RIT: Transcending boundaries and making great minds meet

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

Ever wondered what kinds of engineering goes into making of a run-of-the-mill cellphone? Well, there is no definite answer. In fact, in the deeply interconnected world that we live in, every engineering marvel that is seemingly so obvious is the result of people from various parts of the spectrum coming together, sharing ideas and putting all the pieces where they belong. RIT recognizes this and has been trying to instill the same spirit in research as well as in the coursework that students take.

Being a graduate student in the Computer Engineering department, I can vouch for the broad base of courses that I am allowed to take as a part of my degree. I have already decided to take a course from the Electrical Engineering department and hopefully another from the Computing Security department. Taking relevant courses from outside our department not only broadens our knowledge base but also brings about an interdisciplinary area of expertise which both the research community and the industry requires.

Much like this bridge which connects the College of Computing (left) with the College of Engineering (right), RIT students go beyond disciplines to innovate and collaborate!

RIT also encourages you to mix with faculty and student researchers from other disciplines. It is not mandatory for you to pick a graduate advisor from your department. I have personally known many graduate students to align with an advisor outside their department because they either had common research interests or some relevant background which made him a good fit. For instance, a friend of mine from Computer Engineering chose a Professor from Computing Security to be his advisor because he was looking for security as his focus area and his communications background made him a good fit for the Professor who was working on wireless security for IOT devices and vehicular communications.

This approach has been very well-admired by companies that come to hire RIT students during the career fair. Companies across the board, from Amazon and Google to Microsoft, as well as numerous local industries based in the Rochester area are impressed by the talent and preparation of RIT students. Our graduates are well-prepared to hit the ground running. Alumni return to their alma mater and further encourage students to participate in cross-disciplinary projects and research collaborations.

The greatest piece of advice from myself to other students considering RIT is to never be afraid to ask questions – to others and to yourself. It is going to be your greatest asset and a tool not only in your time as a graduate student trying to explore a research problem but also in the later stages of your career!

 

 

You Paid Your Deposit: Now What?

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

If you have already paid the deposit, congratulations! Your spot in your program at RIT is guaranteed. But now what do you need to do next? Here are some steps that you need to follow.

First you’ll get a chance to create your personal RIT computer account. It’s a student Gmail account that will become your preferred email address in the school system. And this Gmail account will help you get all sorts of information from New Student Orientation, Student Financial Services, Housing Operations, Financial Aid & Scholarships, and academic departments, etc. You could visit Google Apps at RIT to access your account.

All new incoming students attending RIT are required to submit the Health History Form and Immunization Record via the Student Health Center Portal at least 30 days before classes begin. And again, you will need your RIT Gmail account to login to the system. For more information, please visit: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/studenthealth/about/forms.

You’ll also have to submit your final official transcript once you finish all your current classes. If you are attending or have attended a school in the U.S., you should have the registrar to send your transcript to you following the instructions and then you can mail it directly to RIT’s Office of Graduate Enrollment Services. If you are from an International school, an official degree certificate in both English and the original language with the transcripts is required. And you may have this transcript and degree certificate forwarded directly to the office as soon as you have completed your undergraduate study.

If you are an international student, you need to provide additional documents to apply for a student visa. you’ll then need an original bank statement showing the amount available for their education, as well as a letter of support from the person owning the assets (if the funds are not in the student’s name) to RIT. More details can be found via this link: https://www.rit.edu/emcs/ptgrad/pdfs/International_student_visa_info.pdf

You will be encouraged to attend New Student orientations: graduate orientation and International orientation. Activities and further details can be found via the links. You’ll just need your RIT username and password to log in and complete the registration information. Orientations really do help set the tone for your transition into the next level of your academic career.

