2020-2021 Tiger Imprint Showcase

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion (DDI) is pleased to share the 2020-2021 Tiger Imprint Showcase. It highlights various accomplishments this academic year which support the mission and strategic plan of the university through the four dimensions of people, programs, places and partnerships. It also includes all national recognitions we have received that affirms RIT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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The Division of Diversity & Inclusion (DDI)—supported by the RIT Board of Trustees Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee, the RIT President and the President’s administrative team—works collaboratively to lead diversity and inclusion efforts that support RIT’s overall mission and strategic plan. We believe in the importance of student engagement. More than 600 students from across the university were involved in DDI student support programs during AY 2020The following includes some DDI highlights through programs, initiatives and events that showcase how we have continued to impact students, faculty, staff and the community. 

In response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, and the protests that followed worldwide, RIT felt it was imperative and right that the university also look at and “address systemic racial inequities and injustices.”

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In June, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion organized The RIT Town Hall Regarding Black Lives Matter—a virtual event—to provide an opportunity for a campus-wide discussion. More than 400 attended and RIT administrators addressed questions and concerns.

Read more about the RIT Town Hall

Watch A Conversation on Racism Video

Through the RIT Town Hall Regarding Black Lives Matter, seeds were planted to develop an RIT Action Plan for Race and Ethnicity, a plan shaped through Town Hall meetings, RIT working groups, governance groups, AALANA student groups, focus groups, university leadership, the Board of Trustees and external peers. This campus-wide collaborative effort purposes “to reexamine our own history, renew and refocus our existing commitments, and expand our impact by leveraging our passion to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.”

Read more about the RIT Action Plan

National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) is also committed to addressing racial inequity. In addition to NTID being a full participant in the RIT Action Plan for Race and Ethnicity, it has also introduced NTID’s Antiracism and Social Justice Plan. Further, NTID announced in March of 2021, the establishment of a $75,000 Antiracism Scholarship Fund as part of NTID’s Antiracism and Social Justice Plan. The fund is a joint effort between NTID’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and NTID’s Office of the President. The fund will support up to five projects focused on antiracism research/scholarship or antiracism-related instruction. Funding begins in August 2021.

Learn more about NTID Diversity and Inclusion

National Recognition

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For its commitment to diversity & inclusion in AY 2020-2021, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was recognized nationally with the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for the seventh time in a row for recruitment and retention of historically underrepresented students, faculty and staff; improvements to campus climate; and specific campus-wide commitments to diversity through programs, informal dialogues and resources. 

Read more about the HEED Award

RIT was also named a 2020 Diversity Champion by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the sixth year in a row for unyielding commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout the campus community, across academic programs and at the highest administrative levels. 

Read more about the Diversity Champion designation

Another national recognition included being listed among the “Top 200 Colleges for Native Americans” in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society’s Winds of Change magazine for the tenth year in a row for colleges and universities where American Indian students attend in significant numbers and where the campus community, Native American programs and academic support services enable high levels of success for American Indian students.

Read more about the Winds of Change Award

RIT is ranked No. 151 in Forbes’ 2021 “America’s Best Employers for Diversity,” which also places RIT No. 18 among all U.S. colleges and universities.  

Read more about the Forbes ranking


Where Creativity Begins

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In celebration of the 50th anniversary of RIT’s Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC) and in honor of the 200th birthday of the great orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, the Frederick Douglass Sculpture was unveiled in a virtual program, in the Student Alumni Union. The sculpture is the work of Olivia Kim, adjunct faculty member in the College of Art and Design. The sculpture was commissioned by RIT President David Munson and Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Keith Jenkins. In addition, four flags with cultural and historical significance were mounted in the Student Alumni Union. They are: the Haudenosaunee Flag, the Black Lives Matter Flag, the Pride Flag and the Sign Union Flag.

