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RIT named one of the best colleges to study video game design

13 Feb

male and female students watch as one works on several large computer display monitors.

Animation Career Review has again named Rochester Institute of Technology one of the top game design schools in the country. RIT ranked seventh on the list of Top 50 Game Design Schools in the U.S. and second in New York state.

The 2020 rankings considered 136 colleges with game design programs. The annual rankings were created by Animation Career Review, an online resource for aspiring animation, game design and development, graphic design and digital art professionals. The list also named RIT the No. 3 game design school on the East Coast and fifth-best private school nationally.

“We are happy that RIT is consistently recognized as one of the best schools in game design and development,” said David Schwartz, director of RIT’s School of Interactive Games and Media (IGM). “Faculty and staff in IGM work hard to provide core computing education within the context of game design, so our students have amazing career opportunities.”

Animation Career Review noted that RIT offers several programs for aspiring game designers, including two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s. In fact, any student studying computing in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences has the opportunity to minor in game design and development. Students outside of technical computing majors can also minor in game design.

RIT’s Bachelor of Science in game design and development provides a broad-based undergraduate education in computing while exposing students to the breadth of game design and development processes. The bachelor’s program in new media interactive development also explores casual games, in addition to new technologies and experiences with web, wearable and mobile computing.

Students who pursue a master’s degree in game design and development at RIT focus on the technical roots in the computing and information sciences disciplines, while simultaneously covering the breadth of the development landscape through involvement in topics, including computer graphics, game engines, interactive narrative and game world design. The degree culminates with a capstone project in which students create their own games.

RIT game design students can also work with RIT’s MAGIC Center, a nonprofit university-wide research and development laboratory and a for-profit production studio that assists in efforts to bring digital media creations up to marketplace standards and commercialization. RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios, which moved into a new state-of-the-art building in 2018, focuses on nurturing and growing new companies and publishing and distributing their projects.

The ranking also highlights RIT’s emphasis on cooperative education—full-time paid work experiences that provide students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. With help from the co-op program, graduates of RIT’s game design and development programs go on to work at companies including Microsoft, Rockstar Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Valve Corp. and Walt Disney Interactive.

The full game design school rankings can be found on the Animation Career Review 2020 Game Design Rankings website.

RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, NTID Performing Arts announce 2020-2021 theatrical season

6 Feb

white brick background with four images of play productions and dates along with logos for the departments.

Classic sci-fi; an interpretation of a Tony Award-winning musical; a story of faith and friendship; and New Yorkers struggling with drug abuse, AIDS and homosexuality are all part of a new collaborative season by Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts program and the College of Liberal Arts. The partnership between NTID and the College of Liberal Arts is a long-term collaboration in which strong backgrounds in performance, acting, directing, dance and music converge to create stunning theatrical productions.

The productions present a wide array of cultural, political and social issues. The 2020-2021 season includes:

SOMNIUM, conceived and directed by guest director Omen Sade, Oct. 16-18, 1510 Lab Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. This piece is inspired by the world of classic sci-fi and tells the story of a team of “slumber-nauts” who trek through the hilarious and dangerous badlands of our collective “Dream Scape.” The production uses live music, projection art and physical theatrical techniques such as mime, object manipulation and cinematic theater.

In the Heights, directed by Luane Davis-Haggerty, Nov. 13-15, Robert F. Panara Theatre, LBJ Hall. With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, this production tells the universal story of a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. In the Heights won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical.

THIS, written by deaf playwright Raymond Luczak and directed by Fred Beam, Feb. 26-28, 2021, in 1510 Lab Theatre. Curtis Higgs, a talented dancer cursed with low self-esteem, meets Dwight, a charismatic and funny hard-of-hearing dancer who is incredible onstage, yet exploitative of his friends offstage. It is through the hunger of wanting to be an unmistakable star like Dwight that Curtis learns the true value of friendship and gains faith in himself.

