All posts by Kathy Johncox

Kathy is the editor and writer for Parent News. She is a Communications, Marketing & Multimedia Services Specialist at RIT/NTID.

RIT’s Global Cybersecurity Institute to open in 2020

Rendering of RIT's Cybersecurity Institute

To help make the world a safer place, RIT is creating the Global Cybersecurity Institute (GCI), aimed at meeting the demand for computing security and artificial intelligence professionals, while developing future technologies, protocols and human understanding needed to address the global cybersecurity crisis.

The institute, to be housed in a new, state-of-the art facility, will expand outreach, research, and student-focused programs to help RIT become a nexus of cybersecurity education and research. GCI will bring together academic disciplines—computing, liberal arts, engineering, business and others—to conduct interdisciplinary sociotechnical cybersecurity research. It also will develop industry, government, and academic collaborations, and professional development programs. GCI is expected to open in fall 2020. More.

New School of Information formed at RIT

close up image of a computer keyboard and mouse.

RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) is forming a new School of Information to recognize the changing roles of information professionals. The school aims to bridge the digital divide and make computing solutions available, accessible, usable and suitable for all.

The School of Information is a merger of the GCCIS Department of Information and Sciences Technologies and the Center for Computing Outreach, Research and Education (C-CORE), the GCCIS “computing for all” initiative, started by Dean Anne Haake in 2017.

The new school—which is nicknamed the iSchool — will allow RIT to continue offering degree programs for those studying in the areas of information technology, human-computer interaction, user experience, informatics and more. It also will enhance computing education opportunities for non-computing students from across RIT’s disciplines and for the public.

“Digital literacy is no longer enough — to be competitive we all now need digital competency,” said Steve Zilora, professor and director of the School of Information. “The iSchool will play a large role in developing digital competency, both with RIT’s non-computing students and with the adult public.”

The iSchool offers three undergraduate degrees, three graduate degrees and two advanced certificates, including a bachelor’s degree in web and mobile computing and a master’s degree in human-computer interaction. The school also offers eight minors and immersions for computing students, varying from mobile development to database design and development.

Many degrees are offered online, in addition to on-campus. Zilora said that students earning these degrees are able to create innovative systems and design information solutions that benefit individuals, organizations and society.

“The IST department has always been about applied computing,” said Zilora. “This reorganization gives us the opportunity to not only teach applied computing, but also to practice it.”

By working with C-CORE, the school will offer courses designed to provide any RIT student with the skills necessary to better understand, leverage and visualize their domain data. These courses will provide essential skills in web, databases, programming and data analytics.

The school also will work with C-CORE to begin offering these skills as an immersion — a concentration of three courses in a particular area — for non-computing students at RIT.

GCCIS established C-CORE to bring together projects that can change the way that computer science is introduced and spark an interest in computing for students from all disciplines, backgrounds and ages. Inspired by President Obama’s 2016 Computer Science for All initiative, the center shares in the goal of empowering students to learn computer science and equipping them with the computational thinking skills needed to be creators — not just consumers — in the digital economy. C-CORE is led by Director Paul Tymann.

The school also will introduce an extension program, to reach beyond RIT and provide fee-based training services for local employers, as well as free seminars and webinars for adults in the community. Using programs prepared by RIT faculty and staff, the school aims to help adults build skills and computing technology competency.

“We are excited to continue moving this “computing for all” initiative forward and collaborate across the university to make introductory computing skills a more integral part of what every student learns while at RIT,” said Haake. “The new School of Information has an interdisciplinary focus that is going to benefit our students and the broader community.”

For more information about the School of Information, go to rit.edu/iSchool or contact the school at 585-475-2700.

RIT opens its doors for the most academically qualified freshman class

two light-skinned females in

Thomas Hargrave Jr. drove to Rochester last night from his home in Corning, N.Y., so his daughter, Megan Hargrave, an environmental sciences major at Rochester Institute of Technology, could move into her residence hall at 7 a.m. today.

“I hope she does all right,” the proud father said. “She’s never been away from home before other than two or three days. But she’s ready.”

More than 4,300 first-year, transfer and graduate students were expected and were greeted by more than 200 RIT student orientation leaders who helped families unload cars, put belongings in carts and wheel them to their rooms.

“We’re all about helping new RIT Tigers and their families,” said Eric Pope, associate director for New Student Orientation at a morning pep rally just prior to move-in. “You’re going to show students what it means to be an RIT Tiger.”

The freshmen are the most academically qualified class RIT has had, with an average SAT score exceeding 1300 for the second year in a row. Fifty-one students had a perfect SAT score, and 52 of the undergraduates ranked first in their high school graduating class.

The undergraduates are coming from 47 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and 42 countries.

New graduate students are coming from 52 countries – the most outside the U.S. coming from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Taiwan.

