Category Archives: Academics

RIT/NTID team wins National Association of the Deaf College Bowl for the sixth time

Gerry Buckley in orange RIT golf shirt cheering w/four team members and two coaches in black RIT shirts holding trophy.

A student team from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has won the National Association of the Deaf College Bowl academic competition for the third consecutive year, and earned its sixth victory overall.

Held at the biennial NAD conference since 1988, the College Bowl is a four-day question-and-answer academic competition with topics as varied as literature, science, mathematics, history and current events. The event, which brings together deaf contestants from top colleges and universities serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students, regularly draws more than 1,000 audience members to the finals.

Teams of four students from each school vie for the trophy and scholarships for their respective colleges. In addition to RIT/NTID, teams at this year’s competition held in Phoenix were from California State University-Northridge, Gallaudet University and the University of Minnesota.

The winning RIT/NTID team members are Lauren Berger, a psychology major from Rochester, N.Y.; Eric Epstein, a software engineering major from Tucson, Ariz.; Asher Kirschbaum, a mechanical engineering major from Washington Grove, Md.; and Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, a biomedical sciences major from Washington, D.C.

“The weekly practice throughout the year paid off big time,” said Epstein. “I am so proud of my teammates for their yearlong efforts in studying. I look forward to the next generation of Tigers who will undoubtedly defend the bowl.”

The team worked with co-coaches and RIT/NTID faculty members Christopher Kurz and Gary Behm to prepare for the competition.

“The entire RIT/NTID community is so proud of our College Bowl team for bringing the trophy back to campus for another two years,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Lauren, Eric, Asher and Emmanuel did an extraordinary job against fierce competition. They are carrying on a great tradition, and it was wonderful to have so many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in the audience cheering on our students.”

Cool Co-op: Benjamin Polstra

BenPolstra with glasses and a white shirt and striped tie standly proudly, just got a job offer for after graduation with GEICO

Benjamin Polstra, an information technology major from Noblesville, Indiana, spent the summer on co-op at GEICO in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He used his information technology skills to work on business projects and other assignments, both individually and as a part of a team, and was pleased to discover that he and GEICO have something in common—both are interested in casting aside old traditions and embracing new ideas. He was offered and has accepted a full-time job at GEICO and will be starting work there as part of their Technology Development Program.

RIT/NTID, Xamarin Inc. collaboration to provide opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mobile app development

Brian Trager in blue button down shirt gesturing in front of white board with writing on the board and overhead image display.

When faculty members at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were creating a new degree program in mobile application development, they looked to cross-platform developer Xamarin Inc. for guidance and expertise. The result of this collaboration is the fall launch of a new academic program, which recently received approval by the New York State Education Department and earned a grant from the National Science Foundation of more than $820,000.

Funding from the three-year NSF grant, “RoadMaPPs to Careers: A New Approach to Mobile Apps Education featuring a Mapp for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students,” will train and equip students in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department where the new program will be housed, and is based on the Xamarin cross-platform approach to mobile application development.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Xamarin assisted in the development of the new associate degree program, and company representatives serve on the advisory board for curriculum review. The company recently was acquired by Microsoft.

“Xamarin has given us access to their ‘Xamarin University’ curriculum materials, provided data we needed for our program and grant proposals, came to campus to carefully review our plans and gave us invaluable guidance,” said Elissa Olsen, chairperson of RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department. “We are so pleased that they have agreed to serve on our program advisory board and continue to guide the program in the future based on industry trends.”

The company also will support student-learning activities such as career awareness events and will hire students for co-op and full-time employment.

“We are proud that Xamarin will play a major role in the overall success of the mobile app development program, not only because the curriculum uses the Xamarin platform, but also because our experts will advise and assist the team on all aspects of the program,” said Bryan Costanich, vice president of education services at Xamarin Inc. “This is a unique opportunity to work with the deaf community to provide training and employment in one of the fastest growing industry segments.”

Cool Co-op: La Shea Murray

Female student sitting and working at computer desk.

La Shea Murray from Feasterville, Pennsylvania is a design and imaging technology major working her co-op at RMS Graphics in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. In her position as a graphic design technician intern, she works with the art director to make, modify and produce designs for various commercial printed materials using Adobe software, and assists with putting together custom fulfillment kits.

