RIT/NTID and UR host national meeting of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists

Organizers of the RSRTI conference Stephen Dewhurst of URMC and Peter Hauser of RIT/NTID with keynote presenter Carol Padden.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the University of Rochester Medical Center held the first Rochester Summer Research Training Institute with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Scientists and Their Mentors June 11-13. The three-day conference drew one of the largest groups of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists in the nation.  

Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are vastly under-represented in biomedical fields. RIT/NTID and URMC have partnered to identify unique barriers to science- and health-related careers faced by these individuals. Among them is a barrier to mentorship for students who are striving for health or science related careers.

With few deaf or hard-of-hearing professionals in biomedical careers, role models for the next generation of deaf scientists are few and—often literally—far between. RIT/NTID and URMC’s Rochester Summer Research Training Institute was a new approach to break down that barrier, bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists at all levels of career development together from across the nation.

“I was especially impressed by the interaction and dialogue between students, postdoctoral trainees, junior faculty and top national figures,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for Research at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “This kind of exchange and networking is exactly what we wanted to encourage when we set out to plan this meeting.”

The meeting featured a keynote address from Carol Padden, Ph.D., dean of social sciences and Sanford I. Berman Endowed Professor of Communication in the Center for Research in Language at University of California, San Diego.

“I received my Ph.D. in 1983 and there were so few of us in graduate school we had to look out for each other,” said Padden. “Now at this conference I’m so impressed at how many deaf students are pursuing doctoral and medical degrees. So many more and so many different fields, it is astonishing.”

A total of 85 participants attended the Rochester Summer Research Institute, which was held at URMC’s Saunders Research Building immediately following the conclusion of the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss (AMPHL) conference at RIT/NTID. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees as well as faculty and staff from across the country came together at this conference to network, learn from one another and raise the profile of deaf scientists.

“It was inspiring to witness young deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists meeting each other for the first time and making connections,” said Peter Hauser, Ph.D., director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate Program. “Many felt isolated in their fields and were able to share their experiences. I believe the resources they learned at RSRTI will help them overcome future challenges and navigate science successfully.”

The program also included an interactive poster session, small group breakout sessions and a keynote speech from Charlene E. Le Fauve, Ph.D., senior advisor to the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity in the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health; and Caroline Solomon, Ph.D., chair of the faculty senate and professor of biology at Gallaudet University also presented.

The event was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (K12 GM106997) and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Search the hashtag #deafscientists to see what people were saying about the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

RIT/NTID alumnus Peter Cook joins Performing Arts Advisory Committee

Image of Peter Cook with long dark hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing blue shirt and plaid scarf.

The performing arts program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has named alumnus Peter Cook to its Performing Arts Advisory Committee. The committee was founded in 2015 to strengthen, support and advise NTID’s theater program.

Cook, an American Sign Language poet, actor, filmmaker, director and professor at Columbia College in Chicago, graduated from Clarke Center for Hearing and Speech and came to NTID in 1980. His first theatrical role was Caliban, the half-human, half-demon antihero of Shakespeare’s Tempest. After becoming fluent in ASL, he mastered the art of ASL poetry/performance/storytelling.

The NTID Performing Arts Advisory Committee is chaired by RIT/NTID alumnus Matthew S. Moore, president of MSM Productions, Ltd., and publisher of DEAF LIFE magazine. The committee also includes veteran deaf actors Howie Seago of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Adrian Blue of Yale University’s ASL Shakespeare Project.

“I’m delighted to have Peter Cook aboard the advisory committee,” said Moore. “He brings his experience and expertise on ASL theater, and his perspective will be valuable as we seek to improve the quality of theater at NTID.”

Two of the committee’s initial goals—reviving NTID’s traveling troupe, Sunshine 2.0, and upgrading the Panara Theatre and lobby—have been achieved. Plans are in development to renovate and upgrade Room 1510 in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall into a black-box theater for small-scale ASL productions. Other goals include establishing intern and co-op positions, funding an endowed chair for the performing arts, helping to choose each season’s productions, promoting the development of original work by deaf playwrights, and establishing a summer theater program for deaf high school and college students that encompasses performance, stagecraft, cinematic studies, multimedia, directing and theater management. The committee also seeks to engage in community outreach, encourage greater community involvement in theater, increase opportunities for student participation, and promote ASL theater.

For more details on the NTID Performing Arts program, visit www.ntid.rit.edu/theatre/. For Advisory Committee updates, go to https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofNTIDTheatre.

Dangerous Signs presents PIPPIN at Rochester’s Geva Theatre

Poster for PIPPIN featuring group of colorfully dressed actors with PIPPIN written in red.

Dangerous Signs, under the direction of RIT/NTID faculty member Luane Davis Haggerty, will stage their production of the musical PIPPIN June 16 and 17 at Geva Theatre's Fielding Stage. Performances are at 7 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $22 for adults and $15 for students and seniors and can be puchased through the Geva box office by calling 585-232-4832 or emailing BoxOffice@gevaTheatre.org

The ensemble cast tells the story of Pippin, a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life.

The production is fully accessible, using spoken and sung English, sign language and captioning. 

Dr. Alvin C. Merritt Boyd III receives AAUA award

Alvin Boyd, left, holding award with Jerome Neuner of AAUA.

