Monthly Archives: May 2015

RIT/NTID Students Graduate with Accolades and Bright Futures

As graduating students Friday packed up to head home or to start new chapters in their careers, many paused one last time to look back on their college years and reflect on their achievements.

Several students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were honored with their families and friends at an academic awards ceremony May 22.

The following day, students in NTID associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs received their diplomas at a ceremony at the Gene Polisseni Center. Retiring chairperson of the Visual Communication Studies Department, Kenneth Hoffmann, was the Mace bearer, and graduate Franly Ulerio Nunez was the student delegate. In total, 305 deaf and hard-of-hearing students earned degrees through NTID and the other eight colleges of RIT.

            “Bring the spirit of RIT/NTID into the world,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “Stay committed to improving the world throughout your lives.

            The graduates who received awards are:

  • Franly Ulerio Nunez, a laboratory science technology major from New York, N.Y., received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning an associate degree.
  • Adrian Kelly, an ASL-English interpreting major from Middletown N.Y., received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Carly Leannah, from Green Bay, Wis., and Chelsea Powers, from Massapequa, N.Y., both Master of Science program in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf of Hard of Hearing majors, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a master’s degree.
  • Mason Chronister, an administrative support technology major from Red Lion, Pa., and Christine Gerard, an applied computer technology major from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning associate’s degrees.
  • Kyle Murbach, a computing security major from Wheaton, Ill., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Carly Leannah, a Master of Science program in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf of Hard of Hearing major from Green Bay, Wis., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a master’s degree.
  • Kayla Stanley, an ASL-English interpreting major from Bellport, N.Y., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for interpreting students earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Franly Ulerio Nunez, a laboratory science technology major from New York, N.Y., is the 2015 NTID college delegate for undergraduate students.

Other students who had recent achievements include:

Nathan Scott, an applied arts and sciences major from Schenectady, N.Y., Natalie Snyder, a biomedical sciences major from Rockville, Md., Brett Morris, a game design and development major from Farmington, Conn., Rachel Green, an ASL-English interpretation major from Springfield, Mass., Catherine Lambe, an ASL-English interpreting major from Marcy, N.Y., and Kyle Murbach, a computing security major from Wheaton, Ill., were named Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars.

RIT/NTID Named Major Technology Sub-contractor on FCC Contract

The Center on Access Technology Innovation Lab at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has been named the major technical sub-contractor in a partnership with VTCSecure, LLC to advance telecommunications access for the deaf, hard-of-hearing and speech disabled populations in the United States. RIT/NTID will provide technology support, alpha and beta testing for the development of a state-of-the-art Video Access Technology Reference Platform (VATRP).

The Federal Communications Commission awarded the contract to VTCSecure, with the subcontract going to RIT/NTID to focus on the technological aspects of the platform, which will provide high quality, open source text, voice and video.

RIT/NTID, a global leader in accessible technology, STEM- and career-focused education, will be providing advanced technology support for the project. NTID is the first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the world and has the largest number of deaf and hard-of-hearing students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level anywhere in the world.

“RIT/NTID, through our Center on Access Technology is proud to partner on this ground-breaking project and provide consultation on technology development for software that will significantly enhance communication services for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing,” says Gary Behm, director of RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology Innovation Lab. To ensure that the VATRP meets the needs of those it intends to serve, “We will be enlisting the services of deaf RIT/NTID faculty and staff members with expertise in information technology to work on this project and have hired a deaf doctoral student who is pursuing her Ph.D. at RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.”

RIT/NTID’s goal in joining the partnership is to ensure that deaf users will have the best possible access to the latest telecommunication technology.

A full description of the contract partnership can be found here

RIT/NTID Student, STEM Student Researcher Takes Top Prize at National Conference

Annette Tavernese, a Master of Science in Secondary Education student from Brick, New Jersey, took home the top prize at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM, in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Her presentation about the challenges faced by deaf and hard-of-hearing students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields earned her top points in the science and math education graduate student category.

In her presentation and throughout her supporting research, Tavernese cited social isolation as a main concern of these students, but provided ways that the challenges could be overcome.

“The Deaf STEM Community Alliance is addressing social isolation by creating a model virtual (online) academic community for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in science, technology, engineering and math majors, their faculty, mentors and staff,” explained Tavernese.

Tavernese’s research—which includes identifying the ideal time of day for STEM students’ online social interaction and which STEM topics generate the most interaction—is being conducted through a collaborative effort between RIT and other universities, including Camden County College and Cornell University, as well as with deaf and hard-of-hearing STEM professionals across the United States. The research project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Annette understands how important it is for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to understand science, technology, engineering and math concepts and to share that knowledge with others,” said Lisa Elliot, senior research scientist, principal investigator for the Deaf STEM Community Alliance and an NTID faculty member. “I was so proud to see her bring her enthusiasm about our project at the national conference, and I know that other attendees learned a great deal from her presentation.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching: Christopher Kurz

Providing experiential learning opportunities and establishing strong connections with his students are two contributors to Christopher Kurz’s success in the classroom. His triumphs are the result of thought-provoking and practical applications of his lessons and his ability to adapt his teaching style and philosophy to meet the changing needs of his diverse students.

Kurz, an associate professor in NTID’s secondary education of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing master’s program and a 1995 graduate of RIT’s applied mathematics program in the College of Science, is one of this year’s recipients of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching. Kurz helps develop the talents of his students who will soon re-enter classrooms around the world in a different capacity — as educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing secondary students.