Cool Co-ops: Samantha Abert

female student sitting at compuer with colorful Crayola products

Samantha Abert, a design and imaging technology major from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, is a graphic production intern at Crayloa, LLC, in Easton, Pennsylvania. She is part of a creative team that focuses on the development and use of creative tools like crayons, pencils, markers and clay. Part of her job is to research craft ideas and create artwork with Crayola products that the company could use on social media as examples of what consumers can make with those products. She also created concept sketches for colored pencils packaging.

NIH grant provides postdoctoral research, teaching experience for deaf scholars

Sarah in dark grey top and Wyatte in light grey shirt with mult-gray tie standing in front of staircase

A nearly $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help advance research, teaching experiences and career preparation in the biomedical and behavioral sciences fields for deaf and hard-of-hearing postdoctoral scholars.

A program, known as the Rochester Postdoc Partnership (RPP), serves as a national model that allows deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who have earned advanced degrees to create mentored teaching experiences and do postdoctoral research at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and University of Rochester.

“What sets this research postdoctoral experience apart from traditional postdoctoral research is the emphasis on teaching scholars ‘how to teach’ and design new courses at RIT/NTID in full-inclusion classroom settings for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing undergraduates,” said Peter Hauser, director of the NTID Center on Cognition and Language and the Rochester Bridges to Doctorate Program. “People who are deaf, like myself, are underrepresented in life science disciplines and few are applying for biomedical or behavioral science research grants. This program is helping to rectify that circumstance.”

The program, which received five years of funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences through the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award, is now in its second year.

Two postdoctoral scholars currently are participating in the program.

Sarah Latchney, Ph.D., from Victor, N.Y., earned her doctoral degree in molecular toxicology at University of Rochester Medical Center and has performed postdoctoral research in neuroscience at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Latchney is now at the Wilmot Cancer Institute at URMC performing postdoctoral research on the cellular and molecular mechanisms affecting bone marrow hematopoietic stem cell biology in normal and pathological conditions. Latchney said she joined the RPP to take advantage of the unique training focus to enhance her academic research portfolio with the added dimension of acquiring skills in teaching pedagogy, designing course curriculum and teaching new classes at RIT/NTID and URMC.

Wyatte Hall, Ph.D., from Albany, N.Y., earned his doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Gallaudet University and performed one year of postdoctoral research in clinical psychology at University of Massachusetts. His research in the RPP program at URMC focuses on the lifelong consequences of language deprivation in deaf children and the developmental impact of early-language experiences on health literacy and outcomes in prenatal care and reproductive health of deaf females. Hall is starting his second year in the program and has gained teaching experience, research skills and training in grant writing to develop his future independent academic research and teaching program.

“It’s exciting to see the program taking off and impacting the careers of deaf and hard-of-hearing scholars, who are extremely underrepresented in science careers beyond a master’s degree,” said Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean.

Rochester has built a global reputation as a center for deaf and hard-of-hearing culture and education. In the last decade, collaborations between RIT, NTID, UR and the deaf community have led to a number of unique programs designed to support the growth of deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists.

The program is seeking additional deaf and hard-of-hearing postdoc scholars. For more information, go towww.urmc.rochester.edu/academic-research-careers-deaf-scholars/about-the-program.aspx.

Flanagan named RIT/NTID athlete development coordinator

Skip Flanagan in maroon plaid button down with black t-shirt carrying book bag over his right shoulder

Alumnus and baseball standout Sean “Skip” Flanagan has been named athletic development coordinator for Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. In this role, Flanagan will work in tandem with the RIT Center for Intercollegiate Athletics, RIT varsity and club coaches and NTID faculty and staff to support the participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes on varsity and club teams. 

Flanagan, of Framingham, Massachusetts, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in exercise science from RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and currently is working on a master’s degree in educational leadership-intercollegiate athletic leadership at the University of Washington in Seattle.  He previously was RIT/NTID’s student-athlete liaison, a student ambassador for NTID, and played professional baseball.            

As athletic development coordinator, Flanagan will meet periodically with coaches of all RIT varsity teams, attend practices and meet with teams to provide educational seminars to improve team dynamics, as well as meet regularly with individual athletes to develop relationships, provide mentoring, support and problem-solving strategies. He will serve as representative of NTID at RIT athletic department staff meetings and functions.


“We are pleased to have Skip return to his alma mater in a role that takes full advantage of his experience both in the classroom and on the field,” said Dr. Gerard Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “He will serve as a role model to young deaf and hard-of-hearing student-athletes who attend RIT/NTID as well as those considering their college options.”