Category Archives: Faculty

More than 3,000 celebrate at RIT/NTID’s 50th anniversary alumni reunion

Three alumni, two younger and one older, together smiling.

More than 3,000 alumni from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf visited campus June 28 –July 1 to celebrate at the college’s 50th anniversary alumni reunion.

The world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students kicked off a year-long celebration of its 50-year history, which coincides with RIT’s move to the Henrietta, New York, campus.

Festivities began with an alumni golf tournament at Mill Creek Golf Club Thursday, June 28, and an opening ceremony that evening, hosted by alumnus and actor CJ Jones. Jones, who recently starred in the motion picture “Baby Driver” and will be featured in the upcoming James Cameron sequel, “Avatar 2.”

Other events and activities during the reunion weekend included a barbeque dinner, mini-reunions for current and former members of numerous clubs and organizations, including fraternities and sororities, and entertainment by popular alumni such as hip-hop artist Sean Forbes, ASL performance artist Rosa Lee Timm and actors Amber Zion, Kris Pumphrey and Daniel Durant, who most recently starred on Broadway in the revival of “Spring Awakening.”  

In addition to alumni from the college’s ‘pioneer’ class and founding faculty, four of RIT/NTID’s past leaders attended the reunion: founding director D. Robert Frisina; Robert Davila, the college’s first deaf leader; James J. DeCaro; and T. Alan Hurwitz. The college’s current leader, Gerard Buckley, is the first alumnus to lead the institution, which boasts more than 8,000 graduates.

The college’s Dyer Arts Center hosted an exhibition “50 Artists, 50 Years” featuring works by 50 RIT/NTID alumni artists along with the unveiling of a three-paneled mural, known as a triptych, entitled “Together” created by deaf artist Susan Dupor and commissioned for the 50th anniversary. “Together” portrays the flourishing life and history of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf over 50 years.

RIT/NTID Performing Arts and MSM Productions, Ltd. reprised the popular “The Wonderful World of Oz” in the college’s Panara Theatre for four special performances with proceeds to benefit the theater program.

Founded by an act of Congress in 1965, with the first class enrolled in 1968, NTID represents the first concerted effort to educate large numbers of deaf students within a college campus planned principally for hearing students. Among RIT's 18,000 full- and part-time students are nearly 1,100 deaf students from the United States and other countries.

NTID alumni have gone on to work and leadership positions in all areas of business, industry, government and non-profit sectors.

“We are thrilled that so many alumni from near and far joined us to celebrate 50 years of RIT/NTID,” Buckley said. “The sense of Tiger Pride was evident throughout the campus all weekend, and will leave an indelible impression on all of us who were in attendance.”

To commemorate the milestone, a book, “A Shining Beacon: Fifty Years of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf,” edited by RIT/NTID alumnus James K. McCarthy, has been published by RIT Press.

A photo gallery of the weekend's events can be found in here.

