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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.”

UT advocates for science research as Earth Day nears

As Earth Day 2017 approaches, The University of Toledo is hosting a series of events to connect with science enthusiasts and interested citizens of all ages about the vital role science plays in all lives.

The Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is co-sponsoring the March for Science in downtown Toledo along with Imagination Station this weekend to correspond with the national March for Science in Washington, D.C., in celebration of science’s contributions to society.

“Our love of science has led us to advocate for using scientific evidence to help guide public policies,” said Dr. Susanne Nonekowski, associate lecturer in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and president of the AWIS Northwestern Ohio Chapter. “The mission of the march is to share and highlight the contributions of science and to inspire future generations to uphold the values of curiosity, free speech, free inquiry and critical thinking.”

The March for Science rally in Toledo will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at International Park. The march starts at 11 a.m. Participants will walk together across the Martin Luther King Bridge and end at Imagination Station. Interactive activities, which include UT student groups presenting Asian carp, algal bloom, physics, astronomy and chemistry research, will start at 11:30 a.m. at tables outside Imagination Station.

Speakers at the 10 a.m. rally include Dr. Tom E. Brady, founder of Plastic Technologies Inc. and sponsor of the Brady Engineering Innovation Center at The University of Toledo, and Nick Dulaney, a junior studying physics at UT who recently helped discover a new star and is the lead author in a published research paper regarding the discovery.

Several UT scientists are traveling to Washington, D.C., this weekend to participate in the national March for Science, including bird expert Dr. Henry Streby, UT assistant professor in the Environmental Sciences Department and ornithologist.

“This is a critical time for science in our country and around the world,” Streby said. “Ignoring or belittling science comes at a high cost to our society and our planet in the long run.”

UT will hold its 17th annual Earth Fest Tuesday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Centennial Mall.

The event, which is run by student organizations that include Building Ohio’s Sustainable Energy Future and the Society of Environmental Education, will focus on practicing sustainable habits and protecting the soil, water and air. Activities will include a bag and bottle swap, spring plant fair, giant Jenga, solar-powered boat races, a wind turbine, and prizes of Chipotle gift cards.

The UT Lake Erie Center will host an open house Thursday, April 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. The public is invited to experience live demonstrations, tours of the facility and a scientific poster show to learn about the wide variety of algal bloom and invasive species research being done by UT scientists. The UT Lake Erie Center is located at 6200 Bayshore Road, Oregon, Ohio.

“Water quality research at the Lake Erie Center is currently focused on the effects of excess nutrient runoff into the western basin of Lake Erie,” said Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor, chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences, and interim director of the Lake Erie Center. “The excessive nutrients foster algae growth, some of which is toxic and known as harmful algal blooms, which is being studied by Dr. Tom Bridgeman. Dr. Daryl Dwyer’s lab works with a variety of agencies to engineer and build wetlands to remove excessive nutrients before reaching the lake.”

The UT College of Engineering will hold its Senior Design Expo Friday, April 28, from noon to 3 p.m. on the first floor of Nitschke Hall. Seniors in engineering will display and demonstrate their senior design projects.

The next Saturday Morning Science program will be Saturday, April 29, at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100 and feature the topic, “From the Stone Age to Today: Why Do Humans Love Music?” The free event is open to the public.

The Saturday Morning Science lecture series presented by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics features presentations on a broad range of topics in science and technology.

Professor becomes Fellow of National Academy of Inventors

Dr. Sarit Bhaduri, professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering in the College of Engineering, and director of the Multifunctional Materials Laboratory, has been elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. He is the first faculty member from UT to be inducted into the academy.

Being elected to be a National Academy of Inventors Fellow is a high professional distinction granted to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a substantial impact on the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.

Bhaduri

“This award provides great recognition of Dr. Bhaduri’s success in translating his research into commercial opportunities that can provide great benefit to individuals,” Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president of research, said. “His ability to look for applications of his research is impressive, and this award is a signal that UT is a national leader in research and technology commercialization.”

