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— Judith Herb College of Education

Kick-off party for Back-to-School Drive to be held Aug. 10

The University of Toledo Judith Herb College of Education Alumni Affiliate is hosting its annual drive for new shoes, socks and underwear for students in Toledo Public Schools.

Alumni also will be collecting belts this year based on feedback from school administrators.

The kick-off party is Thursday, Aug. 10, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Social Gastropub in the Gateway Plaza on the corner of Dorr Street and Secor Road.

Donations will be collected during the event, and participants can sample free appetizers.

“We talk with school principals every year to see what students need,” said Mike Bader, president of the Judith Herb College of Education Alumni Affiliate. “As part of our mission to give back to our community, we are hoping to fill the great need for shoes, socks, underwear and belts.”

Gym shoes and dress shoes are needed for students in grades K-8 in youth and small adult sizes. The shoe sizes needed most are children’s sizes 1 to 6 or toddler sizes 10 to 13.

Underwear donations are needed for younger students.

Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Driscoll Alumni Center Room 2014 on Main Campus before Thursday, Sept. 14.

For more information, visit toledoalumni.org or call 419.530.2586.

Celebrating 25 years at Art on the Mall

For two local painters, it may have been a stroke of luck when Art on the Mall debuted in 1992 at their alma mater.

“I had been doing a lot of paintings of Lake Erie scenes, and then this event was announced,” Carol Connolly Pletz recalled.

This watercolor painting of University Hall by Kathy Palmer Genzman was featured in one of her Toledo calendars. “I always include my alma mater in the calendar,” she said.

“It was the year I made my first Toledo calendar,” Kathy Palmer Genzman said. “It was like it was meant to be.”

The two women were among 51 artists who displayed and sold their work at the inaugural juried fair.

“It was a beautiful sunny day. There were few tents, if any, and UT supplied wire structures to display paintings,” Connolly Pletz, a 1966 alumna with a bachelor’s degree in art, said. “It was the first show where I stood out with a few my paintings. It was a very positive experience; people loved my work.”

Palmer Genzman also felt the love.

“It was my husband, Bob, who suggested the calendar. He wrote the history, and I drew and painted scenes from around town,” she said. “When Art on the Mall was announced, he said, ‘Let’s see if they sell,’ and they did — people loved the calendar.”

“Brown Swiss Dairy,” acrylic, was painted by Carol Connolly Pletz after one of her many visits to Shipshewana, Ind.

Connolly Pletz and Palmer Genzman have returned to Art on the Mall every year. The perennial favorites will be back with more than 100 artists Sunday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Centennial Mall.

“I am so grateful to UT for putting this event on every year,” Connolly Pletz said. “The community really enjoys the art, music and food. It’s great it has remained a free show with free parking. Toledo loves this show.”

“Everyone at UT is always so helpful,” Palmer Genzman, a 1980 graduate with a master’s degree in art education, said. “I’ve known Dan [Saevig, associate vice president of alumni relations] since the beginning. He and his crew do an amazing job rain or shine.”

Even fellow artists offer assistance. Connolly Pletz learned about notecards from Tom Durnford, a UT alumnus who taught a graphics class for the Communication Department and was director of publications and graphics from 1965 until his retirement from the University in 1989. The two had booths next to each for 23 years until Durnford passed away.

Carol Connolly Pletz has made 160 cards from her acrylic paintings.

“He worked in watercolor and besides his paintings, he sold notecards of his artwork,” Connolly Pletz said. “That first year at Art on the Mall, I saw he was doing a brisk business selling his cards. We talked, and he agreed to mentor me in publishing my own notecards.”

Since then, she has made 160 cards from her eye-catchingly colorful acrylic paintings, which showcase scenes from the Metroparks of the Toledo Area; the Lake Erie islands; Shipshewana, Ind.; and Ireland.

“People like to take something away that’s affordable,” Connolly Pletz said. “Not everybody has a place for a painting or can afford an original or the color is wrong. But everybody can use cards.”

“I also sell Toledo notecards, which are very popular,” Palmer Genzman said. “I sell out of calendars every year; I always have to send the kids home to get more. The calendars aren’t that expensive, and yet they’re artwork. People really enjoy having a picture of Toledo.”

That local focus is important to both artists.

Palmer Genzman’s 2018 calendar features her meticulously detailed watercolor paintings of the University, last year’s Jeep parade, the Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo, walleye fishing, the Niagara ship on the Maumee River and more. Since her husband passed away, her son, Paul, writes the history.

