Monthly Archives: October 2015

RIT/NTID 50th Anniversary Reunion Dates Announced

front of LBJ Hall with plants in front and part of cube sculpture

The 50th anniversary of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will culminate in a reunion hosted on campus June 28 to July 1, 2018.

The announcement appeared in a joint video statement from reunion co-chairs Chris and Staci Wagner of Bradenton, Florida, and NTID Alumni Association president Joe Riggio of Fishers, Indiana.

The anniversary marks 50 years since the first cohort of students matriculated at NTID, one of the nine colleges of RIT, in 1968. A kick-off event during Brick City Homecoming festivities in October 2017 will inaugurate a yearlong celebration, culminating with the reunion the following June.

The theme of the reunion will be “Reconnect. Reunite. Reflect.”

“This reunion represents an opportunity for fellow RIT/NTID alumni to celebrate the connections, both new and old, with each other as well as the campus and the college itself,” said Staci Wagner. “Many of them feel a debt of gratitude to NTID for the impact it’s had on their personal journeys and professional career.”

“Being able to look forward to the reunion is just the first of many things to anticipate during the celebration of NTID’s 50th anniversary,” said RIT/NTID President Gerry Buckley, the first alumnus to hold the position. “Having alumni on campus to help honor this milestone in NTID’s history will make it all the more special.”

More than 7,000 students have graduated from RIT/NTID.

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and for providing unparalleled support services for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID offers associate degree programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and provides support and access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who study in the other eight colleges of RIT. NTID also offers a bachelor’s degree program in sign language interpreting and a master’s degree program in secondary education for individuals interested in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students come from all over the United States and around the world to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at RIT/NTID. Visit:

The captioned video can be found at

RIT/NTID Alumni Featured in National Film Festival

Amber Zion in

RIT/NTID alumna Amber Zion is featured in the film, “Finding June,” one of six films in the LUNAFEST, a national film festival that showcases short films by, for, and about women. Alumnus Ruan du Plessis was cinematographer for the film.

LUNAFEST, in its 15th year, has received over 10,000 submissions, worked with over 100 female directors, and had female directed films viewed by more than 300,000 people across the United States to date.

Nearly 400 Students Attend RIT/NTID Job Fair

at left is a young man with cochlear implant signing to Sam Sandoval in red short with Harris corp. sign and display table

Representatives from more than 45 local and national corporations, federal agencies and non-profit organizations met with nearly 400 deaf and hard-of-hearing students—who are also prospective employees—at the 15th annual job fair on Oct. 21 at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The event was held in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus.

Company representatives conducted “on the spot” interviews with NTID students who are vying for cooperative education positions or full-time employment after graduation in fields such as business, finance, graphic design, engineering, computing, and more. Interpreters were available at each table, and in many cases, the company recruiters were NTID alumni. Companies included Microsoft Corp., Lockheed Martin, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of Defense, Dow Chemical Co., Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield, Harris Corp., The Learning Center for the Deaf, The Bank of New York Mellon Corp., and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, among others. Employers also had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion.

Maya Ariel, a 2012 business management graduate from RIT’s Saunders College of Business, attended the job fair as a recruiter for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. As a former student, Ariel was selected shortly after graduation for the organization’s Leaders in Motion program, a development program in which participants rotate through four different departments at DFAS before being permanently placed. Today, she is a financial systems analyst and returned to NTID’s Job Fair to search for future employees in the accounting, finance, human resources or information technology fields.

“My advice for students is to keep all of their options open, take advantage of every opportunity they can, and get a foot in the door,” said Ariel. “I’m a proud RIT graduate and based on my experience, I know these students are well prepared to enter the job market.”

Joao Paulo, a second-year accounting technology student from Brazil, was searching for a co-op placement during the job fair. He said he was nervous at first, but was able to relax and put his best foot forward.

“I came to the job fair for the first time today and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Paulo. “I just tried to be myself and worked my way through it. I spoke with about seven different companies, including Prudential and The Hartford, which both seemed like good matches. I made my way through the tables and I tried really hard to make a good impression and be relaxed yet excited at the same time.”

