Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting seven federally funded research programs this summer, the most of any college in New York state. Summer Undergraduate Research for Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing in Applying Mathematical and Statistical Methods to Problems from the Sciences, led by Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor of mathematical modeling, is among the NSF undergraduate research programs happening at RIT this summer. More.
Rochester Institute of Technology’s Baja Racing team won its third and final international competition of the season, as well as the 2018 North American Championship title against hundreds of other college teams from around the world. More.
Among the 23 commencement delegates at Rochester Institute of Technology’s commencement ceremonies May 11 and 12 were two deaf students who shared their own stories of overcoming obstacles and imparted advice to their fellow graduates.
Paula MacDonald, the undergraduate delegate for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf from Cumberland, Ontario, Canada, graduated with an associate degree in computer aided drafting technology.
She completed a co-op with Fulcrum Engineering, where she prepared drawings and specifications for structural engineering projects. At RIT/NTID, she served as president of the Deaf International Student Association and was active with the Deaf Basketball Association and the Deaf Volleyball Association. MacDonald will be transferring to the bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering technology at RIT and plans to become a civil/structural engineer.
In her presentation, MacDonald encouraged her fellow graduates to follow their passions, be an inspiration to themselves and others and to become leaders in their families, communities and beyond.
“It’s such a wonderful honor to stand here and give my speech, to represent you all, as a deaf aboriginal woman in engineering,” she said.
Joan "Jo" Bempong, the undergraduate delegate for the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, is from Irving, Texas. She earned combined bachelor’s/master’s degrees in computer engineering with a minor in Deaf cultural studies.
She completed co-ops at Texas Instruments, Sandia National Laboratories, and VTCSecure. Bempong was a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award, the Deep Learning Classification Challenge Award and the Machine Intelligence Best Project Presentation Award. She was a finalist in both the Digital Rochester GREAT Award for student achievement and the RIT Tiger Tank competition. She was invited to present her work at the 25th Anniversary Congress on Women’s Health, and has accepted a full-time position at Texas Instruments.
Bempong used her own story of refusing to accept limitations because of her deafness and advised fellow graduates to, “Be extraordinary! Be rebellious. Be different. Take a stab at something you believe in and go for it. Do not be afraid to fail. When you do fail, fail hard and fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and keep on learning. And remember to ask for help when you need it.”
Three RIT/NTID graduating seniors were recognized as part of the Legacy Leadership program of RIT's Center for Women and Gender and the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. They are:
Brianna Conrad, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Frederick, Maryland
Kaitlyn Shirey, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Ambler, Pennsylvania
Britta Schwall, a business management major from Pflugerville, Texas
The Legacy Leadership program recognizes the achievements and leadership of RIT graduating women students. Students are self-nominated and must obtain two letters of support from the RIT or outside community detailing their civic responsibility and leadership.
The selected Legacy Leaders attended the 2018 Women’s Career Achievement Dinner held on April 30, 2018, in the Gordon Field House as guests of the Center for Women and Gender and Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement.
Several students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were honored with their families and friends at an academic awards ceremony May 11. NTID President and RIT Vice President and Dean Gerry Buckley and Interim Associate Vice President for NTID Academic Affairs Gary Behm hosted the ceremony.
Academic Achievement Awards were presented in recognition of high academic achievement to the following RIT/NTID associate, baccalaureate and master’s graduates:
- Jimmy Wong, applied computer technology major from Chicago, Illinois, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning an associate degree.
- Radhika Mehra, fine arts major from Rochester, New York, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
- Kailey Martin, a visual arts-all grades major from Londonderry, New Hampshire, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a master’s degree.
Outstanding Graduate Awards are presented to one associate, one bachelor’s and one master’s degree graduate, each of whom has achieved a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0, demonstrated appropriate personal and social maturity, and provided service to the RIT community. They are:
- Sabrina Serna, a laboratory science technology major from Lake View Terrace, California, received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning an associate degree.
- Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, a biomedical sciences major from Washington, D.C., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
- Megan Freeman, a management & information systems major from Missoula, Montana, received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a master’s degree.
Additional honors awarded at the ceremony include:
- ASLIE Outstanding Graduate Award to Eva-Alaine Thibault, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Rochester, New York.
- NTID Undergraduate College Delegate, Paula MacDonald, a computer aided drafting technology major from Cumberland, Ontario, Canada.
- Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars:
- Heather Barczynski, ASL-English Interpretation major from Wexford, Pennsylvania
- Brianna Conrad, ASL-English Interpretation major from Waterloo, New York
- Erin Ireland, ASL-English Interpretation major from Walworth, New York
- Elizabeth Odom, ASL-English Interpretation major from Louisville, Kentucky
- Isabel Snyder, ASL-English Interpretation major from Newton Highlands, Massachusetts
- Kalyna Sytch, ASL-English Interpretation major from Rochester, New York
RIT/NTID’s graduating class this year includes 319 graduates: 100 associate degrees, 32 bachelor’s degrees in American Sign Language-English Interpretation, three master’s degrees in health care interpreting and 12 master’s degrees from the program in secondary education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. There are 176 NTID-supported graduates in RIT’s eight other colleges.
Buckley honored the graduates’ accomplishments and encouraged them to go into the world with the same determination they showed in their time at the college.
“To Class of 2018, America believes in you and has invested in NTID,” he said. “Go show the nation your NTID spirit and Tiger Pride. Congratulations!”
Born and raised in Irving Texas, twin sisters Joan “Jo” and Jane Bempong attended mainstream schools together from elementary through high school, and then decided to continue learning together in college when they were both accepted at Rochester Institute of Technology, supported by the university’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
At RIT they were able to live together, but follow different educational and career paths.
“I was always fascinated by technology,” Jo said. “Back in the day, MySpace piqued my interest in coding, so Computer Engineering seemed to be a good fit for me.”
But Jane had other interests. “I was always the person who people would come to for either advice or emotional support,” she said. “I always enjoyed being there for people ever since a young age, which is why majoring in psychology made sense for me.”
They plan to follow their different career interests after graduation, with Jo having accepted a full-time position at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas, as a software engineer, and Jane either applying to graduate school or getting more work experience in the psychology/mental health field.
As they reflect on their time at RIT/NTID, Jo considers it the place where she grew as an individual.
“I came out of my comfort zone and became an entrepreneur, a researcher, and a leader aside from being an engineer,” she said.
And for Jane, “RIT helped confirm my career choice and increased my passion for the mental health field.”
The U.S. Department of State recognized Rochester Institute of Technology for success providing study-abroad opportunities for students with disabilities. RIT was named to the inaugural list of U.S. higher education institutions that sent the most students overseas on the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in academic year 2016-2017. The Gilman Program aims to make international study and internships more accessible and inclusive for American students of all backgrounds.
Among medium-sized colleges and universities, RIT was tied for the most Gilman Awardees with disabilities with three in 2016-2017. RIT is one of just 36 universities nationally named to the Gilman Top Producing Institutions list.
“The access created by this scholarship, paired with RIT’s commitment to provide interpreting support for students that are deaf or hard of hearing, has made study abroad not only a possibility, but a reality for many of our students,” said Claire DelMonte, program specialist for education abroad and international fellowships at RIT. “The Gilman Scholarship Program's commitment to increasing access to study abroad for underrepresented students has inspired our Education Abroad office to create our own travel grants, which we award to students with financial need.”
Four RIT students have been selected Gilman Awardees for spring and summer 2018:
- Leo Holman, a fourth-year digital humanities and social sciences student from Hot Springs, S.D., studied abroad in Nanjing, China, this spring
- Roberto Ramos-Brito, a third-year student double majoring in electrical engineering technology and applied modern language and culture from Camillus, N.Y., will study in Genova, Italy, this summer.
- Third-year applied arts and sciences student Alana Smith of Riverside, Calif., will study in Copenhagen, Denmark, over the summer.
- Nathanael Thomas, a fourth-year student double majoring in applied arts and sciences and international and global studies from Bethesda, Md., will travel to the Himalayas this summer to study in Bhutan.
The Gilman Program, with the support of the U.S. Congress, broadens the U.S. student population studying and interning abroad by providing scholarships to outstanding undergraduates who, due to financial constraints, might not otherwise participate. Since the program’s establishment in 2001, more than 1,300 U.S. institutions have sent more than 25,000 Gilman scholars to 145 countries around the globe.
As new technology evolves, the challenge for graduating students is to figure out how it can benefit humanity.
That was the message Thomas Wheeler, former director of the Federal Communications Commission, shared with graduates at Rochester Institute of Technology’s 133rd annual commencement in the Gordon Field House today. He was one of several people who spoke, including the president of Student Government and RIT President David Munson, who was attending his first graduation ceremony at RIT as president.
“We have now evolved from the industrial era created by the railroad and telegraph into the information era, and we need a new set of rules,” Wheeler said. “That is the challenge you inherit today.”
Wheeler said RIT graduates are better poised to accept the challenge of finding new uses for technology than other students because of RIT’s focus on blending technology and courses relating to the humanities. All RIT baccalaureate students take courses in liberal arts as part of their majors.
