RIT is part of a national initiative advancing the role technology can play to make a difference in a rapidly changing society. The university is producing graduates who understand how technology can be integrated with public policy to drive Technology for Good.
RIT joined the Public Interest Technology – University Network (PIT-UN) in 2020, a national partnership of universities and colleges to build the field of public interest technology and encourage a new generation of civic-minded technologists. The PIT-UN Network seeks to equip tomorrow’s computer scientists, information architects, engineers, data scientists, designers, lawyers, policy experts, and social scientists with the skills to create public policy that centers on the needs of people and communities. The PIT-UN initiative is led by co-founders New America and the Ford Foundation.
RIT has a long history of developing technology applications that can serve the public good. Its students and faculty have an affinity for engaging in projects to help to improve society and solve global problems. The connection to the PIT-UN Network is a natural fit and one that will reap benefits for RIT. Through course development and degree options, innovative research projects, and experiential learning programs in public interest technology, RIT will produce graduates who understand the role technology can play in a rapidly changing society – and drive the technology toward applications for the public good.
Each year, PIT-UN and the New America organization provide funding for projects that encourage the development of technology for societal good. For more information about PIT-UN Challenge grant opportunities and winners, visit the New America website.
Associate professor Paul Shipman, RIT College of Science, was awarded RIT’s first PIT-UN Challenge Grant to build a career/placement pipeline model for a working group of students and faculty who would like to work in public interest technology within tribal communities.
In addition to specific projects or courses, RIT has several, ongoing initiatives that promote Technology for Good. Here are some examples:
A new option for co-op experiences at nonprofits is part of a pilot program being developed by a College of Art and Design faculty member. Professor Susan Lakin said the aim of the program is to both fill a need at nonprofits for digitally fluent staff and to provide an important experience for students interested in working closely with community organizations.
Sarah Brownell, a senior lecturer in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering and director of RIT’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program, is a part of a multiuniversity blog series for Campus Compact’s Global Service Learning Blog.
RIT’s PIT-UN initiative was featured during Imagine RIT 2021. Several projects showcased how the university is achieving “technology for good,” and the PIT-UN exhibits illustrate the philosophy of incorporating technology that is accessible, service-oriented, and relevant. Designs, applications, and products in the exhibits focus on how well-crafted technology can make a difference in people’s lives and in society overall.
Since the PIT-UN relationship was established in 2020, a core team of representatives from each of RIT's colleges and divisions has been built to engage faculty, staff, and students in campus projects. Their role is also to encourage these groups to seek collaborators from among the broader PIT-UN community on research projects, curriculum development, and experiences at the intersection of technology and public interest. The team meets quarterly, led by Doreen Edwards, dean of RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering, and Barbara (BJ) Hoerner, executive director of Foundation Relations, University Advancement.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
We will be networking with other universities interested in using technology for public benefit. This reflects perfectly RIT’s mission, that we leverage the power of technology, the arts, and design for the greater good.