Five Reasons Why: US Education

by Abhisek Dey, Computer Engineering MS student

If you are expecting this blog to be another clichéd post raving about how advanced, revolutionary, and state-of-the-art higher education in the US is – it is not. It is meant to be a dissection of my experiences outside the classroom for the better part of a year that has led me to morph into a better person. Most international students come here for a world-class education and some want to stay back for the proverbial cherry-picked life and the fat paychecks. I came here for the same reasons too but if I do decide to stay here, it would be for the great people around me, diversity in ideas, freedom to express myself in every way and the opportunity to make a noteworthy difference in the lives of everyday people. Now, let’s dive in.

Decisiveness – In my opinion, the most important quality that I could acquire. It taught me to always be open to a new train of thought and never be afraid to try new things. We are only limited by our fears and tactless indecision. Try out a new sport – something you have never seen before. Try out an exotic cuisine. If you like it, try to make it yourself. See how far you can push yourself.

Break those walls – Appreciating everyone for who they are and acknowledging that there is always a bigger picture to everything. If you really want to be a well-rounded person, understanding why some people or somethings work differently than you are accustomed to would be the first step. Never be afraid to initiate a conversation with someone totally different from you. You might find you have so many things to talk about over a nice cold beer! The only thing worse than failure is never trying.

Respect and equality – Treat others the way you want to be treated. Everyday out here reinforces this idea in me. You will never be singled out for what you decide to wear, eat, talk about or who you love. Race, age, occupation, sexual orientation, special challenges are a way to divide us rather than bring us together. I have had the privilege to meet and interact with deaf and blind students at RIT and they are without a doubt some of the toughest nuts I have ever seen and a great company.

Circle of life – We are merely travelers passing through this realm and this world is what we make out of it. I always try to stand out, take on new roles and do not shy away from challenges. The fact that I’m an engineering grad student and penning this piece is enough to prove it! Being a go-getter is much more rewarding than it seems and this place has instilled the belief in me.

Humility – Ever wondered what the creator of a facial detection algorithm in our phone cameras is like in real life? Just like any of us – loves listening to 80’s music, enjoys Chinese food and owns a 2014 Honda Civic. Being humble is truly a virtue that does not take a lot of effort to master. It makes people instantly like us and this kind of also stems from the fact that everyone here is deemed to be on the same pedestal.

If you have made it this far, I am grateful and hope you could relate to some of your own experiences reading it. If not, there’s no better time to start a new journey! Visit an art museum, learn rock climbing, dive into a crazy research problem. Knock yourself out. Make some headway in the circle of life. We miss a 100% of the shots we don’t take!

 

#myRITstory – Zach Mulhollan

Graduate Program: Imaging Science PhD (second year student)

Last Wednesday Zach Mulhollan, current RIT student, presented the company he founded, and a business plan to grow it, at the Saunders College Summer Startup Investor Demo Night. His company Tiger CGM is a personal glucose monitor for patients with Diabetes. The monitors provide an empathetic and user-friendly approach to measuring real-time glucose levels 24 hours a day, while also providing its user actionable information that can be used to guide healthy choices. The goal of Tiger CGM is to deliver self-assurance and security to those who need to manage their glucose levels.

Says Zach of his experience with the program, “The Saunders Summer Startup Program quickly taught me intangible skills that compliment both my academic and entrepreneurial careers. The coaches provided my team the constructive criticism and support we needed so that our company will continue to grow after graduation.”

You can read more about the Saunders Summer Startup Program, and the other student-led companies, in our recent RIT News article.

 

#myRITstory – Trevor Barrett

Graduate Program – Entrepreneurship and Innovative Ventures MS 

Each day 22 veterans in the United States succumb to suicide. It’s a staggering statistic – a figure that doesn’t receive much media attention, but which is of great significance to graduate student Trevor Barrett.

Trevor, a Marine Corps veteran and RIT staff member understands firsthand how difficult the transition from active military member to civilian life can be, and has struggled himself with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) In 2008, after being discharged, his best friend from the Marine Corps took his own life. This loss caused Trevor to spiral downward into a deep depression that almost cost him his marriage and livelihood. With the help of his support network, Trevor overcame his demons, got his life back on track, and is now working in RIT’s Office of Graduate Enrollment Services as the Assistant Director of Veteran Affairs. Trevor is passionate about continuing education and recently began RIT’s MS program in Entrepreneurship and Innovative Ventures. Now, he’s preparing to pitch his business idea at the RIT Sanders College of Business Summer Startup Demo Night on Wednesday, August 8th.

OpSiix Project 

Graduate and Undergraduate students at RIT have access to a wealth of campus resources that help budding entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. These resources include RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and RIT’s “Tiger Tank” competition. Both provide students the skills, education, and experience necessary to realize their entrepreneurial goals, taking an idea from the beginning stages all the way to commercialization. These tools have provided Trevor the opportunity to develop his own idea and business plan.

