RIT selected to receive National Science Foundation I-Corps grant

Scot Atkins with dark short hair and striped button down shirt and dark suit coat

Rochester Institute of Technology is among eight National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) sites across the country selected to each receive $30,000 grants to increase participation and promote inclusion of underrepresented populations in the National Innovation Network.

These I-Corps sites, designed to provide infrastructure, resources, networking and training to move scientific discoveries from university labs to the marketplace, will use the awards to pilot novel approaches and partnerships that promote inclusive entrepreneurship through the initiative. The pilot activities will engage differently-abled individuals, first-generation college students, racial and ethnic minorities and women, as well as Minority-Serving Institutions.

As outlined in the proposal, RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will partner with RIT’s I-Corps site initiative—programmatically embedded into the Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship—as well as the National Association of the Deaf and the Association of Higher Education and Disability to increase opportunities available to deaf and hard-of-hearing college students who are aspiring STEM entrepreneurs. Through a national network of universities with high concentrations of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, RIT plans to recruit new instructors and coaches along with extending I-Corps training. Program administrators also will create curricula on the use of technologies that will enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate in online entrepreneurship coaching.

“This is a great opportunity to generate more opportunities for entrepreneurship among deaf and hard-of-hearing college students across the nation, not just here at NTID,” said Scot Atkins, NTID business studies professor and a nationally recognized expert in deaf entrepreneurship. “This grant award will allow us to capitalize on our existing successes and infrastructure for entrepreneurship within RIT/NTID and work with a larger audience.”

Atkins will help lead the initiative at RIT/NTID. Details of the proposal include:

            • Creation of entrepreneurial assets that will increase the number of graduates with an emphasis on STEM with business creation/tech commercialization knowledge, experience and team-building skills

            • Continued development of new ventures based in the Simone Center that will create businesses with growth potential and provide economic development to upstate New York

            • Pre-seed/early stage pipeline for potential new ventures

            • Successful undergraduate innovation processes that promote and advance the development of balanced student teams, experienced coaching and access to university support services such as networking, prototyping labs and other high-tech facilities

            • Programs and events sponsored by the Simone Center that target early-stage business development with the goal of transitioning these investment-ready projects and businesses to RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator.

“RIT is an institution that serves a large population of deaf and hard-of-hearing students and has processes in place that will accommodate those students and others to explore entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Richard DeMartino, the Albert J. Simone Endowed Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, director of RIT’s Simone Center, and a professor in the Saunders College of Business. “Our program design is student-centric, having the joint impact of immersing students in an entrepreneurial curriculum and launching innovative products that focus on STEM related fields, software, sustainability, imaging sciences, micro-e, design, new media, interactive gaming and other areas. We’re looking forward to utilizing resources, mentors and I-Corps funding to further enhance opportunities for our underrepresented students to enter the exciting arena of entrepreneurship.”

NTID and Saunders College of Business already have a robust research agenda focusing on the dynamics of entrepreneurship, including opportunities and challenges for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, added DeMartino.

NTID is also home to the Next Big Idea, an annual entrepreneurship competition sponsored by ZVRS for deaf and hard-of-hearing students with a track record of producing innovative products, businesses or services that solve problems or eliminate existing challenges for potential consumers.  

“NTID is proud to be partnering with RIT’s Simone Center as one of the eight sites nationwide to receive I-Corps funds,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “NTID leads the way in developing deaf and hard-of-hearing entrepreneurs, and this NSF funding will help to expand and continue our position in this vital role.”  

RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center to premiere retrospective by world-renowned artist Ann Silver

Ann Silver with short hair in gray shirt with black and gray scarf standing near a moss covered tree.

A world premiere look at the career of internationally known artist Ann Silver’s deaf-centric work will be on display in the Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf from March 3 to April 22. A reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 31, in the arts center.

Silver, who was born deaf, is a founding member of the historic Deaf Art Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that preceded the De’VIA movement, which represents deaf artists and perceptions based on their deaf experiences. She is an advocate for the recognition and inclusion of deaf art in both the art world and in academia. Her work has been displayed in exhibits around the country, including at the Central Intelligence Agency/CIA Gallery in Virginia; the Dishman Art Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas; the Deaf Way international arts festival in Washington, D.C.; and the First National Deaf Art Touring Exhibit.

Silver has published and lectured widely. Her visual arts background is varied, including book jackets, logos, studio art, graphics, greeting cards, Deaftoons and art direction. She holds a bachelor’s degree in commercial art from Gallaudet University and master’s degree from New York University. After working as a designer/art director for major book publishing companies in Manhattan, Silver moved back home to Seattle, where she created her most iconic work as a master of Deaf Pop Art. Most recently, she and Jim Van Manen, assistant professor in the Department of ASL-English Interpretation at Columbia College Chicago, have formed an art/design partnership named Silver Moon Brand.

