DC Area Photography

Earlier this month I moved to Northern Virginia to start full-time work have been settling into the area nicely. As I continue to explore Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Southern Maryland (including Baltimore) I will share some of my experiences via my Instagram account phryanjr using the hashtag #dcphrj. At present the intention isn’t so much to dabble with photography as a hobby but rather to assemble a collection of photos that I feel represent my time living in the area for future review.

If you have any suggestions on areas to visit please feel free to let me know via my Twitter account, @phryanjr!

A photo posted by Peter Ryan, Jr. (@phryanjr) on

A photo posted by Peter Ryan, Jr. (@phryanjr) on

A photo posted by Peter Ryan, Jr. (@phryanjr) on

Summer 2015

Summer 2015 turned out to be just as fun as I  hoped that it would. I started my co-op with the MITRE Corporation in early June and was quickly put to work on various projects that I passionately worked over the course of the summer. The work proved challenging and I often had to draw on my RIT academic knowledge and develop skills and fixes to issues on the fly. I found however that I had multiple eager mentors supporting me throughout every stage of my work who could act as a sounding board and additional set of eyes for my work. While my projects absolutely kept me busy I was happy to take part in various work sponsored trips to places like the FBI Academy and the National Cryptologic Museum. Learning more about parts of the information security field is always a goal of mine and such visits helped expose me to new (and old) information, techniques, and technologies.

I was fortunate to live only about 15 minutes from work at MITRE in McLean, VA (not too bad for the area were the Beltway, I-66, and the Dulles Toll Road collide). I was even more lucky to live near a Metro station making for quick and easy commutes into DC after work and on the weekends. Having spent the summer prior living and working in Herndon, VA at Symantec, I was generally familiar with the National Capital Region and again felt at home living so close to my favorite city.

I put my time over the summer to use visiting friends, family, fraternity brothers, and my favorite sights whenever I had free time. I made sure to take part in brunch as often as I could and tried to round out each city visit with a trip to some of the monuments. I continued an annual tradition I started last summer to visit Charlotte, NC to visit brothers and have a fun day at the National Whitewater Center. I even played hooky and went into the city for a Nationals game with my coworkers.

Towards the end of the summer (and after a lot of thinking) I weighed all of my options and decided to return to MITRE for full-time employment once I graduate from RIT. I am very appreciative of the opportunity given to me by MITRE and I am excited to return. Overall the summer was enjoyable and served as validation for my decision to move to DC next year.

The White House
The White House
The Washington Monument at night
The Washington Monument at night
View of the Lincoln Memorial from the top of the Washington Monument
View of the Lincoln Memorial from the top of the Washington Monument
The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
The Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial
Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington
Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington
Hogans Alley at the FBI Academy
Hogans Alley at the FBI Academy
enigma
A functioning Enigma machine at the National Cryptologic Museum
The National Whitewater Center
The National Whitewater Center

Spring Break 2015

The second to last week in March RIT students were on Spring Break. It came at a good time as many, myself included, were feeling worn out from the rigorous spring semester. I started my break bright and early on Saturday with a drive to Massachusetts for the Boston Accepted Student Reception. After arriving the Admissions group I went with visited the North End, making sure to stop at Mike’s Pastry. Sunday morning we prepared for the program and welcomed dozens of accepted students and their families. It felt like a productive session and all of the students fielded questions and got to engage with students. An 8 hour drive put me back in Rochester and into Monday morning.

2015-03-21 18.01.09

Late Monday morning I flew out from Rochester to Fort Lauderdale to join my girlfriend and fraternity brothers in Pampano Beach for the rest of the break. It was nice standing in the warmth of the sun and enjoying the comfortable weather, especially being able to relax on the beach. On Thursday my girlfriend and I went on a quick helicopter ride (our first time in the air in one) and got some great views of the Pompano Beach/Hillsboro area of Florida.

View of Pompano Beach, FL
View of Pompano Beach, FL

While the break flew by quickly it was much needed and much enjoyed. I travelled across 8 different states and thousands of miles but I came out of the time relaxed and ready to get back to finish spring semester strong.

Instagram Geolocation and Your Privacy

About

The project is a collection of scripts that work with Instagram’s API and integrating data returned with Google’s Geocoding API to map out were pictures were tagged. The purpose of the project is to present how sensitive geolocation can be and how users often share it without giving a second thought. Future scripts may have functionality to collate and access larger sets of data to learn more about users.

What’s important to takeaway is that this data is voluntarily shared and made public by users. It is on the internet and accessible to all.

Why?

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Social Media Update, “roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram. And half of all Instagram users (49%) use the site daily.” Furthermore, “Instagram not only increased its overall user figure by nine percentage points, but also saw significant growth in almost every demographic group.” Given Instagram’s already robust (and growing) user base it seemed like a good service to work with.

How?

I used Python 3 to work with the Instagram API and Google Geocoding API. The project has been posted to GitHub.

Limitations

  • Users may use a location that is marked at a different area from where it physically exists (e.g. for me the existing entry for the White House was at a place on the grounds a distance away from where visitors are actually permitted to go)
  • The content of the photo may not match with what is listed on the Instagram location (e.g. a user may take a photo of their office desk but post it at their home with the location set at their home
  • The Instagram API doesn’t return all photos, only “recent” ones
instagram_post
Test image posted to Instagram with #home and location shared
script_output
One script was set to search for pictures with “#home” posted on the picture. The script prints out the URL to the file and returns a latitude and longitude and street address from the location on Instagram.
List of posts with geolocation data present
List of my 20 most recent pictures, 3 of which that have geolocation data present

Casual Analysis of Malicious Domain Detection Products

While working on a work project I took a break and ran some checks on some data I had available regarding malicious domain detection. Over about a two and a half month period the project has collected over 800 domains that have been found to be engaged in some form of malicious activity. The project has a broad definition of what is considered malicious and relies on many different sources to gather information but still I found the results below interesting.

Here are the top 15 products by occurrence of detection:

  1. Fortinet: 59.7%
  2. Websense: 46.1%
  3. Kaspersky: 45.4%
  4. BitDefender: 43.6%
  5. Sophos: 36.5%
  6. G-Data: 15.6%
  7. Trustwave: 14.3%
  8. Malware Domain Blocklist: 14.3%
  9. AutoShun: 13.7%
  10. CLEAN MX: 12.0%
  11. C-SIRT: 8.7%
  12. ADMIUSLabs: 7.8%
  13. Dr. Web: 5.7%
  14. Avira: 3.9%

Spring Semester 2015 Preview

Between visiting friends and being with family, working on a handful of projects, and a quick trip to D.C., intersession was an enjoyable time. As fun as it was I am ready for the semester to start so I can get back to work.

Looking East towards the Capitol from the Washington Monument
Looking East towards the Capitol from the Washington Monument

My first two days of classes went quite well and I am excited to get underway. This semester I am taking 6 classes: nearly all of them related to information security. I am eager to learn new skills and knowledge in my Unix Forensics and Network Services classes and jump into SCADA/ICS for a project for Symantec (and maybe an independent study class). Increasingly I’m seeing that my academics and side projects consistently overlap and I’m getting all of the miles out the RIT labs and resources afforded to me while I can. Work with Admissions and my involvement with Sigma Chi and Student Government will round out my schedule but all of it will contribute to a fulfilling semester.

During spring semester I’ll also be doing a bit of traveling. In March I plan on going down to the Bahamas for Spring Break vacation and in April I’ll be in Washington, D.C. for meetings with Members of Congress and their staff to discuss issues relevant to Fraternity and Sorority Life and higher education as a whole.

All and all my last spring term at RIT will be fun, busy, and surely very memorable.

Winter Break Projects

During my winter break away from RIT I’ve kept busy working on numerous projects mostly related to cyber security and information assurance:

  • Wired ethernet cable from my router to a new network closet and added a switch
  • Installed a RADIUS server for wireless network authentication and auditing and added a Samba server to my home network
  • Started the Matasano Crypto Challenges
  • Start the Coursera Cryptography I course
  • Wrote a small script to email me cyber security news each day
  • Worked on a handful of projects for Symantec where I work part-time as a contractor including programs to aid in detection of domains associated with malware and botnets
  • Reviewed and read information about network protocols

It’s been great to be able to see my family and friends and have more free time to spend on topics that I am interested in.

Summer Co-op in Review

My co-op experience this summer was all that I could hope for and then some. I was fortunate to spread the summer in Herndon, VA working with the Managed Security Services team of Symantec.

During the RIT Spring 2014 Career Fair I was looking around and walked over to Symantec, a company that I was familiar with but that I didn’t include in my pre-career fair research and prep work. I started talking with one of the representatives and after reviewing my resume he asked me to return the following day for an interview. The next day I was very excited as I studied up on Symantec and brushed up on as many computing security topics that I could. The interview lasted about 20 minutes or so and focused mostly on professional and technical questions. I was able to correctly most of them but some I was unsure of. The interviewers understood that I was a student and hadn’t taken some classes yet so I was in a position to respond to some of their prompts. I thanked the interviewers for their time and walked out confident in my performance but unsure of where I stacked up among the other candidates.

About twenty minutes after the interview I received a call from my interviewer extending me a job offer. I thanked him very much and said that I would be interested but I would need to review the offer letter before I could say yes or no. Within a few days I received my offer letter and after reading it and having my Career Services Program Coordinator review it with me I sent in word that I would accept the job. After I accepted the job I was in regular correspondence with a representative from Human Resources who guided me through the hiring process. The prospect of moving to Virginia was exciting to me and I was happy to learn that I would be given money for relocation. After finalizing my work documentation I had to wait for summer and continue to focus on my classes.

A few weeks before moving I started to look for an apartment in the area near work online and got in touch with my assigned work buddy. I was able to ask my work buddy questions that I didn’t exactly want to ask my boss such as what the dress code was and what area eateries he recommended. The week before my start date I packed up the car and drove down to my new apartment. I drove by my office the day before and settled into my new apartment. During my first day I received orientation and was introduced to the people I’d be working with for the summer. Prior to the end of the day my accounts, badges, and computers were set up and I was ready to get to work.

The projects that I was working on were accessible but challenging at the same time. Some of the tasks and areas were outside of the scope of my knowledge but I was able to pick most of it up fairly quickly. I was able to take on some additional personal projects that I thought could help out the team. One such example is the Pastebin Searcher that I previously wrote about. I was also involved in an effort to research and classify various cyber threat groups that our clients could encounter. I was very excited to be able to present my team’s work to the VP of Operations and his staff and even more thrilled to learn that my first report had been given to a client and that they had found it useful.

One of the favorite parts of the summer was living so close to DC and being able to drive into the city so easily. Thursdays when I was free (and the weather and traffic weren’t too bad) I’d head into the district and meet up with friends or just walk the National Mall by myself. Being in my favorite city so frequently gave me the time to explore the common tourist locations many times with different guests and also let me get to experience life beyond the typical sights.

In July I was made aware of a scholarship that would cover the cost to attend the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. I applied and won the scholarship and upon getting the go-ahead to attend by my manager I was also told that the company would pay for a DEF CON badge on my behalf as a handful of employees would be attending. Attending the conferences and being in the same room as some of the most intelligent and talented individuals in the computing security field was a humbling experience. Even though the talk I was most looking forward to was cancelled I still was able to learn a lot and get a clearer understanding of trends in the field.

Just like that my 10 week internship was over and I found myself packing up my belongings, cleaning up my apartment, and heading back to Rochester, NY for school. The internship served to validate my career pick and reassured me that I was going in the right direction. Symantec was very kind to me and I was extremely fortunate to be working with the team that I was on. All-and-all I was very happy with the experience and had a great summer both professionally and personally.

Fall Career Fair 2014 in Review

October 1st, 2014 saw hundreds of students and scores of companies in the Gordon Field House for the annual Fall Career Fair. I’ve previously written about my preparation process for the Career Fair but I’ve never shared my experiences or what I do after the fair ends.

This fall I went to the fair with the goal of networking and meeting professionals in my industry. I utilized Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services resources to find company interest sessions and to find RIT alumnni from the companies represented. Attending the interest sessions is always useful to me as I can take more time to have conversations and talk with the company’s representatives. After the interest sessions I take time to update my career spreadsheet with company and job specific information. The spreadsheet allows me to keep my information organized and track my relationships with various companies and organizations. I’ll then usually connect with the individuals I met at the fair on LinkedIn or send an email to thank them for their time and advice.

Again this year I volunteered as a “Wireless Wizard” assisting companies get online. This gave me the opportunity to enter the fair more than an hour prior to the start which meant that I could scope out where I wanted to go in-person and even meet with some of the company reps that I wanted to speak with. Once the fair started I followed my list and map to visit the booths I had previously designated as being interested in. As expected there were long lines for some of the more prominent and well-known companies so I had visited as many of the other booths on my list with smaller lines as I could. Due to class and other commitments I wasn’t able to stay as long as I wanted to but when I left I was satisfied that I had a way of connecting with the companies that I wanted to.

After the fair ended I was treated to a dinner by my co-op employer, Symantec. It was great to see and catch up with my team and enjoy a nice meal. I was happy to hear that the division was doing well and that the work that I contributed to the projects I was tasked with were adding value to the company.

The fair culminated with me getting asked to visit Boston, MA for an interview for a summer co-op. I am excited to see where that discussion takes me and I am thankful for the Career Fair for providing the opportunity.

Fall Career Fair 2014 Prep

Since my first year I’ve always enjoyed going to career fairs. Finding a co-op or full-time job is generally the main reason people attend but there are many other reasons such as networking and practicing your elevator speech. Employers from multiple industries and scores of companies will be descending on RIT this week and it’s a great opportunity to meet with them and advance your career.

Here are some of my tips for prepping for the career fair:

  • Use the Career Fair Plus app: download the Career Fair Plus application for your iPhone or Android phone and have the career fair guide and map in your pocket. The app gives you the ability to search for and filter companies and will let you access company information on the fly.
  • Make a list of companies to visit: don’t show up unsure where to go. Visit Job Zone and create a list of the companies you want to visit. On Job Zone you can perform advanced searches to narrow companies down by what academic programs they’re seeking, citizenship requirements, and what types of positions that they are hiring for.
  • Bring a pen: avoid being that person who needs to ask for a pen. Sure some companies may give them out but save yourself the trouble in advance and be prepared.
  • Attend Interest Sessions: in addition to the career fair some companies will hold interest sessions or table sits around campus. These are chances to get some personal one-on-one time with a recruiter in what it is usually a less stressful environment. You’ll likely be able to talk for a longer amount of time and have a more detailed conversation.
  • Get your resume reviewed: all of this week from 9:30 am to 11:30 am and Tuesday and Thursday 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm you can get your resume reviewed by the Office of Co-op and Career Services (Bausch and Lomb Center. first floor).
  • Utilize Student Government’s free resume printing service: upload your resume at https://resumes.rit.edu and stop by the SG office to pick up 10 b&w copies
  • Plan out your route: the Office of Co-op and Career Services posts the map of the career fair floor setup. Check it out and plan out the order that you want to visit companies in so that you know exactly where you want to go and avoid wasting valuable time trying to find booths.
  • Update your LinkedIn: make sure your LinkedIn is current and that there aren’t any inconsistencies with your profile and your resume.
  • Make sure your work is online: if you can put example of your work online on a relevant website (e.g. GitHub or Behance) and make sure that those URLs are on your LinkedIn profile and resume.
  • Track jobs and companies: make a spreadsheet to track information about companies and jobs. After the career fair ends consolidate your notes and make sure you have all of the jobs and companies that you are interested in recorded with information such as application deadlines, application means (online url, address, etc.), the name of the position, and the names of any employees you spoke with.
  • Manage your connections: after the fair follow up with the individuals you met and make sure to keep in contact whether it be on LinkedIn, via email, or on social media.
  • Follow the Career Fair on Twitter @RITCareers and tweet with #RITCF

Getting Involved at RIT

As we near the end of the second week of classes of fall semester many first year students are being to settle into living at RIT. As the campus maps are put away and the lanyards make their way off of necks the students are becoming more comfortable calling RIT their home. One bit of advice that I’ve found to be universally true for all students, but especially with newer ones, is to get involved. RIT offers so many great opportunities to students outside the classroom. Getting involved and engaged in college is an important tenet of ensuring that you get the most out of your undergraduate time. In addition to making new friends (some which will be lifelong), you will be able to broaden your horizons and make some great memories.

The fall of my first year I pledged a social Greek organization called Sigma Chi and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I was introduced to a number of values-based leaders and made some of my closest friends. I also found a great job with ITS as a Network Communications Assistant Specialist. The job paid well and I was able to gain valuable work experience and learn more about network technologies at the same time. I’ve held a handful of jobs on campus and have enjoyed each one. I saw them as a good way of meeting new people and developing new skill-sets and honing the ones I have. As I start my fourth year I am involved with Student Government as its Greek Senator and with the Office of Admissions as a Social Media Captain.

I cannot stress enough how much involvement and engagement enhances and enriches the collegiate experience. Students should remember that the top priority is academics but there is more to college than just that. Included in every student’s tuition and fees is a Student Activity Fee. That money goes to pay for things like campus festivals, concerts, clubs, and other campus life expenses. Get the most out of your time and money and get involved! There’s a lot out there for you, you just have to go and find it!

