Raja Kushalnagar

Raja Kushalnagar has visited a dozen countries, has five academic degrees from four universities, has worked in three states, has taught at RIT for two years and had one unforgettable mentor—his father.

Kushalnagar, an instructional faculty member in RIT/NTID’s Information and Computing Sciences Department, grew up in Mysore, India. His father, an Air Force scientist who retired to teach his son, later founded a pre-school for deaf children in India. 

“My father was my primary mentor in that he believed in me and encouraged me to do anything that I wanted,”Kushalnagar recalls. “I had a very enriching childhood filled with things like tennis, drawing and physics.” 

Kushalnagar received a degree in Applied Physics from Angelo State University in Texas and then worked at the Texas School for the Deaf.  He obtained an M.S. in Computer Science from RIT and worked at Lucent/Bell Laboratories in Chicago and at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

He returned to academics to nurture his interest in advocacy and his “passion for research and teaching” by pursuing degrees in Intellectual Property and Information Law.  Simultaneously, he also pursued a Ph.D. in Computer Science. The latter degree completed a posthumous dream for his father, who died in 2010.

“My father looked forward so much to seeing me get my Ph.D.,” he says. “But he died a few months before my dissertation defense.”

Kushalnagar is interested in what he calls “the intersection of disability law, accessible and educational technology and human-computer interaction.” His work focuses on enhancing educational access for deaf/hard-of-hearing students in mainstream classrooms.

“I joined RIT to teach programming and computer science,” he says. “But also I wanted the opportunity to do research on classroom accessible technology and to seamlessly collaborate with other researchers in the field.

“Nationwide, deaf students and deaf professionals are an invisible minority,” he continues. “At RIT, they are a visible minority. This makes a huge difference in terms of diversity, collaboration and teamwork among both students and professionals.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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