NSF Awards RIT/NTID $4.45 Million to Create a National Center of Excellence

Donna Lange, Myra Pelz and Gary Long
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“The goal of this national center is to successfully integrate more deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals into the workplace, especially in highly skilled technician jobs where deaf and hard-of-hearing workers are currently underrepresented and underutilized.” - NTID President Gerry Buckley.

The National Science Foundation has awarded more than $4.45 million over four years to the Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf to establish DeafTEC: Technological Education Center for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, an Advanced Technological Education National Center of Excellence.

It is the single largest NSF award in RIT’s history. There are approximately 40 ATE centers across the country, and DeafTEC will be the first ever established to serve individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

DeafTEC will serve as a resource for high schools and community colleges across the country that educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related programs and for employers hiring deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Through its comprehensive website, DeafTEC will serve as a clearinghouse for information related to technical education and technician careers for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, including career awareness materials, teaching strategies for improving student access to learning, developmental math and English curricula, and information for employers to help them provide a more accessible workplace.

“The goal of this national center is to successfully integrate more deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals into the workplace, especially in highly skilled technician jobs where deaf and hard-of-hearing workers are currently underrepresented and underutilized,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “DeafTEC will provide them, as well as their teachers, counselors, employers and co-workers with the resources that will help them succeed, both in the classroom and on the job.”

DeafTEC will establish a model within targeted regions of the country – California, Texas and Florida – that will create partnerships among high schools, community colleges, and industry to improve access to technological education and employment for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The initial regional DeafTEC partners are:

  • California
    • California School for the Deaf, Riverside
    • Pierce College, Woodland Hills
    • Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose 
    • Solar Turbines Incorporated, San Diego 
    • The Dow Chemical Company, Hayward and La Mirada
  • Florida
    • Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind, St. Augustine
    • St. Petersburg  College, St. Petersburg
    • ConMed Linvatec Corporation, Largo
    • BioDerm, Inc., North Largo
    • Bovie Medical Corporation, Clearwater
  • Texas
    • Texas School for the Deaf, Austin
    • Austin Community College, Austin
    • The Dow Chemical Company, Houston, Bay Port, Texas City, Deer Park/LaPorte, Freeport and Seadrift

“DeafTEC will impact the knowledge and attitudes of high school teachers, community college faculty, employers, and the deaf and hard-of-hearing students themselves in terms of the educational and employment opportunities and options available,” says Donna Lange, an associate professor in NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department, who will be leading the grant and serving as the center director.

The center will also provide professional development experiences to improve the instructional expertise of high school and community college teachers in STEM subjects to provide greater access to learning for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, as well as all students in the classroom, particularly other students with language difficulties.

“DeafTEC will establish, expand and improve pathways for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to transition from high school to college in several STEM areas,” says Myra Pelz, also an associate professor in NTID’s Information and Computing Studies Department and a co-principal investigator on the grant.

“It is an honor to be awarded an NSF ATE National Center of Excellence and to be able to create this much needed national resource for deaf students, their parents, educators and employers,” says Gary Long, an associate professor in NTID’s Department of Research and Teacher Education and a co-principal investigator on the grant.

Lange and her colleagues plan to have the website created and live sometime in 2012. For more information, send email to donna.lange@rit.edu.

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