Monthly Archives: February 2016

RIT/NTID establishes master’s degree program in health care interpretation

small girl in doctor's office on exam table next to mother with doctor and interpreter

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has received approval from New York State Department of Education to establish a first-of-its-kind Master of Science degree program in health care interpretation to meet the demands of nationally certified sign-language interpreters desiring a master’s degree specific to working in healthcare environments.

The program is a collaborative venture between NTID and RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology and marks the first time that NTID will be partnering with another RIT college to provide a master’s degree program.

“We are excited about this new venture with NTID in a graduate level degree for health care interpreters,” said Richard Doolittle, vice dean for RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. “Our collaboration will help ensure these highly skilled interpreters receive the kind of medical technical training they will need to succeed in healthcare settings.”

The program will meet the growing demand for specialized sign language healthcare interpreters as more deaf and hard-of-hearing professionals enter medical/healthcare fields, increase the number of specialized sign language interpreters working in patient healthcare settings, and prepare interpreters to work in administrative roles to ensure language access to patients in hospital settings.

According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2012 and 2022, there will be 46 percent employment growth for interpreters and translators, much faster than the average for all occupations. The field is on track to add more than 29,000 new positions during that time period. Graduates of the program may find work as staff interpreters, freelance interpreters, or on a per-diem basis in health care, healthcare education and healthcare research settings nationwide.

“The program will provide in-depth specialized education in the field of healthcare interpretation that is not currently available to interpreters,” said Kim Kurz, chairperson of NTID’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Department, which will house the new degree program. “The program will appeal to certified interpreters aspiring to direct their careers into healthcare environments, as well as to interpreters who currently are working in the healthcare field.”

Applicants must have certification from the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university for admission. The program begins with a one-week on-campus residency professional seminar, with the remainder of the program delivered online. Unique curricular features that incorporate rigorous academic and career preparation include production of ASL/English skill development videos recorded and evaluated by peers and faculty, webinar-delivered case conferencing sessions led initially by faculty and progressing to student-led sessions; papers, exams and a final capstone project.

“The advanced skill sets required to interpret in health care, healthcare education and healthcare research environments constitute an emerging specialization in the interpreting profession,” said Gerry Buckley, president of NTID and vice president and dean for RIT. “There are currently no programs in the United States that offer a master’s degree in healthcare interpretation, and we are proud to be the first to provide this type of educational experience to meet the growing demand.”

For more information, go to

NTID alumna plays male lead in “Tribes” after nationwide search

Cast of Tribes in Riot Act's production sits around a dinner table.

Congratulations to RIT/NTID alumna Michelle Schaefer, who is playing the lead role of “Billy” in a production of TRIBES in Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

Michelle was cast in the role in Riot Act’s production of Nina Raines’ award-winning play after director Macey Mott expanded her search nationwide in an effort to recruit a deaf actor. The play runs Thursday through Saturday. For more information, see this piece published at Creative Peaks.

Murray joins RIT/NTID

Rebecca Murray with shoulder length brown hair, grey top and light blue cardigan

Rebecca Murray of Great Meadows, New Jersey, has joined Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as the Virtual Academic Community manager in the Center on Access Technology.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Virtual Academic Community (VAC) is hosted by the Deaf STEM Community Alliance and supported by a National Science Foundation grant, RIT/NTID, Camden County College and Cornell University. The VAC is an online community to support the learning needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Murray has more than six years of teaching experience. She has worked as a teacher for the deaf at the Florida School for the Deaf, Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, St. Mary’s School for the Deaf and the West Irondequoit School District. She has been an adjunct instructor for RIT since 2013, and taught classes with first-year students.

She earned bachelor’s degrees in Deaf Education and Elementary Education from Flagler College in Florida. In 2012 Murray earned her master’s degree in Secondary Education of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students from RIT/NTID. 

“We are fortunate to have someone with Rebecca’s skills and experience on board with the VAC venture,” said Gerry Buckley, president of NTID and vice president and dean of RIT. “She serves as a role model for deaf and hard-of-hearing students throughout the alliance who are interested in the STEM disciplines.”

RIT/NTID’s Todd Pagano named outstanding undergraduate science educator

Todd Pagano in check shirt and sweater vest in front of lab equipment

Todd Pagano, founding director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award by the Society for College Science Teachers. He will receive the award at the National Science Teachers Association national conference in April in Nashville, Tenn. The award is co-sponsored by Springer publishing.