Dr, Alvin C. Merritt Boyd III, RIT/NTID business studies lecturer, received the Leo and Margaret Goodman-Malamuth Dissertation Award for 2017 at the American Association of University Administrators' Leadership Seminar, June 8-9 in New Orleans. His dissertation was titled, “Experience and Perceptions of Full-Time, Non-Tenure-Track Faculty at a Four-Year University.” 

In addition to the award from AAUA, Boyd also was given the Exemplary Performance in Scholarship Award from the School of Education at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, where he earned his doctoral degree. 

What’s next for members of RIT/NTID’s class of 2017?

group of graduates wearing cap and gown

NTID has a strong history of successful employment outcomes for our graduates. For the past several years, 94% of RIT/NTID graduates who have sought employment have found a job within a year. This year’s graduates are off to a good start—a number of them already have jobs lined up, and others are planning to attend graduate school. We congratulate these students and the entire Class of 2017! Check out what's next for some of our recent RIT/NTID graduates.

RIT/NTID presents “Deaf Education in South Africa”

Ingrid Parkin with short blonde hair wearing dark jacket and print top against green background.

RIT/NTID's Center for International Educational Outreach presents "Deaf Education in South Africa" noon-1 p.m. Tues., June 6, in the CSD Student Development Center, room 1310. 

Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in South Africa, will share information about the current state and challenges faced by deaf education in South Africa. 

Parkin is the first deaf person to become principal of a deaf school in South Africa. 

Assistive Technology in the Workplace workshop

Blue background with Assistive Technology in the Workplace in black letters.

RochesterWorks!, Monroe County’s largest employment and training initiative, in collaboration with Monroe County, ACCES-VR and the NTID Center on Employment present: Assistive Technology in the Workplace 9-11:30 a.m. Thursday, June 29, at Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Assistive Technology in the Workplace is the latest in RochesterWorks!’s long history of innovative events, workshops, conferences, and job fairs dedicated to equipping our community’s job seekers and businesses to interact with each other. The event is designed to show businesses that customizing the workplace to suit every worker is easier and more cost effective than ever before. Large print and tactile keyboards, screen magnifiers, and navigation assistance, are just a few common assistive technologies used in the workplace.

Admission is $10. Breakfast will be served, and a raffle ticket will be included with admission.

Balancing Act

Smiling female student with long brown hair and glasses standing in fron of a wall

Knowledge of Excel and general ledger skills allow Natalya Dmitriyeva to accomplish her monthly goal of balancing the books. Dmitriyeva, from Odessa, Ukraine, graduated May 2017 with a bachelor's degree in accounting. She already is working full time as an accounting specialist at Visions Hotels, a hotel management company in Rochester, New York. More






Deaf RIT graduate defines strength in the face of adversity

Amie Sankoh in a long-sleeved light color top, jeans and ankle boots sits w/sculpture of a roaring tiger with trees behind her.

Amie Sankoh has overcome many obstacles in her life—and her walk across the stage during this weekend’s commencement ceremony for RIT’s College of Science will mark the beginning of a new chapter.

The biochemistry student, who is deaf and supported by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, will begin studying in August for her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. One day she hopes to use her expertise to conduct groundbreaking research on vaccine development and disease prevention.

As a young student in the west African country of Sierra Leone, Sankoh struggled due to her deafness and a lack of resources. Her parents, refusing to accept failure, made the bold decision to send their 12-year-old daughter to the United States where she would live with her father’s best friend and his family, attend better schools and ultimately gain more opportunities.

Sankoh’s breakthrough came in high school, where her love for mathematics and chemistry flourished. She also learned sign language, which enabled her to break down communication barriers with other deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

“Once I discovered my love for math, which was very visual, I knew that I could do anything with my life,” she said. “My mind was set on attending RIT/NTID because I knew that it was the right fit for me.”

Throughout her academic career, Sankoh participated in internships at top companies like Dow Chemical Co. in Pennsylvania and credits NTID faculty and staff for teaching her how to strengthen her communication skills, advocate for herself and develop her love for Deaf culture.

“My parents have always had very high expectations of their children, and they greatly value education,” she said. “NTID has given me the confidence to believe in myself and affirm that I can make it, especially in a tough science field. I’ve learned how to work with people who are hearing and deaf, study alongside faculty researchers and sharpen my interview skills. I just know that I’m going to make it. I work really hard.”

At NTID, Sankoh was a member of the Organization of African Students (OAS), Ebony Club, the Student Life Team and supported Spectrum, the LGBTIQ and straight alliance. And in March, Sankoh also become a U.S. citizen.

“Amie is an amazing person who exemplifies how to grow oneself,” said Joseph Johnston, director of RIT’s Center for Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution. “Amie’s resiliency and optimistic attitude provided such benefits to herself and the RIT community. She is a very special human being and is one of my favorite students I have ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Sankoh added, “Life is hard and we all have challenges. I’ve fallen and have gotten back up every time. I’m proof that there is always a way to overcome challenges.”

At the University of Tennessee, Sankoh will have 24/7 access to interpreting and notetaking services and will also receive a stipend to conduct her research. She said although her father is somewhat shocked and surprised at her achievements, she knew, deep down, that he expected nothing less.

“My father is so impressed by everything that I’ve been able to accomplish. And I’m so proud that he will be able to watch me cross that stage and move one step closer to my achieving my dream.”