Category Archives: Academics

Student Spotlight: Making discoveries abroad with NTID

Two images of light-skinned female with glasses and long hair in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Looking to learn more about the roots of American deaf culture, fourth-year student Grace Bradford went on a study abroad trip to France. From June 24 to July 4, the ASL/English interpretation and School of Individualized Study (SOIS) double major traveled with other NTID students to Paris, Reims, La Balme-les-Grottes and Lyon.

During the trip and the accompanying spring semester course, Bradford and her peers learned more about French deaf studies, deaf communities and culture. Additionally, they learned Langue des Signes Française (LSF) so the students could communicate with their French peers in their native sign language during the trip.

Bradford’s SOIS concentrations are in history, museum studies and environmental sustainability, and she hopes to apply her skills as an interpreter in a national park or museum setting. Outside of her studies, Bradford is involved with Hands of Fire (a deaf chapter of RIT CRU), the RITPagan club, the Outing club and SVP (freshman orientation for NTID students). She also works part time for REI, and works with RIT Catering and RIT’s Department of Access Services as an interpreter and notetaker.

To learn more about the NTID study abroad programs, go to https://www.ntid.rit.edu/academics/study-abroad. For more information about other study abroad opportunities, go to https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/global/study-abroad.

Question: Why are you interested in pursuing a career in ASL interpretation?

Answer: This is a question that deaf people will often ask interpreting students and I can never give an eloquent answer. I have nothing better to say, than it’s a calling. I graduated from high school in East Tennessee and later moved to Indiana, and in both places I had exposure to the deaf community. Through those experiences, I just fell in love with the culture and the language, and I just knew that was what I wanted to do. Since I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be a combat medic in the U.S. Army and that I wanted to be an interpreter, and here I am doing both. I got out of the Army in 2014, so the events didn’t quite happen in the sequence I wanted it to, but I am still fulfilling my dreams.

Why were you interested in going on this particular NTID study abroad experience?

A little-known fact about American deaf culture is that it actually has its roots in France. Thomas Gallaudet worked closely with a man named Laurent Clerc when he went over to France. Clerc came back with Gallaudet to the U.S. and helped him set up the first deaf school. So, a lot of our linguistic features, at least in the beginning stages, had strong echoes of French Sign Language (LSF). This trip was a great opportunity to see where American deaf culture and its roots come from. We had the opportunity to get a tour of the first deaf school in the world, we saw the boyhood home of Laurent Clerc, and a lot of other sites that are incredibly historically significant to deaf culture. With my background in history, I was really nerding out.

Tell us about the class that you took that accompanied your study abroad.

We briefly discussed major tipping points in French history, such as the Revolution, as well as some prominent French deaf figures. We also took time to learn LSF before going on the trip. While there are minor similarities, LSF and ASL are two completely different languages, so it wasn’t necessarily easy to pick up the second language. I would equate it to learning Spanish as an English speaker. Once you’re over there for a couple weeks, you start getting the hang of it and you can have basic conversations. I’m definitely not fluent, but now I know basic phrases to communicate with when I go back.

What was your favorite part about this study abroad experience?

Academically, I think, because I have a linguistic nerdy mind, my favorite part was learning LSF. We didn’t have the time to get too deep into it, but I really cherish learning other languages. If it were possible, I would learn them all. Anytime I travel I just have so much fun learning different phrases and communicating with the locals.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’m not entirely sure, life always has its curve balls. I reckon I’ll probably stay here for a few years and get some interpreting experience under my belt because this is such an amazing place to be for that. Then, when I am ready, I would like to do an internship at Yosemite National Park and get my ranger certification. I’m really interested in making national parks more accessible for everyone, and right now access services are lacking for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. So, hopefully after Yosemite, I’ll move on and be able to set up full-time access services within the National Park Service.

RIT receives multiple accolades for promoting diversity and inclusion

African American male faculty showing scientific slides to three African American female students. All are in blue lab coats.

Two national organizations focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education recently presented Rochester Institute of Technology with multiple awards for the university’s work in the field.

RIT received the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. As a recipient of the annual HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — RIT will be featured, along with 92 other recipients, in the November 2019 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. This is the sixth year in a row RIT has been named as a HEED Award recipient.

