Category Archives: Academics

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.

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.

Partnership brings free computer science career exploration program to deaf, hard-of-hearing students in California

Two dark-skinned female teens looking at laptop computer screen.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the California Department of Rehabilitation have partnered to provide a free, one-week computer science career exploration program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California, June 23-27.

Hosted on the California State University, San Bernardino, campus, “Computer Science Week” provides up to 25 deaf and hard-of hearing California high school students interested in studying computer science and technology in college with a week of activities and learning opportunities to gain experience and explore their personal interests in the field.

Activities include hands-on experience in computer science and specialized skills, exploring coding while programming a device, and determining interests in a variety of computer science and technology-related careers.

The sessions are run by deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing faculty and staff who serve as role models, introduce students to life after high school, and provide support for students who may be away from home for the first time.

For more information about the career exploration program partnership, contact DJ Monahan, RIT/NTID assistant director for Outreach & Special Projects, at dxmnca@rit.edu.

Partnership brings free health science career exploration program to deaf, hard-of-hearing students in California

Students in lab setting wearing lab coats and looking into microscopes.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the California Department of Rehabilitation have partnered to provide a free, one-week health science career exploration program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in California, June 16-20.

Hosted on the Sacramento State University campus, “Health Science Week” provides up to 25 deaf and hard-of hearing California high school students interested in studying the health sciences in college with a week of activities and learning opportunities to gain experience and explore their personal interests in the field.

In addition to the programs offered, Joe Xavier, director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, will be visiting the camp at 10 a.m., Monday, June 17, to meet with participants and observe them in action.

Activities include hands-on experience in health science and lab procedures, attending medical demonstrations and facility tours, participating in group activities and discussions and taking part in a variety of health science programs.

The sessions are run by deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing faculty and staff who serve as role models, introduce students to life after high school, and provide support for students who may be away from home for the first time.

For more information about the career exploration program partnership, contact DJ Monahan, RIT/NTID assistant director for Outreach & Special Projects, at dxmnca@rit.edu.

RIT/NTID awards Dodge Faculty Grant to chemistry instructor

light-skinned female with long reddish hair and glasses.

Jennifer Lynn Swartzenberg of Rochester, N.Y., is the 2019-2020 recipient of the Ronald D. Dodge Memorial Faculty Grant at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

A faculty member in NTID’s science and mathematics department, Swartzenberg will receive $1,000 for her project to produce videos of established and new American Sign Language (ASL) signs for organic chemistry.

As described in her application, Swartzenberg’s project will enhance the learning, comprehension and recall of organic chemistry terms, reactions and concepts by deaf students; establish new signs for terms, reactions and complex concepts that have no established ASL signs but are conceptually accurate and foundationally based in ASL; and establish a video database on an already existing RIT/NTID site (http://aslcore.org/) for organic chemistry that will aid students, teachers, tutors and interpreters outside of the classroom.

The grant is offered annually to faculty members for financial assistance in supporting research and development efforts conducted during the academic year. Projects must have as their purpose improving the effectiveness of faculty engaged in educating deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT. Applicants must be faculty who have completed at least three academic years of employment at RIT prior to being considered for a grant. Potential grant recipients are expected to file appropriate documentation to establish the potential impact of the work upon teaching effectiveness for deaf students at RIT.

“My primary role at RIT/NTID is as a tutor for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in their different chemistry classes,” said Swartzenberg. “I meet with students in both individual and group tutoring sessions to help them master the concepts they are learning in both their labs and their lecture courses. In addition to regular tutoring, I also make practice exams and review materials as well as hold review sessions for upcoming exams.”

In addition to the Dodge grant, Swartzenberg was awarded an RIT Provost’s Learning Innovation Exploration Grant for the project.

“Beyond the students who will be involved in the project, this impacts the deaf students who will ultimately utilize the resource in the future to see one of their peers in the videos,” she added. “It gives the current students utilizing the resource a role model and inspirational example of deaf success in the sciences. This will also be a permanent resource for the RIT/NTID community that is well worth the time and investment to make it happen.”

RIT/NTID graduates advised to “Find the joy in being you”

LaDasha Williams on commencement stage

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf wrapped up celebration of its 50th anniversary year with a commencement ceremony Saturday, May 11, in RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center.

A total of 350 students graduated, including 308 undergraduates and 42 graduate students. Among the undergraduates were 114 with associate degrees and 194 with bachelor’s degrees, including 33 from NTID’s ASL-English Interpretation program. The college’s master’s degree program in Health Care Interpretation graduated 12 students, and seven graduated from the master’s program in secondary education along with 23 students who graduated from master’s degree programs in the other colleges of RIT.

Israelle Johnson, a laboratory science technology major from Baltimore, Ohio, the college’s undergraduate delegate shared her experience with her fellow graduates.  