  • To learn more about the dozens of clubs and organizations (including Fraternities and Sororities) check out The Link @ RIT.
  • To look for a job on campus visit the Student Employment Office website.

First Half of Summer 2014

The first half of my internship went by even faster than I imagined it would. I attribute that feeling to me being so close to my favorite city (D.C.) and always keeping busy doing the things I like with people I like to be with. As far as work goes I spent the first three weeks with reading and reviewing system documentation and performing an analysis of two simulated network breaches. I quickly made it known to the analysts that I work with that I wanted to a team player and get involved in the work that they were doing in whatever ways I could. One of the first projects I undertook was using the VirusTotal API to create a customized command line script. While it does largely replicate the web interface it pulls together many functions to make certain tasks quicker and produces more Symantec specific outputs.

One of the next projects that I picked up was the researching of a handful of (likely) Chinese based advanced threat groups. I took whatever proprietary and open source data that I could find and worked to consolidate it for four specific groups. I was later asked to present the information in general terms to various internal teams and I might even write a blog post for the entire company (check back for details on these later). Presently I am developing two tools that monitor certain websites for signs of information about planned or in progress attacks or breaches of Symantec clients. The programs will regularly scan for evidence of such intrusions and email the results to an in-house intelligence team for further analysis.

I was very fortunate to learn that I had won a scholarship to attend Black Hat in Las Vegas in the beginning of August. I am very much looking forward to attending what might be the most prominent conference in the computing security profession. Analysts from Symantec will be in town that week as well so I will also be staying for DEF CON. I greatly enjoy being so close to the District and make an effort to visit at least once a week. I’ve missed no opportunity to explore the sites even if I’ve done them many times before.

My summer in Northern Virginia is only about halfway done but it has already been one of the most memorable and enjoyable ones thus far.

Pastebin Searcher Project

I’ve been working on a collection of scripts that regularly search the paste site Pastebin for signs of attacks and intrusions such as email/user & password lists, Social Security Numbers, /etc/shadow hashes, and other types of sensitive information. When suspect information is found it is sent out in a email report. The data returned would be for informational purposes only. The scripts can be customized to search for particular values using regular expressions (great for monitoring specific organization relevant material).

While the scripts do work now the project is still in development and I will need to figure out a means of getting the most amount of coverage of pastes while minimizing traffic to and from Pastebin.com. Future developments may include expanding the project to check other paste sites.

I’ve considered setting up a Twitter account and sending out suspect pastes but at present I don’t want the project to have that type of exposure.

Check out the project on GitHub.

Final Preparations, Packing, and Lead Intern

This week I’ve been making some final preparations like unpacking my supplies from school and repacking them for the summer, locking down my apartment lease, and running errands at home. It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from my house and I’m planning for an early start.

I also learned that I’ll be the lead intern for my office! I’ll post more about this when I learn more.

Getting my Co-op

This summer I’ll be in Herndon, VA working for Symantec as an Information Security Organization intern. Not only will I be close to my favorite city, Washington, D.C., but I will have the chance to work at one of the world’s leading firms in Cyber Security getting valuable hands-on experience in the industry.

I was offered the position earlier this year at the Spring Career Fair. While volunteering as tech support I started chatting with one of the gentlemen representing Symantec in general terms about the field of cyber security. At the end of our conversation he asked for a copy of my resume and after reviewing it he invited me to an interview the following day. At this point I got very excited and anxious as this all developed quite quickly. I spent some time talking with other companies and then rushed back to my apartment to brush up on my knowledge of Symantec. When it came time for the interview the questions were generally technical in nature and I was quite prepared, in large part thanks to one class: Crypto and Authentication. At one point I was asked to explain what an APT was. After talking about APT basics and discussing APT1 identifed by Mandiant I was told that no one else who interviewed that day could talk about one and it became clear that my following and researching of cyber security matters had paid off a bit (know your field!) I walked out of the interview feeling good but also unsure how well I answered some questions. About a half an hour after I finished the interview I got a call telling me that I got the job! I was on the 3rd floor of the library (a quiet floor) so I had to be careful to not be loud when saying that I’d be happy to accept!

Later that week I received an email with my offer letter and more information about the position, the company, and a relocation package. After reviewing everything with my co-op coordinator in the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services I sent my packet back and went back to focusing on school knowing that in a few months I’d be behind a desk working on some neat things.

Behind the Scenes with the Student IT Office

The Student IT Office was established in the summer of 2013 within RIT’s Information & Technology Services to provide students an ongoing opportunity for experiential learning in software development, project management, and business management. SITO solicits and completes software projects “for students, by students.”

The Student IT Office allows students to gain valuable leadership, personal, and professional skills while working within a fairly autonomous, collaborative environment right on RIT’s campus.

The SITO team is at present managing and developing several projects including:

  • Class Search (Tiger Center): the team’s main focus this year; a one stop shop for student information (a newer SIS)
  • TeamBuilder: a space for teams to list needs for team members and for those seeking teams to join to find them
  • Virtual Workspace: an online application (primarily for photo and journalism ) to create, manage, and show news stories in a manner similar to a real newsroom
  • Imagine RIT exhibit proposal system: a web app to gather information about individuals/teams seeking to exhibit their projects
  • SIS Extension: a browser extension to improve navigation on SIS as well as add functionality such as a grade calculator, auto-complete class search, RIT branding, and shortcuts
Tiger Center
A view of the Tiger Center homepage
A detailed view of a class in the Tiger Center
A detailed view of a class in the Tiger Center

Two of the SITO’s current co-op students had this to say:

“Working for SITO has been the best co-op experience I’ve had. There aren’t many co-op or internship experiences that give you full control over the projects you work on. Here, the student team is responsible for everything, from requirements gathering and customer management to code construction and deployment. If you apply and join the team, you will not be disappointed.” — Jared Schutt, Web Developer

“Working for SITO provided me with an opportunity to sharpen my skills and knowledge in both of the managerial side and the technical side of IT organizations. This competitive advantage is an added-niche value to my profile. This experience is the beginning of an endless stream of career opportunities.” — Ammar Almaatouq, Business Analyst

Check out the Tiger Center in action below or visit it yourself at https://classsearchbeta.rit.edu/classSearchBeta/

Have feedback? Share it at http://www.rit.edu/its/tigercentertalk/

Behind the Scenes with Information & Technology Services

I recently sat down with Jeanne Casares, RIT’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Assistant Vice President of Information and Technology Services (ITS) to discuss what her group does. Jeanne oversees the largest of the many campus IT units at RIT. Jeanne’s charge is to identify the institute’s IT vision and lead that vision all the way to operation.

During Jeanne’s time as CIO ITS has rolled out and deployed RIT’s wireless network comprised of thousands of access points all across campus. Faculty and staff saw a much needed email service upgrade and students saw the migration of their mail system to Google Apps for Education giving them the ability to utilize highly collaborative and useful tools such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar seamlessly with their RIT computer accounts. ITS also oversaw the development and migration to the new SIS environment – a project which was completed in 22 months instead of the estimated 3 years. Jeanne explained that in reality there aren’t a lot of products on the market (only 2) that have the type of functionality that RIT requires. Oracle’s solution is very robust and can handle the complexities that come with managing higher education related data. The system needed to be able to handle and serve data in a manner that was FERPA-compliant and also able to process financial aid tables, student records, and a variety of other detailed and linked datasets and most solutions couldn’t perform. While the current implementation might not be the most user friendly, work is being done by the Student IT Office (SITO) to change the front-end interface and restructure the environment so that the most used and sought features and reports can be moved to the front-page.

Jeanne was keen to share the story of the Student IT Office which is entirely comprised of students from managers to developers. The team is presently working on many solutions for the new SIS that will make the interface easier to navigate and more student friendly. [Note: a post on the Student IT Office is coming soon.]

Jeanne’s vision is for IT at RIT to be more network-centric more and for relevant IT organizations (such as college IT offices) to be able to share infrastructure on a macro-level. She was also keen to note that technology is bigger than technology itself. Another of Jeanne’s goals is to focus on the relationships among campus IT organizations, to foster collaboration, and encouragement more sharing of input and ideas across RIT in the context of information technology. One such example of this cooperation came during this semester’s snow day when the storm made travelling all over the WNY area very difficult. Jay Sullivan, a member of CIAS’s IT team, helped get ITS staff on-campus to perform important work to get systems back online. Lastly, Jeanne plans on moving ITS from being response-focused to being more pro-active in helping and advising the business planning at RIT.

ITS provides very valuable services and support for everyone across the university. From Resnet which provides computer repair labor free-of-charge for students, to Network Communications which keeps the network backbone running, wifi on, and phones ringing to the application development and support teams that work hard to keep things like eServices and the RIT web environment up and running ITS keeps the institute moving. Next time you easily connect to the seemingly always available wireless network or log onto a computer and print something in a lab think of the many men and women who are working hard to allow you to do those things and who are working to support and drive the technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Information & Technology Services component organizations:

  • Business Services
  • Operations & Architecture
  • Project Management
  • Service Strategies
  • Support & Development

To learn more about ITS, visit their website.

Behind the Scenes with Human Resources

This week I sat down with Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Judy Bender to discuss the work that is done by her office.

Judy’s department is tasked with the management of employee relations across the full cycle of employment from recruiting and finding them to assisting with retirement plans and benefits. In the middle her team tries to do its best to ensure that both the employee’s and RIT’s expectations are being met during the term of that employee’s employment with the institute. Human Resources handles all of the hiring of all RIT staff employees. They also manage the HR processes for faculty hires, Faculty recruitment however is is done by the Office of Faculty Recruitment and Retention under the purview of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Expectations go both ways and while RIT requires employees to follow policies and the requirements of their positions, RIT also want to provide a good work environment for employees and make sure that employees are getting what they expect from a job here. Within the department Human Resources Services Managers work with different departments across campus to constantly assess the needs and requires in terms of employees. process both faculty and staff.

RIT offers competitive benefits (which are bench marked externally), life insurance, dental, a 403-b Retirement Plan, the Center for Professional Development. Faculty and staff can earn a degree immediately free of charge and after 5 years of employment, some employees can have dependents earn degrees as well.

Human Resources job functions:

  • Benefits, Health & Wellness
  • Employee Relations
  • Employee Systems-Oracle
  • Compensation & Compliance
  • Center for Professional Development
  • Staff Recruitment

Human Resources also coordinates RIT’s Better Me program which offers health coaching, one-on-one meetings, fitness programs and health screenings. The programs seeks to create a culture of healthand wellness by educating employees about their personal choices and by providing employees with resources to maintain their good health.Lastly, Judy, an RIT alumna from the College of Business and student worker for Orientationand Special Events, wanted to remind students to think about the importance of making positiveimpressions and networking opportunities.To learn more about the Human Resources Department at RIT, visit their website.

Letter to the Editor: Gender and Sexuality Issue

I am frustrated hearing claims of RIT’s administration exercising prior restraint with regards to the upcoming Gender and Sexuality issue. To be clear: The Reporter is being allowed to distribute the issue at Imagine RIT, albeit only to those 18 years or older. The issue will be released in full form on Monday for those of any age. Imagine RIT is marketed as a family-friendly event and estimates places as many as 10,000 children on campus tomorrow. Furthermore, educators  were encouraged to schedule school/class trips and to encourage their students to attend. I support the decision to distribute the issue to those 18 years or older and I hope that others understand that the rational was not to bar edgy or controversial content or squash gender and sexuality regarded topics but rather to ensure that it does not fall into the hands of young children who may not not mature enough to digest the information presented to them. It is the place of these young children’s parents to decide when this content shown is to be presented to their children in such a manner as vivid drawings and illustrations.

I fully support and encourage the conversations and dialogue that this issue raises and I will be picking up a copy myself to participate. At such a time when dozens of US higher education institutes have been named as being investigated for their handling of sexual assault complaints, these discussions are long overdue and I applaud The Reporter’s staff for their effort to move them forward at RIT. Students can take a step in this direction by joining the conversation and even attending a Safe Zone training.

Guide to RIT Email

Upon confirming that you’ll be attending RIT you are given an RIT computer account with access to Google Apps including email. The interface will be very similar for those who have a Google Account as the service RIT uses for students is Google Apps for Education. In most ways your RIT account will work like a Google account. However there are a few significant differences. To start you will have different options when it comes to sharing documents in Google Drive. If you create a document with your RIT account you won’t be able to transfer ownership to anyone outside of the RIT domain (rit.edu). Second, RIT handles authentication for computer accounts so Google does not actually have your password and you login to your account using RIT’s systems. This means that unfortunately you won’t be able to directly login to your Google services (e.g. by going to google.com and logging in with your RIT account). To login your RIT Google Apps account you go to google.rit.edu and login with your RIT computer account information. It is possible to login to your account by going to google.com but you must first configure your Google Apps password at https://start.rit.edu/GoogleApps. At google.com you must login with your username@g.rit.edu (e.g. abc1234@g.rit.edu) and your Google Apps password at which point you will be asked to login again however you will now use your username and RIT computer account password. The second process is unnecessary and silly as you’ll essentially be doing the same login with an additional first step.

Many students want to have access to their RIT email on both their phone and computer (either via web access or mail client). Generally students will use the phone’s native application for mail or the Gmail app by Google. When setting up your native client to check mail you will have the option to use IMAP or POP. One key difference between the two is that POP pulls messages from the server to the first devices that asks for them and won’t sync between device. This has the effect of having some messages on one device and not the other. IMAP will keep messages synced across devices as well as folders and attributes (such as whether a message is read or not).

The more popular and common methods that I have seen are:

  • Checking mail online on a computer via google.rit.edu and via a mobile device’s native client
  • Checking mail online via google.rit.edu on all devices
  • Checking mail exclusively via one client (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.)
  • Forwarding mail to a personal Gmail account and using gmail.com and the Gmail app for all mail

The option that I took was to forward my RIT email to my personal Gmail address. I set my RIT email to forward all mail to my personal Gmail and then delete it. Within my personal Gmail I have filters that automatically sort messages and assign labels based on which account the mail was sent to and sent from. This process was very helpful for me because I check my email very frequently on both my phone and computer and between school, work, my fraternity, and extracurricular activities I have multiple email addresses.

Two final tips: I recommend using Google’s two factor authentication and if you do set your Google Apps password make sure it is different from your RIT computer account password.

Please remember that there are multiple ways of configuring your mail and different people will want different end results that will work well with their different workflows. The information I presented reflects some of the more common approaches.

RIT Mail Server Settings

  • Incoming Server Name: imap.gmail.com or pop.gmail.com
  • Enable SSL (incoming): Yes
  • Username: abc1234@g.rit.edu
  • Password: Google Apps Password
  • Outgoing (SMTP) Server Name: smtp.gmail.com
  • Enable SSL (outgoing): Yes
  • SMTP Authentication Required: Yes

More Information

Behind the Scenes with Institutional Research & Policy Studies

Joan Graham oversees RIT’s Office of Institutional Research and Policy Studies, a group whose mission is to “support institutional effectiveness and facilitate planning, assessment, policy analysis, and decision-making through the collection, analysis, and interpretation of institutional data, in support of the university’s mission.”

IRPS works to provide information for RIT divisions, colleges, departments, and offices on all manner of things from budgets to enrollment figures. The office serves as a means to solicit and gather statistics and data from other higher education institutions. The office is RIT’s point of contact and processor for all information requests from internal and external customers and works to process requests for external surveys. Joan’s team will research and prepare any number of regular and Ad-hoc reports on topics such as graduation and retention info, to enrollment history and breakdown stats.

Examples of IRPS reports:

The office also has a responsibility to submit reports to the state and federal government such as to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and to New York State Education Department (NYSED).

To learn more about Institutional Research & Policy Studies visit their website.

All About Meal Plans

A lot of questions I hear from accepted students are about meal plans. Do I need one? How do they work? Which is the best one? Before I address the questions I’ll start off my response by saying that Dining Services has a great FAQ section posted on its website that serves as a supplement to the information provides at http://www.rit.edu/fa/diningservices/sites/rit.edu.fa.diningservices/files/ResidentialMealPlanFlyer2014-web_0.pdf for first year students.

Meal plans are required for first year students living in the Residence Halls. Upon signing an RIT housing contract, a student’s dining account is opened and the account holder is immediately responsible for all meals/debit used and posted against his/her account. One nice benefit to using a meal plan is that there is an exemption to the 8% sales tax when buying food items.

As a freshman, I picked the Any 10 Plus plan which would give you 10 meals each week at Gracie’s and up to 5 meals per week at any other dining location (excluding Nathan’s Soup & Salad and Java’s). The plan would also give you $650 in food debit for the semester.

I recommend checking out the plans using the link above and selecting the one that is best for you. Some students will fall in love with the unlimited food at Gracie’s while others will want more variety. I will say that in my experience RIT has some of the best food of college campuses I’ve been to and there are a lot of healthy options available.

Check out a map of Dining Locations on campus.

Behind the Scenes with Student Auxiliary Services

The next organization in our Behind the Scenes series is Student Auxiliary Services (SAS), headed up by Assistant Vice President Dr. Howard Ward. Dr. Ward oversees the Field House & Activities Center, Housing Operations, and Dining & Food Services.