For the third year in a row, RIT is being honored as an institution committed to diversity for 2019 by Minority Access Inc. Minority Access is a nonprofit organization committed to increasing diversity, decreasing disparities and reducing incidences of environmental injustices. Each year the organization identifies exemplary colleges and universities whose commitment to diversity and efforts to implement it serve as an example for other institutions. Fewer than 200 colleges and universities nationwide were recognized by the organization this year. Minority Access will make a formal presentation in recognition of RIT’s commitment at their National Role Models Conference, Sept. 26–29 in National Harbor, Md.

Professor André Hudson, head of RIT’s Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences, is among the individuals Minority Access will celebrate at the National Role Models Conference this year. Hudson is trained as a biochemist and his research focuses on biochemistry and microbiology, specifically, in amino acid metabolism, structural analyses of enzymes involved in amino acid and bacterial peptidoglycan metabolism, and the isolation, identification and genomic characterization of plant-associated bacteria. The organization aims to identify and recognize inspirational role models in various categories to inspire others to emulate them, and thereby increase the pool of scholars and professionals who will find cures for illnesses or solve technological problems or address social disparities in society.

“We are honored to be recognized nationally for our tireless work providing more underrepresented men, women and deaf and hard-of-hearing students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn, grow and succeed,” said Keith Jenkins, RIT’s vice president and associate provost for diversity and inclusion. “Congratulations to Professor Hudson and the countless other RIT community members who work tirelessly to make RIT a diverse and inclusive community.”  

Earlier this year, RIT was named a Diversity Champion by INSIGHT Into Diversity for the fourth consecutive year. The magazine named RIT a Diversity Champion for its cumulative efforts in the area of diversity and inclusion throughout its campus communities, across academic programs and at the highest administrative levels. RIT was one of the first colleges and universities in the nation to receive this designation given by INSIGHT into Diversity.

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/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.” 

Ph.D. student receives prestigious Microsoft Research grant for diversity in computing

Close up portrait of Larwan Berke, a young white professional male.

Larwan Berke is one of 11 best research students in North America selected for award

 

Larwan Berke, a computing and information sciences Ph.D. student at Rochester Institute of Technology, was one of only 11 outstanding doctoral students selected to receive the 2019 Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant.

Each dissertation grant provides up to $25,000 in funding to doctoral students who are underrepresented in the field of computing. The funding helps students at North American universities complete research as part of their doctoral thesis work and aims to increase the pipeline of diverse talent receiving advanced degrees in computing-related fields.

Microsoft Research reviewed more than 200 proposals for students and awarded 11 grants.  

“All 11 of these students are doing fascinating research, and we’re thrilled to support these rising computing stars in ways that will truly help them advance their work,” said Meredith Ringel Morris, principal researcher and research manager at Microsoft Research, in a statement.

“This is a big honor for me, and I am thrilled to receive the support from Microsoft to push me to reach the finish line for my dissertation,” said Berke, who is from Fremont, Calif.

Inspired by his own experiences as a person who is deaf, Berke is working to improve the usability of captions produced by automatic speech recognition (ASR) for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Berke explained that ASR technology is improving and may some day become a viable method for transcribing audio input in real-time. However, current ASR is imperfect.

Berke’s research explores adding markups to the captioning, so that deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers are able to discern when the ASR may be erroneous, by utilizing the confidence values in the ASR output. He completed his proposal defense in fall 2018.

“My goal is to empower the deaf or hard-of-hearing individual with greater autonomy in scenarios such as one-on-one meetings with hearing people when in-person interpreters are not available,” said Berke.

The funding will cover the cost of a Microsoft Surface laptop and study participant fees for an experiment to evaluate methods of representing potential errors in ASR captions. The funding will also allow Berke to pay for two undergraduate research assistants.

“This will give me an opportunity to mentor them and hopefully push them toward advanced degrees in computing,” Berke said.

In addition to the funding, grant recipients will travel to attend the Ph.D. Summit—a two-day workshop held in Redmond, Washington, in the fall. Grant recipients can present their research, meet with Microsoft researchers in their research area and receive career coaching. The winners of the Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship, including RIT student Danielle Gonzalez, will also be in attendance.

Other students selected for the 2019 grant are from University of California, San Diego; Princeton University; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Southern California; Stanford University; and University of South Florida.

This is the third year Microsoft Research has offered this research funding opportunity for doctoral students who are underrepresented in the field of computing, which include those who self-identify as a woman, African American, Black, Hispanic, Latinx, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and/or people with disabilities.