CCA President David C. Howse


About David C. Howse

David Howse, the 10th president of California College of the Arts, oversees the academic, administrative, and financial facets of the institution. With a focus on leveraging current institutional momentum, he is dedicated to advancing the college's goal of expanding visibility, reach, and impact.

Before assuming the role of president, Howse held key positions at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Notably, he served as Vice President of the Office of the Arts and concurrently as the Executive Director of ArtsEmerson. With over two decades of experience, Howse has successfully led arts organizations primarily within educational institutions, through strategic visioning, fundraising, and community building.

During his tenure at Emerson College, Howse played a pivotal role in fundraising efforts, securing over $40 million to support core programs and create new initiatives. He achieved impressive results, annually raising 40%-50% of the College's overall fundraising goal. These achievements led to his appointment as the interim Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Under Howse's leadership, the Gaining Ground Fund was established in 2017, featuring a $3 million artistic risk capital fund to support the development, production, and touring of works by Black American theater artists. This initiative aimed to elevate underrepresented voices in American theater, resulting in productions that successfully engaged traditional and new audiences.

As the Executive Director of ArtsEmerson, Howse curated contemporary theater productions and engagement experiences for both campus and public audiences in Boston. The impact of ArtsEmerson's work extended beyond the city, influencing the broader cultural landscape nationally and internationally. Additionally, the organization played a crucial role in providing pre-professional opportunities for Emerson College students.

Beyond his contributions to Emerson College, Howse's career includes positions at the Boston Children's Chorus and the Institute for Nonprofit Practice. He serves on the boards of several prominent institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Boston Symphony Orchestra; The Norman Rockwell Museum, and he is an Advisor of the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, and the New England Foundation for the Arts. In recognition of his significant contributions to the arts and cultural diplomacy, Howse was honored with the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in November 2023.

Onboarding Vision

A progressive orientation to the CCA community

The Presidential Transition Team at CCA guides President Howse’s integration into the CCA community, focusing on engagements with the board, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and external partners. From listening tours to key institutional events, a timeline of actions and milestones in the first few months of President Howse’s tenure makes space to listen and learn, reflect and imagine, and finally, craft and align strategic priorities and a vision for the future. This incremental process ensures a seamless transition, fosters collaboration throughout President Howse’s onboarding experience, and will launch CCA into a strategic planning process.

The Transition Team includes Maira Lazdins, VP of HR; Tricia Brand, vice president of DEIB; Adriana Lopez Lobovits, director of the President’s Office; Mara Hancock, acting COO; and Charlie Melichar, senior advancement and communications advisor.

  1. First 60 Days: Listen and Learn

    Accelerated Learning

    Learn and understand the financial state of the College. Synthesize with listening and learning.

    Understanding the People, Culture, and Systems

    Deep dive with Sr. Team to address near and far-term action. Begin to articulate the balance of ambition and capacity.

  2. First 120 Days: Reflect and Imagine


    Senior Cabinet + Deans Retreat. Future looking. Launch framework for strategic planning.


    Board of Trustee meeting. Socialize and engage in planning process.

  3. First Full Semester and Beyond: Craft and Align


    Broad and inclusive strategic planning process.

Video and Media

Reflections from President Howse

Get to know CCA's new president, David C. Howse

Howse began his role at CCA in December 2023 and brings more than 20 years of experience leading arts organizations through strategic visioning, fundraising, and community building, working primarily in educational institutions. Please join us in welcoming him to our creative community!

Community Announcements

From the President

Announcing our new Director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts | February 27, 2024

Dear CCA Community, 

I am pleased to announce the appointment of our new Director and Chief Curator of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Daisy Nam!

Daisy joins the Wattis from Ballroom Marfa, where she has been a curator since 2020 and the director since 2022. She is widely recognized for her extensive experience working with living artists curating and developing exhibitions, commissions, public and teaching programs, as well as in fundraising and donor cultivation. Daisy will start at the Wattis on April 1. 

Daisy’s impressive track record, deep understanding of contemporary art, and commitment to artistic innovation align perfectly with the Wattis Institute’s mission. I am confident that under her guidance, the Wattis will continue to be a pivotal space for artistic exploration and discourse. As the completion of our campus expansion project comes to fruition this fall, bringing the Wattis Institute back on CCA’s campus will allow for even more opportunities to showcase the stellar programming and exhibitions shepherded by Daisy.

I want to thank the search committee for their hard work on this process, which has been co-led by the Wattis’ interim director, Jeanne Gerrity, and Jacqueline Francis, dean of Humanities & Sciences. Thanks also to staff and faculty members Kota Ezawa, Ranu Mukherjee, Glen Helfand, and Jaime Austin for your participation in this search, and I want to acknowledge and honor the support that Peter Simensky provided as well.

Please join me in welcoming Daisy to the CCA community!