Read more about the sculpture and flag unveilings

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This year, the Division of Diversity and Inclusion sponsored several multicultural programs, most of them virtually, for the RIT community. Highlights include: Hispanic Heritage Month with poet and author Frankie Soto, Native American Heritage Month with keynoter Danielle Boyer (Ojibwe youth), Black Heritage Month with comedian Ian Lara, Asian American Heritage month featuring programs, T-shirts and speaker/comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, Let Freedom Ring with RIT assistant professor and photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden, the 39th Annual Expressions of King’s Legacy program with keynote speaker CNN political commentator, author and attorney Bakari Sellers. DDI also co-sponsored the “Moving Forward: Suffrage Past, Present, and Future in 2020-2021 events

Read more about Let Freedom Ring and Expressions

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion’s 5th Celebration of Excellence virtual program recognized students, staff and faculty with Beacon Awards for their work in building and maintaining an inclusive culture on campus. In addition, several student organizations received awards for their diversity work from the ALANA Collegiate Association (ACA).

Read more about the Celebration of Excellence

The Multicultural Center for Academic Success (MCAS) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) provided a completely virtual DDI Summer Experience. Students experienced a 3 credit class, individual coaching, academic success strategies, nightly learning assistant sessions, and weekly social programs.  Due to the virtual program, 83 students-the program’s largest cohort-- were able to participate.

Read more about DDI Summer Experience

The Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), serving 102 low income diverse students, sustained level funding from the New York State Education Department. HEOP also enrolled 22 new freshmen and three new transfers from across New York State for the 2020-21 academic year. HEOP retained 100% of the students who started in fall of 2019 and 100% of the students who started in fall of 2020. There is more good news: over 60% of 2020-21 graduates have secured professional employment or graduate school placement.

Read more about the success of HEOP students

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The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, currently serving 40 students, accepted three new students in spring 2021. LSAMP also had nine members participate in undergraduate research at RIT during the summer of 2020 – most doing remote research with a few doing research in essential labs that remained open. Ten additional students completed research at RIT during the academic year.

Read more about LSAMP Research

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DDI Marketing and Communications continues to reach populations at RIT and beyond as evidenced by the website (33,907 users with 76,259 page views), newsletter (fall 2020, 4,294 views and spring 2021, 2,801 views), and Tiger Imprint Showcase “DDI Annual Report” (230 views) traffic. MARCOM also created a new division website that went live in August 2020. It transitioned six websites to one in holistic site. MARCOM also published eight DDI newsletters from September 2020 to May 2021 that included a total of 56 articles. MARCOM implemented a new branded email feature named --“Difference Makers”- which highlighted, weekly, individual faculty and staff during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept/Oct), Native American Heritage Month (Nov), Black Heritage Month (Feb) and Women’s History Month (March). MARCOM highlighted National Deaf History Month (March/April) in its April 2021 newsletter. MARCOM shared RIT/DDI good news, nationally, by publishing five advertorials in INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The July 2020 issue highlighted Diversity Theater, September focused on STEM. In November the unveiling of the new Frederick Douglass sculpture was featured and in the May issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, MARCOM highlighted student/faculty research projects and in June, ways RIT kept LGBTQ+ students connected during the pandemic. 

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The Multicultural Center for Academic Success (MCAS) engaged in several initiatives this academic year. Starting with a virtual DDI Summer Experience program, followed by the MCAS Mentoring Program, a peer-to-peer model with upper class students connecting with underclassmen. MCAS continued to collaborate with the Division of Student Affairs, Center for Counseling and Psychological Services with embedded counseling featuring Dr. Odessa Despot. In addition, this year “Real Talk” was provided throughout the summer due to the pandemic. MCAS and ACA also organized in response to the pandemic and virtual climate at RIT. In spring 2021, MCAS and CaPS kicked off “Black Mental Health Matters” a two-day conference where thirty students took part.

The MCAS Professional Development Conference, led by Division staff and partnering RIT units, transitioned to a virtual conference with 30 students attending. This half day event featured wellness, academic success, and balancing personal and professional goals sessions.

