Happy students, happy choices

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Erik Ellingson

President Bill Destler mingles with students during the annual Mud Tug event.

When alumni return to campus, as thousands did for Brick City Homecoming in October, they are always amazed by the physical transformation of the campus. It’s hard to miss the construction cranes as we finish up work on the new building for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Institute Hall and Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Yet there is another transformation on campus—student satisfaction.

Extending more than a decade, efforts to enhance the campus experience for students at RIT have reached a critical milestone. New data indicates that overall student satisfaction has improved to the point that it now surpasses the national average for private colleges and universities.

Noel Levitz, a higher-education consulting firm, has reported the results from its most recent survey, which was completed by more than 2,000 RIT students. For the first time, RIT received an overall student satisfaction rating that is “significantly higher” than the average of private colleges and universities in the U.S.

The data reflects improvement in students’ perceptions of their experience at RIT in their academic programs, their student life and their business interactions with the campus at all levels. For too many years, we lagged behind the national average, but strategies employed at RIT to improve overall satisfaction in the past decade have consistently reduced that gap with each survey. I want to especially note the progress made during Al Simone’s tenure as president. This has been a long haul, and this kind of improvement results from the collective efforts of everyone at RIT.

While the student experience improves, we also have the largest student body in our history, with nearly 18,000 students. At a time when many New York state colleges and universities are struggling with the declining number of high school graduates in the Northeast and resulting lower numbers of applications and enrolled students, graduate and undergraduate applications to RIT continue to increase at a remarkable rate.

More applications give us happy choices. We have used our rapidly increasing application base to make RIT more selective and able to attract better students; to increase the gender, racial and ethnic diversity of our student body; and to grow our enrollment, all at the same time. This is usually thought to be almost impossible, but we are doing it here at RIT.

It is often said that great universities are defined by great students, great faculty and great facilities, all of which RIT has in abundance. But RIT’s unique career-focused program inventory of science, engineering, technology and business offerings, coupled with world-renowned programs in design and the fine arts, have positioned RIT to take its place among the world’s great universities. Why? Because RIT’s community of left-brainers and right-brainers are increasingly working together on innovative and creative projects that have the potential to define our future.

In my opinion, RIT’s time has come. RIT’s financial health and our focus on innovation and creativity, coupled with an increasing national expectation that higher-education institutions demonstrate real added value and prepare students for global employment, have positioned RIT to move strongly upward in the ranks of the world’s great universities.

Cordially yours,

Bill Destler