James Haywood Rolling Jr. A’88

Running for: Council

Campaign Statement and Biography

As a recipient of the Cooper Union Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Service to the School upon his graduation from the School of Art in 1988, James Rolling’s commitment to the principle of service remains unquestioned. James is Dual Professor of Arts Education and Teaching & Leadership in the Syracuse University’s College of Visual & Performing Arts (VPA) and School of Education, and he has served as Chair of the university’s Arts Education programs since 2007. Rolling is also an affiliated faculty member in African American Studies. From 2018 to 2020, Rolling was appointed to serve as the inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for VPA. Dr. Rolling will begin his elected term of office as the 37th President of the National Art Education Association (NAEA) in 2021. At the start of 2021, Dr. Rolling will also add two other new roles to the gauntlet of creative leadership responsibilities he is honored to wear—as the new Co-Director of The Lender Center for Social Justice at Syracuse University, and as a new member of the Board of Trustees at the Everson Museum of Art.

Nationally, Dr. Rolling continues to champion the cause of achieving greater diversity throughout the visual arts fields as the inaugural Chair of the NAEA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission, overseeing the dedicated work of 11 commissioners from around the nation representing various arts and museum education related fields. Dr. Rolling’s initial service on the Board of Directors of NAEA was as the association’s Higher Education Division Director from 2011-2013. Rolling’s record of professional contributions is highlighted by his recognition as the 2014 recipient of the National Higher Education Art Educator Award for outstanding service and achievement of national significance; his work from 2015-2017 as Senior Editor of Art Education, a bi-monthly research journal for arts education practitioners; and his induction as part of the 2017 class of NAEA Distinguished Fellows in recognition of a career of exemplary accomplishment in research, scholarship, teaching, and leadership in the field.

In his earlier education, Rolling earned an MFA in studio arts research from the Experimental Studios department that once existed at Syracuse University, having earned a fully funded Graduate Fellowship in the Department of African American Studies. Rolling completed his doctoral studies in art education in 2003 under the mentorship of Drs. Graeme Sullivan and Judith Burton at Teachers College, Columbia University. As the coordinator for K-12 New York State art teacher education programs at Syracuse University, Rolling has actively worked to reconceptualize of the arts education discipline as a natural nexus of interdisciplinary scholarship where visual art, design, STEAM, and other media arts practices emerge as an avenue for social responsibility. As a visual artist, Rolling focuses on mixed-media explorations and portraiture of the human condition, viewing studio arts practices as an essential form of social research. As a researcher, Rolling is devoted to telling the story of how human beings creatively constitute, shape, and reinterpret personal and collective identity.

Rolling is the author of Swarm Intelligence: What Nature Teaches Us About Shaping Creative Leadership, a surprising look at the social origins of creativity (Palgrave Macmillan); the Arts-based Research Primer (Peter Lang); Cinderella Story: A Scholarly Sketchbook About Race, Identity, Barack Obama, the Human Spirit, and Other Stuff That Matters (AltaMira Press) and Come Look With Me: Discovering African American Art for Children (Charlesbridge); in addition to more than 35 peer-reviewed articles and commentaries, fourteen book chapters, and five encyclopedia entries on the subjects of the arts, education, creativity, and human identity. In 2020, Rolling published Growing Up Ugly: Memoirs of a Black Boy Daydreaming (Simple Word Publications), an inspirational coming-of-age narrative tracing his emergence as a painfully shy child raised in a struggling inner-city New York neighborhood who learned to rewrite the trajectory of his life story through the development of his own creative superpowers.

James will bring a unique perspective to his service to the various stakeholders at the Cooper Union, not only being a first-generation college graduate himself, but having worked professionally with children and families as a New York State certified K-12 educator; having worked professionally in the nuts and bolts arena of higher education administration; and currently working alongside diverse faculty colleagues as a tenured, full Professor at a major research university.