The McNair Scholars Program accepted 10 new students in spring 2021 and serves 41 students who plan to attend graduate school. McNair also had nine scholars participate in undergraduate research at RIT during the summer of 2020. Most completed their research remotely with a few working in essential labs that stayed open through the summer. Nine additional students completed research at RIT during the academic year. 

Read more about McNair Scholars research 

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Native American Future Stewards Program (FSP) is committed to increasing the success rate and number of Native scholars in STEM along with other areas of need in Indian country and creating opportunities for Native scholars to develop professionally, personally, and culturally. FSP served 25 AIAN students from fall 2020-spring 2021. The RIT American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) chapter hosted the 2021 AISES Region 6 Conference—a two-day virtual conference featuring both live and pre-recorded sessions. FSP organized several initiatives promoting cross-campus collaboration including an Indigenous Peoples Day panel discussion and on-campus performance by the Allegany River Dancers, continued the RIT Global Stewards Book Club, helped plan the biennial RIT President’s Native American Advisory Council (NAAC) Meeting and a newly created RIT NAAC Working Session with multiple campus partners.

Read more about FSP celebrations

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The NTID Office of Diversity & Inclusion had several personnel changes in 2020-2021. Alesia Allen was promoted to Assistant Vice President (formerly Director), Dr. Joseph Hill became the Assistant Dean of ALANA Faculty Recruitment and Retention (also Associate Professor in the ASLIE department), Thomastine “Tommie” Sarchet-Maher became the Assistant Dean of ALANA Outreach, Access, and Success, and Peter Hauser became the Assistant Dean of Research and Mentoring. NTID also established two full-time positions to support marketing communications and ALANA staff recruitment and retention. NTID is exploring the possible implementation of the Search Advocate Program to minimize the burden on ALANA faculty and staff serving on search committees.

Read more about NTID personnel changes

The NTID Faculty Fellowship (NFF) provides underrepresented prospective faculty members with opportunity to develop skills to pursue faculty careers expanded slots from three to six with a minimum of three of the six positions reserved for ALANA faculty members.  There are currently four BIPOC fellows with five slots filled and one available.

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The Office of Faculty Diversity and Recruitment (OFDR) quickly pivoted the Future Faculty Career Exploration Program to an online modality while maintaining its integrity and expectations. The 17th annual program hosted 20 scholars to a virtual platform. Nearly 35% of admitted 2020 FFCEP applicants derived from OFDR engaged institutions. OFDR also launched the inaugural Pathways to RIT program, which welcomed and paired over 70 BIPOC PhD, post-doc and MFA scholars from across America with their respective host colleges to foster an inside glimpse into RIT. 

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OFDR launched the inaugural I am RIT Faculty campaign, which highlights diverse faculty in both a personal and professional manner, with a photo campaign and fireside chat interviews. Prospective faculty as well as students can see and hear directly about life as a faculty member here at RIT, and life as a community member within the greater Rochester area. OFDR exceeded its goals of engaging 400 scholars into its Scholars Network by 62%. There are 648 PhD & post-doc scholars in this network since late September 2019. OFDR expanded its reach to HBCU’s by conducting 88% of its outreach to further cultivate this area. 

DDI lead a team of cross functional partners in planning and executing a thank you to our veterans for Veterans Day 2020 in lieu of our annual Veterans Day Breakfast. All students, faculty, and staff military service members on campus were acknowledged and thanked with a message from President Munson, provided a free meal on campus, and five student veterans were selected and formally awarded stipends from L3Harris. 

Read more about Veterans Day from RIT veterans


RIT Scholarships/Awards

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Annually one faculty member and one staff member receive the prestigious Isaac L. Jordan Sr., Faculty & Staff Pluralism Awards to recognize their outstanding commitment to pluralism. Dr. Satish Kandlikar, Gleason Professor of Mechanical Engineering was the recipient in 2020. In 2021, Dr. Alan Smerbeck, associate professor, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts received the award. The 2020 Staff Pluralism Award was presented to Christopher Hinesley, assistant director for the Center for Campus Life-The Q Center.

