Category Archives: Student Life

RIT among top colleges for Indigenous students

Two people sit on stage and play guitar with a screen behind them that includes text:

Rochester Institute of Technology is among the Top 200 Colleges for Indigenous students, according to Winds of Change magazine. This marks the ninth time RIT has appeared on the list.

The annual list published by American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) identified the top colleges and universities in the United States “where indigenous students are going to school in significant numbers and where the community, Native programs, and support are strong enough for these students to enjoy college and stay on to graduation.” The magazine recognized RIT in part for its programs for Indigenous students, including the Native American Future Stewards Program, the Native American Student Association and RIT’s student chapter of AISES. More.

Student Spotlight: TJ Bartholomew

Male basketball player with dark skin wearing a white tank top dribbles a basketball on court..

RIT/NTID student TJ Bartholomew is a third-year exercise science major from New York City. Sports and exercise are very important to Bartholomew, which is why exercise science was such a great fit for him. Outside of classes, he enjoys playing basketball and is involved with the Deaf Basketball Association, an intramural sport at RIT. He also is a member of Men of Color, Honor and Ambition and enjoys reading and exercising on his own during his spare time. More.

RIT among schools to receive $1 million for clean energy project

Light skinned female with long dark hair at podium with US flag and banner on energy in background.

Rochester Institute of Technology has won $1 million as part of the Energy to Lead Competition, which challenges New York colleges and universities to develop plans for local clean energy projects on campus and in their communities as the state seeks innovative solutions to combat climate change.

RIT will create a platform that integrates multiple data sources to enable a building’s existing automation system to manage operation schedules, adjust ventilation rates in classrooms and respond to peak demand days, according to Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to the president. Cardinal will serve as lead principal investigator on the project.

The platform, once tested and deployed at RIT, will be tested at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus and then made publicly available free of charge for other institutions to leverage. The project is expected to result in the avoidance of 108 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“Through the ‘Energy to Lead’ competition, New York is fostering clean energy innovation to help fight climate change and protect our environment,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I commend the students and faculty for their steadfast commitment to improving their campus and community, helping to create a cleaner, greener New York for all.”

The Energy to Lead Competition, announced by Gov. Cuomo in 2015, is part of the REV Campus Challenge, which recognizes and supports colleges and universities across New York state that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions.

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and member of the REV Campus Challenge, RIT has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“This project leverages many of RIT’s strengths, including our innovative spirit, the cutting-edge nature of our academic programs, and the way our campus serves as a laboratory for experiential learning,” RIT President David Munson said during yesterday’s announcement of the Energy to Lead grant inside RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “We applaud Gov. Cuomo for investing in research that addresses solutions to global challenges and for recognizing the important role of higher education in working toward these solutions.”

Applicant schools were required to submit projects which demonstrate innovation in one or more of the following areas: project design, business model, partnerships, and/or curriculum integration. Schools and universities were also required to describe the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, how they would measure success and how they would use the funding to advance the project. These projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,125 metric tons over the next five years.

The competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and open to two- or four-year public or private colleges or universities. The competition challenges schools to develop ideas for innovative projects in energy efficiency, renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction on campus, in the classroom and in surrounding communities.   

This round of Energy to Lead included 24 project submissions from 21 different public and private colleges and universities across the state. Applications were reviewed by an evaluation panel and winners were chosen based on project cost effectiveness, innovativeness, energy efficiency and clean energy measures, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and how funding would be used to advance the project on campus and in the community.

For more information on Energy to Lead, go to NYSERDA’s website.

RIT students learn value of entrepreneurship through Simone Center, Saunders College, NTID joint program

Manufacturing machine with small blue round disks.

Rochester Institute of Technology student Jim Heaney started his rapid manufacturing and prototyping business when he was just 14 years old. Five years later, and with the guidance of RIT’s Saunders Summer Startup Program, Heaney and his team are hoping a successful pitch to potential investors will take their business to the next level.

Heaney’s business, Venator Technologies, is among 15 student start-up companies in the program, which encourages multidisciplinary student teams to jumpstart their ventures at the small-business launch pad in hopes of kick starting real companies. It culminates with Investor Demo Night, which will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union. A networking reception immediately follows. The event is free and open to the public.

Creating a backpack that suits the packing needs of today’s gamers, solving mass refrigeration concerns on Sub-Saharan farms, and developing a wearable device and mobile app that helps veterans transition into civilian life are a few of the uniquely innovative early-stage business ideas created by student teams during this year’s program.

The program is sponsored by Saunders College of Business and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and is hosted by the Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.          

