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UT alumna leads public art project at Toledo Correctional Institution

Criminal justice reform is in the spotlight. Across partisan lines, public figures are talking about a need to reform criminal justice policy, especially sentencing and the prison population.

Standing in front of the mural painted by incarcerated participants was revealed were, from left, Matt Taylor, Emily Numbers, Yusuf Lateef and Rachel Richardson. The four, who worked together to make the project happen, spoke at a press conference when the work was revealed.

Standing in front of the mural painted by incarcerated participants was revealed were, from left, Matt Taylor, Emily Numbers, Yusuf Lateef and Rachel Richardson. The four, who worked together to make the project happen, spoke at a press conference when the work was revealed.

The United States holds 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but 22 percent of its prisoners, according to the Sentencing Project. Roughly 2.2 million people are incarcerated in prisons and jails — a 500 percent increase in the last 40 years — and the effects on children, families and neighborhoods are even farther-reaching. Poor people and people of color are disproportionately impacted. These circumstances, among others, have prompted conversations at the national level about the state of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Community artists, organizers and incarcerated people completed a public art piece inside the walls of Toledo Correctional Institution to contribute to that dialogue at the local level.

The project, a 6-foot-by-14-foot mural, was developed by community art coordinator Emily Numbers in collaboration with People for Change, Art Corner Toledo, and artists Matt Taylor and Yusuf Lateef. A public unveiling was held in November in the lobby of One Government Center.

People for Change is comprised of incarcerated individuals and UT faculty, students and alumni who organize educational initiatives inside the Toledo Correctional Institution. It is an alumni group of the national Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project, in which university students take a course inside a prison alongside incarcerated people. Other People for Change initiatives include workshops, community speakers and an academic library.

Numbers took the Inside/Out class as a UT student in 2013. Since then, she has been a part of the People for Change alumni group.

Incarcerated individuals worked on the mural at the Toledo Correctional Institution.

Incarcerated individuals worked on the mural at the Toledo Correctional Institution.

“The Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project opened my eyes to the talent, intellect and desire to make positive change that exists within prisons, and introduced me to the vast injustice that is mass incarceration in the U.S.,” she said.

Numbers, who became interested in the concept of art as a catalyst for social change as a law and social thought student at UT, designed the project to humanize the prison population and to promote civic dialogue on issues surrounding incarceration. The art was painted on a series of 21 2-foot canvasses due to limitations on materials allowed in the prison.

“I learned about the principles of community-based art in Thor Mednick’s Arts Diplomacy class at UT, in which we painted a mural with artist Dave Lowenstein and community members at the Frederick Douglass Center. The elements of dialogue, participation and collaboration were key aspects that I wanted to keep central to this project,” Numbers, communications and public relations specialist in the College of Engineering, said.

art-close-upTaylor, Lateef and Rachel Richardson, director of Art Corner Toledo, got involved when Numbers invited them to speak to the workshop group about their art in the community. After that initial meeting last spring, the three decided they wanted to continue their involvement with the project. Numbers’ vision and coordination, Taylor and Lateef’s expertise, Art Corner Toledo’s community connections, and the dedication of the incarcerated participants came together to result in this work of collaborative, community art.

Art Corner Toledo helped secure funding from the Lucas County Commissioners, who have a current focus on criminal justice. The Art Supply Depot and the UT Inside/Out Project in the College of Arts and Letters also provided support for materials and supplies.

Over several brainstorming sessions with the artists, organizers and incarcerated participants, the group arrived at the final design for the piece. The imagery was ultimately inspired by the sharing of poetry written by incarcerated individuals and represents the experience of incarceration and the aspirations of the group. Viewers’ perspectives place them at the bottom of a well, looking up toward a bright opening. Both flowers and weeds fill the bottom of the well, and one determined vine makes its way into the light. Several bees are included in the image, both coming and going from the viewer’s perspective.

