Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab

Job Details

Job Summary

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) seeks a Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab to join Research & Strategic Partnerships working to sustain the school’s culture of inquiry by offering a platform for research initiatives, providing opportunities for programming, training, and publication, and encouraging collaboration among students and faculty.

The Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab implements the mission of the Nature Lab in alignment with the Academic Affairs portfolio and under supervision and guidance from the Vice Provost for Strategic Partnerships. The incumbent provides intellectual leadership that connects art, design, and scholarship to RISD’s strategic goal: to offer significant contributions to sustainability innovation. The Director conducts this work in partnership with academic Divisions, faculty, other RISD research groups and by means of facilities which include a biodesign makerspace, a natural history collection with over 100,000 specimens, advanced microscopes, and imaging systems. Outside partners, both local and international, collaborate with Nature Lab staff, associated faculty, and projects to investigate ethical, sustainable modes of making informed by natural systems and designed to benefit the environment.

We seek a culturally competent candidate who will thrive in a campus environment that is committed to advancing the principles of social equity and inclusion, environmental and climate justice, and equal access to resources and opportunities.

Requires Strategic Planning

The Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Director will be responsible for working with the academic leadership to develop a strategic plan for the Nature Lab going forward. In this capacity, the Director will be responsible for budget management as well as budget modeling. This includes collaboration with various RISD offices such as Institutional Advancement, Strategic Partnerships, and RISD Research to continue to foster external funding sources that support the Lab. Existing revenue sources include significant donor contributions that support the endowed Director position, grants programs, corporate partnerships, institutional partnerships, and government funders.

Oversees the Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Innovation Fund

In partnership with the Provost and Vice Provost Strategic Partnerships, the Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Innovation Fund supports grants to faculty and students engaged in research using the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab, equipment for the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab, and for student experiences facilitated and/or managed by the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab.

Manages People

The Director is responsible for overseeing the Lab operations which includes 15 full and part time staff members and 35 student workers annually. The Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91), Nature Lab hires, trains, professionally develops and supervises Nature Lab staff, consultants, volunteers, and student employees in order to successfully deliver on short and long-term goals and strategic plans.

Manages a Facility

In addition to the Nature Lab staff, the Director is responsible for the collection (including live specimens), equipment, and a biodesign makerspace. Develop and maintain environmental health and safety and security policies, in alignment with the College’s EHS policies.

Oversees Quality Curriculum

While the Director may be involved in presentations, lectures, and supporting curricular activities, educational activities are conducted by staff, visiting lecturers, and RISD faculty with the Director overseeing curricular quality, alignment with new strategic developments, and connection to academic departments.

Demonstrates area expertise

The Director must have appropriate content expertise and may be called on to present at national or international conferences; to corporate audiences; or to potential funding partners or sources.

Must work successfully within the Rhode Island network

As a result of RISD’s position in the Rhode Island community, the Director is expected to collaborate with science, biology and ecological experts at URI and Brown University - institutions that have long partnered with RISD to further developments in Rhode Island and in research in general.

Must manage budgets, apply for grants, and collaborate with RISD offices for external funding

The Director will write grants and perform grant research and activities, including budget creation and management. The incumbent will develop and manage the Nature Lab budget; participate in fundraising and institutional engagement efforts; and create and lead programming for strategic partnerships with outside organizations. This role will also build and foster positive relationships with the members of our diverse community and engage with other RISD Offices, such as Continuing Education, Expanded Education and Research, for which the Nature Lab also provides material and instructional resources.

Essential Functions:

Administrative Oversight and Staff Management
  • With a firm understanding of RISD workforce and fiscal management systems, prepare and monitor operating, discretionary, and grant budgets; approve and track expenditures in alignment with income and spending projections; hire, train and supervise new staff as required; provide thoughtful direction and support for staff and ensure that realistic goals and work plans for the Academic Year are developed and met.