“We are honored to be able to showcase this retrospective in the Dyer Arts Center,” said Tabitha Jacques, director of the center. “It’s rare that we can do an exhibit that documents how an artist’s work has evolved over the decades. Ann Silver’s periods are so unique and different, and are influenced by the cultural events of each decade.”

Silver’s biography, Ann Silver: One Way, Deaf Way, contains more than 200 images of her art. For more information about Silver’s art or her biography, go to her Facebook page or her website at www.SilverMoonBrand.com.

RIT/NTID alumnus to perform National Anthem, ‘America, the Beautiful’ at Super Bowl Feb. 5

Kriston Pumphrey with short dark hair and beard, wearing black shirt and leather coat in front of photo of a tree.

For the second time in four years, Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has a connection to football’s biggest game, the Super Bowl.

This Sunday, Feb. 5, RIT/NTID alumnus Kriston Lee Pumphrey will sign the National Anthem and “America, the Beautiful” prior to the much-anticipated kickoff. Pumphrey, a 2010 graduate of RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, will perform alongside country music star Luke Bryan and Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Phillipa Soo—three of the original cast members of the Broadway show Hamilton—during the pre-game ceremony at NRG Stadium in Houston. The contest between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons for Super Bowl LI will be televised on FOX. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST.

This will be Pumphrey’s first time performing at the game.

“It’s a huge honor and I’m elated,” he said. “I’m thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am amazed by the stream of support from friends, family and the community at large. I can’t express enough how excited I am to have been selected by the National Association of the Deaf to not only represent our community as vibrant and diverse, but to make RIT/NTID proud.”

Pumphrey works for DPAN-TV, an online video network delivering information and entertainment in American Sign Language, founded by fellow RIT/NTID alumnus and performer Sean Forbes.

In 2014, RIT/NTID alumna Amber Zion performed American Sign Language versions of the National Anthem and “America, the Beautiful” alongside opera star and Rochester native Renee Fleming.

National Theater of the Deaf presents “The King” featuring Patrick Graybill

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The National Theatre of the Deaf presents “THE KING,” a play based upon Shakespeare’s “King Lear” that focuses on Lear alone. In it only one character is seen on stage, a drifter, played by Patrick Graybill, who has hit upon Lear’s story as a way to express himself. All the other figures are represented as phantoms or objects that the drifter happens across. Though the drifter remains a mystery, Lear’s story is presented directly, and these two tormented men, Lear and the Drifter, seem to become one. 

“The King” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4 and 2 p.m. Feb. 5 in the Robert F. Panara Theatre, LBJ Hall on the RIT campus. Admissions is free. The production is produced by Betty Bekman, directed, conceived, adapted and voiced by John Basinger, and performed by Patrick Graybill.  

David C. Munson Jr. named RIT’s 10th president

David Munson in navy jacket, light blue shirt and tan pants wearing glasses sitting in a leather chair.

David C. Munson Jr. was introduced to the community today as Rochester Institute of Technology’s 10th president.

Munson, who will assume RIT’s top post July 1, was introduced by RIT Board Chair Christine Whitman at a community-wide event this morning in the Gordon Field House.

“We believe we have identified the ideal leader to continue RIT’s rise to prominence. A leader who shares our commitment to outstanding career-focused education, research and innovation, love of both technology and the arts, and a desire to help students from widely diverse backgrounds succeed,” Whitman told the audience. “This is a leader who has a vision for the future of RIT that will both unite and excite the entire RIT family from around the world.”

A brief video highlighting Munson’s many personal and professional accomplishments was shown, and then the former dean of the University of Michigan College of Engineering, chosen by the RIT Board of Trustees after a nationwide search, came on stage to thunderous applause and took the podium.

Munson opened his remarks by thanking the RIT Board of Trustees for what he called “a thrill and privilege” to be named university president. And he congratulated retiring President Bill Destler, RIT students, faculty, staff and alumni “for the exemplary work you all have done in creating such a strong foundation for the future.”

“When I stepped down from my dean position this past summer, RIT was already known to me because I had admired your progress over the years and your strength in the arts as well as technology,” Munson said.

“In the coming years, I look forward to maintaining RIT’s traditions and simultaneously building on the 2025 Strategic Plan, ‘Greatness through Difference.’ To be sure, there is still much work to be done at RIT in program development, recruitment of top-notch faculty and students, planning of facilities and fundraising. But I believe that RIT is positioned to continue its upward trajectory, elevating its distinctive programs to best in class and generating new ideas and programs for the future, with the promise of making an ever-larger difference in the word.”

As RIT’s president, Munson will be responsible for one of the nation’s leading research and career-oriented universities featuring 18,700 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries, 121,000 alumni, $73 million in sponsored research and an endowment of more than $750 million.

