All posts by Kathy Johncox

Kathy is the editor and writer for Parent News. She is a Communications, Marketing & Multimedia Services Specialist at RIT/NTID.

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   

Alumnus gives RIT $50 million to foster entrepreneurship and cybersecurity

Left to right: RIT President Munson, Austin McChord and President Emeritus Destler.

A 2009 alumnus has given Rochester Institute of Technology $50 million, the largest donation ever made to the university and one of the largest ever in the region.

The unprecedented gift comes from Austin McChord, founder and CEO of Datto, a Connecticut-based data protection company with engineering and support offices in downtown Rochester.

“A gift of this magnitude will help propel RIT from excellence to preeminence,” said RIT President David Munson. “We are so proud of our alumnus Austin McChord. He was passionate about his idea and he turned it into a big success. This embodies the creative element that we want to further highlight at RIT. Every student can be involved in creating things that never before existed, and then putting the result into play. His investment in RIT will help our students and faculty make their mark on the world.”

McChord, an RIT trustee, said he was inspired to make the donation by former RIT President Bill Destler, with whom he has developed a friendship.

“My goal with this gift is two-fold,” said McChord. “First is to help make more resources available to students, alumni and the community at-large to create, build and innovate for the future. But it’s also to help recognize those who helped you along the way. My success today would not have been possible without my time at RIT.”

Destler, who retired as RIT president in June 2017, was in the audience at RIT’s Student Innovation Hall as McChord announced his gift.

“I am thrilled that Austin McChord has chosen to share his success with RIT in the form of this most generous gift,” said Destler. “It’s truly been a pleasure to get to know him and to watch his business grow internationally as well as right here in Rochester, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for him as well as for the programs and projects this gift will support.”

The gift is to be designated for use in two major areas:

  • $30 million to foster creativity and entrepreneurship at RIT, including $17.5 million to launch the Maker Library & Innovative Learning Complex of the Future. This will be a new facility connecting RIT’s Wallace Center and the Student Alumni Union. Additional funding will go toward purchasing equipment and endowing faculty positions and student scholarships, including new “Entrepreneurial Gap Year” fellowships to help students advance their concepts into businesses.
  • $20 million to advance RIT’s cybersecurity and artificial intelligence capabilities. This funding will be used to expand facilities, as well as to establish endowments to attract and retain exceptional faculty and graduate students, primarily in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, the largest of RIT’s nine colleges.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we extend our sincere appreciation to fellow Trustee Austin McChord for this magnanimous gift,” said RIT Trustees Chair Christine Whitman. “This most generous gift will allow RIT to expand and enhance its programming in some areas that the university is noted for, as well as further fostering our environment of creativity and innovation.”

McChord has been an active alumnus of RIT, serving as a frequent keynote speaker at events, including Venture Creations graduation, the annual Entrepreneurship Conference and the 2017 Commencement. Datto sponsored events such as RIT48, an entrepreneurship competition, and hackathons, and McChord has given of his time as a mentor in RIT’s SummerStart program, an intense summer program aimed at assisting entrepreneurs/innovators in developing their business concepts to a point where they are ready to begin to seek angel investment.

McChord founded Datto, a global provider of Total Data Protection Solutions, in 2007. Starting with an idea he had while a student at RIT, McChord started the company in the basement of his father’s office building. His original goal of building basic back-up for small businesses across the country has expanded dramatically over the past 10 years. Datto has experienced exponential growth, appearing on the coveted Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and has been recognized by the Connecticut Technology Council as one of the state’s fastest growing companies. The company has also received numerous industry awards for company growth, product excellence and customer support.

Datto was recently acquired by Vista Equity Partners and merged with Autotask Corp. McChord is CEO of the new company, which has about 1,400 employees with offices in nine countries. In 2015, the company became Connecticut’s most valuable start-up, with a valuation in excess of $1 billion.

In August 2014, Datto opened a branch in downtown Rochester on the fourth floor of RIT’s Downtown Center, at 40 Franklin St., becoming the first company in the region to join that state’s START-UP NY program. Initial plans called for Datto to add 70 workers within the next 18 months, but Datto has already grown to more than 200 employees in Rochester. McChord has said he expects the company’s Rochester operations, which also has offices on multiple floors of The Metropolitan (former Chase Tower), to continue to grow.

McChord’s business success has earned him several honors. The holder of several patents, McChord was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2015 as a leader in Enterprise Technology and won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year New York Region Award in 2016.

RIT named one of the Top 200 Colleges for Native Americans by ‘Winds of Change’ magazine

Native American woman with long dark hair wearing a white cardigan hands a student a craft item.

