Designing MAGIC Spell Studios

Earlier this month, RIT proudly released plans to build MAGIC Spell Studios, new space to nurture programs that “consciously and deliberately blur the lines between arts and the sciences, between technology and expression” through the MAGIC Center. This space promises to push the institute even further as a leader in the digital media industry and the community is hungry for updates. Although there’s still much to be determined, Director of Planning and Design James Yarrington let us know the current status of the building plans.

RIT recently received a $12 million pledge from New York State to go toward basic building shell costs, as well as $12.4 million from Cisco Systems Inc. and $3 million from Dell for the new center’s equipment.

Yarrington started the programming and conceptual design process before MAGIC’s $12 million pledge from New York State was finalized, and he had initially planned the building based on a gross project of about $16 million. Based on that cost, the concept sat at three floors and around 42,000-43,000 gross square feet, which is almost the size of the CAST building if it were free-standing.


In addition to much-needed extra lab space, another exciting feature in the new building’s plans is a film-quality sound studio much larger than what RIT currently has. Right now, there is a focus on needs for interactive gaming and film and animation, but there has also been discussion of creating more space for the imaging science department.

As far as internal design goes, Yarrington says “ There are a lot of parts of the building that want to be visually and acoustically opaque, like the theater and the sound stage. A thought I’ve been playing with is creating a large display of electronic art and information, almost like a bit of Time Square, that shows off designs from the school.”

Exact location is still being determined, but there are a few options under consideration. Factors that will impact the decision will include how well a location lends itself to an energy efficient design and how well a location interacts with existing entities.

“I always look for more opportunities to create density in activity to make the campus a more vibrant place,” Yarrington explained.

The architecture and design concept could be scaled down or up depending on any additional support from the state and gifts, which are a large possibility considering, according to Yarrington, the entire building has naming potential. The amount RIT itself will put toward the venture is still yet to be released.

Once funding is finalized, designs will be reviewed by key figures such as the Provost, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Dr. James H. Watters and department chairs to ensure the interrelation of facilities makes sense program-wise and technically.

After additional refining is done in-house, since this is a large project, RIT will find an external consultant to work as the architect of record and design the facility in detail. Yarrington says that sending out requests for proposals is not too far down the line.


Tigers for Tigers at RIT

Today marks International Tiger Day, an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation efforts worldwide. The world has lost 97 percent of its wild tiger population in just over the past 100 years. RIT has joined the ranks of other colleges fighting this decline through involvement with the Tigers for Tigers Coalition (T4T), an organization that channels the spirit of schools with tiger mascots into awareness and action.

One of the most notable contributions from RIT T4T was last October’s sold out Brick City Homecoming men’s hockey game against Boston College. Not only did the group educate the crowd by giving the announcers a script and creating a jumbo-tron display, but they also raised over $5,500 for conservation efforts. How did RIT T4T gather a gift of that magnitude? The group raffled off one-of-a-kind warm up jerseys worn by the men’s hockey team, and Jordon Ruby’s jersey alone was won by a $500 bid!

In February, the RIT crew team attempted to row 500,000 meters in one day to fundraise with T4T. They surpassed that goal by rowing 875,000 meters and raised $1,200.

RIT T4T also partnered with RIT women’s cross-country and track and field teams last March. In just eight days, 15 past and present members ran a 1,400 mile relay from Auburn, Alabama back to Rochester to raise awareness and donations.

After making this kind of noise for a cause that should be dear to every Tiger’s heart, it’s no surprise that RIT T4T won “Best New Club” at this year’s Club Bash.

Celebrate International Tiger Day by liking RIT T4T on Facebook and learning how to help #SaveOurMascot!

Photo courtesy of Tigers for Tigers at RIT Facebook page
Photo courtesy of Tigers for Tigers at RIT Facebook page


New RIT Buses Revealed

Last semester, RIT announced we will be switching from our longtime bus provider Regional Transit Service to First Transit. This means good things for the community, including branded buses, more flexibility and lower costs for the university. Director of Parking and Transportation Randy Vercauteren gave us a sneak peek at the just-released design mock-ups, as well as insight into the choice to change service providers.

