Fall Issue, 2014

Dear RIT Family,

RIT is redefining higher education.

That is a bold statement, but one that I believe you will agree describes this university’s successful approach to educating students for the global economy and dynamic world we all face in the coming decades. As we begin our new year on campus, I am excited to share with you how we intend to do this.

This university has frequently been at the leading edge in developing innovative degree programs with a clear focus on the future. In fact, as one of the largest private comprehensive universities in the country, our “crown jewel” degree programs are largely in non-traditional academic disciplines: Imaging Science, Photography, New Media, Gaming, Physician Assistants, and many more. In addition, our career-focus and hallmark experiential learning have ensured consistently high performance in student success and placement of our graduates. Again, we have seen 96 percent of our graduating students employed in their areas of study or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation. This is an extraordinary return on our RIT families’ tuition dollars.

Today, we are positioned for both near- and long-term success.

With 18,063 students, our current enrollment and financial positions are both very strong.
With a focus on STEM programs at our core, we have woven design, business, communication and the fine arts into a robust environment for study in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
Our sponsored research reputation has exploded, with more than $10,000,000 in awards in July of this year alone. The future for sponsored awards in RIT’s unique areas of specialization is promising.
We are one of the most accessible private institutions in the country, with a racially, socially, physically and globally diverse student and faculty population.
And our global reach has allowed us to develop a widespread international presence in areas of the world not traditionally addressed by other universities.

In many ways, RIT is already the university that today’s media and the public are demanding. We got this way by thinking ahead, so we are now working on our plans for the future and how these plans will continue to drive student success, new knowledge, and greater international significance and renown for RIT.

At my opening address to the RIT community, I outlined many of the components of the upcoming strategic plan. While the specifics remain under discussion, here are a few goals that I believe, once achieved, will make RIT an internationally distinguished university that exploits our differences to better meet the needs of a rapidly shrinking world.

We will:

Be ranked in the Top 100 of U.S. National Universities.
Be the university with the best placement rate and ROI of all private universities in the U.S.
Eliminate the achievement gap between minority and majority students.
Become one of the 10 largest private universities in the U.S. by undergraduate enrollment.
Become the largest producer of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates overall, and the largest producer of female and AALANA (African American, Latin American, Native American) STEM graduates among private universities in the U.S.
Launch 50 student-run startup companies each year to help drive the economy for Rochester, the region, and the nation.
Develop co-curricular transcripts that reflect both academic and extra-curricular accomplishments.
Ensure that 100 percent of students develop global knowledge and intercultural competencies.
Be identified for pre-eminent and distinctive research programs in specific focused areas of unique strength and for new areas of international interest. Our focus areas will include global resilience, accessibility and inclusion, advance design and manufacturing, and digital entertainment and imaging technologies.
Be a research university that maintains a focus on undergraduate education by including undergraduates in the research work.
Become a model of inclusive excellence for students, faculty and staff.
Become the model of a university that uses education technology to reduce costs, improve access, and achieve learning outcomes.
Be a university whose alumni herald our accomplishments and demonstrate our impact through their annual support.

This is quite a list of goals, and there will be more in the final plan, but if we achieve them—when we achieve them—RIT will be not just a great university, but a university with a personality and focus all its own. Of course, that’s what we’ve been all along! And when we achieve them, it will be due in large part to the support we receive from our alumni and friends.

RIT has been demonstrating our growth in caliber and national prominence for many years now. This growth will become even more pronounced in the coming year with an anticipated change in what is called the Carnegie Classifications—a national grouping and ranking system for American Higher Education. Last May, RIT graduated 29 Ph.D. candidates exceeding the running average of Ph.D. graduates that will move up our classification, positioning us with some of the nation’s most prestigious national universities under the Carnegie system. We will be in exceptional company. And, to remain competitive, RIT must continue to enhance its selectivity, research funding, completion rates, and alumni giving rates. These areas will hold us down in the rankings, or through great improvement, will launch us to new heights. With your support, with your full involvement in helping to move RIT forward, the next decade can be one of the most successful in RIT’s illustrious history.

Allow me to share just a few more updates for you on our recent activities.

RIT’s 30th Big Shot was held on the campus on September 6. Led by our School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, thousands of people from the RIT community came out to light up the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Check out the final image here.

Big Shot 2014
On September 18, we dedicated a new signature facility on campus, the Gene Polisseni Center. This gorgeous new ice arena is the new home for our men’s and women’s Division I hockey teams, and an epicenter for RIT spirit and community. You are all invited to join us. Visit for more information.

Polisseni Center
RIT completed its first year on semesters, and a series of discussions held by our Provost, Jeremy Haefner, revealed that, while the transition was challenging—one of the biggest challenges RIT has undertaken in the last 10 years—the faculty agreed that there were increased opportunities for engagement between students and instructors as a result of the calendar change. This is a great by-product, as we know that the mentoring relationships developed between our faculty and students are often life-changing, and a key to overall student success.
We applied our START-UP NY certification to entice one of our alumni to open a New York office of his highly successful Connecticut-based company. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced this summer that Datto Inc., launched by RIT alumnus Austin McChord ’09, will open on the fourth floor of RIT’s Franklin Street facility in downtown Rochester. The company, a leading global vendor of award-winning hybrid cloud-based intelligent business continuity and backup, disaster and recovery solutions, has said it will initially create more than 70 new jobs in exchange for the incentives offered under the START-UP NY economic development program.
StartUp NY
And, The Princeton Review has again recognized RIT as one of the nation’s best universities for undergraduate education in the recently-published 2015 edition of its annual book The Best 379 Colleges. RIT was also recognized as having the ninth best college radio station, a fabulous co-op program, and amazing departments guaranteed to meet the needs and interests of many prospective students. In its profile, The Princeton Review quotes extensively from students at the university who were surveyed for the book. According to a summary of student comments, “Rochester Institute of Technology is bursting at the seams with a myriad of fantastic academic opportunities. Students here greatly value the fact that the university maintains a strong ‘focus on innovation’ and heavily encourages ‘collaboration [between] business and technology.’…Moreover, an RIT education isn’t merely theoretical. Indeed, undergrads have many chances to participate in (all) manner of labs and workshops, applying what they study and participating in a number of hands-on experiences.”


I hope to see you on campus October 16 through October 19 for Brick City Homecoming and Family Weekend. This year’s events are bigger and better than ever, and we look forward to welcoming our alumni and families. The Presidents’ Alumni Ball is on Friday, October 17, and tickets are going fast, so visit to make your arrangements.

It continues to be my honor to serve as RIT’s president, and I am grateful for the support I receive from the RIT community. Please go to my website at and take some time to view the opening day address. I believe you’ll be impressed with the university today, and astonished at what lies before us.

Go Tigers!

William W. Destler, Ph.D.