And if you are interested in finding housing (both on and off campus) before coming to school, the international student services have provided some good resources on their website, which could also be helpful to the domestic students. And the link is here: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/iss/life-at-rit/housing

The very last step before you start your school will be to pay your bills and authorize access to RIT eServices. Usually, the bill will be generated during the beginning of July, and you’ll get different payment options. You may visit Student Financial Services for more information. And there are also various types of graduate student funding that you could find online, including graduate scholarships, graduate assistantship, campus jobs, cooperative education, and educational loans, etc. Check out this website for more info: http://www.rit.edu/emcs/ptgrad/apply/costs-funding

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you will find this information helpful and good luck with your preparations for new semester at RIT!

#myRITstory – Syed Sajjad Haider

Program: Electrical Engineering MS, expected graduation fall 2019

From: Islamabad, Pakistan

Syed learned about RIT through his local EducationUSA Advising Center, where he was researching prospective graduate programs in robotics and artificial intelligence. His search for the perfect program and research opportunities led him to RIT’s Engineering and Computing programs. He ultimately chose RIT because of its strong emphasis on Co-Operative Education. (You can read more about RIT’s Co-op program online.)

In July Syed will begin a six month co-op placement at Abiomed in Boston, Massachusetts. He was hired as Lifecycle Electrical Engineer and will work on the design and analysis of testing automation for various Abiomed consumer products.

Says Syed about his search for a co-op position – “I found a Co-Op in Boston, MA through the Handshake platform RIT just introduced. All students in RIT are strongly encouraged to attend the two career fairs organized by RIT each year and to apply for various opportunities on the handshake platform. The Office of Career Services at RIT is very helpful and useful. I got my Resume reviewed from them and also participated in a mock interview event. These small things really help you prepare for the real interview.”

Syed will return to RIT in January 2019 to complete his MS program. In addition to his coursework and extracurricular activities, Syed has also worked part-time for RIT Dining and for RIT’s Reporter Magazine as a staff photographer.

 

 

Bird’s eye view of on-campus employment opportunities

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

As a student, managing your finances can be an arduous task at the very least. International students have their work cut out when it comes to this. To be honest, we all love that little extra inflow of cash to help pay for housing or just simply to buy that fancy pair of shoes which all our friends rave about. Whatever the case maybe – RIT has got you covered!

RIT is unique in a way that students essentially are one of the most important cogs in the wheel that they paid for. Almost all departments and offices employ student workers to ensure smooth operation. There are over 9,000 on-campus jobs to be found and anyone who wants one does not have to look far. One of biggest department that is run almost entirely by student employees is the dining services department. RIT has a plethora of on-campus dining options and all of them require student workers. Just some of the dining options include Gracies, Salsaritas, Crossroads, Ritz, Ctrl-Alt-Deli and so on.

Gracies Dining Hall

Roles may involve cutting and slicing of meat and veggies, servicing the dishwasher, cooking, maintenance and upkeep or that of a cashier. FMS or Facilities Management Services is another department that hires a lot of student workers. Responsibilities here include mostly everything related to building maintenance like inspecting doors and windows, replacing faulty light bulbs or checking if locks work the way they should. There are loads of other jobs like lab assistants, front desk assistants and so on. The list is endless.

How do you find such jobs? While you can look and apply for jobs on the RIT job portal

Crossroads

Handshake (which is obviously a great source), there are many jobs which are not explicitly advertised. The mantra to find that job is really simple enough – go and ask in person! I have seen so many of my friends getting a job from the unlikeliest of places on campus because they went ahead and asked about it directly.

 

Graduate Assistantships are also a great way to earn money which is more technically and academically oriented. While these positions are not as many as the other options many students do get offered the positions of a Research or a Teaching Assistant. A paid RA position depends upon your graduate advisor, his funding status and your area of interest. TA positions are always paid and they require you to be in the right place at the right time. In all the engineering departments, you can TA an undergraduate course if there is an availability and you have a sufficient background in that area. Talking to a Professor of a course you would like to TA for would be a good idea in this case. The other way to grab a TA position is having taken a course prior, building a solid background in it and informing the instructor you are interested if there is an availability.