Parking and Transportation Services found in their research that when you have branded buses, students are more willing to get on them. Seeing their school’s colors or messages gives students a sense of assurance and belonging. Take a look at what our branded buses are going to look like! Way more welcoming than something drab and plastered with irrelevant advertisements, right?

Parking and Transportation Services presented the bus project to Professor Deborah Beardslee’s graduate level Design Theory and Methods Seminar as if they were the class’ clients, asking the students to come up with a system of original designs for consideration that would accommodate different bus sizes and styles. The graphic design concept on the surface of the buses can be attributed to students Rootwa Sagar and Trina Ray and the slogan “Reducing Our Carbon Paw Print” was incorporated from the designs of students Jordan Reading and Rachel Smith. Beardslee acted as a client liaison and design consultant for the design’s implementation.

Vercauteren also sought feedback on the administrative level and it was Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Sandy Johnson who suggested the addition of RIT’s 10 year strategic plan statement, “Greatness through difference.”

On top of branding capabilities, of course cost was a factor. Parking and Transportation could have opted for an in-house busing model, but the need for infrastructure to house the buses, to hire drivers and get new certifications would have made this an extremely costly choice. Public transportation companies like RTS also tend to have high prices due to their large administration costs and need to recover the loss created by straying from their usual routes. Since First Transit is a privately owned company, they were also able to offer a competitive bid for RIT’s business, which will save RIT students money.

“We’re a tuition-driven university so we need to always be circumspective of how we’re spending our money,” said Vercauteren.

Vercauteren mentioned that RIT considered route accommodation in their decision to switch the buses to First Transit as well. Since RTS is public transit, their routes couldn’t change to take trips as far off as the Racquet Club or the RIT Inn. Changes to the schedule could only be made four times a year, while RIT can now change the schedule with a day’s notice using First Transit.

RIT still recognizes the value of public transit and will continue its partnership with RTS for Route 24 trips to campus and the Tiger East End Express (TE3) that runs students into the city and back Saturday nights.


Gracie’s Menu Gets Revamped

The Gracie’s menu is getting revamped, adding new health conscious and fun conscious options. Assistant Manager Aimee Mitchell sat down to give me the scoop on what you’ll want to try.

Healthy Changes

Aimee was asked to work out a menu for Gracie’s that would meet the requirements of Partnership for a Better America (PHA)’s Healthier Campus Initiative, a program all of RIT Dining Services will be taking a part in. Aimee and her team are already well into their menu. We’ll have more fruit and veggie options (The Gracie’s team is pushing for an increased use of local produce), meat alternatives (including a carrot dog. Yes, please.), lean meat options like turkey sausage and turkey bacon, whole grain tortillas, mini dessert portions and a hot cereal bar featuring fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy sweeteners like evaporated cane juice starting this fall.

The chefs at Gracie’s have been at work testing recipes, and the success stories we can anticipate are mouth-watering. Here’s are some of the most exciting additions, in my humble opinion:

Spicy tofu Buffalo sticks

Pumpkin pie amaranth porridge

Strawberries ‘n cream quinoa porridge

Baked grapefruit halves

Thyme roasted tofu with mushroom gravy

Grilled hummus and caramelized onion sandwiches (Fall 2016)

If within three years RIT meets 23 of the 39 guidelines provided by PHA (At least 3 of which Dining will be responsible for), we will be added to a national list of campuses devoted to promoting healthier lifestyles. PHA will then extend us resources that will further push us toward creating a healthier atmosphere.

I asked Aimee if she thought it’d take the full three years to enact these guidelines.

“For Grace Watson? No,” she answered with absolute confidence. “When I’m given a challenge, I try to get right in there and get it done.”

