Monthly Archives: March 2016

RIT/NTID forms performing arts advisory committee

mattew moore headshot wearing light yellow button down shirt with collar.

The performing arts program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf announced the launch of an advisory committee to strengthen, support and advise NTID’s theater program. The committee will engage in community outreach, promote greater community involvement in theater, increase opportunities for student participation and promote American Sign Language theater.

The NTID Performing Arts Advisory Committee (NPAAC) is chaired by RIT/NTID alumnus Matthew Moore, president of MSM Productions Ltd. and publisher of “DEAF LIFE Magazine,” and includes veteran deaf actors Howie Seago of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Adrian Blue of Yale University’s ASL Shakespeare Project. More committee appointments are expected.

The NPAAC’s goals include revival of RIT/NTID’s acclaimed Sunshine Too troupe, a traveling group of six students—three deaf, three hearing—that performed in schools throughout the country for more than 18 years. Other goals include establishing internship 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, upgrading RIT/NTID’s Panara Theatre, and establishing a summer theater program for deaf high school and college students to encompass performance, stagecraft, cinematic studies, multimedia, directing and theater management.

“NTID’s performing arts program has enjoyed a long and storied history dating back to the beginnings of the college,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “We are thrilled to see the NPAAC developing, and to have Matthew, Howie and Adrian as its founding members.”

During his student years, Moore was actively involved in theater, performing in several plays, staging original work and serving as house manager for NTID’s Panara Theatre. Since graduating, he has produced the Second American Deaf Play Creators’ Festival in 1998, and his company has co-sponsored two NTID productions, both of which featured his performances.

“I’m excited and enthusiastic about chairing the NPAAC,” said Moore. “I want to make a difference, enhancing the quality of NTID’s theater arts, and bringing in veteran deaf theater-arts professionals. It’s an honor to do this. The performing arts program has had such a positive impact on so many students’ lives, including mine, and I want to give back to it. I’m thrilled to continue my close association with the group of talented professionals and students.”

Seago’s television career includes appearances on “Hunter,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Equalizer” as well as involvement in the children’s show “Rainbow’s End.” He also has produced plays using both hearing and deaf actors. Since 2009, Seago has been a company member with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore., where he is the first deaf actor to perform in the festival’s history.

Blue has been a theater actor, director and consultant for more than 40 years. He has performed with the National Theater of the Deaf and has been a consultant throughout the United States on American Sign Language interpretation in the theater, on film and in television. As part of Yale University’s ASL Shakespeare Project, Blue was involved with translating Shakespeare’s language, specifically that of “Twelfth Night,” into American Sign Language, with an emphasis on the history of gesture in visual representations of Shakespeare’s plays.

Timothy Sanger joins RIT/NTID

Timothy Sanger wearing blue polo shirt and smiling.

Timothy Sanger of Colorado has joined the staff at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as an academic advisor in NTID’s Counseling and Academic Advising Services Department.

Sanger has more than 15 years of counseling and teaching experience. He has worked for Vocational Rehabilitation, helping students develop their career goals and coordinating their services. Sanger spent four years as a school counselor, providing individual and group counseling, organizing peer support groups and promoting student coping strategies. He currently is developing curriculum for NTID’s Create Your Future program.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004. In 2007 he was awarded his master’s degree in social work by Arizona State University. He completed his masters of education certification in School Guidance Counseling from Ottawa University in 2009, and in 2010 received bilingual education mentorship certification from Gallaudet University.

“We are fortunate to have an alumnus with TJ’s knowledge and experience back on campus providing such valuable services to our students,” said Dr. Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. 

RIT/NTID’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna: Barbara Jean “BJ” Wood, ’75

BJ Wood wearing black print top and silver earrings

Barbara Jean “BJ” Wood has been selected as NTID’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna.

Wood is best known for her work at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the New Mexico Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons. Her charismatic leadership style, strategic planning skills, and advocacy for accessible programs mark her legacy of success across the country. With more than 30 years of public service, Wood is a renowned trainer and public speaker. She also is a champion of independent living services focusing on benefits for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals within the larger disability rights movement. She passionately encourages organizations and individuals to plan for future growth and recognition of their human rights.

“We’re pleased to recognize BJ as NTID’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “She is most deserving of this honor, not only because of her many impressive achievements, but also because of the spirit of advocacy and collaboration that she embodies.”

“No amount of assistance has been too small or too large,” said Wood of her career in service. “I’ve helped people find a job, learn English as a second language, welcomed young people into my home, taught people how to own and buy a home, changed organizational and state policies to remove communication barriers… and created partnerships to better serve my community. The highlight of my career has been seeing the huge smile on people’s faces when they accomplish their goals!”

Wood believes in volunteerism and serves on the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Disability Rights Committee and the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf. She has served on numerous boards and committees including the NTID’s National Advisory Group and the Board of the National Association of the Deaf. Wood and her wife, LeWana Clark, live near Boston, Massachusetts. They enjoy traveling in their RV, visiting friends, and playing Rummikub.

NTID will honor Wood at a community reception on Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 4 p.m. on the first floor lobby of the Student Development Center (SDC). The event is open to all faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Wood also will visit some classes during her time on campus.

