Category Archives: Student Life

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 among top colleges for Indigenous students

Two people sit on stage and play guitar with a screen behind them that includes text:

Rochester Institute of Technology is among the Top 200 Colleges for Indigenous students, according to Winds of Change magazine. This marks the ninth time RIT has appeared on the list.

The annual list published by American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) identified the top colleges and universities in the United States “where indigenous students are going to school in significant numbers and where the community, Native programs, and support are strong enough for these students to enjoy college and stay on to graduation.” The magazine recognized RIT in part for its programs for Indigenous students, including the Native American Future Stewards Program, the Native American Student Association and RIT’s student chapter of AISES. More.

Student Spotlight: TJ Bartholomew

Male basketball player with dark skin wearing a white tank top dribbles a basketball on court..

RIT/NTID student TJ Bartholomew is a third-year exercise science major from New York City. Sports and exercise are very important to Bartholomew, which is why exercise science was such a great fit for him. Outside of classes, he enjoys playing basketball and is involved with the Deaf Basketball Association, an intramural sport at RIT. He also is a member of Men of Color, Honor and Ambition and enjoys reading and exercising on his own during his spare time. More.

RIT among schools to receive $1 million for clean energy project

Light skinned female with long dark hair at podium with US flag and banner on energy in background.

Rochester Institute of Technology has won $1 million as part of the Energy to Lead Competition, which challenges New York colleges and universities to develop plans for local clean energy projects on campus and in their communities as the state seeks innovative solutions to combat climate change.

RIT will create a platform that integrates multiple data sources to enable a building’s existing automation system to manage operation schedules, adjust ventilation rates in classrooms and respond to peak demand days, according to Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to the president. Cardinal will serve as lead principal investigator on the project.

The platform, once tested and deployed at RIT, will be tested at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus and then made publicly available free of charge for other institutions to leverage. The project is expected to result in the avoidance of 108 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“Through the ‘Energy to Lead’ competition, New York is fostering clean energy innovation to help fight climate change and protect our environment,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I commend the students and faculty for their steadfast commitment to improving their campus and community, helping to create a cleaner, greener New York for all.”

The Energy to Lead Competition, announced by Gov. Cuomo in 2015, is part of the REV Campus Challenge, which recognizes and supports colleges and universities across New York state that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions.

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and member of the REV Campus Challenge, RIT has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“This project leverages many of RIT’s strengths, including our innovative spirit, the cutting-edge nature of our academic programs, and the way our campus serves as a laboratory for experiential learning,” RIT President David Munson said during yesterday’s announcement of the Energy to Lead grant inside RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “We applaud Gov. Cuomo for investing in research that addresses solutions to global challenges and for recognizing the important role of higher education in working toward these solutions.”

Applicant schools were required to submit projects which demonstrate innovation in one or more of the following areas: project design, business model, partnerships, and/or curriculum integration. Schools and universities were also required to describe the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, how they would measure success and how they would use the funding to advance the project. These projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,125 metric tons over the next five years.

The competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and open to two- or four-year public or private colleges or universities. The competition challenges schools to develop ideas for innovative projects in energy efficiency, renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction on campus, in the classroom and in surrounding communities.   

This round of Energy to Lead included 24 project submissions from 21 different public and private colleges and universities across the state. Applications were reviewed by an evaluation panel and winners were chosen based on project cost effectiveness, innovativeness, energy efficiency and clean energy measures, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and how funding would be used to advance the project on campus and in the community.

For more information on Energy to Lead, go to NYSERDA’s website.

RIT students learn value of entrepreneurship through Simone Center, Saunders College, NTID joint program

Manufacturing machine with small blue round disks.

Rochester Institute of Technology student Jim Heaney started his rapid manufacturing and prototyping business when he was just 14 years old. Five years later, and with the guidance of RIT’s Saunders Summer Startup Program, Heaney and his team are hoping a successful pitch to potential investors will take their business to the next level.

Heaney’s business, Venator Technologies, is among 15 student start-up companies in the program, which encourages multidisciplinary student teams to jumpstart their ventures at the small-business launch pad in hopes of kick starting real companies. It culminates with Investor Demo Night, which will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union. A networking reception immediately follows. The event is free and open to the public.

Creating a backpack that suits the packing needs of today’s gamers, solving mass refrigeration concerns on Sub-Saharan farms, and developing a wearable device and mobile app that helps veterans transition into civilian life are a few of the uniquely innovative early-stage business ideas created by student teams during this year’s program.

The program is sponsored by Saunders College of Business and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and is hosted by the Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.          

Throughout the summer, each of the startups is offered a stipend, a team expense fund, working space in Institute Hall and support from RIT faculty, assigned mentors and community business leaders.

Heaney, a second-year industrial engineering major from Montgomery, N.Y., says that his experience with the Saunders Summer Startup Program has helped him develop confidence in his business and has moved his team ahead of the pack.

“Even though my business is somewhat established, this program has provided my team with details on the finer points of business including access to countless business contacts, information on marketing and research and development funding, and tips on effective public speaking and pitching to investors, which are all so invaluable to running a successful business,” said Heaney. “Thanks to the top-notch mentoring that we’ve received from our entrepreneurship coaches and the staff at The Construct at RIT, we have learned how to create a solid foundation for our business.”