“Through my education, I found this quote by Theodore Isaac Rubin, ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.’ I started with the laboratory science technology program just to try science and see what would happen. Well, it stuck. I learned so much; normal science things and the complexity of science in the world. It has taught me many different perspectives. It taught me friendship, dedication, team work, independence, how to ask questions and find confidence in who I am.

“So be proactive, meet people, do self-care, volunteer, find your balance, explore your world, find the joy in being you. Do not let the challenges limit you.”

Jeanne D’Arc Ntiguliwa, a master’s in secondary education major from Rwanda and RIT/NTID’s graduate delegate, reflected on her academic journey.

“My ambition to be useful in this world led me to RIT/NTID. At RIT/NTID, for the first time in my academic journey, I had direct communication with my professors, asked questions, participated in group discussions and activities. It was a whole new experience. I am deeply indebted and thankful to NTID for all those experiences, and for exposing me to what a genuine inclusive world looks like.

“What dream can you accomplish now with your degree? Believe in yourself, be bold and creative and go make a difference! It is my hope that we all leave well-equipped to begin new chapters and that one day we will proudly look back and nostalgically say, ‘Yes, I made it, thank you RIT/NTID for empowering me.’”

Prior to graduation, 24 students and three faculty members were inducted into the Epsilon Pi Tau Honor Society, an international honor society for professions in technology. RIT/NTID has the first deaf chapter of this society. 

Historically, 96 percent of RIT/NTID graduates, who work in all economic sectors, have found employment in their chosen fields within a year of graduation. Associate and bachelor’s degree graduates earn 95 and 178 percent more, respectively, than deaf and hard-of-hearing graduates from other postsecondary institutions. 

RIT’s record 4,200 graduates challenged to ‘enrich the world’

Students dressed in graduation caps, gowns, hoods and stoles line up as three females get their photo taken by male with phone.

More than 4,200 students graduated today at Rochester Institute of Technology, an all-time high. The graduates include 41 Ph.D. students – also a record high – and graduates at international RIT campuses in Croatia, Kosovo, Dubai, and for the first time, Weihai, China.

Keynote speaker John Seely Brown, former chief scientist of Xerox Corp. and director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), told graduates they are entering “The Imagination Age, an age that calls for new ways to see, to imagine, to think, to act, to learn and one that also calls for us to re-examine the foundations of our way of being human, and what it means to be human.”

RIT President David Munson said the imagination shown on the RIT campus is a result of RIT leveraging its strengths in technology, the arts and design to produce graduates in every discipline capable of practicing transformative innovation that serves the greater good.

“Today’s world needs people who know how to create and innovate, analyze and implement, collaborate and lead,” Munson said. “Creativity begins with people, and at RIT, we have an unusual assembly of exceptional minds.”

Munson said RIT intends to capitalize on the distinctiveness of RIT to further cement its role in higher education.

“We represent creativity and innovation in all fields, with a strong culture of making,” he said. “We make things that never existed before, whether those things are physical objects, digital media, original processes or breakthrough concepts or ideas. And we put those things into use. That’s called innovation.”

Munson told the graduates they should “wake up tomorrow not solely focused on how to earn a living, rather that you go out to do your best to enrich the world. RIT alumni – now 130,000 strong with you included – are emblematic of goodness.”

Munson presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Brown, “for his inspiration through leadership in the fields of information technology, innovation and organizational learning; for his research in the fields of deep learning, digital youth culture and digital media; and for championing the spirit of innovation, creativity and disruptive thinking that has impacted and inspired so many.”

Brown’s history with Xerox dates back decades, and he witnessed the advent of the ethernet, personal computing, graphical user interfaces and more.

“Those were truly exciting times,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have been part of it. Quite honestly though, I now feel a bit envious for those of you graduating today. Back then, nearly 50 years ago, it was the beginning of the Information Age and it wasn’t that hard to invent or build super-cool things. … Your learning has just started as you graduate here today.”

Brown gave graduates a quote from Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

He left them with a final thought: “It is my hope that those of you graduating today will not forget the gift of the intuitive mind that is the playground of the imagination.”

Student Government President Bobby Moakley, who received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, told a personal account of his parents being told that he was deaf when he was a year old.

“The doctors had told them that I was never going to live a ‘normal life,’ that I was going to live in exclusion from society and that I would likely never graduate from high school,” he said. “Now, here I am graduating from college, along with hundreds of other deaf and hard-of-hearing students, thanks to my parents and everyone who worked for us to succeed. As youth, we have depended on leaders to guide us through life. As we graduate, we become the generation to run the world – the generation to define the world. It is now our time to become the leaders, to become the ones inspiring future generations to build upon our work and thrive.”

