Message from the President: Anticipating My Retirement

President Elissa Tenny

President Elissa Tenny

Dear School Community,

Founded by 35 artists 157 years ago, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has long been a home for generations of artists, designers, and scholars of critical insight and compassionate engagement. Since 2010, it has also been a home for me. Today, after a career in higher education of more than 45 years, I write to share that I will retire at the end of the 2023–24 academic year. I do so with enthusiasm for all you have done to shape the remarkable legacy that you, and I, and so many before us, share. SAIC is a remarkable ecosystem of overlapping communities and friendships, ideas and artworks, teaching, and learning. Here, we prioritize experimenting across disciplines, art making that resonates beyond the studio and classroom, and empowering students to determine their own curricular horizons. This environment has led us to do many wonderful things together.

Since beginning as provost, and since 2016 as president, I have seen so many at SAIC contribute to making our School more responsive to today’s challenges and exemplify an art and design college for tomorrow. Through two strategic plans, countless improvement initiatives, curricular innovations, and fundraising efforts, many have worked to craft a more supportive student experience and reshape how faculty and staff connect with the organization. Together we have built an academic spine; expanded health and disability services for students; brought visibility and support to growing cohorts, such as first-generation students; expanded belonging through dozens of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; inaugurated a center for teaching and learning; completed major fundraising initiatives for faculty support and student scholarship; taken significant action to reduce the cost of education, even freezing tuition twice; and weathered the pandemic’s many unprecedented challenges. These are just some of the projects in which I am honored to have played a role alongside you, and I am so thankful for the collaboration with students, alums, staff, faculty, board members, and supporters who have embraced my contributions to the School, sharpened our work with constructive critique, and envisioned a college awake to enough dreams for—at least—another century and a half.

But our work is not done, yet. Not nearly. I look forward to my remaining 16 months as the School’s president, continuing to work with you on projects like these, and celebrating your ongoing creation, achievement, and growth. As we do so, we are not only animating the inheritance of those SAIC artists, designers, and scholars who have preceded us, we are handing down—to all the students, faculty, staff, and alums who will continue to enrich our School for generations to come—an SAIC tradition: to take their talents and make their School, and their shared society, better. I am proud to share this legacy with you.

Gratefully yours,

Elissa Tenny