Former FCC head urges RIT graduates to humanize technology-driven changes

Two men and two women in graduation caps and gowns are smiling and taking a photo together. As new technology evolves, the challenge for graduating students is to figure out how it can benefit humanity. That was the message Thomas Wheeler, former director of the Federal Communications Commission, shared with graduates at Rochester Institute of Technology’s 133rd annual commencement in the Gordon Field House today. He was one of several people who spoke, including the president of Student Government and RIT President David Munson, who was attending his first graduation ceremony at RIT as president. “We have now evolved from the industrial era created by the railroad and telegraph into the information era, and we need a new set of rules,” Wheeler said. “That is the challenge you inherit today.” Wheeler said RIT graduates are better poised to accept the challenge of finding new uses for technology than other students because of RIT’s focus on blending technology and courses relating to the humanities. All RIT baccalaureate students take courses in liberal arts as part of their majors. “The education you received at this institution—whether in technology, business or the liberal arts—gives you a leg-up on most of your fellow citizens who struggle to understand the effects of new technology and the new economy,” Wheeler said. “It positions you to use your inherent goodness and your sense of fair play to attack the new challenges that work against such qualities. You graduate into a world that needs what you have learned about humanity as much as what you’ve learned about technology. You will have ample opportunity to put your hard-won insights and skills to work. I hope you will harness them, not just for the sake of technology per se, but also for the purpose of helping our society deal with the effects of that technology.” Wheeler said the world “needs people with an instinct to question, an interrogation that is anchored in an understanding of the human dynamic and stimulated by unbound imagination. We need citizens who want to deal with behavior, not just write code or a new business plan. Society calls out for innovators who see technology not in terms of controlling markets, but of expanding human potential. In that regard, I have always been impressed by what RIT has done to put the intersection of technology and humanity into practice.” He told the students it is time for them to look beyond using technology to create without consideration of the consequences. “It is time to rebuild a society and economy torn asunder by technology,” he said. “It is time to once again re-establish the interrelationship between technology and human values. You have been well-prepared to take on these challenges. What a privilege to be the ones tasked with dealing with these complex, technology-based, but very human problems. Grasp that challenge. Make it your own.” RIT conferred 4,747 degrees this academic year at all its campuses—including in Croatia, Dubai, Kosovo and China—and nearly 2,400 who received degrees at ceremonies today and Saturday in Henrietta. There were 23 students who earned Ph.D.s. Wheeler received an honorary doctoral degree from RIT Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Haefner and Christine Whitman, chair of RIT’s Board of Trustees, for his exemplary public service, impressive entrepreneurial work and for championing the spirit of innovation and creativity that has impacted and inspired millions. RIT President Munson, who used American Sign Language at the beginning of his remarks, congratulated the students and said it was a special day for him as well, as he’s completing his first academic year at RIT. “The RIT family and Rochester community have welcomed Nancy and me with open arms as we have acclimated to our new surroundings,” Munson said. “We are amazed and impressed by the talent and devotion that surrounds us. This includes students, faculty, staff, alumni and our many university partners. Our transition has been wonderful and we thank you all for your support and kindness.” Munson said it was fun to watch the graduates during his first year leading RIT. “RIT has creative students who are so full of ideas,” he said. “And you have passion to implement those ideas. We are proud of all that you have accomplished in the years leading up to today.” Munson noted that the commencement was a new beginning, as graduates enter the workforce, graduate school or the military. “At RIT, we are confident you have received tremendous preparation from your education both inside and outside the classroom,” he said. “Many of you have engaged in, for example, wonderful co-op experiences or other forms of experiential learning. You are well prepared to undertake the rigors of the real world and get off to a fast start in your respective fields.” Munson also reminded them to become good citizens of the world. “It is my hope, graduates of the Class of 2018, that you wake up tomorrow not solely focused on how to earn a living, rather, that you go out and do your best to enrich the world,” he said. “During your time at RIT, you spent time forging relationships, working together in labs, collaborating on senior projects, traveling overseas, participating in student clubs, and offering service in center-city Rochester,” Munson said. “You didn’t do these things alone. That is why I know that you are prepared to contribute to conversations that will build our future, whether these conversations are more formal and organized, or at a coffee shop with a group of friends. Now is the time for neighbors and citizens to come together.” Student Government President Farid Barquet, a Mexico City native who is graduating magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in biotechnology and molecular biosciences and biomedical sciences, is on his way to graduate school. He recalled some memories from his years at RIT—seeing the Gene Polisseni Center open, experiencing the first snowstorm in years that cancelled classes, and RIT becoming a top 100 national university. “The experiences that we have shared at RIT have shaped who we are today, and despite our different journeys, we all leave RIT today as equals, as the graduating Class of 2018,” he said.

RIT/NTID honor society inducts 26 new members

Group of students, faculty, staff and President Buckley with EPT logo on screens behind them.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf inducted 26 new members into the Delta Xi chapter of the Epsilon Pi Tau honor society at a ceremony May 1.

Epsilon Pi Tau recognizes the academic excellence of students in fields devoted to the study of technology and the preparation of practitioners for the technology professions. Epsilon Pi Tau also extends the honor of membership to outstanding practitioners in the technology professions, to scholars, and/or to persons who have significantly supported or advanced technology professions.