"Winds of Change" magazine recognized Rochester Institute of Technology as one of the Top 200 Colleges for Native American Students. This marks the eighth time RIT made the annual list, published by American Indian Science and Engineering Society. The magazine ranked top universities in the United States “where American Indians are going to school in significant numbers and where the community, Native programs and support are strong enough for these students to enjoy college and stay on to graduate.” There are 180 Native American students pursuing their degrees at RIT, including 12 who are deaf or hard of hearing. More.

BBC Click visits RIT/NTID

BBC Click logo

BBC reporter Paul Carter and a producer/videographer traveled from London, England, to spend two days in Rochester, New York, filming a segment for "BBC Click." Click is the BBC’s flagship technology program, bringing “the best debate on global technology, social media and the internet.” They are a guide to all the latest gadgets, websites, games and computer industry news. 

The BBC team spent most of their time at RIT/NTID, interviewing President Gerry Buckley, visiting Chris Campbell's classroom that uses Microsoft Translator, checking out the Deaf Archives in The Wallace Center with Joan Naturale and spending time in the Dining Commons learning how deaf and hearing individuals interact on campus. They also  visited Venture Creations, RIT's innovation incubator, to learn about Motion Savvy, a company that began as an entrant to RIT/NTID's The Next Big Idea competition. They also traveled to Rochester School for the Deaf for a lesson on the rich history of Deaf culture in Rochester. 

The segment is available by clicking on this link. 

Rising Leadership Academy for NTID-Supported Students

USBLN logo in blue and green with two circles intertwined to the left of the letters.

RIT/NTID students have an opportunity to participate in a unique program to develop leadership skills, sponsored by the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN). The deadline to apply for the Rising Leadership Academy is Dec. 18. Encourage your student to apply today. 

Students can apply at More information on the Rising Leadership Academy can be found on their website

Click on this video link to learn more:  

RIT’s College of Science, NTID develop new articulation agreement

Light skinned man wearing white lab coat, safety goggles and blue gloves works with science lab equipment.

Qualified deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf now have additional opportunities to continue their studies toward bachelor’s degrees in the sciences at RIT.


Thanks to an articulation agreement between NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics and RIT’s College of Science Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, qualified deaf and hard-of-hearing students completing the associate of applied science (AAS) degree in Laboratory Science Technology can seamlessly transfer into bachelor’s degree programs in Biology, Environmental Science and Biotechnology & Molecular Bioscience. A majority of the credit earned toward the LST degree will apply to the bachelor’s degrees in these majors.

The Laboratory Science Technology major, with its foundation of course sequences in chemistry, biology and instrumental analysis, was developed primarily from an industry perspective to prepare students for employment as laboratory technicians. The major has several significant factors that set it apart, including the application of real-world analyses and state-of-the-art classrooms and instrumentation laboratories. Graduates are prepared to work in a broad range of fields, including chemical, biological, biotechnical, pharmaceutical, environmental, industrial, forensic and food analysis.

Students earning an associate degree have the option of finding employment or continuing to work toward a baccalaureate degree.

“NTID is committed to increasing the number of deaf scientists in our country, and has programs that encourage students from middle and high school through post doctorate programs” says Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “This articulation agreement is designed to encourage academic cooperation and the exchange of information between NTID and the College of Science, and will go a long way toward meeting our goal of adding deaf representation to science labs throughout the country.”

The LST program has an existing articulation agreement with the School of Chemistry and Materials Science in RIT’s College of Science where students can work towards a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biochemistry. This new articulation agreement expands the options within the College of Science.

Spotlight on Kendall Charles of RIT/NTID’s ‘The Story of Beauty and the Beast’

Three performers in costumes, two at right and left indicating to the one in the center, a dark-skinned male. all are smiling.

Kendall Charles is a fourth-year computing and information technologies major from Opelousas, La., who is adopting the role of Beast in NTID’s production of The Story of Beauty and the Beast. Charles has enjoyed acting and theater since elementary school, but he didn’t start being consistently involved with theatrical productions until last year. Last year, he was featured in three productions through NTID: Fairytale CourtroomDanceTale and The Crucifer of Blood. In addition to his love for theater and dance, Charles enjoys playing volleyball and basketball and is involved with several organizations on campus. He is the copy interpreter for the NTID Student Assembly, works at the NTID Learning Center as the senior learning center assistant lead and is in the process of becoming a fraternity brother of Sigma Nu.

This production of NTID’s The Story of Beauty and the Beast is unique from other interpretations of the story. Instead of conveying the fairytale verbally, the cast will tell the classic love story through a variety of dance styles, sign language and other non-verbal expressions. The production premiered at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Robert F. Panara Theatre. There will be shows starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov 11, and one show starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12.

