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President’s contract extended through 2023

In a strong show of support for The University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber’s leadership, the UT Board of Trustees approved Monday an amended contract to continue her presidency for the next five years.

The term of the amended contract is from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2023. Her original contract was set to expire in June 2020.


“Dr. Gaber’s leadership has put UT on a positive trajectory toward the ambitious goal of being a top public research university, and the campus is energized because of the great work underway to support our students and the Toledo community,” Board Chair Steven Cavanaugh said.

The amended and restated employment agreement updates the president’s base salary and includes specific performance metrics aligned with the University’s strategic plan. The president’s overall compensation is directly tied to achievement of the metrics.

The contract extension for Gaber was approved as part of the Board of Trustees’ annual review of the University’s leader in which they praised the positive momentum of the institution.

“I am thankful to have the support of the Board of Trustees to continue to lead this fantastic university,” Gaber said. “It truly is a team effort to work together collaboratively to make progress on achieving our strategic priorities. I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish these past three years, and I’m excited about what we can achieve in the years ahead.”

The Board commended Gaber’s commitment to student success, noting that student retention rates at UT are the highest in at least 18 years, and the largest number of candidates for degrees in at least 20 years participated in spring commencement.

The new Toledo Tuition Guarantee was recognized as a positive initiative to provide more transparency to students and their families. In addition, UT was recognized this year for its value by several external sources. Schools.com ranked UT Ohio’s best four-year college when analyzing criteria such as affordability, flexibility and student services. The website LendEDU also ranked UT the top Ohio public college for the lowest student debt.

The trustees specifically noted the improved research portfolio of the institution. The total number of research award dollars is at a five-year high. The board noted that three researchers were named Fellows of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and several UT students were awarded highly competitive scholarships, including the Goldwater Scholarship and a Sarnoff Fellowship.

Also enhancing UT’s reputation is the strong athletics program with two new Mid-American Conference Championships by the football and women’s soccer teams. UT was awarded the Jacoby Trophy as the top women’s athletic program in the MAC and, in the fall, all student-athletes achieved a record high combined GPA of 3.29.

Individually, Gaber was named one of the top five higher education leaders to watch. She was appointed to the NCAA Strategic Planning Committee and the Inter-University Council Executive Committee, and serves on the MAC Finance Committee, of which she will be the chair next year.

This year the University also received the largest gift in UT’s history from Welltower, which gave UT real estate and a headquarter building valued at $30 million. It will serve as an additional campus where the Division of Advancement will continue to build relationships with alumni and donors. The number of donors to the institution grew by more than 10 percent this year.

The increase in philanthropic support and additional initiatives have put UT in a strong financial position, confirmed by the University’s bond rating being reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. UT approved this year a new contract with the American Association of University Professors, one of five bargaining agreements approved in the last two years. A new transportation partnership with TARTA will save the University approximately $2 million by not replacing the aging bus fleet while extending free bus rides to students, faculty and staff throughout the community.

As part of the performance review, the board voted to give the president a performance incentive per her hiring contract. The funding comes from unrestricted funds that were generated from investment earnings and allocated to a Board of Trustees account with the UT Foundation.

UT recognizes areas of research excellence

The University of Toledo has identified three areas of research excellence as it pursues its goal of achieving national recognition for contributions to advancing knowledge.

UT’s current areas of research excellence identified by the University Research Council and endorsed by external reviews are:

• Astronomy and Astrophysics;

• Solar Energy, Water Quality and Sustainable Technologies; and

• Cell Architecture and Dynamics.

“These areas emerged from a yearlong review process and were selected because of the highly accomplished faculty members UT has in these areas who are recognized nationally for contributions to their fields of study,” Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “Identifying these areas of excellence will help promote the University’s standing as a strong research university and create opportunities for collaboration.”

This will be a continual process with ongoing invitations to consider new areas and to update existing areas of excellence, Calzonetti said.

UT astronomers have produced groundbreaking discoveries in the origins of stars and star clusters. They have access to highly competitive time on the world’s best telescopes, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory. UT also is a partner with Lowell Observatory, which provides guaranteed access to the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona. The University regularly engages undergraduate and graduate students in research projects with that telescope.

The strength of the University’s astronomy and astrophysics program was recognized nationally in 2016 when UT was selected to join the prestigious Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which includes many of the country’s top programs.

Solar energy, water quality, and sustainable technologies were identified in part due to the University’s strong reputation in research, development, and commercialization of thin-film photovoltaic technologies. For example, in solar energy, Dr. Yanfa Yan, Ohio Research Scholar chair and UT professor of physics, has one of the strongest publication records among researchers in his field.

