manages the center's work study positions and maintains the budgeting and website for the center. Mia is also a familiar face at campus events as an enthusiastic admirer of RISD Catering. 

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 five 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 rock climbing or doing German style bike trail jaunts, and either reading indulgent romances or angsty literary fiction, preferably featuring queer POC main characters.


Jade Johnson

Assistant Director for Diversity Programs


Jade Johnson is the Assistant Director of Diversity Programs in the Office of Intercultural Student Engagement at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In this role, she coordinates programming that is intended to educate students, faculty, and staff on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her previous positions have included: Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion at the Central Michigan University College of Medicine, Graduate Assistant of the Office of Diversity Education (CMU), and host/producer of the Diversity Diagnoses podcast. 

Johnson holds a BS and an MA degree from Central Michigan University in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts with a concentration in Electronic Media Studies and Journalism. Johnson is a Michigan native, proud aunt, and a Jeopardy! fanatic.

Jennifer Recinos

Assistant Director for First Generation Student Support


Jennifer Recinos is the Assistant Director of First Generation Student Support for the office of Intercultural Student Engagement. She will be managing the First Generation to College Pre- Orientation program (FGC PoP) as well as Project Thrive, our multi-year student support and learning community program. Both programs are designed specifically for RISD students whose parents did not attend or did not complete college. Jennifer has 7 years of higher education experience working within Arts Education and Admissions. She was born and raised in Providence, RI. She is a New Urban Arts and College Visions Alumn and identifies as a first-generation, queer, college graduate of Guatemalan descent. Jennifer graduated from Brandeis University with degrees in International Studies as well as Film, TV and Interactive Media. Food and Photography is always on her mind.

Simone Tubman

Executive director of Equity & Compliance


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. 

Alyssa Roush

Assistant director of Equity & Compliance


Alyssa Roush graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia with a master’s degree in College Student Development and Administration with an emphasis on student leadership, multicultural student affairs, and Title IX.

Alyssa is a part-time embroidery artist and full-time DEI practitioner passionate about consent education, gender- and power-based violence prevention, conversations about gender identity development, and creating inclusive & equitable change with and for students

Institutional Partners


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