Destler offers opening-day glimpse into RIT’s future

A. Sue Weisler

RIT President Bill Destler speaks to the crowd of faculty, staff and students in the Gordon Field House and Activities Center during his address to the campus Aug. 28.

RIT president Bill Destler presented his opening-day remarks to the university community Aug. 28 in the Gordon Field House and Activities Center. He discussed several highlights of the past year, including the success of the first annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, and offered a look into what lies ahead for the university this academic year. Destler’s entire speech can be found at Enrollment—Destler reported that RIT has grown in enrollment to become one of the nation’s 15 largest private universities (undergraduate level) and is now the third largest producer of undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among all private universities. Applications for undergraduate fall admission increased by 15 percent last year to more than 15,000, with nearly all of this increase resulting from increased interest from women, minorities and applicants from outside New York state. Applications to graduate programs grew by 9 percent. Additionally, the percentage of first-year students returning to RIT for their second year increased by 2 percent to 89 percent. “Nevertheless, enhanced student retention and graduation rates must remain a primary focus for RIT if we are to join the ranks of the nation’s finest private universities,” said Destler. Academic Programs—Many new programs in sustainable engineering, philosophy and human-computer interaction were launched this past year, as well as the new Ph.D. program in astrophysical science and technology. Destler noted that a number of new programs are pending approval from New York state. New Initiatives—Destler discussed the newly launched Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT. (see related story on page 3) “As a result, RIT’s activities in the area of sustainable production and manufacturing, in pollution control and prevention, and in the area of renewable energy sources, are now arguably among the strongest such efforts in the world,” he said. Research—Sponsored research activity grew by 20 percent last year to almost $50 million, not including the $60 million from the federal government we received in support of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Also in the area of research, the new Corporate R&D Program at RIT has already generated significant interest and support from industry. Giving to RIT—Private gifts to RIT last year doubled from the previous year to almost $26 million. Construction—RIT completed construction on the first certifiably green building—the new College of Applied Science and Technology Building. Construction has begun on the Administrative Services Building and Student Innovation Center. Plans are also underway for a new building for the School for American Crafts, the Vignelli Design Center, the Global Village housing complex, and a new facility for the Golisano Sustainability Institute. RIT also officially opened RIT Dubai, and Park Point was opened by a private developer. So, according to Destler, what’s next for RIT? ■ Redouble efforts to retain and graduate students from undergraduate programs ■ Expand geographic reach and continue to increase the number of students who apply to RIT programs ■ Establish a faculty teaching-load policy that will allow sufficient time for faculty to engage in research, scholarship and creative work ■ Create a plan to ensure that RIT faculty, staff and students are nominated for the most significant national awards and fellowships “We must begin a more organized effort to tell the world about what is happening at RIT,” added Destler. New this year, the administration will try out an “open administration initiative” in which Destler and the vice presidents will give reports to the campus community on issues such as strategic directions, budgeting, new academic programs, student enrollment, fundraising, facility planning, research programs, diversity efforts, student affairs and community and government relations. “In this manner I hope to keep the RIT community informed of important new initiatives and obtain broader community input before significant decisions are made.”
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