RIT Professional Development Podcast

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The Center for Professional Development recently interviewed 13 RIT faculty, staff and administrators from various levels and backgrounds to record their stories and advice about professional development. These discussions uncovered important lessons on mentoring, stretch assignments, and staying current, which we documented in three podcast episodes. We also posted the complete recorded discussions with each person. Full transcripts of each episode and interview are available in PDF format so that all audiences can take advantage of these resources. We hope you enjoy our Professional Development Podcast series.


Positive mentorship experiences can be a critical part of professional development. Warren Bennis, a pioneer of leadership studies, advised those concerned about advancing their careers to “make sure you have someone in your life from whom you can get reflective feedback.” RIT faculty and staff members from various levels and backgrounds shared their experiences with professional development, their stories about what worked for them and how they got to where they are today. While their career paths, fields of expertise and perspectives were all unique, a common thread is that most of them credited their mentors with much of their success.

Featuring Dr. Sandy Johnson, Dr. James Watters, Danny Maffia, Dr. Gerry Buckley, Dr. Lynn Wild and Dr. Sophia Maggelakis

Duration: 10:28

To be an effective employee, regardless of your position, you have to constantly find ways to keep your skills sharp. In an article for Forbes, Margie Warrell said that “to succeed today you must be in a constant state of adaptation – continually unlearning old ‘rules’ and relearning new ones. That requires continually questioning assumptions about how things work, challenging old paradigms, and ‘relearning’ what is now relevant in your job, your industry, your career and your life.”

Featuring Judy Bender, Lyn Kelly, Ebony Miller, Randy Vercauteren and Dr. Bill Destler

Duration: 6:44

When people hear the term “professional development,” they often think about training courses, pursuing degrees and certificates, or other methods of formal instruction. However, if you’re going to advance your career, you’ll also need to develop skills on the job, sometimes by taking assignments slightly above your experience or comfort level. We call these “stretch assignments.” In conversations I’ve had with RIT faculty, staff and administrators, they frequently cited stretch assignments as an important part of professional development.

Featuring Jeanne Casares, Dr. Sandy Johnson, Dr. Kevin McDonald, Ebony Miller and Randy Vercauteren

Duration: 9:42

Complete Interviews

Sharitta Gross-Smith serves as Assistant Director of Programmatic Initiatives and Student Development at RIT's Multicultural Center for Academic Success. She started her career at RIT in 2007 as a career services coordinator in the office of Career Services and Cooperative Education. Outside of her formal work at RIT she volunteers and serves on the boards for numerous organizations and nonprofits. Including the WDKX Women for Women Event on the programming and planning committee, and NextStepU.

Duration: 18:53

Lisa Hupf works in RIT's Information and Technology Services Organization. She started her career at RIT in 2005 as a senior web services programmer and analyst and about a year ago, took over as applications development manager for RIT's enterprise business applications team.

Duration: 8:50

Anna Lombard is from Russia and in 2005 she moved to the United States to pursue her master's degree in communication and media technology here at RIT. Upon completing her degree, she worked as a marketing specialist for a company called The Lighting Division, then joined RIT as an employee in 2008. Today she works as a payroll, HR, and marketing specialist supporting RIT's global campuses.

Duration: 11:04

Dr. Bill Destler has served as RIT's ninth president since 2007. Prior to RIT, Dr. Destler spent more than 30 years at the University of Maryland, rising from the ranks of research associate and assistant professor of electrical engineering to senior vice president and provost. Currently as president, Dr. Destler leads more than 3,400 faculty and staff. We discussed his vision for professional development at the university and advice he has for faculty and staff.

Duration: 4:57

Chris Denninger began his more than thirty-five year career at the university on patrol and was eventually promoted to director of public safety in 2007 and earned his master's degree in human resources development from RIT in 2003. We talked with him about his path and advice for people seeking to develop their own careers.

Duration: 11:59

Judy Bender joined RIT as Assistant Vice President for Human Resources in 2011. She came to RIT from Eastman Kodak, where she served as Human Resources Director for the Pre-Press Solutions business and a number of other human resources leadership positions. She’s also graduated from RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business with a degree in business administration, and her master’s degree in hospitality administration from Cornell University. We discussed human resources trends she sees emerging in higher education and her advice for RIT faculty and staff.

