President Munson’s Address to the RIT Community

President David Munson addressed the RIT community on Aug. 24 in the Gordon Field House. The full text of his speech is below:

Thank you Provost Granberg. And welcome to RIT!

Ellen officially joined us this week and she is quickly changing her tiger stripes from Clemson to RIT. We are so happy that you joined the RIT family and I look forward to working with you in your capacity as RIT’s new provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Let’s give another warm welcome to our new provost.

Let me also thank Heidi, Cathy, Bobby and Keith for your infectious passion and dedication to RIT. With your leadership, we are well positioned for another exciting academic year!

I also would like to take this time to thank Chris Licata for her leadership in serving as interim provost this summer. Chris now begins her new duties as vice provost, which include leading our co-op and career services office.

Let’s also welcome some other new leaders:

  • Our new Vice President for Enrollment Management — Ian Mortimer. Ian previously served as vice president for enrollment and student experience at Nazareth College, and prior to that led enrollment at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He also holds an MBA from our Saunders College of Business, so this will ensure we will hit enrollment targets for years to come!
  • Our new ombudsperson — Joe Johnston. Joe previously served as Director of RIT’s Center for Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution and is a natural fit to provide conflict resolution resources to RIT students, faculty, and staff in leading the Ombuds Office.

Chris, Ian, Joe: If you could please stand and be recognized.

One year ago, at this time, I was the RIT rookie. Nancy and I can’t thank you all enough for the warm embrace you gave to us both in our transition to the university and the Rochester community. We feel so at home, so thank you again.

RIT continues to amaze me with all the great things happening … all the time. Let me recap some news and announcements from just this past summer:

  • Alumnus David Wallace became the ninth RIT graduate to win a Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism. Collectively, our alumni have now won 13 Pulitzer Prizes!
  • Santosh Kurinec, professor of microelectronic engineering in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame for her breakthrough work in photovoltaics.
  • Alumnus Bruce Smith, professor and director of RIT’s microsystems engineering program, was named “Inventor of the Year” by the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association.
  • The RIT Baja team won the 2018 North American Series Championship, besting Michigan, Cornell and a host of others.
  • Alumna Lauren Peace won a prestigious Fulbright fellowship in journalism for the 2018-19 academic year, where she will conduct a journalistic research project in Kosovo.
  • NTID celebrated its 50th anniversary with 3,600 attendees. Congratulations to NTID President Gerry Buckley and his team for a great event and reunion for this milestone year.

Another major announcement over the summer occurred when we publicly launched our $1 billion blended campaign, the largest fundraising effort in the university’s history.

“Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” will allow us to build upon our updated strategic plan, engage alumni, grow our status as a national research university and build deeper relationships with our government and corporate partners. The Transforming RIT campaign is unique because it is blended—meaning we are seeking support from a variety of investors, including alumni and friends, government and corporate partners, and research foundations and agencies. Led by Vice Presidents Lisa Cauda, Ryne Raffaelle and Debbie Stendardi, this will impact every corner of the university.

We have raised more than $530 million to date, and we are focused on raising funds to support four priorities:

  • Attracting Exceptional Talent: This includes increased undergraduate and masters scholarship opportunities, Ph.D. fellowships, new endowed professorships, and a strong focus on diversity.
  • Enhancing the Student Experience: We seek to broaden opportunities for experiential learning for students, including building innovative maker and learning facilities and greatly strengthening our performing arts programs.
  • Improving the World through Research and Discovery by promoting interdisciplinary research centers, expanding and enhancing fundamental and corporate research activities and improving facilities.
  • Leading Future Special Initiatives: Here, funding will go toward building academic programs and growing endowment support. And with increased unrestricted support, we will have further financial flexibility to meet our strategic needs.

We will be drawing on our individual gifts and harnessing the genius of the RIT community with everything we have. By working together, we can ensure that RIT remains a leader in reimagining the future. We’re driving progress, we’re shaping what’s possible, we’re transforming the future, by transforming RIT. We ask that everyone join us in this effort. Your engagement with alumni, increased research contract work, and collaboration with industry all support this monumental initiative.  I thank each of you in advance for your help in Transforming RIT!

