Greatness Through Difference: Preface

Born from the unlikely union of an influential cultural association (the Rochester Athenaeum) and a technical training school (the Mechanics Institute), Rochester Institute of Technology has always been a different kind of educational institution. When most colleges were teaching ancient languages, theology, and the law to the sons of prosperous families, the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute was preparing young men and women for local employment through a combination of technical training and courses in the sciences and fine arts.

Embedded within the unusual circumstances of RIT’s origins was a set of principles that would become the shaping credo of the young institution: the innovative potential of unlikely partnerships—between and among institutions, individuals, and disciplines; the importance of educating students to do as well as to know; and the propulsive power of difference.

This practicality, attention to student needs, and taste for doing things differently would fuel the many early instances of multi-disciplinary integration, cooperation, and risk-taking of the institution’s first 100 years. And they would account for RIT’s 20th-century reputation as an innovative university whose programs, partnerships, and practices were increasingly the first of their kind in higher education.

When the economic, technological, and demographic transformations of the late 20th century threatened to disrupt the largely conservative higher education industry, RIT found itself perfectly positioned to meet these challenges and to address the attendant demands of a public increasingly disenchanted with the traditional model of higher education. As our competitors struggle to recruit and support a very different student demographic, to contain unsupportable tuition hikes, and to provide an education leading to gainful employment, RIT can turn its attention to anticipating and addressing the next set of opportunities.

The strategic plan before you, Greatness Through Difference, provides the design by which we will hone the proven tools of difference, innovation, and student-centeredness and apply them to the next generation of possibilities.

The next 10 years will be treacherous ones for higher education, and not all institutions will survive. But by building upon its talent for distinctiveness and innovation, its record of successful change management, and its visionary approach to education, RIT will emerge from the coming decade as an incontestably great university, fully prepared to supply the new world of 2025 with the graduates, new discoveries, and innovative educational model that it will require.

More on the Strategic Plan:

Greatness Through Difference: Preface
A University of Firsts: The Past
A University of Innovation: The Present
A Responsive University: The Context
The Power of Diversity: The Future
Dimension I: Career Education and Student Success
Dimension II: The Student-Centered Research University
Dimension II: Leveraging Difference
Dimension IV: Affordability, Value, And Return on Investment
Dimension V: Organizational Agility
Already Great and Making a Difference