Throughout the summer, each of the startups is offered a stipend, a team expense fund, working space in Institute Hall and support from RIT faculty, assigned mentors and community business leaders.

Heaney, a second-year industrial engineering major from Montgomery, N.Y., says that his experience with the Saunders Summer Startup Program has helped him develop confidence in his business and has moved his team ahead of the pack.

“Even though my business is somewhat established, this program has provided my team with details on the finer points of business including access to countless business contacts, information on marketing and research and development funding, and tips on effective public speaking and pitching to investors, which are all so invaluable to running a successful business,” said Heaney. “Thanks to the top-notch mentoring that we’ve received from our entrepreneurship coaches and the staff at The Construct at RIT, we have learned how to create a solid foundation for our business.”

This summer’s student teams are:

  • Sniffy: A mobile app that improves the relationship between humans and animals by providing incentives for dog walking, and information on pet stores, groomers and other dog owners.
  • Op-Sixx: A support network comprised of wearable devices and a mobile app that connects veterans and their families to help them transition into civilian life.  
  • OurDiet App: An easy-to-follow direct resource offering personalized information based off of an individual’s self-described disease database.
  • Phase Innovations LLC: Provides novel stack-based technologies for energy conversion and storage applications.
  • TERP (two student teams): Aims to become a central marketplace for sign language interpreting services, making it easier for deaf and hearing people to submit interpreter requests.
  • PAL: A wearable technology company that empowers the autism spectrum disorder community with early notification of triggered meltdowns.
  • QuickTix: Allows small, independent theaters and school districts to publish events, sell tickets and promote on social media. Immediate feedback is provided on sales numbers, money earned and seats filled. 
  • Project Object Tracker: Provides tracking software that enhances customer service by evaluating the position of customers in retail stores and calculating whether the customer has been waiting too long for service.
  • Venator Technologies: A multi-service manufacturing company utilizing 3D printing and laser cutting to serve small businesses and individual customers.
  • SerVu: Provides a platform that connects bar owners with potential bar employees that fit the culture and style of the establishments. 
  • Hive Refrigeration: Works to solve the issue of mass refrigeration and the reduction of food waste on Sub-Sharan farms for those lacking access to cold storage refrigeration.
  • Backpack for Gamers: Creates a backpack that suits the needs of modern-day gamers.
  • VeeTV: A video streaming service that offers programming with sign-language content
  • Tiger CGM: A glucose monitor designed to provide comfort, freedom, confidence, privacy and accuracy.

For more information on the Saunders Summer Startup, go to www.rit.edu/research/simonecenter/saunders-summer-start-program.

Study abroad experience highlight for hospitality student

Light skinned male with short brown hair wearing hoodie, tan jacket and backpack in front of a world map.

RIT/NTID's Connor Draughn wanted to get out of his comfort zone and try something new, so the hospitality and tourism management major decided to spend a semester studying at RIT Croatia.

“I learned a lot about myself,” said Draughn, who is from Raleigh, N.C. “For sure it is a highlight of my time at RIT.”

Draughn was helped by the Constellation Brands Study Abroad Fund, which supports hospitality students who want to study in Croatia.

Ginny Clark, senior vice president of Public Affairs for Constellation Brands, said given the importance of global learning, Constellation felt that this opportunity for RIT students would be a meaningful way to give back.

“Today’s business world is global—and the key to a successful global business is building strong, trusted relationships,” said Clark ’06, ’08 (hospitality and service management, service leadership and innovation). “Constellation believes that creating this scholarship opportunity for students to study abroad supports the experiential educational efforts that RIT sees as a critical component to a student’s education.”

Supporting hospitality students, Clark added, made sense for Constellation Brands, which is a global beverage alcohol company—but at its core is a hospitality company.

“It was quite natural that Constellation would see a strong connection with our philanthropy and the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation,” she said.

Draughn, who got his associate degree in hospitality and services management from NTID in 2016, started pursuing a bachelor’s degree last year. He spent the fall semester of 2017 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, taking hospitality and tourism classes. He is minoring in history, he said, so he enjoyed living in the historic city and learning about the culture and the country.

After he graduates from RIT, Draughn said, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism. He hopes to one day become a travel coordinator for a professional sports team or for a Fortune 500 company.

The study abroad experience had such an impact on Draughn that after he returned, he got a job as a Global Ambassador coaching other RIT students about opportunities abroad.

“I like helping people,” Draughn said. “I like telling other students about my experience so they will think about doing something different while they are in school.”