“To the incarcerated participants, the well represents the physical limitations of the maximum security prison in which they reside, as well as the social barriers that may have led them to the circumstance of incarceration,” Numbers explained. “The flowers indicate the possibility for life and beauty to thrive in unexpected places, and the bees represent the exchange of ideas necessary for that hope to thrive. The bees can be interpreted as teachers, family members or volunteers, for instance, who refuse to turn a blind eye to the damages done by incarceration, and who refuse to turn their backs on individuals who will ultimately return to our community.”

The piece is accompanied by a collective poem written by the incarcerated participants, elaborating on the visual metaphor.

All of the incarcerated participants in this workshop have taken college-level courses through the UT Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project. Many of the discussions leading to the design were centered on the concept of education as the key to reaching post-incarceration aspirations.

Dr. Renee Heberle, professor of political science, brought the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project to the University in 2010.

“Inside/Out and People for Change give UT students and incarcerated students a unique opportunity to engage and learn with individuals they might otherwise not only never meet, but would perhaps, otherwise, stigmatize and fear,” Heberle, coordinator of the program, said. “It has literally changed lives and career paths of students, on the inside and the outside. The innovative pedagogical model and ongoing opportunities for engagement beyond the classes cultivate democratic and collaborative skills as students confront issues related to social justice and create social change.

“This mural represents the underlying principles and values of Inside/Out in the collaborative process of its creation, while being a beautiful and aesthetically important work of art on its own terms.”

The art made its debut at One Government Center and is now hanging at the Lucas County Common Pleas Court. It will be installed in public spaces in Toledo. After completing its tour around the city, the work will be donated to a local organization selected by the participants.

“It is the intention of the incarcerated participants that this public art project will serve as a sign of hope for all viewers who may face barriers or confines of their own,” Numbers said.

“As the project travels around Toledo, it carries hope for the transformation of the criminal justice system, hope for incarcerated people seeking meaning and growth despite their circumstances, and hope for anyone facing conditions that confine, imprison or isolate.”

Students recruiting 800 volunteers to help feed families in hurricane-ravaged Haiti

Three months after Hurricane Matthew unleashed a path of destruction through the southern peninsula of Haiti, devastation lingers for families who lost their homes, crops and livestock.

KLAR“It’s horrible,” said Ashley Jemerson, who studied criminal justice, forensic science and Spanish at UT before graduating last month. “Seeing the ongoing effects of the natural disaster makes me grateful for everything we have here in the United States.”

Jemerson and dozens of UT students selected by their colleges to participate in the Klar Leadership Academy in the College of Business and Innovation need 800 volunteers Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27-28, in the Health Education Building on Main Campus to help produce 140,000 meals that will be sent to Haiti for hurricane relief.

Participants from the Klar Leadership Academy’s November community service project posed for a photo after conducting a Box Out Hunger event at the Cherry Street Mission.

Participants from the Klar Leadership Academy’s November community service project posed for a photo after conducting a Box Out Hunger event at the Cherry Street Mission.

The public is invited to participate in the two-day community service event called Feed My Starving Children, which is the culmination of a global service project organized by the Klar Leadership Academy’s 75 students to feed families in the country where food is scarce.

Volunteers may sign up for shifts here. Shifts are from 3 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, and from 9 to 11 a.m. and from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28.

The 2016-17 Klar Leadership Academy students are 75 percent of the way to raising their goal of $31,000 to make the event called “Mobile Pack” a success.

“One of the biggest things we’ve learned in the academy is the importance of giving back,” said Anthony Dimodica, a senior studying human resource management. “Leadership also is about helping others. We’re hoping our University students, faculty and staff give up a little bit of their time to make a huge difference for people who don’t have a lot.”

The Klar Leadership Academy was founded in 2015 with the support of Stephen Klar, a 1971 alumnus of the College of Business and Innovation and a New York City builder and real estate developer.

“The Klar Leadership Academy is all about creating the next generation of exceptional leaders who will carry on the College of Business and UT legacy of leaders who are changing the world,” said Dr. Clint Longenecker, Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Organization Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation. “This learning experience takes our best students across all undergraduate colleges on campus and leads them through a seven-month, transformational leadership development experience to increase their career trajectory and their ability to improve the human condition through high-performance servant leadership.”

