Monthly Archives: September 2016

RIT/NTID celebrates the closing of Rochester’s Deaf Awareness Week Oct. 1

Two men and two women smiling, dressed in black, one sitting and the other three standing behind him.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will celebrate the end of Rochester’s Deaf Awareness Week starting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 in Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. All events are free and open to the public.

The evening begins with the unveiling of a plaque honoring William “Dummy” Hoy, an American centerfielder in Major League Baseball who played for several teams from 1888 to 1902. Hoy is noted for being one of the most accomplished deaf players in league history, and some have credited him with establishing the signals for safe and out calls. The plaque will be installed at a later date in the RIT baseball team’s home dugout.

Following the unveiling is a presentation by Monique Holt, a nationally recognized performer, director, storyteller and certified deaf interpreter. Holt is best known for translating and performing Shakespearian sonnets in American Sign Language. Her presentation is titled, “I am not a good storyteller—Reflections on how to share your story with others.”

Rounding out the evening is a performance from NTID’s Sunshine 2.0 traveling theater troupe, a 21st-century reboot of Sunshine Too, a similar on-the-road performing arts program that was established in 1980.

Sunshine 2.0 provides entertainment and activities for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing children and adults that highlight the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math, as well as other topics pertaining to the deaf experience. The group regularly travels to schools, organizations, conferences, civic groups, festivals and other venues. The performance will be presented in voice and American Sign Language.

Interpreters have been requested for these events. For more information, contact Jeanne Behm at

RIT/NTID job fair will connect deaf students with employers across the country

Tall male student in a suit with cochlear implant discusses resume with male recruiter in red shirt with Harris display behind.

Representatives from more than 40 local and national corporations, federal agencies and nonprofit organizations will meet with hundreds of deaf and hard-of-hearing students—who are also prospective employees—at the 16th annual job fair, 12:30–4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The event will be held in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus.

“Employers will have the opportunity to recruit talented deaf and hard-of-hearing students in associate and bachelor’s degree programs such as business, finance, graphic design, engineering, computing and more,” said John Macko, director of NTID’s Center on Employment.

Interpreters will be available at each table, and in many cases, the company recruiters are NTID alumni. Companies include Aetna, Baxter Health Care, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Dow Chemical Co., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Harris Corp., Internal Revenue Service, The Learning Center for the Deaf, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. Department of Defense, among others.

NTID’s Center on Employment will also recognize companies who consistently hire deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. This year’s honorees are Solar Turbines based in San Diego, and Ohio Health Corporation based in Columbus, Ohio.

“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,” said Macko. “Our students are well trained and can hit the ground running at companies right here in Rochester and all over the country.”

There are a few openings available for employers who want to participate. For more information, email Mary Ellen Tait or call 585-475-6426.

Rochester Deaf Awareness Week Closing Ceremony

Blue background with 3 photos: Hoy plaque dedication; group of two African American men and two women; and woman with short hair

The closing ceremony for Rochester Deaf Awareness Week will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1 in Panara Theatre in LBJ Hall on the RIT campus. The event is free and open to the public, and interpreters have been requested. 

The event features the unveiling of a plaque honoring deaf baseball great William “Dummy” Hoy that will be installed on the home team dugout on the RIT baseball field; a performance by RIT/NTID’s Sunshine 2.0 theater troupe and a presentation, “I am not a Good Storyteller: reflections on how to share your story with others,” by deaf actor and director Monique Holt. 

For more information on Rochester Deaf Awareness Week, visit their website. For information on RIT/NTID’s closing ceremony, contact Jeanne Behm

Alumni tailgate gathering for Brick City Homecoming and Family Weekend

Stylized drawing of RIT buildings in shades of orange, red and brown with Brick City logo to its right.

From 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, join fellow RIT/NTID alumni, NTID faculty/staff and other friends for a pre-hockey game tailgate gathering at the Stock Exchange, which is walking distance from the Blue Cross Arena. This event is always a big draw – don’t miss it this year! Complimentary finger foods and beverages will be provided for you to enjoy. Get pumped up with some Tiger spirit before our RIT Tigers take to the ice.

*This event is primarily for those alumni and friends affiliated with NTID. Short program and speakers will be using American Sign Language.