The Gracie’s team will also be working closely with Registered Dietitian Mary Anne McQuay to determine how to best start to offer at least one wellness meal option for every breakfast, lunch and dinner served. Given PHA’s requirements, that’ll mean a meal that is at least 50 percent whole grain when grains are used and has a specific serving size of fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean meat, fish or poultry. Wellness meals will also need to fit a nutritional profile that keeps it under a set amount of calories (400 calories for breakfast and 700 for lunch or dinner), calories from fat and sodium as well as place them at 0 artificial trans fats. Complete compliance by fall 2016 is Aimee’s goal.


New Treats

“Variety is the spice of life,” Aimee mused. “It’s important to have those healthy options but even the healthiest eater wants to treat themselves sometimes.”

For those times when you want to treat yourself, you won’t be disappointed by what Gracie’s is bringing to the table starting spring 2016.

Get ready for Sweet Sammie bar! You’ve heard of the classic “Elvis sandwich,” right? Peanutbutter, bananas and bacon? Well you’ll be able to order that up and have the option of building the sandwich with freshly baked banana bread or pound cake. Along side the Elvis, you’ll find sandwich suggestions like s’mores and strawberry cheesecake (my favorite). Choose a suggested sandwich from the menu or go rogue, building your own sammie from a spread of sweet ingredients.

Start fantasizing about breakfast, because Gracie’s is elevating the pancake station. Begin with classic buttermilk, oatmeal, cinnamon roll, chocolate (Aimee raves that this ends up very much like a “crispy on the outside, but moist on the inside” brownie.) or cake batter and add toppings like Reese’s peanutbutter chips, pecans, sprinkles, streusel and ganache.

If your tooth is more savory than sweet, there will still be plenty of new treats for you too. A new bar called “Street Food” is coming in spring of 2016 and it’ll be serving vegetarian samosas, blintzes, Jamaican beef patties alongside old favorites like pizza logs.

Here are some of the other bars coming this spring:


Bacon and rosti


Revamped french toast 


Revamped grilled cheese

Breakfast on the Mongolian Grill

Dining is creating delicious, healthy, effortless meals in a way that just wasn’t a possibility for diners before; our cheat day options are getting more interesting too. Stop by Grace Watson this fall to start testing the new menu. Thanks to the Gracie’s team, you can expect a very happy belly.

Rochester’s July 2015 Festivals

Summer’s going by way too fast, so make sure you’re fitting in as much festival fun as you can. Here are some highlights of what’s coming up in July:

Rochester SummerFest: July 10-11 (Tickets for sale)

Rochester is bringing two massive days of entertainment to Sahlen’s Stadium.

July 10 is “Blues & BBQ” day. Enjoy local food and watch Clarence Carter, Pokey Bear, Lenny Williams, The Jimmy Highsmith Band, Chris Beard and Joe Beard. Tickets are $15 in advance, $25 the day of and $35 for VIP. 

July 11 is all about “Old School Hip-Hop with Today’s R&B.” Who’s going to be performing? Salt-n-Pepa (Who doesn’t want to see Sat-n-Pepa?), Doug E. Fresh, Rakim, Next, Merj (formerly of Blackstreet), Rob Base, DJ Marley Marl, Rico Love, Jidenna, Leela James and Kayla Briannain. The day will also start off with family fun like face painting and bounce houses. Tickets are $37 in advance, $47 the day of and $57 for VIP.

Corn Hill Arts Festival: July 11-12 (Free admission)

There’s a whole lot to experience in just two days at the Corn Hill Arts Festival. Expect over 375 juried artists in the categories of consumable crafts, glass, jewelry, painting/drawing/graphics, mixed media, photography, pottery and ceramics, sculpture, textile/weaving/leather and also woodworking.

The festival will feature four stages of continuous live music, spanning from jazz to pop-rock. You can also visit two beer & wine gardens, food vendors and even a Fairy Houses Tour.

