RIT Academic Program Incubator To Give Birth to New Programs of Study

University is creating a center to forecast workforce trends in engineering and technology




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What does an “incubator” make you think of? Much like the function of an incubator in hatching new life, the planned Academic Program Incubator at Rochester Institute of Technology will nurture new academic programs of study.

Wiley McKinzie, dean of RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, is developing the incubator for planned launch later this year. The incubator will be a center for technology forecasters, demographers, marketing specialists and instructional designers to forecast the needs of industry and government five years before engineering and technology graduates are in demand in the marketplace.

By identifying emerging technologies and fields, researching future job markets, and more rapidly developing new academic programs and delivery systems, the incubator will cut the time needed to spot emerging fields, create programs of study and graduate a skilled workforce. Students, businesses and other universities will benefit.

“RIT is positioned to be a leader in identifying new technologies early in the development cycle and creating new academic programs before graduates are needed in the marketplace,” says McKinzie, adding that the current process takes up to a decade since academic programs are often created in reaction to rather than in anticipation of demand for employees.

McKinzie has a longstanding reputation as an innovator in higher education. As dean and, previously, associate dean and director of computer science and information technology at RIT, McKinzie was a pioneer in distance learning. He developed and taught RIT’s first distance-learning course in 1982 and fostered creation of the university’s first distance-learning academic program, a master’s in software development and management, in 1987.

He initiated numerous corporate training and interdisciplinary programs and, under his guidance, RIT launched first-in-the-nation undergraduate and graduate programs in information technology and software engineering and the first ABET-accredited program in telecommunications engineering technology. He supervised the creation of programs in computer integrated manufacturing, safety technology, service management, and senior living management and the world’s only university-level course in space tourism development.

McKinzie oversaw development of RIT’s IT Laboratory (now known as the Laboratory for Applied Computing) and the National Technology Training Center, both in 1997, and the Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly in 1998. He was instrumental in the creation of the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. He began his career at RIT as a professor of computer science and information technology in 1974.

In order to devote time and energy to development of the incubator, McKinzie temporarily stepped aside from day-to-day dean’s responsibilities this month. Guy Johnson, former director of RIT’s National Technology Training Center, is serving as interim dean of RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology through June 30.

Note: RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, the college of innovation, offers 71 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and 39 certificates and diplomas emphasizing technology, service management and multidisciplinary studies. The college leads the university in lifelong, corporate and outreach education, online learning and international studies including programs taught at the American College of Management and Technology in Croatia, at the American University in Kosovo and in the Dominican Republic. The college is home to the world’s only university-level course in space tourism development and its packaging science degree program is one of only six in the nation.