Zachary Zatkin-Gold is a junior at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). That is notable in and of itself, but even more so is the fact that Zatkin-Gold is pursuing a degree in a new field of study, quantum information science, in RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the nation’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
He is adjusting well to life at a big college, to the cold of New York, and to an entirely new culture for him … the deaf culture. As an incoming junior, Zatkin-Gold arrived at RIT a week early this fall to attend an orientation for the deaf students and found it eye-opening as there are so many degrees of deafness and ways to cope with it. “Some students use only sign language, some don’t know any sign language, some read lips, some are like me, deaf in one ear with hearing in the other ... the list goes on and on. Everyone has their own story. It’s the first time that I’ve ever been so immersed in the deaf culture.”
Zatkin-Gold has lived in Sonoma his whole life and he is quick to credit the 10 years he spent at Montessori School of Sonoma on Eighth Street East for his success to date. “Looking back, I feel strongly that the self-construction, liberty, and spontaneous activity that I built as a young child there in school and after school, strengthened my ability to succeed.” He attended Prestwood Elementary and Adele Harrison Middle School before graduating from Sonoma Valley High School in 2009.
Zatkin-Gold started his college career at Santa Rosa Junior College, which he found to be both cost-effective and a great way to build his resume. He was founder and president of the school’s computer science club, a field he has been interested in since he was a child. While in school, he worked for several years for the Sonoma-based web design company WildfireWeb, as well as doing web development for several other local companies. Gaining work experience has always been important to Zatkin-Gold, and RIT’s Co-Op program, in which almost 2,000 employers worldwide hire RIT students for paid internships during college, was a major selling point for him.
Rochester Institute of Technology has an excellent reputation for students interested in computing and engineering, and it also is renowned for providing support services for more than 1,250 students who are deaf or hard of hearing enrolled at the school.
Its Institute for the Deaf is just one of nine colleges within the university, and it was established by Congress in 1965 to provide college opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who were underemployed in technical fields. More than 125 interpreters, tutors and notetakers support students in and out of the classroom.
His first semester classes at RIT include computer science, three physics courses (classical mechanics, modern physics, and math methods in physics) and a beginning Russian course.
While his course-load is daunting, Zatkin-Gold is managing to have a great time outside of the classroom. He describes the social life at RIT as exhilarating. “There is always something new and exciting to get involved in. RIT sends out emails almost every day about some social activity going on around campus, so you’re never missing out.” In addition, he has managed to squeeze in time to run, swim, hike and go rock climbing.