To purchase tickets for the event, go to

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: RIT perfectly embodied what type of college I was looking for. It covered all three of the things I was looking for when applying to schools. First, it’s a college that is outside of my home state of Louisiana. Second, it merged two different worlds together: the deaf world and the hearing world. The third is that RIT is well-known for my major, so it would look good if I got my degree from here.

Q: Have you always enjoyed acting and being on stage?
A: Yes, I have always enjoyed acting and being on stage. Acting and performing are like my comfort zone from reality, a place that I can escape to. It’s also a huge stress reliever when I’m on stage, so that is an added benefit.

Q: Beast is an iconic role; what was your reaction when you found out you got the part?
A: My reaction was a mixture of emotions. I was shocked, thrilled and, of course, nervous.

Q: Do you get along well with Belle and the rest of the cast?
A: Yes, I do get along well with everyone. Of course, every play has a little tension between the cast members because of all the stress we have about the show and our classes, but at the end of the day, we all get along. We want to make the play as successful as possible and make sure to work together so it will be great.

Q: Do you have any fun moments from rehearsals that you can share?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. At the start of every rehearsal we begin with a warm-up dance and exercise and that is really fun. We are allowed to dance any way we want to, so we can be silly or serious. The exercise gives us time to bond together. I also like that we all share our skills with each other to help each other improve. For example, someone might show someone else how they dance so that person can improve their dancing skills.

Q: Playing Beast typically involves wearing some extensive makeup and prosthetics, is it hard trying to work in such an elaborate costume?
A: You should come to the show and see the Beast costume yourself! I don’t want to spoil anything, but all I can say is that all of our costumes are actually lighter than most other Beauty and the Beast costumes. Because we are all dancers and need to move around a lot, the costumes needed to be flexible and easy for us to dance in. They are very cool and, thankfully, easier to move around in than you would think.

Q: Do you have any rituals or habits that help you prepare to perform?
A: Before rehearsals, I always do the warm-ups and exercises to get myself loose and ready to perform. I also review all the dances and lines before I show up to the rehearsal to make sure I’m prepared and hopefully won’t make any mistakes.

Q: What is your favorite part of the production as a whole?
A: It is a spectacle and a rich experience. I love building a bond with everyone involved with the production. I believe that having a bond with everyone involved with the production, from cast to tech crew, makes the distinction between an amazing production and a beyond-amazing production.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?
A: I would like to eventually go back and get my master’s degree in business once I’m ready to start school again. Until then I want to find a good company to work at that understands my goals of eventually returning to school.

RIT/NTID investigating ways to enhance learning for deaf students beyond notetaking

Center of photo is a female with short hair and glasses in maroon sweater with hands in sign language shape as two others watch.

As a deaf student majoring in psychology, Joshua Mora looks for ways to enhance his learning in scientific environments that are traditionally composed of hearing peers and faculty.

In order to fulfill his and other students’ needs for diverse methods of information dissemination and a greater understanding of learning styles within the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, a new project has been launched—one that uniquely connects hearing and deaf communities and will result in effective STEM learning for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Since this past spring, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s Faculty Learning Communities program has been developing training and “accessibility toolkits” for faculty in STEM disciplines who are searching for viable ways to adapt their teaching methodologies to accommodate the learning needs of their deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The communities—facilitated by hearing and deaf faculty pairs in similar disciplines—brainstorm alternative learning ideas, propose experiments, and test the efficacy of the alternatives.

Sara Schley, director of NTID’s Research Center for Teaching and Learning and principal investigator, said the project, which was funded through a three-year, $443,200 grant from the National Science Foundation, combines faculty engagement in instructional change, universal design for teaching and learning, and student-centered pedagogy that all ultimately enhance inclusiveness within the classroom. Co-principal investigator on the grant is Stephanie Cawthon from The University of Texas at Austin.

“Faculty members who teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students may assume that notetaking services and interpreting services, for example, are tools that sufficiently provide an adequate learning environment,” Schley said. “While these services certainly assist the students with their learning, we’ve found that there are many other ways that instructors can adapt their teaching styles to enhance the learning environment for our students. This project is meant to provide relevant information to our faculty in a supportive way.”

One Scenario

Schley cites one example. Inside the classroom, faculty may explain complicated STEM concepts by showing slides while sign-language interpreters translate the information to a deaf student. However, it’s extremely difficult for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to look at slides while watching an interpreter. This often results in the student missing valuable dialogue and classroom interaction.

