All posts by Loriann Macko

At RIT/NTID, Memory Lane Will Be Paved with Yellow Bricks

You may have seen the recent announcement that the production to be staged during NTID’s 50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend is “The Wonderful World of Oz.”

“Oz,” which will run April 21-28, and again during the Reunion Weekend June 28-July 1, promises to thrill and entertain during its run. A theatrical adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s story, “Oz” will star a cast of alumni selected from 50 years of theatrical performances and will be supported by a crew with a wide range of experience and skills in production.  

The choice of “Oz” for the Reunion Weekend production was carefully made.

“When thinking of alumni, the ‘no place like home’ theme seemed like a great fit,” says Jim Orr, the production’s director. “I wanted to do a big, spectacular show that would dazzle the senses and promote a sense of pride in NTID.”

Orr adds that, while deciding which play to stage, “The thing that really sealed the deal in my mind was the story’s message of hope for our times.”

Written around the time of World War I and revived as the classic film version around World War II, its association with times of change and upheaval appealed to Orr.

“This story reminded people and taught children that love and kindness overcomes chaos and hate, and the power to change comes not from without, but from within.”

Orr, who entered NTID’s Basic Interpreter Training Program in 1977 and retired from NTID in 2012, is an especially appropriate choice for director. As one of the only people actively involved in NTID’s performing arts program through all five decades of the college’s existence, he has served in one way or another in close to 200 productions.

“I’ve been an actor, director, playwright, designer, teacher, technician, manager and served in other production-related functions such as publicity and community relations.”

NTID’s long theatrical history isn’t only contributing Orr’s expertise to the Reunion Weekend show, however. Alice Pylko, who worked as a costume designer for the performing arts program during the late ‘80s until the mid-‘90s, also is coming back—bearing gifts.

“One of the fun things about the costumes is how many are from past productions,” says Pylko, who currently works as a Montessori teacher in the Rochester area. “Alumni will be able to see many costumes from old shows—some they may have even worn themselves.”

But “Oz” isn’t just about looking back; it’s about looking forward and stretching in new directions. Pylko’s talents will be tested.

“Flying monkeys are a bit out of the ordinary,” she admits.

Joe Hamilton (SVP ’87, ’91), NTID’s stage craft manager and technical director for “Oz,” also is finding that his abilities are being pushed to their limits.

“This is a full-scale production,” he says, with multiple platforms and almost every set rigged to move on lines. The show’s special effects also will include video-projected elements.

Hamilton’s role in the production involves coordinating a cast of characters that never appears on stage.

“I bring designers and experts into each production to team up with costume design, lights, sound, projection, captions and special effects.”

In the end, though, according to Hamilton, “The production is built and made by our RIT/NTID students.”

The production team is visible in the below photo. Hamilton sits at the head of the table in front of an early set design by Ethan Sinnott, while Jim Orr, director, sits to his left, speaking to Matthew Moore, producer, on Hamilton's right. Two outside experts, who will be providing video-projection capabilities, sit along the bottom of the photo. 

Production team meeting for

The nostalgic nature of the story is intentional.

“This production is going to bring up so many great memories,” says Pylko. “It really is a fun way to look back at the great people who have been at NTID and involved with the NTID theater.”

Some of those returning alumni, faculty and staff members include: Ethan Sinnott, who currently is hard at work designing the set; Joe Hamilton as technical director; Patrick Graybill, who will serve as the show’s ASL Master; Bonnie Meath-Lang as dramaturg (researcher and developer of the play’s text); and Matthew Moore's MSM Productions as co-producer, among others.

The impressive lineup will be reflected in the quality of the production, Orr says.

“This show will be a true extravaganza. There are tremendous special effects and incredibly talented performers. I don’t want to give away all the surprises, but suffice it to say that NTID has never done a show like this before.”

