“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

Matthew Shenoda

Associate Provost, Social Equity & Inclusion
Senior Advisor to the President for SEI
Professor of Literary Arts & Studies

(401) 454-6444

Matthew Shenoda is a writer, professor, university administrator, and author and editor of several books. His poems and essays have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs and anthologies. His debut collection of poems, Somewhere Else (Coffee House Press), was named one of 2005's debut books of the year by Poets & Writers Magazine and was winner of a 2006 American Book Award. He is also the author of Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone (BOA Editions Ltd.), editor of Duppy Conqueror: New & Selected Poems by Kwame Dawes, and most recently author of Tahrir Suite: Poems (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press), winner of the 2015 Arab American Book Award and with Kwame Dawes editor of Bearden’s Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2017).

Shenoda began his teaching career in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University where he taught for nearly a decade and has held several faculty and administrative positions at various institutions. Formerly the Assistant Provost for Equity and Diversity at CalArts where he was also faculty in the School of Critical Studies and the Dean of Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Columbia College Chicago where he was Professor of English and Creative Writing, he is currently the Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion and Professor of Literary Arts and Studies at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he directs the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion. Additionally, Shenoda is a founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund

Patricia Barbeito

Dean of Faculty
Professor of Literary Arts & Studies

(401) 454-6575

Patricia Felisa Barbeito (PhD, Comparative Literature, Harvard University) is Professor of American Literatures. She teaches courses on race and ethnicity in American literature; the African American literary tradition; captivity and prison narratives; magical realism; the Latin American novel; and noir fiction and film.

Currently, her research focuses on African-American literature and culture of 1940s-1960s, in particular the protest literature of the period. Based on this research, she is working on a book about African-American author Chester Himes titled, One Jump Ahead of Disaster: The Politics of Race, Interracial Sex, and Literary Style in Chester Himes’s Writing.

She is also a translator of contemporary Greek fiction and poetry. Her book-length translations include Their Smell Makes Me Want to Cry by Menis Koumandareas (co-translated with Vangelis Calotychos; Birmingham University Press, 2004); Elias Maglinis’s The Interrogation (Birmingham University Press, 2013) for which she was awarded the 2013 MGSA Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize and short-listed for the 2014 Greek National Translation Award; Tatiana Averoff's, Portrait of the Politician as a Young Man (Peter Lang, 2018); M. Karagatsis's The Great Chimera (Aiora, 2019); and, most recently, Amanda Michalopoulou's God's Wife (Dalkey Archive, 2019).

Alice Geoffrey

Coordinator & Administrative Assitant

401-277- 4946

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.

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.

Christopher Roberts

2019-21 SEI Research Fellow


Christopher Roberts earned a PhD in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University, and an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. He examines Black geographies of memory and forgetting, with an emphasis on port cities in the United States that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades. His current manuscript project proposes an alternative episteme through which we can unsettle the antiblackness and geographic imperialism inherent in the monumental landscape of the United States via robust archival, field, and digital humanities research that analyzes Confederate monuments and African burial grounds in the U.S. American South. Prior to teaching at RISD, he taught at Brown University, where he was the Artemis A.W. and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow at The Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Before that, he taught at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey and Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In addition to his career in academia, he spent ten years as a museum professional working in educational programming and tour design at The Betti Ono Gallery in Oakland, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. While in Oakland, he worked as a Poet Mentor in Bay Area public schools for the organization Youth Speaks Inc. He has also worked as a spoken word artist, having performed his poetry in cities across the United States, and from 2007 - 2011 he hosted an open-mic poetry event in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.

Rene Payne

2019-20 Diversity Fellow


Rene Payne 83 GD, is contributing her wide-ranging talents as a Diversity Fellow by supporting a number of Social Equity and Inclusion initiatives at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She has designed and directed for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Series developing collateral and creative extensions honoring world-renowned artists and activists, and chairing this year’s MLK20 event with Michelle Alexander. Her book designed for the longstanding  RISDiversity Community Narratives Project received a Gold Award from Graphis Design in 2018. Recently she helped establish and curate the Abled Differently exhibition and website generating a fundamental dialogue about the perspectives and experiences of RISD community members living with different physical, mental, cognitive learning, or chronic health disabilities. For two years she taught the Wintersession course Art for Social Change in partnership with social justice organization Sankofa.org, preparing RISD students for framing and producing work that incorporates personal perspectives tied to social cause.

In addition to her work at RISD, she is the founder and director of graphic design firm FAVOR. She has worked in the field of design for more than 25 years, holding creative and executive positions at leading in-house design groups such as Heller Breene, Cipriani Kremer Design, and Arnold Worldwide. Recognizing the urgent need within the corporate and institutional sectors to make substantial and sustainable social progress, Payne has experience in productive client relationships, award-winning creativity in design and visual communications, and lived experience in breaking down antiquated barriers and forging strong alliances.


Institutional Partners


Office of Intercultural Student Engagement
Center for Arts and Language
RISD Global
RISD Museum