Kathy Palmer Genzman posed for a photo in front of some of her watercolor paintings that are included in her Toledo calendar.

“I want people to love their city and be proud of it. It’s a great city; it’s a great University — look at that campus. What more can you ask for? Good eating places, you’ve got the Mud Hens downtown, I love the renaissance of downtown,” she said. “I taught art at Toledo Public Schools and lived in the Glass City until retirement. I now live in Lambertville, Mich., but I’m a Toledo person.”

“Many local places have caught my eye — and my heart,” Connolly Pletz said. “The Toledo Botanical Garden, Wildwood Metropark Preserve, the Maumee River, to name a few. There is so much natural beauty in our part of the world. I hope my work inspires some to pause and take a closer look at what we have right here.”

UT offers first online PhD program at an Ohio university

The University of Toledo is enrolling students for the first online PhD program approved in Ohio.

The Curriculum and Instruction: Special Education Doctoral Degree Program starts in the fall semester and is open to people across the country, specifically those who specialize in early childhood special education. It is the first such program to be offered online at a public or private university in the state.

“We are proud to play a pioneering role in the state of Ohio for making doctoral degrees more accessible to hard-working, full-time professionals who want to take the next step in their careers,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “This rigorous program of study is designed to prepare the leaders who will guide our education system into the future.”

“Students can complete the program without having to set foot on UT’s campus,” said Dr. Laurie Dinnebeil, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the UT Department of Early Childhood, Higher Education and Special Education in the Judith Herb College of Education. “Students will have the opportunity to work with nationally known leaders in the field of early childhood special education, research and measurement.”

Earning this doctoral degree would allow educators to advance into district, regional or state leadership positions. For example, they could serve as a state consultant to school districts, the director of a school district’s special education program, or work for agencies and organizations at the national level. They also would be able to teach at colleges and universities.

The 70-credit hour program is designed to be completed in less than five years by part-time students who register for six credit hours each semester, including summers.

All course work is available online with the exception of two professional seminars that students can attend virtually using Skype or FaceTime technology if they cannot attend in person.

“I’d like to congratulate The University of Toledo for this innovative approach and for changing the dynamics of higher education by offering this degree,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey.

No matter the distance, students enrolled in the program will have access to all University services and resources relevant to the program, such as the UT Virtual Lab, and the library and all of its digital resources and databases. Students also will have access to supplementary support as needed, such as the UT Writing Center and College of Graduate Studies staff and resources.

Students will present information about their progress using web-based tools, such as discussion boards and webinars. 

Course instructors, as well as the students’ dissertation adviser and dissertation committee members, are already accustomed to working with students from a distance. UT offers an online master’s degree and an education specialist degree program online, and students complete comprehensive examinations and master’s projects online. 

“Educational scholars are used to working by themselves in classrooms, schools or other settings that provide educational experiences,” Dinnebeil said.  “That means that the quality of research that online students complete will not differ from the quality of research that traditional face-to-face doctoral students in our college complete.”

To apply, go to utoledo.edu/admission.

University recognizes faculty, staff for advising, research, teaching, outreach work

UT outstanding advisers, researchers and teachers, and recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement, were honored last week.

Recipients of the Outstanding Advisor Award were:

Winners of the Outstanding Adviser Award were Rose Marie Ackerman and Dr. Matthew Franchetti.

Rose Marie Ackerman
, associate director of student services in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering. She joined the University in 2006.

“Rose is the only adviser I know that does long-range plans for students. This helps tremendously because I am able to check off the classes I have already taken because she provides a specialized plan for each individual,” one nominator wrote. “She is the best adviser I’ve had at any university, and I’ve been to three different universities.” “Rose is always willing to see and talk to any student,” another noted. “She responds to emails quickly with any information needed. I just changed my major, and Rose is the person who helped me the most.” Another wrote, “She is the go-to person in the department for policies and procedures.”

Dr. Matthew Franchetti, associate professor and associate chair of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering in the College of Engineering. He began working at UT in 2007.

“Dr. Franchetti is the most helpful person I have ever met,” one nominator noted. Another wrote, “The other day I walked into his office looking for advice on going to grad school. He went through the positives and negatives and all of the things required in the application process. He sat down and went over the different courses of study and what each plan entails. On top of that, he took the time to explain what the University is kind of looking for and offered to be one of my references. I do not know how I would have gotten through engineering without him.”