Willy Conley presents at book signing for “The Deaf Heart”

Willy Conley addresses crowd in Dyer Arts Center in front of wall of his photographs and next to TV screen.

Willy Conley, who graduated with a B.S. in biomedical photographic communication from RIT in 1981, presented this morning to a packed audience in NTID’s Dyer Arts Center about his novel, “The Deaf Heart,” and the ways his experience as a student at RIT/NTID and his subsequent work as a biomedical photographer in various hospitals across the United States influenced the book.

“The Deaf Heart,” Conley said, is composed of short stories that he wrote on and off over the past 25 years, as well as photographs he has taken. Many of the photographs he referred to were exhibited in the gallery as he spoke. The novel, while fictional, is based partly on Conley’s experience as well as that of several other deaf biomedical photographer friends of Conley’s. The story follows a deaf photography intern, Max, as he pursues certification at a hospital in Galveston, Texas. Also interspersed in the novel are letters Max writes home to his parents, many of which also make reference to Max’s time as a photography student at RIT/NTID, and excerpts from a fictional photo laboratory manual from Max’s internship site.

Conley’s presentation to the audience also included anecdotes from his photography career, tips for current students (“Keep in touch with the friends you make here,” Conley quipped at one point. “You never know where they’ll end up and if they’ll become a great connection to a career opportunity for you.”) as well as words of homage for the late Dr. Robert Panara, who taught Conley in a class about deaf characters in literature as an RIT student, and RIT’s literary magazine “Symposium,” which gave Conley his first publication credit in 1981. Conley then fielded questions, many of which were about publishing creative work, either as a writer or as a photographer.

“Don’t ever give up,” he advised in partial response to one of the questions. “It can feel frustrating, and you may need to develop a thick skin, but keep going and keep practicing.”

Conley signed books for the remainder of the event. He will also be signing books at tomorrow’s opening reception for an exhibit 4-6 p.m. in Dyer Arts Center entitled “The Deaf Heart: a Forty Year Photographic Retrospective.” The exhibit will remain open March 11-April 22, 2016.

See also our post from last fall announcing the novel’s debut: Alumnus Publishes Debut Novel.

RIT/NTID to offer new degree program in mobile application development

image of a smart phone screen showing icons for various applications

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has received approval from the New York State Department of Education to offer an associate degree program in mobile application development. The program will prepare students for work in the software development industry with a focus on application design and development for mobile platforms.

“Mobile app development is a field that brings concepts in programming, Web development and interface design together,” said Elissa Olsen, chairperson of NTID’s Department of Information and Computing Studies. “Using current and emerging technologies, students will develop skills in app design, learn relevant programming languages for application development on a variety of smart-devices, and learn the policies and procedures for submitting apps for distribution.”

The program pioneers a unique curriculum that incorporates a cross-platform development framework to create apps that work across multiple platforms, such as iOS, Android and Windows. Most programs adopt the traditional “silo approach” where developing an app for a single platform occurs first before making it work on another platform. By incorporating this cross-platform strategy into the curriculum, students will learn code-sharing strategies through shared projects or portable class libraries with the potential to reuse up to 99 percent of code that will work across multiple platforms and still retain native performance.

The program also incorporates a learning support community, bringing students and faculty together in various activities such as coding competitions, guest speakers and team building exercises. Through this model, faculty and industry experts will serve as mentors to build self-confidence among students and promote greater academic progress.

Experiential learning, such as cooperative work experiences and capstone courses, bring students together with industry partners in all aspects of mobile application development. Students will acquire soft skills, learn teamwork and understand the value of communication beyond the scope of the classroom.

“The new degree program in mobile application development provides our deaf and hard-of-hearing students with the skills needed to compete for highly sought-after positions in this growing field,” said Gerry Buckley, president of NTID and vice president and dean for RIT. “The combination of training and real-world experiences will help to ensure their success.”

Courses for the new degree will begin this fall.

RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences also awards a bachelor’s degree in Web and mobile computing with a concentration in mobile application development.

RIT/NTID alumnus returns to campus for two-day photography, book signing event

willy conley wearing plaid shirt with bolo tie and arms crossed.

Willy Conley has spent the past 25 years sharing his talents in photography, acting, directing and writing with nearly everyone he comes in contact with. The artist, educator and graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf returns to campus this month to deliver a book presentation and officially open his photography exhibit.

A presentation and book signing of Conley’s novel, The Deaf Heart, will be held 9:30–10:45 a.m. Thursday, March 10, in the Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. He will present on the process of creating his unique book, and his talk includes photographic slides and a video interview with Conley.

Conley’s photography exhibit, “The Deaf Heart: A Forty-Year Photographic Retrospective,” will run March 11 through April 22 in NTID’s Dyer Arts Center Gallery, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. An opening reception will be held 4–6 p.m. Friday, March 11, in the gallery. The exhibit focuses on his work at some of the top medical centers in the United States, and his photographs have appeared in many national publications including the Baltimore Sun,The Tactile Mind and American Photographer.

Conley, a 1981 graduate of RIT’s biomedical photographic communication program, is professor and chairperson of theatre arts at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. His latest book, Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays, has recently been published, and he is the author and director of several plays including Broken SpokesFalling on Hearing Eyes and The Hearing Test, among others.

For more information about Conley, go to