During my discussion with Dr. Ward it became quite apparent how highly customer service is valued among his team. Furthermore, strong emphasis is placed on having a warm and friendly experience when working with the service. One of Dr. Ward’s goals is to provide great service for students to make their RIT experience memorable in so doing creating happy alumni who are committed to the institute. In writing this post I visited Gracie’s to sample the food and evaluate the service. For a little over $8 I was very pleased with the selection available for an all you can eat meal. Dr. Ward explained that a handful of Dining Services chefs are up for national awards and he was proud to say that a former country club chef had recently joined the team.

Dr. Ward told me about plans to renovate Brick City and the Davis Room and mentioned that he sees the student center of campus moving westward to Global Village. The SAS team understands quite well that students are its best customers and as such they are ready to adapt to the different ways students use technology to better serve them. It is now very easy for students to manage information online including updating housing information (contracts and filing maintenance requests) and dining information (meal plans, adding more Tiger Bucks or Debit).

Student Auxiliary Services plays a huge role in the daily life of a student at RIT. We eat our meals in their facilities, sleep in RIT owned rooms, and workout in gyms furnished and run by the institute. As students we rely a lot on the professionalism and hard work of SAS employees. From waking up in my apartment to going to Sports Zone to get Dinosaur BBQ on Fridays (or my favorite, Thanksgiving Food on Wednesday in Brick City), to going to the pool to work out and have some fun, SAS shows up again and again and each time they deliver.

SAS by the numbers:

  • $71 million annual budget
  • 1000 apartment
  • 21 dining locations on campus
  • 14,000 meals served daily (a 17% increase from last year)
  • 3,300 students in Residence Halls
  • 161 students at the RIT Inn
  • 99 students in Greek houses
  • 1,296 students in suites
  • 1,801 students in apartments
  • 6,657 students in a housing contract

To learn more about Student Auxiliary Services, visit their website at http://www.rit.edu/fa/studentauxiliaryservices/.

Behind the Scenes with Global Risk Management Services

Continuing in the Behind the Scenes series is Global Risk Management Services (GRMS), under the guidance of Assistant Vice President John Zink.

The chief mission of GRMS is to minimize risk at RIT and protect the university’s people and assets. John and his team work to find potential risks around the institute and channel expertise and resources to mitigate or eliminate them.

John oversees the Business Continuity Office, the Department of Environmental Health & Safety, Information Security Office, the Department of Public Safety, Risk Management & Insurance, and the Print & Postal Hub. There are many risks associated with running a higher education institution such as RIT such as the thousands of students who live on campus (and sometimes we can make poor decisions) to the dozens of buildings and structures to compliance with various laws and regulations.

Through the Business Continuity Office, GRMS oversees the planning of business continuity operations, crisis management, and emergency response. You can check out the plan here to learn more specifics. Plans and procedures are developed in-line with Federal Emergency Management Agency standards and the team has strong working relationships with area police and emergency response organizations.

The Department of Environmental Health & Safety is responsible for ensuring that RIT provides a healthy and safe working, living, and learning environment around campus and aims to reduce RIT’s negative environmental impact. In addition to performing fire and safety inspections the department holds the institute in compliance work relevant health and safety laws and regulations.

Keeping our digital assets and infrastructure safe is the Information Security Office. They are charged with the protection of the RIT computer network and the education and training of its users. The office’s engineers and analysts are constantly working to make sure that RIT’s network is as safe as it can be and that it is in-line with industry best practices.

Public Safety is perhaps the most visible of the office. It’s services include escort service,blue-light courtesy call boxes, crime prevention awareness programs and informationaldisplays, bicycle registration and engraving, lost and found, motorist assists, apartment lock-outs, emergency notifications, and fire evacuations the department also provides assistancewith class projects, security surveys, victim and witness assistance, investigations, dignitaryprotection (such as for U.S. Senators or celebrities), incident action plan creation for specialevents, joint drills, business continuity operations, and emergency operations functionsfor the university. Public Safety is in many ways on the front lines for RIT. The departmentis staffed and working 24/7 and often they are the people who are called in any type ofemergency. Check our article from past week about Public Safety to learn more about what they do.

Lastly, the Print & Postal Hub handles all mail services for the institute and offers a variety of printing solutions for RIT offices as well as students and even the general public. Based out of building 99, the Hub is in the process of adding new capabilities so that it will soon be able to print on a variety of media including t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and cell phone cases.

John has a few things he’d like students to know and remember. First: Public Safety is here to help everyone at RIT — they are a service organization so use them. Also, make use of available resources such as TigerSafe and the RIT Alert system to help keep you safe and informed. Lastly, keep an eye out for your peers. College can be a stressful time for studentsfor a multitude of reasons. Be a good friend and support and help your peers when they need it.

To learn more about Global Risk Management Services visit http://www.rit.edu/fa/grms/.

SG Greek Senator Campaign 2014 – Peter Ryan, Jr.

Introduction

Credit: Sarah Ann Jump
Credit: Sarah Ann Jump

I am Peter Ryan, Jr. and I am running for Student Government Greek Senator for the 2014­2015 Academic Year. I have been a brother of the Sigma Chi Fraternity since fall of my first year and have since become quite involved within the greater Greek Community. I believe that I have the skills, drive, and ability to best represent Greeks to SG and to support and accomplish Greek Community goals

My Goals

  1. Connect Greeks with administration and represent them: my first and foremost duty would be to the Greek Community in ensuring that their voices are being heard by Student Government and the RIT Administration.
  2. Bring Student Government and Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life resources to the table in planning and executing service events held by the Greek Community.
  3. Inventory and present community resources: review what the strengths and weaknesses of the Greek Community are and work to address them.
  4. Increase cooperation between Greek Councils.
  5. Work with RIT entities like the Office of Admissions and New Student Orientation to promote Greek Life as a whole community to new students.
  6. Encourage cooperation between councils: work to ensure that council officers have the resources they need to work with each other between councils.
  7. Encourage and support cooperation between chapter Presidents and run the monthly President’s Roundtable Meetings.
  8. Offer more leadership and personal/group skill development opportunities.
  9. Reach out to Sandra Johnson, the new Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and discuss her goals and expectations for the Greek Community.
  10. Work to adopt North-American Interfraternity Conference Coalition Assessment Project Report recommendations and suggestions.
  11. Utilize the Greek Calendar to better aid planning of inter ­Greek events.
  12. Work to put the Greek Community in a position to win awards from relevant Fraternity and Sorority Life conferences and associations (e.g. NALFO, NGLA, NIC, NPC, NPHC).
  13. Bring valuable leadership experience and a knowledge of Parliamentary Procedure to SG.

My Experience

  1. Greek Programming Board Leadership & Development Coordinator
  2. Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life Leadership & Development Coordinator
  3. Interfraternity Council Recruitment and Bylaw Ad Hoc Committees
  4. Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute Graduate (read about my trip here)
  5. Sigma Chi Recruitment Chairman, Sigma Chi Public Relations Chairman, Sigma Chi InterfraternityCouncil Representative, Sigma Chi Derby Days Chairman
  6. Ad Hoc Greek Representative to Student Government Finance Committee
  7. Finance and Administration Behind the Bricks Team Member
  8. Office of Admissions Student Ambassador (Tour Guide and Social Media Team)
  9. Greek Community Service Team

Additional Resources

  1. My Platform (PDF)
  2. My LinkedIn profile with additional information on my experience

Please contact me (in person or via email at phr8276@rit.edu) to discuss anything in detail. I would appreciate your support and hope for the opportunity to work for the Greek Community next year.

Behind the Scenes with Legal Affairs

The next organization in our profile is the Office of Legal Affairs headed by Bobby Colón, General Council for RIT. Bobby works with Erika Duthiers, Deputy General Counsel, and Marilyn Schleyer, Administrative Assistant/Paralegal, to oversee all legal matters for the institute.

The office does not directly represent RIT in litigation, rather it manages third party law firms who work on behalf of the university. Further work undertaken includes reviews of policy and contracts and general legal advise for those acting officially for RIT. Legal Affairs works closely with many other offices such as Global Risk Management Services on compliance and Institute Audit, Compliance & Advisement on internal policies and controls. Lastly, the office can work with RIT-affiliated groups to provide general legal education (not advice).

Bobby’s advice to students are to utilize Paul Vick, the lawyer made available by Student Government, for any personal legal questions. Also, Bobby noted that student organizations should take advantage of the resources available in the Club Center for financial guidance and support.

To learn more about the Office of Legal Affairs, visit their website at www.rit.edu/legalaffairs.

The Story Behind Wednesday’s Power Outage

At around 6:20 pm, 2 of the 5 main circuits of RIT’s power grid were tripped. While the cause is still being investigated it appears that there was no malfunction on RIT’s side of the system. I spoke with John Moore, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Services and David Harris, Director of Training, Utilities, & Environmental Management for FMS, about yesterday’s power outage. The power outage restoration effort was supported by the Electrical Shops as well as the Grounds Crew. Upon arrival, the FMS electrical team immediately went to work to investigate the cause of the outage and set to fixing it.

FMS has the ability to generate power during extended outages using it’s own massive generators but after it was found that power was still coming from RG&E system the best course of action was to devote all resources to finding and fixing the source of the issue. A proper investigation was necessary because simply trying to “force” the power back on could have heavily damaged the system.

Workers clear snow around campus during the blizzard.
Workers clear snow around campus during the blizzard.

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) within Grace Watson Hall was activated to manage the outage response after it was realized that the power outage was not going to be immediately resolved. Lynn Daley, the Director of Business Continuity discussed how those in the EOC were managing the outage response while following plans and procedures to deal with the problem for the longer term. Student Affairs staff along with Student Auxiliary Services personal were discussing opening up the Student Alumni Union and Campus Center for students in residences without power to stay in and get food from Brick City Cafe. Two buses from the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority were actually dispatched to RIT and sat waiting in S-Lot to move students through the blizzard when called upon. Fortunately, power was restored after approximately 3 hours in the dark.

Most buildings have backup power but that only serves to support life safety functions such as emergency lighting, alarms, and security/safety systems. Water systems still worked within buildings and heat was largely retained as well.

Information & Technology Services (ITS) systems properly failed over when the power was cut and were still functioning with power from a backup generator in Institute Hall. However, about an hour and a half into the outage the generator shut down due to a coolant leak. ITS and FMS crews responded and it was brought back on-line around the same time as power was restored across campus. FMS has plans to adjust the preventative maintenance schedule for the generator and a vendor will be on campus next week to validate its operational state.

All-and-all, the Institute’s response was quite strong and was well executed. In the middle of a very powerful storm that sent New York State into a State of Emergency, the men and women of Finance & Administration were able to work quickly and efficiently to deal with the storm’s effects and ensure that the campus and its students were safe and cared for.

Between both circuits the following buildings/complexes lost power:

  • Grace Watson Hall
  • Residence Hall A
  • Residence Hall B
  • Residence Hall C
  • Lowenthal Hall (SCB)
  • Carey Hall
  • Institute Hall
  • Carlson Center for Imaging Science
  • Golisano Hall
  • Engineering Technology Hall
  • Slaughter Hall
  • Sustainability Institute
  • Color Science Hall
  • Gannet Hall
  • Booth Hall
  • Laboratory for Applied Computing
  • Bausch & Lomb Center
  • Orange Hall
  • James Gleason Hall
  • Ross Hall
  • Crossroads
  • University Services Center
  • Colony Manor Apartments
  • University Commons Apartments
  • Riverknoll Apartments

Staying in the Know @ RIT

For students arriving at RIT to start their first year in Fall, life may seem a little over-whelming between academics, sports, friends, significant others, and extracurriculars. New Student Orientation will help get you on the right course but once school starts it might not be as easy to stay current on information and where to go with questions. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

Note: I’m a big fan of Twitter I use it to follow general news and specific Cyber Security and International Affairs topics, what’s going on with my friends around the world, and to interact with others. I use Twitter a lot and fortunately so do a lot of RIT organizations. If you don’t use Twitter now I recommend getting on the bird.

Be sure to follow #RIT, #RITNews, and #RITstudents too!

I want to stay up to update about RIT news, events, and campus trends
University News Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Behind the Bricks Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
RIT Events Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
RIT Arenas
I want to know what’s going on with food and housing
Housing Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Residence Life Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Crossroads Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Sol’s Underground Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
RIT Apartment Area Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website

I want to get help and support with academics or career help
Academic Affairs Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Tutors Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Student Employment Office Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Honors Program Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Study Abroad Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website

I want information on health/safety
Public Safety Image: Website
RIT Ambulance Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Counseling Center Image: Facebook Image: Website

I want to follow sports teams
Men’s Hockey Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Women’s Hockey Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Sports Info Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
SportsZone Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website

I want to follow major student organizations (MSOs) and other large communities
Student Government Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Greek Life Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Reporter Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
WITR Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Global Union Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
ACE Commuters Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
OUTspoken Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website

I want to follow my college or academic unit
B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Kate Gleason College of Engineering Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
Saunders College of Business Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
National Technical Institute for the Deaf Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
College of Health Sciences and Technology Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
College of Science Image: Website
College of Liberal Arts Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences Image: Facebook Image: Twitter Image: Website
College of Applied Science and Technology Image: Facebook Image: Website
Golisano Institute for Sustainability Image: Facebook Image: Website
Center for Multidisciplinary Studies Image: Twitter Image: Website
University Studies Image: Website

Behind the Scenes with Public Safety

Over the span of three weeks around the beginning of the semester I had the privilege of riding along with a handful of the officers of RIT’s Public Safety. Public Safety is an office within Finance & Administration’s Global Risk Management Services office whose mission is to deliver professional public services and initiatives contributing to a safe community, sensitive to the uniqueness of individuals and groups engaged in living, learning, and working on campus. My chief goal was to get a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of what the department did, which I knew was much more than assisting motorists and unlocking doors around campus. To start my task I first met with Chris Denninger, the Director of Public Safety and Dave Edborg, the Major of Patrol Operation, both RIT alumni. It was apparent very early on how wide and deep the spectrum of the work that Public Safety does really is. In addition to some very visible and routinely utilized services like the escort service, blue-light courtesy call boxes, crime prevention awareness programs and informational displays, bicycle registration and engraving, lost and found, motorist assists, apartment lock-outs, emergency notifications, and fire evacuations the department also provides assistance with class projects, security surveys, victim and witness assistance, investigations, dignitary protection (such as for U.S. Senators or celebrities), incident action plan creation for special events, joint drills, business continuity operations, and emergency operations functions for the university.

PS_1

At any given point in time there are at least 4 officers out patrolling the RIT campus with an additional one in the residence halls at night. There is even a satellite office in Ellingson Hall for officers to work out of. With some 200 buildings on campus covering 5 million square feet, on top of 1,300 acres of land, there is a lot to keep an eye on. In support of the officers in the field, Public Safety maintains a state of the art communications center in Grace Watson Hall where communications specialists answer incoming emergency and non-emergency calls, monitor dozens of cameras and security systems, and dispatch officers as necessary. In the center are monitors that display camera feeds from around campus as well as outputs from various access control systems. After 5 pm when the institute’s business operations end for the day, a wide variety of calls are forwarded on to Public Safety as it never closes down.

PS_2

During my time with the officers I was interested in learning about the calls that were made and actually seeing them firsthand. I learned that Public Safety is dispatched to every medical call made on campus and works with local ambulance services with the RIT Ambulance can’t respond. It’s also worth noting that Public Safety serves as the catch-all entity for people who aren’t sure who to call if they have an issue. One of the calls I saw firsthand was a gas-like odor in an apartment complex. The officer responded and began searching for troubles with a gas detector while after calling the Henrietta Fire Department and RIT Housing Operations to respond.

PS_3

Most of the officers I met with had many years of local, regional, or federal law enforcement prior to working at RIT. After being hired officers must go through a rigorous 13 week training period to develop and hone their skill. Some of the areas covered include safe zone, emergency medical procedures, CPR and automated external defibrillator, American Sign Language, crisis intervention, defensive tactics, OC (spray), handcuffing, FEMA training/emergency response, blood-borne pathogens, management skills, interview skills, crime prevention, professional development, and field training. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the officers that I shadowed and was very glad to see that respect was bilateral in student/officer interactions.

PS_4

After my exposure to the department it was evident how really critical Public Safety not just for the safety and security of the university but also its business operations, campus events, and core functions. Whether we realize it or not, every day we have interactions with Public Safety in one way or another. From ensuring that we are getting into the buildings we need to and that traffic is flowing to responding to medical calls and helping us when we are having car issues, the department and its officers are always there for us.

PS-5

To learn more about the Public Safety Department visit www.rit.edu/fa/publicsafety/‎.

Behind the Scenes with Facilities Management Services

Next up in the Finance & Administration services profile is Facilities Management Services. Assistant Vice President John Moore oversees FMS operations which include Utility Services, Operations Services, Financial Services, Maintenance & Engineering Services, Planning, Design & Construction, and Parking and Transportation Services.

The team’s custodial staff is charged with the cleaning and maintenance of buildings while the grounds group works outside making sure the campus looks beautiful, the grass is cut, and the roads are cleaned of snow in the winter. Other team members include technical specialists such as electricians and engineers that work to keep the RIT campus running day and night (you’ll see them zipping around campus in the white carts). In addition to cleaning and maintaining 5.6 million square feet of residential and academic grounds, FMS also designs, plans, and manages construction projects on and off campus. Perhaps the most visible is the Polisseni Center near the center of campus. FMS also has a hand in the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship project on Franklin Street and the changes underway in Monroe Hall for the Print Hub satellite location.