Recipients of the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award were:

Receiving Outstanding Research Awards were, from left, Dr. Robert Collins, Lee J. Strang, Dr. Blair Grubb and Dr. Mohamed Elahinia.

Dr. Robert Collins
, NEG Endowed Chair and Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Collins is an internationally recognized expert on thin films and photovoltaics, especially for his groundbreaking contributions in the use of optical measurements, in particular, ellipsometry for assessments of real-time thin-film growth. This work is not only important to the photovoltaics industry, but also is valuable to related technologies such as displays and sensors. His total research funding, either as principal investigator or co-principal investigator at both UT and his former university, exceeds $48 million. He is a prolific writer with more than 450 peer-reviewed journal and conference proceedings articles, and he is the editor or co-editor of nine books. His published work has more than 10,000 citations.

Dr. Mohamed Elahinia, professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering in the College of Engineering.

Elahinia’s group, with support from the Ohio Federal Research Network and NASA Glenn, has fabricated high-temperature shape memory alloys in 3D printing for the first time. His research on low-temperature shape memory alloys has resulted in several medical devices, which are at various stages of commercialization. In collaboration with NASA Glenn and the Cleveland Clinic, he organized the development of the Nitinol Commercialization Center to support startup companies. He has been the principal investigator and co-investigator on 37 research projects, bringing in more than $12 million in awards. He is the author of a leading book on shape memory alloys, as well as more than 70 journal articles; his publications have been cited about 2,000 times.

Dr. Blair Grubb, Distinguished University Professor and director of the Electrophysiology Program in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

He is one of the world’s authorities in the treatment of syncope — abrupt, brief loss of consciousness — and other disorders of the autonomic nervous system. He has patients referred to him from all over the world to help those dealing with severe autonomic disorders. His patients testify on how he takes a personal interest in their condition, and he has a long list of testimonials on how he has provided patients with ways to improve their condition. Grubb has published more than 240 scientific papers, authored five books, written 35 book chapters, and has been the recipient of 10 research grants while at UT. He has been recognized as one of America’s Top Doctor’s 15 years in a row.

Lee J. Strang, the John W. Stoepler Professor of Law and Values in the College of Law.

Strang is an expert in constitutional law, particularly originalism and constitutional interpretation. He has expertise on the topic of law and religion and the history of Catholic legal education. He is highly sought as an invited speaker and expert on constitutional law matters and has presented his work at more than 150 conferences at top institutions. Since arriving at UT, Strang has authored 17 articles, two book chapters and five book reviews, as well as co-written a 1,500-page casebook. His work is highly regarded; Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens cited Strang’s work on the original meaning of “religion” in the First Amendment. Strang’s work also was cited in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Hobby Lobby case.

Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement were:

Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement were Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach and Dr. Andrew Jorgensen.

Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach
, associate professor of educational foundations and leadership in the Judith Herb College of Education. She is the co-chair of the UT Anti-Bullying Task Force, a campus violence prevention and protection trainer for the Department of Justice, and author of “School Shootings and Suicides: Why We Must Stop the Bullies.”

“Dr. Pescara-Kovach has performed countless service in the community in working with the prevention of tragedy in our schools and workplaces. She works with University and community agencies in multiple stages: preventing bullying and other aggressive behaviors; preventing targeted violence and suicide; and postvention of first responders, victims and witnesses when such incidents occur,” one nominator wrote. “While many faculty think their work is life-changing, few (outside the medical fields) can honestly claim their work saves lives; Dr. Pescara-Kovach is such a faculty member.”

Dr. Andrew Jorgensen, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He studied climate change during his sabbatical at the National Council for Science and the Environment, helping to create Climate Adaption Mitigation E-Learning, an online program with more than 300 resources on climate change.

“Dr. Jorgensen has given more than 150 lectures to general public audiences all over the world about climate change. Having been an audience member, I can attest to the way he presents scientific knowledge in a nonpolitical, approachable way that makes a strong case for the need to address this topic,” one nominator wrote. “I admire his energy, commitment and passion, and am deeply respectful of his personal mission to educate as many people as he can about the importance of climate change to our global future.”

Recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award were:

Taking home Outstanding Teacher Awards were, from left, Dr. Patricia Sopko, Dr. Ruslan Slutsky, Dr. Jillian Bornak, Dr. Nitin Puri and Dr. Todd Crail.

Dr. Jillian Bornak
, associate lecturer of physics and astronomy in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She began teaching at the University in 2014.

