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Building upon a decade of change

It is not often that RIT looks back to where it's been. We're too busy looking ahead. This is a special moment in the history of the university, however: the occasion of Albert J. Simone's 10th anniversary as president. It has been a decade of extraordinary achievement.

His first day on the job in 1992, President Simone laid out his hopes for RIT to faculty and staff with what would become his trademark logic, energy and vision.

He praised President Mark Ellingson, the architect of RIT's move to the 1,300-acre campus; President Paul Miller, who expanded academic programs and service to the community; and President M. Richard Rose, who moved RIT to national-university status.

In fall 1992, enrollment was 13,000, making RIT the 17th largest private university in the nation. The university was financially sound, with an endowment of $189 million and an operating budget of $236 million. The signature programs were in microelectronics engineering, photography and graphic arts, and imaging science, as well as those in the School for American Crafts and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID).

While all of this was impressive, it was not enough for Dr. Simone. That very first morning, he called for strategic planning – planning that required a clear understanding of institutional identity.

“RIT is a university that holds the students at heart and teaching as noble,” he said. Working from this premise, he quickly convened an institute-wide task force and by 1994, the board of trustees had approved a 10-year strategic plan. RIT's mission was articulated in that plan – to lead higher education in preparing students for successful career development over their lifetimes.

Under President Simone's leadership, RIT has experienced unprecedented growth in enrollment, endowment, and programs. Enrollment now totals more than 15,317 students, raising RIT to the nation's eighth largest private university. Student population is growing more diverse: One third is female; 1,100 students deaf or hard-of-hearing. International enrollment exceeds 1,200, the largest in RIT history.

While growing in numbers, RIT is becoming increasingly selective in admissions. For the class entering in fall 2002, a record 2,400 students were selected from more than 8,900 applicants. President Simone recognizes that financial strength is essential for the success of the educational mission. In his 2002 “Community Address,” he stressed, “No matter how hard we may work and how creative we might be, at some point financial resources have to be in place.” While the university's $405 million endowment has noticed the effects of the current recession, nevertheless it has more than doubled over the past 10 years, thanks to the generosity of friends and wise investment strategies.

Clearly, this has been a decade of academic milestones. Two of the eight colleges were named: the Kate Gleason College of Engineering (the nation's only college of engineering named for a woman) and the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (the largest computing college in the country). In addition, RIT introduced new academic degree programs in such areas as information technology (the first in the nation), software engineering, biochemistry, psychology, and new media.

Today, RIT offers more than 200 degree programs in areas as distinctive and diverse as film/video/animation, biotechnology, international business, telecommunications engineering technology and the programs at NTID.

In addition, we are transforming key academic areas of strength to First in Class stature. An institute-wide initiative, First in Class puts RIT on a course to become first among all universities that form partnerships with industry and government to address real-world problems. Achievements of this initiative include: creation of the IT Collaboratory, Sloan Printing Industry Center, Laboratory for Advanced Spectral Sensing, and the Laboratory for Applied Computing; strengthening of the National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery; and development of two new degree programs in bioinformatics and the nation's first Ph.D. program in microsystems engineering.

Other connections to industry continue to thrive. Our co-op program is the fourth largest in the world. Last year, RIT garnered a record $26 million in sponsored research from industry and government. At the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS), nearly 420 research projects were performed for 760 companies.

Over the past 10 years, the university has invested more than $10 million in campus facilities. Significant construction projects include the new home for the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences; Gosnell Center for Excellence in Mathematics, Science, and Technology; College of Applied Science and Technology Building; Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center at NTID; six University Commons apartments; six Greek residences; Crossroads Market Café and Copy Center; and Java Wally's coffeehouse in Wallace Library. In addition to major upgrades of residence halls and classrooms, the James Gleason engineering building was extensively renovated. We also have enhanced lacrosse, soccer, and baseball fields as well as outdoor track and field facilities. Ground is broken for the 160,000 square-foot Gordon Field House and Activities Center. As part of a campus beautification project, new roads and walkways have been constructed.

RIT is engaged in community, national, and global issues as never before. Last year alone, the university achieved 10,000 placements in the media and drew 12,200 visitors for campus events such as Special Olympics. In the past decade, RIT hosted a former U.S. president and the director of the CIA as commencement speakers, the latter during the post 9/11 War on Terrorism.

We have been blessed with an extraordinary board of trustees over the past decade, particularly in its chairs Colby Chandler, William Whiteside, William Buckingham '64 and Bruce James '64. In support of the growing alumni population – now numbering 90,000 – we have, for the first time, planned and implemented a full program of alumni reunions – the first held in 2001 during Brick City Festival. Also for the first time, Alumni Relations activities are posted on the Web for a growing online alumni community.

Today, President Simone has a new vision of RIT as the university of choice for students seeking technology-based education with application in the global community. While he would say the need for this new, more expansive vision of RIT is a tribute to our collective accomplishments, others will say it is simply the reflection of a man always asking what's next.

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