Liberal Arts Division

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History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences

An interdisciplinary liberal arts department, History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS) offers a wide variety of courses on the nature of human life – past and present – in its psychological, social, political, intellectual, philosophical and cultural contexts and manifestations. Courses in Western and world history, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, political science, sociology, religion and American and cultural studies are designed to help students broaden their knowledge while developing stronger critical thinking, reading and writing skills.

RISD’s Kyobo Fund supports the development of innovative new courses that are team-taught by liberal arts and studio faculty. As a result, HPSS continues to offer an ever-evolving array of interesting interdisciplinary courses such as The Art of Scientific Communication (with Illustration), The Witness Tree Project (with Furniture Design), Aqua Incognita (with Photography), Representing the “Real” (with FAV) and Producing Meaning: Theories of Technology Since 1850 (with Architecture).

HPSS also offers a growing curriculum of science courses available as Liberal Arts electives. Developed for art and design students interested in biology, ecology, cognitive science, mathematics, physics, geology and the natural world in general, each course emphasizes science literacy and encourages connections to studio work where possible. Increasing numbers of students now welcome classes such as Concepts of Math for the Visual Artist, Investigating the Botanical World, Urban Ecology and Visual Perception.

Students who wish to focus their Liberal Arts study in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences may opt to complete a concentration.


Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino
Department Head
401 454-6693

Lindsay French
Concentration Coordinator
401 454-6643

Lucy Spelman
Science Assistant