RIT Student Government president encourages community involvement

Light skinned male with brown hair wearing button down shirt and jacket holding a microphone and raising his other hand.

Bobby Moakley, Rochester Institute of Technology’s new Student Government president, thinks every student should feel welcomed at RIT, regardless of what their interests are, where they are from or their beliefs.

That’s one goal Moakley, a fourth-year environmental science major from Boston, and Vice President Corinne Mendieta, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Olney, Md., have for the coming year. They also plan to make sure students have the tools they need to succeed, including transportation, resources such as the free textbook library and finding funding for projects.

“We want to enhance the culture of creativity and innovation at RIT,” Moakley said. “We want to enable students to create what they came to RIT for, whether it is artwork or a new medicine.”

Other ideas planned for this year include adding two more vans for club and organization use, a bike sharing program in the fall, and a charging station installed in the Student Government office to encourage students to drop by if they need to charge a phone or laptop. Free popcorn will still be available to visitors.

And he wants to have more direct communication with student organizations representing international students, ALANA students, student athletes, LGBTQ students, and deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“Student Government never had a formal working relationship with them. I’d like to work closely with those representative student organizations,” he said. “They are representatives for entire groups of demographics on campus.”

Two years ago, Moakley first joined Student Government as the cross-registered senator from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and last year served as Student Government vice president.

He’s not worried about representing more than 18,000 students on RIT campuses or giving a talk in front of thousands of people.

“I’ve taken a few public speaking courses, so I know how to maneuver the nerves,” he said.

Born deaf, Moakley received his first cochlear implant and began learning sign language before he was 2. He knows there’s a wide range of communication preferences on campus among the students supported by NTID.

“People should feel comfortable using what communication they prefer, and everyone should respect people’s choices,” he said. “That’s one reason I wanted to come to RIT, there is this open and accepting feeling and a good mixture of deaf and hearing students. Here is a place I could have both of those.”

Moakley is the third deaf student to become RIT’s Student Government president. The first two were Lizzie Sorkin in 2006-2007, and Greg Pollock 2010-2012.

Moakley is uncertain what he’ll do after he graduates. He’d love to become a photojournalist for National Geographic, or work with the United Nations in international affairs.

“People now are unwilling to cooperate with other countries and are letting imaginary boundaries dictate the way they live,” he said. “How do you expect to fix an issue when you don’t talk with the people living next to you? We’re all living on one planet.”

He’s spending his summer working on a fellowship for Project HOPE (Health Outcomes Through Participation, Education and Engagement) and the Genesee Valley Land Trust, helping residents in northeast Rochester make connections to improve their community and finding ways to preserve the environment.

His great uncle was Joe Moakley, a popular Boston Congressman for 28 years who died in 2001 and had several buildings in Boston named after him. Bobby Moakley said he hasn’t ruled out a political career in the future. “I guess there’s a little inspiration from him behind it.”

He said he uses time management effectively to juggle his work, classes, volunteering and Student Government responsibilities. He usually has several meetings a day and stays up late into the night to make sure everything gets done.

“Some days I may be tired and feel fed up with it, but then I realize I love all the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better I could be doing with my time.”

Regardless of what lies ahead for him, Moakley wants to make sure he leaves behind “a Student Government that is efficient for students in the future.” He hopes more students decide to become active by joining a committee or attending just one of the meetings the Student Government cabinet holds from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Friday in the Bamboo Room, beginning the last week in August. The meetings are open to everyone.

“I hope students feel they can contact Student Government if they have anything on their mind,” Moakley said. “No issue is too small.”

NTID-supported delegates offer wisdom to fellow graduates

Left, a dark-skinned female in glasses, grad cap, gown and cord; right a light-skinned female in cap gown and cords.

Among the 23 commencement delegates at Rochester Institute of Technology’s commencement ceremonies May 11 and 12 were two deaf students who shared their own stories of overcoming obstacles and imparted advice to their fellow graduates.

Paula MacDonald, the undergraduate delegate for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf from Cumberland, Ontario, Canada, graduated with an associate degree in computer aided drafting technology.

She completed a co-op with Fulcrum Engineering, where she prepared drawings and specifications for structural engineering projects. At RIT/NTID, she served as president of the Deaf International Student Association and was active with the Deaf Basketball Association and the Deaf Volleyball Association. MacDonald will be transferring to the bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering technology at RIT and plans to become a civil/structural engineer.

In her presentation, MacDonald encouraged her fellow graduates to follow their passions, be an inspiration to themselves and others and to become leaders in their families, communities and beyond.