Another hard working group of FMS is Parking and Transportation Services. They work daily to ensure that thousands of students, facility, and staff (as well as institute guests) can park safely and efficiently around campus. PATS is also responsible for overseeing the bus routes that get RIT students around the area quickly and reliably. Lastly, support elements such as Financial Services make sure that the FMS group has the financial resources to do it’s job and that work and resources are being properly accounted for. One interesting statistic caught my eye: a team of 3 staff oversee support for more than 1,800 annual events that FMS helps with in one way or another. It put into prospective how busy the campus really is and how much goes on here.

John sees his team of 100 student workers and more than 230 employees as stewards of the RIT campus who work to make sure that the facilities and physical plant are being properly cared for safely and efficiently.

To learn more about Facilities Management Services visit their website at www.rit.edu/fa/facilities/‎.

Behind the Scenes with Budgeting and Financial Planning Services

Next up in the Finance & Administration organization profile is Budgeting and Financial Planning Services. I sat down with Ross Koenig, Assistant Vice President to talk about his office does. Ross directly oversees the RIT budget and manages the budget cycle.

The primary responsibility of Budgeting and Financial Planning Services is to develop, implement, and monitor the university’s operating and capital budgets. The office also includes units responsible for financial and administrative support of RIT’s Facilities Management Services, Information Technology Services, and our Global Education Programs.

To begin the budget process, the Budget Office Staff meets with the President, the Provost, the Senior Vice Presidents of F&A and Enrollment Management, and leaders from the institute governance groups to assess a handful of variables such as tuition rates, benefits expenses, faculty & staff compensation levels, anticipated inflation, and contractual obligations to chart out what the institute plans to do with the budget for the next year.

RIT’s budget period is from July 1st to June 30th and when Ross and his team aren’t planning the next year’s budget they’re monitoring progress against the current year budget.  Fortunately, the staff have some help. Ross can count on support from finance professionals in other F&A elements like FMS and ITS to help provide information and run some of their aspects of budget planning. It was very clear how critical this behind the scenes group is for the institute. The hard working men and women of Budgeting and Financial Planning Services support RIT to make sure it has the financial resources not just to operate today and tomorrow, but for the future as well.

Check out the full budget cycle below

Date Event Department
July – September Complete annual financial audit work as it relates to the current year budget. Reconcile enrollment to preliminary budget plan.  Refine departmental operating budgets. Budget Office
Early November Presentation of the Final Operating Budget to the Board of Trustees. Begin discussions on next fiscal year planning. F&A AVP&SVP/Board of Trustees
November Request information from Facilities Management, Public Safety, et al. for Auxiliary preliminary planning Budget Office
December Initiate budget planning process for the the Auxiliaries to produce preliminary budgets Budget Office
January Preliminary planning information due back Auxiliaries
Mid January Next year enrollment estimates submitted EMCS / Institutional Research
Late January thru March Conduct College and Divisional budget hearings Budget Committee / Colleges / Divisions
Early February Preliminary budget planning assumptions presented to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees for approval F&A SVP /  President  /  Executive Committee of Board of Trustees
March & April Budget Committee completes all resource allocation decisions Budget Committee
Early April Approval of next years Preliminary Operating and Capital Budgets F&A AVP&SVP  /  Board of Trustees
Early April Distribution of budget worksheets to departments Budget Office
End of April Non-auxiliary budget worksheets due back to Budget Office Colleges/Divisions
Early May Auxiliary budget worksheets due back to Budget Office Auxiliaries
July 1 Implement Preliminary Operating Budget Budget Office

FY 2014 Budget | FY2014-FY2016 Over $20K Final Capital Projects Summary

For Fiscal Year 2014, RIT’s operating budget totals $539 million: an increase of 0.9% from the year prior.

To learn more about Budgeting and Financial Planning Services visit their website.

Financial Aid FAQ – 2014

Congratulations to all of the newly accepted RIT students! Now that you have your RIT application behind you, the next item for many students is financial aid. Students have lots of questions about it but don’t worry: after acquainting myself  with some material from the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships, I’m here to answer some and go over the process.

Financial aid process

  1. Take a look at the RIT Undergraduate Cost of Attendance Estimate to get an understanding of how much you’ll be paying. Remember, first year students are required to living in the residence halls with a meal plan.
  2. Determine your Financial Aid Eligibility: eligibility is based on the difference between the estimated costs associated with attending RIT and the family contribution
  3. Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): fill out your FAFSA at www.fasfa.gov. FYI – RIT does not use the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Financial Aid Profile Form.
  4. Review Student Aid Report (SAR): review your SAR for accuracy.
  5. New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): In addition to New York State, other state grants may be awarded by Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and District of Columbia. Once you have applied and you have been approved by your state, funds will be sent directly to RIT.
  6. Take a knee and relax. Award letters reflecting your annual costs and financial aid eligibility will be mailed out on a rolling-basis, beginning in mid-March.
  7. Review of award: after you get your award letter, review it to determine if will need to take advantage of additional loan resources.
  8. Review the 2014 Financial Aid Checklist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • We’ve been told we probably will not qualify for aid. Should we bother to apply? — Yes, you should. Circumstances are unique to each family and the only way to know whether you are eligible for aid is to apply. It’s never too late to apply!
  • When should I apply for aid? — Apply as soon as possible. Definitely no later than 3/1/2014 (transfers: no later than 3/15/2014).
  • Does RIT offer academic merit scholarships? — Yes. Merit scholarships are offered based on a student’s academic record, leadership potential, or other factors.
  • If my parents are divorced or separated, which parent should provide the information required to apply for aid? — You should answer the questions using information about the parent you lived with in the past 12 months.
  • What should I do if I get my scholarships and FA and still cant afford RIT? — Contact the Office of Financial Aid for further assistance. A review of your application could prove useful.
  • Will I get the same financial aid every year? — It is the goal of the Office of Financial Aid to keep aid consistent between years. It could however change based on changes in family finances and other factors.

Financing Options at RIT

  • Payment Options: payment options are available for scheduling payments each semester.
  • RIT Tuition Prepayment Plan: this plan allows you to prepay two or more years’ tuition at the current tuition rate. Students receiving need-based aid are not eligible.
  • Federal Direct Loan: the most widely used student loan program which includes an unsubsidized Direct Loan program.
  • Federal Direct PLUS Loan: the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) loan is a federally guaranteed loan that helps parents for dependent undergraduate students finance educational costs.
  • RIT Student Employment: similar to the Federal Work-Study Program.
  • Cooperative Education: paid coop education employment.
  • Alternative Educational Loans: private loans (non-federal).

Reminders

  • Financial aid information will not be sent with acceptance letters.
  • The number for the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships is 585-475-2186 and the email address is ritaid@rit.edu.
  • You can appeal your aid award.

Behind the Scenes with the Controllers Office

Recently, I sat down with Lyn Kelly, RIT’s Controller & Assistant Treasurer, to talk about what her office does. The Controller’s Office is responsible for nearly all of the institute’s financial transactions and handles many critical functions such as student financial services, accounting, banking, payroll, accounts payable, procurement, and financial and tax reporting. The office also runs the Kronos timecard system and accounting for eServices transactions. In addition to 95 full-time employees, the Controller’s Office employs about 20 student workers who handle some of the day-to-day work of the office and Lyn was keen to note that some of her students went on to work on Wall Street.

In order to manage the vast number of finance related work done at the institute every day, the Controller works with financial specialists within some of the academic colleges and other RIT entities such as Student Affairs and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. The office works very hard to make sure that financial data are properly recorded and reported to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations and also to ensure that all financial information is available and correct – this information is important to many stakeholders such as donors, grantors, and even prospective students.

The goals of the office are to provide the best service for RIT and to drive down or manage costs, helping to ensure the long-term viability of the institute. During our conversation Lyn told me about a contract process that is underway to examine which soda company will have exclusive rights at RIT now that Pepsi’s contract is almost over. She told me of the time and work that goes into such a contract negotiation to make sure RIT is getting the best deal possible.

Lyn mentioned that she has staff watching markets (such as food and energy) to watch for
price fluctuations to assess if RIT can get a better price on goods or services it pays for. Lyn mentioned other institute-wide procurement goals include buying green products and services and buying local (such as from Palmer’s Foods).

To learn more about the Controller’s Office, visit their website at: https://www.rit.edu/fa/controller/.

Keeping the Roads Clear: Snow Plowing at RIT

Rochester was recently named the 3rd snowiest city in the US receiving an average snowfall of 100.5 inches per year and any RIT student who has been here through at least one winter knows that the winter isn’t shy in Rochester when it comes to snow. Fortunately for RIT, walkways, parking lots, and roads don’t ever seem to be covered for long when the white stuff comes down. I recently talked with Facilities Management Service Grounds Foreman Chris Furnare about the snow plowing efforts at RIT. Chris oversees the 15 member team that works 24/7 to keep RIT as clear of snow as possible.The team considers roads to be their top priority and then will work to clear walkways and finally parking lots. While the team does put down salt, unfortunately due to this winter’s extreme cold, the area salt mines are running low on their product which means that FMS will not be able to use as much in the parking lots.

A student works to clear snow
A student works to clear snow between James Gleason and Gosnell Halls

Chris gave some good advice to students to help them stay safe and to help the FMS team better complete their job:

  • Dress for the weather (shorts aren’t so good)
  • Keep an eye out for plows and give them room when you see them
  • Walk more carefully and take a cue from penguins who pretty much have it down
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Give your self extra time when travelling (including the walk to class)
A grounds crew member plows a walkway outside Gannet Hall
A grounds crew member plows a walkway outside Gannet Hall

FMS Ground Crew Snow Clearing by the numbers:

  • 23,600 square feet of steps shoveled each time it snows
  • 18 miles of roads
  • 70 acres of parking lots
  • 28 acres of walkways (like the Quarter Mile)
  • 84 man hours to clear snow from an average storm (2-4 inches)
The heated ground of Global Village means that the high traffic area can be free of ice and snow.
The heated ground of Global Village means that the high traffic area can be free of ice and snow.

Getting a Student Job at RIT

One area of questions that comes up from time to time on my tours is that of on campus jobs. Prospective students and sometime their parents are curious about the opportunities and ease of being a student worker. Inquiries about wages, hours, and type of work are very common with nearly everyone who asks being very mindful that we are students before anything else (work shouldn’t be our first priority).

Fortunately, the Student Employment Office is here to help! The office (or SEO as it is known on campus) does a great job of keep job opportunities listed and updated regularly. In addition to making sure you are allowed to work (by checking that you are legally able to work in the US and that you are a student) they act as the liaison between students and their employers.

While many jobs are listed on the SEO site, some are not such as the most common job of class note-taker. Other jobs like TA, tutor, or grader positions are usually handled by academic departments.

Prior to arriving at RIT for Freshman Orientation I had a job interview lined up and went to it during my first day on campus. Some jobs can be quite competitive and it’s best to apply as soon as you see a job that’s a good fit.

I have held 5 different jobs while at RIT (one of them as a Student Ambassador). I moved around because I liked the experience and opportunities available to be in these different positions and enjoyed learning about different elements of RIT. Over the last few years I have expanded and developed my CV through diverse set of jobs that I’ve held.

I have a couple of tips that I have learned during my time as a student worker.

  • Have your resume current and ready to send out right away.
  • Look for a job before you actually need it. It may take some time to find a job and begin the interview process so plan on looking well before you plan on starting to work.
  • Follow the SEO on Twitter. Also, sign up to get tweet notification from them so jobs come to you!
  • Take advantage of the resources available to students from the Office of Coop and Career Services to prepare for interviews

Update 3: Polisseni Center Construction

Today I made another visit to the site and was surprised to see how much progress was made. Over break crews had completely surrounded the structure in plastic wrap and installed 4 large heaters to warm the interior up so that concrete could be poured and fireproofing installed. Nearly all of the ground floor and upper level concrete had been poured with just two sections left. So much concrete was used that in just one day 40 cement trucks were used.

One of the four heaters on-site
One of the four heaters on-site
A worker examines an application of fireproofing
A worker examines an application of fireproofing

While concrete pouring and fireproofing work is being undertaken, workers are also installing plumbing, electrical, and HVAC infrastructure.

Ventilation tubes have been installed.
Ventilation tubes have been installed.
Workers pour concrete into a wooden form for a set of stairs
Workers pour concrete into a wooden form for a set of stairs

Currently, only one layer of wall is installed in places (the material that is purple). Insulation and the interior and exterior walls still need to be built. Crews will now spend time making forms and pouring the concrete for stairs and start “blocking” or building the structure’s interior walls.

The Press Box is now distinguishable.
The Press Box is now distinguishable.

Onlookers won’t see very much from the outside as the plastic walls will remain until warmer weather returns. Rochester’s winter was harsher than anticipated and created some small problems but the workers over came them and the project is still slated for completion in time for the 2014 hockey season.

A view of center ice from the middle of the building (from north to south). Note the line in the concrete in the bottom center of the picture.
A view of center ice from the middle of the building (from north to south). Note the line in the concrete in the bottom center of the picture.

Resources for Computing Security & Information Security Students

The following is a list of websites and social media accounts that act as great resources for Computing Security & Information Security student. Have some to add? This is a dynamic list so lemme know!

Websites

Social Media Accounts

Update 2: Polisseni Center Construction

Last week I visited the Polisseni Center to get an update on construction progress. I was told the rink was still on track to be completed in time for the 2014 hockey season and as such work will continue through the snowy Rochester winter.

Much of the structural steel is now in place with just a part of the south end of the rink to complete. All steel will be in place by the end of December after which point temporary heating and walls will be installed so that fire-proofing and concrete operations can be undertaken. If the temperature falls beyond a certain threshold then neither will properly set which could hold up work. In the coming weeks workers will be installing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), water, gas, electrical, and sewer infrastructure.

At this point in construction several different teams will be working on various elements of the project around the site simultaneously. A specific schedule must be adhered to as any delays could slow down other parts of work that are have dependency work required. The steady progress of the work is a testament to LeChase Construction and the subcontractors that they’re working with.

Members of the RIT community sign beams to be hung in the Polisseni Center.
Members of the RIT community sign beams to be hung in the Polisseni Center. The event was held on Tuesday, 11/19 outside Ritter Arena.
A view from the second story near where the concessions stand will be.
A view from the second story near where the concessions stand will be.
The south side of the rink is not yet completely secured.
The south side of the rink is not yet completely secured.
A view of the south end of the rink.
A view of the east side of the rink.
Approximately 57 workers are on-site working on various aspects of the building including heating, plumbing, concrete, and electrical work.
Approximately 57 workers are on-site working on various aspects of the building including heating, plumbing, concrete, and electrical work.
Channels have been dug for for various pipes and cables.
Channels have been dug for for various pipes and cables.
A view of the second story.
A view of the second story.
A view of the north end of the rink.
A view of the north end of the rink.
A temporary structure holds up the rink's roof until it is properly secured.
A temporary structure holds up the rink’s roof until it is properly secured.

 

RIT PGP Key Signing Party 2013

Contents

  1. About
  2. Logisitics
  3. Required Process
  4. Best Practices
  5. Acknowledgements

About

The goal of this key signing party is to bring students of RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences together to verify and sign their fellow classmate’s PGP keys in a secure and organized manner as to expand the PGP Web of Trust.

While this will be a PGP Key Signing Party, feel free to come and discuss other cryptography topics. The idea of having a OTR Fingerprint sharing party as well has been suggested as well during the time.
Learn more about PGP

Logistics

  • Date: Monday, November 18, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 pm
  • Location: GOL-1400 (GCCIS Auditorium)
  • Required materials:
    1. You
    2. Positive picture ID (government issued – Passport, Driver’s License, Military ID Card, etc. — ideally two)
    3. Your Key ID, Key type, HEX fingerprint, and Key size
    4. A pen/pencil or whatever you’d like to write with

Required Process

  1. Generate a key/Remember your pass phrase
  2. All attendees send their public keys to a public keyserver. For this party, we’ll use http://pgp.mit.edu/.
  3. All attendees send their key ID, key type, fingerprint, and key size to the host via Google Form, who will compile everyone’s key information.
  4. The host prints a list with everyone’s key ID, key type, fingerprint, and key size from the compiled keyrings and distributes copies of the printout at the meeting.
  5. Attend the party. Bring along a paper copy of your key ID, key type, fingerprint, and key size that you obtained from your own keyring. You must also bring along a suitable photo ID. Instruct the attendees at the beginning that they are to make two marks on the listing, one for correct key information (key ID, key type, fingerprint, and key size) and one if the ID check is ok.
  6. At the meeting each key owner reads his key ID, key type, fingerprint, key size, and user ID from his own printout, not from the distributed listing. This is because there could be an error, intended or not, on the listing. This is also the time to tell which ID’s to sign or not. If the key information matches your printout then place a check-mark by the key.
  7. After everyone has read his key ID information, have all attendees form a line.
  8. The first person walks down the line having every person check his ID.
  9. The second person follows immediately behind the first person and so on.
  10. If you are satisfied that the person is who they say they are, and that the key on the printout is theirs, you place another check-mark next to their key on your printout.
  11. Once the first person cycles back around to the front of the line he has checked all the other IDs and his ID has been checked by all others.
  12. After everybody has identified himself or herself the formal part of the meeting is over. You are free to leave or to stay and discuss matters of PGP and privacy (or anything else) with fellow PGP users. If everyone is punctual the formal part of the evening should take less than an hour.
  13. After confirming that the key information on the key server matches the printout that you have checked, sign the appropriate keys. Keys can only be signed if they have two check-marks.
  14. Send the signed keys back to the keyservers.
  15. Use those keys as often as possible.