Library renovations to include new veterans lounge named for UT alumnus

The second phase of renovations underway at Carlson Library will include a new veterans lounge, a glass wall spanning several stories allowing for more natural light, and an expanded concourse when you enter the building.

The $3 million renovations funded by state capital dollars will focus on the first and second floors of the library. The renovations, which are expected to be completed prior to the start of fall semester, follow the work on the third and fourth floors finished last year that included the creation of more than 20 new group study rooms and new paint, carpet, ceilings and lighting to transform the learning space.

This rendering shows what the Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski ’65 Veterans Lounge may look like when finished on the second floor of Carlson Library this summer.

This rendering shows what the Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski ’65 Veterans Lounge may look like when finished on the second floor of Carlson Library this summer.

“The south side of the second floor will be renovated to include group study rooms and study carrels like those that have become popular on the recently completed third and fourth floors,” said Barbara Floyd, interim director of University Libraries. “We recently conducted a survey asking students if they were satisfied with the renovations done, and the comments were overwhelmingly positive, with many students crediting the renovations with their success in the classroom.”

The second floor of the library also will be the new home for the University’s Veterans Lounge, which will relocate from its current location in Rocket Hall.

“Our student veterans were interested in a more centrally located space and in this academic setting they also will have better access to library resources for research and homework with longer hours to take advantage of the lounge,” said Navy Reserve Lt. Haraz Ghanbari, UT director of military and veteran affairs.

Lt. Col. Thomas Orlowski spoke after being recognized by the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes with its Hometown Hero Award and the news that the veterans lounge at his alma mater will be named in his honor. Orlowski, who graduated from UT in 1965 before his 20-year career in the U.S. Army, is being recognized with the naming of the Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski ’65 Veterans Lounge that will be relocated to the second floor of Carlson Library.

Lt. Col. Thomas Orlowski spoke after being recognized by the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes with its Hometown Hero Award and the news that the veterans lounge at his alma mater will be named in his honor. Orlowski, who graduated from UT in 1965 before his 20-year career in the U.S. Army, is being recognized with the naming of the Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski ’65 Veterans Lounge that will be relocated to the second floor of Carlson Library.

A $20,000 donation from the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes supports the creation of the new lounge, which also will be larger with a separate social area and private study section.

The coalition’s gift was made in recognition of Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski, a UT alumnus and Army veteran who is the immediate past chairman of the organization’s board. The lounge will be named the Lt. Col. Thomas J. Orlowski ’65 Veterans Lounge in his honor.

“It’s a fantastic idea, and I’m proud of the University for doing it. I’m just very humbled to be honored as part of the project,” Orlowski said. “The exchanges that will occur in this lounge will start with, ‘What are you studying and with what professors?’ But after that familiarity builds up, then the war stories come up. It will definitely help veteran students academically, but a secondary benefit that people may not realize is the camaraderie of others who have been where you’ve been and done what you’ve done.”

Orlowski graduated from UT in 1965 with a degree in English literature, and he also was a middle linebacker for the football team. He joined the Army later that year, and his 20-year military career included assignments in the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), HQ U.S. Army Europe, HQ U.S. Continental Army Command and the Office of the Adjutant General of the Army. For his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star for Valor with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Air Medal.

The new Veterans Lounge is expected to open in early summer.

Library renovations will continue through the summer, with the addition of a glass wall on the east side spanning the height of the building that will open up the library with more sunlight. The staircase from the first to second floors also will be redesigned with a mezzanine area on the second floor further opening up the space.

The separate hallway that you currently pass through when walking into the library will be removed so that guests will immediately be in the lobby when they walk in from outside. The redesign also will bring all of the library’s patron services — including circulation, reference and instruction — to the first floor. The information technology help desk recently moved from the back of the floor to share space with the circulation desk at the front. 

Academic research uses hacked Ashley Madison data to map areas with most cheating husbands

The Bridgeport, Conn., metropolitan area led the nation last year in active use of Ashley Madison, the matchmaking website for extramarital affairs, with 6.23 subscriptions and $1,127 spent for every 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 79, according to research at The University of Toledo.