Pagano is being recognized for his highly successful, American Chemical Society-approved program to prepare deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students for technological careers in chemistry. The program enrolls more than 60 students each year, with about 80 percent of those students completing the program and 98 percent of those who graduate securing jobs or continuing their learning through additional education and advanced training. Both of these metrics exceed the success rates of their hearing peers.

As a testament to his passion for student success and building and leading the LST program, Pagano has helped to place a large number of his deaf and hard-of-hearing students into meaningful careers and cooperative education placements in the sciences. He also actively involves his students in conducting scientific research. He has been honored by his students for his work in building exciting, rigorous and student-centered courses that prepare them for chemistry careers beyond the classroom and for promoting research projects among his students.

Pagano was named the United States Professor of the Year for 2012-2013 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was also named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster in 2015.

Pagano has published numerous articles and books about working with underrepresented students in STEM fields. He is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and has authored a number of technical papers in environmental and analytical chemistry and given nearly 200 presentations at technical conferences. His undergraduate student researchers are often co-authors on these publications and presentations.

“Dr. Pagano’s work is significantly narrowing achievement gaps in education and employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the science field,” said Gerard Buckley, president of NTID and vice president and dean for RIT. “He brings an energy and enthusiasm to the field that the students are inspired to follow.”

University of Michigan, Rochester Institute of Technology to partner in $3 million grant to improve health care information dissemination to people who are deaf

headshots of peter hauser and michael mckee

Health information can be difficult to understand for anyone, but it is especially difficult for deaf individuals who may struggle with information and health care marginalization. This is a population with high rates of inadequate health literacy and health disparities. A grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders is looking to change that.

The five-year, $3 million grant will assess key differences in attitudes, knowledge and skills related to health information between deaf and hearing individuals by incorporating cutting edge technology to assess health information, and will interpret the patterns of those seeking access to health information in the deaf population. The project will study mechanisms of health literacy in the deaf population, as well as determine key differences in health information accessibility in different media (multimedia, text and video) and online navigation skills with health information searches between deaf and hearing individuals. The information will help understand key mechanisms of visual learning as it relates to health information accessibility.  

Leading the project will be Dr. Michael McKee, assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan, and Peter C. Hauser, professor and director of the Deaf Studies Laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. During his time in Rochester, McKee was a member of the Task Force on Health Care Careers for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community, housed at RIT/NTID.

“We will be studying how deaf and hearing individuals may differ in their ability to access and understand health information,” McKee said. “Since deaf individuals are primarily visual learners, we are hoping to learn key elements to improve how health information is displayed and learned visually.”  

The researchers will learn through various experiments including the use of an eye gaze tracker that helps them understand how and where information is being accessed by participants. Eye-gaze tracker technology monitors where subjects view information on a computer screen.

“There is a significant health disparity in the deaf community and this grant should help us close the gap,” said Hauser. “I’m excited about working with Dr. McKee on this important project that will provide insight on how to improve the deaf community’s health literacy and ultimately have a positive impact on deaf individuals’ health and longevity.”

Preliminary results of McKee’s previous research have shown that:

  • Deaf individuals were found to be nearly seven times more likely to have inadequate health literacy compared to their hearing peers.   
  • Deaf individuals are at a much higher risk for arthritis, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, emphysema, stroke, and multiple chronic conditions when compared to hearing individuals.

Similarly, Hauser’s research has shown that deaf individuals are less aware of symptoms of heart attacks and strokes and are not as familiar with preventive cardiovascular practices.

“This is one of the few NIH projects led by deaf researchers who are members of the community they are studying,” Hauser said. “This ensures continuous deaf leadership, which will help sustain community participation in the research agenda and enhance the ecological validity of the findings.”

There will be 900 deaf and 900 hearing enrolled and tested in the study, ages 18 and older. They will be recruited from Rochester, N.Y.; Chicago; and Flint, Mich. Rochester is believed to have the largest per capita deaf population in the country.

Additional members of the investigative team include Dr. Michael Paasche-Orlow, Boston University; Ananda Sen, University of Michigan; Dr. Michael Fetters, University of Michigan; Lorraine Buis, University of Michigan; Teri Hedding, Sinai Deaf Health at Chicago; and Kay Taylor, Hurley Medical Center, Flint, Mich.