“This recognition has an energizing effect on me for inventing newer processes and products for the benefit of the society,” Bhaduri said.

This is the third fellowship of a national body Bhaduri has been elected to, having been recognized as a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

Bhaduri is listed as an inventor in approximately 35 U.S. and foreign patents, and has 37 applications pending. His inventions include wear resistant metallic alloys, innovative alkaline earth bone cement, antibacterial coatings, and synthesis of nanoparticles. He has strong expertise in the development of a wide array of materials used in structural applications, including orthopaedics and dentistry.

“I am excited and at the same time humbled by the fact that I will be joining a very elite group of people such as Nobel laureates and members of national academies of science, engineering and medicine,” Bhaduri said.

2016 Fellows will in inducted Thursday, April 6, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

UT ready to celebrate Engineers Week

Nerf gun tournaments, marble racing and more will be part of The University of Toledo’s recognition of Engineers Week, Feb. 19-25.

The annual “E-week” was started by the national organization, DiscoverE, to celebrate how engineers make a difference in the world, increase public dialogue about the need for engineers, and bring engineering to life for students, educators and parents.

Spearheaded by the UT Engineering Council, student organizations at the College of Engineering have planned events in the spirit of E-week.

Listed by date, highlights for the week will include:

Monday, Feb. 20 

• E-week Kickoff Luncheon, 11 a.m., Nitschke Hall. This event will spotlight diversity as students and faculty will add pins to a map to represent their countries/states of origin.

• Tire Bowling, 3:30 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

Tuesday, Feb. 21

• Engineer for a Day, 9 a.m. Area high school students will tour UT’s engineering facilities and have lunch with College of Engineering students and professional engineers before spending the afternoon shadowing a practicing engineering professional in the community.

• Concrete Bowling, 12:30 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

• Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, 3 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

• Catapult Competition, 4 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

• Historical Spotlight on Black Engineers, 5 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

Wednesday, Feb. 22

• Spring Career Expo, 12:30 p.m., Engineering Complex. More than 140 companies will visit campus to meet with approximately 600 UT engineering students and graduates. Read more here.

• The Mr. and Ms. Engineering pageant-style competition, 6:45 p.m., Nitschke Hall Auditorium.

Thursday, Feb. 23

• Nerf Gun Skill Tournament, noon, Nitschke Hall.

• Egg-Drop Contest, 1 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall. Students will test their small, lightweight containers designed to protect a raw egg dropped from successive heights.

Friday, Feb. 24

• Corn Hole Tournament, noon, first floor of Nitschke Hall.

• Student Entrepreneur Expo, 2:30 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall. Freshman engineering students will be showcasing their projects, which include a trash can bracket for a lawn mower, an iron-on insert to increase the size of pockets in women’s jeans, a radial dog collar, a modified ankle brace, and more.

• Balloon Rocket, 2 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

• Marble Racing, 4 p.m., first floor of Nitschke Hall.

Saturday, Feb. 25

• Private Screening of “Dream Big,” 2 p.m., Franklin Park Mall. Free passes are available; call 419.530.8040 to learn more.

Spring Engineering Career Expo set for Feb. 22

More than 140 companies will have representatives at the UT Spring Engineering Career Expo Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the College of Engineering Complex.

“Our employer participants include companies such as American Electric Power, Cooper Tire and Rubber, Dana, DTE Energy, DePuy Synthes/Johnson & Johnson, Fiat Chrysler, First Energy, Ford Motor Co., GE, Honda, Marathon, Nationwide, Norfolk Southern, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois, Zimmer Biomet and many more,” said Dr. Vickie Kuntz, director of the Engineering Career Development Center.

Approximately 600 engineering students, graduates and alumni are expected to attend the expo.

“The current job outlook for engineering students in the UT Engineering College is certainly bright as evidenced by the record number of employers registered to attend the college’s spring career expo,” Kuntz said. “This reflects very positively on the quality of both our programs and our students. It also demonstrates our dynamic and mutually beneficial partnership we have with our industry participants.” 