Graduate student researchers used customer data exposed by anonymous hackers last year to analyze the geography and market characteristics of active users.

The research titled “Infidelity and the Internet: The Geography of Ashley Madison Usership in the Unites States” recently was published in the journal Geographical Review.

Chohaney

Chohaney

The common characteristics identified of cheating husbands are financially well-off, younger, not retired and less religious.

Michael Chohaney, a PhD student studying spatially integrated social science at UT, and Kimberly Panozzo, who recently graduated with a master’s degree from the Department of Geography and Planning, conducted the research.

“This is the only academic geography article we know of that collects, processes and analyzes publicly available data originally stolen and released by Internet hackers,” Chohaney said. “Due to ethics concerns, we handled the Ashley Madison user account information with the utmost respect for personal security and privacy. No individual user identities or locations can be derived from our work.”

Although the scandalous data dump included 7 million subscribers in the U.S., this research analyzed the accounts and narrowed it down to 702,309 active profiles. Researchers eliminated inactive users, such as people who visited the site once for free out of curiosity to view other members’ profiles. Unusable billing addresses and duplicate profiles paid for by a single credit card account also were removed.

“Women were not required to pay, so only heterosexual men are included in our sample,” Chohaney said. “We focus on users who put their money where their mouse is in order to measure and better understand the characteristics of those vulnerable to cheating.”

The top three areas with Ashley Madison subscription rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Boulder, Colo.; and Jacksonville, N.C. The markets with the top spending rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; and Boston.

“Income is the leading market determinant for Internet-facilitated infidelity,” Chohaney said. “The service of allowing people to pay to engage in an extramarital affair behaves as a luxury good, which means people with disposable incomes are willing to pay for a service that facilitates extramarital affairs and promises anonymity during the process. It makes sense; Bridgeport is wealthy.”

Chohaney said metropolitan statistical areas with the highest rates also housed large numbers of armed forces personnel and families with children headed by male breadwinners.

At the local level, spatial distribution of user and spending rates are most highly clustered in the Atlanta and Chicago areas. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Atlanta were Buckhead and Roswell. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Chicago were Lincoln Park and Aurora.

The research finds that locations with higher proportions of Asians and older married men were less likely to subscribe or spend money on Ashley Madison than locations with large proportions of African-Americans, Hispanics and younger married men. Further, the research found Ashley Madison subscription rates drop 18 percent and spending rates drop 13 percent for every additional religious congregation per 1,000 people.

“That indicates religiosity prevents individuals from using the Internet to cheat on their spouse,” Chohaney said.

Women & Philanthropy marks 10 years of leadership

Although volunteerism by women has long played a part in nonprofit organizations, a focus on the role of women in charitable giving is a relatively newer phenomenon.

In 2001, no university-based women’s philanthropy programs existed in the Toledo region. At that time, Dr. Janet Krzyminski, a UT alumna, was a director of development at The University of Toledo and working on her dissertation. Her research focused on local women’s viewpoints regarding the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship activities of philanthropy.

women-philanthropy-logo“The overarching result was that charitable organizations and universities were not paying much attention to women donors as a group. We weren’t recognizing their interest or potential,” she said. “This provided a platform and eventually gave legs to a new organization centered at UT.”

UT’s Women & Philanthropy, a collaborative effort of area women and the University’s Division of Advancement, is marking its 10th year as a community of female philanthropists supporting the mission and goals of The University of Toledo.

Outgoing president Marianne Ballas, who has led the group since its inception, said the goal has been to raise the awareness of women in the community and to guide and support them in the art of giving back.

“We are committed to exposing our members to the University by promoting Women & Philanthropy’s first grant in 2008 that provided the glass sculpture, ‘A University Woman,’ by Tom McGlauchlin. The group has provided 15 grants totaling nearly $400,000 for educational programs and taken part in grant dedications,” she said. “It is inspiring to visit and experience the amazing facilities and programs that are offered right here in Toledo. We are so proud of UT, and we want to share it to enhance the community appreciation of UT’s incredible importance and contributions.”

