Students Learn to Speak Without Talking in ‘No Voice Zone’

Although their classes may be done for the day, the learning isn’t, as hundreds of RIT students gather at 10 p.m. each Wednesday in the CSD Student Development Center.

The hour-long session, called “No Voice Zone,” or NVZ, has hearing students flocking to learn sign language and information about deaf culture from students at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

“It’s important for me to communicate with deaf and hard-of-hearing students on campus and to learn from them about their culture,” said Lorenny Mota, a graduate student in professional studies from the Dominican Republic, who attended her first NVZ in October.

NVZ was started in the winter quarter of 2000 by two former residence advisers who wanted to provide something for students to do during the winter, when there were fewer activities. Twenty or 30 students attended the first meetings that year; this year, more than 300 students typically attend. Those who come 10 times get a free T-shirt.

“This is something that has really bloomed in the last few years,” said Ashley Meyer, coordinator of Residence Life, which sponsors NVZ. “It’s amazing that this amount of people want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn some sign language.”

Rachel Berry, a first-year engineering exploration student from Fairmount, N.Y., knew basic fingerspelling before she attended NVZ this year. Each week, she’s expanding her sign language vocabulary.

“It’s a great way to learn more about deaf culture and interact with others in the community,” she said.

An interpreter voices during the first few minutes when the group gathers. The rules are explained, then several groups are formed with others who have similar experience in sign language, from beginners to those who can carry basic conversation to experienced signers.

The groups occupy the first and second floors of the SDC. Each person is asked their name, where they are from and what they are studying. They learn the words they are most likely to use in their conversations. Portable white boards are used to write on. Themes are chosen each week, often to tie in with other events, such as LGBT Ally Week and Latin America Deaf Club activities.

Some group leaders are interpreting majors, like Richard Loya of Sylmar, Calif. He was new on campus three years ago, studying civil engineering technology. Seeing more than 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing students on campus, his curiosity about them caused him to want to learn sign language.

“I think I was probably fascinated by the language,” Loya said. He switched majors and now has a goal to become a professional interpreter.

Karen Blanco, a third-year nutrition management major from Caracas, Venezuela, also attends NVZ each week. “I love it. I really do,” she said. “I made many deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing friends here.”

She knew “nothing at all” about sign language or deaf culture prior to coming to RIT.

“It is so worth it,” Blanco said. “It might feel awkward at first, but friendships built here are truly lasting.”

Spring Semester Bills

Reminder: Spring semester bills need to be paid by January 15th. You can make payments electronically on the RIT Student Financial Services website at or you can mail a paper check to Student Financial Services, 25 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester NY 14623. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact RIT Student Financial Services at 585-475-6186 or by email at ASKSFS@RIT.EDU.

If your son/daughter has VR funding, he or she should send his or her VR counselor copies of the spring schedule and spring bill, along with a textbook list associated with those classes and then the spring grades when available. You are only responsible to pay that portion of the spring bill that VR does not cover.

NTID President’s Holiday Message

It’s the end of the fall semester, and we’re looking forward to the holiday break, followed by the intersession, and then spring semester. Intersession, or Tiger Term, as we also call it, offers a number of opportunities for students. Some will take a Tiger Term class on campus to fulfill a course requirement. Others will travel abroad and pick up a few credits in Italy or other sun-filled locations. Some will work; some will look for co-ops; and others will just have fun on their break. And then spring semester will begin with new academic challenges and fun times with clubs, organizations, student government and student life events. At each step along the way of this annual cycle, your students learn and grow and move ever toward that life success we know awaits them.

At this time of year, I always like to reflect on the year past and ponder the potential challenges and successes of the coming year. I am proud of the the work your students have accomplished and the opportunities they have taken advantage of. I’m grateful for the support you have given them, and I thank you for entrusting RIT/NTID with the opportunity to work with them. May you and your family relish every minute of the holiday season and enjoy a happy and healthy new year.