“She brought her enthusiasm for science into the classroom every Tuesday and Thursday night when we were all tired and drained. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and her energy made it easy to show up to every class that semester,” one nominator wrote. “She gave us every tool we needed to learn the material and pass her course with a good grade. She taught us with both ease and eagerness for her students to learn. Her students gained knowledge of these tough physics concept without ever feeling like we were too behind or too incapable of learning these concepts. The University is lucky to have her.”

Dr. Todd Crail, associate lecturer of environmental sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He joined the faculty in 2012.

“I have yet to meet any professor as engaging and passionate about the environment as Dr. Crail,” one nominator wrote. “He has a distinct voice and motivation in what he teaches — take action. If you want a better world, a better environment, then you have to act upon it. Dr. Crail encourages students’ critical thinking, he supports the curious mind, and he makes time for his students.” Another noted, “He has changed the lives of so many students, and he deserves to finally be rewarded for all the hours of hard work and dedication that he puts into his class, activities, service learning, and the Department of Environmental Sciences.”

Dr. Nitin Puri, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. He has been at the University since 2012.

“Dr. Puri teaches physiology with great passion and consistently has the highest turnouts for lectures and review sessions. He expects the most from his students and repeatedly encourages you to think like a physician,” one nominator wrote. “Dr. Puri’s teaching style is interactive and certainly yields the strongest staying power of the basic sciences. I still use his notes to prepare for clinical rotations. Dr. Puri is more than a teacher. He is a fierce advocate for students, an outstanding mentor and, most importantly, a genuine person.” Another wrote, “Dr. Puri prepares you for the future, not just exams, but for clinical practice unlike any other professor.”

Dr. Ruslan Slutsky, professor of early childhood education, higher education and special education in the Judith Herb College of Education. He came to the University in 2001.

“Dr. Slutsky always makes time for his students. He is always willing to give extra help, and he goes out of his way to provide students with learning experiences outside of the classroom — research opportunities, helps send projects to conferences, etc. His lectures are always thought-provoking and stimulate deep classroom discussions. He expects a lot from his students and, in turn, his students achieve great things,” one nominator wrote. “I am thankful to have had him as a professor and am thankful for all the things he has done for the college, as well as the University and community as a whole.”

Dr. Patricia Sopko, instructor in the College of Nursing. She joined the faculty in 2010.

“I was essentially failing my pathopharmocology class despite hours of studying. I always felt the exams to be very fair, and I approached Dr. Sopko to help me understand what I was doing wrong,” one nominator wrote. “When I did eventually speak with her, she in no way looked down upon me or made me feel intimidated, despite the fact that I should have approached her long before to ask for help. She not only clarified what I was doing wrong, she also made sure I was properly preparing for the final exam. She helped me improve my overall critical thinking abilities. The fact that she took the extra time to help me is something that I greatly appreciate.”

Visiting scholar to address ‘Mindful Resistance Under a U.S. Autocracy’

Graduate students in the Judith Herb College of Education are bringing in a visiting scholar with the help of a $4,000 award from the Graduate Student Association.

Dr. Aurora Chang is a visiting scholar from Loyola University’s School of Education, where she is an assistant professor in teaching and learning. Her course work focuses on multicultural education, school reform, undocumented students, Chicana feminist epistemology, and urban schooling.


Chang will give a talk titled “I Can’t be a Pessimist Because I am Alive: Intersectional Storytelling, Educational Agency, and Mindful Resistance Under a U.S. Autocracy” Wednesday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in Health and Human Sciences Building Room 1711.

The free, public event will include a question-and-answer session and will be followed by a reception with refreshments and light snacks.

“Understanding intersectionality and its implications is necessary to living in a diverse democratic society. We cannot afford to ignore the fact that we are all individuals with multiple identities that converge to affect how we interact with the world and how the world interacts with us,” said Jessica L. Swan, graduate teaching assistant. “When we interact with others, we must see them for all that they are; we must recognize and understand each individual as a whole person and approach them with this in our minds.”

Chang also will speak at a lunch Thursday, March 16, at 12:30 p.m. in Health and Human Sciences Building Room 1711. 

“This is a time for participant-driven dialogue, and has historically in similar past events proven to be focused on critical reflection and interaction with the purpose of developing shared understandings of topics raised by participants,” Swan said.

Both events are free and open to the University community as well as the Toledo community.

“The speaking engagement and the lunchtime dialogue will benefit people because it will provide them with inspiration to think critically and reflect on our current political climate and its implications for themselves and others,” Swan said. “If we never initiate the conversation, we cannot work toward the development of shared understandings and the improvement of our community and our society as a whole.”

