Puttin’ on the RITz Dinner Executive Board's First Deaf Student Member

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Stephanie Kiessling is a fifth-year hospitality management student with a concentration in entertainment and event management. Last spring, she worked as a server at the annual Puttin’ on the RITz Black Tie Dinner and this year she will be the first deaf student to serve on the RITz e-board. Kiessling works for NTID Admissions and is a member of the Cross-Registered Student Advisory Board, Retention Committee and the Higher Education Fellowship for Students Program. Kiessling also recently traveled to Santiago, Chile, where she got to meet deaf Chileans and learn more about their culture.

Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I was born and raised in Jackson, N.J.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: Growing up in a totally hearing environment, I felt isolated. The opportunity to have full access and to experience both hearing and deaf communities at RIT was one that words cannot explain.

Q: Why did you want to get involved with the RITz dinner?
A: My faculty adviser strongly encouraged me to apply for the position. The e-board has been in existence for 28 years and there has never been a member who is deaf, so I thought it was time to make that happen. I also wanted to be able to work with hearing students who have never experienced having a deaf executive board member on their team. I have the same objectives as they do, to host a successful student-run event, and I wanted to get more hospitality experience.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the first deaf student on the executive board?
A: It means a lot to me. I want to break down the barriers between the hearing and deaf communities. I want our communities to be able to connect in many ways. But I think what is more important is my participation on the executive board. It means a lot to the deaf community. I want to lead by example and show deaf and hard-of-hearing students that it’s not just hearing students that can run this event—deaf students can, too!

Q: What are your responsibilities as a dining room manager?
A: My duties and responsibilities as a co-dining room manager are to ensure the servers and runners are looking clean and ready to serve, following proper serving guidelines and handling guests who may have complaints about their meal.

Q: How did you get involved in NTID Admissions?
A: I got involved working for NTID Admissions when someone submitted my name to my current boss, Erin Kane. When I found out I could become a tour guide, I applied, was interviewed and was offered the position. It’s hard to believe that I became an NTID Ambassador a little over two years ago already!

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job there?
A: I enjoy working with NTID Ambassadors. I am responsible for training new tour guides to help them become great guides for visitors who are interested in RIT/NTID. When I first started as an ambassador, I was nervous and scared. Now, I’m comfortable being a team leader and am able to help others learn the ropes.

Q: What are your plans for after graduation?
A: My goal is to get a full-time job in the hospitality industry. Somewhere in my future I may also go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration.

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