President Howse

A message from President Howse | February 2, 2024

Dear CCA Community,

I write to you today to underscore the importance of the values that underpin our community: academic freedom, freedom of expression, diversity, and the commitment to fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for all. As the world continues to face a great number of challenges, it is important that institutions such as ours renew and refresh our commitment to these values.

Higher education exists to support and encourage critical thinking and to respect a multiplicity of perspectives. In that context, it is also essential to recognize that exercising our right to academic freedom and free speech may sometimes reveal differing opinions—ideas that may challenge and provoke. Yet I believe firmly that our strength as a community thrives in this diversity of perspectives, and it is therefore equally crucial that each member of our community feels respected and valued, even when opinions may differ.

To further our commitment to this work, we have created a task force on Expression, Community & Policy. The task force will include faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students from across our campus and will be led by Tricia Brand, VP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. The goal of this task force is to identify how we can support and strengthen CCA’s policies and procedures as they relate to expression. We can and must continue to hold both freedom of expression and our commitment to keeping our community safe as our highest priorities at all times. To do this effectively, we need to examine the policies that guide us and articulate clear standards and expectations. Please stay tuned for more information about this task force.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that in our pursuit of academic freedom and free expression, it is inevitable that actions or words may unintentionally cause discomfort or offense. This has happened on our campus in recent months with a social media post, flyers, and pamphlets which—though shared by individuals within our community—do not represent the collective opinion of our community or the College’s leadership. When this occurs, it is my responsibility as your President to acknowledge the concerns expressed and address these issues promptly. Flyers and pamphlets that violate our existing policies for such materials will be removed, and we will likewise continue to be engaged with social media posts even as we work to update our policies about the use of these "sub-brand" accounts.

CCA is as great as the sum of its parts, and we must remain a place that welcomes everyone.  As a small liberal arts and design community, we must continue to promote open dialogue and encourage conversation, even on the most difficult and painful topics.  CCA classrooms are important spaces for exploration, and we also have an obligation to continue encouraging students to seek more than just the information that aligns with their existing viewpoints—even if this can also be difficult.

We will not tolerate racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, genderism, ableism, nor any behavior that discriminates against another identity. Our challenge is to ensure that our communal approach to teaching and learning, to dialogue and engagement with one another, respects the diverse backgrounds and experiences of all community members while also maintaining the open dialogue that is the cornerstone of education.

Thank you for your continued understanding and commitment to this dynamic and beloved community.

President Howse

Thank you for attending our inaugural All Community Assembly | January 25, 2024

Dear CCA Community, 

I am so grateful to each of you who attended our inaugural All Community Assembly on Tuesday, January 23. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to come together as one CCA in the Nave, which I often think of as the heartbeat of our campus. 

For those of you who were not able to attend, here is a link to the Zoom recording of the meeting. We also sent out a Padlet board and asked for responses to two questions: What are you most proud of about CCA, and if you could change one thing about CCA to make it better, what would you do?  Additionally, I’ll include the two essential questions that have been on my mind of late: What’s to be done? And, what’s mine/ours/yours to do?

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your reflections and feedback, whether in person or online. I want you all to know that I heard each and every one of you and take your ideas and concerns very seriously. 

I reiterate the words of john powell of the Institute for Othering and Belonging at UC Berkeley: “the stories we tell create the future we inhabit.” As we lean into this next chapter of the college, let’s remain mindful of the impact our words and stories can have on our collective future. Information can flow in all kinds of directions, and a full knowing of the details may be elusive at times. My hope is that we can all commit to handling our conversations with care.  

Tuesday’s inaugural assembly was just the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with each of you. Linked here is an updated slide deck outlining my journey as your new president. In my first 60 days, where we are now, I am listening and learning. The All Community Assembly was an essential component of this phase. As we move toward the 120-day marker, I’d like to once again gather as a community to reflect and imagine our collective future. Please look out for a calendar invite coming soon for another gathering this spring. 

Once again, I am grateful for your participation and dedication to this incredible institution. As I articulated at the assembly, I am wholeheartedly invested in this journey and intend to move forward with the following set of guiding principles: empathy, accountability, integrity, continuous learning, and a little grace. 

We continue…

President Howse

Happy new year from President Howse | January 16, 2024

Dear CCA Staff, Faculty, and Students, 

As we embark on a new semester, marking my first full semester as your president, I extend my sincere thanks to each of you for being integral members of the CCA community. Approaching my 50-day milestone later this week, I remain grateful for the warm reception I've received and am deeply honored to serve as your president.  

These initial weeks have been rich with experiences. I've had the privilege of visiting classes, immersing myself in the vibrant academic atmosphere that defines CCA, and meeting so many of you. As I reflect on these early interactions, I look forward to the days ahead, anticipating more opportunities to be of service to you and to contribute to our collective future as members of the CCA community.