The 2016 Women & Philanthropy grants were awarded to the Instrumentation Center for the construction of an interactive display titled “Living Science: The Ever-Changing Periodic Table,” and an active learning center in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The group also participates in a holiday project, including purchasing hats and mittens for at-risk children, refilling items for the UT student food bank, and distributing stuffed animals for children at UT Medical Center through the Satellites Auxiliary.

Ballas noted that members have not only made financial investments, but also personal investments. “What we have done as a group of women has created and nurtured some deep lifelong friendships. Although we are a very diverse group, we really like and appreciate each other,” she said, “and we enjoy giving back.”

To learn more about Women & Philanthropy, contact Chris Spengler, director of advancement relations, at chris.spengler@utoledo.edu or 419.530.4927.

Distinguished educator to deliver commencement address Dec. 17

Toledo native Dr. Timothy Law Snyder, president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will present the keynote address at the UT fall commencement Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. in Savage Arena.

Snyder, who will receive an honorary degree during the ceremony, will address 2,066 candidates for degrees: 93 doctoral, 584 master’s, 1,346 bachelor’s and 43 associate’s degrees.

Snyder

Snyder

The ceremony will be streamed live at http://video.utoledo.edu.

Snyder is a distinguished American educator and academic administrator whose career includes success as a computational mathematician, musician, published scholar, lecturer and podcaster. He attended Toledo Public Schools and graduated from UT in 1981 with bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and mathematics. Additionally, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from UT in 1983.

Snyder also holds a second master’s degree, as well as a doctoral degree, in computational mathematics from Princeton University.

“We’re honored to have Dr. Timothy Snyder return to his alma mater as our fall commencement speaker,” said UT President Sharon L. Gaber. “His career is proof that goals can be multidirectional, and success follows people who work hard to make lasting contributions, no matter what career paths they choose over a lifetime.”

In 2014, The University of Toledo Alumni Association recognized Snyder with its College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Outstanding Alumnus Award.

“I return to my hometown with pride and excitement to deliver the keynote commencement address. My educational path and career were profoundly shaped by my years at UT,” Snyder said. “I continue to resonate with UT’s mission to improve the human condition and advance knowledge, among its other values. I hope to inspire graduates to pursue their life goals with creativity and integrity.”

Snyder has held academic positions at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and at Georgetown University, where he was chair of the Department of Computer Science and its first dean of science. Additionally, he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut and vice president for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland. In 2015, Snyder was appointed the 16th president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He has published and presented widely on his research, which includes computational mathematics, data structures, design and analysis of algorithms, geometric probability, digital signal processing, computer music, and the education of the millennial generation. More recently, he has been researching risk assessment in commercial airline safety, as well as HIV and its prevention.

A musician most of his life, Snyder was lead singer in the touring rock-and-punk band Whirlwind from 1976 to 1983. His music can be found on iTunes and SoundCloud. He is also active in social media through his Twitter handle @LMUSnyder.

The University’s fall commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business and Innovation, Judith Herb College of Education, Health and Human Services, Medicine and Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Additionally, UT’s College of Engineering will hold graduation ceremonies for its undergraduate and graduate candidates Friday, Dec. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

Interim dean of College of Engineering named

A longtime leader in the College of Engineering will serve as interim dean of the college, Provost Andrew Hsu announced Dec 8.

Dr. Steven LeBlanc, professor and executive associate dean for fiscal affairs, will lead the college starting Jan. 9 to fill the vacancy created by longtime dean Dr. Nagi Naganathan, who has accepted the presidency of Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Ore.

LeBlanc

LeBlanc

“Dr. Naganathan provided great leadership to the College of Engineering for many years, and we wish him well in his new opportunity as president of Oregon Tech,” Hsu said. “Steve has proven himself to be a strong leader, and I appreciate his willingness to again step into the role of interim dean to continue to advance the college.”