“The education you received at this institution—whether in technology, business or the liberal arts—gives you a leg-up on most of your fellow citizens who struggle to understand the effects of new technology and the new economy,” Wheeler said. “It positions you to use your inherent goodness and your sense of fair play to attack the new challenges that work against such qualities. You graduate into a world that needs what you have learned about humanity as much as what you’ve learned about technology. You will have ample opportunity to put your hard-won insights and skills to work. I hope you will harness them, not just for the sake of technology per se, but also for the purpose of helping our society deal with the effects of that technology.”
Wheeler said the world “needs people with an instinct to question, an interrogation that is anchored in an understanding of the human dynamic and stimulated by unbound imagination. We need citizens who want to deal with behavior, not just write code or a new business plan. Society calls out for innovators who see technology not in terms of controlling markets, but of expanding human potential. In that regard, I have always been impressed by what RIT has done to put the intersection of technology and humanity into practice.”
He told the students it is time for them to look beyond using technology to create without consideration of the consequences.
“It is time to rebuild a society and economy torn asunder by technology,” he said. “It is time to once again re-establish the interrelationship between technology and human values. You have been well-prepared to take on these challenges. What a privilege to be the ones tasked with dealing with these complex, technology-based, but very human problems. Grasp that challenge. Make it your own.”
RIT conferred 4,747 degrees this academic year at all its campuses—including in Croatia, Dubai, Kosovo and China—and nearly 2,400 who received degrees at ceremonies today and Saturday in Henrietta. There were 23 students who earned Ph.D.s.
Wheeler received an honorary doctoral degree from RIT Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Haefner and Christine Whitman, chair of RIT’s Board of Trustees, for his exemplary public service, impressive entrepreneurial work and for championing the spirit of innovation and creativity that has impacted and inspired millions.
RIT President Munson, who used American Sign Language at the beginning of his remarks, congratulated the students and said it was a special day for him as well, as he’s completing his first academic year at RIT.
“The RIT family and Rochester community have welcomed Nancy and me with open arms as we have acclimated to our new surroundings,” Munson said. “We are amazed and impressed by the talent and devotion that surrounds us. This includes students, faculty, staff, alumni and our many university partners. Our transition has been wonderful and we thank you all for your support and kindness.”
Munson said it was fun to watch the graduates during his first year leading RIT.
“RIT has creative students who are so full of ideas,” he said. “And you have passion to implement those ideas. We are proud of all that you have accomplished in the years leading up to today.”
Munson noted that the commencement was a new beginning, as graduates enter the workforce, graduate school or the military.
“At RIT, we are confident you have received tremendous preparation from your education both inside and outside the classroom,” he said. “Many of you have engaged in, for example, wonderful co-op experiences or other forms of experiential learning. You are well prepared to undertake the rigors of the real world and get off to a fast start in your respective fields.”
Munson also reminded them to become good citizens of the world.
“It is my hope, graduates of the Class of 2018, that you wake up tomorrow not solely focused on how to earn a living, rather, that you go out and do your best to enrich the world,” he said.
“During your time at RIT, you spent time forging relationships, working together in labs, collaborating on senior projects, traveling overseas, participating in student clubs, and offering service in center-city Rochester,” Munson said. “You didn’t do these things alone. That is why I know that you are prepared to contribute to conversations that will build our future, whether these conversations are more formal and organized, or at a coffee shop with a group of friends. Now is the time for neighbors and citizens to come together.”
Student Government President Farid Barquet, a Mexico City native who is graduating magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in biotechnology and molecular biosciences and biomedical sciences, is on his way to graduate school.
He recalled some memories from his years at RIT—seeing the Gene Polisseni Center open, experiencing the first snowstorm in years that cancelled classes, and RIT becoming a top 100 national university.
“The experiences that we have shared at RIT have shaped who we are today, and despite our different journeys, we all leave RIT today as equals, as the graduating Class of 2018,” he said.
Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf inducted 26 new members into the Delta Xi chapter of the Epsilon Pi Tau honor society at a ceremony May 1.
Epsilon Pi Tau recognizes the academic excellence of students in fields devoted to the study of technology and the preparation of practitioners for the technology professions. Epsilon Pi Tau also extends the honor of membership to outstanding practitioners in the technology professions, to scholars, and/or to persons who have significantly supported or advanced technology professions.
With support from DeafTEC, an NSF-sponsored center at RIT/NTID providing resources for high schools and community colleges that educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students in STEM-related programs, the Delta Xi chapter of the honor society was established at RIT in 2015 for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in associate-level NTID technology programs. This chapter is the only chapter of Epsilon Pi Tau specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and the first NTID honor society.
“It is one of the highlights of the academic year to welcome our talented, hard-working students into the EPT honor society,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “It is a validation of their hours of studying and academic endeavors in and out of the classroom. They make their families and RIT/NTID proud.”
