Category Archives: Academics

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.

 

RIT moves up a classification among research universities

Outside image of large glass and steel structures one with letters RIT on it.

Rochester Institute of Technology is now listed as a “high research activity institution” or “R2” under the updated Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

The R2 designation, the second-highest classification, puts RIT among the top 6 percent of colleges and universities in the nation, those conferring at least 20 research/scholarship doctorates annually and spending a minimum $5 million a year on research. Carnegie surveys more than 4,000 universities and puts 139 in this classification, with an additional 122 in the top “very high research” group.

“This change in designation reflects RIT’s continued emphasis on growing our research capabilities and incorporating research as an element of the education we’re providing across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines,” said Ellen Granberg, RIT provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Through research, RIT students and faculty are collaborating to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation.”

Ryne Raffaelle, RIT’s vice president for research and associate provost, said research expenditures have been an upward trajectory for the last several years as RIT and reflect a growing research portfolio. In fiscal year 2017, RIT had a record $51 million in expenditures.

 

RIT/NTID astrophysicist develops technique to locate undiscovered planets, celestial bodies

Light-skinned male with short dark hair wearing grey suit, blue tie, light blue collar shirt.

A revolutionary technique developed by an astrophysicist at Rochester Institute of Technologycould allow for a better understanding of the fates of solar systems when their stars cease to shine.

Jason Nordhaus, an NTID assistant professor of physics and a faculty member in RIT's PhD program in astrophysical sciences and technology, has developed a system of complex 3D super-computer algorithms able to pinpoint the existence of previously undiscovered planets and celestial bodies associated with dying stars. His research is partially funded by a three-year grant from the NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute.

“The deaths of ordinary stars are marked by extraordinary transitions,” explains Nordhaus. “Iconic high-resolution images of dying stars have transformed our understanding of these events. In the past decade, we have discovered that this process of death that produces these spectacular images is linked to the presence of another star or planet in the system. However, large amounts of dust that mask these companions make them difficult to directly detect. We will continue to uncover the nature of these hidden companions and pin down where they orbit in these systems.”

Nordhaus explains that when a star dies, its physical size drastically increases and changes its shape. In fact, Nordhaus predicts that when our sun dies—billions of years from now—it will expand, reaching Earth, and will interact with other nearby planets, such as Jupiter.

Nordhaus’ technique was previously used to infer the presence of a hidden planet in the dying star L2 Puppis, which was later detected by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, a collection of radio telescopes in northern Chile that observe electromagnetic radiation.

This summer, Nordhaus will work with several deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf to study four systems for which Nordhaus has comprehensive data obtained over the past two decades. They are hoping that their 3D computer simulations will help determine which planets survive the death of their parent stars and which are ultimately destroyed.

“This helps us understand the fate of our own solar system, the fates of other star systems in the galaxy, and improve our understanding of how stars and planets interact,” said Nordhaus.

In addition to performing this groundbreaking research, Nordhaus is a member of RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, whose simulations of merging black hole binaries were used by the LIGO Project to confirm the breakthrough detection of gravitational waves from binary black holes in space.

RIT’s online programs ranked among best in the nation

Students in caps and gowns lining up for graduation.

Rochester Institute of Technology has been recognized for having some of the best online programs in the nation.

The 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Online Programs rankings, released today, featured RIT on its lists for business, computing, engineering and undergraduate online education. RIT ranked:

  • 26th in the nation for “Best Online MBA Programs,” for the online executive MBA program offered by Saunders College of Business
  • 41st for “Best Online Information Technology Programs,” offered by the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences
  • 63rd for “Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs,” offered by the Kate Gleason College of Engineering
  • 217th for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs”

The biggest gain was RIT’s online executive MBA program, which jumped 10 spots on the list since last year.

“It is an honor to again be recognized on a national level, amongst a growing collection of online education providers,” said Jacqueline Mozrall, dean of RIT’s Saunders College of Business. “What makes our executive MBA program so unique is the fusion of business, technology and leadership that we are able to offer here at RIT, deployed using a highly interactive, cohort-based, online pedagogy.”

U.S. News chose factors that weigh how these programs are being delivered and their effectiveness at awarding affordable degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

The rankings are based on data collected from the nation’s colleges and universities, which are then weighted by certain criteria, including engagement, faculty credentials and training, expert opinion, student excellence, and student services and technologies. Altogether, 1,545 online degree programs are cataloged in the usnews.com searchable directory—55 more than the previous year. All programs are required to be more than a year old with at least 10 students enrolled.

While these rankings only pertain to full degree programs, RIT also offers a wide variety of online education opportunities designed around industry standards, employer demand and the perspectives of our global network through RIT Online. For more information, contact RIT Online or the Offices of Graduate & Part-time Enrollment Services.

The full U.S. News rankings are available online at http://www.usnews.com/online.

New York backs RIT’s life science initiative to upgrade Genomics Research Lab Cluster

A tan-skinned female w/white lab coat and safety goggles holds two discs while dark-skinned male in coat and goggles looks on.

Rochester Institute of Technology has received $1.5 million from New York state to equip its Genomics Research Lab Cluster, a suite of laboratories aimed at expanding industrial partnerships, commercialization and entrepreneurship activities, talent development and academic programs in the life sciences.

The funding was included in the $86.5 million awarded to the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The award is part of the eighth annual round in which 10 regional councils competed for $763 million in state funding.

The $1.5 million in Empire State Development grant to upgrade RIT’s Genomics Research Lab Cluster will support and strengthen the growing life sciences industry sector in the Finger Lakes region by enabling RIT to expand its research, technology transfer and talent development capabilities in this field.

“We are thankful to the Council and Governor Andrew Cuomo for this significant support and for recognizing the contribution that the Genomics Lab Cluster will make to the state’s assets in the life sciences,” said RIT President David Munson. “Research and tech transfer in the life sciences represent a significant segment of the regional and state economy, spanning applications in multiple medical, energy, environmental and agricultural fields.”

The grant will help increase faculty research in the life sciences and enrollment capacity in RIT’s life sciences academic degree programs, producing graduates skilled in genomic data acquisition and analytics. The state award will support RIT’s $10 million investment in life sciences equipment. Matching funds will come from a combination of RIT resources and industry funding.

Access to sophisticated analytical and modeling tools will enhance research addressing antibiotic resistant bacterial strains and regional agricultural challenges related to crop development and production techniques and remediation of contaminated soil and water. The Genomics Research Lab Cluster will also promote on-site research collaborations with industrial partners. 

The lab cluster will occupy 8,000 square feet within the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences in Gosnell Hall on the RIT campus.