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Student Spotlight: Making discoveries abroad with NTID

27 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your favorite part about this study abroad experience?

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

What are your plans for after graduation?

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

RIT opens its doors for the most academically qualified freshman class

20 Aug

two light-skinned females in

Thomas Hargrave Jr. drove to Rochester last night from his home in Corning, N.Y., so his daughter, Megan Hargrave, an environmental sciences major at Rochester Institute of Technology, could move into her residence hall at 7 a.m. today.

“I hope she does all right,” the proud father said. “She’s never been away from home before other than two or three days. But she’s ready.”

More than 4,300 first-year, transfer and graduate students were expected and were greeted by more than 200 RIT student orientation leaders who helped families unload cars, put belongings in carts and wheel them to their rooms.

“We’re all about helping new RIT Tigers and their families,” said Eric Pope, associate director for New Student Orientation at a morning pep rally just prior to move-in. “You’re going to show students what it means to be an RIT Tiger.”

The freshmen are the most academically qualified class RIT has had, with an average SAT score exceeding 1300 for the second year in a row. Fifty-one students had a perfect SAT score, and 52 of the undergraduates ranked first in their high school graduating class.

The undergraduates are coming from 47 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; and 42 countries.

New graduate students are coming from 52 countries – the most outside the U.S. coming from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Taiwan.

A record number of incoming Ph.D. students – 90 of them – were also expected this year.

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

25 Jun

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.

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

11 May

large screen showing action on stage - Gerry Buckley and student hug while other faculty and trustees look on.

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

11 May

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.