Samuel Sandoval, a 2013 information technology graduate from Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, returned for the second time as a recruiter for Harris Corp. He told students to be persistent.

“The employees at Harris Corp. didn’t really have much exposure to deaf culture,” he said. “Now, in addition to my job as a software engineer, I teach a sign language class to the employees every Monday.”

NTID’s Center on Employment also recognized three companies who consistently hire deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. One of this year’s local honorees was The Gleason Works.

Alicia Kalen, a human resources generalist at The Gleason Works, has worked with NTID computer integrated machining technology students as part of their summer internship program.

“This has been a very positive experience,” said Kalen. “We have established a relationship with NTID and our goal is to create a talent pipeline for advanced manufacturing positions at Gleason. The students are graduating with an excellent foundation in machining, blue print reading and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. They learn how to work as a team—toward the same goal—and they have a good idea how a company is run. Today, I met students who are friends with five students who worked for Gleason last summer. The good word is spreading and Gleason is excited and happy to be here.”

Other companies recognized were Purple Communications, headquartered in Rocklin, Calif., and Seattle, Wash.; and University of California—San Diego (Moores Cancer Center).

“We have many deaf and hard-of-hearing alumni employer representatives who attended the job fair who are role models for our students and recent graduates,” said John Macko, director of NTID’s Center on Employment. “The NTID Job Fair allows these alumni to connect with our students and to demonstrate what it takes to be successful in the workplace. Employers continue to want highly qualified employees who bring the necessary skills and who will fit into the company culture and contribute to the company’s success.”

Alumnus Publishes Debut Novel

Cover of Willy Conley's novel

Alumnus Willy Conley has published his first novel, The Deaf Heart, centering around the experience of a culturally Deaf protagonist, Max, as he pursues a career as a biomedical photographer.

Conley, known as an actor, director, teacher, and writer, graduated with a B.S. in Biomedical Photographic Communication from RIT in 1981. Like his protagonist, Conley worked as a registered biomedical photographer in hospital settings, and drew from those experiences along with those of other deaf biomedical photographers in crafting this fictional account.

“This book has truly been a labor of love for it showed me how much fun it was to explore the “Deaf experience” in fiction, and how very special my time was as a professionally trained medical photographer during a period when we were most valued in the biomedical profession – before the digital revolution and automatic cameras took over and everyone became a ‘photographer,'” says Conley. “Within the novel are twenty-five photographs of mine, including the cover. I am proud to say that my linked short stories were written from an authentic point of view of a Deaf person – something you won’t read often in published novels.”

The Deaf Heart is available for purchase now.

Alumna Recalls RIT/NTID as Important Part of her Journey to Advocacy

Marlene Mata

Marlene Mata’s mission in life is to encourage and support deaf people, especially Latinos, in achieving their personal and professional goals.

It’s a mission that’s personal. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Work and Human Resources Management from RIT in 2009 and returning to her native New York City, she was referred to a job coach. The job coach suggested she apply for an hourly custodial position, saying it would be a good fit for her.

“I will never forget that experience of being so looked down upon,” says Mata. “It’s so easy to lose faith in your own capabilities when people look at you and make the wrong assumptions.”

She credits her time at RIT for giving her the resilience that allowed her to ignore the job coach’s advice and go on to earn a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from CUNY Hunter College. It was here at RIT, for example, that she enrolled in a class on Latin American literature in the College of Liberal Arts with Dr. Richard Santana, a fellow Dominican, and first encountered the literature of Junot Diaz.

“Because of that class I understood more and made connections between my own experiences growing up and the larger Dominican culture,” adds Mata.

Today, she works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the Boston area helping deaf clients meet their career goals. The youngest of four siblings, she is the only deaf person in her family and the first and only one to attend college.

Looking back, Mata acknowledges the importance of the unique blends of hearing and deaf communities that first brought her to RIT/NTID as well as the diversity and support, both academic and emotional, that she received here. But the personal transformation is the memory that stands out for her.