All in all, RIT is a place where you can always earn a little pocket money if you need to and is one of things I admire about my University. So buckle in and enjoy your time here – it is a great place to be!

MS Computer Science: Bridge courses

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student 

Every year, one of the most common topics that is on an incoming MS-CS student’s mind at RIT is bridge courses. These are a set of three graduate level courses that the CS department requires every student to be well-versed with before proceeding with other graduate courses. They “bridge” the gap in knowledge.

These courses are in place because the department probably saw that a number of CS graduate students were not up to the mark when it came to fundamental programming skills. Nowadays, almost every admitted MS-CS student who has not obtained an undergraduate CS degree from a US university is required to complete these bridge courses.

The three courses are “Advanced Object Oriented Programming (using Java)”, “Computational Problem Solving (using Python)”, and “Foundations of Computer Science Theory”. If a student is assigned to any or all of these courses, the only way to let the department know that they already possess the technical skills offered in the course(s) is by taking up and passing the corresponding bridge waiver exams successfully. So if a student feels that they were assigned a particular course by mistake, they must take and pass the waiver exam(s).

These waiver exams are held on the day of the department orientation, are of 1 hour each in duration, and cover all the topics that would be taught in the course itself. The syllabus and timing of each exam can be found at https://cs.rit.edu/orientation/bridgeexams. The exams would be a combination of multiple-choice, short answer, medium answer, and long answer questions. They would test a student’s knowledge on the subject thoroughly.

I had a non-CS background coming in to the CS grad program here so I needed the bridge courses. In my experience, most students who took up the bridge courses felt like they benefited from the practice they got by solving the weekly assignments and studying for the midterms. The coursework of these courses definitely helped in my interview process.

Many incoming students would hear that these bridge courses are extremely difficult to clear. Although I did not take up the option of sitting for the waiver exams, I believe that one of the major reasons why a small number of students clear the waiver exams is because of the clear gap in knowledge and maybe the fact that most students end up either taking the waiver exams lightly or do not even turn up for them.

Every incoming student would love to clear one or more waivers since that would mean saving on the cost of those courses. However, I feel that by trying to clear all three in one go, students end up not doing well enough in any. Unless a student is extremely confident in their abilities and knowledge of a particular bridge course, I would honestly recommend students to pick and choose their strongest course and put all their efforts into clearing that.

The ‘American’ life: In the eyes of an international student

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS Student 

What is the American life? I used to think it was utopia on Earth – the ever illusive ‘good life’. The kind of place where you turn off the lights and wake up to a perfect morning where all your problems have magically disappeared. Wading through the deceptively clear waters of a semester here has led me to realize how wrong I was. Stick around till the end while I describe an intriguing process of self-discovery and introspection.

It was on a freakishly cold day when I arrived in the land of the free and home of the brave. Being used to the other extreme of the temperature scale it was a surreal experience for someone who had never seen snow before. A 5 minute wait for a cab out in the open to take me to my apartment felt like ages. But I was still completely oblivious to what was in store for me. My heart kept telling me that the proverbial bling life was still to come.

Reaching my apartment, I was excited to meet the new roommates with whom I would be spending the winter with. I was starving after an exhausting journey but they said it would be another couple hours before food would be made. Without knowing how to get around town, I snacked on leftovers from my journey. Tired as I was, I had to clean up my room before I could get any kind of respite as the the guy from whom I subleased it left it in a mess. In a few days, reality dawned on me. Pampered since childhood with never having to worry about my own well-being for a second, I had to look after everything now. Some days were bearable while some days were not. Coming home weary-eyed and zoned out after a long day, you suddenly remember that it was your day to cook or do the dishes and you have an assignment due the next day which is still incomplete.

A picture worth a thousand words.

But as all dark clouds have a silver-lining, my story had one too. I had some of the most wonderful professors who guided me through every step of the way. Sometimes, we would engage in enriching conversations about my progress that not only helped me to focus on areas I was weak in but also develop a new perspective of the course. At times when I needed to blow off some steam, I would just drive off into the pristine countryside. Life is way different in smaller towns and ranches and feeling those vibes were just what I needed to recharge my batteries.