“My inspiration comes from seeing my students improve their skills, grow, become professionals,” he said. “I have also learned to connect deeper with my students and learn more about where they come from, what they bring to the table. My students and I — we have a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Kurz is also known for making his lessons come alive. For several years, he has taught deaf history courses in which students examine artifacts like school diaries written by deaf students in the 19th century, war-era dollar bills that were published by a school for the deaf during wartime, and antiquated instructional materials to catch a glimpse into what life was like for deaf people over the past 400 years. He also enlists a technique called “Theatre in Education,” where actors dressed as Edward Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell and other famous pioneers in deaf history entertain and educate through debates designed to spark conversations about deaf life and issues in deaf education from decades past. Kurz’s students also develop partnerships and curricular and historical research projects alongside Rochester School for the Deaf that, accordingly to Kurz, is rich in local deaf history.

“I want to be a driving force in raising the bar for students in the field of deaf education,” he added. “I’m a product of deaf education, so it’s important for me to be a catalyst in educating and preparing the next generation of teachers of the deaf.”

No.1 RIT Men’s Lacrosse Heads to Semifinals

The top-ranked RIT men’s lacrosse team defeated No. 10 Cortland in the NCAA Quarterfinal on Wed., May 13. The RIT Tigers now advance to the semifinals for the third straight season and will face defending national champion Tufts University on Sun., May 17 at RIT Tiger Stadium. RIT set a record by winning its 21st straight game and is 41-1 over the last two seasons. More.

RIT/NTID Student Ready to Face the Future


Mason Chronister carefully files away colorful memories of people he has met, places he has traveled, unforgettable experiences he’s had. As he faces his bright future, Chronister is anticipating making memories in a new way as he copes with the gradual loss of his vision.

Chronister, who will soon earn his associate in applied science degree in administrative support technology from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic condition resulting in a combination of hearing loss and slow-developing visual impairment that causes night blindness, loss of peripheral vision, and ultimately, complete vision loss. About four people in every 100,000 are diagnosed with the incurable condition.

“I was born deaf to hearing parents and attended mainstream schools,” said Chronister, from Red Lion, Pa. “I didn’t start noticing the effects of Usher Syndrome until I was about 14 years old. As time has gone on, it’s gotten worse. Today, I’m not able to see at night and my peripheral vision is so limited that I can’t see objects in my walking path. Sometimes I look clumsy because my balance has been affected. But despite all of my challenges, I’ve always known that I can accomplish anything—including realizing my dream of one day working for the government.”

In many ways, Chronister is not unlike so many other successful RIT graduates. He currently carries a 3.34 GPA and is a certified Microsoft specialist in Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint, and he plans to enter the workforce just weeks after crossing the commencement stage. At the end of May, he will use his skills as an administrative professional with the Defense Logistics Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense located about an hour away from his home in Pennsylvania. In fact, this is Chronister’s second “tour of duty” with the agency. A successful co-op assignment last year helped secure permanent employment.

“I’ve always been fascinated by government—how it operates and how it impacts people’s lives,” he said. “Although I’m deaf and have limited vision, I’m able to work with my supervisor and co-workers to expertly execute my job, which includes documenting sensitive military information.”

Further filling his mental “memory book,” Chronister was the first RIT student with Usher Syndrome to study abroad in Italy, taking in the sights of Rome, Florence, Vatican City and Siena. He has also traveled extensively throughout the United States, visiting one of his favorite spots, San Francisco, where he actually hugged a part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Yes, I hugged it,” he laughed. “And I hugged a column in the Roman Colosseum, too. When I see something famous, it’s what I do. It’s like it helps me commit it to memory and it literally helps put me in touch with these fascinating objects.”

Back at NTID, Chronister has performed small roles in theatrical productions including Damn Yankees! and Hairspray.

“It’s challenging for me to participate in theater because of the dramatic lighting and the many stage props in my path,” he said. “It’s a true team effort—from our director to the other deaf and hearing actors and interpreters—to be sure that everything comes together and works out for me. I saw another student with Usher Syndrome participate in the theater, and that really inspired me. And my participation seems to have inspired others to join in,” he said.

Those who know Chronister well say that he is destined to live a great life.

“Mason is awesomely intriguing,” said Jonathan Holmes, his employment adviser at NTID. “He is unafraid to step into vulnerability and embrace his own authenticity. Being around him is truly a breath of fresh air and inspires me to be better in my work and in life. He brings light to everyone that he comes into contact with and has a very keen understanding of life. Mason is one of the few individuals I have ever encountered that has found the secret of living an honest and fulfilling life at such a young age.”

“No one knows what the future holds,” Chronister adds. “Every day they are making strides in the medical field and I continue to keep my strong faith. With the support of my family and friends, I refuse to let my loss of vision and hearing prevent me from doing everything I want to do. I refuse to set up barriers for my own success.”

RIT Named One of the Best Online Universities

Rochester Institute of Technology is being recognized as one of the nation’s best online colleges for 2015. ranked RIT 11th in its annual list released this week of the 50 best online colleges. 

According to, the rankings are based on the school’s academic excellence, faculty credentials, student support, awards, rankings, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs. More.

RIT Saunders College’s Online MBA Program Among Best

Photo by: A. Sue Weisler

RIT Saunders College of Business ranked seventh on The Princeton Review’s “Top 25 Online MBA Programs for 2015.” This is the first time that The Princeton Review has done a comprehensive ranking of online MBA programs. Saunders Online Executive MBA Program was cited for its “challenging and selective” accelerated program which offers a “seamless experience” with “great support,” “excellent faculty,” and that “RIT has really set the bar in terms of technology.” The Saunders Online Executive MBA program is an AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)-accredited customizable degree with flexible scheduling options and access to a dedicated MBA career services adviser, as well as free lifetime access to RIT’s Career Services. More.