Category Archives: Academics

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: http://bit.ly/NTIDaccessibility

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 www.princetonreview.com/best-business-schools 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.”

Researchers Study How Deaf People Learn, Grow

two females and one male with glasses and beard look at sensor cap with brain model and laptop in foreground.

Peter Hauser is a strategist—executing a carefully orchestrated plan to establish his Center on Cognition and Language at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as the premier location in the world for researching how deaf people develop, learn, grow, and live.

Hauser is inspiring an army of dedicated and talented student and faculty researchers to follow his lead and make a difference in the education, health, and wellness of deaf people for generations to come. Back in the early 2000s, Hauser was the first-ever practicing deaf neuropsychologist to work alongside physicians in diagnosing conditions such as learning disabilities, attention disorders, dementia, and depression in deaf and hard-of-hearing patients. But as Hauser’s career progressed, along with an increasing clinical workload, he realized that diagnoses were often made based on decades of studies of only hearing subjects. Further investigation revealed a significant lack of research using deaf and hard-of-hearing subjects.

“There was and still is a dire need for research on deaf individuals’ language, cognitive function, memory, and intelligence, which all play a role in understanding and diagnosing conditions and understanding how we learn and develop,” said Hauser. “There were times that I thought to myself, ‘How can I diagnose my deaf patients when the only basis for understanding I have is using irrelevant research?’ And while I truly loved working one-on-one with patients and physicians, I felt that I needed to impact the physical and mental well-being of deaf people, as well as their access to education, in a different way.”

After years of writing grants to secure funding and conducting his own research, Hauser created NTID’s Center on Cognition and Language in 2016—the only center of its kind in the world led by a deaf director and staffed primarily by deaf researchers. The center produces interdisciplinary and collaborative discoveries on the cognitive, language, and socio-cultural factors that affect deaf individuals’ learning, well-being, and health, and equally as important, shares these discoveries with other researchers, hospitals, schools, and clinics. Research projects are funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and NTID.

“I would dream of starting this research center, and some days I didn’t think it would ever happen,” said Hauser. “But every day, I made little decisions based on closing in on that dream.”

Hauser is also passionate about developing future generations of deaf researchers and scientists in social, behavioral, and biomedical research disciplines and provides mentorship programs for deaf scholars. The center is home to two NIH-funded training programs committed to fostering aspiring deaf scientists’ development by providing outstanding mentored research experiences and one NSF-funded program to broaden the participation of deaf students in sign-language research.

Building an Army

RIT student Sarah Kimbley began her work in the center as an undergraduate. She works in the center’s Deaf x Lab, Sign Language Lab, and the Deaf Health Lab, and this fall is a scholar in the Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate program, which selects top RIT graduate students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and wish to pursue a doctoral degree.

Kimbley, an experimental psychology graduate student from Lakeland, Fla., is working on several projects including studying health literacy and understanding individuals’ feelings about being deaf. She is also comparing temporal sequence processing in deaf children and how language acquisition and audition may mediate neurocognitive functions like working memory, executive function, and sequence learning.

“Researchers claim deaf children with cochlear implants have a cognitive deficit that is due to a lack of auditory input,” said Kimbley. “However, our research proposes an alternative explanation. Language deprivation has a greater impact than auditory deprivation. In other words, not being exposed to language within the first five years can be harmful for cognitive functioning. We are predicting that our developmental study will show us that language fluency will have an impact while hearing level has little or no impact on cognitive functioning, specifically temporal sequence processing.”

The center staff works with and mentors students at all educational levels from first-year to graduate students, and beyond.

Tiffany Panko ’08, ’09 (applied arts and sciences, MBA) is a post-doctoral fellow in the center who graduated from RIT with concentrations in premedical and psychological studies and from the University of Rochester in 2016 with a medical degree. The Rochester native has studied and worked alongside Hauser off and on from as far back as 2004.

“I just can’t seem to get away from Peter,” jokes Panko. “As an undergraduate, I was in a class that he taught—Biological Basis of Mental Disorders, which was the class where I realized that I could blend my love of psychology with medicine and working with people. Last year, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my residency, so I contacted Peter and he told me that he could really use my expertise in the Deaf Health Lab. I’m working on a big five-year project that connects Rochester, Chicago, and Flint, Mich., and more than 1,000 deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people. All of these areas provide racial, ethnic, and economic diversity—rich research environments.”