Visit the event webpage to register.

Enjoying a Challenge

A student in a white shirt with beard and glasses sits by a computer with the screen off and other equipment.

Benjamin Polstra from Noblesville, Indiana, completed a summer co-op at GEICO in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that turned into a fulltime job. Polstra, who will graduate in sping 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in information technology, worked as a GEICO summer intern.

Polstra was responsible for a significant information technology (IT) business project—bigger than any project he had ever worked on before, and to complete it, he had to learn different tools and concepts along the way. He used his information technology skills on individual assignments and team projects, attended meetings and gave presentations. He was able to reach out to and receive mentoring from  team members and members of the IT management team. By the end of the summer, Polstra felt he had become a better developer with the increased confidence that came from handling a project of that size. He also learned how an insurance company runs and how they practice customer service.

He says that taking courses that taught the fundamental and advanced level of object-oriented programming, such as Java or C#, was valuable. The courses he took that teach client and server programming were necessary as well. The software design, principles and patterns, organizational behavior and apps development practices courses all were greatly helpful in his summer responsibilities, and taking on a leadership role gave him valuable experience in how to work with a team. He also learned that no matter where you work, asking a lot of questions is a must-have skill.

Polstra believes his degree will open doors to many opportunities. The coursework associated with it has prepared the fundamental bedrock, which he can use to demonstrate his knowledge of the IT field, and to work confidently with new concepts and ideas. He says that GEICO is the manifestation of how he’s been preparing himself; it has been changing, abandoning old traditions and embracing new ideas. The company has expanded its IT department rapidly to enable their growth spurt. That’s how he sees himself—growing rapidly to become not only a better IT person, but a more accomplished software developer.

Polstra offers the following advice for other students. “Don’t just work hard; play with what you like to do. If you are majoring in photography, play around with a camera.If computer science is your major, play around with a computer. Share with your friends and find mentors who can help you grow. You shouldn’t be discouraged by a challenge. Just try hard, and when you are successful, you will end up enjoying your success a lot more. Don’t think about grades so much because you will already excel at what you do, if you enjoy whatever you are doing.”

RIT ranked among top national universities by ‘U.S. News & World Report’

Male in white labcoat stands and holds a cable, 2nd male in red tshirt and shorts wears headphones and virtual reality eyemask.

Rochester Institute of Technology is being recognized as a top tier national university for the first time in the 34-year history of “U.S. News & World Report” rankings. The change is a result of the university’s reclassification in becoming a “doctoral university” this year due to its rapid increase in research and Ph.D. graduates.

The 2017 edition ofU.S. News & World Report Best Colleges” ranked RIT 107th in the “National Universities” category. These top universities—a grouping of 310 schools— “offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs, and emphasize faculty research,” according to “U.S. News.” RIT had previously been listed among “Regional Universities.” Overall, “U.S. News” cites 1,374 four-year colleges and universities in various categories.

“The movement of RIT into the ranks of the nation’s finest colleges and universities is a remarkable story,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “We are not trying to emulate some of the nation’s great universities. We will do what RIT does so well, and that is by being different and capitalizing on that difference to make a truly unique experience for our students and for our communities. We have nearly a dozen programs that are ranked in the top 10 nationally,beyond U.S News. And these programs are in non-traditional academic areas such as interactive games and media, industrial design, imaging science, sustainable manufacturing and packaging science.”

RIT also ranked 33rd among best value schools—“Great Schools, Great Prices.” The calculation compares a school’s academic quality to the net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average level of financial aid. “The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal,” according to “U.S. News.” In other rankings, RIT also was recognized for excellence in its business and engineering colleges, its cooperative education program, and its benefits for military veterans.

The move to the top tier national category was triggered earlier this year when RIT was listed as a “doctoral university” by the leading classification of U.S. colleges and universities. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education changed RIT from “Masters – Comprehensive” to “Doctoral University” This change occurs when a university graduates more than 20 Ph.D. degrees per year, a figure that RIT has exceeded in recent years. In May, RIT awarded 35 doctoral degrees in seven Ph.D. programs, the most in its history.

RIT has seven doctoral programs: astrophysics, color science, computing and information sciences, engineering, microsystems engineering, imaging science and sustainability. A Ph.D. in mathematical modeling begins in fall 2017.