Operations Leadership
  • Develop and maintain the Nature Lab as a dynamic research and teaching resource. Supervise the ongoing care and availability of the collection and support materials. Acquire new specimens as needed; maintain federal and state permits and collecting licenses in good standing. Direct and oversee accessions and de-accessions (sales, exchanges, and transfers) in accordance with federal and state law. Ensure that care programs are implemented to maintain the inanimate collection in good condition and order and animate specimens are treated humanely. Monitor inventories of objects in the collection and advance systems for circulation and tracking; oversee the proper storage of all objects to ensure safety and accessibility. Supervise and direct the staff in an ongoing program of maintenance and improvement of the Nature Lab’s technical and imaging resources. Oversee scheduling of the Nature Lab spaces to maximize utilization by classes, individual students, and faculty. Maintain borrowing records of audio-visual, photographic and other equipment available in the Nature Lab.

Education and Research
  • With a keen understanding of Nature Lab vision and mission, proactively engage with the Vice Provost and faculty to determine programmatic, curricular and research priorities. Ensure that commitments for existing externally-funded projects are completed and reporting and compliance for federal and state grants meet established deadlines. Seek out connections between science sustainability and art|design, pursue mission-aligned grants and perform grant activity that will support innovative opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

  • Cultivate and maintain contacts with scientists, artists, designers, curators associated with other, similar collections, research activity and educational research centers. Serve as liaison between the Nature Lab and the RISD academic program as appropriate. Continue to conduct some of their own research to further sustainability innovation.

Institutional Support
  • Partner with Institutional Advancement to cultivate and solicit potential donors to the Nature Lab and RISD. Partner with Strategic Partnerships to cultivate potential contract engagement with outside organizations. Utilizes strong communication and marketing skills, broadens awareness of the Lab and its initiatives through the office of RISD Media and oversees external communications through the Nature Lab’s own media platforms.

Required Knowledge/Skills/Experience
  • Demonstrated experience crafting science and sustainability content for art|design integration in coursework, activities and programming.

  • Experience developing and maintaining strategic, high-level relationships with corporate leaders, federal agency program directors, donors, and senior college leadership

  • Excellent digital imaging and visualization skills related to scientific imaging.

  • Excellent writing and communications skills including the ability to effectively communicate with a wide range of external and internal constituents

  • Demonstrated experience with federal grants and communicating with federal agencies (specifically National Science Foundation) as well as grants management skills.

  • Experience working effectively in a fast-paced environment and producing results under deadlines

  • Demonstrated collaborative and teamwork approach.

  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills required.

  • Computer skills, including MS Office Suite.

  • Demonstrated success in working with college students, youth programs, and adult continuing study programs.

  • Demonstrated experience with complex budget management including multiple sources

  • Ability to collaborate and engage with others who are different from themselves in meaningful ways through interactions characterized by reciprocity, mutual understanding and respect.

  • Demonstrated cultural competence and ability to exhibit and advance principles of social equity and inclusion, environmental and climate justice, and equal access to resources and opportunities.

  • Doctorate degree or equivalent combination of education or experience in a science, environmental studies, or related discipline, preferably with field work, or related experience required.

  • Minimum of ten years combined experience in educational programming or teaching, with at least two to three years’ experience in leadership and management.

Preferred Qualifications:
  • Museum experience with experience in preparation, maintenance and display of natural specimens, including live plants and animals.



Work Schedule:

35 hours per week; 12 months per year

Employment Status:

Full-time; Exempt; Regular



Work Modality


Documents Needed to Apply:

Resume (Required)

Cover Letter (Required)

Salary Grade Structure

Incomplete applications will not be considered. Please upload all required documents.

The successful candidate will be required to meet our pre-employment background screening requirements.

RISD recognizes diversity and inclusivity as fundamental to its learning community and integral to an art and design education. We welcome candidates whose experience has prepared them to contribute to our commitment to diversity and excellence. RISD is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Employment decisions are made without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetics, or any other protected characteristic as established by law.

For internal use only - Job Family:

Nature Lab



RISD is a college and museum founded in 1877 in Providence, RI. Today 2,620 students engage in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, supported by a committed faculty and worldwide network of more than 31,000 alumni.

By cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD equips artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world.

Get job alerts

Create a job alert and receive personalized job recommendations straight to your inbox.

Create alert