Nationally renowned educator to speak Jan. 26 on Scott Park Campus

The University of Toledo will host one of the country’s foremost experts in teaching education during a free “Diverse Teachers Matter” program Thursday, Jan. 26.

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, premier pedagogical theorist and renowned teacher educator, will discuss the impact diverse teachers have on student populations, as well as the community’s importance in supporting teachers and contributing to increasing diversity in education.

ed-flyerThe public program will begin at 7 p.m. in the Scott Park Campus Auditorium.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a more important educator in the U.S. today,” said Dr. Lynne Hamer, professor in the Judith Herb College of Education’s Educational Theory and Social Foundations Program and coordinator of Teach Toledo, the college’s degree program created to attract a diverse pool of students into higher education. “She has focused attention on the importance of explicit attention to racial and ethnic diversity, most importantly bringing ‘critical race theory,’ a theory developed in legal studies, into use in education. She also developed the concept of ‘culturally relevant pedagogy,’ introducing it in 1995 and continually applying it to modern teaching methodology.”

Ladson-Billings is the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In December, she was elected to a four-year term as president of the National Academy of Education, which supports research for the advancement of education policy and practice. According to its website, members are invited from “a very select group of education experts from all over the world.”

Ladson-Billings is a 10-year member of the academy.

She also is past president of the American Educational Research Association and winner of the Brock International Prize in Education (2012), a monetary award honoring outstanding scholarship and research in education.

In January, Education Week’s “Straight Up” blogger Rick Hess named her the third most influential education scholar in the U.S.

Ladson-Billings’ book, “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children,” was published in 1994 to high praise from the national education community. The narrative followed eight successful educators in primarily African-American environments. A second book updating the lives and careers of the “Dreamkeepers” was published in 2009.

“Anyone concerned about the equity and quality in schools” is welcome to attend the event, Hamer said. “For education to be an equitable system, and for students to have a quality education that prepares them as citizens in a diverse society, teachers need to mirror the larger population in terms of diversity.”

“Diverse Teachers Matter” is sponsored by the Judith Herb College of Education, UT’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Toledo Public Schools. It is one of several events offered by the College of Education to commemorate its 100th year.

For more information, email lynne.hamer@utoledo.edu or call 419.530.6126.

Association of Black Faculty and Staff renames scholarship in honor of professor emeritus

More than 70 guests attended a tribute to Dr. Joseph C. Sommerville, UT professor emeritus in the Judith Herb College of Education, at the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting held Nov. 7 in the Law Center McQuade Law Auditorium.

UT colleagues; former students from as far away as Chicago; Toledo city government officials, including Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson; family and fellow church members; community stakeholders and friends all gathered to honor Sommerville, who retired from the University in 1992 after 22 years.

Colleagues and friends recently attended the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting during which its annual scholarship was renamed in honor of Dr. Joseph Sommerville, professor emeritus of education.

Colleagues and friends recently attended the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting during which its annual scholarship was renamed in honor of Dr. Joseph Sommerville, professor emeritus of education.

During his tenure, Sommerville was chairman of the Department of Education and served on numerous UT committees. Additionally, as a superannuate professor, he taught courses in administration until 1997.

Several months ago, when the Association of Black Faculty and Staff sought to rename its annual student scholarship, it decided to forgo dedicating it to a nationally known African-American leader. Explained Dr. Anthony Quinn, current association president and assistant dean in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, “We realized we didn’t need to go out of town to find a hero. Instead, we are renaming the Association of Black Faculty and Staff scholarship in recognition of Dr. Joseph Sommerville.”

During tributes, former students praised Sommerville for his approachability, consummate professionalism and gentlemanly demeanor. Stated one, Paul Raczkowski, “Dr. Sommerville gave us practical lessons to use as educators, not just concepts to apply in the classroom.

“He really appreciated what we faced every day — ‘hormones walking in tennis shoes,’” Raczkowski said jokingly referring to teenage students. “He preached to do only what’s best for students. Period. That’s something a lot of people today should still remember.”

Dr. Crystal Ellis, former superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said, “Joe Sommerville will live on and on and on in the lives he’s touched. I’m just glad we’re honoring him while he’s still with us.”

In addition to Sommerville having the association’s annual scholarship named in his honor, Toledo Councilwoman Cecelia Adams also presented him with a special resolution from the city. Further, the pastor of Sommerville’s church, the Rev. James Willis, declared that Sommerville’s ongoing contributions give credence to the old adage, “I’d rather see a sermon any day than hear one.”