In the scenario mentioned above, added Schley, faculty may experiment with pausing after showing a slide or writing on a white board and checking for “eyeballs” in order to be sure that students have finished reading the information and are ready to shift their focus back to the instructor or the interpreter.

Students like Mora, a fourth-year student from Fremont, Calif., who view this project as an opportunity for them to thrive in RIT’s rigorous educational setting, are serving in mentorship roles—valuable resources for hearing faculty who are encouraged to seek feedback and perform “dry runs” on potential strategies. Mora also believes the project offers a forum where an exchange of ideas will increase student engagement.

“If a teacher has concerns about how to make curricula accessible, we are available to provide guidance,” he said. “This project has a direct impact on student engagement and motivation in the classroom, and I think it will ultimately encourage more deaf and hard-of-hearing students to enter STEM fields with confidence.”

Schley sees a steady progression in the advancement of the initiative. RIT’s Teaching and Learning Services, a unit of the Innovative Learning Institute, is developing a “toolkit” website that can be readily accessed by faculty looking to expand their instructional methodologies. And as the project develops over the next few years, Schley said that the learning communities will be asked to investigate applications using more advanced technology such as “flipped” learning. In this case, faculty might add cues for students that encourage them to pause and review a graphic explanation after seeing a captioned explanation.

Individualized Instruction

Robert Garrick, a manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology professor in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, teaches future engineers using a technology-rich, interactive learning environment with hundreds of instructor and student videos in a classroom with 10 interactive projectors.

“I am especially interested in this project to understand how we, as instructors, can improve accessibility with the emerging multimedia tools we use,” said Garrick. “Our teaching and accessibility techniques are hopefully evolving as quickly as our technology tools in order to provide individualized instruction while giving continuous feedback to each student based on their needs.”

Jennifer O’Neil, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology, joined the RIT faculty in 2016. While she has always focused on building course work around different teaching pedagogies that promote improved student learning and engagement, she felt that her participation in this project would sharpen her skills working with a diverse and unique student population—RIT’s deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“I am continuously striving to improve my teaching effectiveness,” said O’Neil. “Before I was faced with any challenges in the classroom, I decided to join the learning community to learn alternative strategies to improve student engagement and retention, but more importantly to make meaningful changes in the classroom that would enhance the learning experience for all students.”

Schley added that, simply put, the project is about the best way to engage in collaborative learning because there are many different kinds of learners in the same classroom.

“We’re helping our faculty to take a little more time to think about meeting the needs of their students and designing activities that don’t depend on a particular channel of information. This is about good teaching.”

On the Web

Access and Inclusion Project:

Saunders College online MBA among top in Princeton Review rankings

Brick building exterior with steel awning and center pole. Students with orange backpacks and benches in foreground.

Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology ranked eighth in the “Top 25 Online MBA Programs for 2018.”

Saunders College online Executive MBA program also earned high placements the past three years since the inception of The Princeton Review’s comprehensive rankings of online MBA programs in 2015.

“The online Executive MBA is a signature program of Saunders College and we are pleased that its reputation continues to garner exceptional rankings,” said Saunders College Dean Jacqueline Mozrall. “Guided by an innovative and dedicated program staff, our outstanding faculty provide a rich and engaging learning environment for our cohort-based online Executive MBA experience.”

The result of The Princeton Review’s third annual ranking of the top 25 online MBA programs for 2018 is available at along with FAQs about the basis for each ranking, including detailed profiles of the schools.

“As more students embrace online MBA options, the caliber of both students and programs has greatly improved, so it is especially gratifying to see recognition at the national level of our students’ commitment to their own professional development, as well as evidence of our faculty’s high-touch engagement with their students,” said Martin Lawlor, director of the Executive MBA program at Saunders College.

According to one Saunders online Executive MBA student, “This is an intense program that prepares students with unimaginable leadership capabilities,” while another mentioned, “innovation, product management, marketing and analytical” skills as part of the program’s strengths.

Saunders’ online Executive MBA program was cited by students for its “well-known, rigorous and accelerated program” that delivers 47 credit hours in 17 months of study, an international immersion trip that is “a huge benefit to attending RIT,” and “real-life courses and assignments” culminating in a capstone project where students serve as consultants to actual businesses. “A whopping 50 percent” of graduates reported receiving a promotion while attending the program.

Saunders College is accredited by the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) and offers the Executive MBA program with flexible scheduling options and access to a dedicated MBA career services advisor, as well as free lifetime access to RIT’s Career Services.

Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review, said “Top business schools now offer online MBAs and employers do see them as credible and valuable. For working professionals unable to move to a ‘brick and mortar’ campus for an MBA, these schools offer an opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best b-school professors and earn the degree from anywhere in the world.”