School of the Art Institute of Chicago Announces Jiseon Lee Isbara as Next President

Jiseon Lee Isbara currently serves as provost of Otis College of Art and Design and will be the second woman to serve as president in SAIC’s 158-year history

CHICAGO, Feb. 16, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), a leader in art and design education, today announced Jiseon Lee Isbara as the School’s next president, completing a successful national search. Jiseon, who currently serves as the provost of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, will step into the role that will be vacated by Elissa Tenny upon her retirement.

Jiseon, the second woman to serve as president in SAIC’s 158-year history, comes to the School with extensive experience in higher education and the arts. During her tenure at Otis College of Art and Design, she led the implementation of a five-year strategic plan which resulted in substantive changes at the school, including enrollment growth, a curricular revision to better align pedagogy with student mental health and career preparedness, and a strengthening of the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion infrastructure.

“SAIC is composed of a community of diverse people, philosophies, pedagogies, and goals, and I am honored to serve as the School’s next president,” said Jiseon. “I will work tirelessly to advocate for our students’ futures and celebrate the talents that SAIC’s staff and faculty have nurtured, strengthening the School’s remarkable global community that makes a difference in art and design, education, and beyond.”

Previously, she served in several roles at Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC), including as interim president, dean of academic affairs and chief academic officer, and head of the Fibers Department. She also taught as a faculty member during her 16-year tenure. In each of her roles, she has shown a deep understanding of the innovations and evolutions driving effective teaching and learning. At both OCAC and Otis, she navigated challenges with poise and empathy, demonstrating a clear ability to bring people together to drive meaningful change.

“I am so thrilled that Jiseon will serve as the next president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,” said Board of Trustees Chair Denise B. Gardner. “Given her record of bold leadership and deep commitment to creative communities, I have no doubt she will continue SAIC’s legacy as one of the world’s top art and design colleges. I look forward to working alongside her in service of the School’s artists, designers, and scholars.”

As a practicing artist herself, Jiseon understands firsthand the power and importance of an art and design education. She earned a master of fine arts degree from Colorado State University and a master of fine arts and bachelor of fine arts degree from Ewha Womans University in Seoul, where she was born and raised. Her textile work, which addresses the complexity of current cultural discourse through the lens of her experience as an immigrant of color, has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

“SAIC is an exceptional place deserving of an exceptional leader, and I am certain we’ve found one in Jiseon,” said Board of Governors Chair David J. Vitale. “With her robust experience at Otis College of Art and Design and the Oregon College of Art and Craft, and her emphasis on student success and culturally responsive pedagogy, she’s demonstrated that she has the skills and vision to guide SAIC through its next chapter.”

Jiseon will bring a significant record of bold and courageous leadership, administrative and financial acumen, and managerial skill to SAIC.

“Throughout the search process, I was consistently impressed by Jiseon’s passion, dedication, and creativity as both a leader in higher education and as an artist,” said Presidential Search Committee Chair Anita K. Sinha. “Jiseon is going to be a voice for the future of art education, and I am excited to see the many ways in which she’ll enrich our incredible community of students, faculty, and staff.”

The appointment of Jiseon concludes a nearly year-long national search process at a time where the School is poised to build on the momentum generated by current President Elissa Tenny. After seven years of Tenny’s transformative leadership as president, the School is well-positioned to continue to remove barriers to accessing an art and design education; foster an equitable, just environment where the voices of all students, faculty, and staff are valued and respected; and prepare students for life after SAIC. Jiseon’s term will begin July 16.

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About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
For more than 155 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world, and adults, teens, and kids in our Continuing Studies classes have the opportunity to explore their creative sides, build portfolios, and advance their skills. Notable alums and faculty include Georgia O’Keeffe, Nick Cave, David Sedaris, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Cynthia Rowley, Michelle Grabner, Richard Hunt, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Jeff Koons.

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SOURCE School of the Art Institute of Chicago