The UT Lake Erie Center receives attention for its work studying harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and its efforts to protect the quality of the region’s drinking water. Additional faculty members are making important contributions to green chemistry and other sustainability studies.

The cell architecture and dynamics category recognizes the basic science researchers involved in the study of the cell and its structures to better understand cell movement and how that affects disease progression. For example, Dr. Rafael Garcia-Mata, associate professor of biological sciences, has three active National Institutes of Health grants to study the migration of cancer cells away from the primary tumor and their subsequent metastasis to distant organs.

The identification of these areas of research excellence and a plan to advance them is part of the University’s strategic plan. As part of the process to identify existing strong research programs, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs also recognized spotlight areas of unique distinction, areas of emerging research excellence, and areas of future opportunity.

The spotlight areas of unique distinction include programs that have received national recognition with strong faculty leadership, but with few faculty experts on campus currently advancing that field of study. Those spotlight areas identified are:

• Human Trafficking, led by Social Work Professor Celia Williamson and supported by the UT Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute;

• Disability and Society, which includes Professor Kim E. Nielson, who is the author of the only book to cover the entirety of American disability history titled “A Disability History of the United States.” UT also offers the only humanities-based undergraduate degree in disabilities studies; and

• Hypertension and Precision Medicine, led by Distinguished University Professor Bina Joe, a recognized leader in the field of genetic determinants of high blood pressure.

Identified areas of emerging research excellence are those with growth opportunities based upon the significance of their work to science and society. The areas that could benefit from further development are:

• Legacy Cities, which includes a collaborative group of faculty members across the social sciences who study how former industrial cities that experienced massive decline are being reinvented, and

• Cancer, Immune Therapy and Precision Molecular Therapy, which features advances in targeting specific genes or proteins for more effective and less invasive treatment options.

Lastly, areas of future opportunity were identified where a group of faculty members are working in an area of emerging importance in science, technology and society. The areas that could gain recognition through focused investment are:

• Vector Biology, which studies mosquitos and other insects that transmit diseases and affect public health;

• Smart Transportation, which includes advances in autonomous vehicles;

• Data 2 Decision, which is the study of big data and how it is used, analyzed and protected;

• BioPsychoSocial Determinants of Chronic Disease, which studies the economic and social conditions that impact health factors, such as the work underway by UT’s opioid task force; and

• Community-Based STEAM, which features community partnerships, such as with the Toledo Museum of Art, that advance the arts and promote continued education. STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“The University of Toledo has strong research programs across the institution,” said Jack Schultz, senior executive director for research development. “Our goal with this process was to identify those areas with a high level of recognition at the national level. We look forward to exploring opportunities to elevate their standing and bring more attention to these areas of research excellence.”

The identification of the University’s focus areas does not imply that research without these designations will be unsupported. The University values all faculty research and the contributions each faculty member makes in their fields.

Trustees approve 2019 operating budget

The UT Board of Trustees approved on June 18 the University’s operating budget for fiscal year 2019 that includes the new Tuition Guarantee plan for incoming students and no tuition increase for continuing undergraduate students.

The $750 million operating budget is based on stable student enrollment and reflects efforts the University has taken to control costs, such as savings from last year’s Voluntary Separation Incentive Program and health-care savings generated by encouraging employees to use UT’s pharmacies.

The new Tuition Guarantee goes into effect for the 2018-19 academic year and allows new degree-seeking undergraduate students to pay the same tuition and general fees from their first day of college through graduation four years later. On-campus housing and meal plan rates also are guaranteed for four years; however, residence hall space cannot be guaranteed beyond a student’s second year due to high demand from first- and second-year students.

An undergraduate tuition freeze continues for the fourth consecutive year for students enrolled prior to summer 2018 who are not included in the Tuition Guarantee program. The budget includes a 2 percent increase in the graduate tuition rate, with additional increases in some specific graduate programs. The trustees previously approved a 2 percent increase in housing and meal plans to cover increasing costs of operations.

The budget reflects wage increases for professional staff and faculty members who are not part of a bargaining unit. The increases are based on salary levels in which individuals with a salary greater than $100,000 will receive a 1 percent wage increase; employees who make between $75,000 and $100,000 will receive a 1.5 percent raise; and those who make less than $75,000 will receive a 3 percent wage increase. University employees who are members of unions will receive increased compensation as determined by their collective bargaining agreements.

The Board of Trustees elected officers for the 2018-19 year. Mary Ellen Pisanelli will serve as chair, and Alfred A. Baker will serve as vice chair.

The June meeting completed the board service of Joseph H. Zerbey, former president and general manager for The Blade, who was appointed to the board in 2009. Lucas D. Zastrow, a student trustee in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, also was recognized for his two years of service to the board.