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, directed by Andy Head, April 16-18, 2021, in Panara Theatre. It’s the 1980s. President Reagan sits in the White House while the AIDS crisis rages on. ​Caught in the middle are a Valium-addicted Mormon, her closeted lawyer husband, and two men ripped apart by an AIDS diagnosis. This is a story about fighting for survival, love, politics and God. In 1993, Angels in America, written by Tony Kushner, won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

All four productions are planned to be fully accessible for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences, whether using captions, American Sign Language in the performance, interpreters or a combination. Angels in America is not appropriate for children under 12. 

Tickets for performances in Panara Theatre—$5 for students, senior citizens and children under age 12; $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni; and $12 for the public—will be available through rittickets.com, by phone at 585-475-4121 or at the door two hours prior to curtain time. Performances in the 1510 Lab Theatre are free. Tickets will be released on Eventbrite.

For more information, go to the Performing Arts theatre program webpage.

Macie the therapy dog visits Wallace Library today; featured in student film ‘Mike & Macie’

10 Dec

Very good doggie surrounded by students petting her, with owner/trainer sitting behind her.

Ten minutes spent petting a dog can make a world of difference to a stressed-out college student—especially during finals week.

To help students relax, Wallace Library is hosting a therapy-dog event from 3 to 4:30 p.m. today on the first floor. The event is part of the library’s weeklong Destress Fest and a continuation of a monthly offering that many students enjoy. One student even made therapy dog Macie and her handler, RIT retiree Michael Servé ’71 (business administration), ’76 MBA, the subject of a documentary that will be shown this week in the MAGIC Center’s Wegmans Theater.

“The students get excited when they hear another event is coming up,” said Sara Kuehl, manager of marketing and communications at RIT Libraries. “I think therapy dogs are becoming more common on college campuses, particularly with academic libraries.”

A 2018 study in Stress and Health, by University of British Columbia researchers, investigated the impact of therapy dog sessions on college campuses and found a measurable short-term impact on student wellbeing. Participants reported reduction in stress and negative feelings.

“Wallace Library is open the most hours of any academic building on campus, and we see students spending long hours here,” Kuehl said. “Particularly as we get to finals week, you can feel the stress from the students. It’s palpable as you’re walking through the building. We created Destress Fest three years ago to help students relieve some stress without having to leave the library, encouraging them to take study breaks and practice some self-care.”

Victoria Sebastian, a third-year film and animation major from the Pittsburg area, makes a priority of visiting therapy dogs at the library. She misses her German shepherd/poodle puppy Bear and likes the chance to “chill with a dog.” She’s not the only one.

Kuehl anticipates a crowd of students to form around the therapy dogs this afternoon. Typically, 200 to 300 students attend the monthly sessions with three dogs and their handlers, she said. Kuehl first invited handlers to bring their dogs to Wallace Library about three years ago and was amazed when nearly 400 students showed up eager to pet the three dogs.

“After we saw the overwhelming reaction—we decided this was something we should definitely continue,” Kuehl said. “We’ve been hosting therapy dogs monthly for the past year and a half, and there is always a good turnout.”

Kuehl reached out to Servé about bringing therapy dogs to Wallace Library. Servé, former assistant vice president for finance for NTID, retired from RIT in 2014 after 34 years of service. He has coordinated RIT-approved therapy-dog events on campus for nearly a decade. In 2011, he and his wife, Barbara Servé ’71 (retail), started bringing their late golden doodles, Toby and Tucker, to campus for NTID students. When word spread that Servé was organizing these events, he was asked to create the Bow Wow Wellness program for the university. (The next Bow Wow Wellness event will be held 4 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Student Alumni Union’s Fireside Lounge.)

Servé networks with the local group of volunteers affiliated with Therapy Dogs International to bring six to eight dog/handler teams to Bow Wow Wellness in the Fireside Lounge. The smaller space in the library is suitable for two to three dogs, he said, and his standard poodle Macie is a regular attendee.