Let me share with you this video, which premiered at our special evening of arts, technology and entertainment when we officially launched the campaign in July.

Indeed, this is “our time!” Whenever we combine the power of technology, the arts and design to make good things happen, we’re one step further along the path to greatness.

Now let me bring you up to date on the revised 2025 Strategic Plan — Greatness Through Difference. As you likely know, we have been working with the Board of Trustees and the three RIT shared-governance groups to streamline the 2015 plan. We initially reduced the number of goals from 121 to 44 to provide more focus and clarity. We now are expecting to further reduce the number of goals, by eliminating those that already have been accomplished and combining others. The Board of Trustees will vote on the final revised plan at their November meeting, which will give us time to further engage with RIT’s three governance groups. I wish to thank Vice President Kit Mayberry for her hard work on the revision process. I should note that it is customary for incoming RIT presidents to re-shape existing strategic plans, incorporating some of their aspirations for the university. The revised plan contains goals reflecting our collective strategic vision while preserving critical dimensions of President Destler’s 2015 plan—including student success and diversity.

 From a high-level view, here are some highlights:

  • First, the vision statement. Indulge me as I read this aloud: “We shape the future and improve the world through creativity and innovation. As an engaged, intellectually curious, and socially conscious community, we leverage the power of technology, the arts, and design for the greater good.”
  • We want to focus on creativity and innovation in all fields, and working for the greater good. I should add that we wish to be a top-50 university, but unlike any other top-50 university.
  • Let me address the four pillars of the plan:
    • Dimension One — People: Building a Creative and Diverse Community. The credit for the RIT difference belongs to its people, including everyone in this audience. We will attract and support an extraordinary mix of increasingly creative multi-talented students, faculty and staff, and we will continue to diversify all segments of our community.
    • Dimension Two —  Programs: Fostering and Exercising Creativity.  RIT’s students constantly seek new ways of thinking, doing, and making. We will serve the aspirations of our students by integrating our core strengths in technology, the arts and design, and continuing to grow programs in all forms of experiential learning.  We will supplement our interdisciplinary doctoral portfolio with key disciplinary programs, and increase and diversify our research and scholarship overall.  To support the revised plan, we will enhance our efforts in providing stable finances, management of risk, efficient operations, organizational agility, and garnering of outside support.
    • Dimension Three — Places: Facilitating our Creative Community. To attract the most talented and creative people, we must provide a welcoming physical environment that is conducive to the connecting, making, and imagining that will define their RIT experience. Anticipated new and renovated facilities to support the centrality of creativity, design, learning, and making, include: an integrated SAU/Center for Immersive Learning and Making/Wallace Library, a performing arts center, and outdoor interactive installations embodying art/technology integration. Anticipated new and renovated facilities to support research and graduate students include: A B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences cybersecurity addition, conversion of some classrooms to research and graduate student office space, and an engineering and science research laboratory building.
    • Dimension four — Partnerships: Extending our Reach and Serving the World.  RIT has a long history of successful partnerships. We will remain committed to the enrichment of our local community, continue our close relationship with New York State, and search for promising new partners at the national and global levels. Overseas partners will increasingly afford enriching experiences for our students and faculty, and will become a source of talented undergraduate and graduate students for the RIT home campus.

This strategic plan marks a significant enlargement in scope of our career education mission. We do a better job at preparing our students for jobs and careers than almost anyone. But today the world needs more than people with a career … It needs people educated to navigate the complexities and mitigate the threats that surround us. It needs people who understand how to innovate. And with this revised strategic plan, we are emphasizing a “new education” that reflects our concern for the future of the planet as well as for the future of our students. The world needs border-crossing, collaborative, and original thinkers and doers with deep commitments to the welfare of humanity. The world needs innovators, and few universities are better positioned than RIT to provide innovation education, including innovation for the public good.