The Isaac L. Jordan Sr. Endowed Fund provided two scholarships to a freshman and an upperclassman for their leadership and commitment to pluralism. Christian Waldschmidt is the recipient of the freshman scholarship and Jesse Phelps received the Upperclassman Scholarship in 2021.

Frederick Douglass Scholarships Established at RIT in 1982 for African American, Latino American and Native American (AALANA) students who represent the attributes of Frederick Douglass (1817-1895), recipients of the scholarship are chosen for their leadership characteristics, awareness and appreciation of diversity. In 2021, 5 students received scholarships from this award. Congratulations to Trinity McFadden, Patrick Edwards, Rachel Romaine, Maria Marcos and Abigail Reigner.

Read more about our student scholarship recipients


Innovating Across the University

Diversity Education continued to offer and expand on the initiatives and programs to engage RIT employees and students. There were a total of five diversity education initiatives and programs most geared toward employees. There are two others, Gray Matter and Into the Roc: People’s Track that are collaborations across campus or with a specific center. Two years into a 5-year goal of engaging 65% of faculty and staff in at least one diversity education initiatives or programs, there has been continual interest. In 2019-2020, there were 1,013 employees (27% of all employees) engaged in at least one educational opportunity. In year two (2020-2021), Diversity Education added 460 employees, with the majority of those still participating in these professional development opportunities. Specific program highlights: approximately 100 employees have completed the Cultural Humility Certificate Program (requiring six workshops to receive a certificate). To date, the program has engaged about 800 total participants. The Inclusive Hiring Training enrolled 106 last year and another 99 faculty and staff this year. There are now two tracks of the Breaking Bread program. The Pairs track focuses on matching employees together across their differences to learn about challenges as well as find examples of commonality. The Circles track focuses on the practice of dialogue in a 12-person max group setting. After piloting two in fall 2020, four circles took place in the spring semester with 26 students and employees.

Read more about Cultural Humility Certificate Program

RIT/NTID has announced a partnership with Garth Fagan Dance for a “cooperative-creative-connection” that will begin August 1, 2021. The partnership will allow collaboration for mutual projects, including social justice outreach—exploring the use of dance and the performing arts as tools in examining issues surrounding social justice—and community outreach—increasing the access to dance and the performing arts for students in the Rochester City School District. Garth Fagan Dance is a world renowned dance company based in Rochester and was founded by Garth Fagan, who won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway blockbuster, “The Lion King”.

Read more about the NTID/Garth Fagan partnership

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Diversity Theater’s Brick By Brick film was runner up for the Academy Award for Best Diaspora Short at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) 2020. The short film was an official selection at 12 film festivals. The success of the Brick Film & Workshop: Building Bridges of Understanding, One Brick at a time, RIT 365 course in the fall 2019, led to Student Affairs choosing the workshop for all new freshmen. A new online version of “RIT 365 Brick by Brick Community Building Film and Workshop” was offered in the fall and spring for 3,186 freshmen and their instructors and is a key component of Student Affairs’ strategy for student retention and development in the areas of diversity education and inclusion through story sharing. The workshop also provided community building support for students during physical distancing and Black Lives Matter urgencies during 2020 and 2021. In addition, Diversity Theater also designed and presented online Playback Theatre (PBT) Community Building Workshops for COS Students, Faculty and Staff as part of the COS Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence (HHMI IE) $1M grant awarded in 2017 for 5-years. Due to an overwhelming response, a second workshop was offered and third workshop for students.


Facilitating Creativity

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Making our Space an Inclusive Community (MOSAIC Center) is on the second floor of the Student Alumni Union. It is a “home away from home” for students where members of student clubs like the Latin American Student Association, Organization of African Students and the Black Awareness Coordinating Committee can meet. Faculty and staff also use MOSAIC for meetings. This year, MOSAIC got a “brand new look” with a renovation project. This year, with new safety rules in place due to COVID-19 restrictions, MOSAIC continued to be a popular spot for discussion of issues of importance and a place where students know their viewpoints can be expressed in a safe space.