With support from DeafTEC, an NSF-sponsored center at RIT/NTID providing resources for high schools and community colleges that educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students in STEM-related programs, the Delta Xi chapter of the honor society was established at RIT in 2015 for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in associate-level NTID technology programs. This chapter is the only chapter of Epsilon Pi Tau specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and the first NTID honor society.

“It is one of the highlights of the academic year to welcome our talented, hard-working students into the EPT honor society,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “It is a validation of their hours of studying and academic endeavors in and out of the classroom. They make their families and RIT/NTID proud.”

Student honorees include:

  • Miko A. Arayata of Quezon City, Philippines; arts and imaging studies
  • Megan L. Armstrong of Webster, New York; laboratory science technology
  • Cassandra Banania of Chino Hills, California; arts and imaging studies
  • Courtney S. Boyer of Decatur, Georgia;  computer-aided drafting technology
  • Taher A Chowdhury of Ozone Park, New York; accounting technology
  • Gabriella L. Ertle of Aliso Viejo, California; management information systems
  • Demeisha A. Heath of Brooklyn, New York; business technology
  • Macee R. Helmick of West Henrietta, New York; business technology
  • Phillip Ho of San Jose, California; computer-aided drafting technology
  • Israelle S. Johnson of Baltimore, Ohio; laboratory science technology
  • Otto Kingstedt of Washington, D.C. and Stockholm, Sweden; arts and imaging sciences
  • Abbigail J. Kolar of Kearney, Nebraska; business
  • Ping Liu of Harbin, China; applied computer technology
  • Dulce Mireles of Enigma, Georgia; arts and imaging sciences
  • Aaron Parker of Lakewood, Ohio; mobile application development
  • Philip Pham of San Jose, California; 3D graphics technology
  • Victoria Pon of Queens, New York; arts and imaging studies
  • Mark L. Redekas of Manchester, Connecticut; applied computer technology
  • Kathryn Richer of North Syracuse, New York, computer-aided drafting technology
  • Sabrina L. Serna of Lake View Terrace, California; laboratory science technology
  • Signe Tarmey of Charlestown, New Hampshire; laboratory science technology
  • Michael Wentland of Lynnwood, Washington; applied mechanical technology
  • Mia C. White of Littleton, Colorado; business accounting

Faculty honorees include:

  • Mitchell R. Bacot, instructional/support faculty, NTID Science and Mathematics Department
  • Edward Mineck, interim chairperson, NTID Visual Communication Studies Department
  • Mark J. Pfuntner, chairperson, NTID Business Studies Department

 

 

 

RIT lecturer Eric Kunsman receives 2018 Edline M. Chun Award

light skinned male and female with small boy and girl. man is holding a clear glass award.

Eric Kunsman, a lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department in RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf and an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences (CIAS), is the fifth recipient of the Edline M. Chun Award for Outstanding Teaching and Service.

Named in honor of the late RIT adjunct professor Edline Chun, the award has been given annually since 2014 to a CIAS adjunct faculty member who exemplifies excellence and dedication in teaching and who has given outstanding service to a CIAS-affiliated school and to the college.

“This award means a lot to me since I knew and admired Edline, and I know what it represents,” said Kunsman, who also owns Booksmart Studio, a fine art digital printing studio in Rochester, N.Y., specializing in innovative techniques and services for photographers and book artists. “Owning my own business, I know the importance of staying relevant and passionate in the industry, and I try to bring that excitement to the classroom.”

Before coming to RIT in 2000, Kunsman, a native of Bethlehem, Pa., was an assistant professor at Mercer County Community College, where he also served as the coordinator of the photography program. He has led national workshops on photography and digital printing. He holds an MFA in book arts/printmaking from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an MS in electronic publishing/graphic arts media, a BS in biomedical photography and BFA in fine art photography, all from RIT.

In addition, Kunsman’s photographs and books have been exhibited internationally and can be seen on display in several prominent collections throughout the United States.

“Eric is a dedicated and passionate member of the SPAS team who exemplifies all of the qualities of an outstanding faculty member,” said Therese Mulligan, administrative chair of SPAS. “Whether he’s teaching students or playing a key role in SPAS initiatives such as the signature RIT Big Shot, Eric brings real-world industry knowledge to the classroom combined with a sincere interest in helping students learn the material and succeed in their careers.”