Use app to navigate campus during road construction

The University of Toledo is using the map and traffic navigation app Waze to keep visitors up to speed on the numerous road construction projects occurring on and near campus.

The free mobile application available in the App Store and Google Play provides timely traffic and road information to give users the best routes to get to where they need to go.

“We are excited about the improvements to campus, but understand how the temporary closures are making it difficult for our campus community and visitors to navigate their way around campus,” said Bonnie Murphy, associate vice president for auxiliaries. “By using the Waze app, we can provide up-to-date information for the best ways to access and enjoy campus during this construction period.”

Members of the UT community can encourage visitors to download the app before coming to campus. The University also will continue to communicate road closures through UT News.

The ongoing road replacement of Bancroft Street is expected to last until November.

On the west side of Main Campus, a portion of West Rocket Drive is closed from the railroad tracks to West Towerview Boulevard for the installation of a new tunnel system for condensate and steam lines. The street is expected to be closed to through traffic through Friday, June 29, and drivers need to detour around the construction via Secor Road and through lot 25 by Rocket Hall.

The east and west parking garages also are planned to be closed through early July for annual restoration work.

Bee proactive: UT students to compete in Biodesign Challenge in New York

A team of University of Toledo students is buzzing with excitement, preparing to compete against 29 schools in the Biodesign Challenge Summit in New York this month.

The four students will present “Apigiene Hive: Rethinking Bee Hygiene” at the international contest Thursday and Friday, June 21-22, at the Museum of Modern Art.

“We decided to focus on bees because of the recent problems with colony collapse disorder,” said Madeline Tomczak, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science in May.

“And we simply found those tiny yellow-and-black insects adorable,” added Domenic Pennetta, a sophomore majoring in art. “By focusing on bees and their problems, we could help both bees and apiarists here in Ohio, and also have solutions that could potentially be used to benefit others around the globe.”

Solving problems creatively is what the Biodesign Challenge is all about. The Genspace NYC program offers college students the chance to envision future applications of biotechnology by working together interdisciplinarily.

At UT, the Biodesign Challenge class in spring semester brought together students majoring in art, bioengineering and environmental science, as well as peers from the Jesup Scott Honors College.

“The really wonderful part about participating in this challenge is it started with the students — they approached us about having the class,” Eric Zeigler, associate lecturer in the UT Department of Art, said.

“One thing we thought was paramount in teaching this class: We were their peers. We were in the trenches with the students, asking questions, learning together,” Brian Carpenter, lecturer and gallery director in the UT Department of Art, said. “It’s been so inspiring. I tell everyone this is my favorite class I’ve taken.”

Carpenter and Zeigler will travel with the team to the Big Apple, where the UT students will vie with teams from across the country, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Japan and Scotland for awards, including the Animal-Free Wool Prize sponsored by PETA, Stella McCartney and Stray Dog Capital.

“These finalists were selected from a pool of 450 participants,” Daniel Grushkin, founder and director of the Biodesign Challenge, said. “I firmly believe that they are leading us into a sustainable future with their visions.”

Tomczak and Pennetta worked with Jesse Grumelot, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in bioengineering, and Lucya Keune, a senior studying visual arts, to create additions for the popular Langstroth hive to fight one of the bees’ biggest foes: mites.

“A fibrous brush filled with zebra mussel diatoms will target Varroa destructor mites on the surface of adult bees,” Grumelot said. “In addition, mint-infused wax frames will eliminate Acarapis woodi mites, as well as Varroa destructor juveniles.”

“We researched the problem, talking to specialists and professionals, and focused on natural ways to give bees a better environment to thrive,” Keune said.

Part of that new environment includes placing a brush at the hive entrance to use what beekeepers call the sugar shake — but in a new way. To encourage bees to be more hygienic, beekeepers sometimes put powder sugar on the insects so they’ll clean off the sweet stuff — and the nasty Varroa destructor mites.

“We use powdered zebra mussel to increase hygiene behaviors, which in turn helps kill the mites,” Tomczak said.

The zebra mussel powder acts like diatomaceous earth, which, when crushed, can be used as a treatment for fleas and ticks on household pets.

“Since diatomaceous earth is often from oceanic rocks, we wanted to bring this part of the hive closer to home by looking at Lake Erie,” Tomczak said. “Zebra mussel shells are abundant and easy to collect, and can be ground down to a fine powder.”

The powder is then baked, sterilized, and made finer with a mortar and pestle. It will prompt the bees to clean up and get rid of the mites, and it will help kill any mites inside the hive.

And to tackle the Acarapis woodi mites, which invade the hive and lay eggs, the team turned to a natural deterrent: mint.

“We wanted to avoid the chemical sprays that can be harmful and stressful to the bee colony,” Keune said. “We learned mint is used to fight mites; it’s better for the bees and the honey.”

“Our new hive features starting frames of beeswax infused with natural corn mint and peppermint,” Grumelot said. “This method is a more accurate way to focus on the mite infestation, and it avoids spraying the entire hive, leaving the honey untouched and the bees happy.”

In New York, the UT students will present their project to more than 200 scientists, designers, entrepreneurs and artists.

“This is a great resumé-builder for our students,” Zeigler said. “Their design is economically feasible; beekeepers would just add two simple modifications to their existing hives. It’s a happy solution, and one that could have tremendous market impact all over the world.”

“This challenge is fantastic. It encourages students to think creatively, take risks, and gather science and data. They realize their designs can work,” Carpenter said.

“I hope that by participating in this challenge that others will begin to look at relevant issues critically and try to find better solutions in creative ways,” Pennetta said.

Police lieutenant, alumna honored by community agency

UT Police Lt. Tressa Johnson and University alumna Natalie Zerucha were honored this month by the Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board.

Johnson was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

UT alumna Natalie Zerucha, left, and UT Police Lt. Tressa Johnson were recognized by the Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board. Zerucha received the Consumer Involvement of the Year Award, and Johnson was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

“This recognition and honor confirms my peer’s appreciation of the work we do daily in the area of helping others during crisis or a traumatic experience,” Johnson said. “It means my passion for mental health recovery has now become an honor, and I am greatly appreciative of this honor.”

Johnson implemented the first domestic violence program through the UT Police Department. In addition, she has been involved in numerous events, including the Healthy Relationship Seminar, which shows students what a healthy relationship looks like, and the Healthy Boundaries Program, which promotes strong relationships among students.

She is a Lucas County Drug Addiction Response Team officer and is sent to hospitals to help drug-addicts find appropriate, long-term treatment while diverting them away from the criminal justice system. And she is a member of the Crisis Intervention Team.

UT Police Chief Jeff Newton believes Johnson’s service has made a notable contribution to the safety of the community.

“Her tireless commitment to service routinely goes far beyond what one could reasonably expect from a single person,” Newton said. “Tressa’s passion and unique mental health training and credentials make her a truly irreplaceable asset to the community.”

Being aware of the crime statistics in the community, Johnson said it is difficult to not be engaged.

“According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in three college students reported prolonged periods of depression, one in four college students have a diagnosable illness, and one in seven college students reported engaging in abnormally reckless behavior,” she said. “When you have knowledge of this type of data, we as law enforcement officers have no choice but to be engaged, well-trained on how to intervene, assist, and provide resources as needed to our students.”

Johnson wants to have a positive impact on students and Toledo community members.

“The idea of helping others in need and helping to create and maintain a safe environment for people to live is why I wanted to become a police officer,” she said. “Knowing I could be part of educating a community about personal safety and taking every interaction as a teachable moment is why I wanted to become an officer for The University of Toledo.”

The Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board also honored Zerucha, who received the Consumer Involvement of the Year Award, which recognizes her involvement in the community, her ability to give time without expectation, and her act of giving strength and dignity to those in need.

“I am speechless to be recognized among community leaders that have been doing this for some time,” Zerucha said. “It means the world to me.”

Being aware of the drug statistics throughout the community, Zerucha founded “Be-WISE-er,” an event that serves to educate the Toledo community on substance abuse and help those who are at risk.

“Three years ago, we noticed an opioid and substance epidemic in the Toledo area,” Zerucha said. “We wanted to educate the college community on how bad substances are and how they are being abused over time.”

Since 2016, more than 900 people have attended the annual event, which was presented by the Alpha Kappa Psi Chapter at the UT College of Business and Innovation.

Zerucha graduated from the University this month and received a bachelor of business administration degree in management and marketing.

Professor receives recognition at Access to Justice Awards

Dr. Celia Williamson, professor of social work and director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, won the Community Advocacy Award May 10 at the 18th annual Access to Justice Awards.

The Advocates for Basic Equality and Legal Aid of Western Ohio’s Access to Justice Awards recognize and celebrate individuals and organizations for their contributions to promote and provide access to justice for the underprivileged and underserved.

Williamson is well-known for her community advocacy against human trafficking and domestic violence, along with her extensive research into the subjects and finding ways to combat them.

The Community Advocacy Award is given to an organization or individual who has made a difference in the lives of low-income or disadvantaged persons and communities. It is intended to recognize grass roots organizing, public education, or community advocacy by an individual or group in northwest Ohio.

“The award means that the community recognizes and acknowledges that the work I’m doing is important and is on behalf of the vulnerable, poor and oppressed, and that human rights should be protected,” Williamson said.

Williamson has devoted much of her time addressing the problem of human trafficking. The UT alumna has given more than 200 presentations on the topic; completed several articles and reports; and edited two books on sex trafficking. She is a chair of the Research and Analysis Subcommittee for the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission and is the editorial manager for the Journal of Human Trafficking.

In 1993, she founded the first and oldest anti-trafficking program in Ohio titled Second Chance in Lucas County. She later established the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition.

In addition, Williamson is both the founder and president of a National Research Consortium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation and founder of the annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference.

Recently, she has worked with the community to develop Partners Against Trafficking in Humans, known as the PATH model, which helps victims transition to survivors and eventually “thrivers.”

Williamson has been recognized for her trailblazing work, receiving the YWCA Milestone Award, The University of Toledo Gold T Award, Ohio Liberator Award and more.

Golf outing to honor late pharmacy professor

The Toledo Academy of Pharmacy will host its annual golf outing Wednesday, June 13, at the Bedford Hills Golf Club in Temperance, Mich.

This year, the event will honor Dr. Robert J. “Doc” Schlembach, professor emeritus of pharmacology, who taught at The University of Toledo for more than four decades. The UT alumnus passed away Dec. 16 at the age of 93.

Schlembach held the position of both interim dean and associate dean of the College of Pharmacy, and served on several University committees over the years. He was honored by the Toledo Academy of Pharmacy as Pharmacist of the Year in 1965 and received one of the University’s Outstanding Teacher Awards in 1967.

During the outing, attendees will play an 18-hole scramble featuring various contests, including longest drive and closest to the pin.

There also will be a dinner provided by Shorty’s Barbecue followed by the event along with a prize raffle and auction.

Non-golfers are encouraged to attend the dinner or sponsor students who are playing during the day.

Proceeds from the outing or donations made to the Toledo Academy of Pharmacy Fund will go toward scholarships for talented and promising pharmacy students.

To register, visit taph.org.

For more information about this event, contact the Toledo Academy of Pharmacy at 419.827.8417 or toledoacademyofpharmacy@gmail.com.

Toledo Choral Society to honor legendary jazz pianist at scholarship benefit concert

The Toledo Choral Society will feature “Celebration for Art Tatum” by Dr. David Jex, UT professor of music, at its “Tributes” concert Sunday, June 10, at 3 p.m. in Doermann Theatre.

“Celebration for Art Tatum” is a suite of five expressive movements, each based on Langston Hughes poetry. It starts with the question “Can you love an eagle, tame or wild,” urges listeners to “Bring me all of your dreams,” and concludes with a rollicking “Fantasy in purple.”

During the concert, the innovative jazz spirit of Tatum will be honored by world-renowned guest pianist Alvin Waddles, a Detroit native.

The show also will feature traditional American folk songs and gospel music.

Richard Napierala, musical director of the Toledo Choral Society, will conduct the concert. He received bachelor of education and master of music performance degrees from the University. 

The Toledo Choral Society is a nonprofit organization aimed at contributing to the local musical community through the performance of significant choral works. It is Toledo’s oldest continuously performing musical organization, with its 100th anniversary celebration to be held during the 2019-20 concert season.

Proceeds from this concert will benefit the Bernard Sanchez Memorial Scholarship at The University of Toledo. A beloved professor and performer, Sanchez made an impact on the Toledo musical community for more than 50 years.

Tickets are $20 each and are available at toledochoralsociety.org.

Those who wish to contribute to the Bernard Sanchez Memorial Scholarship may contact Nick Butler at the UT Foundation at 419.530.5413 or click here and search Bernard Sanchez.

Toledo to play at Ohio State in 2022

The University of Toledo football team will play Ohio State in Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sept. 17, 2022, UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced today.

The contest will mark the fourth meeting between the two schools and the first since a 27-22 Buckeye victory in Columbus in 2011.

“We are very pleased to add Ohio State to our non-conference football schedule in 2022,” O’Brien said. “Ohio State has one of the richest histories in college football and will be an exciting challenge for our program. We now will be playing at Michigan State (2020), Notre Dame (2021) and Ohio State (2022) in consecutive years. We think our players and our fans are very excited to be playing in these types of environments.”

Toledo will start the 2018 season with three consecutive home games, beginning with the season opener vs. VMI Saturday, Sept. 1. Following a bye week, the Rockets host Miami (Fla.) Sept. 15 and Nevada Sept. 22.

For season tickets, click here or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).