Tickets for both the April and June runs are now available for sale at

RIT/NTID Staff Spotlight: Rick Postl

Light skinned male wearing plaid shirt and tie holding a baseball. behind him is a stuffed toy tiger, Cubs and RIT pennants.

Not many can say that a business trip included dining with soap opera stars from "Days of Our Lives." But Rick Postl can—all in the name of recruiting the best and brightest deaf and hard-of-hearing students for RIT/NTID. 

For 10 years, Postl, senior associate director of NTID admissions, has collected fascinating stories, from the "Days of Our Lives" dinner that introduced the actors’ deaf son to NTID, to biking through the Greek isles in 90-degree heat a day before attending an international conference, to maneuvering through unfamiliar territory late one evening to visit a prospective student. 

“I have visited more than 500 schools so far in my career—both mainstream and schools for the deaf,” he said. 
“I’ve made home visits to mansions 
and mobile homes. I’m a vegetarian, 
but I’ve eaten meat—and just smiled while doing it—so as not to offend a family during a recruitment visit. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that students learn about the opportunities that RIT/NTID can provide for them.”

Postl, a 1995 alumnus of RIT’s social work program and a father of three, recalls experiences that astound young deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“Simple things, like biking, crewing 
for a hot-air balloon pilot and traveling, are just part of my regular life. But talking about them can be an eye-opener 
for future students.”

For example, in 1994, he biked across the country for 62 days with three fraternity brothers. Postl still bikes about 2,000 miles each year.

Postl says that during many visits, 
he is the only other deaf person the prospective students have ever encountered. He believes those interactions are crucial moments for him to demonstrate that deaf people can do anything in a world that struggles to appreciate deafness. 

“I’ve been asked what it’s like to work and be a deaf adult,” he said. “Those visits are a chance for me to be a role model, not just ‘sell’ RIT/NTID. I take great pride in explaining that my doctor, dentist and accountant are all deaf. Some of these young students are mindful of their deafness. But when they come to RIT/NTID, they experience a great awakening. They have never imagined a place like this where deaf and hard-of-hearing people are normalized and deafness is accommodated so well.”

Rick Postl

Job title: 
Senior associate director of NTID admissions

Years at RIT: 10

Best thing about working at RIT: Working alongside successful deaf and hard-of-hearing professionals, many of whom are alumni, and making a difference for subsequent generations.

RIT men’s lacrosse earns top-five ranking in two NCAA Division III preseason polls

RIT men's lacrosse team in white uniforms celebrate their winning goal..

The RIT men's lacrosse team was picked in the top-five in two preseason polls. The Tigers were selected third in the USILA/Nike Lacrosse Division III Preseason Coaches Poll and fifth in the Nike/U.S. Lacrosse Men's Preseason Poll. The Tigers, who will celebrate their 50th season in 2018, finished with 20 wins in 2017, advancing to the Division III Championship game for the second time in four years. More.

RIT offers new bachelor’s degree in modern language and culture

Three images oncluding a red pagoda, multi-colored textiles and a green dragon.

A new bachelor’s degree in applied modern language and culture will be offered to students at Rochester Institute of Technology this fall that will provide advanced studies of languages and cultures that directly apply to the global workplace and economy.

Students will pick one language track—Chinese, Japanese or Spanish—and immerse themselves in that region’s language and culture. They will also choose a second major or a focus area in a technical or professional discipline, such as computing, information technology, engineering, business, health sciences, the arts or the sciences. More.

Chills, thrills and surprises: ‘The Wonderful World of Oz’ comes to RIT/NTID

yellow background with two sparkly golden slippers with bows on top and aqua blue centers.

The performing arts department at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf presents "The Wonderful World of Oz," April 19–22, with encore performances June 28–July 1 in celebration of NTID’s 50th anniversary reunion. The production will be held in the Robert F. Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, on the RIT/NTID campus.

