Isbara To Succeed Tenny At SAIC

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has named Jiseon Lee Isbara as the next president. 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. Dr. Tenny has had a significant impact on the school as, among other things, the first woman president of the institution.

The second woman to serve as president in SAIC’s 158-year history, Jiseon has extensive experience in higher education and the arts. During her tenure at Otis, she led the implementation of a five-year strategic plan which resulted in substantive change, 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, Jiseon 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.

The Tenny Legacy

Throughout her tenure as president, Dr. Tenny worked to enhance student success by improving access, affordability, persistence to complete, experiences in the classroom and on campus, and preparation for careers and successful lives beyond art school. Here are some of the accomplishments under her leadership:

  • Launched the CAAP Program, a three-year college preparatory bridge for Chicago Public School students. Since the program’s launch in 2014, it has had a 100 percent college acceptance rate, with 96 percent of CAAP alums attending college within one year of graduating from high school.

  • Established the First Generation Fellows Program, created to help first-generation students find their path at SAIC

  • Ensured more funding for scholarships and programs. During her tenure, the school raised more than $102 million.

  • Achieved a carbon neutral SAIC campus (2020)

  • Expanded the Disability and Learning Resource Center (DLRC) and services for Health/Mental Health

  • Expanded the gallery space for SAIC Galleries, to make it more publicly accessible and better showcase student work

In addition, during her tenure Dr. Tenny was named a Notable Woman in Education by Crain’s Chicago Business and was ranked sixth on Newcity’s list of Chicago notables.