Duration: 9:09

Michael Damico teaches as an adjunct faculty member for the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. He's a landscape architect at Stantec by day and serves as VP of External Affairs for the New York Upstate Chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architects.

Duration: 11:12

Dr. Gerard Buckley has served president of NTID and vice president of RIT since 2011. Dr. Buckley has more than 30 years of experience in higher education including more than 20 years serving in a variety of capacities at NTID. Today he leads more than 500 faculty and staff. We talked about NTID's approach to professional development and advice he has for faculty and staff. 

Duration: 11:25

Prior to joining RIT, Jeanne Casares spent 15 years at Paychex leading web technologies, enterprise support, implementation services, and change management activities. Today she leads more than 110 staff at ITS. We discussed how she's created an environment that supports professional development and allows her staff to push their careers forward.

Duration: 11:05

Dr. Sandy Johnson leads a staff of more than 200 people and the university's student life, wellness, student learning, and athletics departments. The office serves RIT's nine colleges and diverse population of more than 15,000 undergraduates and 2,900 graduate students. Before coming to RIT, Dr. Johnson served for nearly eight years as vice president for the Division of Student Affairs at Hofstra University. She spoke about her career path and her views on professional development.

Duration: 12:33

Lyn Kelly leads the controller's division of approximately 95 staff of responsibility for financial reporting, accounting, procurement, payroll, and accounts payable, student financial services, and sponsored programs accounting. Our conversation focused on her approach to creating an environment that supports professional development and allows her staff to grow in their careers.

Duration: 6:42

Danny Maffia is a lecturer who teaches aspiring interpreters, various courses in the ASL English interpretation department at NTID. He began his career at RIT as an associate interpreter in the College of Liberal Arts core team. And before that he was an undergraduate student here. We talked about his career path and strategies for professional development.

Duration: 10:45

During her 20 year tenure at RIT, Dr. Maggelakis has contributed significantly to the mission of the College of Science and the university. She founded the School of Mathematical Sciences and RIT's Women and Science program. In addition, she is a recipient of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teacher and Who's Who Among America's Teachers. We talked about her views on professional development and advice she has for faculty and staff.

Duration: 8:56

Dr. Kevin McDonald joined the university in 2010 after serving as Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at Virginia Polytechnic Institute State University in Plattsburg Virginia. We discussed the Office for Diversity and Inclusion's professional development efforts and his advice for faculty and staff.

Duration: 9:36

Ebony Miller is responsible for research, development, delivery, and assessment of mission-related programming at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship. She began her career at RIT as a senior staff specialist in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering's Office of Student Services before being appointed to her current position in 2013. We talked about her career path and strategies for professional development.

Duration: 6:19

Dr. Pine started her career at RIT in 1994 while working in residence life and spent 11 years as Director of the NTID student life team. Now she serves as the Senior Director of the RIT Center for Campus Life. She earned her Doctorate of Education from St. John Fisher in 2012.

Duration: 14:45

Dan Rosica recently announced that that he is retiring at the end of May, and before he ends his 16-year career with RIT, he sat down with us to share insight about how technology will impact the workplace and how to follow develop a fulfilling career.  

Duration: 12:45

Randy Vercauteren began his career at RIT as a custodian in 1984 and has since spent more than 18 years in management at varying levels and facilities management services, and was appointed to his current role in 2008. We discussed his career path and approach to professional development.

Duration: 12:55

Dr. Watters came to RIT from the University of Pittsburg where he spent his previous professional years and earned a BS, MS, and PhD. Today Dr. Watters leads more than 780 full-time employees, and is responsible for administering the university's $700 million operating and capital budgets, $900 million endowment and working capital portfolios, and a $270 million public debt portfolio. Dr. Watters oversees axillary enterprises, human resources, accounting and payroll insurance, public safety, audit, legal, IT and security, and facilities operations design and construction. We talked about his career path and important lessons he's learned along the way.

Duration: 14:14

Dr. Lynn Wild came to RIT in February of 2002 and in 2009 guided the merger of teaching and learning services and the RIT libraries forming the Wallace Center, which provides academic support and service for students and faculty, contributing to RIT's recognition as a leader in research, scholarship, innovation, and creativity. We talked about how her organization creates an environment that supports professional development for faculty and how she supports her staff to grow in their careers.

Duration: 7:28