Student honorees include:
- Miko A. Arayata of Quezon City, Philippines; arts and imaging studies
- Megan L. Armstrong of Webster, New York; laboratory science technology
- Cassandra Banania of Chino Hills, California; arts and imaging studies
- Courtney S. Boyer of Decatur, Georgia; computer-aided drafting technology
- Taher A Chowdhury of Ozone Park, New York; accounting technology
- Gabriella L. Ertle of Aliso Viejo, California; management information systems
- Demeisha A. Heath of Brooklyn, New York; business technology
- Macee R. Helmick of West Henrietta, New York; business technology
- Phillip Ho of San Jose, California; computer-aided drafting technology
- Israelle S. Johnson of Baltimore, Ohio; laboratory science technology
- Otto Kingstedt of Washington, D.C. and Stockholm, Sweden; arts and imaging sciences
- Abbigail J. Kolar of Kearney, Nebraska; business
- Ping Liu of Harbin, China; applied computer technology
- Dulce Mireles of Enigma, Georgia; arts and imaging sciences
- Aaron Parker of Lakewood, Ohio; mobile application development
- Philip Pham of San Jose, California; 3D graphics technology
- Victoria Pon of Queens, New York; arts and imaging studies
- Mark L. Redekas of Manchester, Connecticut; applied computer technology
- Kathryn Richer of North Syracuse, New York, computer-aided drafting technology
- Sabrina L. Serna of Lake View Terrace, California; laboratory science technology
- Signe Tarmey of Charlestown, New Hampshire; laboratory science technology
- Michael Wentland of Lynnwood, Washington; applied mechanical technology
- Mia C. White of Littleton, Colorado; business accounting
Faculty honorees include:
- Mitchell R. Bacot, instructional/support faculty, NTID Science and Mathematics Department
- Edward Mineck, interim chairperson, NTID Visual Communication Studies Department
- Mark J. Pfuntner, chairperson, NTID Business Studies Department
Growing up in foster care, Maya Penn was surrounded by people who understood the value of sharing and caring for others. Just one month after Penn graduates with her bachelor’s degree in psychology from RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, she will fulfill her own personal quest for serving others with the Peace Corps in Africa.
Penn, who is deaf, is eagerly anticipating her two-year assignment— teaching deaf children in Ghana.
“This will be a time of significant personal growth for me,” said Penn, who hails from the Bay Area in California. “And I’m just looking forward to impacting the lives of so many children, where there is such a need.”
Although Penn admits that she didn’t know much about the Peace Corps before applying, she knew that she wanted to travel and was hooked when she discovered that there were positions for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to work in schools for those who are deaf. After videophone conversations with Peace Corps volunteers and administrators, Penn applied, interviewed and was accepted into the program.
Penn says that this experience is a “big step” for her, and she is eager to learn as much as she can about different cultures. And even though she’s a bit nervous, she believes her related experiences as a teaching assistant in a school for deaf children, her work at summer camps and at RIT’s Margaret’s House child care center, and her experience tutoring American Sign Language will also contribute to her success in Africa.
And she’s no stranger to traveling in not-so-perfect conditions, having backpacked extensively through Central America and Jamaica.
“I believe that it’s so important for people to study or travel abroad,” said Penn. “It’s crucial to learn from and meet people from other cultures. There are so many opportunities that grow out of these experiences. Of course, you learn and grow in an academic environment, but what you can learn outside of the classroom is beneficial, too.”
At RIT/NTID, Penn was vice president of NTID’s Ebony Club, worked with the NTID Student Life team, was a community student advocate and was involved in theater. She also played intramural volleyball and basketball.
“I’ve loved so much about the RIT/NTID community, including the students, my mentors and all of the events and opportunities,” she said.
Sarah Sarchet, a lecturer at RIT/NTID, met Penn in 2016 when Penn was accepted into RIT’s WOCHA (Women of Color, Honor and Ambition) program.
“Maya is natural leader and a true empath,” said Sarchet. “We ‘clicked’ as a mentor/mentee pair because of how well Maya can relate to others. We both come from large families with many siblings as well as mixed-race families. We had many shared experiences, and our conversations flowed naturally, despite the fact that we had only known each other briefly. And she has been truly bitten by the travel bug. This makes her skilled at meeting new people and learning new cultures. She is unafraid of leaving her comfort zone to try new adventures.”
Of course, Penn says she will miss her parents, who are both RIT/NTID alumni.
“My mom is worried, of course, but she made sure that it’s safe and that I’m in good hands. She’s just so happy that I have the opportunity to do something like this with my life.”
After her work with the Peace Corps, Penn is thinking about pursuing a graduate degree in social work, driven by her time in the foster care system. But she also likes to keep her options open.
“You just never know what’s going to happen after two years in Africa.”