I am convinced that pivotal innovation is possible in a host of disciplines through a thorough grounding in technology, the arts, and design. Regardless of their major, I hope that all our students will experience how leveraging this innovation matrix extends the reach and transformative possibilities of their chosen disciplines. Indeed, the revised strategic plan calls for us to place all our programs—including those in the life, physical, and health sciences, in business, and in the liberal arts—in closer contact with an integrated triad of technology, the arts, and design. 

There is no university better equipped to realize this vision. RIT has tremendous capital in all the right places—in its diverse and variously talented people, its deep and unique program portfolio, its defining commitment to students, and its socially responsible culture.

Let me now touch on a few reminders, updates and great news to start off the academic year:

First, on a serious note: RIT has an obligation to review its policies and processes related to sexual discrimination, harassment, and intimate relationships. RIT prohibits discrimination and harassment on campus or at any RIT activity off campus, by its administrators, faculty, staff, students, student organizations, as well as external organizations and individuals in their operation with the university. We will be working with governance groups this fall to make small improvements in policies for both students and employees. Title IX violations are taken very seriously at RIT.  We are committed to investigating complaints of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, and to ensure that appropriate action is taken to stop the behavior, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.

Regarding intimate relationships, we have a policy already in place, but it was designed years ago and is not sufficiently strong. Working over the summer, the campus administration, with the leadership of our Office of Legal Affairs, drafted a revised, interim policy, that was approved by the Board of Trustees Executive Committee earlier this month. In conducting this work, we looked at intimate relationship policies at nearly two dozen universities and a number of corporations. The most notable change to the RIT policy is that intimate relationships between faculty and undergraduates, and staff and undergraduates, will be prohibited, with only very limited exceptions that must be disclosed and approved by HR. Early this semester, we will be looking for feedback from all three shared-governance groups as we work to finalize a permanent policy.

What’s in a name? You will have noticed that two of our colleges have changed their names to better reflect their academic missions and opportunities for students. College of Art and Design is the new name for what was the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences; College of Engineering Technology replaces the College of Applied Science and Technology. The new names will allow us to better brand the educational opportunities those colleges offer, so we can continue to attract the finest students.  And, we will eliminate the confusion caused by having so many colleges with the word “science” in their names.

Enrollment highlights:

  • What a tremendous week of Orientation and new student convocation! It is absolutely vital that our new students get off to a healthy start as they make major adjustment to their new surroundings. Thank you to all involved!
  • This semester, RIT will exceed 19,000 students for the first time in our history. That’s a lot of Tigers.
  • This is also the most academically qualified freshman class — and one of our largest — in our history, with SAT scores expected to exceed 1300.
  • New undergraduate students hail from 46 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and represent 43 countries. The greatest international representation in order are: China, India, and Canada.
  • We are also welcoming 500 transfer students.
  • Approximately 1,000 new graduate students have arrived from 51 nations. The top 5 countries are: India, China, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Canada.
  • 56 new Tigers had perfect SAT math scores; 6 had perfect ACT scores.
  • 53 new Tigers were No. 1 in their high school graduating class.
  • The incoming class includes 12 Fulbright Scholars and 67 new Ph.D. students working on doctoral degrees.
  • We continue to make strides in research while experiencing our best year ever of sponsored research. This includes:
  •  A record $78 million in sponsored research funding.
  • We received 340 new awards and had a record 333 principal investigators associated with active research awards.
  • Among the funding sources, New York State provided a record $30.6 million, up from $17 million the previous fiscal year, and $11.2 million came from corporate and private sources, up from $7.1 million the previous year.
  • Also, noteworthy: Jing Zhang, assistant professor in the electrical and microelectronic engineering department in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, received a Career Award from the National Science Foundation. The prestigious Career Awards are offered to support faculty who are early in their careers and exemplify the role of teacher-scholars. Jing’s award of $500,000 will fund her work developing new highly efficient ultraviolet light sources. Congratulations to Jing!