“In previous ‘U.S. News’ rankings, RIT historically received high marks in peer review with other universities,” Destler noted. “We are extremely pleased to see our peer assessment scores did well with other presidents, provosts, deans of admissions and high school counselors in the top tier research grouping.” Here, RIT rated 66th among its peer universities and 49th with the counselors.

In further rankings:

  • RIT was among 22 universities recognized for excellent cooperative learning and internship programs.
  • RIT ranked 69th among “Best Colleges for Veterans.” “U.S. News” aims to provide military veterans and active duty service members with data on which top-ranked schools offer benefits that can help make a college education affordable.
  • RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering ranked No. 65 nationally for undergraduate engineering programs among universities where the highest degree is a doctorate.
  • RIT’s Saunders College of Business was ranked No. 77 nationally among best programs for undergraduate business education.

Go to for a list of frequently asked questions about the rankings and RIT’s reclassification.

RIT vice president accepts Mayoral proclamation for International Deaf Awareness Week

Seven individuals, four men in suit jackets and three women dressed up, standing together in front of U.S. and Rochester flags.

Gerry Buckley, Rochester Institute of Technology vice president and dean, and president of the university’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, accepted a proclamation Monday from Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in celebration of International Deaf Awareness Week. Buckley attended the ceremony at Rochester’s City Hall with Thomastine Sarchet, director of NTID’s Center for International Educational Outreach.

Also at the ceremony were representatives from We The Deaf People, Discovering Deaf Worlds and Rochester School for the Deaf.

“Thomastine and I are pleased to represent RIT/NTID and our deaf and hard-of-hearing community at this special event, and we are proud to celebrate a great partnership with the City of Rochester,” said Buckley. “The Rochester area is home to one of the nation’s largest per-capita populations of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and the presence of NTID plays a significant role in bringing quality students to our region and providing a strong job base for deaf and hard-of-hearing professionals. Deaf Awareness Week is a wonderful opportunity to shine a spotlight on the achievements of our deaf and hard-of-hearing alumni, students, faculty and staff at RIT/NTID.”

During the event, Mayor Warren announced the city’s ongoing initiatives to make City Hall more deaf friendly, including a new web page that communicates city resources and information about accessing city government for the deaf community.

“I want to make sure that City Hall is as accessible as possible for Rochester’s strong deaf community and that resources are readily available to meet their needs,” said Mayor Warren, in a news release. “We’re working hard to create safer, more vibrant neighborhoods, more jobs and better educational opportunities in our city, and we want to make sure every resident in Rochester can be actively engaged in these efforts.”

Following International Deaf Awareness Week in Rochester, local organizations, including RIT/NTID, will host a full schedule of activities throughout the community for Deaf Awareness Week, Sept. 25 to Oct. 2. For more information, go to

RIT entrepreneurship will be on display at Digital Rochester awards Sept. 22

Young man with brown hair and close beard wearing a black t-shirt with white circle with letters Hz in black over grey shirt

Rochester Institute of Technology will be well represented at the 2016 Greater Rochester Excellence and Achievements in Technology Awards, presented by Digital Rochester Inc. The awards are Sept. 22 at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

The annual awards recognize and celebrate the Greater Rochester community’s entrepreneurial spirit in technological achievement for advancing commerce and resource conservation.

Finalists with connections to RIT were nominated in several categories.

  • Hz Innovations Inc., nominated for the Rising Star Award, was founded by a team of RIT students and created Wavio, a sound-recognition technology system designed to alert deaf and hard-of-hearing people to sounds in their homes. Hz Innovations Inc. is Greyson Watkins (computer security, Durham, N.C.); Chrystal Schlenker (interpreting and business, Rochester, N.Y.); Nicholas Lamb (electrical engineering, Waterloo, N.Y.); and Zach Baltzer (microelectronic engineering, Hilton, N.Y.). The Rising Star Award, intended for early-stage or second-stage start-up companies, recognizes an outstanding entrepreneurial individual or startup company that leveraged emerging innovative technology and lean start-up skills to establish a viable new business or market segment that demonstrably contributes to the Greater Rochester community.
  • IMSWorkX Inc., nominated for the Technology Innovation Award, was founded by RIT graduate Shannon Chevier ’99 (software development and management, MS). IMSWorkX Inc. launched from RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator in 2015 and is a telecommunications software company providing service layer applications and solutions for the emerging all-IP communications network.