A Street Light Festival: July 17-18 (Free admission)

Rochester’s newest festival is coming up this month, and you’re not going to want to miss it. Celebrate the International Year of Light by viewing the work of area light artists, engineers and performers outdoors on Anderson Avenue.

This festival will be a nighttime event so the illumination can be as impressive as possible.

Macedonian Ethnic Festival: July 17-19 (Free admission)

Explore the Macedonian culture. This festival will feature Macedonian bands, folk dancing groups and ethnic food galore. Grab a kabob, some baklava and be entertained by performers or the exhibit of Macedonian heritage and history.

There will even be games for the kiddies, making this a great family excursion.

HopsFest at Nedloh Brewery: July 18-19 (Tickets for sale)

Are you a beer connoisseur? Check out more than 20 NY State craft breweries at HopsFest and pair your drinks with grub from some of Rochester’s favorite food trucks.

The Saturday experience will include optional seminars the NYS Craft Brewing Business, History of Hops and How to Grow Hops & Malt. There will also be hops farms tours. The Sunday experience will include the Big Green Egg Grill Chef Cook-Off, featuring 12 local chefs.

A one-day pass is $40 for drinkers, a two-day pass is $70 and designated drivers can get in for $10.

Spencerport Canal Days: July 25-26 (Free admission)

If you’re into arts and crafts, Spencerport Canal Days is a festival for you. Walk the streets of vendors and you’ll be sure to find something interesting.

The festival features live music, local food and drink (including 6 NYS wineries), a car show July 25, and the popular Canaligator Race on the 26. During the Canaligator Race, 1,000 plastic alligators are launched into the Erie Canal and the first and last few to reach the finish line win prizes for their “sponsors.”

Native American Dance & Music Festival: July 25-26 (Tickets for sale)

Experience living Native American culture like you can’t anywhere else. Watch traditional hoop dancers, listen to Iroquois storytelling, wander the Native American Arts Market, tour guided trails and longhouses and try Native foods.

The festival will include performances by modern Native American artists including seven-time Native American MusicAward winner Keith Secola.

Tickets run $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62+), $7 for students with ID (18+), $5/children (3-18) and FREE for Friends of Ganondagan members and children 2 and under.


Kathy Carcaci Reflects on Her 50th RIT Anniversary

Today marks Kathy Carcaci’s 50th anniversary with RIT. After having worked with five presidents and five VPs for Finance and Administration as well as seven Human Resources directors, Kathy now reflects on the evolution of the university and her career.


“People say to me ‘How could you stay with the same employer?’ and I say ‘You know what? I moved and grew, and the employer certainly grew.’ When people say it’s the same employer, I challenge them- because it’s like night and day.”

Kathy was first hired as administrative assistant to the director at just 18 years old and she was one of three people in the Human Resources department that has now grown to 33 employees strong.

“I was like one-stop shopping,” she giggled, telling stories of how she juggled office tasks.

Kathy reflected on how different the campus was at that time, when RIT was nestled in the bustling downtown community. Uprooting to the Henrietta campus was initially a shock, as it seemed “expansive and barren” in its early year, but Kathy spoke fondly of the growth she’s since seen.

“We had ShopOne at the Downtown Campus and, to me, gaining that here was like a rebirth. There have been changes even since my 45th anniversary. You have the Polisseni Center now, buildings that have been modernized, areas for students to cluster that really didn’t exist- just the gardens and the softening of the campus. All those things over the years have been, I think, wonderful. Sometimes I think ‘What would [former RIT President] Mark Ellingson say if he saw RIT today?’ He would be so proud.”

Since being hired, Kathy has held seven positions within HR, currently serving as Manager of Staff Recruiting, which she accepted when Bill Destler became President in 2007. After being approached by two of the school’s fraternities, Kathy also served as a Greek advisor for many years and was nominated Outstanding Advisor of the Year. Her experience in all of these positions has given Kathy a unique, holistic understanding of what RIT has to offer.