The project, a partnership with the University of Michigan, will provide information on how to better provide preventive health and health care information to the diverse deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Eye trackers in the lab help Panko and others study how deaf users navigate health websites. The goal is to gain information on how different groups within the deaf community learn differently in order to customize how information can be delivered to these marginalized populations.

“I have learned so much about psychology and academic research during my time working here in the center, but more importantly, I have learned to become more confident in myself and my ability to achieve my goals,” added Kimbley.

Kimbley and Panko, who is also deaf, are just two of the 14 students, four staff members, and seven NTID faculty members who support Hauser and the center’s labs through their research.

“We bring together experts from different levels of education and different backgrounds including, but not limited to, linguists, physicians, cognitive scientists,” he added. “We bring them together for the first time in the same environment. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are creating new types of science that just aren’t possible without this one-of-a-kind collaboration.”

On the Web

NTID Center on Cognition and Language: www.ntid.rit.edu/nccl

Labs

NTID’s Center on Cognition and Language houses five labs, each focusing on a different aspect of deaf life.

  • Deaf Studies Laboratory—investigates how stigma about deaf people has an impact on those individuals’ education, health, and careers.
  • Deaf x Laboratory—investigates how the deaf experience shapes cognition, including attention and the executive functions using behavioral science tasks, electroencephalography, and eye tracking to understand the effects of language and hearing on cognition in adults and cognitive development in children.
  • Sign Language Laboratory—investigates issues in sign-language acquisition, educational interpreting, and sociolinguistics, including language variation and language attitudes.
  • Deaf Health Laboratory—establishes research related to the deaf community on preventive health, health literacy, health knowledge, and the deaf experience in health care.
  • Deaf Math-Science Language and Learning Lab—focuses on language learning and conceptual understanding in mathematics and science.

Mentorship Programs

Rochester Bridges to the Doctorate: deafscientists.com

Rochester Post-doc Partnership: www.urmc.rochester.edu/academic-research-careers-deaf-scholars.aspx

Broadening the Participation of Deaf Students in Sign Language Research program: Provides the top deaf and hard-of-hearing students from higher education institutions across the United States with mentored opportunities in sign language research.

RIT offers new bachelor’s degree program in nutritional sciences

Collage of fruits and vegetables featuring red peppers, asparagus, green grapes, red apples, yellow squash, lettuce, mushrooms

RIT is offering a new bachelor's degree in nutritional sciences for students who want to apply nutrition concepts and principles to careers outside the clinical domain of registered dietetics nutrition. New this fall, the nutritional sciences major gives students an alternative path to a nutrition degree in RIT’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. The program complements the existing bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition but without a clinical focus. More.

RIT ranks high in Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking

Smiling female student with tan skin and dark hair wearing an RIT t-shirt makes the V sign. Male students stand behind her.

Rochester Institute of Technology placed 130th out of 1,054 U.S. colleges and universities in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking.

The ranking, developed in partnership with experts and universities, uses 15 individual performance metrics, grouped into four pillars representing Resources (30 percent), Engagement (20 percent), Outcomes (40 percent) and Environment (10 percent), indicators deemed most important to students when choosing a university, according to the ranking organization.

Within the Northeast region, RIT ranked 60th out of 303 institutions. More.

RIT/NTID and EPA ink development of cooperative program

A woman and two men sit facing a large monitor screen. An interpreter is to the screen's right. the screen shows people at desk.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students attending Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will benefit from enhanced educational and career opportunities in the environmental sciences, thanks to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the college and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The MOU was formalized during a “virtual” signing ceremony Sept. 12, with representatives from both RIT/NTID and the EPA connecting through live video conferencing.

The purpose of the MOU is to increase cooperation between RIT/NTID and the EPA in areas of mutual interest, including promoting equal opportunity in higher education, contributing to RIT/NTID’s capacity to provide high-quality education, and encouraging the participation of RIT/NTID in EPA programs.