“It’s such a wonderful honor to stand here and give my speech, to represent you all, as a deaf aboriginal woman in engineering,” she said.

Joan "Jo" Bempong, the undergraduate delegate for the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, is from Irving, Texas. She earned combined bachelor’s/master’s degrees in computer engineering with a minor in Deaf cultural studies.

She completed co-ops at Texas Instruments, Sandia National Laboratories, and VTCSecure. Bempong was a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award, the Deep Learning Classification Challenge Award and the Machine Intelligence Best Project Presentation Award. She was a finalist in both the Digital Rochester GREAT Award for student achievement and the RIT Tiger Tank competition. She was invited to present her work at the 25th Anniversary Congress on Women’s Health, and has accepted a full-time position at Texas Instruments.

Bempong used her own story of refusing to accept limitations because of her deafness and advised fellow graduates to, “Be extraordinary! Be rebellious. Be different. Take a stab at something you believe in and go for it. Do not be afraid to fail. When you do fail, fail hard and fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and keep on learning. And remember to ask for help when you need it.”

RIT/NTID students among RIT’s 2018 Legacy Leaders

Group of female students, each holding a blue folder.

Three RIT/NTID graduating seniors were recognized as part of the Legacy Leadership program of RIT's Center for Women and Gender and the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. They are:

Brianna Conrad, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Frederick, Maryland

Kaitlyn Shirey, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Ambler, Pennsylvania

Britta Schwall, a business management major from Pflugerville, Texas

The Legacy Leadership program recognizes the achievements and leadership of RIT graduating women students. Students are self-nominated and must obtain two letters of support from the RIT or outside community detailing their civic responsibility and leadership. 

The selected Legacy Leaders attended the 2018 Women’s Career Achievement Dinner held on April 30, 2018, in the Gordon Field House as guests of the Center for Women and Gender and Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement.

RIT/NTID honors graduates at Academic Awards and Commencement Ceremonies

President Buckley and Gary Behm with nine student award recipients, all female.

Several students at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf were honored with their families and friends at an academic awards ceremony May 11. NTID President and RIT Vice President and Dean Gerry Buckley and Interim Associate Vice President for NTID Academic Affairs Gary Behm hosted the ceremony.

Academic Achievement Awards were presented in recognition of high academic achievement to the following RIT/NTID associate, baccalaureate and master’s graduates:

  • Jimmy Wong, applied computer technology major from Chicago, Illinois, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning an associate degree.
  • Radhika Mehra, fine arts major from Rochester, New York, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Kailey Martin, a visual arts-all grades major from Londonderry, New Hampshire, received the Academic Achievement Award for students earning a master’s degree.

Outstanding Graduate Awards are presented to one associate, one bachelor’s and one master’s degree graduate, each of whom has achieved a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0, demonstrated appropriate personal and social maturity, and provided service to the RIT community. They are:

  • Sabrina Serna, a laboratory science technology major from Lake View Terrace, California, received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning an associate degree.
  • Emmanuel Perrodin-Njoku, a biomedical sciences major from Washington, D.C., received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a bachelor’s degree.
  • Megan Freeman, a management & information systems major from Missoula, Montana, received the Outstanding Graduate Award for students earning a master’s degree.

Additional honors awarded at the ceremony include:

  • ASLIE Outstanding Graduate Award to Eva-Alaine Thibault, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Rochester, New York. 
  • NTID Undergraduate College Delegate, Paula MacDonald, a computer aided drafting technology major from Cumberland, Ontario, Canada.
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Scholars:
    • Heather Barczynski, ASL-English Interpretation major from Wexford, Pennsylvania
    • Brianna Conrad, ASL-English Interpretation major from Waterloo, New York
    • Erin Ireland, ASL-English Interpretation major from Walworth, New York
    • Elizabeth Odom, ASL-English Interpretation major from Louisville, Kentucky
    • Isabel Snyder, ASL-English Interpretation major from Newton Highlands, Massachusetts
    • Kalyna Sytch, ASL-English Interpretation major from Rochester, New York

RIT/NTID’s graduating class this year includes 319 graduates: 100 associate degrees, 32 bachelor’s degrees in American Sign Language-English Interpretation, three master’s degrees in health care interpreting and 12 master’s degrees from the program in secondary education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. There are 176 NTID-supported graduates in RIT’s eight other colleges.

Buckley honored the graduates’ accomplishments and encouraged them to go into the world with the same determination they showed in their time at the college.

“To Class of 2018, America believes in you and has invested in NTID,” he said. “Go show the nation your NTID spirit and Tiger Pride. Congratulations!”