DEI Mission Statement

The Institute of Optics is committed to fostering the most supportive, interactive, and vibrant community we can to deliver the best educational experience for our students while simultaneously optimizing opportunity for engineering advances and scientific discovery. Such a community requires continuous, concerted effort on three dimensions: diversity, equity, and inclusion. With respect to diversity, we seek to attract interested individuals to join us irrespective of their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, language, culture, religion, physical and learning ability, and/or political orientation. Bringing together people from diverse backgrounds brings diverse perspectives, creating the most fertile ground for nurturing new ideas and thereby enriching both education and research for all of us. But expanding our diverse community is by itself not enough. We also seek to ensure equity for everyone who wishes to participate: we strive to ensure that our diversity does not influence how we treat each other, whether it be in the classroom, in the laboratory, or in our social encounters. Finally, even a community that is both diverse and discrimination-free also needs a third ingredient, inclusion. So, we also seek to create and maintain a culture in which everyone, whether they are an undergraduate, a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, a staff member, or faculty, is secure in the understanding that they are welcome participants in our shared endeavors.

Headshot of Thomas Brown.
Tom Brown, Director, Institute of Optics

A Message from the Institute Director

Our Institute is committed to an environment optimized for groundbreaking research and education in the science and engineering of light. Such an environment can only reach the greatest heights of creativity, excitement, and productivity by engaging a diverse community who bring fresh perspectives along with a culture of respect and inclusiveness poised to embrace those perspectives. As director of the Institute, I take very seriously my responsibility to foster such an environment for every person with whom we engage.

Dean Wendi Heinzelman.
Wendi Heinzelman, Dean of the Edmund A. Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

Message from the Dean

I am very proud of the Institute of Optics, not only because it is an international leader in education and research around all things related to light, but also because of its dedication to creating and maintaining a culture that acknowledges and respects the differences between the people who comprise it. As Dean of the Hajim School, I am committed to continuing my support for the Institute’s recruitment efforts to increase the diversity of students, staff, and faculty. I will also continue to work with them to establish policies, programs, and opportunities to ensure that all those who have historically been underrepresented in engineering are not only treated equitably, but also warmly welcomed and engaged in every facet of their activities.

Institute Recruiting with an Eye on Increasing Diversity


  • Conduct recruitment visits at local high schools and present Stroud Awards to accomplished STEM students within the Rochester City School District (RCSD).
  • Invite local community high schools to visit campus and lab spaces.
  • Participate in “The LLE Broad Exposure to Science and Technology (BEST) Research Program” for high school students and teachers at East High, part of the Rochester City School District (RCSD).
  • Recruitment of all stem/physics/math pre-major students entering UR.
  • Support local organizations like the Young Women’s College Prep Charter School which leads to networking opportunities with local high school students.


  • Faculty members travel the globe to give talks and establish relationships with top institutions. These trips often lead to institutional collaborations in the form of joint program memorandums of understanding (MOU). MOU terms include tuition and admissions benefits for students looking to transfer between programs. Current MOUs exist with: University of Ottawa, MCC 2+2 program, University of North Carolina Charlotte.
  • The Institute provides financial support community members to participate in conferences sponsored by professional societies: the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA).
  • Attend recruitment events at historically black colleges and universities.
  • Waive the graduate application fee for qualified student candidates upon request.
  • International student applications, admission, and enrollment remain strong.
  • Attend and host recruitment events at professional conferences hosted by SPIE and Optica.
  • Survey current students to analyze trends in admissions.


  • Faculty search committee members are required to complete DEI training.
  • Open positions are advertised with leading professional societies including HSPA, NSBE, Optica, SPIE, etc.
  • Search committees include faculty members and a graduate representative.


  • All staff are required to complete DEI and HR training annually.
  • Candidates are interviewed by all job relevant Institute staff collectively.
  • Select staff members are safe space certified.
  • Background checks are part of the vetting process.

Institute Activities that Enhance Equity and Inclusion

  • Having both an in-person and online master’s program promotes education accessibility. We also offer summer short courses designed for remote learners annually.
  • The Industrial Associates program connects our students with industry professionals from 60+ companies annually. Networking and recruitment opportunities are a high priority during the twice-annual IA symposium. Students are encouraged to use these events, including the “Women in Optics” networking event, to meet potential employers.
  • Partner with and support the student chapters of Optica and SPIE. These student groups have a focused initiative on DEI in our community.