“In an hour and half, the students just gravitate to the dogs. It’s a very satisfying thing,” Servé said. “The students want to talk about their dog at home that they miss so much. They want to know about Macie, they want to know how she was trained, and basically, they just want to hug the dog.”

The love is reciprocal.

“I think the work is good stimulus for the dog,” Servé said. “There is no sign of stress and she does it on back-to-back days and she’s fine. She’s been doing this work for so long; she knows what’s going on and is ready for it.”

Film student Sebastian had her own questions about what it takes to prepare a dog for pet therapy and made it the focus of a class project this fall for her documentary workshop.

“I wanted to focus on one person and their therapy dog to see all the work that they do and to thank them,” Sebastian said.

Kuehl connected her with Servé, and the project took shape.

Sebastian’s six-minute film, Mike & Macie, is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a busy therapy dog and can be viewed on SOFAtube and on Sebastian’s YouTube channel.

“I learned there is a huge demand for therapy dogs,” Sebastian said. “Mike and Macie could do events every single day.”

Schools, colleges and hospitals are eager for therapy dog teams to visit, Servé said. He clarified that pet therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs for the blind or hard of hearing. “It’s a much lower bar that they pass.”

Nevertheless, Macie had to complete a six-week training course and pass a test to earn her certification through Therapy Dogs International. Macie had to demonstrate her ability to get along with multiple dogs, behave well in crowds and maintain her naturally calm disposition. She also had to prove her ability to resist food dropped on the floor. Macie’s training could save her life if the piece of food was actually medicine or another potentially dangerous object.

Sebastian and her cinematographer, Brandon Granby, a third-year film and animation major, interviewed Servé at his home. Macie was shy at first when she saw the foreign lighting equipment in her home, and Sebastian waited for her to warm up to the small crew and their gear.

“Victoria came to my house twice and filmed the dog in her home environment, proving that Macie may be a therapy dog, but No. 1 she’s a family dog, too,” Servé said. “And the dog performed. They filmed us getting the dog ready in the morning to go out on therapy-dog visits and the dog running in the back yard.”

Sebastian shadowed Servé and Macie at Wallace Library and at the Lois E. Bird/Morgan School in East Rochester, where twice weekly they visit children with special needs. Sebastian used the film to ask both sets of students what they think about having the dog come to their school.

“Macie is very calming, so they can take a break from what they’re doing, and laugh and smile for a while,” Sebastian said about the RIT students. “A lot of the younger kids said that it’s fun to have a dog, and when they walk in the room they know it’s going to be a good time.”

Producing the film has inspired Sebastian to explore therapy dog training in the future with her own puppy. For now, she will take advantage of the therapy-dogs on campus.

Servé and Macie will be back at Wallace Library from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 29 to provide comfort for students in need of dog time. Kuehl is happy the library can provide students a safe place to center themselves.

“Students leave smiling and you can almost see their shoulders relax,” Kuehl said. “It’s really great to see the positive impact therapy dogs have on the students.”

Victoria Sebastian’s tips for working with dogs

“You have to be ready for anything. It’s very spontaneous. You can’t predict what an animal is going to do. You can’t predict the reactions you’re going to get from students. It’s very on-your-feet to make sure you’re getting more than you need. The animal takes the lead. And you must get a lot of the shots that convey meaning visually. Because although with people they can explain things to you, but with dogs you have to show it instead.”

RIT gifted 177-acre estate to expand research, educational offerings

3 Dec

Aerial view of large cabin and grounds surrounded by water.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.

 

E. Philip Saunders gifts $7.5 million to RIT

30 Oct

stage with man at podium, interpreter to his side, three people sitting in chairs.

At an Oct. 29 celebration at Rochester Institute of Technology, E. Philip Saunders announced a $7.5 million gift to the business college that bears his name. Saunders, president and CEO of Saunders Management Co. and a longtime supporter of RIT, has gifted more than $25 million to the university. The latest transformational gift will be used to help fund a major renovation and expansion of the facilities in Max Lowenthal Hall, home of Saunders College of Business.