“I had good friends and good teachers with me as I went on this journey of personal discovery,” says Mata. “That journey is so important later in life, when, as a professional, you learn to resist stereotypes and navigate obstacles.”

“Keep your focus on your passion, and work hard. Ask others for advice, but always remember that your decisions are your own,” she adds.

The vocational rehabilitation counselor in her can’t resist adding one last bit of advice: “Take advantage of internship and co-op opportunities while you’re at RIT/NTID. Those are so important after graduation!”

Lyon Lecture to Feature RIT/NTID Alumnus and Disney Communications Designer

image of Andreas with short hair and goatee wearing a hoodie

The annual Lyon Memorial Lectureship Series will feature RIT/NTID alumnus Andreas Wezel-Peterson who will deliver a presentation titled A 360 Degree Visual Portrait of a Designer’s Process. 

The lecture will take place Thursday, Oct. 29 in Xerox Auditorium (2580) in James E. Gleason Hall on the RIT campus, and will run 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. with a question and answer session 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. The presentation will be delivered in American Sign Language; interpreters will be provided. 

Wezel-Peterson, born and raised in Germany, lives in Los Angeles, and is a communications designer on the Internal Corporate Communications team at Disney Consumer Products, a segment of The Walt Disney Company, in Glendale, California.

He leads all design communiqués, from logo to brand, from print to digital, and from magazine to email newsletter for more than 3,000 employees (including executives) as well as consumers across North America, keeping a multidisciplinary approach to all of his projects.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from RIT’S College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and currently is pursuing a master’s degree in Graphic Design at Savannah College of Arts Design.

The lecture will provide insight into the in-house design department at Disney Consumer Products and the creative process of visual communication design that combines the visual arts and technology to communicate ideas. It begins with a message that, in the hands of a talented designer, is transformed into visual communication that transcends mere words and pictures.

Edmund Lyon (1855-1920) was a noted manufacturer, inventor, humanitarian, and philanthropist in Rochester, who served as a trustee of both RIT and the Rochester School for the Deaf. In 1980, his daughters established the Edmund Lyon Memorial Lectureship to bring distinguished speakers to RIT/NTID. 

RIT/NTID Performing Arts Presents “Seasons–Change and Reflection” Nov. 5-8

image of globe divided into four quarters with dancers in each with title .

RIT/NTID Performing Arts presents “Seasons–Change and Reflection” choreographed and directed by Thomas Warfield, Nov. 5-8 in Panara Theatre. A concert of dynamic and diverse dance performances featuring groups and clubs from the RIT campus including The RIT/NTID Dance Company, Vis Viva Dance Company, Velocity Urban Dance Crew, Tango Club and the RIT String Quartet. Performances on Nov. 5 and 6 feature a special encore with International Hip-Hop Violinist – Svet.

Show times:
November 5, 6, and 7 – 7:30 p.m.
November 8 – 2:00 p.m.

Tickets: $5 (students/seniors/children), $7 (all others) ** All reserved tickets must be purchased before the show date.**

Email to purchase or visit the Panara Theatre Box Office.

RIT/NTID Alumni Featured in Seattle Theater Production

George (played by alumnus Ryan Schlecht), right, in

RIT/NTID alumni Ryan Schlecht and Elizabeth Ayers Gibson recently wrapped up an Azeotrope production called “Sound.”

Written by award-winning screenwriter Don Nguyen and co-directed by Howie Seago and Desdemona Chiang, the play opened on September 11 and completely sold out its opening weekend at ACT theater in downtown Seattle.

Sound is a bilingual play that focuses on Deaf culture and the debate over cochlear implants. Ryan played fisherman father George, and Elizabeth played Mabel, Alexander Graham Bell’s wife. 

This production was significant, says Elizabeth, because it was the first time deaf people were directly involved in an ACT theater production.

Technology was also incorporated into the production, with subtitling provided on three sides of the stage for non-signed scenes. At least one night featured a fully-subtitled performance for deaf and hard-of-hearing non-signers and deaf-blind patrons.

More information about the production can be found here.