Category Archives: Academics

No longer lost in translation: Videos depicting complex scientific concepts break barriers for deaf STEM students

On the left, a light skinned male in suit and tie, at right a light skinned female with long red hair in black sleeveless dress

Research has revealed that people who learn English as a second language, including deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, are underrepresented in STEM fields because of academic language abilities required to compete in those disciplines. A new project at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is helping to break down those obstacles specifically for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Researchers at RIT/NTID will create and test a solution that addresses the academic language barrier in physics by producing a comprehensive series of short, conceptually accurate, signed videos, each of which is focused on a singular physics concept. As part of this process, the team will vet and share conceptually accurate signs for technical vocabulary. The project is funded by a $295,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

“Participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM fields is limited due to the presence of significant academic language barriers,” confirmed principal investigator Jason Nordhaus, a theoretical astrophysicist and assistant professor at RIT/NTID. “In the college classroom, American Sign Language interpreters must choose the correct signs to indicate meaning of the concept being taught. At the same time, most interpreter training is focused on acquiring American Sign Language. It is rare for interpreters to be an expert in the language and STEM concepts. However, being experts in both is necessary to properly translate. Compounding the issue is a lack of conceptually accurate technical signs in STEM disciplines. Quite literally, information is lost in translation.”

Conceptual understanding will first be measured in RIT physics classrooms and then at two external partner universities. The result of the project will be a sustainable online repository where the videos are freely accessible and will be shared with national interpreting organizations and universities that have interpreter training programs.

“It is our hope that this project results in a template that can be repeated for any discipline, thereby permanently eliminating the academic language barrier and increasing deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals’ engagement in STEM disciplines,” said co-investigator Jessica Trussell, assistant professor in the Master of Science in Secondary Education for Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing teacher preparation program at RIT/NTID.

Nordhaus is committed to increasing the participation of deaf individuals in physics and routinely involves deaf students in research work, including 11 undergraduate students and one doctoral student, thus far. He serves on, and is a founding member of, the executive committee for the American Astronomical Society’s Working Group on Accessibility and Disability.

Trussell, a member of RIT/NTID’s Center for Education Research Partnerships, has 12 years of experience teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing students from preschool age to adulthood. Her goal is to grow the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing people entering STEM fields by enhancing their discipline-based reading and writing skills.

RIT/NTID student Bobby Moakley and RIT’s James Myers to receive this year’s Alfred Davis awards

On left, a younger light-skinned male with brown hair and beard, on right an older light-skinned male with brown hair.

A graduating RIT/NTID student leader who has been engaged in public service, student government and environmental stewardship has been named a winner in this year’s Alfred L. Davis Distinguished Public Service Awards. Bobby Moakley, of Boston, a fourth-year environmental science major and graduate student in science, technology and public policy, will receive the 2019 Bruce R. James Award.

The awards will be given at a public ceremony at 4 p.m. Wednesday in University Gallery in Booth Hall.

Moakley, who serves as president of RIT Student Government, has been an avid participant in leadership and community service projects. Last month he participated in RIT’s Alternative Spring Break, traveling to Florida, where his group did disaster relief from Hurricane Michael and helped with coastline reparations.

Kaitlin Stack Whitney, visiting assistant professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, submitted a nomination for Moakley, saying he used project opportunities in her class “to learn more about Rochester’s environment and human communities. He is a thoughtful and engaged student who wants to learn more about the world around him and seizes those opportunities. This work connects to his goals as a student and future professional – he works at the intersection of environmental and social justice issues.”

Moakley also has been a pioneering member of Into the ROC, an RIT program that connects students with city communities, learning experiences and service opportunities.

“Bobby is motivated by what connects people and changes the world,” Stack Whitney said. “He does so much community service to and for RIT because he’s committed to the campus people and to making this the best campus experience for everyone, not just himself. He clearly enjoys getting to think and do with so many people around campus—students, faculty, staff and administrators. Being a collaborator and succeeding at it, as a true peer—with those diverse teams helps remind him that he can do anything once he graduates.”

David Bagley, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said Moakley, as Student Government president, “has already tackled several campus issues and has created a collaborative culture and positive environment. His personal experiences and passion for the Rochester area have greatly impacted his endeavors as an agent of public service. He truly understands the importance of public service and constantly identifies avenues/platforms to promote and assist others along his journey.”