Adapted and directed by RIT/NTID alumnus and former performing arts faculty member Jim Orr, the production provides a fully accessible American Sign Language/spoken English rendition of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale of adventure and discovery. Set design is by RIT/NTID alumnus Ethan Sinnott.

Several other NTID alumni are participating in the production and the incorporated video segments, and there will be several surprises for the audience.

The production is co-sponsored by MSM Productions, Ltd. Special keepsake playbills will be distributed to attendees at both the April and June performances.

Matthew S. Moore, alumnus and president of MSM Productions, Ltd., and founder and chairperson of the NTID Performing Arts Advisory Committee, is providing sponsorship and in-kind support for the production.

“This is a major milestone for our theater program,” said Moore. “NTID has produced many exciting plays during its first 50 years. In the next 50 years, we will be doing more large-scale productions where students and community members will have an opportunity to participate.”

Show times are 7:30­–9:30 p.m., April 19–21 and April 27-28; and 2-4 p.m. Sunday, April 22. Tickets are $12 for general audiences, $10 for alumni, faculty, staff and children age 12 and older, $5 for students, seniors (60+) and children under age 12.

There will be four benefit performances, 2-4 p.m. June 28-July 1; and 7:30-9:30 p.m. June 29-30. Tickets for the benefit performances will be $35 each, with proceeds going to support the renovations of the NTID performing arts department's 1510 Experimental Lab .

Tickets may be purchased through the RIT box office online at or by phone at 585-475-4121. Tickets also will be available on performance days two hours prior to curtain.

For more information, contact Joseph Fox,

Join us for Jim DeCaro’s retirement celebration

Jim DeCaro in suit and bow tie with information on his retirement party Feb. 1 2-4 p.m. in Dyer Arts Center.

Join us in the Dyer Arts Center 2-4 p.m. Thurs., Feb. 1, to celebrate RIT/NTID Dean Emeritus Jim DeCaro's retirement after 47 amazing years. Remarks will begin at 3 p.m. Interpreters have been requested.

[Image description: Jim DeCaro wearing glasses and beard, in suit jacket, white shirt and bow tie. His hands are clasped in front of him. Text reads: After 47 AMAZING years here at NTID, Jim DeCaro is headed into a new adventure: RETIREMENT! On Thursday, February 1st, we will be celebrating Jim’s last day at NTID. Please stop by to offer your congratulations and join us in celebrating Jim’s legacy at RIT/NTID. Thursday, February 1, 2018 2-4 p.m. Remarks at 3 p.m. Interpreters requested.]

RIT ranked among best online programs nationally

Aerial of brick and glass buidings with blue sky and trees in background.

Rochester Institute of Technology has been recognized for offering some of the nation’s best online programs.

The 2018 "U.S. News & World Report" Best Online Programs rankings featured RIT on five of its lists, ranking:

  • 36th in the nation for “Best Online MBA Programs,” for the executive MBA program offered by Saunders College of Business;
  • 40th for “Best Online Information Technology Programs,” offered by the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences;
  • 60th for “Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs,” offered by the Kate Gleason College of Engineering;
  • 120th for “Best Online Business Programs (non-MBA),” also offered by Saunders College of Business;
  • 264th for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.”

"U.S. News" chose factors that weigh how these programs are being delivered and their effectiveness at awarding affordable degrees in a reasonable amount of time. More.


RIT/NTID’s Deaf Studies Archive receives grant to digitize rare videos about ASL poetry and literature

maroon square with letters CLIR in white with Council on Library and Information Resources to the right in black.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will digitize and make publicly accessible more than 60 videotapes held in the RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive that document the ASL poetry and literature movement in Rochester from 1970 through 2011. The digitized videos will be one of the largest collections of online publicly accessible rare ASL literature in the country.

This project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Joan Naturale, NTID librarian and co-principal investigator for the grant, said this project will make important works of deaf culture available to the masses. “The once ‘hidden’ work of this pioneering and under-represented group will be made public for the first time, broadening access to the cultural heritage of this diverse group little known outside of the deaf community and enriching interdisciplinary studies in linguistics, poetry, performing arts, and cinema,” Naturale said.