Best Practices

  • If you are generating your first PGP key, consider setting a shorter expiration length.
  • Avoid using DSA and make RSA keys of at least a length of 3072 bits.
  • Always remember to backup your key somewhere safe. It wouldn’t hurt to encrypt it.
  • Always generate a revocation certificate for your key (and keep it somewhere safe as well).
  • Only certify other’s keys after being certain that they are the owner (use photo IDs, always meet in person, etc.

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to V. Alex Brennen for all of the work that he did to document key signing parties. Most of the documentation on this page was taken from http://cryptnet.net/fdp/crypto/keysigning_party/en/keysigning_party.html.
Also, thanks to Kristian Fiskerstrand for his great write-up here — blog.sumptuouscapital.com/2013/10/openpg-key-signing-parties/.

Setting Yourself Up For Success: Picking The Right Class

With SIS “shopping carts” now open, Spring Semester class registration is right around the corner. With a new term comes new schedules and the structure of those schedules can have an impact on your academic performance. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on picking classes and throw out some ideas that I’ve had in making a great schedule.

  1. Meet with your academic adviser. If you have any questions about your schedule, this is the first place to go. Your adviser will be able to help you create the list of classes that you need to take after taking into account prerequisite classes, term offerings, and what courses should be take when to balance the work load.
  2. Make use of the Computer Science House Schedule Maker. Not only does it quickly and easily throw your class schedule together (with the option to add other events), the app will allow you to import your schedule as an iCalendar so you can import it into your Google Calendar.
  3. Fire up Rate My Professor to find a good match. RIT largely has some great professors and instructors so you needn’t worry about having to filter out bad apples. However, there may be professors that you’d rather have over others due to teaching styles or even personality. Maybe you want a professor that gives more projects and assignments with fewer tests and quizzes. Maybe you prefer a lecture style class over a more interactive one. A quick search on Rate My Professor will help you find the best match.
  4. Pick a class at that fits well with your schedule and that you’re comfortable with. The location and time of your classed may have an impact on your performance. If you aren’t a morning person it may be wise to avoid picking a morning class (if you have that option). Some people like having heavier days of class so they have more time to study and review on the lighter days. Others like balancing the classes out over the full week. Sometimes even the location can matter. While it’s possible to get to get between classes in the time that the institute schedules, some people feel rushed and would rather take their time getting to their next class. If you have the option, it’s nice to pick classes that are in building that are close to one-another.
  5. Consider taking classes with a friend or friends. I find that when I take classes with my friends it’s easier to study because I always have a study partner and if I have to miss a class or have any questions I have someone to ask.

Good luck with the upcoming semester!

Handling the Career Fair Like a Pro

The Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services is a great resource for RIT students looking for jobs and career advice. Located in the Bausch and Lomb Center, the office has a simple mission: “to provide effective, high-quality services to RIT students and alumni, empowering and supporting them in the achievement of their experiential learning, career and employment goals.” The office offers lots of helpful service and you should take some time to learn more about it. My favorite resource is the program coordinators. Almost every academic program at RIT has a full-time Career Services staff member to help students in that relevant field. If you don’t know who your coordinator is, check here and go setup an appointment to meet him or her.

Yesterday I sat down with Michelle Magee, my program coordinator, and asked her for some tips for acing a career fair. This is what we came up with:

  • Stay organized. Keep notes of companies that you are interested in. Manage your contacts and connections. Always have blank paper, a pen, and a couple copies of your resume on-hand when meeting with companies. Fire up Gmail or Yahoo Mail (or AOL if you’re still doing that) and create some a “Jobs” label or folder. Make sure you keep track of what jobs you’ve applied to and jobs you’re interested in. I use a Google Spreadsheet to store my job related information.
  • Ensure you have a good resume. Be sure your resume is up to date and make sure it has been reviewed. It’s a good idea to have your coordinator look it over and then someone in your field should give it a once-over too, maybe a professor.
  • Properly prepare for the fair. Michelle suggested that prep work is just as important as attendance at the fair. Do your homework and research the companies that you are interested in. Asking “What do you do?” to a recruiter of a company that you’re looking into is not a good idea and will make a bad impression. Make a list of your top companies and seek them out towards the start of the fair. Career Services posts a floor plan of the fair a few days in advance and it’s smart to map out where you want to go before career fair day comes.
  • Attend interest sessions. Keep an eye out for interest sessions, networking events, and meet-and-greets. During the week surrounding the career fair there such events in which the company’s representatives will be available to talk on a more personal basis. These are great to attend as you can talk in a less stressful environment and get more personalized time with the company you’re interested in.
  • Don’t wait in long lines. In addition to possibly making you more tense, waiting in long lines cuts down on the number of companies that you might be able to see on career fair day. Attend interest sessions if you can to cut down on waiting.
  • Ask for a card. Don’t be afraid to ask for contact information. If you do get it, remember to keep all correspondence formal and profession.
  • Take notes. After meeting with a company’s recruiters jot down some notes. Who did you talk to? When are they hiring? Was there a specific job title or number? What do you need to do to follow up with your talk? These are all good questions and a good set of notes will help you stay organized.
  • Handle rejection. Getting a job isn’t as seamless as shooting off a few resumes. It’s going to take a little work and there may be a little rejection. It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Keep your head up and keep going. While I’m on the point, be aware that the classic “Apply Online” isn’t a rejection; it’s a simple directive. Recruiters aren’t dismissing you, they are just simply asking you to use the company’s system for handling hiring.
  • Follow up. If you can, follow up with the person or people that you talked too. A nice handwritten card is a great idea and a kind email is a very close second. Remember to make use of LinkedIn!
  • Get connected with the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services. Connect with the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services; you’ll get a constant stream of solid advice and guidance.
    Image: FacebookImage: TwitterImage: LinkedInImage: RIT

Good luck at your next career fair and remember that the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services is always there to help!

Who’s home? Project

While moving into our new apartment my roommate and fraternity brother Kevin Granger and I were thinking of fun and useful ways to use his Raspberry Pi for the apartment. We dreamed up a long list of functions that were thought would be useful and helpful but that would also serve as a way to learn new skills and hone the ones we had.

The task at hand was getting the Raspberry Pi setup and running. After a quick trip to the campus photo shop for a larger SD card we were in business.

My first goal was to create a system that would passively let each of the residents know who was at our apartment when we were away. It would also let frequent guests (largely our Sigma Chi brothers) know if we were home instead of fielding lots of calls and texts. After learning about a program called arp-scan I knew how to go about creating the system. Kevin and I quickly bought an inexpensive domain name for the Pi and I got to work.I started by collecting the MAC addresses for the devices of all the residents and entered them into a MySQL database. I then created a script that would use arp-scan to scan the network every 20 seconds and save the results. If the resident’s phone MAC address would show up on our Wifi network they would be listed as home on an auto-updating PHP page.

The design is extremely basic and simple but it does a good job at doing what it was deigned for (not to mention that it was all created in less than a day). You can check out a picture of the page below. The live site is password protected.

A view of the webpage for the Who's Home project
A view of the webpage for the Who’s Home project

Recent Security Upgrades

I have spent the last week or so upgrading and improving my systems to harden them against various threats. After spending time learning about and implementing protocols, extensions, frameworks, and programs that were new to me I am happy to be done and see them in action.

To summarize my work:

  1. Moved two sites I manage from Windows/IIS/SQL to a LAMP environment (this included learning PHP/MySQL to convert from ASP.NET/SQL)
  2. Forced SSL connection on this site
  3. Enabled DNSEC for the domains I own
  4. Enabled DKIM for the email service on one my domains
  5. General review of network configuration including removing unneeded services, programs, rules, etc
  6. Locking down needed services according to known best-practices
  7. While I was at it I also learned about and employed some SEO best practices including the creation of clean URLs

I enjoyed this small project as I helped ensure my networks and systems were up to date while also learning about my features and topics that I’ll need later in my careers.

Why You Should Go Greek

In the first week of my freshmen year I was determined to make my mark on campus and to get involved. Orientation was nice but I knew that the real opportunities to grow and challenge myself would come when I went out on my own and explored the different clubs and organizations at RIT. In starting my time in college I knew that I would determine my “success” over the next four years not solely based on academics but also by the depth and scope of my personal and professional development during my time there.

My father and his father are both fraternity men so prior to my arrival at RIT I was acutely aware of the opportunities and risks of Greek Life. In a system that spans the nation with thousands of members there are some delinquents and as with any community there are problems that need to be addressed and resolved to improve life for it’s members. However, I also knew how much a Greek organization could help me grow as an individual during college and then long after I graduate. I knew that going Greek would open many doors for me and put me in a position where I could push myself during a very critical time of my development as a young adult.

One of the questions that is sometimes asked to me by unaffiliated students is a very fair and basic inquiry: “What do Greeks do?” The short answer: a whole lot of things. Greeks are first and foremost students just like everyone else. We are here to get a degree and do well academically. Aside from our scholarly pursuits we volunteer, hold events, and raise money for our philanthropies, and due to the close nature of our brotherhoods and sisterhoods, we have fun doing it all. Membership in a Greek organization means that you are given opportunities to grow as an individual and be surrounded by people who want to push to see the best in you come out: not just for four years but for life. Being a brother or sister lasts well beyond your time in college and allows for you to help provide the same environment to help those that follow in your footsteps.

I previously wrote a post that offers testimonials from Greeks about the benefits and rewards of going Greek and I highly recommend that giving it a read. Joining a Greek organization was the best decision I’ve made at RIT and I highly recommend looking into Greek Life if you haven’t done so already.

Learn more about the 30 Greek organizations at RIT by visiting the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s website. Also, be sure to follow them on Twitter and “Like” them on Facebook to get direct updates.

The RIT Office of Information Security

I recently sat down and talked with Ben Woelk, Policy Analyst in RIT Office of Information Security to discuss the functions of the office, how RIT protects the community, and what as end users can do to be safe online.

The first item we discussed is the role of Information Security at RIT. The university has developed a risk management approach to information security and as such the office is constantly assessing and evaluating the integrity and security of RIT networks. One of their more prominent efforts is the Private Information Management Initiative (PIMI) which involves the Office of Information Security helping RIT employees find and remove personally identifiable information (PII) on digital and non-digital mediums with the goal of reducing the amount of PII across the university.

During our conversation we also discussed what services Info Sec provides. The office has published several standards and procedures on their website and also works to educate everyone who uses RIT networks from Systems Administrators to End Users. Ben has also taught some sections of a Digital Self-Defense class for RIT students. There are some excellent resources for the full spectrum of users on the Information Security website and I highly recommend taking a few minutes to review them. They are very useful for anyone, not just those in the RIT community. Brochures include “How to create a strong password” and “Safer Social Networking.

As an Information Security and Forensics student I was very excited to learn more about what the office does. My biggest take-away from the discussion was something that wasn’t at all new to me but which was further confirmed by talking with Ben: networks are only as strong as their weakest link. Often times that weakest link is the network’s users. The office does a great deal to make those weaker links stronger but as a user you need to do your part too. Make use of the educational materials not just to help keep RIT networks secure but to keep you safe and secure online as well.

To learn more and utilize the great resources made by Information Security, visit their website and be sure to follow them on Twitter and “Like” them on Facebook to receive updates.

Cascade and Porter Mountains Hike

This past weekend I went up to the Adirondack Mountains and hiked two of the 46 high peaks in New York State which marked the start of working towards my goal of becoming an Adirondack 46er. Last Saturday, along with two fraternity brothers and one of their girlfriends, I hiked to the summits of Cascade and Porter Mountains which are the 36th (at 4098 feet) and 38th (at 4059 feet) highest peaks in New York respectively. To officially become a 46er one must hike all of the 46 high peaks and summit proof of the hikes to the Office of the Historian of Adirondack Forty-Sixers. Some people decide to become Winter 46ers and ascend the peaks in the snowy, icy, winter months. For me the goal to is to do it in my lifetime. I’m not always available to take a trip up to hike for a few days so I plan on going on the hikes over a longer time period.

View from Cascade Mountain looking northwest towards Lake Placid
View from Cascade Mountain looking northwest towards Lake Placid

As an Eagle Scout I’m no stranger to the outdoors and I enjoyed the trip a lot as it has been a while since I’ve been able to take part in such a trek. Hiking the two mountains was a straightforward and easy affair as the trails were marked and the hike was only a few hours along round-trip. However the other high peaks can be more difficult to hike and beginners should not take them on.

The hikes are a lot of fun and can be a fun family tradition or a new hobby. If you don’t have any experience hiking or camping now is a great time to start. You can learn more about hiking from the American Hiking Society and more about hiking safety on the The White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Hike Safe website. If you need to get gear I recommend checking out Eastern Mountain Sports, my favorite place to go. Not only are the staff very knowledge and helpful (nearly all are campers, climbers, hikers, and explorers themselves) but college students can get a 15% discount with a college ID.

If you’d like to learn more or have any questions about hiking let me know, I like talking about it. If you want to plan a trip to hike Cascade the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau has some great information to help you. After a good hike, ending your day in nearby Lake Placid will make for a enjoyable and fun-filled trip.

Update 1: Polisseni Center Construction

Today I returned to the Polisseni Center construction site to get an update on the center’s progress. I spoke again with Richard Laudisi, Vice President at LeChase Construction, who informed me of what has been taking place at the busy site since we last spoke. All pile driving is complete after around 5 miles of metal was put into the ground. The construction crews are now working on the next stage of the project which is excavating stone from around the hundreds of piles to build wooden forms to allow the concrete caps that will support the structure to be poured.

I was able to walk around the site to get a better view...with an escort and proper safety equipment of course.
I was able to walk around the site to get a better view…with an escort and proper safety equipment of course.
A wooden form to support the concrete cap as it is poured and as it dries.
A wooden form to support the concrete cap as it is poured and as it dries.
The cap on the left will support bleachers for spectators while the cap on the right will support the structure.
The cap on the left will support bleachers for spectators while the cap on the right will support the structure.
Here is part of the form for the northern-most face of the center.
Here is part of the form for the northern-most face of the center.

After all of the cap areas are excavated and the wooden forms are built around them concrete will be poured into them. This process is expected to continue for a few more weeks. Beginning on August 12th, structural steel will begin to arrive at the site. The steel acts as the skeleton of the building and it is at that point when the building will take a more complete form as all its walls and roof are added.

One of the challenges of building in a swamp is groundwater seeping into and pooling in holes.
One of the challenges of building in a swamp is groundwater seeping into and pooling in holes.

Construction at the site will continue through winter with the center expected to be ready for the 2014-2015 Tigers Hockey season.

This is the approximate area of center ice.
This is the approximate area of center ice.

I will be visiting the site very few weeks over the summer to get updates and more frequently once the academic year starts. Be sure to follow me on Twitter to stay current.

You can get updated about the Polisseni Center by following it’s Twitter account. If you’d like to help support the Tigers and their new home you can donate here.

Check out my first post here.

My Thoughts on UIFI

UIFI 2013 Iota Sigma Participants
UIFI 2013 Iota Sigma Participants

This week I had the pleasure of attending the North-American Interfraternity Conference‘s Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute held at the Alpha Xi Delta – Beta Pi chapter house at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.

The 5 day program, in its 24th year, brings top leaders from fraternity and sorority communities together to learn and share more about Greek shared values, leadership skills, commitment, and values based action. The theme for 2013 is “Start with you.” My group (session 4/Iota Sigma) consisted of 80 of some of the most talented, driven, and integrity-based leaders I have met in my experience with student leadership. To round out the team were 16 facilitators made up of various collegiate and Greek organization professional staff, two awesome interns, and our two experienced lead facilitators.

Through a series of programs, exercises, and collaborative activities participants learned more about the challenges and realities of fraternity and sorority life, truths about leadership, issues faced by Greeks, our values as individuals and as members of our organizations, group dynamics and operations, and general best practices.

I am eager to take what I’ve learned and inspire brothers of my chapter, Sigma Chi – Lambda Kappa, and members of the greater RIT Greek community to live by our shared values and our respective rituals to be the best that we can and be the men and women that our founders envisioned to support and develop when they established our organizations.

I am very grateful for the connections and friendships that I have made while at UIFI and am excited to have them as a resource as I continue my work in Greek Life. My biggest takeaway from the program was really nothing new but a spin on the old adage “No matter the letter, we’re all Greek together.” I committed to returning to RIT and working to foster strong inter-Greek relations and attempting to break down barriers and hindrances to cooperation and collaboration among our 30 on-campus organization. I am fortunate to be in a good position to do so through my position in the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life but I can’t do it alone. I hope to work together along side other Greek leaders to accomplish these goals but anyone can help. It starts in your own chapter. It starts with you.

I encourage fellow Greeks to pass along word of UIFI and want to point out that many organizations give scholarships for their members to attend.

During the summer of 2013 you can get a glimpse of what is going on at UIFI by following along with the #UIFI2013 hashtag on Twitter.

