RIT receives grant from NIST to develop standards modules for environmental and safety management programs


The Rochester Institute of Technology recently received a grant to develop course modules that will provide students with guidelines and best practices in standards information to help organizations manage crisis situations.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has provided funding to RIT to design educational modules on standards that will be integrated into undergraduate and graduate courses at RIT and Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) . The content will include topics on risk, resilience and business continuity, said Lisa Greenwood, principal investigator of the major project.

“We see our environmental health and safety professionals playing a critical role in helping organizations prepare for and respond to the global pandemic,” said Greenwood, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering Technology, environment and safety, in the RIT’s College of Engineering Technology. “Through this program content, we will introduce our students to a range of national and international standards that address risk, disruption and continuity. Our aim is to help students understand how to find the right information and use the right standards to incorporate the relevant elements of those standards into their professional work, as appropriate, given a particular crisis or disruption.

Greenwood led several pre-RIT projects, also funded by NIST, to integrate the teaching of standards into the university courses. NIST, part of the US Department of Commerce, advances measurement science and quality standards to improve industrial competitiveness and also quality of life.

The content developed under this new scholarship is important for students who will be working in professions where risk management and organizational and operational continuity are the key to success. These strategies and guidelines are essential to how organizations deal with the current pandemic and other disruptions.

“The new award illustrates the growth in the practice of standards in the RIT and FLCC curriculum. This is an example of incorporating real world experience into curricula because students will have gone through a pandemic and will be able to compare theory to practice, ”said Dawn Hess, Director of Enterprise Risk Management and SSE at FLCC.

“We create modules for graduate and undergraduate students, and these audiences are very different in what they bring to the learning environment,” Hess said. “When we look at only the early phases of the curriculum, FEMA’s guidelines, for example, are straightforward and begin with an introduction to basic emergency management as well as concepts of risk. They allow the user to acquire operational definitions of the terms that will be used throughout the course and in their career.

Modules will have the relevant elements applied to all course levels at CET and FLCC, including specialist courses at graduate level. Work is ongoing and pilot programming is planned for the 2021 academic year, with full implementation expected by fall 2022.

“Of the three projects funded in FY2020, this project is the only one focused on the scope of this critical topic. RIT and FLCC have a unique team with the academic and organizational experience to achieve this, ”said Jennifer Schneider, Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking at RIT, professor at CET and director of the Collaboratory for Resiliency & Recovery at the RIT. RIT. She has worked with Greenwood on previous RIT standards curriculum initiatives and, with Hess, is co-PI on the project team. Schneider and Hess were instrumental in planning and responding to the pandemic this year at their respective colleges. All three have industry experience in environmental management and safety.

Editor’s Note: The RIT and FLCC grant for “Capacity Building for Organizational Resilience: Standards-Based Curriculum on Risk, Disruption and Continuity” also includes the participation of Sam samanta, professor at FLCC, and Yewande Abraham, assistant professor at CET.

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