This summer’s student teams are:

  • Sniffy: A mobile app that improves the relationship between humans and animals by providing incentives for dog walking, and information on pet stores, groomers and other dog owners.
  • Op-Sixx: A support network comprised of wearable devices and a mobile app that connects veterans and their families to help them transition into civilian life.  
  • OurDiet App: An easy-to-follow direct resource offering personalized information based off of an individual’s self-described disease database.
  • Phase Innovations LLC: Provides novel stack-based technologies for energy conversion and storage applications.
  • TERP (two student teams): Aims to become a central marketplace for sign language interpreting services, making it easier for deaf and hearing people to submit interpreter requests.
  • PAL: A wearable technology company that empowers the autism spectrum disorder community with early notification of triggered meltdowns.
  • QuickTix: Allows small, independent theaters and school districts to publish events, sell tickets and promote on social media. Immediate feedback is provided on sales numbers, money earned and seats filled. 
  • Project Object Tracker: Provides tracking software that enhances customer service by evaluating the position of customers in retail stores and calculating whether the customer has been waiting too long for service.
  • Venator Technologies: A multi-service manufacturing company utilizing 3D printing and laser cutting to serve small businesses and individual customers.
  • SerVu: Provides a platform that connects bar owners with potential bar employees that fit the culture and style of the establishments. 
  • Hive Refrigeration: Works to solve the issue of mass refrigeration and the reduction of food waste on Sub-Sharan farms for those lacking access to cold storage refrigeration.
  • Backpack for Gamers: Creates a backpack that suits the needs of modern-day gamers.
  • VeeTV: A video streaming service that offers programming with sign-language content
  • Tiger CGM: A glucose monitor designed to provide comfort, freedom, confidence, privacy and accuracy.

For more information on the Saunders Summer Startup, go to www.rit.edu/research/simonecenter/saunders-summer-start-program.

Study abroad experience highlight for hospitality student

Light skinned male with short brown hair wearing hoodie, tan jacket and backpack in front of a world map.

RIT/NTID's Connor Draughn wanted to get out of his comfort zone and try something new, so the hospitality and tourism management major decided to spend a semester studying at RIT Croatia.

“I learned a lot about myself,” said Draughn, who is from Raleigh, N.C. “For sure it is a highlight of my time at RIT.”

Draughn was helped by the Constellation Brands Study Abroad Fund, which supports hospitality students who want to study in Croatia.

Ginny Clark, senior vice president of Public Affairs for Constellation Brands, said given the importance of global learning, Constellation felt that this opportunity for RIT students would be a meaningful way to give back.

“Today’s business world is global—and the key to a successful global business is building strong, trusted relationships,” said Clark ’06, ’08 (hospitality and service management, service leadership and innovation). “Constellation believes that creating this scholarship opportunity for students to study abroad supports the experiential educational efforts that RIT sees as a critical component to a student’s education.”

Supporting hospitality students, Clark added, made sense for Constellation Brands, which is a global beverage alcohol company—but at its core is a hospitality company.

“It was quite natural that Constellation would see a strong connection with our philanthropy and the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation,” she said.

Draughn, who got his associate degree in hospitality and services management from NTID in 2016, started pursuing a bachelor’s degree last year. He spent the fall semester of 2017 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, taking hospitality and tourism classes. He is minoring in history, he said, so he enjoyed living in the historic city and learning about the culture and the country.

After he graduates from RIT, Draughn said, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism. He hopes to one day become a travel coordinator for a professional sports team or for a Fortune 500 company.

The study abroad experience had such an impact on Draughn that after he returned, he got a job as a Global Ambassador coaching other RIT students about opportunities abroad.

“I like helping people,” Draughn said. “I like telling other students about my experience so they will think about doing something different while they are in school.”

RIT Student Government president encourages community involvement

Light skinned male with brown hair wearing button down shirt and jacket holding a microphone and raising his other hand.

Bobby Moakley, Rochester Institute of Technology’s new Student Government president, thinks every student should feel welcomed at RIT, regardless of what their interests are, where they are from or their beliefs.

That’s one goal Moakley, a fourth-year environmental science major from Boston, and Vice President Corinne Mendieta, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Olney, Md., have for the coming year. They also plan to make sure students have the tools they need to succeed, including transportation, resources such as the free textbook library and finding funding for projects.

“We want to enhance the culture of creativity and innovation at RIT,” Moakley said. “We want to enable students to create what they came to RIT for, whether it is artwork or a new medicine.”

Other ideas planned for this year include adding two more vans for club and organization use, a bike sharing program in the fall, and a charging station installed in the Student Government office to encourage students to drop by if they need to charge a phone or laptop. Free popcorn will still be available to visitors.

And he wants to have more direct communication with student organizations representing international students, ALANA students, student athletes, LGBTQ students, and deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“Student Government never had a formal working relationship with them. I’d like to work closely with those representative student organizations,” he said. “They are representatives for entire groups of demographics on campus.”

Two years ago, Moakley first joined Student Government as the cross-registered senator from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and last year served as Student Government vice president.