You can take a look at what I had to say while at UIFI here.

Greek Week 2013

Greek Week 2013 ran from April 14th to April 21 this year and came with a mix of new and returning events. The purpose of Greek Week is to foster positive inter-Greek relations and to provide fun and constructive events for the Greek community.

Sunday afternoon saw the kick-off with t-shirts being distributed to teams in Fireside Lounge. Competitive events started on Monday with Canstruction. Teams were told to collect food cans in advance of Greek Week to be used in a can structure building contest. After the event the cans were donated to Foodlink.

Greek Week 2013 teams
Greek Week 2013 teams

Tuesday’s event was the hallmark event of Greek Week: the chariot race. Unfortunately, the race was postponed to Friday due to the weather.

Black Team's (winning) canstruction design
Black Team’s (winning) Canstruction design

On Wednesday teams participated in the Olympic Search & Find. Teams were given a list of 25 items, some given as riddles, to be found in 90 minutes. Scores for the top three teams were extremely close but the Black Team came out on top.

Thursday night saw teams competing in the Greek Variety Show. The show was another new addition to Greek Week and was successful in terms of participation, attendance, and quality of performances. The Yellow Team came in first place by performing a dance act to Macklemore’s “Thift Shop.”

On Friday the Chariot Race finally ran. 4 teams bravely faced the cold air, rain, and wind with the Yellow Team winning. This year the chariots were rider-less, much to the disappointment of the Greek Community. The decision was made in the upper levels of Student Affairs and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is working hard to try to get riders back in the chariot race next year. After the race, teams took part in a Capture the Flag tournament in which Black Team took the “W.”

On Saturday there were no events in order to allow Greeks to attend the annual Connectology Leadership Advancement Conference.

Sunday morning teams competed in NALFO‘s Annual Softball Tournament. After a series of quick games, the Blue Team ultimately came away victorious.

The week closed out with Greek Awards on Sunday afternoon.Alpha Sigma Alpha won the 2013 President’s Cup while Jonathan Diaz and Jenna Deutsch were named Greek Man and Greek Woman of the year, respectively.

The final standings:

  1. Black Team (Lambda Alpha Upsilon, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa, & Zeta Tau Alpha): 620 points
  2. Blue Team (Kappa Delta Rho, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Sigma Sigma Sigma, Sigma Nu, & Omega Phi Beta): 500 points
  3. Green Team (Delta Phi Epsilon, Phi Kappa Tau, Sigma Alpha Mu, & Sigma Chi): 390 points
  4. Yellow Team (Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Lambda Pi Chi, Lambda Sigma Upsilon, & Phi Delta Theta): 360 points
  5. Red Team (Alpha Xi Delta, Pi Kappa Phi, & Tau Kappa Epsilon): 130 points

Derby Days 2013

From April 22nd to April 27th, the Sigma Chi – Lambda Kappa chapter held it’s second annual Derby Days. The chapter saw participation from all five Panhellenic sororities during the this year’s military themed week of events. Derby Days is one of the Sigma Chi fraternity’s staple philanthropic events. According to archival information at Sigma Chi International Headquarters, the first “Derby Day” event was held in 1916 at the University of California-Berkeley, home of the Fraternity’s Alpha Beta chapter. Then known as the “Channing Way Derby” because of the California-Berkeley chapter’s location on Channing Way and College Avenue, news of the event would spread to other chapters, many of whom then desired to create their own Derby Day. It has been successful not only in raising both capital and awareness for the designated cause, but also in portraying both Sigma Chi and the Greek-letter system as a whole in a positive light. Throughout the course of a week, the participating chapter organizes and hosts a series of events and competitions among their campus’s sororities. Money is raised through either donations, or through fundraising-type events. The event takes over campuses and communities, and highly encourages participation from outside the Greek-letter system. While Derby Days itself is not a mandatory event for any chapter of Sigma Chi to host, it is a popular tradition practiced by many chapters across North America. One of the most appealing aspects of the event is that it allows each chapter the unique opportunity to positively impact both their campus and the community as a whole.

Teams sell their baked goods during the Bake Sale
Teams sell their baked goods during the Bake Sale

This year’s events were Capture a Sig, Photo Sig, Derby Chase, a bake sale, and the Derby Boot Camp. Capture a Sig lets sisters of the participating sororities “capture” a brother for the duration of the walk back to that sorority’s meeting area. Photo Sig involves sisters taking pictures of brothers they see around campus. During Derby Chase brothers wear themed hats and sisters attempt to steal them. In preparation for the bake sale, brothers and sisters prepared baked goods together. On Friday teams found themselves running around campus going to 7 different stations competing in small tasks and challenges as part of the Derby Boot Camp.

A team competes in a Derby Boot Camp event
A team competes in a Derby Boot Camp event

This year the event was sponsored by Wings Over Rochester, Monster, and vineyard vines. Participants were treated to free food and Monster and were given the chance to get vv giveaways.

Team members sport vineyard vines whale hats.

Alpha Xi Delta (the Marines team) won Derby Days 2013 with Delta Phi Epsilon (Army) coming in second by a narrow margin. Sigma Sigma Sigma (Navy) placed third and Zeta Tau Alpha (Air Force) and Alpha Sigma Alpha (Coast Guard) rounded out the bottom two positions. Sigma Chi, in addition to these 5 organizations, was able to raise more than $3,700 for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.

Brothers grill during the Awards BBQ

While Derby Days has ended for the year you can still donate to the foundation through this page. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated. Sigma Chi is very grateful for everyone who contributed and participated and looks forward to an even more successful event next year!

Spring Career Fair 2013

On March 20th nearly 240 companies converged on RIT’s Gordon Field House & Activities Center for the Spring 2013 Career Fair, organized by the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services (OCE). I went to the fair not looking for a job or co-op, internship, or job but rather practice my networking skills and build connections for possible future employment. This year I also volunteered and helped the employers as a messenger and tweeted about my time there (the OCE even used the picture I took as their Twitter background).

Nearly all of my friends attended the Career Fair and they were wise to do so. Whether you are looking for an internship, co-op, summer job, or full-time employment it’s a smart idea to go because you’ll always end up benefiting yourself in some capacity. If you go and like me you aren’t looking for a job, the fair is an excellent way to practice your “elevator speech,” hone in on your networking skills, and maybe get an interview or two for practice. In addition, you get some more experience dressing up in business professional for the day. There is a running allusion largely by the women on-campus that Career Fair days are very good days because most men are wearing suits or sports coats.

The OCE offers lots of information about the Career Fairs on it’s website in addition to some great, general purpose knowledge and tips for interviews, networking, and job hunting. The co-op program at RIT is very strong (it’s the 4th oldest and one of the largest in the nation). That combined with the institute’s excellent alumni network puts students ahead and at a distinct advantage.

I was very happy with my experience at the Career Fair this spring as I gained two connections to two organizations in the same sector that I plan on working in. Next I’ll be back and looking to gain and develop more connections and relationships and maybe looking for a co-op for the Spring Semester or summer.

Polisseni Center Construction

This Tuesday 3/12/2013 I visited with Richard Laudisi, Vice President at LeChase Construction, the construction management firm overseeing the Polisseni Center project, to learn more about how the arena is being built and what’s been done so far. Richard was very nice to take time out of his schedule to show me plans and explain construction processes. I’ll be checking back with him every so often to learn about what’s happening on-site and sharing what I find out.

Currently, workers are driving piles about 40 feet into the ground to the bedrock which will provide a sturdy foundation. As of Monday (3/11) night, 281 of 651 piles were put into the ground. Pile driving is expected to be complete by the end of March at which point around 5 miles of pipe will have been hammered into the ground.

Pile driving in action
Pile driving in action

In mid-April the area around each pile will be slightly excavated and the piles will be cut approximately 2 feet below the surface. The hollow piles are then filled with concrete and a concrete “cap” is created over the pile grouping. On these caps the weight of the structure will be supported.

Pile pairings
A 4 pile group is show with a planned 5′ x 5′ x 2′ cap.

The Gene Polisseni Center is planned to be approximately 110,000 square feet, which is about three times the size of Ritter Arena. The center will have a maximum capacity of 4,500 spectators and have 4 suites which will be able to hold between 12 to 16 people in addition to another 400 to 600 club seats. The arena will feature a 85′ by 200′ ice surface but can also function as a multipurpose venue. In keeping with RIT’s green commitment, when finished it will be a LEED Silver ranked building.

Piles supporting the Polisseni Center
Piles supporting the Polisseni Center

You can get updated about the Polisseni Center by following it’s Twitter account and be sure to check back as post updates about the construction. If you’d like to help support the Tigers and their new home you can donate here.

Freezefest 2013 – Recap

On the first weekend of February 2013,  RIT’s Center for Campus Life, in conjunction with numerous other campus organizations, held the institute’s 4th Annual Freezefest, a campus-wide event that features exciting events to bring the school together and make the cold weather a bit more tolerable. The award winning Freezefest featured more than 30 events this year hosted by a handful of various groups including the College Activities Board (CAB), Student Government (SG), Global Union, the Interfraternity Council (IFC), Tango Club, Quidditch Club, and Sigma Sigma Sigma. Prior to Freezefest there were lots of giveaways of cool (and practical) Freezefest gear such as hot and cold tumblers, pens, chapstick, slouch beanies, aluminum water bottles, fingerless gloves, gum, and long-sleeve performance tees that led up the the enjoyment-filled weekend.

Despite warmer weather and a lack of snow (that saw the popular Rail Jam event being cancelled for the second straight year), Freezefest was quite well attended and a whole lot of fun. Some featured events include:

  • PuppyFest: one of the weekend’s most popular events where puppies from local shelters for students to play with and pet.

    Credit: David Beyerlein
    Credit: David Beyerlein
  • Joel McHale: the talented and comical Joel McHale (from Community and The Soup) performing live in front of the RIT community.

    Credit: Maria Sharp
    Credit: Maria Sharp
  • Global Union’s Unification: a spectacular show that features more than 10 of Global Union’s most talented affiliate groups preforming cultural dances and performances from around the world.

    Credit: Sean Sullivan
    Credit: Sean Sullivan
  • Snow Globe building: have your picture taken and put inside a snow-globe!

    Credit: Sue Weisler
    Credit: Sue Weisler
  • Taking a Carriage to Class: an opportunity to ride around campus in a real horse-drawn carriage.

    Credit: Sue Weisler
    Credit: Sue Weisler
  • Greek Bonfire: an event for Greeks and independents to mingle, enjoy some BBQ, and temporarily escape the cold.

    Credit: Peter Ryan, Jr.
    Credit: Peter Ryan, Jr.

Others were an Extreme Pogo Stick demo, an Ice Sculptor, a 5K Run & Walk, and the Superb’ OWL Party. Freezefest is a great pick-me-up for the campus as students haven’t seen much of the sun and have seen all too much of snow and cold weather. With Freezefest over the countdown begins for Spring Fest and Imagine RIT!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@pryanjr) for more frequent updates.

Getting Around the RIT Campus

While RIT is a large campus getting around isn’t all that difficult. In the spring and fall I enjoy walking around or riding my bike, often going out of my way to be outside so that I can enjoy the weather and the nice campus view. RIT is a very bike friendly campus and you won’t have much difficulty finding a place to lock up your bike far from where you’re going. Upon coming to RIT I’d recommend buying a bike lock and registering your bike (for free) with the National Bike Registry if you haven’t done so already.

In the winter things gets a bit more complicated. I live off-campus in Park Point and while it’s not that far of a walk, the cold and wind often make it unpleasant to get around (this week the temperature hasn’t been above 15 °F, not factoring in the wind). Fortunately I can rely on the RTS buses that service the campus and other locations including Park Point, Province, Perkins and Colony apartment complexes, to get me where I need to go. The buses come and go roughly every 20 minutes with some breaks throughout the day. Schedules are easy to find online and also through the handy RIT Mobile App. Once I get on-campus I can make use of the tunnel system (you need a RIT account required) or walk inside connected buildings to stay out of the cold.

If you don’t have a car you don’t need to worry, the RTS bus system services locations like the nearby Marketplace Mall, Walmart, and Wegmans on the weekends so you can go shopping. For those freshmen who want to bring a car to campus I have good news and bad news; the good news is that you can bring a car, the bad news is that the parking situation isn’t all that great. You’ll generally be able to get a parking spot but it may not be that close to where you’re heading.

Greek Life 101

Aside from being a Student Ambassador I work for the RIT Greek Programming Board as the Development & Education Coordinator. My job entails planning events that have the aim of improving Greek Life in terms of risk awareness and management, new member education, health and wellness, leadership development, and scholastics. I am a big advocate of Greek Life and encourage everyone to look into joining a Greek organization.

Greek Life refers to the collection of fraternities and sororities on campus. There are many different fraternities and sororities but there is only one organization has a particular name which consists of letters of the Greek alphabet. The presence of an organization on-campus is known as a chapter. Students in Greek organizations generally have higher GPAs and have a higher degree of involvement on-campus. Greek organizations value academics, philanthropy, and camaraderie and generally have strong social presences.

If you decide to go Greek you should do your homework and find the group that is best for you. It’s a good idea to go out and meet brothers and sisters of as many organizations as you can and learn more about what they do on-campus, what their values are, what their philanthropies are, and general information about the fraternity/sorority as a whole.

Here are some terms you might come across as you look closer at Greek Life:

  • Bid: a formal invitation to join an organization.
  • Chapter: an on-campus group of an organization (chapter may also refer to the actual meeting of the chapter as well).
  • College Panhellenic Council (CPC): an umbrella organization for women’s sororities.
  • Greek Programming Board: a student organization that plans Greek events and programming.
  • Initiation: The initiation is the formal ceremony when new members join the Greek organization.
  • Interfraternity Council (IFC): an association of collegiate men’s fraternities.
  • National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO): an umbrella council for Latino organizations.
  • National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC): an association of historically African American organizations.
  • Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life: the office that oversees Greek Life at RIT.
  • Pledging: After recruitment, the Greek organization sends invitations to join, known as “bids.” A PNM may get none, or one or more bids. If the PNM chooses to join, he or she is “accepting the bid” and then becomes “a pledge” of the fraternity or sorority. During the pledge period, pledges learn even more about the organization and decide if it’s right for them.
  • Potential New Member (PNM): someone who is interested in Greek Life and may join an organization.

Going Greek has lifelong benefits and can help you get the most out of not just college but of life. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what other Greeks have to say:

“Membership in Greek Life is a life altering experience and it allows you to grow as an individual in ways that you never thought that you could.” — Eric Pope, Associate Director for Greek & Departmental Assessment and brother of Theta Chi

“I joined greek life for the camaraderie, and stayed for experiences and friends that I’ve made.” — Derek Palmerton, chapter President of Tau Kappa Epsilon

“Becoming Greek helped me with networking and gave me an opportunity to meet and learn from professionals in all different industries.” — Tyler Pixley, former chapter President of Sigma Chi

“Greek Life has opened up so many doors for me; I’ve learned how to handle responsibility, manage my time, become a leader, and grow as a person. Without Greek Life, I don’t know where I would be. Greeks mimic the same sets of values and I’m so proud to be apart of this community of outstanding people.” — Taylor Evans, President-Elect of Zeta Tau Alpha and President of National Society of Collegiate Scholars,

“I joined Greek Life because I wanted to get involved, make a difference and continue to grow as a leader. Being Greek has allowed me to do all these things as well as meet and work with so many amazing people. I know that being Greek has not only helped me through my years at RIT, but will also continue to help me after I graduate.” — Jenna Deutsch, President of Zeta Tau Alpha and Social Media Strategist for RIT Big Shot

“The reasons that I joined Greek Life were at first to have a strong alumni and professional network. But once I joined I realized that its much more. I became very close friends with people that I never would have met. It also helped me grow as an individual. My communication and leadership skills have improved which will be very beneficial for me professionally.” — Vinay Kaushik, brother of Sigma Chi and IFC Vice President of Programming

Check out the Greek Life website to learn more!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@pryanjr) for more frequent updates.

About the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS)

The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is a multidisciplinary unit within RIT that offers graduate degrees in the fields of Architecture (Masters Degree), Sustainability (Ph.D.), and Sustainable Systems (Masters Degree). The Ph.D. Sustainability program was the world’s first. GIS is also home to groundbreaking research in sustainability practices, technology, and policy.

GIS was founded in 2007 largely due to a $10 million grant from Thomas Golisano. It is currently housed in CIMS but will be moved to a new location in 2013 after construction of that facility is completed. The new location, built specifically for GIS, will be LEED certified and will house 7 systems integration test beds, 8 sustainability technology support labs, computing and collaborative spaces to support research, and academic and office spaces.

The institute also provides seminars for local companies and education and training programs to industry on such topics as sustainable production practices in operations, vital new sustainable production skills in addition to general training to learn about pressing business and technology questions regarding sustainable production and increasing employee confidence. Community outreach programs are also available to educate about green engineering, green housekeeping, lean, energy and environment assessments, green purchasing, and pollution prevention assessment techniques and tools.

Multidisciplinary faculty and students are currently working on sustainable energy, sustainable mobility, sustainable production, and ecologically friendly IT systems via a variety of different programs including:

The institute, while still young, has already proved itself an international recognized and respected sustainability unit. It has earned several accolades including the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Excellence in Economic Development Award, the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable’s MVP2 Award, and an “A” in the College Sustainability Report Card. From visits of high ranking corporate and government officials to GIS’s student and faculty participation in various seminars, panels, and summits, it is easy to see GIS on the front-lines of sustainability work.

GIS is one of RIT’s strongest commitments to sustainability and the green movement and will be a valuable asset in aiding the institute reach its ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Peter’s Top Ten Reasons For Choosing RIT

Two years ago I was asking myself the same question that lots of current high school seniors are asking themselves now: now that I know my options, what college do I commit to? It can be a tough decision and I’d like to share why I think RIT should be your pick.

10. Internet: In all fairness, the speed and accessibility of the internet isn’t really what you should be judging schools on but RIT boasts one of the fastest internet connects among colleges. In addition, over 3,900 wireless access points across the campus (some that are even outside) mean that you’ll always have a fast link to the internet.

9. Campus events: Some of my best memories of college are ones made at campus events. Whether it is a major event put on by the College Activities Board (CAB) or an event hosted by one of the many organizations at RIT, your’re in for a good time. Some of my favorites include Mud Tud put on by Zeta Tau Alpha and Phi Kappa Psi, Freeze Fest which is run by the Center for Campus Life, the Greek Progamming Board’s Greek Week, and Derby Days run by Sigma Chi.

8. Diversity: More than 1,400 international students from 100 countries attend RIT. In addition, RIT is host to the National Technical School for the Deaf, the first and largest technological college in the world for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. There are about 1,200 students enrolled at RIT and it’s very common to have an ASL interpreter in one of your classes. Coming into RIT I had little to no knowledge of American Sign Language or deaf culture but though such programs as No Voice Zone I was able to learn more. It is also very helpful to learn about other cultures by gaining a prospective from a student who is a part of that culture. As an international relations minor, I have taken classes where students native to a region being discussed in class have stood up and told stories you just don’t read about in a textbook.

7. On-campus jobs: There are many jobs available on campus and the Student Employment Office makes it easy to find and apply for one that is best for you. Having an on-campus job is a good way to earn money to help pay for college, have some extra spending cash, and to get work experience to build up your resume.

6. The RIT bubble: The entire RIT campus is enclosed in a loop and you’re never more than a 15 minute walk from classes if you live on campus. While the school is inside its own loop you aren’t far away from places like Chipotle, Target, Wegmans, the mall, movie theaters, and one of my favorite eateries, Mighty Taco.

5. Green Commitment: RIT has made a commitment to sustainability and is working constantly to better its carbon footprint and green practices. The school is home to three LEED Certified buildings (two of which are Platinum, the highest ranking) and the new Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS). GIS is a multidisciplinary academic unit at RIT which is host to academic programs and research centers devoted to sustainable production, sustainable energy, sustainable mobility and ecologically friendly information technology systems.

4. Clubs and organizations: There are over 250 student organizations, 11 Major Student Organizations (MSOs), and 30 Greek organizations on campus. It’s easy to find an organization you’d like to be a part of. As a freshman going through orientation you have the opportunity to go to club interest sessions and learn more about your options. You can always learn more about clubs from the Club Resource Center and Greek organizations from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Getting involved with a club or organization early is a great way to get the most out of your time in college.

3. Faculty and staff: One of my favorite things about RIT is its faculty and staff. First off, meeting with your instructor is very easy to do as all professors must have at least 4 offices per week. If office hours don’t work for you can always email them or call their office. I’ve had professors that go further and allow students to call or text them for help. There was even a group in one of my business classes that was able to Skype with our instructor over the weekend to discuss a project for an assignment that was due on Monday. The staff at RIT also care about students and are just as dedicated as faculty. I have never had a bad experiences with RIT staff members; they like what they do at RIT and you can tell.

2. Real world education: Reading textbooks and doing coursework are two foundations of education learning about things from someone who has actually done them is what gives you an edge. Having professors have worked in the field or currently still do is very helpful as procedures and technology can change very quickly. Learning about how things are in the real world from someone who has done them will help make you a better person in the field that you are going into.

1. Co-ops: The Office of Co-op and Career Services is a resource that helps put RIT students ahead of their peers. Earlier I said that learning about things from someone who has done them is helpful. Well, how about doing them yourself before you even graduate? Going on co-op can may many things for students. It’s maybe the first time they’ve been completely on their own or maybe it’s their first “real job.” Co-ops offer students experience that they might not get until after they graduate. Furthermore, it’s useful to learn about how things are done in school one term and then be doing them yourself a few weeks later in another term. RIT is celebrating 100 years of co-ops this year and it’s safe to say that we can look forward to many more years of great opportunities with excellent companies around the world.

Assessment of the Rwanda Genocide

The Rwandan Genocide refers to the period of approximately 100 days from April 7 until mid-July 1994 when the Hutu ethnic group dominated Rwandan government regime carried out a systematic campaign of extermination of citizens whom it declared to be enemies of the nation which were near exclusively the Tutsi minority. Approximately 800,000 people were killed and approximately 2,000,000 were displaced. The circumstances that led to the Rwandan Genocide are complex and have social, economic, and political origins which will be explained further in detail.

Economic circumstances were not the strongest factors behind the genocide but definitely contributed to the overall status of the nation. Rwanda was a significantly poor nation prior to the genocide and civil war. Approximately 90% of the population lived off the land and the sustained rate of growth and high population density coupled with the inability to afford farming equipment meant that most farmers could not provide for themselves or their families. The economic situation was exacerbated more in the 1980s when government spending limits combined with a sudden drop in market prices for the chief Rwandan exports of coffee and tea crippled the nation’s economy. With no foreign support or natural resources to fall back on, the economic situation remained bleak.

Social and ethnic factor are largely the strongest factors that lead to the Rwandan Genocide. The Twa, Hutu, and Tutsi compose the three ethnic groups of Rwanda. The Twa make up about 1% of the population and have role and have had no role in the politics of the country. The Hutu and Tutsi make up 84% and 15% of the nation’s population respectively and share a common language and culture. As the Hutu and Tutsi groups migrated to where they now and the state of Rwanda developed, social divisions began to emerge: the ruling elite as the Tusti and the masses as the Hutu. Colonization by the Germans and Belgians solidified and in some cases expanded the control of the Tutsi while isolating the Hutu. During the years of European rule the two groups grew further apart as the Tutsi took the right to rule for granted and the Hutu saw themselves as oppressed people. In the mid 20th century European powers left the country and tensions began to rise. The 1957 Hutu Manifesto (also known as the Bahutu Manifesto) announced a unified idea that the Tutsi had a monopoly of power in the nation of Rwanda. In 1959 the Hutu majority overthrew the Tutsi rulers. The revolution was a shock to the Tutsi and many leaders were exiled as the Hutu rushed to establish their political power. The Tutsi regarded the change in power as criminal and illegitimate while the Hutu celebrated what they regarded as a strong win for freedom and liberation. Unsuccessful Tutsi attempts to unseat the new Hutu government over the course of the new decade over deepened a strong sense of distrust and anger. Attacks impelled by the Hutu government in retaliation are thought to be responsible for most of the 20,000 Tutsi deaths that are attributed to the revolution.

Tensions continued to rise between the Hutu and Tutsi until October of 1990 when an established Tutsi force invaded from Uganda sparking the Rwandan Civil War. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed to “fight for the right of refugees to return to Rwanda.” The Rwandan government forces, supported by the French military, quickly repelled the onslaught and pushed the RPF fighters back across the border. Soon a guerilla war emerged with the RPF attacking Rwanda from bases across the Ugandan border. These sustained harassments combined with periodic gains of Rwandan territory over the course of the next three years and increasing civil disobedience from the stresses of war were enough to bring the two sides to the negotiating table in August of 1993 with the war ending through the signing of the Arusha Accords which created a power-sharing agreement for the government of Rwanda. International Peacekeepers were sent to Rwanda in December 1994 to assist with the implementation of the Accords under the authority of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Around the time of the signing, transgressions committed by the RPF before the signing led to a ending of an alliance between the RPF and the Rwandan opposition further complicating the political landscape.

Political circumstances also strongly contributed to the genocide. On October 21, 1993, neighboring country Burundi saw its first democratically elected president, a Hutu, assassinated by the nation’s army which was Tutsi-dominated. Burundi quickly saw itself thrown into civil war and the affects of the assassination were felt in Rwanda. Distrust, suspicion, and anger only grew for the Tutsi minority. Influential Hutus began to pass the idea that Tutsi were out to get the Hutu and that pre-emptive measures were necessary to ensure the security of the nation and government. Political leaders stated that the Tutsi were foreigners with no right to live in Rwanda, that the Tutsi still enjoyed a higher socioeconomic station and Hutus were still paying for it, and that the Tutsi posed a danger to the Hutu and the Hutu had a right to defend themselves. Rhetoric and propaganda efforts were stepped up to convene the message of an increasing narrow-minded and determined government.

In October 1993, a group of Rwandan military officers met to establish a means of distributing weapons covertly as to avoid attention of the general population and political parties. In 1994 the group met again with the goal of planning for civil defense. They crafted an informal document called “Organization of civilian self-defense” (also known as Organisation de l’Auto-Défense Civile”). This document was essentially the basic plan for executing the genocide. It goes into great detail, even calling for the procurement of 4,995 firearms and 499,500 bullets for participants while encouraging that others get traditional weapons like bows, arrows, and spears on their own. The government began to create weapons and supplies caches and importing and consolidating weapons including over 580,000 machetes from China. The Organization of civilian self-defense document’s main purpose was to organize the population to deal with crime and the possibility of renewed conflict. The actors involved with the plan were to protect public property, denounce the enemy movement, and inform on the intentions and engagements of the enemy and confront when possible. It called for participation from nearly all realms of government including local mayors, the military (including retired military officers), the national police, political party supporters, and members of the ruling Hutu political party all the way up to the President. It created a structured and defined hierarchy with various committees and task forces assigned jobs ensure that when the time came, all of the actors would be able to work together and have the tools and resources necessary to accomplish what was now the clear end goal: the elimination of the Tutsi. In the beginning months of 1994 planning and coordination efforts continued as military officers and government officials met with local government to work on integrating them and handpicked civilians into the plan.

On the evening of April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana was shot down. This was the catalyst that triggered the genocide. Members of the military quickly locked down the capital, secured Hutu political power players, and began to eliminate members of the opposition and their families. They were met with little resistance and due to the efforts of the government planners, the national police, local government officials, and ordinary civilians were easily and seamlessly worked into the movement. The UNAMIR was powerless to stop the killings due to their small size and lack of resources and support. After a Belgian contingent of UNAMIR soldiers were killed, Belgium soon withdrew their troops. The international community was hesitate to respond to the growing crisis for a multitude of reasons. To begin with, western nations, in particular the United States, were reluctant to commit ground forces due to the recent events in Somalia. They did not want to rush to intervene in what could have been a civil war as it was not immediately clear that the killings were nearly unilateral. Simply put, the international community did not want to get involved as it was not their fight. It was not until June 1994 that the United Nations Security Council first classified the crisis as a genocide. French forces were authorized to land in Rwanda and establish a safe zone under the auspices of Operation Turquoise. The operation was not incredibly effective as killings still occurred but it help protect civilians to a degree and assist the RPF in trying to end the attacks. After nearly 100 days Rwandan Patriotic Front forces were able to take control of the capital. Fearing possible retaliation, the Hutu government fled the country in addition to up to 2 million civilian Hutu.

In the aftermath of the genocide the United Nations scrambled to respond. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established to prosecute those who were responsible and that directed and aided the attacks. Trials are still on-going to this day. In large part, at least to Rwandan’s, there was a failure of the international community to act. This position can be understood because at least in western nations, the media struggled to report on a story that was met with disinterest by most viewers. The international community was reluctant to get involved in a crisis that would largely not have an impact throughout the world. It is also important to remember that the conflict moved very quickly and it may have been thought that it was in the best interests of third party nations to refrain from committing forces as the conflict would soon end on its own.

Nowadays, tensions have mostly cooled in Rwanda. There is a general feeling that those responsible have brought to justice and that the nation is safe from another genocide in the near future. There are occasionally still isolated ethnic killings from time to time but the country is working hard to recover and heal wounds.

The takeaway from the Rwandan Genocide is that the international community, namely through the United Nations should be more active and vigorous in involving itself in cases of ethnic killings and genocide by promptly and comprehensively investigating any alleged cases and responding swiftly and with due force. It would be absolutely horrible to see a similar event happen again knowing what we know now and how events can escalate with haste. Mistakes were made across the board, especially at the United Nations. Information was passed along via the UNAMIR commander on the ground but it was largely not acted on. The United Nations has a mandate to act via the Security Council in cases of genocide and more pressure needs to be put on non-reactive members to work to look into and end any events that may arise. The international community needs to hold itself responsible for failures to act while at the same time, be ready and willing to intervene if the need arises in the future.

An Argument Against Unlimited Nuclear Proliferation

In the debate over nuclear proliferation there are essentially three positions: opposition to any proliferation, limited proliferation, and unlimited proliferation. Unlimited proliferation is the most extreme case and is in the minority favor. Most analysts and governments favor at least a limited proliferation position due to security concerns of having more nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons programs.
There are some analysts that believe unlimited nuclear proliferation is not a bad idea. They claim that nuclear weapons were a force for stability during the Cold War because they greatly increased the potential costs of war due to the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction. While it is true that there has not been a large scale, multiple nation war since WWII, there are other factors to account for this. Furthermore, the position does not take into consideration the influence and activity of independent, non state-sponsored groups that do not have sovereignty.
There have been dozens of conflicts since WWII but they have been of small scale and between a small number of belligerents. The creation of the United Nations after World War II created an international forum for discussion and solidified a status of default peace in which conflict was not only looked down upon universally but it could invoke a unified force against the aggressor in the form of sanctions or a peacekeeping contingent. This removed the willingness for nations or a small group of nations to unilaterally attack on a large scale as the risk of retaliation would significantly outweigh any gains. In addition, economic factors such as globalization further reduce the chance of war as an international incidence could affect the international markets which would eventually meddle with the national economy of the aggressive nation.
Critics of unlimited proliferation would further argue that more nuclear weapons and programs are not good for any party. As most nations agree through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, reducing the world’s overall nuclear weapons is a good idea that is in everyone’s interests. While those states publicly admitting to possessing nuclear weapons and nuclear programs have proved responsible so far, increasing the number of nuclear across the world increases the likelihood for incident. Consider the current situation of Iran’s nuclear program. The state has said the destruction of Israel is a matter of national policy and has acted and threatened in an aggressive manner in the process of developing their own nuclear program. The prospect of an unstable and subversive nation have nuclear weapons at its disposal is a real concern for the international community. Not only might these weapons be used in a traditional conflict, they could be used as dirty bombs or small nuclear packages to be detonated on the ground in Israel. The worst scenario is Iran sharing or selling information, resources, expertise, or the weapons themselves to a terrorist organization or other regime that could use them in any fashion or against any target that they want at any time.
It is for these reasons that critics argue that unlimited proliferation is not a viable strategy in this era. We no longer have the luxury of fighting an established, clear, and definitively vulnerable nation-state enemy and we must constantly be on the lookout for groups that seem to harm our interests through any means available, which must not be nuclear weapons.

On the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is an agreement that was made following the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea which ran from 1973 to 1982. It came into force in 1994 and to date 162 nations have become party to it. While there is uncertainty as to the extent to which the agreement actually constitutes international law, it does provide the most comprehensive and multilaterally supported framework on international maritime law to date. The treaty codifies, expands, and modernizes older principles and agreements such as the Freedom of the seas that create a safe, consistent, fair, and reasonable set of laws for international maritime conveyances for the modern world.

More and more sitting officials are throwing their support behind the ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. These two are the latest in the long line of prominent and high ranking government and private sector leaders. The Defense Department lays out ten reasons that ratification would support US national security interests.

The security provisions of the treaty are especially important to the nation whose naval operations are a critical component of foreign policy. America relies on it’s navy for power projection, to support military operations, and to take part in humanitarian efforts and disaster relief around the world. Some of the most internationally significant events involve water in some way. As disputes over the South China Sea continue and Iranian tensions with the West threaten the security of the Suez Canal the treaty could prove to be extremely valuable in preventing and resolving issues.

Another of the strongest reasons for ratification is that American energy companies are now prepared and willing to explore the continental shelf and take advantage of what they may find. Only once the United States becomes a party to the treaty it can fully secure the rights to the rare and valuable metals and elements on the ocean floor beyond 200 miles from shore and sponsor companies to take advantage of what is found.

The full agreement is aligned with current US policy and and advances and protects national security and economic interests. Overall, the Convention would give the world’s foremost maritime power the basis and power to exert its influence, strength, and goals internationally.

I support ratification and hope to see done within the next few years. You can learn more about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea here.

Why Globalization is Good

Globalization refers to the growing interrelationship between the cultures and economies of countries in the international arena. It is a process in which differing states and societies are merged together into a global society and economy. It is bought on as the economies of countries expand and develop complex international relationships and bonds. Globalization diminishes the significance of geographical borders and allows for all markets to have the ability to compete.

As national economies are being tied together more closely events in a single country can have an effect on the whole of them. Usually the large of the world economy isn’t that seriously affected by one or two nations but if that nation is a big player in the global market like the United States or when a group of nations is going through difficult times the market can be very clear disturbed. The ongoing euro area debt crisis is an example of how the decisions of some nation can have consequences on other nations.

The tendency toward globalization means that power that has traditionally rested with national governments due to sovereignty is transiting to entities that are able to transcend state boundaries and are global actors such as international businesses or other organizations with lots of capital, resources, or influence.

Support for globalization is common among nations large and small as well as large corporations. Most free market nations support globalization as they understand the benefits and wealth it can bring to their countries. Developing countries can grow due to developed nations bringing jobs and capital to seek labor and resources at low rates. Developed countries benefit as their products and concepts can be produced at lower rates in developing nations. This relationship can create a “race to the bottom” in which the wages, regulation, and social programs are reduced so that the economic environment is more suitable for investment and development by foreign corporations who favor low taxes and low wages.

Those who disagree with globalization argue that globalization reduces the ability of nation-states to shape their own policies and goals as they must compete with large corporations and organizations who have different rules, goals, and regulations that mean they are on a different playing field. Furthermore, with organizations like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization that have scores of members it is possible for the voices of the minority to be ignored or not seriously considered. Overall the biggest concern is that nations might lose the ability to shape and follow up on their own policies and goals. There are concerns that globalization is creating and fostering an environment where poor wages and working conditions exist. While this might be true in the case of developing nations, the tendency is towards an increasingly better status as developed nations press for changes and many of the international financial and economic bodies that help advancement and cooperation of nations have standards that nations have to pledge to reaching by joining or soon afterwards.

Globalization as a whole helps create a more unified world and helps bring nations together while everyone benefits. Furthermore, increasingly interconnected economies reduce the likeliness of large-scale conflict as everyone has something to lose in the event of a significant war . Lastly, bringing people together helps the world develop as a whole as ideas and concepts can be pooled together more easily and quickly. All together, globalization is a good force for the world.

Responsibility to Protect

The topic of responsibility to protect and humanitarian intervention have been a point of contention in nearly all echelons of international relations, foreign policy, and politics since the first instance of genocide and mass killing. The decision to act is a very complex one with scores of influences and incentives both ways. Justification and motivation for intervention can stem from several different places: the three that will explored in depth will be moral, legal, and political. While in the past the decision to act may have been one that was unilateral now with the creation of the United Nation and widely adopted international law and treaties the decision making process becomes more drawn out and difficult to reach.

The first motivation to be looked at is intervention on moral grounds. While this the position that is the least practical and feasible, it is often the basis for other justifications such as legal and political. Fundamentally, it is what most calls to act start with. If there is an instance of human rights violations we feel that as fellow humans we have some responsibility to protect the weak or persecuted, especially if they are not capable or able to help themselves. There is sometimes an argument in opposition to that idea based on the fact that “they aren’t us.” This idea is damaging and is counterproductive in creating a more unified and peaceful world — such as is one of the aims of the United Nations. Intervention on moral grounds might not be the deciding factor in acting but it should serve as an important factor.

Next the justification for intervention based on legal principle will be examined. Several bilateral and multilateral treaties in addition to UN Declarations have spoken to the legal grounds for an intervention. An act of genocide or ethnic cleansing would most clearly violate the terms of these agreements and would the coverage for action (Human Rights | BBC World Service). The real problem to acting is getting support and legitimacy for the intervention itself. While no reasonable nation would publically support the acts of aggression of another country against that nation’s own people, they may be hesitant to act or show restraint in act for a variety of reasons. The most common and easy to defend is not wanting to interfere in the internal affairs of the aggressive nation. This position certainly does have authenticity, the UN Charter even states that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state”, but it becomes clear that after a sustained effort by a nation-state to inflict mass harm on innocent people with disproportionate force that it is not a valid argument (Bajoria). The UN itself has provided a means to address these instances and it is near always by resolution of the United Nations Security Council. It is by a UNSC resolution that a mission gains a full degree of creditability and authority. Still, questions and problems remain and the decision to act is can be a legal grey area is some circumstances such as the current case in Syria. While the ideal solution is to have the citizens resolve their grievances politically or diplomatically, the option is not there given the response by the government. The bloodshed has been great but some might see the situation as internal unrest while others might see it as a harsh and hostile crackdown by a government fighting to stay in control of a nation that the majority of its citizens oppose. Efforts have been undertaken such as the creation of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty to shed light and attempt to bring clarity to the uncharted waters that can come up.

The last basis for intervention that will be looked at is that based on political factors. This can often be the so-called “make it or break it” factor. A successful and/or well-timed humanitarian intervention mission can be worth a lot in political capital. In addition, military operations in the United States, even failures such the downing of the American U-2 spy plane of Russia, the aborted Bay of Pigs invasion, and the failed mission to rescue Iranian hostages, are largely approved of by the public (Wilson 361) and can increase the approval rating of an administration. Aside from wanting to better itself politically, a presidency can also seek to gain resources, power, or favor by acting or not acting. In the recent case of action in Libya, oil was a motivating factor. The National Transition Council said that the first nations who would support them militarily and politically would be given special considerations in the future on oil contracts (Oilprice.com). On the contrary, it is generally believed to be the case that the nations of Russia and China have opposed United Nations sponsored action in Syria in other to maintain a balance of power and to attempt to limit what they see as an effort by NATO and western nations to increase their power and influence internationally. It is the stated policy of the United States to support democracy and oppose human rights violations and to take actions by default by such limiting economic activities to try to reduce said violations. Annual reports are prepared to help shape United States foreign policy based on the human rights record of each country (Overview and Acknowledgements).

Given the put forward in this analysis it is thought that humanitarian intervention should be undertaken in instances of human rights violations of genocide or ethnic cleansing given a situation meeting given criteria. First, the aggressive action must clearly violate the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Second, it must be clear that the aggressive action is either being undertaken by a nation or that the aggressive action is not being stopped or hindered by the state it is taking place in for whatever reason. Third, there should be additional support internationally for action by the United States. Lastly, for the United States to act it should first establish a clear and specific plan detailing the extent of the operation, what will be done, what is hoped to be accomplished, and under what criteria the mission will end. At all times the United States should do its absolute best to follow international law and conventions. Action by the United States would let the rest of the world know that the most powerful and influential nation does not stand for human rights violations and those that do will pay consequences and will be held responsible for their actions. We have more to gain by intervening than if we do not. Aside from having the moral high-ground, the United States can be seen internationally as supporters of human rights and the following of international norms. Holding nations responsible can lead to a more peaceful world where the favored means of resolving problems is civil and dependable. Not intervening can set a dangerous precedent where the side who can fight most effectively and for the longest time prevails and where chaos and aggressive actions decide problems.

RIT Greek Programming Board Ideas | 2012

In Fall I will be starting my position as the Education and Development Coordinator for the Greek Programming Board. These are my goals and ideas for the year. Please review them and feel free to send me (phrgpb) any additions or amendments that you think will help improve Greek Life at RIT.

NOTE: these are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Greek Programming Board or RIT.

  • establish smaller events every quarter (similar in purpose to RIT Roots)
  • establish and maintain a centralized and comprehensive calendar comprised of all RIT, GPB, CAB, and Greek chapter events
  • encourage and support inter-Greek events (increase inter-chapter events)increase NPHC/NALFO involvement in Greek Life
  • specific open house/interest session during Orientation Week (similar to Club Fair)
  • establish and maintain a presence at Freshman Move In and Orientation/Week of Welcome
  • enable and encourage the Greek chapters to represent the community more at RIT events
  • have more large event partnerships with CAB, CCL, etc.
  • act as an information clearinghouse and place to pool resources for the Greek community
  • establish and maintain a consistent, relevant, strong, and year-round PR/Marketing campaign

Why Privacy Still Matters

With a little less than three quarters of the U.S. population regularly accessing the Internet it is no stretch to say that we are a very internet savvy country. With daily access to email, search engines, news, social media, and other online tools there is a lot of personal information being given away. Lets start with the basics (stuff you likely know anyway). When you connect to an internet server your IP address, computer system, browser type, and the pages you visit are recorded. This doesn’t seem to be a big deal because such a small amount of information is given to the server right? Well, sort of. What is most important is the IP address. Many popular sites like Google and Twitter now incorporate a means to determine your approximate location. This is done likely by looking when you IP address is allocated in your ISP’s network. Sometimes it is so accurate it can be correct to a few dozen feet. In addition the basic information, most websites save cookies to help manage information. Cookies can store anything as long as it is less than 4 kb. The danger of cookies is that sometimes a web developer may store sensitive without encrypting it. It is becoming less of a problem but it is still something to be aware of.

Now I’ll move on to data you voluntarily supply. In February a website popped up called Please Rob Me that would post information (including a map from Four Square) on people who were leaving their homes. The goal was to show that very sensitive information is sometimes shared by second nature. Aside from having your home robbed, there are countless other things that could hunt you. You may have heard of someone getting turned down from a job because of something they posted on Facebook or maybe someone getting fired for a nasty Tweet about their boss. If you feel the need to do something like that, consider adjusting your privacy settings or protecting your timeline.

Before I continue to the last topic I want to address those who own a domain name. Remember all of that information you supplied when you bought it? Well a good deal of that can found be in just a few keystrokes. Some people might be familiar with a WHOIS search – a query that returns information on the person who registered the domain including the name, address, phone number, and email address. This is useful if you have to contact the site owner (it’s intended use) but bad if you care about your privacy. However, there is a solution. Nearly every registrar offers a service that (for a bit more money) will populate your with proxy information. It will list the company as the register and if anyone contacts them about your site they will pass the information on to you.

The last source of information that I will address is something that can be a bit worrisome: online people finders. These are the sites that scour the internet looking for information on you. Some actually search “the deep web” which includes databases and other resources that aren’t typically accessed from a search engine. Anyways, these searches can return startlingly accurate results. The bots can look through public records and find your age, home address, phone number, names of family members, and other information like criminal records or past employment. One site in particular — Pipl, searches other people finder sites and can allow you to find someone by an internet username on top of what most of the other sites offer. What is so shocking is that the information is automatically posted and legally they are not required to remove it. However most will allow you to but for doing so some will make you pay.

It should come as no surprise that with new and evolving means of accessing and sharing information that might be somethings that put out there that you don’t like. For those who are really concerned about it simply being more proactive can do wonders. More your privacy settings more strict and if you can, control who see your information. For the stuff you can’t control I recommend setting up a Zabasearch Alert or Google Alert on your name, email, phone number, etc, so you can say on top of the information that might be posted about you or learn when someone searches for you. Also, do a search using one of those people finders and if you can remove any of your information, do so. If you can’t remove it, contact the owner or webmaster and ask for it to be removed (this goes for any site really). If they keep records on you or if you have an account that you can’t remove try doing what I do. Type very random text (I use GUID’s) to replace your information. Because I have an email account that I use to sign up for online services in case there are frequent or unwanted emails, I leave the email address the same. I recommend this because the service might send out an email intended only for you and you do not want that going to an email address that might have not existed when you made up your information but does now.

Bottom line, whenever you put something online — anything — do so knowing that others can see it and that you might not be able to take it back.

State of Cyber Security | 2012

2011 saw a number of high profile cyber events of a malicious intent. Intrusions and thefts at red-letter institutions, corporations, and government agencies have left those in charge of technology wondering who will be hit next and how badly. The attacks underscore two fundamental ideas about cyber security. One, the question is not if a breach will occur, but when it will occur. Second, there’s no such concept of total security, only a degree to which something is secure.

China has recently been called out by the United States Government as being one of the largest sponsors of industrial espionage. While this is something that can hopefully be resolved in a multilateral manner through organizations like the World Trade Organization, the US must address it to protect national interests and commerce soon. Compromises like that of F-35 JSF data represent significant threats not only to high tech US industry but also the defense of the our nation and the others that will depend on the technology. Currently, industrial espionage is not a hugely considerable threat to the economy but it has the potential to be very soon, especially with the lack of meaningful action so far to be prevent or punish it. The lack of international policy and framework on the topic of cyber security as a whole is problem that will affect nations, corporations, non-government organizations, and individuals as the amount of legal uncertainties can cause all sorts of troubles and conflicts.

As the Arab Spring has shown, the internet can be a tremendous asset and liability. The value and importance of the internet cannot be overstated — it is even classified by the United Nations as a basic human right. Problems arise when questions over censorship and monitoring are seriously considered. There is no doubt that surveillance and wiretapping abilities are necessary to curb crime and terrorism but there is a grey area when it comes to targeting human right activists and movements and in some cases tracking down individuals. This will continue to be a sensitive topic but nevertheless attention and progress on the international level is essential; the rights and privacy considerations of the well-intentioned individual user must be protected and respected.

The biggest threat for the average internet is still spam, viruses, and malware. These nuisances are vectors of attack for worse things such as identity theft or the compromise of other sensitive data. Spear phishing is increasingly more common due to the availability and ease of accessing personal information from sources such as social networks. The average internet user faces detailed, carefully crafted and executed attacks regularly so time should occasionally be taken to familiarize one’s self with threats and solutions to avoiding threats. As any Facebook or Twitter user can attest to, spam on these services is an all too common occurrence. In what is being dubbed “social spam” the means of proliferation of spam is shifting from email to social media websites. The attacks are often advanced and adaptable and can propagate across a website and affect a wide spectrum of users quickly. As with convention spam spread via email, there is a game of cat and mouse played between spammers and those working to stem the flow of it. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are able to do more to stop spam quickly because they are in control of their systems and infrastructure and can respond to threats on their own or with an efficient network of partners compared to the huge, decentralized network of mail servers. In November 2011, 70.5% of all email traffic was classified as spam. Compare that with 4% of Facebook content and 1.5% of Twitter statues (Fowler). Taking time to make sure your privacy settings are at appropriate levels and not putting sensitive information online are vastly important measures that must be taken. The best way to combat threats is to make sure your computer, browser, and security programs are up to date, conduct online business only with reliable companies with proven reputations, and to be suspicious of things that don’t seem right. Most importantly, exercise common sense; that free iPad you just “won” isn’t coming and you likely just spread a virus or downloaded some form of malware. Everyone stands to gain from cyber self defense training. Whether you learn it from a mandatory workshop at work or from an online quiz or article, everyone should take time to learn basic cyber best practices.

The forecast for cyber security is not encouraging. It is to be expected that specific, detailed attacks will continue on all types of businesses and even government entities. Groups like Anonymous, AntiSec, etc. will maintain their attacks on whoever they feel inclined to go after. Expect to continue to hear about prominent and large scale breaches. Cyber criminals are becoming increasing bold and brazen in their attempts to compromise networks and data. The possibility of cyber warfare is also very likely as it is becoming a more practical, cost effective, and safe way of accomplishing military objectives. There is positive news in the realm of policy and government and corporate cooperation. Policy is being worked out so that the government can help defend corporations and the partnership between certain industries and the Department of Homeland Security in sharing intelligence on attacks has proved to be very useful and successful in averting attacks. The progress of the military has also been refreshing to see, even though there is still a lot more to do. Between the advancement of USCYBERCOM and the Pentagon establishing cyber rules of engagement, it is clear that meaningful work on cyber policy is being done. Lastly, cyber security is likely to continue to infiltrate our everyday lives going forward. Whether it is from legislation like SOPA or through an intrusion that releases millions of credit card numbers of a large online presence, the everyday internet user is likely, and rightly so, to become more aware of threats and developments on the cyber domain.

FOWLER, GEOFFREY A.. “Spam Finds New Target – WSJ.com” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2012.

The Importance of Good Email Security

It is always important to choose a strong password for your services, accounts, devices, etc. but there are few that you most be extra careful about. For example, if you manage your banking online you want to be extra careful so your money is safe. Another example is your computer. You have might have hundreds of important and invaluable files (family pictures and videos, work documents, music) that all can be accessed by supplying one password. There is one node in your digital world that is sometimes not given the best protection: your email. Think about it: it is likely that most of the online services that you use are connected via one email address. This means that if your email account is compromised a hacker could reset the password of any of those services with relative ease. So, practicality speaking there is one password and a few password reset wizards between a hacker and your accounts once he knows what services to go after (and he could learn many from your email if you are like most users).

Alright, you don’t want this to happen to you so you have set a strong password, whats next? Well a hacker can completely circumvent that and just reset it. A recent test that I carried out on a friend proved that in a short time you can get into someone’s email by making a new password. The issue is that many times the answer to the password reset question can be found just by knowing a little about the person. I advise completing discarding the traditional questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “Where did you go to school?” and go with more specific, unique ones like Yahoo’s Where did you spend your childhood summers?” If you can’t get a really hard question then make up a ridiculous answer (which I recommend doing all the time). For example, the answer to “What was the name of the street you grew up on?” becomes “I have to change that light bulb.” The odder and more random, the better.

Better yet, make up your own questions and answers. When I get this choice I employ a simple system. I have a list of Globally Unique Identifiers (GUID) where each has an ID. I have the list stored in an encrypted file on my computer and if I ever need to reset a password I can look them up. So, for example, I write my own question: “GUID;ID:2” which corresponds to a GUID in my list of lets say “444caa2d-8dd9-4364-abcc-25724c2c7c82” making it nearly impossible to guess.

Whether or not you use this system, make sure that you come up with difficult and unique questions and answers and above all, make sure that you have a very strong password.