Creativity and innovation on display at inauguration

Multiple inaugural events for RIT’s 10th president highlight evolving talent and expertise of RIT community

A. Sue Weisler

David Munson was officially installed as the 10th president of RIT on Thursday.

While RIT President David Munson called upon RIT to “double down” on creativity and innovation during his inaugural remarks Sept. 28, the university was doing just that during a two-day celebration that showcased technology, the arts and design in every corner of the university.

Two days of inaugural events for RIT’s 10th president included a student picnic, an alumni symposium, STEAM and art on campus walking tours for visitors to campus and the installation of Munson. It also included an opportunity for dignitaries from more than 40 colleges from across the nation to explore RIT.

“I am honored to be part of the RIT family, at the helm of this great, global university that is changing the world,” Munson said at the inauguration ceremony. “Let’s get busy creating and innovating.”

Students celebrate with a picnic

Part of the inauguration events included a student picnic Sept. 27, held outside the Gene Polisseni Center. Munson welcomed the students after he ate a burger and watched performances by the Latin Rhythm Dance Club, RIT Bhangra and the RIT Jam Club. He also met with students and posed for numerous pictures.

“I wanted to be able to hold a picnic for the students,” Munson told them. “I wanted to do something for you — this university is all about students.”

Munson asked each student he met where they were from and what their major was.

Lena Ohara, an interior design major from Cortland Manor, N.Y., made her way through the students to shake Munson’s hand and say hello.

“I’m a freshman, so I’m new here, too,” she said. “He seems nice, and very approachable.”

Q Hernandez, a first-year chemical engineering major from Silver Spring, Md., told Munson he agrees with Munson’s vision of increasing performing arts on campus.

“We have some musical theater here, but we need to have more of it on campus,” Munson told him.

Lauren Baldino, a first-year software engineering student from Boston, told Munson RIT was not her first choice, but her parents persuaded her to enroll. She said she has fallen in love with RIT and is happy she listened to her parents.

“That’s music to my ears,” Munson said.

Baldino said she was impressed Munson is so approachable. “I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to meet him,” she said.

Shining a light on creative alumni

Munson beamed with pride as he watched the Creativity and Innovation Alumni Spotlight Symposium Sept. 27, an event that highlighted four RIT alumni who have all made significant contributions to the world. The four alumni speaking at the panel included Christopher Edwards ’97 (film and animation), Renato Libric ’03 (hotel and resort management), William Snyder ’81 (photography) and Patricia Moore ’74 (industrial design).

At this interactive event, alumni shared their insights on creativity and innovation as they have experienced it in their own lives. The common theme between the speakers was that RIT inspired and gave them the tools needed to go into the world and leave a lasting impact.

Moore summed it up best with her statement, “Here at RIT I learned to speak out. Here I learned to question everything. Here I learned how one person has the capacity to change the world.”

Go to the RIT YouTube channel to watch the full Creativity and Innovation Alumni Spotlight Symposium.

A tour of RIT’s art and architecture

Visitors, friends and family members of RIT President Munson—including Jean Munson (aunt) and Wendy and Michael Keegan (sister and brother-in-law)—received a warm welcome walking tour of art history with RIT archivist Becky Simmons and RIT architect James Yarrington.

Among the dozens of public art pieces on display across campus—from Albert Paley’s Sentinel, to Jose de Rivera’s Infinity Loop, Larry Kirkland’s Principia, the black granite atrium floor in the College of Science and Nancy Gong’s etched glass panels located in the Student Innovation Center—the general consensus was “awe-inspiring” and “truly beautiful works of art.”

Guests take the STEAM tour

Prior to the inauguration ceremony, more than 25 family members, friends and colleagues of Munson also got to experience some of RIT’s impressive labs and student maker spaces during an extensive walking tour that featured the university’s best in art, design and technology.

Starting at the AMPrint Center and Battery Prototyping Lab in Institute Hall, the group would learn of the industry-university collaborations in 3D printing and how the newest in sustainable battery technologies are being developed. They saw how packaging materials are tested, how car engines and other equipment is refurbished and recycled. The group even briefly met members of several of RIT’s successful performance teams—RIT Baja, Formula and HotWheelz racing teams.

In the galleries, studios and Vignelli Center of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, art, technology and design were displayed featuring access technologies, imaging science research and projects, as well as a first-look at the new MAGIC Spell Studios. The building is being constructed adjacent to the Vignelli Center and is expected to open in fall 2018.

At a stop by the Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, the tour group met briefly with its director, Professor Manuela Campanelli, who shared breaking news about the latest LIGO black hole detection, against the backdrop of a bank of supercomputers and a cut-out of Albert Einstein.

Campanelli also highlighted how the center’s work on the search for gravitational waves is being portrayed through dance, multi-media, sound and computer simulations through Astro Dance. Working with Thomas Warfield, director of dance at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the center team is one of those at the forefront of RIT’s cross-college collaborations that focus on how art, design and technology intersect.

Inauguration ceremony for RIT President Munson

Munson called on RIT to “double down” on infusing more creativity and innovation into higher education during his inaugural remarks. Hundreds of participants came to witness Munson installed as RIT’s 10th president, while hundreds more live streamed the event online.

In his inaugural address, Munson drew on RIT’s past to help create a vision for its future.

“The world has changed mightily and so have we,” Munson said. “The path to major success in business and industry now relies more than ever on creativity and innovation. We must continue to rethink our educational systems, so that we are building a broad, multidisciplinary skill set where creativity is exercised at every turn.”

Munson asked the crowd what kind of education students should receive in order to contribute as a guiding light in the future of society. Citing a 2016 World Economic Forum report, he answered that no matter which discipline a student is passionate about, they “should learn about and gain experience in critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication and other high-level skills.”

Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon served as keynote speaker for the inauguration. Hanlon, who worked closely with Munson at the University of Michigan, touched on Munson’s commitment to breaking down barriers between disciplines and his unwavering support of experiential learning and the arts.

“Dave understands better than anyone that the arts, design, technology and engineering are kindred spirits,” said Hanlon. “That these fields are, at their core, creative enterprises and together offer students a low-barrier entry to the creative process.”

Read more about the inauguration ceremony, along with Munson and Hanlon’s full remarks, online. To learn more about Munson, go to

A photo gallery of the inauguration events can be found on RIT’s Facebook page.

Visitors to campus explored sculptures, galleries and architecture on an Art on Campus walking tour. A. Sue Weisler
RIT students celebrated the inauguration of President Munson with a picnic Sept. 27. A. Sue Weisler
Four successful RIT alumni stopped by campus to share the role that creativity and innovation has played in their careers, in the Alumni Spotlight Symposium. A. Sue Weisler
The best of RIT science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) was on display for visitors to the RIT campus. A. Sue Weisler