Hsu said the University will conduct a national search for a permanent dean for the College of Engineering with the goal to have that person in place for fall 2017.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve in this role to support our faculty and students and continue the positive momentum of our college,” LeBlanc said. “The College of Engineering has a strong team dedicated to the success of our students, and I am honored to be asked to lead them during this transition. The College of Engineering will miss Dean Naganathan, and we wish him every success as the new president of Oregon Tech.”

LeBlanc joined the College of Engineering in 1980 and led the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1993 to 2003 when he joined the dean’s office to oversee academic affairs. Prior to coming to UT, he spent three years as a chemical engineer at Toledo Edison.

He is co-author of two textbooks, “Strategies for Creative Problem Solving,” which received the American Society of Engineering Education Meriam/Wiley Distinguished Author Award, and “Process Systems Analysis and Control,” a chemical engineering textbook from McGraw-Hill.

LeBlanc, who was named an American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow in 2010, has received the UT Outstanding Teacher Award and the American Society for Engineering Education North Central Section Outstanding Teaching Award.

He is a graduate of UT with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Ohio.

UT Alumni Association offers trip, party for Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

See you at the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl! The UT Alumni Association has organized a charter plane trip so fans can watch the Rockets play the Appalachian State Mountaineers Saturday, Dec. 17, at 4:30 p.m. Central time in Montgomery, Ala.

The charter flight will leave Friday, Dec. 16, at approximately 8 a.m. from the Toledo Express Airport and return immediately after the game Sunday, Dec. 18, around 3 a.m.

web Raycom Camellia BowlThe package includes:

• Round-trip charter air travel with a hot meal on each flight.

• Ticket to the Rosa Parks Museum.

• The Raycom Media Camellia Bowl pep rally.

• The Montgomery Christmas Parade.

• Fan fest prior to the UT Alumni Association pre-game party.

• UT Alumni Association pre-game party with a menu that will include smoked chicken, hand-pulled pork, barbecue beans, chef’s chose vegetable, potato salad, cheese biscuits, baked buns, cookies, soft drinks, iced tea and lemonade. Complimentary beer and wine is included. The UT Rocket Marching Band and UT cheerleaders will be at this event.

• Ticket to watch the bowl game.

• One-night stay at the five-star Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa.

• Raycom Media Camellia Bowl hoodie.

• All shuttles and gratuities.

The package cost, based on double occupancy, is $1,200 per person. The cost for a single is $1,400. Those who already have tickets to the game may deduct $30 per ticket.

There are 60 seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for more information and to register.

The deadline to register for the charter trip is 11 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12.

Alumni and fans who are traveling on their own to the game can attend the pre-game party for $20; registration is required. Click here.

Those who want tickets to the bowl game can call 419.530.GOLD (4653) or click here.

Revved up: Assistant dean pays tribute to alma mater with Rocket Room

One look at Donovan Nichols’ Rocket Room and it’s clear: He’s got spirit; yes, he does.

The assistant dean for student involvement and leadership exudes enthusiasm explaining how he put together the ultimate UT fan zone.

Donovan Nichols stood beneath the sign that inspired his Rocket Room. As an undergraduate in 2002, he picked up the sign that hung in Rocky's Attic during the 1980s.

Donovan Nichols stood beneath the sign that inspired his Rocket Room. As an undergraduate in 2002, he picked up the sign that hung in Rocky’s Attic during the 1980s.

“The whole idea has been 14 years in the making,” he said looking around his basement walls emblazoned with UT jerseys, ticket stubs, posters, stories and more. “But actually putting this together took about five months.”

He pointed to a wooden sign featuring old Rocket and UT logos that bookend the stenciled name “Rocket Room.”

“That sign is actually what started the whole idea. When I was a student, I was walking around with Tom Trimble [then associate director of the Student Union] in Rocky’s Attic, and this sign was sitting in a corner,” Nichols recalled. “Tom said it was a sign that was hanging in Rocky’s Attic in the 1980s, and he said, ‘We’re probably going to throw it out.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re not.’”