He said he was “drawn to RIT when I observed an exciting portfolio of academic programs, research with impact to solve global problems, and an ability to stay focused on the overall student experience.”

A 24-member search committee composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni, administration and trustees narrowed the pool of candidates before the final selection by the Board of Trustees.

“We are proud to welcome Dr. Munson to RIT and look forward to him leading the university through its next exciting chapter,” said Whitman said in a statement. “His extensive academic experience, respected research credentials, demonstrated leadership, engagement with students and global vision will propel RIT to new heights. We know he will build on the strong foundation established by President Destler and his predecessors whose tireless work made RIT a distinctly great university.”

Munson has 38 years of experience in higher education, which includes serving as the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering at Michigan from 2006 to 2016, where he served two five-year terms, the maximum allowed by U-M. Michigan Engineering is considered one of the top engineering schools in the world. Eight of its academic departments are ranked in the nation’s top 10.

Munson earned his BS degree in electrical engineering (with distinction) from the University of Delaware in 1975. He earned an MS and MA in electrical engineering from Princeton in 1977, followed by a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1979, also from Princeton.

From 1979 to 2003, Munson was with the University of Illinois, where he was the Robert C. MacClinchie Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Research Professor in the Coordinated Science Laboratory and a faculty member in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

In 2003, he became chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at U-M prior to becoming dean. Today, with his deanship appointment fulfilled, he serves as a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Munson’s teaching and research interests are in the area of signal and image processing. His current research is focused on radar imaging and computer tomography. He is co-founder of InstaRecon Inc., a start-up firm to commercialize fast algorithms for image formation in computer tomography. He is affiliated with the Infinity Project, where he is coauthor of a textbook on the digital world, which has been used in hundreds of high schools nationwide to introduce students to engineering.

Munson is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a past president of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, founding editor-in-chief of the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing, and co-founder of the IEEE International Conference on Image Processing. In addition to multiple teaching awards and other honors, he was presented the Society Award of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, he served as a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Signal Processing Society, he received an IEEE Third Millennium Medal, and he was the Texas Instruments Distinguished Visiting Professor at Rice University.

In 2016, Munson earned the Benjamin Garver Lamme Medal from the American Society of Engineering Education (highest award for an engineering administrator).

Munson’s record of accomplishment that drew praise from current RIT President Bill Destler, who will retire June 30 after serving more than 40 years in higher education and 10 years as RIT president. He applauded the work of the search committee and the selection of the new president.

“On behalf of RIT and the Greater Rochester-Finger Lakes region, I welcome Dr. Munson and his wife, Nancy, to our community,” Destler said. “The naming of a new president is an exciting time for RIT students, faculty and staff, as well as our alumni, family and friends around the world. Dr. Munson has an impressive record of accomplishments and brings skills, expertise and experience that will greatly benefit this university and further propel RIT as one of the great global universities.”

To learn more about Munson’s credentials, including a curriculum vitae, go to http://www.rit.edu/presidentialsearch/.

To read Munson’s full remarks, go to http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=59161.

To read more about the search process, go to http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=59131.

To read more about Munson, go to http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=59171.


Meeting the Needs of Deaf Scientists: Creating a Hub of Innovation in Rochester

female student with pony tail and hearing aid in lab coat looking in microscope with laptop nearby.

Leaders at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf published a rallying cry for the creation of a Diversity Hub of Innovation in Rochester for training Deaf scientists. The concept of Diversity Hubs of Innovation was proposed in 2015 by the National Institutes of Health to eliminate barriers in biomedical career advancement for underrepresented groups.  

The article, published in Science Letters, highlights the gross underrepresentation of Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the biomedical sciences as well as their unique and diverse needs.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing people not only experience language barriers and cultural isolation, but because their modes of communication vary widely, each person’s needs often are unique.

“There’s a lot of desire to diversify the biomedical workforce,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for Research at URMC and author of the article, “but the Deaf and hard-of-hearing population has lagged – even compared to some other underrepresented groups. Doing what we do for everybody else is not going to work for these individuals, who experience a lot of infrastructure and environment issues that people just aren’t aware of.”

With one of the largest Deaf populations in the nation and a top-tier academic medical center five miles from the world’s first and largest technological college for Deaf or hard-of-hearing students, Rochester is perfectly positioned to establish a national hub for training Deaf scientists. In fact, Dewhurst and Gerard Buckley, Ed.D., president of NTID, vice president and dean of RIT and another author of the Science Letters article, have led an effort to build relationships and develop programs bridging URMC and NTID to foster the success of Deaf biomedical trainees.

Buckley and Dewhurst hope that a Diversity Hub of Innovation in Rochester could define and better understand how to meet the needs of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing scientists and doctors and pass that knowledge on to other institutions. The hub could provide guidance for career development and training, new technologies, state of the art accommodations, expert sign language interpreters (with training in both ASL and biomedical disciplines), and a place for Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing scientists to gather and network.