“One of the most rewarding things when doing recruitment is when you ask people, ‘Why RIT? Why here?’ and they repeat to me everything I’ve seen- innovation, imagination, great benefits, beautiful campus, a lot of people talk about tuition waiver benefits for themselves or their kids, strong retirement programs, the ability to grow, wellness…”

Through all of the twists and turns her 50 years brought her, Kathy says that her career hasn’t been perfect, but that it’s been pretty close to it. As a counselor to employees, she talks to people about how to “work through the waves” because everyone will have them, but she says “it’s how you work through them that make you a stronger employee.”

Brand Yourself this Summer

Doing well in school is only part of landing a job. In this competitive market, there will always be applicants who did similarly well, and you need to figure out how to communicate what makes you different. Get ahead by building your personal brand.

Define Your Brand

Employers like people who can bring a unique perspective to the table, people who add something to the atmosphere. Be aware of what you have to offer.

In my advertising classes here at RIT, I was taught to think about your brand in terms of which THREE words or phrases best represent you. Of course, pick ones that would appeal to employers in your specific industry. As somebody working in communications, my brand is “bold, culturally conscious and genuine,” but there’d be a more desirable collection of adjectives to use if I were in a different field.

What have you done outside of class? Sometimes that’s what gives you the edge. If you’re a sustainability major with a cool hobby like building furniture out of recycled milk crates, you should find ways to tell people about that. If you’re majoring in game design but you’ve done extensive independent research on color psychology, mention it. These relevant but unexpected knowledge and skill sets are what separate us.

Communicate Your Brand

If you’re not sure how to get your brand across to others, practice! The Office of Career Services & Cooperative Education is here to help us better ourselves professionally, and part of the way they do that is through advisement. Setting up an appointment to discuss developing your brand can be your first bit of practice communicating what you’d like it to be. If you’re already confident in what your brand is, you can get further practice communicating it by setting up a mock interview for constructive critiques.

Design Promotional Content

Once you’ve figured out how to communicate your brand, reinforce it.

Never overlook the impact of a smartly designed business card. You don’t want your name to be lost in a stack of 20 others. Play around with fonts, sizing, placement and paper type to get across your brand’s essence. Don’t worry if you’re not a designer; you can use your subscription, which is free to you through RIT, to teach yourself design principles and how to navigate the big world of Adobe.

Once you’ve finished the design, the HUB can help make your creations tangible. For smaller print projects, visit the HUB Express, near Artesano. After printing, they can send your sheets to their main location to be cut into the traditional card shape.

If you’re in a buttoned-up industry, remember to keep things clean and minimalistic (Not to be confused with boring). If you’re in a creative field, don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to your standard business card. The HUB also offers stickers, which are a great way for artists to show off their work.

Launch a Website

You know employers are Googling you, so make sure they find something you’re proud of.

It’s fairly easy to create a simple static/portfolio site. First, you will need to register a domain name. I’d say Google Domain is your best bet because it has fast, free private registration, and you can use your RIT Gmail to do it all. A typical domain will cost you a small sum in the range of $10-$15.

Tip: When picking your domain name, try your best to get an address ending in .com. It’s best to get a .com for Google and other search engines to pick your site up, and everyone is used to .com.

When you have a proper domain, it’s time to get a provider to host your files online. Easy hosting providers that can be trusted are GoDaddy and HostGator. Both offer built in website builders as well as WordPress integration (which this very site uses). Again, has helpful tutorials to guide you through the process of setting up a website.

Check Your Presence

Once your brand is established online, you need to check your presence regularly to gauge whether it needs improvement.

There’s a brand new online product that can aid you greatly. It’s called BrandYourself and it provides you with information like reports of how your site is doing in relation to search engines and how strong your social media presence is.

Spend your summer free time on a project that’s fun and professionally fulfilling. Learning your unique value and mastering how you express it can give you the advantage you need to get job of your dreams.


Co-Author: Mohammad Daraghmeh