He’s not worried about representing more than 18,000 students on RIT campuses or giving a talk in front of thousands of people.

“I’ve taken a few public speaking courses, so I know how to maneuver the nerves,” he said.

Born deaf, Moakley received his first cochlear implant and began learning sign language before he was 2. He knows there’s a wide range of communication preferences on campus among the students supported by NTID.

“People should feel comfortable using what communication they prefer, and everyone should respect people’s choices,” he said. “That’s one reason I wanted to come to RIT, there is this open and accepting feeling and a good mixture of deaf and hearing students. Here is a place I could have both of those.”

Moakley is the third deaf student to become RIT’s Student Government president. The first two were Lizzie Sorkin in 2006-2007, and Greg Pollock 2010-2012.

Moakley is uncertain what he’ll do after he graduates. He’d love to become a photojournalist for National Geographic, or work with the United Nations in international affairs.

“People now are unwilling to cooperate with other countries and are letting imaginary boundaries dictate the way they live,” he said. “How do you expect to fix an issue when you don’t talk with the people living next to you? We’re all living on one planet.”

He’s spending his summer working on a fellowship for Project HOPE (Health Outcomes Through Participation, Education and Engagement) and the Genesee Valley Land Trust, helping residents in northeast Rochester make connections to improve their community and finding ways to preserve the environment.

His great uncle was Joe Moakley, a popular Boston Congressman for 28 years who died in 2001 and had several buildings in Boston named after him. Bobby Moakley said he hasn’t ruled out a political career in the future. “I guess there’s a little inspiration from him behind it.”

He said he uses time management effectively to juggle his work, classes, volunteering and Student Government responsibilities. He usually has several meetings a day and stays up late into the night to make sure everything gets done.

“Some days I may be tired and feel fed up with it, but then I realize I love all the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better I could be doing with my time.”

Regardless of what lies ahead for him, Moakley wants to make sure he leaves behind “a Student Government that is efficient for students in the future.” He hopes more students decide to become active by joining a committee or attending just one of the meetings the Student Government cabinet holds from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Friday in the Bamboo Room, beginning the last week in August. The meetings are open to everyone.

“I hope students feel they can contact Student Government if they have anything on their mind,” Moakley said. “No issue is too small.”

NTID-supported delegates offer wisdom to fellow graduates

Left, a dark-skinned female in glasses, grad cap, gown and cord; right a light-skinned female in cap gown and cords.

Among the 23 commencement delegates at Rochester Institute of Technology’s commencement ceremonies May 11 and 12 were two deaf students who shared their own stories of overcoming obstacles and imparted advice to their fellow graduates.

Paula MacDonald, the undergraduate delegate for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf from Cumberland, Ontario, Canada, graduated with an associate degree in computer aided drafting technology.

She completed a co-op with Fulcrum Engineering, where she prepared drawings and specifications for structural engineering projects. At RIT/NTID, she served as president of the Deaf International Student Association and was active with the Deaf Basketball Association and the Deaf Volleyball Association. MacDonald will be transferring to the bachelor’s degree program in civil engineering technology at RIT and plans to become a civil/structural engineer.

In her presentation, MacDonald encouraged her fellow graduates to follow their passions, be an inspiration to themselves and others and to become leaders in their families, communities and beyond.

“It’s such a wonderful honor to stand here and give my speech, to represent you all, as a deaf aboriginal woman in engineering,” she said.

Joan "Jo" Bempong, the undergraduate delegate for the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, is from Irving, Texas. She earned combined bachelor’s/master’s degrees in computer engineering with a minor in Deaf cultural studies.

She completed co-ops at Texas Instruments, Sandia National Laboratories, and VTCSecure. Bempong was a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award, the Deep Learning Classification Challenge Award and the Machine Intelligence Best Project Presentation Award. She was a finalist in both the Digital Rochester GREAT Award for student achievement and the RIT Tiger Tank competition. She was invited to present her work at the 25th Anniversary Congress on Women’s Health, and has accepted a full-time position at Texas Instruments.

Bempong used her own story of refusing to accept limitations because of her deafness and advised fellow graduates to, “Be extraordinary! Be rebellious. Be different. Take a stab at something you believe in and go for it. Do not be afraid to fail. When you do fail, fail hard and fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and keep on learning. And remember to ask for help when you need it.”

RIT/NTID students among RIT’s 2018 Legacy Leaders

Group of female students, each holding a blue folder.

Three RIT/NTID graduating seniors were recognized as part of the Legacy Leadership program of RIT's Center for Women and Gender and the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. They are:

Brianna Conrad, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Frederick, Maryland

Kaitlyn Shirey, an American Sign Language-English Interpretation major from Ambler, Pennsylvania

Britta Schwall, a business management major from Pflugerville, Texas

The Legacy Leadership program recognizes the achievements and leadership of RIT graduating women students. Students are self-nominated and must obtain two letters of support from the RIT or outside community detailing their civic responsibility and leadership. 

The selected Legacy Leaders attended the 2018 Women’s Career Achievement Dinner held on April 30, 2018, in the Gordon Field House as guests of the Center for Women and Gender and Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement.