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A campus on the move

A tour of campus quickly reveals that RIT is a thriving, dynamic, diverse, burgeoning community. New buildings. Construction. Busy classrooms and labs. Clusters of students working hard or perhaps working a little recreation into their crammed lives.

Kate Gleason College of Engineering
Early rendering of proposed wrap-around addition.

RIT enrollment reached 15,312 for the current academic year, up 25 percent since fall of 1994. Full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollment reached an all-time high with 12,110 in fall 2002, with the quality of students rising at the same time. This year average SAT scores for incoming students hit 1210.

At the same time, the university is becoming more diverse. The total number of African American, Hispanic American and Native American students is about 1,131, up 33 percent since 1994.

Of total freshman this year, 50 percent were from out of New York state, 4.5 percent were from other countries, and 10 percent were African American, Hispanic or Native American.

“There continues to be a growing demand for what RIT offers,” says James G. Miller, vice president, enrollment management and career services. Responding to the ever-changing needs of the technological workplace, RIT continues to add new programs that, in turn, attract more students. “RIT’s breadth of programs is very attractive to many college-bound students,” notes Miller.

College of Applied Science and Technology
Illustration of a proposed facility to house engineering technology programs.

Growth has certain advantages, but providing for more students also poses challenges. The RIT administration and board of trustees have given the subject a great deal of study and determined an optimal size of 17,000 students. “Enrollment growth will be controlled so that the enrollment level will be achieved by 2009-2010, with most of it occurring by 2005-2006,” says President Albert Simone.

Achieving an optimal, pre-determined enrollment allows for greatest efficiency in managing resources, says Miller. “It allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. You can do a lot more with a deliberate, planned growth strategy.”

Academically, growth means more options for students, says Provost Stanley McKenzie. A greater variety of programs is possible, and particular classes can be offered more frequently. The faculty becomes larger, meaning that there can be more diversity in terms of expertise.

“As we grow, we become better known, and we attract more students – and better students,” notes McKenzie. “On the down side, you have to make sure the human resources are in line. We’re working very hard to be proactive.”

College of Business
A new wing added to the Lowenthal Building would
accommodate executive education programs.

RIT also works hard to provide the facilities needed for students and for a growing effort in applied research. In the past five years, several major buildings have opened, including a new wing for the Gosnell Building housing the College of Science, a complete renovation and expansion of the Gleason Building housing the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, the Laboratory for Applied Computing and the new building for the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. The university plans to construct facilities for the new Center for Biotechnology Education and Training (part of the College of Science), engineering technology (College of Applied Science and Technology), executive education (College of Business), film and animation (College of Imaging Arts and Sciences) and other programs.

The needs are not solely driven by expanding enrollment. As a technical university, labs, equipment and related academic facilities need to be continually upgraded even if there is no growth, notes Miller.

RIT is a little unusual from other universities in that most of the buildings date to a single year, 1968, when the current campus opened. The infrastructure has reached the age where many components – heating, roofs, and plumbing, for example – are at the end of their life cycle.

“As we do needed renovation, we’re building in a new standard of quality,” says James Watters, vice president, finance and administration.

One of the most significant projects already completed was a five-year, $65 million renovation of residence halls.

School for American Crafts
The School for American Crafts needs enhanced workspace for glass, metal and ceramics programs.

RIT also constructed six handsome fraternity and sorority houses and completed the University Commons apartment complex, adding important options for on-campus housing. All residences and academic buildings have been wired for Internet access.

“As we continue to grow we need to pay close attention to housing and the need for more social gathering locations,” says Student Government President Erick Littleford, a fourth-year public policy major. “The new field house (now under construction) will allow our clubs and organizations to sponsor larger events for the campus population.” This facility plus smaller study and social lounges that have been and will be created in academic buildings “can truly aid in the continual building of community among the students as the numbers increase.”

Over the past decade, notes Watters, RIT has evolved from an institute primarily serving local and regional students to a major university with a growing national – and international – reputation.

“If we’re going to be competitive at that level,” Watters says, “the needs are far beyond what they once were. Our mission is to ensure that the physical aspects of our campus are up to the quality of our academic programs.”

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