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RIT Student Government president encourages community involvement

11 Jul

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

21 May

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

21 May

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.

History book highlights the first 50 years of RIT/NTID

16 May

Image of LBJ Hall at night with lights on in the entrance. Text: A shining beacon fifty years of NTID (spelled out)

A new history book detailing the establishment and rise of one of the country’s most innovative educational experiments now is available.

Published by RIT Press, “A Shining Beacon: Fifty Years of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf” highlights the first 50 years of the world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at Rochester Institute of Technology. From its early days in 1968 to its 50th anniversary, NTID has graduated more than 8,000 alumni and has transformed the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the U.S. and around the world.

Seen through the perspectives of selected contributors, “A Shining Beacon” illuminates the multifaceted experiences of NTID’s students, faculty and staff, covering topics as varied as Deaf culture, the performing arts, student leadership and more.

With a foreword by Dr. Gerard J. Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean – who is himself an alumnus of the college – the book features contributions by more than 30 current and former faculty, staff and students, and is filled with photographs from the college’s archives through present day.

The book’s title is based on a quote by Dr. S. Richard Silverman, former director of the Central Institute for the Deaf, who in 1974 referred to RIT/NTID as “a lustrous beacon…of such magnitude, dignity and décor…that will illuminate the hearts of all who come to be served here.”

“A Shining Beacon” was edited by James McCarthy, who graduated from RIT/NTID in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Professional and Technical Communication, and later earned a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida. McCarthy returned to RIT/NTID in 2015, and is a senior marketing communications specialist with the college’s Communications, Marketing and Multimedia Services Department.

The book’s release coincides with RIT/NTID’s 50th anniversary reunion celebration June 28-July 1, and can be ordered on the RIT Press website: https://www.rit.edu/press/shining-beacon.

 

RIT/NTID honors graduates at Academic Awards and Commencement Ceremonies

12 May

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!”