RIT Building New Clinical Health Sciences Center

RIT is building the new Clinical Health Sciences Center, which will be home to the College of Health Sciences and Technology, a primary care clinic—to be run by Rochester General Hospital—and the recently announced Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition.

“The Clinical Health Sciences Center will be more than a beautiful addition to the campus,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “It will move the RIT & RGHS Alliance forward in its goal to impact the future of health care.”

Construction began in April on the 45,000-square-foot facility expansion at the north end of the Louise M. Slaughter Hall. The Clinical Health Sciences Center is scheduled to open in fall 2015. 

Health Care Employment Panel

Health Care Employment Panel

Often when the topic of jobs in health care comes up, people immediately think of traditional occupations such doctors and nurses. But it’s important for students to realize there are many other options for working in the  health care field. On November 12, the NTID Outreach Consortium and the NTID Center on Employment hosted a panel of four RIT/NTID alumni who shared their paths to careers in health care in non-medical occupations.

Nearly 50 students filled NTID’s Student Development Center to learn about employment options in the fast-growing field of health care. Students learned about the growing need due to the expansion of the health care industry as the U.S. population ages. It’s estimated that by 2022, there will be 5,000,000 jobs in the healthcare field.

Garth Arnold, applications integration programmer at the University of Rochester Medical Center here in Rochester; Aaron Bosley, application developer at Highmark in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Shentara Cobb, administrative assistant at St. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky; and Camille Ouellette, lecturer in the Department of Science and Mathematics here at NTID, all shared information about their majors, co-ops, job searches and employment experiences with students and other visitors.

In terms of getting a job in this, or any field, and being successful, the panel offered these suggestions:

  • When at work, be a team player.
  • Network, network, network to get to the job you want.
  • Cultivate relationships with professors on campus; they can connect you with valuable resources.

For more information about health care careers for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, visit



RIT/NTID Student Changes Statewide Testing, Earns National Girl Scout Award

A second-year RIT/NTID student is receiving national recognition this week as one of 10 Girl Scout USA 2014 Young Women of Distinction at a national convention in Salt Lake City.

Anna Krauss of Manorville, N.Y., has been a Girl Scout since age 5, when she joined as a Daisy Scout. Now that she is in college, she’s an Ambassador Scout and majoring in biotechnology and molecular bioscience. She regularly makes the Dean’s List at RIT.

Born deaf in one ear, Krauss lost her hearing in her other ear at age 9. Since then, she has relied on a sign language interpreter in her school classes.

In 2011, two years before she’d graduate from high school, Krauss was taking state-required tests. A portion of the test was a listening passage, given orally. Being profoundly deaf, Krauss had to rely on her interpreter to help her understand what the teacher was saying.

“I always dreaded the state tests for their listening portions,” she said. “Sometimes things get lost in translation,” Krauss said. She ended up with a test score of 80. “I started to cry if I got below a 90 in school,” she said. “It was ridiculous.”

For her Gold Award project, similar to the projects Boy Scouts must complete to become Eagle Scouts, Krauss decided to try to change the way those mandated listening portions of state tests are given to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in New York.

“I picked that because I felt very strongly about it,” she said. Krauss started lobbying state officials and as a result, the state now allows deaf and hard-of-hearing students across the state to use a written transcript during oral portions of examinations.

“It took three years for me to fight for that accommodation,” she said.

She doesn’t plan to attend the Girl Scout Convention in Salt Lake City because she doesn’t want to miss any classes. This summer, she traveled to the Girl Scouts of USA headquarters in New York City and met Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of the Girls Scouts of the USA. Chavez presented Krauss with a $5,000 check that came with her award, which Krauss will use for college.

After college, she’s considering becoming a researcher or a science teacher, perhaps at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

But Krauss hopes to stay connected with the Girl Scouts as an alumnus so they can continue to empower girls like her. “I do want to continue in some way, to talk with younger troops to tell them how much they can do by staying with Girl Scouts and going all the way,” Krauss said. “It starts with cookie sales and ends with changing the world.”