Ms. Chun was a well-respected and beloved faculty member who taught in CIAS for nearly two decades. Her colleagues in RIT’s School of Media Sciences described her as someone who “always went above and beyond to serve the students and the school with passion, integrity and the utmost class.”

Researchers at NTID demonstrate accessible rower at Imagine RIT festival

Male student with beard and glasses writes on a clipboard while working on rowing skull.

As part of Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, researchers at NTID’s Center on Access Technology will demonstrate an accessible rower that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing rowers to follow verbal coxswain instructions during competitions. Festival visitors can sit in a canoe and test their reflex response times by using a game pad to reply to visual cues displayed on a smartphone.       

The idea for the accessible rower came about in 2016, with the addition of a deaf rower to the RIT men’s rowing team roster, with the possibility of other deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes joining the squad. In rowing competitions, rowers are required to follow commands from the coxswain, who determines the speed of the boat.

According to Wendy Dannels, a research faculty member in NTID’s Center on Access Technology and one of the project coordinators, the solution provides a visual display showing transcription and/or illustration of the coxswain’s commands. The application was developed to help the athletes synchronize with the coxswain by using a custom Automatic Speech Recognition engine. The engine is offline so the deaf and hard-of-hearing athletes can utilize the technology without internet connection.

In addition to Dannels, project team members are Steven McClusky, a fourth-year software engineering student from Blue Springs, Mo.; Joseph Stanislow, instructional/support faculty member, NTID Information and Computing Studies; and Brian Trager, associate director of the NTID Center on Access Technology.

Deaf undergrads from across the country to conduct research at RIT/NTID this summer

Light skinned male and female in lab coats, safety goggles and blue gloves work on science experiments.

For eight weeks this summer, Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will be home to the first all-deaf cohort of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), bringing deaf and hard-of-hearing students from across the country together to do research. 

The cohort of three RIT/NTID students, and one student each from the University of California, Berkeley; Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida; Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.; Ohlone College in Freemont, California; Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio and Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon, includes six women and three men, all of whom are deaf or hard-of-hearing. 

“Students were selected in a competitive process on the basis of who showed strong potential for research and fit in well with our current projects,” said Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor in the mathematical modeling program. “The projects are all from science and math, and include graph theory, astrophysics, biochemistry and analytical chemistry this year. There have been other REUs that invite one, two or a few deaf students each year, but we are the first REU to host a full cohort of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.” 

A Research Experience for Undergraduates program generally runs in the summer for eight to 10 weeks. Undergraduate students come from different universities, along with some from the home university, to be immersed in a research experience with guidance from a faculty mentor. 

This particular REU is a three-year award from the NSF, and will run for three summers, with the grant totaling $303,000. Students are paid a stipend, receive housing and some meal support and travel. They also have an opportunity to present their research at a conference. In addition to the research experience, RIT/NTID is adding writing coaching, a research boot camp that involves mathematical and scientific training and professional development sessions tailored specifically to students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. They also will have presentations by invited guests. 

“REUs are exciting programs because faculty mentors and students work side-by-side on original research,” Jacob said. “The opportunity to simultaneously make scientific discoveries while watching the students transform themselves into researchers is awesome. A full-time research experience over the summer often is a critical part of an undergraduate student’s preparation to go to graduate school or enter a career in a scientific or mathematical field. We are very excited about our group of students this year: they come from all over the country, have a diverse set of backgrounds, and also have a variety of career goals. They will come together this summer with the common thread of being undergraduate students who are deaf or hard of hearing and are eager to do science and math research. Several students have told me that they’re excited about the program. I know I am!” 

For more on the project, visit the RIT/NTID REU website: https://people.rit.edu/bcjntm/REU.html.

RIT/NTID Student Research Fair touts cutting-edge work of undergraduate, graduate students

African-American female with short hair and glasses wearing a grey shirt standing in front of a poster.

