Site-wide links

Archive | Faculty/Staff Stories RSS feed for this section

Deaf entrepreneurs on the rise

14 Jun

Deaf entrepreneur Alec Satterly wearing a green shirt seated at a desk, working on a computer.

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.

 

Innovation and creativity on display

9 May

Ferris wheel made out of Kinetics blocks.

Tens of thousands of visitors came to RIT’s campus on May 7, 2016 to tour the more than 400 interactive exhibits that comprised the ninth annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. The festival showcases the talents and entrepreneurial creativity of RIT students, faculty and staff. More.

NTID by the Numbers

28 Mar

graphic of the words NTID by the numbers

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has grown exponentially since enrolling its first class in 1968. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but they do give you a glimpse of what NTID looks like today. Check out NTID by the Numbers.

RIT’s upward momentum and monumental discovery

8 Mar

The past year has been Rochester Institute of Technology’s most productive year of research on record, and last month, RIT played a pivotal role in a major discovery in the world of science. Our researchers were part of a team that proved Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was right, opening an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

This is just one of many areas of research in which RIT students and faculty currently are engaged. Watch and learn what other discoveries RIT researchers are hard at work preparing to bring to the world.

RIT/NTID’s Todd Pagano named outstanding undergraduate science educator

19 Feb

Todd Pagano named top science educator.

Todd Pagano, founding director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award by the Society for College Science Teachers. He will receive the award at the National Science Teachers Association national conference in April in Nashville, Tenn. The award is co-sponsored by Springer publishing.

Pagano is being recognized for his highly successful, American Chemical Society-approved program to prepare deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students for technological careers in chemistry. More than 60 students are enrolled in the LST program at any one time, with about 80 percent of those students completing the program and 98 percent of those who graduate securing jobs or continuing their learning through additional education and advanced training. Both of these metrics exceed the success rates of their hearing peers.

As a testament to his passion for student success and building and leading the LST program, Pagano has helped to place a large number of his deaf and hard-of-hearing students into meaningful careers and cooperative education placements in the sciences. He also actively involves his students in conducting scientific research. He has been honored by his students for his work in building exciting, rigorous and student-centered courses that prepare them for chemistry careers beyond the classroom and for promoting research projects among his students.

Pagano was named the United States Professor of the Year for 2012-2013 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was also named to the Fulbright Specialist Roster in 2015.

Pagano has published numerous articles and books about working with underrepresented students in STEM fields. He is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and has authored a number of technical papers in environmental and analytical chemistry and given nearly 200 presentations at technical conferences. His undergraduate student researchers are often co-authors on these publications and presentations.

“Dr. Pagano’s work is significantly narrowing achievement gaps in education and employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the science field,” said Gerard Buckley, president of NTID and vice president and dean for RIT. “He brings an energy and enthusiasm to the field that the students are inspired to follow.”