The University of Michigan Health System’s Department of Family Medicine is a nationally recognized leader in patient care, education, and research. Our research programs are highly ranked by the National Institutes for Health and are committed to an ethical and humanitarian approach to improving the quality of primary medical care. Current research focuses on eradicating the burden of chronic disease; eliminating health disparities; improving the delivery of health care; and promoting health and well-being. For more information, go to

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. For more information, go to

RIT/NTID names Swob to faculty

headshot of tyler swob wearing white button down shirt

Tyler Swob has joined the faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf in NTID’s Science and Mathematics Department. He tutors deaf and hard-of-hearing students in RIT Calculus-related courses.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Finance from RIT in 2013, and attended Duke University where he earned his master’s degree in Engineering Management with a concentration in Finance in 2014. 

Swob interned at a number of investment firms and managed the budget for the National Association of the Deaf’s Youth Ambassador Program from 2013 to 2014.

“We are pleased that Tyler has joined the RIT/NTID faculty,” said RIT/NTID President Gerry Buckley. “He brings a passion for learning and innovation and serves as an excellent mentor and role model for our students.”

RIT/NTID celebrates Black History Month with rare exhibit of black deaf artists, three-day symposium

“Dancing Lady with the Jazz” art features painting of three black musicians

In celebration of Black History Month, the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf hosts a rare exhibit showcasing the work of black deaf artists around the globe.

“Unfolding the Soul of Black Deaf Expressions” runs through Feb. 27 and features more than 150 works of art from 30 black deaf artists. Pieces stem from a variety of artistic media including paintings, photography and drawings.

A three-day symposium will also be held Feb. 25–27 in the Dyer Arts Center. Many of the presentations are free including “Empowering Young Black Deaf Artists” by Emily Blachly; “Preserving the Legacy of Black Deaf Art,” by LeeAnne Valentine; “How to be an Art Patron,” by Fred Beam and Earl Terry; and “Success Stories of Black Deaf Artists,” presented by a group of participating artists. For a complete schedule of events, go to the Dyer Arts Center website.

“One of the goals of the Dyer Arts Center is to display exhibits promoting cultural groups at least once a year,” said Tabitha Jacques, gallery director. “This season, we are proudly featuring the magnificent work of black deaf artists. It’s important to us that Dyer Arts Center’s exhibits and programs encourage discussion on the myriad types of art that are found within the deaf community.”

For more information about the exhibit, go to the Dyer Arts Center websiteFacebook page or Instagram page, @dyerartscenter. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1–5 p.m., Saturdays.

RIT gets high marks for return on investment

RIT featured in Princeton Review book, ‘Colleges That Pay You Back: 2016 Edition’

Rochester Institute of Technology is being recognized by The Princeton Review for being one of the nation’s best colleges for students seeking a superb education with great career preparation and at an affordable price. According to the summary, “Employers trust the RIT brand implicitly, and the school stresses experiential learning and creativity as a part of every curriculum. Although RIT is a larger private school, it feels much smaller than it is because of its tight-knit community, and students are afforded many opportunities to branch out, work with other majors, and pursue non-technical interests.” More.

Melissa Skyer named to RIT/NTID faculty

Melissa Skyer with glasses and floral black and white print top.

Melissa Skyer of Rochester, New York, has joined the faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is teaching in the NTID Science and Mathematics Department.

Skyer, who has more than 10 years of environmental science field experience, developed and teaches “Scientific Basis of Social Responsibility”—an original class focused on environmental science. She also tutors several science classes, including, among others, human biology, evolutionary biology, ecology and soil science. 

She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in RIT’s College of Science with highest honors. Her graduate research focused on river otters in the Genesee River watershed, and she hopes to get back to wildlife research this summer.

Skyer is both a CODA (child of deaf adults) and a late-deafened individual, who grew up in Rochester. She has lived and worked in Chicago and Los Angeles, and returned to Rochester in January 2015.

While employed at the Southern California Gas Company in Los Angeles, Skyer was one of only five individuals, among the company’s 10,000 employees, to receive the Diversity Innovation Award. She developed a sign language safety program for hearing construction workers. In noisy environments with heavy equipment or earplugs, these employees now are able to communicate with sign language and perform more safely at work.

In her free, time Skyer enjoys writing, cooking and hiking. Her second book of art and poetry, “Train Gone, Sorry,” recently was accepted to the Rochester Central Library Self-Published book festival. Only 30 entries from more than 120 were accepted.

“We are pleased to have Melissa back at RIT/NTID as a member of our faculty,” said Dr. Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “She is an outstanding example of all that is possible with an RIT/NTID education, and is a true role model for our students.”