Activities being considered as part of this partnership include:

  • Inviting RIT/NTID faculty and student participation in public policy forums, presentations, seminars and other events at the EPA.
  • The EPA participating in career fairs and other outreach to RIT/NTID students, faculty and alumni regarding EPA employment opportunities.
  • The EPA providing assistance to RIT/NTID for the advancement of environmental education by distance learning technology.
  • EPA representatives participating in lectures, webinars, conferences and other events at RIT/NTID.

“The federal government has been a strong advocate for equal employment opportunities for all individuals, including deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “We are so pleased to be partnering with the EPA on behalf of our students.”

The parties plan to establish a program committee consisting of representatives of RIT/NTID and the EPA to manage implementation of the memorandum. The EPA has designated EPA Region 2, headquartered in New York City, to administer the MOU on behalf of the EPA, working with other EPA offices, regions and laboratories as appropriate. RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment will administer on behalf of the college.

Representatives participating in the signing were, from the EPA: Bisa Cunningham, director, Diversity, Recruitment & Employee Services Division; Richard J. Manna, assistant regional administrator, EPA Region 2; Jon Gabry, branch chief, Division of Environmental Science and Assessment, Hazardous Waste Support Branch, EPA Region 2; Colin “Mark” Oldland, disability employment program manager, Office of Policy and Management, EPA Region 2; Christopher Emanuel, EEO manager/Disability Employment Program, Office of Civil Rights, Affirmative Employment, Analysis and Accountability; Johahna Johnson, Civil Rights and Finance Law Office, Office of General Counsel; Tania L. Allen, chief, Diversity & Recruitment Branch Diversity, Recruitment & Employee Services Division; and Anthony Napoli, diversity and inclusion program manager of the Diversity, Recruitment & Employee Services Division. Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean; John Macko, director of RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment; and Shyrl Scalice, assistant director and employment adviser, RIT/NTID’s Center on Employment, represented the college.

RIT now among the top 100 universities in the nation

Photo of Infinity Quad on RIT campus

Rochester Institute of Technology is now among the top 100 universities in the nation, having jumped 10 places in the "National Universities" category, according to "U.S. News & World Report" rankings.

RIT, which just last year moved into the top “National Universities” category due to its rapid increase in research and Ph.D. graduates, this year ranked 97th out of 311 universities in this prestigious category, which includes some of the nation’s best known colleges and universities. These top universities “offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs, and emphasize faculty research,” according to "U.S. News." More.

RIT/NTID receives Motorola Solutions Foundation grant

Male teacher wtih light hair and glasses works with student with dark hair and skin on mini drone and mobile phone.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf today announced it has received a grant for $30,000 from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. Through the grant, RIT/NTID will support a new initiative to encourage students to enroll in NTID’s new mobile application development program.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation awards grants each year to organizations, such as RIT/NTID, which support and advance public safety programs and technology and engineering education initiatives. This year, programs that served underrepresented populations, including females, people with disabilities and veterans were prioritized.

“The generous gift from Motorola will be used to build foundational math, English and basic coding skills to help us prepare students who are interested, but not yet academically qualified for our mobile application development program,” said David Lawrence, instructional/support faculty member in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department. “With the grant, students will participate in engaging individual and team projects and competitions that require the use of math, reading, writing and coding skills.”

This year, Motorola Solutions Foundation grants will support programs that help more than two million students, teachers, first responders and community members across the United States. Each participant will receive an average of 186 programming hours from its partner non-profit organizations and institutions. Programs will support special populations including: females, underrepresented minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, people with disabilities and veterans.

“Motorola Solutions Foundation is proud to support the work of RIT/NTID. As a leading technology company that supports the safety of communities worldwide, we know how important it is to educate tomorrow’s technology professionals as well as enlighten civilians and first responders on today’s safety needs,” said Matt Blakely, executive director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation.

For additional information on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants program, visit: motorolasolutions.com/foundation, and for more information on RIT/NTID visit the website.

About RIT/NTID

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and for providing unparalleled support services for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1965, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the first and largest technological college in the world for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. NTID offers associate degree programs for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and provides support and access services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who study in the other eight colleges of RIT. NTID also offers a bachelor’s degree program in sign language interpreting and master’s degree programs in health care interpretation and in secondary education for individuals interested in teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Deaf and hard-of-hearing students come from all over the United States and around the world to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at RIT/NTID.

About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The foundation achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and math. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website: www.motorolasolutions.com/foundation.