Post-festival Reflections: My First Year

For those of you who have been following our blog, you may be interested to know that there was a staffing change to the festival planning team this year. In December, I took over as chair of programming and logistics for Imagine RIT.  It was such a whirlwind in making the transition from my previous role at RIT to planning the festival that our blog was not updated as regularly as I would have liked – that is, until my wonderful co-op student, Catherine Harris, joined us in the spring quarter. Thank you, Katie! (Katie has since graduated with her degree in Advertising and Public Relations, and we wish her much success.)

I am very pleased to report that my predecessor, Andrew Quagliata, accepted a position as a lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts and was recently awarded a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Buffalo.  From 2008 through 2011, Andrew laid the groundwork for Imagine RIT and created systems to ensure the festival would live on long after he left to pursue his true career aspirations. We are thrilled for Dr. Quagliata, who by they way returned to Imagine RIT 2012 as a VIP (of course!) and an Information Booth volunteer. Now that’s the Tiger spirit!

As with any new job, there are things to learn, people to meet, questions to ask, and problems to solve.  I accepted this position because of the people at RIT. Everyone is “on point” and willing to lend a hand.  RIT is a community of problem solvers, thinkers and do-ers – a great combination for planning a one-day event that draws over 30,000 people to campus.

After the festival, many people congratulated me and asked me how I felt.  I really could not muster an answer because I needed time to process the sights and sounds from May 5, the culmination of many months of planning.  Oh, yes, and I was physically and mentally “fried” as they say, too, which makes it difficult to form a sentence.

Thus the reason for this particular blog post, the first of several entitled, “Post-festival Reflections.”.  Now that I have had time to digest my first year of Imagine RIT planning, I can say with pride and confidence that it is an adventure well worth the effort.  The survey results indicate a high degree of positive feelings surrounding the festival among faculty, students, and staff, and community residents are delighted by what RIT has to offer their families.  

“The kids love science and this got them excited about their future in higher education. The free admission was great and the kids thought they were in Disney World.” – mother of children ages 6 and 9

“A great family event! 1 of my children said it was even more fun than the RMSC & The Museum of Play!” – follwer of ImagineRIT on Twitter

“As parents, we also enjoyed the chance to show our children that learning is fun and college isn’t just sitting in lectures — it can be creating things andsolving issues.  Our 14 year old son was interested in the ‘Celestia’ exhibit, our soon to be 12 year old said she is ready to go to RIT for engineering, and our 8 year old now wants to study packaging!   We love that they came out of the festival with aspirations to learn!  Thank You!”  – Karen, Auburn, NY

Such positive feedback is very rewarding and motivates me in my planning for next year’s festival scheduled for Saturday, May 4, 2013 (Save the Date!).

And so, Imagine RIT will continue to grow and evolve. It must in order to thrive and continue to deliver a fun, engaging, educational experience to visitors. By showcasing the breadth and depth of RIT we are helping to create a generation of youth who wish to pursue higher education in one of the STEAM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math). Who could ask for a better job than that?

Heather A. Cottone, Manager of Special Projects, Office of the President, Rochester Institute of Technology


Ms. Cottone began her career at Rochester Institute of Technology in August 2005 working as Sr. Staff Specialist for Dr. Barry Culhane in the Office of the President.  Her responsibilities during that time as an administrative assistant included helping Dr. Culhane plan events such as the Liberty Hill Breakfast Series, Softball Saturday and the annual Broomball Tournament (under Dr. Simone), the annual RITirees dinner and awards ceremony, the Veterans Day Breakfast, and Imagine RIT.

In the fall of 2011, Heather was promoted to Manager of Special Projects in the Office of the President.  She continues to work with Dr. Culhane, but with a focus solely on programming and logistics for the Imagine RIT: Innovation & Creativity Festival, now coming into its fifth year with an expected attendance of over 30,000 visitors on May 5, 2012 (

Ms. Cottone completed her undergraduate degree in biology at SUNY Geneseo. She has an M.S. in Education from SUNY Brockport and an M.S. in Health Systems Administration from RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology.  She has professional experience in the fields of education, marketing research and sales.  Heather and her husband, Charles Cottone, are enjoying their new role as parents to Charlie, who is 21 months old.


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