Joan Bempong, a fifth-year BS/MS computer engineering student from Irving, Texas, believes that deaf women who use American Sign Language exhibit disparities in health literacy when compared to hearing women. She says limited health literacy may be caused by inaccessibility of mainstream information and healthcare services, as well as family communication difficulties. As a result, ineffective dissemination of health information also may have a significant impact upon deaf women’s mental and physical health. She hopes that her research will help develop a comprehensive framework for understanding how such health disparities occur and what steps can be taken to improve quality of life.

Abraham Glasser, a third-year computer science student from Rochester, N.Y., and Emily Lederman, a second-year computer science student from Morgantown, W.V., are using mathematical equations to determine worst-case scenarios for monitoring electric power networks. They hope one day their research will save power companies and consumers a lot of money.

On April 13, Bempong, Glasser and Lederman joined 61 other deaf and hard-of-hearing student researchers at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s Student Research Fair in Rosica Hall. The event gives undergraduate and graduate students, in partnership with faculty mentors, the opportunity to present posters or give demonstrations on topics related to health science, communication studies, access technology and environmental research, among others.

Todd Pagano, associate dean for teaching and scholarship excellence and founding director of NTID’s Laboratory Science Technology program, is among the coordinators of the research fair. Pagano said the research fair is unique because of the training that is offered to students ahead of time on writing and editing abstracts, designing research posters and presenting research to audiences.

“The projects we’re seeing are very sophisticated and diverse with a good mix of high-level science, math, healthcare and access technology research,” said Pagano. “We send many of our students to professional conferences to present their work, but the pinnacle of the experience for students often is having their research published. And a lot of what is seen here at the research fair has already been published.”

Musab Al-Smadi, a fourth-year software engineering student from Jordan, also presented his research. He is working on an inclusive mobile app using Near Field Communication that will enable deaf and hard-of-hearing museumgoers to fully explore their surroundings without facing barriers having to do with obtaining information about exhibits. For example, according to Al-Smadi, many museums offer visitors paper transcripts with exhibit descriptions. However, using transcripts can be inconvenient for patrons with varying levels of vision ability, or frustrating for those for whom English is a second language. The new app can be used on Android and iOS platforms and includes a keypad where users can type in the ID number of the exhibit to get the information or use their devices to hover over QR codes.

“Being able to work with faculty on relevant research has been a very positive experience,” said Al-Smadi. “We’re taking concepts that we’ve learned in the classroom and developing them even further for applications like this.”

Heather Smith, director of the NTID Motion Lab and senior lecturer in the 3D graphics technology program, creates and applies innovative projects using motion-capture technologies for product development, research and scholarship. She is working with a team of students to use motion capture to build an interactive, visual storytelling app with 360-degree views, animation, bilingual literacy and gaming. The app, Deaf Pioneer, teaches history dating back to the late 1800s and allows users to fully immerse themselves in the story.

“I am very fortunate to be a faculty member who works closely with deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students on their research projects,” said Smith. “I feel honored being part of their research journey as I share my wealth of knowledge and fuel them to fly higher and discover what is in store for them in the future. I try to become their mentor and their ally."

Bempong emphasized the quality of her research experience. “It has been a phenomenal experience. Given that I am a computer engineering student graduating with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, this research was fascinating in that it was completely different from my field of study. Because of the mentorship of Professor Deirdre Schlehofer, I was able to gain qualitative research skills, as well as more awareness about my own community and recognize the need to improve health literacy among us.”

The Student Research Fair is funded by the NTID Office of the President and jointly sponsored by the Associate Dean for Teaching and Scholarship Excellence and the Associate Dean of Research.

RIT/NTID develops museum accessibility mobile app

Two men, one with white hair and one with dark hair, looking at a mobile phone in front of artwork.

Art lovers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing soon will have access to a deeper, richer museum experience, thanks to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The college is launching a mobile app to be used in its Dyer Arts Center that provides content in various forms, including video in American Sign Language, transcripts and audio and visual descriptions. The app was developed by members of RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology in cooperation with Dyer personnel and deaf and hard-of-hearing students from two of RIT’s other colleges: the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing & Information Sciences and the College of Imaging Arts and Science.