Government relations highlights:

  • We are being awarded $5 million from the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program (HECAP) for construction of our future Global Cybersecurity Institute at the B. Thomas College of Computing and Information Sciences. This exciting grant, however, requires a three-to-one match, or $15 million.  Our development office and cybersecurity leadership are working together to secure these funds by summer 2020.
  • We also recently received notice of a $19.5 million award for a 5-year renewal for the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at Golisano Institute for Sustainability.

RIT marketing and the brand rollout: A brand is a summary of what people think about you when you are not in the room. It’s an enduring impression of an organization’s unique identity and value proposition.  It answers a fundamental question: Who and what is RIT? Having an identifiable brand will help distinguish our university from others, in the minds of prospective students and parents, colleagues at other universities, funding agencies, government officials, and the general population.  Vice President John Trierweiler and the team in Marketing and Communications have been hard at work constructing a unified RIT story that we can collectively share with the rest of the world.  This work began with rigorous research across our target audiences.  Through the knowledge gained, we have aligned and informed our evolved brand message and creative platform to couple with RIT’s vision and mission, strategic plan, and blended campaign. Our brand will focus on creative community and innovation in every discipline, with a dose of adventure and excitement. The brand will be brought to life through a smart and compelling look and feel that can be leveraged for marketing plans, campaigns and initiatives. All of the behind-the-scenes work brings us to our launch. Please mark the date Thursday, Sept. 27, when we will have a special kick-off event in the Fireside Lounge to begin RIT’s internal brand rollout. Keep an eye out for banners and bus wraps and more as we bring the brand to life on campus. In January, we also plan to launch our first-ever national reputation campaign, utilizing various media to get the RIT story out to key audiences across the country and beyond. At the same time, we will be launching the new and holistic website. Stay tuned for more details and please remember: You are all brand champions – now we just need you to show it, shout it, and share it!

Celebrating 50 years at the Henrietta Campus: This year we are celebrating 50 years on this 1,300-acre flourishing campus. The move from downtown to Henrietta farmland was a bold one for President Mark Ellingson and the entire campus community in 1968. Please join us as we celebrate this milestone with activities and events throughout the academic year. This includes a rededication of the Henrietta campus, as well as special events and tours at the old campus downtown, during Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend, Oct. 19-21.

Opening the Lobozzo Alumni House: Alumni returning to campus for the 50th anniversary will be greeted with a new facility built just for them.  Thanks to the gifts of more than 1,500 alumni, many of whom are also staff or faculty, we have constructed the first building dedicated to our 125,000 alumni.  The Lobozzo Alumni House is located on the far west side of campus, just past the Red Barn, and will soon be available to host alumni events, department meetings, cocktail receptions, retreats, and social events.  I hope that you will make it a point to stop by the Lobozzo Alumni House to see how you might use this wonderful new space for your special functions.

Dedicating MAGIC: For the past year and half, you have seen the construction at the front end of the campus: MAGIC Spell Studios — what a magnificent facility. Please save the date for a planned Oct. 30 dedication.  The new building features a 7,000 square foot state-of-the-art sound stage, high-tech theater with a projection booth and a cinema-quality audiovisual system, sound mixing and color correction facilities, numerous labs and other production facilities. All of this will help support RIT’s designation as a New York State Digital Gaming Hub, and an innovation zone that mixes faculty, staff, students, technology and infrastructure across programs from the School of Film and Animation, the School of Interactive Games and Media, and the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity. MAGIC has been developing and publishing digital media, such as games, apps, films, art installations and interactives since 2013, creating a collaborative, university-wide enterprise that ties together entrepreneurship, academics, content creation, production and distribution. The building and initiative are made possible through funding from New York State, Cisco, Dell, the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation, among others. This perfectly illustrates what we mean by blended campaign, with support from the state, corporate partners and a foundation. I can’t wait for all of you to tour this signature building on Oct. 30.

Is this enough to keep us all busy? As you can see, we all have a lot on our plates this coming year. We definitely have plenty of work in front of us, but it will be invigorating and I promise that, as always, we will have some fun along the way. I look forward to working with everyone in this room — and those watching the livestream from distant locations — as this global university continues to make its mark on the world. Because at RIT, we’re always on to something amazing!

Thank you all and go Tigers!