Headshot of Elissa Tenny

Elissa Tenny was named president in July 2016, becoming the 15th executive and first woman to lead the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in its more than 150-year history. A career-long proponent of art and design education and the liberal arts, Tenny is an advocate of interdisciplinary practice; diversity, equity, and inclusion in college and throughout society; and the global citizenship role artists, designers, and scholars fulfill, influencing the world at large.

While at SAIC, Tenny has had broad responsibility for overseeing the School’s world-renowned academic programs, strategic direction, and operations across all facets of the institution. During her tenure, the School completed its first-ever major fundraising campaign at 110 percent of goal. She implemented one strategic plan — which increased student support, developed diversity initiatives, and created organizational efficiencies — and initiated another, which is ongoing. Opportunities for research have increased under Tenny’s leadership, and she personally served as principal investigator for Spencer Foundation-funded research projects involving six Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) schools. Throughout, she has remained a leader in the field, having contributed to AICAD and National Association of Schools of Art and Design conferences, delivered the keynote address at the 40th anniversary celebration for The New School’s School of Media Studies, been named a notable woman in both education and as an executive by Crain’s Chicago Business, and ranked sixth on Newcity’s list of Chicago notables, Art 50 2017: Who Makes Art Work.”

Tenny came to SAIC in 2010 to serve as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. Prior to that, she served as provost and dean at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, from 2002-10. Tenny also served in a variety of roles at The New School in New York City from 1975 to 2002, eventually holding the positions of acting dean (1998 – 2001) and vice dean (2001 – 02). Tenny holds a Doctor of Education from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School, and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Stockton University.