Indeed, since retirement, Sommerville actively continues community, fraternal and educational service, despite declining health. He has served on the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Board of Trustees, and also was the first president of AARP Ohio for nearly six years. More recently, when UT launched Brothers on the Rise to help at-risk African-American and Latino students, Sommerville was among the first in the community to answer the call for mentors. He also continues to be a Sunday school teacher, as well as chairman emeritus of the Deacon Board of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.

Sommerville is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta — where he was an undergraduate student when the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also was enrolled — and the University of Michigan. He recounted in a recent video that documents his life — recorded with Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion — that when he lived in the South, he saw much violence over civil rights issues, such as houses being fire-bombed when homeowners were known supporters of African Americans.

Witnessing such hate crimes during his youth, Sommerville has dedicated his life to the success of students, especially underrepresented students, which also is the mission of the Association of Black Faculty and Staff.

Conference celebrates conclusion of NURTURES science education program

The University of Toledo will recognize the conclusion of a successful science education program with a conference to showcase how local educators incorporated high-quality science inquiry into their curriculum.

The NURTURES program, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University enRich Early Childhood Science, was a five-year, $10 million program funded by the National Science Foundation to engage teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive science lessons.

The NURTURES conference will take place Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. It will feature presentations from local teachers and administrators who incorporated science inquiry and engineering in their classrooms and schools through the program.

Educators from Toledo Public Schools, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo and local charter schools will present topics that include:

• Overcoming common science misconceptions in the classroom;

• Developing discourse and critical thinking skills around science;

• Incorporating engineering design at the early childhood level;

• Integrating common core subjects with science; and

• Engaging with parents and community resources to promote science.

During the NURTURES program, 330 teachers of preschool through third grade and administrators participated in a total of 544 hours of professional development in the teaching of science inquiry and engineering design for early childhood classrooms.

Through NURTURES, teachers were exposed to high-quality science and engineering activities and worked to use them within their classrooms to increase student comprehension and academic achievement, said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering. Data from standardized testing in Toledo Public Schools show an increase in reading, early literacy and math scores in students of teachers who have participated in NURTURES, she added.

“These findings are very significant and provide evidence that the teachers in Toledo Public Schools and area schools worked diligently to improve science teaching and learning,” Czerniak said.

Led by UT, the NURTURES program engaged a number of local partners for a community-based complementary learning model to support early learners. Those partners include Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Catholic Schools, Monroe County Schools, the former Apple Tree Nursery School, the East Toledo Family Center Day Care, UT Ritter Planetarium, Imagination Station, Toledo Zoo, Metroparks Toledo, Toledo Botanical Gardens, the former Lourdes University Nature Laboratory, Challenger Learning Center, YMCA, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and WGTE Public Media.

UT partners with Imagination Station to develop hands-on learning for area youth

The University of Toledo is teaming up with Imagination Station to develop a preschool network to promote hands-on science exploration in the region.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur announced last week a $311,676 competitive grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Grants for Museums awarded to the Imagination Station to create the network, which will be called Prime Time, that will promote early STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in partnership with UT and other local educational partners.

“It is vitally important that we expose young children to STEM educational opportunities,” Kaptur said. “We know that investments in early education programs provide significant long-term dividends in a child’s education. The Imagination Station is the perfect facilitator to bring together our regional groups to enhance the STEM education of our youngest citizens. While this specific project focuses on preschoolers, the science center is a vital resource for children and adults of all ages in our region.”

Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering, was the primary author of the successful grant proposal.

“The University of Toledo’s role is to provide best practices resulting from our previous research to engage both pre-K children and their parents in inquiry-based learning through meaningful play,” she said. “It is important to let children play and explore, but we want to enhance that experience with questions about why did that happen or what do you think the result will be if we do this differently? It is getting young people excited about predicting the outcome and then learning through hands-on investigation.”

Czerniak led the UT NURTURES research program, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University enRich Early Childhood Science, which was funded with a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The interactive family programs and the take-home family science packs created for NURTURES will be updated to fit this new Prime Time program. UT educators Dr. Susanna Hapgood and Dr. Lacey Strickler-Eppler, who are associated with the NURTURES program, also will provide training for Imagination Station staff.

In addition to UT, the community partners include the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Earl Learner’s Collaborative, Aspire, Polly Fox Academy and Summit YMCA Head Start.

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!”