He said Moakley’s passion for helping others and his natural abilities as an influencer “positively encourage other students to engage in public service. … I hold Bobby in the highest regard as he is always a role model to others in our community and exemplifies what a great student leader should be. We are lucky to have Bobby on our campus. He continues to be a strong voice and a positive change agent.

“It’s such an honor to receive this award and to be recognized for some of my public services,” Moakley said. “It further encourages me to continue serving the community and contributing my skills to those in need.”

Moakley will donate the $1,000 he earns from the award to the Ibero-American Development Corporation, which renovates and manages buildings and affordable homes in Rochester. He spent last summer working for them as an urban fellow.

Also receiving an award is a dedicated Rochester Institute of Technology administrator who helped expand RIT’s global presence as well as being an active community volunteer locally and in Haiti. James Myers, associate provost for International Education and Global Programs, will receive the 2019 Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award. Myers joined RIT in 1988 as an instructor in the School of Food, Hotel and Travel Management. He left RIT to obtain his doctorate in natural resource economics, and returned in 1999, when he became the first academic associate dean of RIT’s American College of Management and Technology in Croatia, and later professor and director of the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies. He currently is associate provost of International Education and Global Programs.

Myers has been an active community volunteer for more than 30 years. He is chairman of the board of directors for Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa (H.O.P.E.), a nonprofit organization that supports health, sanitation and economic development in a rural community in northern Haiti.

He also has been an active member in a marathon training program for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Western New York.

“Jim is widely recognized and highly respected across all of RIT’s campuses,” said International Student Services Director Jeffrey Cox in one of the nominations for the award. “Jim does not engage in any of these efforts for personal recognition or advancement, but is a true believer in trying to make the world a better place. He has a very big heart, but also applies a sharp intellect and creative and highly collaborative approaches to bringing about concrete solutions to vexing social issues – particularly in areas of the globe that are struggling to recover from war or natural disaster.”

Myers said winning the award is “humbling. I was honored to be nominated. I never imagined I’d ever receive it. I do this work because I love it, and the work itself is the reward I receive. That is why I do it.”

He also credits RIT for being “so supportive and generous for recognizing community service work.”

Myers will receive $2,500 as part of the award. He plans to give $2,000 of it to HOPE, and split the remainder between the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Cancer Wellness Center.

About the awards:

  • The Bruce R. James ’64 Award was named after James, chair emeritus of the RIT Board of Trustees. The award recognizes a student for exemplary public service within RIT and/or the wider Rochester community. Its purpose is to highlight one of RIT’s own hidden heroes while also encouraging other students to engage in public service.
  • The Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award Fund was created by Alfred L. Davis on the occasion of the 65th year of his association with RIT, to commemorate the dedication of the four RIT presidents with whom he worked, in their service to the Rochester community. The purpose of this award is to honor the four presidents, Mark Ellingson, Paul Miller, M. Richard Rose, and Albert Simone, with whom Mr. Davis served at RIT, and to recognize a current member of the faculty or staff who, through his/her public service, mirrors the lives of the four presidents, who have been not only outstanding professionals but also caring members of the community. Davis died in 2008.

RIT and SUNY Upstate Medical University create pipeline to medical school

medical setting with dark-skinned female, light skinned female and male looking at an anatomy textbook.

Rochester Institute of Technology and the State University of New York Upstate Medical University are offering a bridge program that guarantees qualified RIT undergraduates admission to the Upstate Doctor of Allopathic Medicine program.

Students applying to RIT can request to be considered for the RIT-Accelerated Scholars Program with Upstate Medical University. This new pathway to a traditional allopathic medical school education for prospective undergraduates from the United States could be an option for students as early as the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Accelerated Scholars Program is designed to mentor a diverse group of qualified students for careers as medical doctors, and will accept five students per year. Upstate will reserve a place for the RIT graduates to matriculate following the completion of their four-year bachelor’s degree. The Accelerated Scholars Program waives the Medical College Admission Test requirement for admission into Upstate Medical University College of Medicine, also known as SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse.

The number of medical school applicants from RIT increased when RIT solidified its health brand in 2008 with the RIT & Rochester Regional Health Alliance and with the opening of the College of Health Sciences and Technology in 2011.

“Offering the option of direct entry to medical school gives RIT students an edge,” said Dr. Daniel Ornt, vice president and dean of the Institute/College of Health Sciences and Technology.

“The competition for medical school is stiff. There are nearly 53,000 applicants and fewer than 22,000 available spots. The RIT and SUNY Upstate collaborative removes the stress of the application process.”

