Class III: 2014 – 2015


Welcome to Project Thrive: Class III’s yearbook page! We had an amazing time with the third year of our mentoring program! We invite you to learn more about the changes to this year and the magnificent people – both mentors and mentees – that made this year so special. Below you can find excerpts from our annual report, a list of mentors, and past events. We had so many amazing students in the program this year. ISE is pleased at the preparation that Project Thrive has provided students so that they can be successful and get the most out of their time at RISD.

Annual Summary

The following outlines the implementation and assessment of the third year of the ISE Mentoring Program, officially named Project Thrive. The program sought to impact the academic transition and cultural success of first-year, underrepresented students at RISD. The program continues to experience rapid growth and overall outstanding success. Enrollment exceeded expectations beyond those that initially took into account an expected increase. The program ended up serving a total of 21 students, supported by 23 staff, faculty and alumni mentors from across the institution. The Office of Intercultural Student Engage is immensely grateful for the many colleagues that offered their time and expertise to serve as mentors to the program. This program would not be possible without them and much of the “magic” that transpires is a result of their commitment to the mentoring relationship.

One of the most significant improvements this year for Class III, was the introduction of Study Group model for our programming series. This new model provided a more streamlined approach to programming and provided participants with a consistent, bi-weekly programming structure that addressed a pre-determined set of skills/topics while providing intentional moments for community building and peer supported study/project time. The new model was highly successful.

This year also saw a marked improvement in our application and selection process with the implementation of the College Student Inventory (CSI). As part of their application process, registrants were required to complete a CSI which provide ISE staff with vital data from each student that allowed us to make informed decisions on who we would accept this year into the program. This was also a first for us in selecting our cohort as we had previously accepted all who applied in years past. We have witnessed that our selection proved to be an accurate assessment of who truly needed the program.

We had another magical year and those that participated in the program, largely found the experience to be worthy, important and transformative. We have some incredible people at RISD who serve as our mentors and I have witnessed first-hand some of the very best mentoring going on. ISE was able to see observable success this year in our students and we have the data to back that claim up, thanks to the pre and post CSI. We have an ambition amount of recommendations for next year (see last section) and are looking forward to Class IV!

Program Design

Overview and Outcomes

The Rhode Island School of Design’s mentoring program was designed and implemented by the Office of Intercultural Student Engagement (ISE). The program is designed to engage and connect incoming first-year and underrepresented students to the RISD community, both academically and socially. While RISD remains the premier art and design school in the United States, ISE wishes to make sure that all students who are accepted and wish to learn here have a positive and impactful experience that facilitates a transformative education.

Project Thrive has been designed to provide students with a two-pronged approach to supporting their needs. The first is the pairing of each student with a mentor for the duration of the program. A mentor in the program could be a member of the RISD faculty/staff or an alumnus. Pairing each student with a mentor allows for the student to receive individualized attention and one-on-one support. The second part of the program is the creation of a skills development and cultural/community-building programming series. ISE has identified the most common struggles that underrepresented students at RISD face during their transition to college. The programming series allows for skill development and confidence building within these areas through a fun, casual, and inviting medium.

Having Project Thrive allows the institution to be pro-active in supporting the students that bring diversity to our campus – diversity that we strongly value. Rather than continually being reactive – sometimes when it may be too late – we are helping RISD to affirm its commitment to the inclusion and success of all students who choose to learn at this institution.

Program Organization

Project Thrive had the following organization and mentoring staff to ensure its proper functioning, maintenance of records, and superb services:

Christopher R. Lauth, Assistant Director of Diversity Programs: This professional staff position within ISE will serve as the point person for all inquiries regarding the mentoring program in general. This position also directly oversees Project Thrive. Any additional resources or other needs of support by the mentors may contact this person for assistance.

phone: 401.277.4867 | email:

Michael Cooley & Diego Fernandez, Programming Coordinators: The programming coordinators in ISE will assist the assistant director in producing all of the programs in the programming series. These are two student staff positions that work 6 hours/week.

phone: 401.277.4957 | email:

Tony Johnson, Director of ISE: The Director of ISE also remains actively involved in the mentoring program and may also be contacted for additional support/assistance phone: 401.454.6638 | email:

Program Structure

The mentoring program for the 2014-15 academic year will run from September – February, including the fall semester and winter session.