Donovan Nichols' Blue Crew uniform is among the memorabilia featured in the Rocket Room. He and friend Jason Rodriguez started the masked spirited squad when they were undergraduates in 2000.

Donovan Nichols’ Blue Crew uniform is among the memorabilia featured in the Rocket Room. He and friend Jason Rodriguez started the masked spirited squad when they were undergraduates in 2000.

It was 2002 when Nichols rescued the relic and stored it at his parents’ house until now.

“Back then, I said, ‘When I have my own house, I’m going to create a Rocket Room. I’m going to carpet it with field turf and put that sign in it.’”

With a head’s up and permission from Athletics, Nichols snagged pieces of turf in April during the Glass Bowl renovations. Prepping it for installation took most of the summer.

“The turf fibers are about an inch long with about a half inch of infill — sand granules and rubber pellets to make it feel more like real grass — so I had to get all of that infill out,” he said.

The bar in Donovan Nichols' Rocket Room features turf from the blue rocket that was in the center of the field in the Glass Bowl.

The bar in Donovan Nichols’ Rocket Room features turf from the blue rocket that was in the center of the field in the Glass Bowl.

After power-washing and scrubbing the turf, Nichols cut and put pieces together to resemble a field with help from his girlfriend, Alycia Demey; friend and UT alumnus, Rob Bleile; and father, Tom Nichols.

The bar features a piece of the blue rocket from the center of the field. “I was lucky enough to get that piece, so I wanted to showcase it,” Nichols said.

Collecting UT memorabilia started during his undergraduate days when he helped establish a tradition. The year was 2000, and Nichols and his friend, Jason Rodriguez, created Blue Crew.

Bobbleheads of Football Coach Jason Candle and Rocky sit atop the bar.

Bobbleheads of Football Coach Jason Candle and Rocky sit atop the bar.

“Blue Crew’s first game ever was traveling to Penn State. There were four of us that went. About 92,000 people were in the stadium, and only about 2,000 of which were Toledo fans, but we were louder the entire game,” Nichols said pointing to a story about UT’s upset of the Nittany Lions, 24-6. “That was a really cool experience for me because that was the founding of Blue Crew.”

It was the Rocket Fanatic group from the 1990s that inspired Nichols and Rodriguez to start the masked spirited squad. 

“We wanted to create something that emulated the Rocket Fanatic group, but do something that would continue the spirit even after we graduated,” Nichols explained. “So we decided to wear the masks and wigs so we would cloak our identities because it wasn’t about us being the spirited students, it was about having the positive energy and the positive spirit always represented at the University.”

He still radiates that energy and excitement for the Rockets and his alma mater. Standing by his Blue Crew uniform, he said, “My mask is signed by Chester Taylor, who was one of the great UT football players. I have a poster of him and a jersey. He was a running back for the Minnesota Vikings and a couple other NFL teams. I try to pay tribute to some of the players who were around when I was a student because I knew some of them. In the stairwell, there’s a poster of [quarterback] Bruce Gradkowski and [wide receiver] Lance Moore, both who were students when I was around, and I have pictures of them in the NFL as well to display their success.”

A shirt with No. 16 pays tribute to Chuck Ealey, the legendary UT quarterback who led the Rockets to three undefeated seasons from 1969 to 1971.

A shirt with No. 16 pays tribute to Chuck Ealey, the legendary UT quarterback who led the Rockets to three undefeated seasons from 1969 to 1971.

Then there’s a white football shirt with a midnight blue No. 16, which was worn by the quarterback known as the “Wizard of Oohs and Aahs.”

“I wanted to highlight Chuck Ealey because it’s incredible the accomplishment that he had; he’s the only collegiate quarterback in history to go undefeated. From 1969 to 1971, the Rockets went 35-0,” Nichols said. “And he was undefeated in high school, too.”

That sense of history is everywhere in the Rocket Room — the sheet music for “Fair Toledo,” the alma mater, is framed, along with “U of Toledo,” the fight song. Also under glass is the UT Traditions brochure Nichols created after more than 500 hours of research on the school’s history.