Over the course of the next year, staff from RIT Libraries and NTID will work to digitize, caption, voice and transcribe the videos and make them available through online portals including New York Heritage, which feeds into the Digital Public Library of America. The recordings capture performances by deaf poets such as Robert Panara, NTID’s first deaf faculty member; Clayton Valli, referred to by critics as “the Deaf Robert Frost”; and more. Karen Christie, NTID faculty emeritus, will provide additional background information about the performances.

“ASL is a visual language and not a direct translation of English,” said Naturale. “Each poet has a unique sign language expressive style, which range from Panara’s transliteration of traditional English works and Shakespeare into contact sign with ASL features, to the avant-garde ASL and spoken English hybrid work of the deaf and hearing ‘Flying Words’ duo Cook and Lerner, to Valli’s original poetry created solely in ASL that uses body language, rhythm and movement to create a spatial expression.”

The city of Rochester boasts one of the highest deaf populations per capita in the nation and was at the forefront of the ASL poetry movement in the U.S.

“NTID had a leading role, hosting national conferences on ASL literature attended by deaf and hearing scholars, students, interpreters and the public,” said Naturale. “Recognition of the scholarly and artistic value of the work gained momentum through these conferences. One of the recordings includes noted beat poet Allen Ginsberg visiting Panara’s class. Panara performed some of his poems, including his award-winning poem, On His Deafness. When Ginsberg read a few lines from his poem Howl, a pivotal moment occurred when Patrick Graybill translated ‘hydrogen jukebox’ into ASL and even Ginsberg realized Graybill had visually captured the image.”

The project will help commemorate NTID’s 50th anniversary. For more information about additional plans to mark the occasion, visit

RIT/NTID establishes first NSF Deaf College Innovation Bowl

Two college-age men in suits and one woman in dark clothes and sweater stand in front of a screen with the word Marketing, etc.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing college students with innovative product ideas can compete to earn cash and business expertise, thanks to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The college has established the first NSF Deaf College Innovation Bowl, sponsored by a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant and administered by RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and RIT/NTID. The competition will showcase innovative ideas of deaf students from throughout the country centered around technological solutions that are STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) based.

For the first phase, each team submits a 10-minute video describing their idea. The three top college teams will receive $3,000 in I-Corps funding to develop their idea.

In addition to the start-up funds, each team will receive prototyping assistance, training and mentoring from qualified I-Corps coaches to help them further strengthen their innovation. All training and mentoring will occur online and through accessible videos and other video technology.

For the second and final phase, the three final teams will submit a second video after their idea has been refined through I-Corps training program and mentoring. A team of judges will select one winning team to be the Deaf College Innovation Bowl champion. This winning team will then receive an additional 10 weeks of personalized coaching and mentoring through the I-Corps program, and an additional $3,000 in funds for prototyping, travel and for student stipends.

“RIT/NTID has a proud tradition of encouraging and developing innovation and entrepreneurship among our deaf and hard-of-hearing students,” said Scot Atkins, RIT/NTID professor of business and the Innovation Bowl program coordinator. “The I-Corps program and curriculum are designed to advance early stage commercialization of products in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields, which will help bring students’ ideas to fruition.” 

Each team, represented by a college, must be made up of at least two deaf and/or hard-of-hearing members or led by a deaf or hard-of-hearing student. Team members must be matriculated full-time at the representative college at the time of application submission. Members of the team must be committed for up to one year to receive coaching from I-Corps. More than one team from a single college or university is permitted.

Each team must have a coach, or another designated representative from the college program. A coach may be a member of the faculty, staff or another designated representative. Team ideas cannot be based on an already existing operational business venture and must be STEM based.

The deadline for application submission is Jan. 26, 2018. More information can be found on the website or by contacting Atkins at