A record number of incoming Ph.D. students – 90 of them – were also expected this year.

RIT/NTID, World Federation of the Deaf sign formal cooperation agreement

Three light skinned males stand holding formal agreement papers and smiling.

Representatives from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the World Federation of the Deaf have signed a formal cooperation agreement as a way to continue and strengthen the relationship between the world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and the global deaf rights organization. The signing, led by RIT/NTID President Gerry Buckley and WFD President Joseph Murray, took place at the 18th World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf held earlier this month in Paris. 

Details of the agreement include:

  • Cooperation and collaboration regarding opportunities contributing to shared values, such as providing leadership and advocacy to deaf communities.
  • Assisting in making connections and building relationships with national deaf associations for mutual grant opportunities.
  • Exchanging information and best practices related to approaches in training and empowerment.
  • Promoting the human rights of deaf people within the framework of the United Nations Human Rights system, paying particular attention to the UN Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Affirming commitments to full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by all UN member states. Both organizations note the importance of the implementation of the articles dealing with sign languages and professional sign language interpreters.
  • Commitment to sharing new research discoveries published by RIT/NTID faculty with WFD for broad dissemination, including research on sign language interpreting and pedagogy, access technologies and employment.

“We are honored to be entering into this cooperation agreement with our friends from WFD, who tirelessly work to improve the lives of people who are deaf throughout the world,” said Buckley. “We take this commitment seriously and look forward to strengthening our relationship as time goes on.”

RIT named among the nation’s ‘Best 385 Colleges’

Students on lawn throwing colorful powder in the air.

The Princeton Review features RIT in the just-published 2020 edition of its annual book The Best 385 Colleges, giving RIT high marks for diversity and campus life in addition to having rigorous academics and helpful professors. Students cited RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as “providing amazing accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who attend the university, including notetaking, interpreters and CPrint technology.” They also praised RIT campus life, calling it “a culture for everybody,” with a wide array of clubs, activities and organizations “where students are able to create what their minds generate.” More.

RIT/NTID students honored for excellence in business studies

Three male students two light skinned and one dark skinned smiling and holding certificates in their hands.

Three deaf and hard-of-hearing students in business-related majors at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf received a new scholarship funded by the Frank B. Sullivan Memorial Foundation.

The recipients are Jacob Schwall, a new media marketing major from Fishers, Indiana.; Peter Bilzerian, a management information systems/finance major from Holden, Massachusetts; and Bakar Ali, an MBA student from Rochester, New York.

The foundation contributed $50,000 to an endowed fund in 2018 that provides scholarship support to RIT/NTID students enrolled in an associate-level degree program offered through NTID’s Business Studies Department, and baccalaureate and master’s programs offered through RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business. The endowed fund also provides general support for the Deaf Leadership and Community Development program, a future bachelor’s degree program that will be offered through NTID’s Department of Liberal Studies. Prior to the creation of the endowed fund, the foundation awarded 19 deaf and hard-of-hearing students pursuing business degrees, ranging from associate to graduate levels, through NTID’s Business Studies Department and RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this prestigious award from the Frank B. Sullivan Memorial Foundation,” said Bilzerian. “The foundation’s generosity and support is truly appreciated. It’s gratifying knowing that our deaf and hard-of-hearing business students not only have support from RIT, but also the generous supporters of NTID. Dr. Sullivan’s legacy lives on through the impact the recipients make on the world.”

Sullivan, a member of NTID’s National Advisory Group and the National Captioning Institute, among other organizations, worked to provide access to life, automobile and other types of insurance to the Deaf community and was an advocate for deaf people’s ability to live independently, drive and to have closed-caption programming on television.

“For generations to come, this scholarship will help change the lives of those who will benefit from it,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “We are grateful to the Frank B. Sullivan Memorial Foundation for this generous gift.” 

RIT/NTID hosts conference on literary and artistic works about deaf experiences, Nov. 6-9

Graphic of black hands with multicolored ribbons coming from them.

Scholars, students, deaf cultural studies and sign language teachers, artists, playwrights, filmmakers, poets, writers and historians will make their way to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Nov. 6-9 for an international conference focusing on examining literary and artistic works about deaf experiences.

The ARTiculating Deaf Experiences Conference will feature exhibits at RIT/NTID’s Joseph F. and Helen C. Dyer Arts Center and Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, as well as sign-language literature performances, a play production, presentations, short panel discussions, a banquet, and deaf artist vendors and company exhibitors.

Keynote presenters are French anthropologist and performer Olivier Schetrit, teacher and deaf learning specialist Kristi Merriweather, and Brazilian poet Fernanda de Araugo Machado.

