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.
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.
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.
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.”
Marlet Mancera’s co-op experience as a corporate accounting intern at Caterpiller taught her many things among which are that employers value excellence, commitment and teamwork. Her RIT courses helped her develop skills in Microsoft Office, Excel and other software related to her business and accounting interests. She is sure that her business administrations degree and accounting training will guide her to a successful future.
Deaf and hard-of-hearing students from all over the country attend Explore Your Furutre each year and enjoy hands-on experiences with various careers. This summer camp also gives participants a taste of college life and the opportunity to make new friends. On the final day of camp, a parent workshop offers families the chance to ask questions about admissions and financial aid as well as take a campus tour. More
This article about the growth of Deaf entrepreneurship by W. Scott Atkins, a business studies professor at RIT/NTID and nationally recognized deaf entrepreneurship expert, originally appeared in the Rochester “Democrat & Chronicle” and is reprinted with permission. (Photo credit: A. Sue Weisler, RIT)
Deaf entrepreneurs on the rise, locally, nationally
There is a revolution happening in Rochester and all across the United States. The number of deaf people running their own businesses has grown by leaps and bounds. Technological advances have made it possible for these individuals to access networks, customers and suppliers. There are now growing networks of deaf entrepreneurs.
Last weekend, I attended an event for local deaf entrepreneurs sponsored by Convo, a deaf-owned video relay service (VRS), and run by CEO Jarrod Musano, a deaf graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. There were 30-35 deaf business owners at the event, and they were grateful for the opportunity to network. I overheard a deaf realtor say to a deaf business owner who owns several rental properties, “Contact me and let’s see if we can do business together.” Convo has coordinated these types of events in other cities and has invested in a “Deaf Business Ecosystem,” which includes the creation of an online directory that now contains information on more than 250 deaf-owned businesses from all over the country.
Last semester at RIT/NTID, I was involved with a student business competition called the Next Big Idea, sponsored by VRS provider ZVRS, which provided opportunities for students to work on cross-disciplinary teams to innovate new products and services. This year, 15 teams competed for the opportunity to win cash prizes. It is my hope that many of these concepts will develop into full-fledged businesses.
In a class that I teach at RIT/NTID, called Introduction to Entrepreneurship, deaf and hard-of-hearing students create their own business with less than $20 of their own money. One student, Alec Satterly, established a bike repair business and was able to earn $650 during his winter break. Over the next few years, Alec participated in several entrepreneurship efforts on the RIT/NTID campus and has been very successful.
In 2014, his team, Cenify, won the ZVRS Next Big Idea grand prize of $5,000, and that summer, he and his team gained entry into the Saunders Summer Start-up Program, an incubator program at RIT. Cenify has since moved into RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator, which helps companies move to the next phase of their businesses. This is just one illustration of how RIT/NTID fosters entrepreneurship on campus. In addition, RIT/NTID brings alumni who are business owners to campus to speak with students. Alumnus and RIT Trustee Rob Rice, owner and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm BayFirst Solutions, presented last year. RIT/NTID also works closely with RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship in an effort to boost the number of deaf entrepreneurs on campus. Currently, we have two all-deaf teams who are part of the Saunders Summer Start-up Program.
This is only the beginning. There are many deaf and hard-of-hearing people who want to create their own businesses, but they are not sure where to start. It is important that we invest in new infrastructures to make this happen. This requires a collaborative effort by universities, agencies, corporations and other entrepreneurs. With their support, I am optimistic that we will continue to see the growth of a new generation of deaf entrepreneurs, especially here in Rochester.
Name: Christopher Brown
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
A.O.S., Computer Integrated Machining Technology, 2016
Year of graduation
Place of employment
Place of employment Cyromech, Syracuse, New York
Computer numeric control (CNC) operator
Some of my responsibilities were to use blueprints to create precision products on the CNC machine. I set controls; inspected machines; and scheduled maintenance and repair to ensure operation, quality standards and correct specifications.
How my career relates to my degree from RIT/NTID
I learned much about blueprints, following directions, working on several products at once and how to use a variety of other machines: HASS lathe, manual lathe and mill and turning machines. My co-op gave me relevant work experience and helped me develop my knowledge and skills. At RIT/NTID, I learned time management, assertiveness, persistence and to work with deadlines. These skills helped me to succeed on co-op and will help me succeed in life as well. I appreciate the experience I got on the CNC mill machine because that was really valuable on my co-op. And, I have accepted a full-time job with Cryomech for after graduation.
Be responsible, be prepared, be assertive, be persistent and don’t give up. Fight for what you believe in and don’t let anything or anyone get you down. Maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated. Stay safe and avoid risky behavior. Most of all, grab your opportunity.
Jasmine Zambrano Oregel’s packaging science major will make it possible for her to work almost anywhere in the world. More
On Wednesday, May 4, judges from ZVRS, sponsor of The Next Big Idea Competition, reviewed projects of the six finalists, asked questions and selected the folloing winners:
$5,000 First Place: Team Ugyo; Ethan Young and Nicole Dugan
$3,000 Second Place Team Dalmation; Adam Brodak, Keith Delk and Jefrey Spinale
$2,000 Third Place Team ANOVA; Musab Al-Smadi, Michelle Chi, Steven McClusky, Radhika Mehra
Six teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will go head-to-head May 4 during The Next Big Idea competition.
The contest—6:30 to 10 p.m. in NTID’s Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall—is an annual event where teams of students combine skills related to their individual majors to create products, technology or businesses that will be useful to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Teams work with mentors on their projects and compete before judges for cash prizes. The event is sponsored by ZVRS, a video relay company.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of The Next Big Idea.
Student teams are:
- Anova— a voice-to-text translation system for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals that uses a mini processor and microphone.
- Asymtotic—incorporates microphones, tactile feedback, pulsation and sound filters that vibrate to engage the wearer in important situations.
- Dalmation—a software service that focuses on providing jobs, volunteering opportunities, networking and resources for the American Sign Language community.
- Douror—a service app for deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons that helps with placing food orders.
- Echo—a speech-therapy mobile app that allows users to practice speech and give instantaneous feedback to speech therapists.
- Ugyo—an access-technology prototype for deaf-blind people with Usher Syndrome to improve communication with peers during meetings or other interactive settings.
“Every year the excitement around this competition builds,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “Amazing projects are presented and some of them move quickly into the marketplace. We thank ZVRS for their support, and are grateful for the belief they have in our students.”
The event—free and open to the public—will be fully accessible for both deaf and hearing audiences. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.