“I wanted to walk down memory lane and teach some UT history, and display why people should be proud of The University of Toledo,” he said. “Hopefully, the Rocket Room will inspire more people to show their pride in the institution.”

After graduating with honors with a bachelor of arts degree in communications in 2004 and a master of education degree in higher education in 2006, Nichols stopped to say goodbye to Dr. Kaye M. Patten, senior vice president of student affairs. 

The 2005 GMAC Bowl Championship poster that Dr. Kaye M. Patten, senior vice president of student affairs, gave Donovan Nichols after he graduated and the UT Traditions brochure he created are part of the Rocket Room.

The 2005 GMAC Bowl Championship poster that Dr. Kaye M. Patten, senior vice president of student affairs, gave Donovan Nichols after he graduated and the UT Traditions brochure he created are part of the Rocket Room.

“She went over and took this [2005 GMAC Bowl Championship poster] off her office wall and gave it to me and said she appreciated everything I had done for the University. I was moving to Las Vegas, so it was a piece I took with me. And when I worked in Georgia, it was with me there, and now it’s back with me at home.”

“Donovan was one of the most passionate UT students. He started Blue Crew, created the Rocky doll, was Student Government president,” Patten said. “It’s so nice to have him back where he belongs to inspire that same love for the University in our students.”

“I always thought it would be fun to come back to UT to work, but I didn’t necessarily have a plan to come back. I knew I could show my Rocket pride wherever I went. When I worked in Las Vegas, I created an alumni chapter out there,” he said. “But it feels comfortable in Toledo; I’m home.

“I think if I had a Rocket Room like this in any other city, it wouldn’t be as cool,” he added and laughed. “At least here, a lot of people can come over and see it and appreciate it. Go Rockets!”

Fall Career Fair scheduled for Oct. 19 open to all majors

The Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services will host its Fall 2016 Career Fair Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium.

“This career fair is open to all majors,” said Shelly Drouillard, director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services. “Students are asked to wear professional dress and to bring their Rocket Card and plenty of resumés to share with potential employers.”

Career Fair 2016 imageRepresentatives from 100 for-profit, government and nonprofit organizations will be available to meet with students regarding full-time and part-time employment along with internship opportunities. Students of all majors are encouraged to attend. Alumni also are welcome.

Registered organizations represent a wide range of fields, and employers include Promedica, Quicken Loans, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NAMSA, ConAgra Foods, Norfolk Southern, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium.

The city of Toledo will have three tables at the event, one for overall city positions and internships (including the new Toledo Talent Keeps Toledo Great initiative) and individual recruitment tables for police and firefighters.

Students interested in working for a sports franchise will want to check out the Toledo Mud Hens and Cleveland Indians booths; and while the Cincinnati Reds will not be at the fair, they will be on campus Monday, Oct. 24, to promote internships with their organization.

Participants can see a full list of employers online at utoledo.edu/success/celcs.

Students can prepare for the career fair by attending recommended prep sessions from noon to 1 p.m. in Student Union Room 2591 Thursday, Oct. 13, or Monday, Oct. 17. Students are encouraged to register online for the prep session.

“Employers repeatedly report back to us that they can tell the students who have prepared in advance for career fairs and interviews, and that extra level of preparedness can leave a lasting positive impression and can give students a competitive edge as a job candidate,” Drouillard said. “Students who are unable to attend a prep session can make an appointment prior to the career fair to have their resumé reviewed and create a career fair plan.

“Career fairs serve as a valuable resource to our students. Students are able to explore career options and seek future employment,” Drouillard added. “Students will be able to discover what is out there in the work world, explore different options and career paths, meet and talk with representatives from a broad spectrum of companies, obtain valuable interview and job search experience from seasoned professionals, learn about internships, develop a network of contacts, and discuss available positions and submit their resumés in person to company recruiters.”

The Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services works to connect students to meaningful learning experiences and assist them with determining a major and career exploration. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the many services offered: resumé reviews, mock interviews and job search strategies.

To schedule an appointment, call 419.530.4341.