Student Achievement Award nominees are:

  • ThermApparel, founded by Bradley Dunn (MFA, industrial design, Baltimore); Kurtis Kracke (MFA, industrial design, Rochester, N.Y.); and Crystal Mendoza Paulin (biomedical engineering, Dallas). ThermApparel is a lower cost, discreet, flexible garment that assists patients with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or other conditions, by regulating body temperature in hot weather.
  • Bikelomatic Complexity, founded by Jesse Jurman (software engineering, Rochester, N.Y.); Steve Kroh (software engineering, Hookset, N.H.); Ethan Jurman (software engineering, Rochester, N.Y.); and Matthew Waite (software engineering, Conklin, N.Y.). Bikelomatic Complexity is working with Adventure Cycling to produce a web and mobile application to help cyclists document their experiences on tour.
  • Smart Toy, founded by Erika Madison (international business, Sodus Point, N.Y.); Mariana Pinheiro (MFA, industrial design, Brazil); and Doug Huang (MFA, industrial design, Taiwan). Smart Toy is a series of interactive instruments designed to stimulate the senses of children with low-motor coordination skills through the use of textures, sounds, vibrations and light patterns.
  • AWARE, founded by Emmanuel Dodoo (electrical engineering, Ghana) and Ethan Kersat (international business, Clayton, N.C.). AWARE tracks driver fatigue and provides real-time alerts.

The Student Achievement Award is presented to a currently enrolled student or team of students at a Greater Rochester higher education institution who have showed leadership and skill in applying or advancing innovative technology for the betterment of themselves, their educational institution and/or the greater Rochester community.

“The depth and breadth of RIT’s projects and businesses represented in the GREAT Awards is truly a testament to the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that RIT works so hard to create and maintain,” said Richard DeMartino, director of RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship and professor in the Saunders College of Business. “While our primary goal is to provide a quality education as it relates to innovation and entrepreneurship, business creation is also important. We’re proud that the work of RIT students and graduates is being recognized by the Rochester community.”

RIT Sponsored Research garners $73 million in funding

Ryne Raffaelle in a dark suit, white shirt and orange tie with forearm on a table and etched glass wall behind him.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s sponsored research portfolio grew by almost 18 percent in fiscal year 2016, with NTID faculty contributing to the university’s record $73 million in funding.

RIT received a record 358 new awards during that time period from a variety of state, federal, corporate and foundation sponsors. Included in that funding was a record $15 million from the National Science Foundation, an increase of $2 million, and $3 million from the National Institutes of Health.

“We continue to grow RIT’s reputation as a research university, with ever higher new awards and record funding, especially impressive given that many funding opportunities are in decline,” said Ryne Raffaelle, RIT’s vice president for research and associate provost. “This reflects the university’s continuing strength in areas we’ve defined as strategic research initiatives.”

Also, this year, Amlan Ganguly, associate professor of computer engineering at the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, received a CAREER Award from NSF, the seventh RIT faculty member to do so in the last three years. CAREER Awards are offered to support faculty who are early in their careers and exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Among the 2016 award highlights:

  • $1.33 million from NSF to Don Figer, professor of imaging science and director of RIT’s Center for Detectors, for “New Infrared Detectors for Astrophysics;”
  • $820,504 from NSF to Brian Trager, faculty member in information and computing studies at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, for “RoadMAPPs to Careers: A New Approach to Mobile Apps Education featuring a Mapp for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students;”
  • $666,960 from NSF for Shanchieh Yang, professor of computer engineering at the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, for “TWC: TTP Option: Small: Automating Attack Strategy Recognition to Enhance Cyber Threat Prediction;”
  • $552,000 from NIH to David Borkholder, professor of microsystems engineering in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, for “Enabling Microsystem Technologies for Advanced Drug Delivery;”
  • $548,321 from NSF to Denis Defibaugh, professor of photographic arts and sciences in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, for “Rockwell Kent and Early 1930s Greenland: A Comparative View of Environmental, Social and Cultural Change in Contemporary Greenland.”

For more information, go to