“A growing number of our students have become professionals in a variety of post-doctoral fields – veterinarians, dentists, physicians,” said Buckley. “Given the resources that URMC and RIT/NTID bring to bear, Rochester is the perfect location to be the Diversity Hub of Innovation for the country, and to become the model for other leading universities. The success of our Deaf doctors and scientists will have a positive impact across the country.” 

RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center opens 2017 with three simultaneous exhibits

Black and White image of young woman with blindfold on holding a leaf in her teeth.

The Dyer Arts Center, located in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, starts the new year with three exhibits opening Friday, Jan. 27.

The first, (Re)Invention, a traveling exhibition from the Kennedy Center, is designed to give visibility to the work of artists with disabilities throughout the United States. The exhibit presents artists whose work exemplifies themes of renewal and self-discovery. From the unexpected whimsy of an animation, to a bold series of self-portraits, this work is intended to engage, challenge and delight viewers. Collectively, these works of art seek to captivate and ask visitors to explore ideas of self, community, legacy and collective memory.

“The aim of this exhibit is to broaden our understanding of disability and the arts and to create new contexts,” said Tabitha Jacques, Dyer Arts Center director. “These 15 artists give us examples of how art can be used to rewrite a personal narrative. They are present in their community and in the world, and are motivated to use their creativity to send a strong message of inclusion and unity in the arts.”

The exhibit runs through March 4. One of the artists, Victoria Dugger, will be at the Dyer for an artist workshop on March 3, along with hard-of-hearing RIT alumna and artist Rea Walsh. Students from Rochester School for the Deaf also will attend the workshop, which will be followed by a reception 5-7 p.m.

For more information on the Kennedy Center’s (Re)Invention exhibit, visit: https://vsainternational.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/re-invention-exhibition-features-15-outstanding-young-artists-with-disabilities/.

The faculty artists from RIT/NTID’s Visual Communication Studies Department will exhibit works from their personal collections Jan. 27 to Feb. 25, with an opening reception Jan. 27.

The third exhibit, “Shakespeare in American Deaf History,” will run Jan. 27 to March 4. In conjunction with RIT/NTID’s Performing Arts program and RIT’s Cary Collections, programming will accompany this exhibit such as deaf actress Monique Holt on Feb. 1, and 5-7 p.m. Feb. 17 a performance by RIT/NTID’s traveling theater troupe Sunshine 2.0 with a presentation by director and performer Fred Beam on Diversity/People of Color in Deaf Theatre, with a special focus on Shakespeare.

For more information on these exhibits, visit the Dyer Arts Center website: https://www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/exhibitions_current

RIT/NTID interpreting professor pens book on best practices

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A professor of sign language interpreting education at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has published a compilation of best practices based on conversations with fellow educators.              

In “Conversations with Interpreter Educators,” Christine Monikowski assembled a group of 17 professors in the field of sign language interpretation. Through individual interviews, Monikowski engaged them in informal conversations about their teaching experiences and the professional publications that have influenced their teaching philosophies.

“The idea for this book has been in my thoughts for a long time,” Monikowski said. “I have always enjoyed talking with colleagues about their best teaching practices and have searched for the reasons why and how those practices evolved. I want to show how we can bring valuable research into the classroom and show students the value of scholarly publications. I conducted the interviews with colleagues who all are master teachers from my perspective. I hope to take the excitement, energy and, dare I say, passion of each contributor and convey that to the reader.”

Published by Gallaudet University Press, Monikowski’s conversations offer evidence-based practices that are designed to inform and inspire fellow educators.

Sally J. Pimentel Endowed Scholarship established at RIT/NTID

assortment of chemistry beakers shown in blue lighting

Albert T. and Sally J. Pimentel of Fort Myers, Florida, have established an endowed scholarship to provide support to graduate-level RIT students who are deaf or hard- of-hearing and majoring in a science, technology, engineering or math program.                  

The Pimentel’s have contributed $50,000 to be designated to the Sally J. Pimentel Endowed Scholarship.

Albert Pimentel has been a longtime advocate of the deaf community and has served as past chairperson of the NTID National Advisory Group and a longtime member of the RIT Board of Trustees. The Pimentels have assisted young people in various states in obtaining higher education degrees. 

Through this gift, they hope to encourage deaf and hard-of-hearing students to continue their education and obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering or math graduate programs at RIT.

Selection for the scholarship will be based on:

  • Deaf or hard-of-hearing student enrolled at RIT
  • Demonstrated financial need
  • Full-time enrollment in a master’s or Ph.D. program
  • Good academic standing

“We are grateful to Albert and Sally for establishing this scholarship,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “The Pimentels have been strong supporters of RIT/NTID and our deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and we appreciate their belief in the talents of our students. This gift to RIT/NTID continues their generosity in investing in young people and their futures.”