So, what exactly is the American life? Is it having all you ever wanted at your fingertips? Is it the peace of mind to never break a sweat about anything? To me it is the freedom to carve your own fate and be the master of your own destiny. The power to make your own choices and the undying spirit to see it through no matter the sacrifices. The unwavering grit to hold on to the values of mutual respect and inclusiveness despite the threats. As the Statue of Liberty says – “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”.

 

 

What is a Co-op?

Picture from my Co-op during Summer 2016

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

“What is a Co-op?” is probably one of the most frequent questions I get from prospective students so I thought I should be writing a short article explaining what exactly is this word Co-op that RIT staff and students use a lot. Co-operative Education or as we love to call it, Co-op, is similar to an internship that can be done during the academic semesters (Fall or Spring) and is a practical experience that add values to your degree and can be done anywhere in the world. It is the best way to get your foot in the door of your favorite company and also gives you a great experience.

For an opportunity to be considered as co-op it should be full time (35 hours or more per week), paid, and relevant to your field of study. Employers love the co-op program at RIT because it gives them a chance to assess a student’s skill set before they offer them a full-time position at the company. Students love the co-op program because they get to do the same work as a full-time employee and sometimes even pitch new product ideas, which adds great value to the company. One of the perks of being an RIT student is that unlike many schools that require their students to pay for certain credit hours to be registered for a co-op, RIT doesn’t ask its students to pay anything. RIT recognizes that this co-op brings a lot of value to the student and also helps them financially so they encourage their students to complete a co-op before graduating.

The Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education has absolutely the nicest people who are always there for students to help them prepare for their interviews, try to bring a lot of companies to the career fair for students to meet employers, review resumes and tons of other services. I personally have done one co-op and it was the best experience ever and was lucky enough to get a full time offer too. So to conclude this short article, a co-op in simple language is just an internship done during academic semesters.

More information can be found on RIT’s Career Services website. 

Government of the people, by the people and for the people

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

It was just another snowy day at RIT and I was having a conversation with my roommate about some food that is being thrown out by dining services at the end of the day. It deeply saddened me to hear food being wasted and I wanted to do something about it. After asking around I heard about the Student Government who is a part of the governing body at RIT which makes policies and votes on them along with Staff Council and Academic Senate. Their mission reads “To represent the interests of the student body through the implementation of innovative programs, services, and initiatives that enrich student lives. We will be the primary source of advocacy for students from Rochester Institute

of Technology and we will utilize our shared governance structure to voice student opinion and concern. RIT Student Government will be the forefront of change within the university.”

I was deeply intrigued by this and felt they would be the best people to talk to about my concern and I did end up talking to them about it. It was a great interaction and that is my first interaction with Student Government. In the next few months I kept learning more and more about them and felt very passionate about the change they are bringing about at RIT. Then came the wonderful day when I saw that they were accepting applications for different elected position in the Student Government. My eyes finally fell upon the Graduate Senator position and understood that the position is of a representative for the graduate students at RIT. After an intense month of campaigning and elections I have successfully won the elections and started in my role. As I went about in the role, I understood the kind of impact that Student Government has in the university. On a weekly basis, I work with the various Graduate Directors in order to discuss the new
programs that are being proposed by the departments and also propose any changes required to the graduate student policies. Apart from that I work with the different graduate student advocacy groups to address graduate student concerns like housing, transportation, etc. Also, I work with President Munson on the University Council where we discuss and vote on various university policy changes.

The presence of Student Government in the University Council ensures representatives who will be looking out for the best interests of students on the council. The impact that my work has on the students and various other stakeholders makes me feel more responsible to the role I have been elected to at RIT. Today as I write this blog I feel proud to be a student of RIT where students are given importance in policy making and this proves that indeed the school cares about its students genuinely and takes their opinions. I see the RIT Student Government as the Government of the students, by the students and for the students and glad to be a part of it.

