smguns@rit.edu (Susan Gawlowicz)
Monday, March 1, 2021 - 4:16pm
RIT holds student contest to name the Innovative Maker and Learning Complex

The Innovative Maker and Learning Complex will be a building like no other on the RIT campus, and an alumnus who is helping make it possible wants RIT students to give it a name to remember.

Name the IMLC contest, which started on March 1, is for current RIT undergraduate and graduate students in good standing. Deadline for submission is March 13. Voting will begin March 18. The submission process and other details are available at the Name the IMLC website.

RIT trustee and donor Austin McChord ’09 said he is hoping students submit playful, whimsical names for the building that show personality and give them a sense of ownership of the place.

“This is a unique building and a unique space for RIT, and to name it something uniquely relevant to the students and the people who are attending RIT in the here and now seems to make a lot more sense than to name it after myself,” McChord said.

McChord said he would pick a name that’s off the beaten path.

“You think about all the college tours that will begin or end there, and that’s way more interesting if it has a story. This can have a real story as to how the students came to this name and I’m excited to see their creativity.”

RIT Student Government will select the top seven finalists and the student body will choose the top three choices. A leadership panel, which includes McChord; RIT President David Munson; and James Yarrington, RIT university architect and director of Planning and Design Service, will make the final choice. The RIT Board of Trustees will consider the naming resolution for official adoption, which is standard protocol at RIT.

The winner or winning team will receive $500 in Tiger Bucks.

McChord’s generosity extends to the contest, noted Phil Castleberry, vice president for University Advancement.

“The Name the IMLC student contest is an exciting opportunity to showcase that same spirit in our students,” Castleberry said. “Austin has strongly encouraged ‘whimsical and unique’ entries that capture RIT’s spirit of innovation and distinctive focus on technology, art, and design. We know our students are incredibly creative, so we’re excited to see what they come up with.”

The 100,000-square-foot facility currently under construction between Wallace Library and Monroe Hall will draw students from all colleges to its collaborative maker spaces, dance studios, practice rooms, theaters, and learning spaces. The building design and expanse of glass will showcase RIT students’ penchant for making, building, and blending technology, art, and design. It will embody the spirit of the Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival.

“I hope the building is an opportunity for students to come together and work on interdisciplinary projects,” McChord said. “Maker space is really important to me. That mixing of art students and engineering students is something that is a uniquely RIT thing, and to create a space that is effectively dedicated to that is really exciting.”

McChord, in 2017, gave RIT $50 million, the largest gift ever made to the university. He made the gift a decade after he founded Datto, a global provider of data protection. McChord is currently the CEO of Casana, the maker of a cardiac health-monitoring smart toilet seat.

The gift was designated to foster creativity and entrepreneurship through the IMLC and Entrepreneurial Gap Year fellowships, and to advance RIT’s cybersecurity and artificial intelligence capabilities. McChord’s contributions are an important part of Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness, a $1 billion university fundraising effort. This blended campaign seeks support from a variety of investors, including alumni and friends, government and corporate partners, and research foundations and agencies. The campaign has raised $755 million to date.

“I think I certainly wouldn’t have been successful without the education I got at RIT. And the ideas behind Datto, which is the company I built, I had while at RIT and this was an opportunity to give back,” McChord said. “I think about the gift as a way to show my gratitude to RIT and help RIT hopefully to produce other people who go on to do big, exciting things.”

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