AMES, Iowa — Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, acting director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, is a recipient of the 2021 Design Achievement Award presented by the Iowa State University College of Design.

The award recognizes outstanding creative and professional achievements of alumni in all of the college’s disciplines, which include architecture, art and design, community and regional planning, graphic design, industrial design, integrated studio arts, integrated visual arts, interdisciplinary design, interior design, landscape architecture, sustainable environments and urban design.

Neuhold-Ravikumar, of New York City and Washington, D.C., received a master of fine arts in graphic design from Iowa State in 2003. She will be honored during Homecoming at the ISU Alumni Association’s 90th Honors and Awards Ceremony at 1:15 p.m. CDT Friday, Oct. 22, in Benton Auditorium, Scheman Building, Iowa State Center, and streamed live online. A dessert reception will follow. Both the ceremony and reception are free and open to the public.

Originally from Chennai, India, Neuhold-Ravikumar draws from her international experiences as a designer and educator to inform her human-centered approach to reimagining education at the Smithsonian Institution. As the Cooper Hewitt’s acting director, she oversees 100 full-time employees and a collection of more than 215,000 design objects spanning 30 centuries.

From November 2019–May 2021, Neuhold-Ravikumar was the Smithsonian’s acting under secretary for education, responsible for defining the institution’s educational priorities as it prepared to mark its 175th anniversary this year. She focused on sharing the vast resources of the Smithsonian to support the needs of K-12 educators and students at the local and national levels, and she led a Smithsonian-wide team that specifically responded to the distance-learning needs of teachers, students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neuhold-Ravikumar previously served as the Smithsonian’s interim associate provost for education and access. Prior to that, she was director of education at the Cooper Hewitt, leading educational workshops on design and design literacy and helping audiences connect with the museum’s content.

Before joining the Smithsonian in 2017, Neuhold-Ravikumar was the associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Design at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she had advanced from undergraduate professor to director of graduate programs and chair of the Department of Design.

An award-winning designer, Neuhold-Ravikumar has served in leadership roles at all levels of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), including the AIGA Design Educators Community and local and national boards. In 2015, she was named an AIGA Fellow by the Oklahoma chapter for her advocacy and leadership as a design educator.

Neuhold-Ravikumar holds a bachelor of arts in the history of fine art and drawing and painting from Stella Maris College, Chennai, India; a certificate in museum studies from Northwestern University; and an executive education certificate in business perspectives for creative leaders from Yale University.


Ruki Neuhold-Ravikumar, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, ravikumarr@si.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, 515-294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu