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Destler Dodge

During the spring semester of 2014, RIT announced that the university will be opening a new school as part of the already existing College of Health Sciences and Technology thanks to a $6 million gift from The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation. The new school will have a nutrition and wellness focus with new programs and greater resources for current and new students.

The school will expand into Louise Slaughter Hall, adjacent to the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, where it will have new classrooms and an on-campus clinic for both student and faculty use. The school will also be hiring a new director and advisor for the various new programs.

Daniel Ornt, vice president and dean for the College of Health Sciences and Technology, was involved in the planning and creation of the school since its conception with the help of current faculty and staff. He helped propose and approve two new programs for the school which include an Exercise Science major (originally just a minor) and possibly a graduate program in Health and Wellness. He expects to have the first class of Exercise Science majors starting next year with the new building finished within another year.

He and his team talked to a variety of companies who would be interested in the new programs and got an “enthusiastic” response from Wegman’s in the form of a large donation. Of the $6 million, $2 million will be dedicated to getting the school started with recruiting new faculty and supporting new research.

“$4 million will be put into an endowment so there will be a sustainable element to this,” said Ornt. “A spinoff of that endowment will allow faculty to continue to do research, recruit and be active in those research programs.”

The school aims to train students to become leaders of nutrition beyond clinics and hospitals. Students will not just be able to help with creating nutrition programs, but will also be able to identify risk factors in one’s health that can lead to problems later in life. A rising need for nutrition specialists has grown within local communities and the corporate world.

“Many companies now are looking for expertise, people to come and organize their employees into meaningful, liable wellness programs.” said Ornt.

One can attribute the rising need for nutrition specialists to the nation-wide obesity problem; the U.S. is low-ranking in the average lifespan of the population and has expensive health-care compared to the rest of the world.

Cassandra Burma, a 4th year Nutrition Management major, heard the news of the new school and is glad that RIT is getting more involved with its Health and Nutrition programs. “The program isn’t really recognized like engineering,” said Burma. “I think with this addition, people will be more aware of the nutrition program on campus.”

Because she is graduating next year, Burma won’t be able to reap the benefits of the new school, but sheencourages new and current students to take advantage of the on-campus clinic which will greatly help by allowing students to gain experience for co-ops and classes.

Ornt believes the school will help grow the portfolio for RIT in health and sciences. There is a broad range of programs and majors on campus that have synergy with the new programs, he says. It will help bring new faculties and ideas together with current ones to collaborate on new projects and ideas, ultimately expanding and growing the college to new heights.

“There’s a critical mass that we have to achieve and we aren’t there yet,” said Ornt. “This will go some distance to help us get there.”