 

New Year, New Semester

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

This year, for the first time in four years, I got to spend the New Year back at home in China. Although I couldn’t stay long enough for the Chinese New Year, I appreciate that I was able to be with my family and friends in my hometown, wishing for a bright and promising new year together.

I recall that last time when I was home for winter break, I had just finished my first semester in College, and now I am a graduate student who has got one semester down successfully. Really, time flies so quick! It’s hard to believe how much I have grown and developed as a person through the college years and my first year here at RIT. “The only thing that is constant is change,” as Heraclitus said. However, I think for me, the only constant is my willingness to accept the change and thrive, and my adaptation to them. I believe that change creates possibilities that help me to live my life better.

From high school in Maine to college in Colorado, and to now in Rochester, along with trips to Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Japan, I enjoyed every single challenge and opportunity that came my way. In the meantime, I keep training myself to develop greater confidence in my ability to navigate new surroundings and further expand my skill-set. So for the new year and new semester, I am still aiming at the achievement of the very same goal, which is to embrace and adapt to the changes.

What will my biggest change or challenge be in 2018? I guess at the moment it’s going to be trying to find a valuable internship and switching into “work mode” during the summer. Gladly, RIT has a co-op/internship and summer research program that could help students get a paid internship with real world experience. If you want to learn more about this opportunity, you could visit their website for more information. So hopefully, I could get an internship in my dream field and make summer meaningful.

That is just one big challenge I could name for now, but as I am in a phase of life with so many unknown experiences lying ahead, I might get surprised at any moment. Therefore, I am also learning how to prepare myself for any possible options and feelings and know how to make healthy decisions and plans. I am extremely excited for this year full of surprises and study/work mode changes, and hopefully I could get to live the life I wish to! And I strongly hope your New Year is off to a good start!

#myRITstory – Megan Fritts

Megan Fritts is from Erie, Pennsylvania and completed her BFA in Illustration in May 2008. She is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Professional Studies with a concentration in Higher Education and Leadership. Read her #myRITstory below!

Megan is an Academic Adviser in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

I started working at RIT during my undergraduate degree, and was asked shortly after graduation to come back as a temp for a staff assistant position. I became the full-time staff assistant in 2008, and moved into an academic advising position in July of 2012.”

Megan loves working with other RIT students and uses her own experience as a student to inform her advising style. “In the 10 years that I have been working full-time, I have had the great opportunity to work with hundreds of different students in their educational path of earning a degree. This includes students who start in a major and decide it is not the right fit, those who earned a degree and are coming back to pursue a new career path, those that start and finish in the same program, etc. Working with students has been extremely rewarding experience, and one that is different every day. What I went to school for in my Bachelor’s degree had nothing to do with the career path that I chose to pursue after school. However, the experiences that I had in school, and in finding a job have been a great influence in how I work with students and guide them through their academic path. ”

Megan also had good suggestions for students who are on a job hunt. “Do not give up! Do not be afraid to use the connections and resources that are provided for you through RIT. If you have a friend or a family member that can help make a connection at a company for you, use this opportunity. This is not cheating or taking the easy way out. At the end of the day, they can help with the connection, you will be doing the interviewing and proving you deserve the position. Additionally, RIT’s Co-op and Career Services office provides resources and assistance to alumni for life. Keep a close connection with the co-op advisor’s, former faculty, and most importantly, do not be afraid to use the vast and amazing RIT alumni network.”

RIT offers mock interviews for students so students have the opportunity to be “interviewed” by people in industry and receive valuable feedback before their real interviews take place. Megan recommends students keep practicing their interview skills, whether finding example questions through Google or talking to others in a field about their experiences or questions they had. The more knowledgeable you are going into an interview them more comfortable you will feel. Also, If you have some close friends or peers in your major or in industry already, ask if they will do a mock interview with you.

Thank you, Megan, for sharing your #myRITstory!