Jordan Shea, a computer science major from Tolland, Conn., gave the undergraduate student address. He credits RIT’s policies of inclusiveness for allowing students to be themselves.

“I could see a person juggling, people tightrope walking, or even someone strutting around as a dinosaur and it wouldn’t even faze me,” he said. “To live in such an environment is a luxury. There are not many places that give you the opportunity to re-invent yourself or embrace who you are like RIT does. No one seems to be afraid of themselves.”

He said by only associating with people like himself, he’d “lose out on all the other perspectives that I knew other RIT students had to offer. … Wherever you end up going, I ask that you continue to celebrate this inclusiveness, the inclusiveness that is RIT.”

Mastering microbes: RIT/NTID student combines engineering, bioscience to decrease infections from medical devices

Male professor with glasses and mustache next to male student with short dark hair in black golf shirt.

Samuel Lum found several things in common with his faculty mentor, Robert Osgood, including excitement about research and a project that could save lives.

Osgood, an associate professor of biomedical sciences, and Lum have been working to decrease the incidence of hospital-associated catheter infections after each lost a family member to a preventable infection not long ago.

Lum’s background in mechanical engineering technology and Osgood’s microbiology expertise in studying biofilms provide the kind of multidisciplinary approach that could lead to identifying the genes most likely responsible for catheter infections. Knowing this could improve how future engineers like Lum produce better materials for devices. Their working relationship set Lum on his career path.

“Vascular and urinary catheters are the two most common types of catheters that are focal points in terms of healthcare infections,” said Lum, who is from New York, N.Y., and who will graduate this May from RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. “Engineers have tried to design antimicrobial catheters, but in reality, they are not working as well as they should be, regardless of funding dollars. What we have is a lack of understanding of the biology behind this, the pathogens themselves. We are asking how do we disrupt the infection process? We know something more about these challenges because of the interdisciplinary work we have done together.”

Lum has been very active in different research projects while at RIT, participating on teams consisting of engineering technology, chemistry and biomedical and chemical engineering students and faculty. Work on projects, such as the one with Osgood, could shift the way people think about processes in the healthcare industry, a career area he is intent on entering after graduation.

“This work is a combination of medicine, science and engineering. Many genes have been studied extensively in the past decade. I think this could be a major contribution to understanding how bacteria attach to other surfaces in general, and there are implications all over the place,” explained Lum.

“In microbiology, controlling contamination is everything," said Osgood, who also serves as director of the biomedical sciences program in RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. "Having someone like Sam who has a high level of critical thinking, enthusiasm and is not afraid to be wrong about something is refreshing. Enjoying science means learning from the mistakes. If you come to see mistakes as opportunities to learn, whatever you are seeking to accomplish, will eventually happen."

“Professor Osgood is one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, and has basically transformed my career,” said Lum. “I have taken bold risks, and part of our discussions together enabled me to think that I could change the world. I’ve always wanted to do something like that, and we have had some of the boldest thoughts imaginable.”

 

RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf enters partnership with Changchun University

One female and two males sitting at a table are signing documents with US and China flags on the table.

Administrators from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and a delegation from Changchun University in China signed a Memorandum of Understanding at a ceremony May 6 establishing a cultural and educational partnership between the two institutions. 

The Memorandum of Understanding will establish student and faculty exchange programs in the art and design fields. The colleges also are exploring a joint degree program in graphic design and 3D graphic technology. RIT/NTID’s Center for International Educational Outreach (IEO) is hosting the delegation.

Changchun University was one of RIT/NTID’s former Postsecondary Education Network-International partners. After the PEN-International program ended, Changchun University administrators reached out to re-engage in a new partnership. Separately, IEO will be hosting a contingent of Changchun students in August for NTID’s New Signers Program through the college’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Education program.

The Changchun delegation at the signing ceremony included the Party Secretary, Special Education College Director and Professor of Foreign Languages, along with Ellen Granberg, RIT provost; Gerry Buckley, NTID president; Jim Myers, associate provost; Gary Behm, associate dean; and IEO staff.

NTID has established or renewed partnerships with four universities in the past two years, with a fifth in progress. Including PEN-International and Pre-College Education Network (P-CEN) Program partners, NTID has more than 14 institution partners throughout the world, including partnerships with De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Philippines; Tianjin University of Technology, China; Changchun University, China; University of Rwanda, Rwanda; and Beijing Union University, China (in progress).

“These partnerships are instrumental in giving our students global enrichment experiences that will make them even more marketable upon graduation,” said Buckley. “In addition, these partnerships have led to several new research projects and grants in accessibility, sign language, deaf education and STEM education with our faculty and students. Moreover, we have been able to attract a number of talented international students to study at RIT/NTID, which further enhances the diversity of our student body and broadens everyone’s perspectives.”