The Accelerated Scholars Program places a priority on cultivating students with broad interests to become future physicians. While participating students must satisfy the general science requirement for medical school and maintain a 3.5 grade point average each semester, they are encouraged to sample and explore different disciplines during their undergraduate education, Ornt said.

“The RIT and SUNY Upstate partnership creates a pipeline for educating well-rounded medical doctors to help offset the future physician shortage as the baby boomers retire,” Dr. Ornt said.

Participating RIT undergraduates will be offered summer programming with Upstate based on the Association of American Medical College’s medical student competencies, including ethical reasoning, effective communication, critical thinking, cultural competence and other topics, according to Krystal Ripa, director of Special Admissions Programs at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

“During these summers, RIT students will also get an opportunity to build community with other students accepted to Upstate who are expected to matriculate together,” Ripa said.

Ian Mortimer, RIT vice president for enrollment management, said the RIT-Accelerated Scholars Program is the university’s first relationship with an allopathic medical school for RIT students.

“RIT is a great choice for future health care leaders,” Mortimer said. “RIT students gain a forward-thinking perspective that places them in some of the best medical schools and Ph.D. programs nationally. The direct-entry medical school option with SUNY Upstate Medical School reflects the high-caliber of an RIT education.”

Winners announced for RIT/NTID Next Big Idea entrepreneurship competition

Five males, two in suits and three in t-shirts, with one holding an oversized check, are smiling at the camera.

Five teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf went head-to-head March 28 during The Next Big Idea business competition. DiwaTech, an interface design solution to improve video game accessibility, took home the $5,000 first prize.

Judges from the competition’s sponsor, ZVRS, a video-relay service headquartered in Clearwater, Fla., reviewed projects of the team finalists, asked questions and selected first-, second- and third-place winners.

First place: DiwaTech (Daniel Cox, a human centered computing major from Rochester, N.Y.; Chad Cummings, a human centered computing major from West Henrietta, N.Y.; and Anthony DiGiovanni, a web and mobile computing major from Rochester, N.Y.): By applying a user interface design solution, along with new technologies such as voice recognition, to operating systems, DiwaTech is creating a new software product that allows visualized sound data to represent audio output for video games. According to the team’s submission, “Our vision is to bring accessibility awareness to the video game industry and to develop accessibility standards for video games. We believe this will benefit deaf gamers worldwide.”

Second place: Thinking Hands (Karina Baker, a sociology and anthropology major from Culver City, Calif; Moises Tobias, a design and imaging technology major from West Henrietta, N.Y.; Alina Kenina, an exercise science major from Clarksburg, Md.; and Gabriel Veit, a new media/industrial design major from Austin, Texas): Thinking Hands is an online educational platform that aims to provide academic support for deaf and hard-of-hearing students through the development of interactive educational videos taught in American Sign Language. Thinking Hands took home the $3,000 second prize.

Third place: Halbeg (Bakar Ali, an MBA student from Somalia; Tyler Anderson, a journalism major from Las Vegas; and Eric Epstein, a software engineering major from Tucson, Ariz.): Halbeg Technologies makes all-in-one private networking platforms for businesses that want to improve interaction within communities. It offers a simple way for members within communities to share resources such as posting requests, offering jobs, trading or bartering goods, carpooling or ridesharing, and chatting about community issues, in one platform. Team members said, “Our ‘all-in-one’ platforms make it easier for locals to interact and participate in a shared economy, improving the overall sustainability of the local business community.” Halbeg won the $2,000 third-place prize.   

Other finalists were Fireblazer News (Eric Belozovsky, a human computing interaction major from Framingham, Mass; Eleazar Contreras, a web and mobile computing major from Chicago; Anderson Pleasants, a political science major from Williamsville, N.Y.; and Daniel Devor, an ASL-English interpretation major from Gibsonia, Pa.), which works with hearing news outlets to translate audio, written and TV news content into sign language; and Foldify (Musab Al-Smadi, a software engineering major from Rochester, N.Y.; Steven McClusky, a software engineering major from Blue Springs, Mo.; and Matthew Watkins, an electrical mechanical engineering technology major from Covina, Calif.), which makes folding clothes simpler with an electric machine that reduces human time and effort.

The Next Big Idea competition is an annual event where teams of students combine skills related to their individual majors to create innovative products, technology or businesses. Teams work with mentors on their projects and compete before judges for cash prizes. This year marks the eighth anniversary of the competition.  