If you’re interested in learning more about my personal interests and experience, vision for CCA, and our growing connections to the San Francisco Bay Area community, I hope you’ll watch this new video interview filmed and edited by Film student Tariq Stone, and produced by our Marketing & Communications team.   

In December, we sent out an invitation for our All Community Assembly on Tuesday, January 23 from 11 am to noon. I hope you will be able to join us in person for the gathering in the Nave as we come together as one CCA.

I am very much looking forward to the year ahead, most notably the exciting completion of Double Ground, the centerpiece of our expanded campus in San Francisco. I want to recognize all of the hard work of our staff and the generous contributions of our donors who have helped us achieve this multi-year vision. I also recognize and honor your patience as we continue to make this important transition. Please stay tuned for more information about the official opening and subsequent programming this fall. 

This spring, we also welcome a new dean of Humanities & Sciences — Jacqueline Francis, previously the chair of Graduate Visual and Critical Studies and professor of our History of Art and Visual Culture program. TT Takemoto will transition from their role as dean into the new interim director of Faculty Development and DEIB Academic Initiatives role. Thank you to Jacqueline and TT for all that you do for CCA!

On a more poignant note, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the community and those close to our beloved colleague Peter Simensky, who passed away at the end of last year. Though I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Peter personally, I've come to understand his profound presence on campus and in the art world and the enduring legacy that he leaves us. The community is managing a range of emotions, and it is heartening to witness members of the CCA community coming together to provide support. Art in America included a beautiful tribute about Peter if you’d like to read it here.

We continue to navigate through so much as students, educators, and humans, and yet I am steadfast in my strong belief that despite the challenges and confusion that exists in the world, this is a time of great promise and possibility for CCA. In recognizing the impacts of the world’s events on our community and the need to come together with new tools and opportunities to work more collaboratively, we’re partnering with local and national experts to grow our capacity for dialogue and resilience in challenging times and will share more details as these plans come together. 

As we embark on this new semester, I wish to share three essential words that have been on my mind: curiosity, courage, and kindness. Cultivate curiosity as it sparks creativity. Foster courage, for innovation thrives in brave hearts. Embrace kindness, a powerful foundation for strengthening connections. At CCA, our diverse tapestry of ideas makes this campus such a special place. Let's embrace the enduring spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.'s beloved community, cherishing the ideals of connection across differences. 

I hope to see you at the All Community Assembly on January 23! Here’s to a semester filled with inspiration and growth.

President David Howse

Greetings on my first day at CCA | December 1, 2023

Dear CCA students, faculty, and staff,

Greetings! I have been looking forward to this day as it marks my first official day as the 10th president of CCA. I write to you with great enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of you during my visit in October. I again want to express my deep appreciation to all of you for extending such a warm welcome. From the campus-wide meet and greet to the Communities of Color gathering, I’m so glad I was able to pack so much in. It was thrilling to meet so many students, faculty, and staff. The vibrancy and buzz in the air were palpable, and I can’t wait to have more opportunities to engage with this incredible community.

There is great promise and possibility in the work we will do together, supported by a shared sense of purpose and ambition. The passion, energy, and creativity displayed by the students, faculty, and staff have been truly inspiring. I share the belief, much like you, that CCA, with its strong foundation, is well-prepared for the thrilling phase ahead. As we progress into a very exciting year for the college, I look forward to hearing directly from each of you as we shape what it means to be in community together during this momentous time for CCA.

I’m often asked what I hope to accomplish as president and what my priorities will be. First and foremost, it’s crucial for me to learn, listen, and reflect; to build relationships with you all and the greater San Francisco Bay Area community, and to understand our strengths and where we can continue to grow. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Presidential Transition Team for supporting me as I immerse myself to gain these insights. And, thank you all for your patience as I deepen my understanding of the CCA culture.

I also want to thank my predecessor, President Stephen Beal, for his dedication and leadership at the college, as well as Provost Tammy Rae Carland who has stepped in to serve as Acting President during this transition. It would be remiss of me not to personally acknowledge the support of the President’s Office, namely Adriana Lopez Lobovits, Director of the President’s Office, and Eduardo Guillen, Executive Assistant and Special Projects Coordinator. Thank you both for your work and continued support.

I am so excited to dive in and get started! If you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas that you’d like to share, I encourage you to connect with me via email at [email protected]. Whether you’re learning as a student, teaching as a faculty member, or working as a staff member.
I can’t wait to learn more about what CCA means to you and to hear your hopes for our shared future. Please also stay tuned, as we are organizing a campus-wide meeting in the new year, including the full community.

In the spirit of Lao Tzu's wisdom, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Today, we collectively take that step. My hope is that our journey is not only meaningful and productive but also sprinkled with moments of pure joy. With anticipation and enthusiasm, together, we begin.

Thank you again, and please take care of yourselves.

President David C. Howse