Each student who participated in the mentoring program was paired with a mentor, which could have been a member of the RISD, faculty, staff or alumni. Mentors and mentees were appropriately matched by ISE using data from both the mentee registration form and the mentor application. Additionally, this year ISE implemented the College Student Inventory (CSI) report, which provided additional information on student readiness to college and past academic and demographic information. The utilization of this survey provided greater information about students when determining mentoring assignments. ISE left the scheduling of mentoring meetings up to the mentor/mentee to find times and locations that was suitable for their needs. ISE strongly recommended that these meetings be arranged on a bi-weekly (every other week) basis. We felt that for the majority of students, this was the appropriate amount of contact.

Mentor/Mentee Selection and Pairing Process

To enroll in the program, students had to fill out the College Student Inventory (CSI) report and an online enrollment form that featured a series of questions that asked about their personality, work style, their feelings regarding starting college and some of their personal interests and hobbies. These questions aided us in pairing them with mentors who also had to fill out a similar questionnaire when they formally volunteered to serve as a mentor in the program. The Assistant Director and the Project Thrive Coordinator reviewed the forms and paired students based on their review and recommendations. Nearly 80% of participants in the program (mentors and mentees) reported that they were pleased with their pairing.

2014 – 15 Mentors (21 Total)

  • Staff: 76% (includes curators, student affairs, executive level staff, and academic technicians)

  • Faculty: 19% (includes solely academic support staff)

  • Alumni: 5%

Chris Lauth, Assistant Director, Diversity Programs

Gina Borromeo, Curator, Ancient Art

Kate Sacco, Associate Director, International Student Services

Dean Abanilla*, Computer Laboratory Technician, Continuing Ed

Sydney Lake, Area Coordinator, 15 West

Jennifer Liese, Director, Writing Center

Anthony Johnson, Director, ISE

Emma Hogarth, Critic, Foundation Studies

Susan Andersen, Associate Director, Career Center

Kim Almeida, Administrative Assistant, CSI

Scott Malloy, Career Advisor, Career Center

Virginia Dunleavy, Director, Dining and Retail

Lindsay French, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Don Morton, Director, CSI

Jan Howard, Curatorial Chair and Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Phil Oliveira, Coordinator, Student Conduct

McDonald Wright, Technical Assistant, Foundations Studies

Jonathan Highfield, Professor, Literary Arts

Denise Siomkin, Executive Assistant, Finance, and Administration

Mark Guarraia, Alumnus, Industrial Design

*Mentors who were placed on the alternate/reserve list either because mentee withdrew from program early on, or never attended from the start, or requested a new mentor assignment.


At the beginning of the year, ISE arranged a formal reception as the official start of the program where the new mentoring cohort could all come together and meet their mentor/mentee for the first time. Additionally, they learned more about the structure of the program and met the ISE mentoring program staff. Prior to this event, ISE also hosted a newly designed mentor orientation, which provided additional resources to mentors and answered any questions they might have had from the start. The orientation session was increased this year from one hour, to an hour and half. Included in the training was a session from Jennifer Howley, Assistant Director of Risk, Emergency and Property Management, to talk about risk management and personal liability for mentors in their activities with students, particularly off campus. This proved to be a successful model for training and the mentors appreciated the additional materials that were covered. We will continue to only offer one session moving to conserve budgetary resources.

Throughout the program, ISE hosted a programming series that featured primarily social and cultural events that fostered community building. Additional programs were offered through collaboration with CSI’s RISD 360 events that featured tailored workshops to facilitate skill development of the new students as they transitioned to college. This provided students with fun, engaging and thoughtful events to attend that not only fostered skill development, but also allowed for students to meet new people, make meaningful connections with their peers and other on-campus personnel. It also allowed them an opportunity for a well-deserved break from the daily grind of rigorous academics. The areas of skill development and awareness that the programming series sought to address included, but were not limited to the following:

  • Budgeting/Financial Aid

  • Campus Resources/Navigating College

  • Wellness (Mental, Physical, Spiritual)

  • Cultural Success/Community

  • LGBTQ Awareness

  • Cultural/Identity Expression

  • Academic Success

  • Social Pressure

  • Spiritual/Religious Awareness, Growth & Continuing Practice at College

  • Self-Advocacy

  • Professional Etiquette

  • Time Management

  • Final Project Success

Attendance to the programs by the mentees was expected and optional for mentors. Preliminary data and a lack of attendance to programs offered as part of RISD 360 prompted a strong review of this collaboration. While attendance to RISD 360 by Project Thrive students increased from last year, there is still concern over the depth and perspective these programs are in reaching and addressing the needs of our students in the program. Students in Project Thrive were still not regularly attending RISD 360 programs. Based on data from student evaluations, these programs assist them in building community and addressing important issues that are integral to their transition to college success.  Project Thrive programs that were part of the series are included below:

2014-15 Mentoring Program Series

(Includes Project Thrive Study Group Series, RISD 360 and general structural/social programs)

  • Meet N’ Greet w/ Jamie Washington – As part of an incentive and special privilege for mentees, we tried to obtain the mentees exclusive access with popular speakers that visit campus from time to time. This event provided a “backstage pass” to Jamie Washington and also served as the mentee orientation. (16 attended)

  • Opening Reception – This event served as the official start of Project Thrive for the new cohort of students. This year we had about 50 students, faculty, staff and Project Thrive alumni present to kick off the program. The evening featured a formal dinner and entertainment by performer Len Cabral. Additionally, Project Thrive alumni spoke to incoming students about their experiences in Project Thrive in past cohorts. The event took place at the beautiful Providence Biltmore Grand Ballroom. (38 attended)

  • Fall Outing, Waterfire! – The Project Thrive Programming Coordinators took mentees on a trip downtown to see a Providence tradition – a full lighting Waterfire. In addition, students got to enjoy some of their favorite street foods. (10 attended)

  • Skill Development: Crit Talk (RISD 360)* – Students learned more about the critique process at RISD and how to get the most out of it. (25 attended)


  • Study Group #1: Starting College – Students attended their first Study Group, this topic focused on starting college, learning how to navigate the campus and what to expect from their first semester classes and living in the freshman quad. (14 attended)

  • Project Thrive Retreat – We took students to the RISD Farm in Tillinghast to provide a truly relaxing retreat space. Students learned more about RISD, identity development, and what they would like to see out of their Project Thrive mentoring community. Students also received and reviewed the results of the CSI report. (3 attended)

  • Skill Development: Time Management (RISD 360)* – Students learned how to improve their time through information and exercises. (10 attended)

  • Study Group #2: Cultural Adjustment – Student learned about how some aspects of their identity may present themselves as obstacles to full engagement with RISD’s campus. (8 attended)

  • Skill Development: Budgeting & Financial Aid (RISD 360)* –Students learned about financial aid from the Director of Financial AID at RISD, along with various institutional scholarships that are available. Little if anything was discussed about how to budget. (12 attended)

  • Skill Development: Class Registration Party (RISD 360)* – Students learned how to select courses for winter session registration using web advisor. (12 attended)

  • Study Group #3: Social Pressure & Work/Life Balance – Students identified social pressures that they receive on campus at RISD and ways to deal with those in a healthy manner along with maintaining a good work/life balance (14 attended)

  • Study Group #4: Professional Etiquette – Students learned the basics of professional etiquette which included: different levels of professional dress, email etiquette, the art of networking, banquet dining and the art of small talk. (7 attended)

  • Study Group #5: Finals Preparation – Students took time to learn how to adequately prepare for finals and manage time to effectively finish final projects. It also helped students generally manage end of the semester stress and going home for the holidays. (2 attended)

  • Study Group #6: Making the Most out of Winter Session – Mentees enjoyed a guest presentation by Andy Jacques, Assistant Director of Leadership Programs to learn about all that RISD has to offer in regards to co-curricular activities, student club/organizations, and community service. (14 attended)

  • Ice Skating* – Mentees and mentors were invited for a night of ice skating and hot chocolate at the Bank Of America rink downtown. (19 attended)

  • MLK Celebration Series 2015* – Mentees were strongly encouraged to attend all of the festivities that were a part of the MLK celebration series; a large number of our mentees attended the opening reception which featured a community dinner and gospel performance. (15 mentees attended opening)

  • Closing Celebration – This program marked the formal end to our program and a celebration of the mentees’ successful completion of their first year at RISD. All faculty staff, students and alumni, had a good time. The program featured crepes made to order, a letter writing activity, clay sculpturing and an activity called “Community Web” that allowed people to share one thing they most appreciated that someone else in the program did for them (20 attended)



*Collaborated with other campus departments.

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