COLA Connections Newsletter: November 2014

From the Desk of the Dean

From the Desk of the Dean

Looking out my window, I know winter has arrived.  Although I have been through it many times before, the start of the snowy season in Rochester always seems to surprise me.  One day we are enjoying 65o weather while watching autumn leaves turn, and the next day we are bracing for a lake effect blizzard.  We are now in the grips of the Snow Miser, who famously sang: “[W]hatever I touch, turns to snow in my clutch.” (If you are under 40, you might not get that reference; if you are over 40, you may have just heard the background voices sing: “He’s too much.”).

I actually don’t mind the seasonal transition to winter.  I’m kind of drawn to the changing of the seasons, where one season blends with the next in erratic, dynamic, and forceful ways.  In some ways this is analogous to what happens when we take two or more disciplines and integrate them to create interesting and unpredictable interdisciplinary research and teaching.  (My son, who is into creating digital music, would call this a “mash-up.”)

We present several “mash-ups” in this newsletter. The first discusses a recent visit by Dr. Dan Roth who was a Distinguished Speaker in our Digital Humanities Speaker Series.  Dr. Roth discussed the field of computational linguistics, which combines computing and mathematics with language in order to create systems that can interpret the natural language of humans.  There is a growing interest in computational linguistics at RIT, and new research threads and curricula are emerging in this exciting space.

The second story represents a case study of sorts on where interdisciplinary work may lead. Susan Hope Lanier is an RIT alumna who recently published her first book of short stories. Although a photography major, Susan also took numerous writing courses at RIT and brought the insights of a photographer into the world of literature and creative writing. She now draws upon her experiences both as a photographer and as a writer in creating stories that are illustrative, raw, and strongly human.

The third story brings together two goals we have in the college: first, to provide all students an opportunity to conduct original research; and second, to foster a culture that encourages community engaged scholarship. This story profiles Ja’Nai Gray, who has spent time with our Center for Public Safety Initiatives taking part in some important projects. While researching street violence prevention policy or forming her own inner-city teen outreach program, Ja’Nai reflects our mission to use what she learns at RIT to affect real world change.

We hope you enjoy these stories, and we look forward to hearing from you if you have any comments or questions about our programs.  Here’s to a successful end to the fall semester, and a successful beginning to the winter season!