Read more about updates to MOSAIC


Extending Our Reach and Serving the World

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion received a scholarship pledge of $750,000 from TransDigm Group, Inc. The Doug Peacock Scholarship provides five AALANA and/or female students a $10,000 scholarship. RIT’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion will serve as the fund administrator with input from the three colleges with students eligible to receive the award. The inaugural five recipients were selected in late January.

Read more on the scholarships

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The Minett Professorship brings distinguished Rochester-area multicultural professionals to RIT to share their professional knowledge and experience with RIT’s students, faculty, and staff for one academic year. This year Orlando Ortiz was appointed the 29th Minett Professor. Ortiz, an RIT alumnus, serves as a Manufacturing Manager at The Gleason Works.

Read more about Minett Professor Ortiz

The Destler/Johnson Rochester City Scholars (RCS) program welcomed 22 students into its 11th class of RCS students. RCS currently supports 96 scholars. Since the program started, 112 students have graduated. In addition, RIT’s first two Davitt Scholars, Unique Fair-Smith and Tymoni Correa-Buntley received their master’s degrees in 2021. They are former Rochester City Scholars.

Meet our 2020-2021 incoming RCS class

Read more on the Davitt Scholars

NTID has expanded its dual-enrollment program, Project Fast Forward, in partnership with high schools that serve ALANA communities. The Project Fast Forward website was updated and a brochure developed for use in recruiting schools. In addition, a Project Fast Forward grant supports high schools that serve predominantly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students. The funds from this grant can be used for textbooks, software, and hardware directly related to the dual-credit courses offered by RIT/NTID. Up to $5,000 is available per school per semester.

The RIT-RPHS Partnership continues to strengthen, despite the obstacles posed by COVID restrictions in 2020-2021. The RIT-RPHS Partnership interviewed, hired, and oversaw student tutors (RIT) for RPHS Design classes. While restrictions on campus visitors made it impossible to run the traditional fall semester capstone program for senior RPHS students, an abbreviated one-month capstone was designed and conducted for RPHS juniors during April 2021. Nine students took part in three lab-based capstone experiences led by faculty from COS, CHST, and KGCOE. Fourteen RPHS graduates were enrolled at RIT in 2020-2021 and new RPHS grads will attend in the fall.

Read more about Capstone

Upward Bound Classic served 60 high school student participants involved in academic coaching, tutoring, and cultural experiences throughout the academic year from Greece Olympia and the Leadership Academy for Young Men. Upward Bound Classic honored 2019-2020 senior students with a virtual graduation event and in the midst of a pandemic, continued the summer program with 20 students attending the camp virtually. Fifteen 2020-2021 participants graduated with plans to attend these colleges--SUNY Brockport, St., Monroe Community College, University of Buffalo, Hampton University and Roberts Wesleyan College—in the fall.

The Veterans Upward Bound Program served 125 low income, first-generation military veterans, from a nine-county area surrounding Rochester, with academic need, helping prepare them for transition into postsecondary education. Regular office hours were held at RIT, MCC, GCC, FLCC, and the Veterans Outreach Center, and all services transitioned remotely following the shutdown, while maintaining continuity and partnerships. More than half (56%) completed the VUB program or were retained this year; 71% of those veterans went on to enroll in post-secondary education programs; 74% of those veterans improved academically as measured by a standardized test

Get to know one of our VUB staff members

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In summation, RIT believes in transparency in its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The RIT Community Diversity Dashboard was developed through a joint collaboration of Institutional Research, Data & Analytics, Human Resources, and the Division of Diversity & Inclusion. The dashboard is open to the RIT community and capable of displaying both institutional level diversity data and the diversity of individual colleges and divisions. It provides a snapshot of institutional demographics, highlighting RIT’s diverse populations and welcomes visitors to explore recent trends related to race, ethnicity, and gender diversity, starting with the Diversity Index.

View Diversity Dashboard

2019-2020 Tiger Imprint Showcase