RIT/NTID to expand education and training through DeafTEC Resource Center

front of LBJ Hall/NTID at dusk.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.65 million to DeafTEC: Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, which will be used to transition the program into a resource center.

The goal of the DeafTEC Resource Center is to increase the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in highly skilled technician jobs in which there continues to be underrepresentation and underutilization of such individuals in the workplace.

Originally funded in 2011 for four years and renewed for four more years in 2015, DeafTEC is housed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of nine colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology.

“For the third time, the National Science Foundation has recognized NTID’s DeafTEC program and its commitment to diversifying the technical workforce by increasing the participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM fields,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “NTID and our partners are uniquely suited to increase professional development opportunities in these fields, expand STEM-related online resources and curricula, and model inclusivity for other STEM efforts.”

The DeafTEC Resource Center builds on and utilizes materials and networking that has been developed as part of the DeafTEC National Center. The DeafTEC Resource Center will:

  • Leverage partnerships to broaden professional development opportunities on-site and online for high school teachers, community college faculty, and employers to improve access to learning and technician employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students;
  • Expand, enhance, and broadly disseminate DeafTEC’s online resources and curricula available through its websites that serve as a clearinghouse for information related to technical education and technician careers for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and a national resource for teaching student veterans with hearing loss;
  • Collaborate with and provide mentoring for prospective researchers, project developers and current projects and centers on creating inclusive environments for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and military veteran students with hearing loss.

DeafTEC’s innovative approach provides deaf and hard-of-hearing students access to career and educational resources specifically designed to meet the challenges they face in school and on the job. DeafTEC is transforming career attainment of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals so they have greater representation in highly skilled technician careers. Hearing loss, one of the most common disabilities in the military, also can have a significant impact on the veteran’s learning and ability to connect and communicate with others. To address the unique needs of military veterans, DeafTEC provides resources for community colleges to improve access to learning and accommodations for this population.

People with disabilities continue to be employed at rates much lower than the rest of the population. This lower employment rate is especially true of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. Data from 2016 shows that approximately 54 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals age 25-64 participated in the labor force, compared to approximately 78 percent of hearing individuals. College graduation can provide major economic benefits for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who earn 2.6 times more than non-college graduates. Being employed in STEM provides an even greater benefit, since deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in STEM occupations earn 34 percent more than their counterparts in non-STEM fields.

DeafTEC plans to broaden participation in STEM technician careers for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by providing them, as well as their teachers, counselors, employers, and co-workers, with resources that will help them succeed both in the classroom and on the job. More deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the workplace, particularly in highly skilled technician careers, leads to the creation of a more diverse workforce and increased acceptance of such individuals who continue to be underrepresented in technical fields. The center's resources on universal design, developmental math, and writing across the STEM curriculum can benefit all students in need of additional resources and support.

“I’m so pleased that RIT has received this significant grant, which will help support their dedicated efforts to create a more diverse and accepting workforce,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle. “This will further cement RIT’s reputation as a global leader in providing innovative services to help deaf and hard-of-hearing students reach their full potential. Investments like this are essential to fostering a more accessible and inclusive society for all people, and I thank NSF for their support.”

RIT/NTID team examines Nicaraguan sign language to determine whether languages change so they are easier to produce or to understand

Light skinned male with very little hair, glasses and goatee wearing plaid shirt tie and tan sweater.

New research is helping scientists around the world understand what drives language change, especially when languages are in their infancy. The results will shed light on how the limitations of the human brain change language and provide an understanding of the complex interaction between languages and the human beings who use them.

The project is funded by a $344,000 National Science Foundation grant and is led by principal investigator Matthew Dye, an assistant professor and director of the Deaf x Laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Dye and his research team are examining Nicaraguan Sign Language, which was “born” in the 1970s. Using machine learning and computer vision techniques, the team is looking at old video recording of the language and measuring how it has changed over the past 40 years. The recent birth and rapid evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language has allowed them to study language change from the beginning, on a compressed time scale. They are asking whether languages change so they are easier to produce, or whether they change in ways that make them easier for others to understand. Initial results challenge a long-held notion that signs move toward the face in order to be easier to understand.

“Languages change over time, such that the way we speak English now is very different than the speech patterns of elder generations and our distant ancestors,” said Dye. “While it is well documented that languages change over time, we’re hoping to answer some fundamental theoretical questions about language change that cannot be addressed by simply analyzing historical samples of spoken languages.”