Schetrit is a postdoctoral researcher at CEMS-CNRS-EHESS, a leading research center in Paris, France, known for the development of conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools for sociological analysis. Deaf from birth, he is a stylist and actor by training and part of the professional troupe International Visual Theater, the only theater for the deaf in Paris. He is also a pedagogue, director and professional storyteller. His talk is titled, “IVT: The Art of Emancipation Contribution to a History of Deaf Art: a selection of contemporary cases.”

Merriweather, an educator and deaf learning specialist, has been deaf since age 2. Her poems have been published in Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology. She is a co-founding member of Atlanta Tribe of Deaf A.C.E. (DeafBlack Americans Committed to Empowerhood) and has established a national youth program for BlackDeaf teenagers for National Black Deaf Advocates. Her talk, “Do It For the Culture: A Critical Look into the Evolving BlackDeaf Expressions in Written English,” highlights certain synthesized cultural features in BlackDeaf world art/literature and their potential impact in the multifaceted deaf world.

Fernanda de Araugo Machado is a professor and researcher at the Federal University of Santa Catarina. She holds degrees in arts education, languages and translation studies. She is part of the Libras Corpus Research Group and a member of the National Council for Scientifics and Technological Development Research Group Directory. She also coordinated the Brazilian Folklore Surda Art Festival. She will be speaking about the “Anthology of Poetics in Brazilian Sign Language.

“All cultures create works to represent who they are. Deaf culture is no exception,” said Patti Durr, associate professor at NTID and conference co-organizer. “A conference of this nature will hopefully inspire cross-pollination of different genres and themes. In the early 1990s, NTID hosted two major ASL literature conferences and, to this day, people continue to comment on them and ask for more. With 2019 being the 30th anniversary of De’VIA, a genre of visual art that represents the deaf experience and Deaf culture, and the 10th anniversary of Surdism, an international movement to bring about social justice for deaf people via artistic and literary expressions, NTID is the perfect location to host this important academic conference.”

Early registration is $200 and runs through Sept. 14, with a discount for students. For more information and to see the complete schedule, go to https://www.rit.edu/ntid/adeccon/.  

Living and breathing science: Becoming a biologist

Alicia Wooten, a young woman with dark hair in a lab coat, smiles up at the camera.

“I always had an interest in how the body protects itself,” says Alicia Wooten, ’11. “The thing I love about immunology is that it is always evolving.”

Wooten, who hails from San Antonio, TX, and graduated from RIT’s College of Science with a B.S. in biomedical sciences in 2011, successfully defended her dissertation at Boston University in early June.

Her research focused on Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia, and how a specific molecule, called cyclic di-AMP, affects the way white blood cells respond to the infection. This fits Wooten’s interests in a specific way.

“Every person, every organ, every disease—immunology works the same, yet different. It’s like a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces together, and I really enjoy that,” says Wooten.

Wooten’s interest in lung-based research was sparked by the loss of her mother to lung cancer while Wooten was attending RIT, and was spurred further by mentors who encouraged her to continue working.

“My research mentor, Dr. Hyla Sweet—without her, I never would have gained experience of what lab life looks like,” says Wooten. “Carla Deibel and Dr. Matt Lynn were also integral to my success at RIT, and their tutoring support really helped me.”

The infrastructure of academic support available to deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT/NTID benefited Wooten as she took advantage of RIT’s academic offerings.

“I’ll never forget taking tissue culture and microbiology courses,” she adds. “I still talk about Dr. Thomas Frederick’s microbiology lab to this day. His energy and passion—that is the type of teacher I want to be. I also enjoyed Dr. Sandra Connelly’s general biology course and how she made the information easy and interesting.”

Wooten takes the examples of her RIT professors and NTID support staff and faculty with her as she embarks on the next step of her journey, as a newly-hired tenure-track assistant professor of biology at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Wooten admits that she only reached this point in her post-college career after some searching. “I ended up taking a gap year to figure things out,” she says. “During that time, I tutored K-12 students. I realized how much I missed doing science and also recognized how much I liked teaching.”

Starting at that realization and ending with a complete dissertation took time and effort, according to Wooten. “My advice is: Set your goals high. I always wanted to do something I was proud of and so I always kept improving myself. I never stopped reaching and I didn’t give up.”

Wooten followed her own advice. “One of my favorite stories that I like to tell people is how I got into graduate school. It actually took three years. During my senior year at RIT, one professor encouraged me to apply to graduate school. I decided to apply to one school and see what happened. I got rejected.”

After some time and more applications, she came to feel that graduate school might not be a good fit for her, but chose not to stop there.

Instead, Wooten enrolled in the University of Rochester’s PREP post-baccalaureate program, which aims to support students from underrepresented groups with recent degrees in biomedical-related fields in developing the skills needed to continue their academic career.

“After all of the feedback and changes [in PREP], I went all out and applied to eight schools. I got interviews at six, and was accepted at all six,” says Wooten.

“If you want something badly enough, keep fighting for it.”