Professor James H. Rolling Jr. G’91 Elected to The Cooper Union Board of Trustees

James Haywood Rolling Jr. G’91, who since 2007 has been a dual professor of Arts Education and Teaching and Leadership in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and School of Education (SOE), acceded to the Board of Trustees of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in February 2024. Among responsibilities, the trustees oversee the institution’s governance, academic affairs, finances, and development.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. James Haywood Rolling Jr. join us on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater,” says Board Chair Malcolm King. “As a first-generation college student who has committed himself to scholarship and public service, Dr. Rolling embodies the vision of our institution’s founder. We look forward to serving with him to support The Cooper Union in fulfilling its mission.”

james rolling headshot“My sincere thanks to The Cooper Union President Laura Sparks, Chair King, and my fellow trustees,” says Professor Rolling. “Looking back over my career to this point, I recognize that it was teaching 3D Design and Sculpture over two consecutive years (1986 to 1988) to diverse New York City high school students attending The Cooper Union’s Saturday Program for art and architecture that first helped me to comprehend the necessity of my own calling as an art and design educator, serving as a catalyst for creative identities as they exploded into existence.”

“Given that I would not be where I am today as a first-generation college graduate without the legacy of free tuition at The Cooper Union,” Rolling adds, “I am honored to offer my time and energies as a member of the Board of Trustees at this critical juncture in the life of an institution that has so evidently helped to shape my life’s trajectory from public school art teaching to higher education administration.”

A 1988 graduate of The Cooper Union, Rolling teaches courses in arts education, creative leadership, and research in VPA and SOE. He has chaired Syracuse’s arts education programs since 2007 and is affiliated with the Department of African American Studies and The Lender Center for Social Justice. Rolling also served as VPA’s inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Rolling recently completed his term as the 37th President of the National Art Education Association and currently serves as Past President with varied continuing leadership responsibilities on the NAEA Board of Directors. As inaugural Chair of the NAEA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Commission, he oversaw the DEIA initiatives of 10 commissioners from around the nation representing various arts and museum education related fields. 

Rolling’s initial work as NAEA’s Higher Education Division Director (2011-2013) was recognized with a 2014 National Higher Education Art Educator Award for outstanding service and achievement of national significance. He has been Senior Editor of the research journal Art Education (2015-2017) and in 2017 became an NAEA Distinguished Fellow, in recognition of exemplary accomplishments in research, scholarship, teaching, and leadership. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. 

Among his accomplishments outside higher education and nonprofit leadership, Rolling is Founder and Principal of JHRolling Arts, Education, Leadership Strategies, a consulting enterprise founded upon his expertise supporting visual arts, design, media arts, and STEAM education initiatives. 

Rolling holds an M.F.A. in Studio Arts from Syracuse University (1991) and an Ed.D. in Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2003). A former elementary school art teacher, he is the author of several books and more than 35 peer-reviewed articles and commentaries, 14 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), a 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 his own “creative superpowers.” 

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, he is devoted to telling the story of how human beings creatively constitute, shape, and reinterpret personal and collective identity.