Dye explains that by using an existing database of Nicaraguan Sign Language, composed of 2D videos of four generations of Nicaraguan signers, his research team will be able to assess the extent to which linguistic changes occur and why. The team will also create computational tools that allow 3D human body poses to be extracted from the 2D videos.

Ultimately, these tools could be used to aid in the development of automated sign-language recognition, promoting accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and for developing automated systems for recognizing and classifying human gestures. In addition, Dye says that deaf and hard-of-hearing students will participate in the research, helping to increase the diversity of the nation’s scientific workforce.

“We are fortunate that our study enables us to utilize the visual nature of sign language to gain a greater understanding of how all languages may evolve,” adds Dye.

Co-principal investigators on the project are Corrine Occhino, research assistant professor at NTID; Andreas Savakis, professor, RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering; and Matt Huenerfauth, professor, RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. The project is a collaboration with Naomi Caselli, assistant professor, Boston University, and Norm Badler, professor, University of Pennsylvania.

For more information, contact Vienna McGrain at 585-475-4952 or Vienna.Carvalho@rit.edu.

Construction begins on RIT Dubai’s new campus

Five officials from RIT and United Arab Emirates stand in a line and each one holds a shovels in dirt.

Construction has started on RIT's new state-of-the-art campus scheduled to open in 2020 in the Dubai Silicon Oasis. The new campus, which will feature an innovation and entrepreneurship center and sustainable building processes, will be developed in two phases and will span more than 35 acres. The United Arab Emirates government is funding the approximately $136 million project.

Since launching in 2008, RIT Dubai’s enrollment has grown steadily. In the fall, RIT Dubai enrollment grew to more than 600 students, and the new campus will be able to accommodate up to 4,000. The state-of-the-art academic complex will house five colleges–Electrical Engineering and Computing, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Business Administration, Sciences, and Humanities. More.

RIT/NTID students attend Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Five students and a faculty member in winter coats stand in front of theater doors.

Victoria Covell, Jamie Froio and Kimmie Sandberg were all part of RIT’s production of Cabaret from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2018. Covell, a third-year graphic design student from Jacksonville, Ill., has always been a dancer, but wasn’t involved in theater until this production where she played the lead role of Sally Bowles. Unlike Covell, Froio, a second-year theater arts student from Hull, Mass., has been involved with theater since she was 4 years old and has been involved with 20 productions, including her role as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. Sandberg, a third-year new media marketing student from New Milford, Conn., has been involved with theater since her freshman year of high school and worked behind the scenes as the stage manager for the production.

Due to their exceptional performances, Covell, Froio and Sandberg were nominated to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theater Regional Festival (KCACTF) Jan. 15-19 at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. KCACTF is a national organization that promotes all aspects of collegiate theater across the country, including acting, dance, directing, stage management and more. To qualify, schools enter their productions into the festival and faculty from other universities attend the performances, give feedback and nominate students to attend the regional festival.

At the festival, Covell, Froio and Sandberg represented RIT in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, the Musical Theater Intensive Scholarship and the Stage Management Fellowship Program competitions.

Covell and Froio emphasized their appreciation for Andy Head, visiting assistant professor of performing arts and visual culture at both RIT and NTID, and interpreters Catherine Kiwitt and Cynthia Collward. Head, Kiwitt and Collward worked with them during the original performance of Cabaret, and traveled with the group to the KCACTF festival in Montclair, N.J.

For more information about the upcoming productions for the 2019-2020 College of Liberal Arts and NTID Performing Arts theatrical season, go to https://www.ntid.rit.edu/theater/announcements/2019-2020-theatrical-season.

Question: Why did you get involved with theater and the performing arts program on campus?

Answer (Covell): I’ve been dancing for about 18 years, and I am always trying to find opportunities to dance, but I never thought about being involved in theater. What happened was, after I won first place for Dr. Munson’s Performing Art Challenge in April 2018, I got an email from professor Andy Head saying that there was an opportunity to dance in a theater production called Cabaret. My mind was set to dance, and I was super excited to get involved. After I auditioned, I ended up getting the lead role and sucked into theater life. It was absolutely the best experience of my performing arts career.

Question: What is Cabaret about?