The gift will help add much-needed space to the college for innovative research in business disciplines, multidisciplinary student and faculty work, and experiential learning projects. The expansion will include learning laboratories, collaborative student spaces and room for the addition of the hospitality and service innovation programs to Saunders College. Plans are also underway to construct event spaces that will accommodate business conferences and speakers.

In July, majors in hospitality and tourism management and graduate majors in hospitality and tourism management, service leadership and innovation, and human resource development, as well as advanced certificates in organizational learning and service leadership and innovation, transitioned into Saunders College from the College of Engineering Technology. As a result of the transition, the programs contribute to a 10 percent growth in enrollment for Saunders College.

“My love for RIT goes back many years,” said Saunders. “I feel so good about the college. I am pleased that we are going to make another expansion here. This money is going to a good cause and will take Saunders College of Business and move it to the next level.”

RIT President David Munson thanked Saunders for his confidence in RIT’s work and for helping to craft the vision for Saunders College of Business. 

“Phil Saunders has helped set this college on a great path for almost 20 years, and we’re here to celebrate another leap forward for the Saunders College of Business,” said Munson. “Phil’s dedication to RIT and to this college has had a profound effect on our capacity to prepare the business leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful for his confidence in our work at RIT and in the Saunders College of Business, and I would like to call on the entire RIT community to join me in thanking Phil Saunders.”

Dean Jacqueline Mozrall thanked Saunders for his commitment and the impact that he continues to make on the university and its students.

“Saunders College has made significant strides over the past decade,” said Mozrall. “E. Philip Saunders helped initiate this unprecedented period of progress when he placed his trust in us by attaching his name to our business college in 2006. Phil invested in us, but has also committed his time and energy. He is an inspiration to us and this community. His spirit is a driving force in everything we do, and we cherish the active role he takes in helping us to pursue our mission and engage with our students, alumni, faculty and staff. It is truly an honor for us to be part of this amazing college that bears his name.”

In 2006, Saunders’ $13 million gift to the university boosted the visionary plans of RIT’s Saunders College. In 2010, he enhanced his support with an additional $5 million and a challenge to all Saunders College alumni and friends to raise $15 million to support future endeavors.

He also funded the E. Philip Saunders Endowed Business Scholarship, which has supported more than 85 undergraduate students since it was first awarded, and recently created a graduate endowed scholarship to expand graduate student learning and career potential. RIT student Kate Ferguson, a fourth-year finance and international business double major from Dansville, N.Y., and RIT alumna Rebecca Ward ’14 (accounting), ’15 (MBA), a senior accountant at Insero & Co., thanked Saunders and said the scholarship made their educations possible.

Saunders was named RIT’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year and also received the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award in 2005 and the Nathaniel Rochester Society award in 2011.

A trustee emeritus of the university, Saunders created an empire of truck stops known as the TravelCenters of America Inc., which led to a lifetime of diversified interests in energy, auto and truck rental, recreation and tourism, packaged foods, property management, banking and business ventures.

Today, Saunders College enrolls more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in programs across RIT global campuses in Rochester, N.Y.; Croatia; Dubai; and China. Saunders College works in partnership with RIT’s entrepreneurial Venture Creations incubator and top-ranked Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to integrate business education with RIT’s world-leading technical and creative programs. With more than 25,000 alumni worldwide, Saunders College offers undergraduate, master’s, Master of Business Administration, and Executive MBA programs where students gain real-world business experiences through a tradition of applied learning, internships and capstone programs.

Saunders College’s online Executive MBA program was named the top online Executive MBA program in the country and in the top 10 online MBA programs in the nation by Poets&Quants, a leading resource for coverage of graduate business education. Saunders College undergraduate programs were recently ranked No. 66 in the nation in the 2020 edition of U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges, making it the top undergraduate business program in western New York.

This gift is another contribution to Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, a $1 billion university fundraising effort.