Class IV: 2015 – 2016


Welcome to Project Thrive: Class IV’s yearbook page! We had an amazing time with the fifth 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

During the 2015-16 academic year, the program connected a selected 21 incoming first-year students and mentors from across the RISD campus. A programming series focused primarily on first-year skill development, social/cultural events and community building. The students enjoyed a one-on-one relationship with their mentor and often times would be out doing such as activities such as grabbing coffee at a local cafe, dining out in Providence, exploring local museums and even going apple picking! The mentoring relationships were dynamic and met the needs of the both student and the mentee. Some were very professional, while others quite casual. Through assessment and feedback, we are very proud of the positive impact this program is having on not only our students, but our community at large.

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:

Tony Johnson, Director


Christopher R. Lauth, Assistant Director of Diversity Programs

Emma Montague, Administrative & Programming Coordinator


Michelle Zhuang, Programming Coordinator

Program Structure

The mentoring program for the 2015-16 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. 

2015 – 16 Mentors (23 Total)
  • Staff: 87% (includes curators, student affairs, executive level staff, and academic technicians)

  • Faculty: 9% (includes solely academic support staff)

  • Alumni: 4%

Julie Talbutt, Associate Director, Student Affairs
Denise Siomkin, Executive Assistant, Finance, and Administration

Mark Pompelia, Visual & Material Resource Librarian *
Emma Montague, Administrative Coordinator, ISE
Gina Borromeo, Curator, Ancient Art
McDonald Wright, Technical Assistant, Foundations Studies

Chris Lauth, Assistant Director, Diversity Programs

Kate Sacco, Associate Director, International Student Services
Jan Howard, Curatorial Chair and Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Anthony Johnson, Director, ISE

Ashley Malenfant, Area Coordinator, 15 West
Sydney Lake, Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students

Alan Tracy, Communications and Program Coordinator, Career Center *
Kim Almeida, Administrative Assistant, CSI
Michelle Zhuang, BFA Illustration ‘17

Ned Draper, Director, Academic Budgets & Facilities Planning

Barbara Kluesner, International Student Advisor *

Karen Harris, Internship Manager, Career Center

Susan Andersen, Associate Director, Career Center

Emma Hogarth, Critic, Foundation Studies*

Virginia Dunleavy, Director, Dining and Retail

Ingrid Neuman, Conservator, Museum*

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:

2015-16 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. (14 attended)

  • Waterfire & Tour of Providence – 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. (20 attended)

  • Welcome Dinner - 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. 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. (55 attended)

  • Project Thrive Retreat – 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. (11 attended)

  • Current Student Panel Q&A- Various Project Thrive alumni came to talk about their experiences as a freshman and answered questions. (7 attended)

  • Time Management-  Brittany Goodwin presented strategies on how to manage social and work life. (5 attended)

  • Study Group I: Homesickness & Personal Well Being – Discussion on what we missed the most from home, and how to best manage mental wellbeing while at RISD. (9 Attended)

  • Study Group II: Writing Center - Meredith Barrett came from the Writing Center to talk about strategies for essay writing and what students can find in the center. (9 Attended)

  • Financial Workshop - Karriem Kanston presented different apps and strategies for budgeting/jobs/etc. (3 attended)

  • Study Group III: Social Pressure & Work/Life Balance/Cultural Adjustment - Andy Jacques came to present on community service, and we went over how to manage your social and work life. (6 Attended)

  • Royal Treatment (Part of Finals Destination) – Massages, Aromatherapy (4 attended)

  • Group Ice-Skating! College Night - Students brought their friends and Dunkin Donuts was provided. (22 Attended)

  • MLK Celebration Series 2016* – 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.

  • 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 (25 attended)



*Collaborated with other campus departments.

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