Wendy Dannels, Center on Access Technology research faculty member, mentors several part-time and co-op student employees on this one of a kind accessibility project. “It is a joy witnessing students building good character and self-confidence navigating this new technology,” she said.

The app will describe works on exhibit in three locations on the RIT campus: the NTID President’s Hallway, Rosica Hall and the arts center itself. There is a map showing the locations for the various exhibits contained within the app.

Information on the various art pieces can be accessed three ways: through a numbered system near each art piece that can be entered manually into the app, by taking a photo of a QR code, or though NFC, or Near Field Communication, a short range wireless communication technology that allows two devices equipped with NFC technology to communicate with each other and share information as soon as they are close to one another.

Additionally, the app, powered by Museum Accessibility Intelligence, or MUSEAI™, contains an option that has been developed for use by those with vision issues, using a dark background, large font size, visual descriptor and audio description. Associate Director of the Center on Access Technology, Brian Trager, foresees a huge impact in end-users’ experiences using MUSEAI.

“MUSEAI is a unique platform for museum goers to enjoy and view additional content regarding an exhibit, artwork, historical facts and more,” Trager said. “What makes MUSEAI unique is that we designed accessibility to be the forefront of this technology to enable an enjoyable experience for everyone. MUSEAI serves as the cornerstone for accessibility, and the NTID Center on Access Technology aims to raise the bar higher for museums across the globe.”

After the unveiling, focus groups will provide feedback as perpetual testing continues to refine the app and its abilities.

“We’re very excited about testing and launching the Dyer Arts App,” said Dyer Arts Center director Tabitha Jacques. “It will be especially helpful during NTID’s 50th Anniversary Reunion, happening June 28-July 1, when more than 2,500 people will be on campus – many of whom have never seen the Dyer Arts Center.”

RIT/NTID is home to one of the largest permanent collections of works by Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists in the world.

RIT/NTID awarded $2.6 million for first large-scale study of language outcomes in young deaf adults

Matthew Dye, in blue suit and pink tie wearing glasses w/male in blue shirt and dark tie w/electrode cap and female student.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID) in Rochester, New York, has received a $2.6 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to study the neurological, linguistic and behavioral outcomes for deaf individuals after childhood. It is the first study of its kind with college-age adults.

According to the latest data from the NIDCD, two to three out of every 1,000 children born in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing. For some of these children, being deaf can preclude typical acquisition of spoken language.

Some children use hearing aids, some learn sign language only, spoken language only, or a combination of sign and spoken language, with or without hearing aids. Still others use a cochlear implant (CI), an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and can provide sound signals to the brain. Children with a CI may use sign language, spoken language or both. As of 2012, around 38,000 children in the United States had received a CI.

“For many of these children, a cochlear implant has permitted access to spoken language,” said Matthew Dye, an RIT/NTID researcher who is leading the grant. “However, what is perhaps most striking about spoken language outcomes following cochlear implantation is the variability.”

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is wide variation in individual outcomes following cochlear implantation, and some CI recipients never develop useable speech and oral language skills. The causes of this variation in outcomes are only partly understood at the present time. 

“Understanding this variability is the first step in developing effective interventions to move a greater number of children towards better communication outcomes,” Dye said.

The research will be one of the first large-scale studies to examine spoken language outcomes in young deaf adults who received their implants in childhood and now are enrolled at RIT/NTID. The majority of these students will vary in terms of whether or not they use their CI, the age at which they received their CI and their primary mode of communication (spoken English, sign language, or other). The unique sample of young adults at RIT/NTID, many of whom learned sign language in infancy and use a cochlear implant, affords the possibility of examining how early exposure to American Sign Language (ASL) influences spoken language outcomes.

Dye will collaborate with researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder to establish norms for hearing college students.

“The overall aim of this project is to examine the effects of auditory development, cognitive function and multimodal language outcomes in a large group of young deaf adults,” Dye said. “The results of this study will provide much-needed and timely answers regarding the possible benefits of early cochlear implantation and early intervention with sign language that parents and policy makers seek as they determine how best to intervene with the next generation of deaf infants who are cochlear implant recipients or candidates.”

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.