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The University Magazine

Imagine what RIT can be

Bill Destler, RIT's ninth president

I am so pleased (and complimented!) to be writing this as RIT’s new president and to begin a conversation about how we might, working together, take RIT to the next level. This wonderful institution, born of a merger between the Rochester Athenaeum, where local businessmen gathered to improve themselves through educational programming, and the Mechanics Institute, again initiated by local businessmen to train workers for local industries, has evolved under the leadership of President Simone and his predecessors into one of the nation’s best and most unique universities.

For it is not just the career-orientation of RIT that makes the university so unusual. It is the extraordinary focus of its academic programs around science and technology, business, and design and the arts, combined with the outstanding programs of NTID, that lead me to believe that RIT can be moved to a position of even greater prominence in international higher education. These focus areas, working together, can be leveraged as few others can, to the benefit of RIT and the nation.

So, with your indulgence, let’s dream a little about what we can accomplish together:

Imagine, if you will, a “Category of One” university that not only educates its students for productive careers, but also reinforces America’s greatest competitive advantage by requiring creativity, invention and innovation of every student before graduation. Imagine a university that teaches scientists and engineers how artists envision and create new works.

Imagine a university that uses diversity as a creative engine in this process and where the barriers between the hearing and the deaf dissolve in the face of this innovative energy. Imagine an innovation festival each year at RIT at which these efforts, thousands of them, would be showcased. Imagine a Rochester Institute of Technology in which RIT stands for Required InnovaTion.

Imagine, if you will, a “Category of One” university with close ties to the corporate sector (sound familiar?) that decides to make its faculty and staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and facilities available to companies to carry out short- and medium-term corporate research and development projects at low cost and without the usual intellectual property fights that usually derail such efforts. Imagine a “Corporate R&D at RIT” program in which hundreds of companies discover that they can once again afford to do new product research and development, while identifying future employees at the same time.

Imagine, if you will, a “Category of One” university in which complex problems such as global warming are not attacked by individuals working in disciplinary silos, but rather by teams of students and faculty from all disciplines who, from the outset, benefit from the ideas and contributions of those from very different perspectives. Imagine RIT being the home of the first “Team Ph. D.” program. Imagine how exciting that would be and how much fun it would be to shake up the world of higher education with these ideas and others.

Imagine how much fun we can have working together to make RIT the university that captures the new high ground in higher education.
Rebecca and I are so grateful to all of you for giving us the opportunity to think big about what we can accomplish together. We are honored to have been invited to join the RIT community.


Bill Destler