Alongside his business partner Brandon Sheppard (an Industrial Design BFA student,) Trevor co-founded OpSiix, a mobile app that serves as a virtual community for veterans around the country and a direct communication to the Veteran Crisis Line and other resources. Their team has grown to a group of 8 students, many of whom Trevor met in his Applied Entrepreneurship class, where he also met his coach, Dana Wolcott. Under Dana’s guidance the team created a working business model and have learned much more about beginning a business.

Says Trevor about his experience thus far – “Since starting this graduate project I have learned so much that has already helped me with my career. I have learned things like the value of customer discovery, market research, managing personnel, motivating teammates and much, much more. Additionally, from researching the veteran demographic I have become more knowledgeable and better equipped for my role here at RIT as the veteran service representative. I have truly enjoyed ever second that I have spent working on OpSiix!”

In addition to mentors on campus and valuable coursework, Trevor and his team have a maker space on campus that gives the team a physical space to work and also provides access to 3D printers, tools, and materials. They also participated in the annual Imagine RIT festival where they were able to share their idea with thousands of RIT and Rochester community stakeholders. Trevor is thankful for the knowledge RIT has provided him – “We have access to a huge knowledge set. If one of our coaches doesn’t have an answer that we’re seeking they either know where to find the answer or know who to ask. We also have access to grants, and crowd funding resources that RIT facilitates. Truly, without RIT OpSiix wouldn’t exist.”

You can watch Trevor and his team present their business plan this Wednesday at the Saunders Summer Startup Night at 5:30 p.m.

OpSiix Video

Register for the Summer Startup Demo Night 

Life as a Summer Intern in NYC

What is it like to live in New York City? What is it like to work in midtown and downtown Manhattan? Living this kind of life seemed out of reach to me before, however, it’s hard to believe that I have been doing it for 2 months now.

This summer, I got an amazing co-op/interning opportunity to work as a multimedia designer with a global media agency network, Mindshare. As an international student, the internship was my first full-time internship working in the U.S., and I found out that I was the only international intern among about 40 interns that my company hired this summer.

During the internship, the company created a competition called “Battle of Interns” for all the interns to work closely with their fellows to develop a media plan which involves Media Planning, Digital Investment and Marketing Science. I personally think this is a great learning opportunity, especially for people who are new to the Media Planning & Buying World. My major responsibility in the company is to assist the Mindshare Creative Director on various projects supporting the Mindshare business, including Video and Audio editing, building styled templates and other visual design projects.

The most challenging part of this experience, for me, is the work-life balance. Life in New York City can certainly get super exciting: museums, concerts, amazing places to eat and drink, famous attractions, and the list goes on. Every morning I take a subway (often crowded) for about 20-30 minutes to get to my company, work for 9 hours including a one-hour lunch break, and then do the same thing again in the evening. I sometimes get pretty tired of dealing with crowded platforms and trains, and thousands of tourists and passersby, especially as my company was located close to Time Square (then we moved to 3WTC in downtown). So during the weekends, it’s important to find a balance, to help myself fully rest up, but also not to miss out the fun stuff going on in the city. It’s definitely hard, but I am trying my best.

One of the most important takeaways that I got from the internship is: there are so many different things and skills to learn in an internship setting compared to working in an academic setting. When in school, I mostly work with myself, classmates and professors, and everything is based on an academic setting. We do learn

a lot in school, but I don’t know if my projects are going to perform well in the market and the industry. However, during an internship, I got to experience organizational and professional cultures that are very new to me. I have direct contact with people who do different works, and I also get frequent feedbacks from my workplace supervisor about my performance which reflects how the projects actually work and support the company’s business. It feels really good to see how users react to your design projects in the real world, instead of just getting feedbacks without testing out the performance and usability.

Another key takeaway is that: always be yourself, and always learn from the individuals you meet in the office. I was really lucky to be surrounded by super nice team members and managers. My supervisor and I have similar backgrounds, and we constantly talk about our design concepts and thoughts on certain design projects. I also appreciate that my supervisor trusts me as an independent individual and offers me a lot of room for flexibility and creativity. I am so glad that I am not only gaining valuable applied experience, but also making connections in professional fields, which will guide me and impact my future career path.

Finally, I am very thankful for this summer internship opportunity. I was lucky to sit next to a super nice team, which mentors and managers who taught me a lot at work. I got valuable feedbacks which I would never get in an academic setting. And I am also glad that I got to do this internship in New York City, one of the greatest cities in the world. Although living in the city on an intern’s budget is a bit challenging, it at least gives you an idea of how it feels like to live and work in NYC and also expand your life experiences! Whatever the future may bring, I would look back on my time here and appreciate the skills and knowledge I gained.