Answer (Sandberg): Cabaret is a story about an American novelist, Cliff Bradshaw, who travels to Berlin to work on his newest novel. In Berlin, he meets Sally Bowles, a worker at the Kit Kat Klub, and they fall in love. They both get caught up in the nightlife and culture, but, as the story goes on, it starts to get darker and darker as the Nazi party begins taking power in Germany. When it is clear there is no hope left, Cliff decides it is time to leave, thus leaving behind a life and a woman he loved.

Question: What was your reaction when you learned you were invited to the KCACTF regional festival?

Answer (Froio): I don’t think I’ve ever cried harder in my life. I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I just couldn’t believe it. A lot of the tears were because of how bittersweet the moment was because my grandfather wasn’t around to see it. He was my strongest supporter, but he passed away right before I came back to school in August. Cabaret was my first performance without him.

Question: What sort of activities did you do at the festival?

Answer (Froio): I went to a bunch of workshops that I was interested in. I got to sing, dance and act every single day. I was selected to perform in a Late Night Cabaret thanks to my Musical Theater Intensive Scholarship audition, which was an absolute blast. I also auditioned for a theater company called the Open Jar Institute, which I was accepted into. So, I will be travelling to New York City for their summer intensive program.

Question: You all presented two scenes from Cabaret at the conference. Was it intimidating performing in front of an audience that was experienced and knowledgeable about performing arts?

Answer (Covell): It was not intimidating because, surprisingly, we were pretty good for being from a technical university that isn’t specifically a theatrical school. We have a lot of talented students at RIT. I was super proud, and it was a privilege to perform our scenes from Cabaret that represented our diverse university of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students combined.

Question: Overall, what was the most rewarding part of this festival experience?

Answer (Froio): Definitely the people I met and the connections I made. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt more accepted and celebrated as a “theater kid.”

Question: Would you recommend that other performing arts students try to get involved with a festival like this?

Answer (Covell): Yes, I would highly recommend that students grab opportunities to get involved with a festival like this. It’s not just about acting. If you’re a costume designer, set designer or makeup artist, it’s awesome to get exposure and learn from the best people working in that field. There are amazing resources and networks out there if anyone interested in performing arts wanted to pursue a performing arts career.

Question: Are there any new productions coming up that students can get involved in?

Answer (Sandberg): Yes. There is one more COLA show this semester, AI-Pollo, NTID has Fences coming up, and the RIT Players are putting on Drowsy Chaperone. There are always ways to get involved with the arts if you are interested, and being involved doesn’t mean you have to be onstage. Shows are always looking for help with costumes, props and run crew.

Question: Do you think you’ll continue pursuing your love for theater after you graduate?

Answer (Sandberg): I really can’t see myself not being involved with theater. When I got to college, I really didn’t think that I was going to continue to do theater, but I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. Right now, my plan is to work on productions for the remainder of my time at RIT. After graduation, once I am settled somewhere, I’ll start to look for a local theater to get involved with. There really is no group like a theater group. I strongly encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in theater to pursue it. Worst comes to worst, you find out it’s not for you, but more than likely you will find a group of lifelong friends.

RIT/NTID one of three finalists for global literacy competition

Light skinned male with short dark hair, glasses and beard in dark short-sleeved shirt standing in front of a computer image.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one of three finalists in a global competition to source technology solutions that increase access to local sign languages and advance language and literacy outcomes for deaf children in developing countries.

The “Sign On For Literacy” global competition announced today that RIT/NTID will receive $150,000 (in addition to the $25,000 in seed funding they were awarded as semifinalists in 2018) to pilot their World Around You platform in the Philippines. Collaborating with the Philippine Federation of the Deaf and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, World Around You documents, collects and shares local sign and written languages through an open-content digital library of folktales offered in an interactive bilingual format.

“Sign On For Literacy” is a program of All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development—a partnership of USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government, and will enable RIT/NTID to work with Second Avenue Learning, a local company in Rochester, N.Y., to develop technology that enables the creation and implementation of stories and language games. RIT/NTID will continue working with the Deaf community and partners in the Philippines on story creation, demonstration and testing.

“We are looking forward to working with different communities—Filipino deaf, deaf students, teachers of the deaf, parents of deaf children, and technical experts—while we develop and field test World Around You,” said Dr. Christopher Kurz, an instructional/support faculty member in RIT/NTID’s master of science program in secondary education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. “The goal of our project is to provide access to literacy for deaf children in their own sign languages in the Philippines, and eventually all around the world.”

The other finalists include Manos Unidas, working with students in Nicaragua, and eKitabu’s Studio, based in Nairobi, Kenya.