Category Archives: Campus Events

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 https://www.rit.edu/research/simonecenter/nsf-deaf-college-innovation-bowl or by contacting Atkins at wsanbt@rit.edu.   

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.

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. 

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 https://rittickets.com/Online/default.asp.

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 Performing Arts presents dance and music adaptation of ‘The Story of Beauty and the Beast,’ Nov. 9–12

Dark skinned male in blue jacket with red trip hugs a medium skinned female in white dress.

The Performing Arts program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will present a dance and music adaptation of The Story of Beauty and the Beast, conceived by Thomas Warfield, director of NTID’s dance department. The performance—an adaptation of the traditional fairy tale written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villenueve—will be performed at NTID’s Panara Theatre in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9–11, and 2 p.m. Nov. 12. 

The show, co-directed and co-choreographed by Warfield and Nicole Hood-Cruz, tells the story of an arrogant young prince and his servants who fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, turning the prince into a hideous beast until he learns to love and be loved in return. A spirited village girl, Belle, enters the beast’s castle in search of her father who has been imprisoned there and begins to draw the cold-hearted beast out of isolation with the help of the enchanted servants. The take is freshly told through non-verbal expressions in a variety of dance styles, sign language and melody.

“This uniquely creative production of The Story of Beauty and the Beast showcases the outstanding talent of RIT’s deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing actors and dancers,” said Warfield. “And while this ‘tale as old as time’ is one that many people are familiar with, the innovative fusion of dance and music is certain to mesmerize audiences, young and old. One of the underlying messages in our production is there’s beauty in our differences. Music and dance help to express and communicate that understanding for the deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing communities coming together to present this beautiful show.”

Tickets can be purchased through RIT University Arenas and are $5 for students, senior citizens and children; $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni; and $12 for everyone else. Tickets will also be sold at the door on performance days. For more information, call 585-475-4121.

RIT/NTID job fair connects deaf students with employers across the country

Light skinned man on left with cochlear implant wearing suit chats with darker skinned man on right in red golf shirt, tan pants

Representatives from more than 40 local and national corporations, federal agencies and nonprofit organizations will meet with hundreds of deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the 17th annual job fair, 12:30–4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The event will be held in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall on the RIT campus.

“Employers will have the opportunity to recruit talented deaf and hard-of-hearing students in associate and bachelor’s degree programs such as business, finance, graphic design, engineering, computing and more,” said John Macko, director of NTID’s Center on Employment.

Interpreters will be available, and in many cases, the company recruiters are RIT/NTID alumni. Companies registered to attend the fair include Caterpillar, Communication Service for the Deaf, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, FDIC, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Merck, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support, Prudential and Texas Instruments, among others. 

“Employers continue to want highly qualified employees who bring the necessary skills and who will fit into the company culture and contribute to the company’s success,” added Macko. “Our students are well-trained and can hit the ground running at companies right here in Rochester and all over the country.”

There are a few openings available for employers who want to participate. For more information, email Mary Ellen Tait or call 585-475-6426. 

What: 17th annual NTID Job Fair
Where: Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, Rochester Institute of Technology

When: 12:30-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18

Details: More than 40 local and national corporations, federal agencies and nonprofit organizations will be on campus to recruit deaf and hard-of-hearing students and graduates for co-op and full-time positions.

RIT presidential inauguration set for Sept. 28

Dr. Munson in navy jacket, light blue shirt and tan pants, sitting in brown leather chair. He is wearing glasses.

The inauguration of President David Munson as Rochester Institute of Technology’s 10th president will take place Sept. 28. For more information on the inauguration and a full schedule, go to rit.edu/president/inauguration/overview.

What: Inauguration of David Munson as RIT’s 10th president

  • Keynote speaker Philip Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College, will welcome Munson. A mathematician, computer scientist and educator, Hanlon came to Dartmouth from the University of Michigan, where he served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. At the inauguration, Hanlon will be joined by dozens of college and university presidents from across the country.
  • A video on Munson’s successes in higher education will also be a highlight of the ceremony.
  • Munson’s address will look toward the future of RIT and the role that higher education can play in solving complex issues around the world.

When: 3 to 4:30 p.m., with a reception to follow, Sept. 28

Where: Gordon Field House and Activities Center on the RIT campus

Who: Open to the entire RIT community

Munson facts:

  • Munson became RIT’s 10th president on July 1
  • Munson took the helm from retiring president Bill Destler, who served RIT for 10 years.
  • Munson was previously dean of the University of Michigan College of Engineering.
  • For a full biography of Munson, go to rit.edu/president/biography.

RIT Quote: “With his terrific leadership experience at the University of Michigan and his success as a faculty member and as an entrepreneur, Dr. Munson is a perfect fit for RIT,” said Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “I look forward to working with him as we enter an exciting new era for the university.”