Employers are seeking undergraduate students to participate in engineering co-op assignments, as well as leadership development programs. Employers also are seeking seniors and graduates for full-time employment. 

The UT College of Engineering undergraduate mandatory co-op program is one of only eight mandatory engineering co-op programs in the country. 

“Many students indicate our co-op program is the reason they attend the UT College of Engineering,” Kuntz said. “Our program requires our students to graduate with one full year of professional engineering experience. Our students feel confident seeking full-time employment upon graduation. Co-op employers are able to work with these students and are able to determine how the student fits within their organizations. It’s a win-win situation for our students and the employers who hire them.”

For more information, go to eng.utoledo.edu/coop/career_expo or contact Kuntz at vickie.kuntz@utoledo.edu

Physician/author to discuss health and race

Being black can be bad for your health — Dr. Damon Tweedy wrote about hearing that as a first-year medical student at Duke University in 1997.

His book, “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine,” became a New York Times Bestseller and was one of Time magazine’s top 10 nonfiction books in 2015.

Tweedy

“From the beginning of life to the very end — and everywhere in between — African Americans continue to experience disproportionately worse health outcomes,” Tweedy said. “You can name pretty much any disease, and you’re likely to find that it’s either more common in black people; black people who get the disease have a worse course; or both of these conditions. There are a lot of factors involved with this, and I explore many of them in my book.”

Tweedy will discuss race and health disparities Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1200.

For several years, the assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and staff physician at the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center has written and lectured on race and medicine. His articles have been published by The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, as well as by several medical journals.

In his book, he wrote, “Whether it is premature birth, infant mortality, homicide, childhood obesity or HIV infection, black children and young adults disproportionately bear the brunt of these medical and social ills. By middle age, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer have a suffocating grip on the health of black people and maintain this stranglehold on them well into their senior years.”

“I wanted to put a human touch to these issues of racial health disparities — examining how this impacts real people in everyday life,” Tweedy said. “Many people are more likely to engage in these issues when they are presented as stories rather than simply as statistics.

“I also wanted to explore some of the unique challenges faced by African-American doctors — a largely unexplored perspective in popular medical narratives,” he added.

His free, public talk is sponsored by We Are STEMM, a UT organization dedicated to empowering and inspiring students from underrepresented populations who are interested in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Led by faculty and staff, the group celebrates and supports diversity in several UT colleges: Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Engineering; Medicine and Life Sciences; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Health and Human Services.

“I found Dr. Tweedy’s book to be inspirational. While it reveals a story often heard in the community of underrepresented groups pursuing higher education, I think he has been able to deliver many aspects in a manner that may be enlightening and perhaps more palatable to those freed from this ‘experience,’” said Dr. Anthony Quinn, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and chair of We Are STEMM.

“In contemporary society, there is the perception that history can be wiped clean with a single piece of new legislation — no need to deal with lasting psychological scars inflicted by past overt and covert policies or the entrenched social norms that are retained and vigorously guarded for generations in spite of new laws,” Quinn continued. “Dr. Tweedy brings out the adverse and lasting impact that discriminatory practices can have on individuals and society long past the time of those who initially implemented them.”

Tweedy’s talk is one of the University’s events scheduled for Black History Month.

Reception slated for longtime dean

Campus community members are invited to a farewell reception for Dr. Nagi Naganathan Friday, Feb. 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center.

In November, Naganathan, dean of the College of Engineering, was named the seventh president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Naganathan

Naganathan

“As you can imagine, this is a bittersweet moment for me. UT granted me the privilege of shaping the futures of thousands of students in many ways. I am truly thankful for the same, and I am so proud of how well my students are doing after their graduation,” Naganathan said. “When I joined UT three decades ago, there was in no way I could have imagined the wonderful journey I have had here. This was possible because of the extraordinary friendship and support of my faculty and staff colleagues, as well as our friends and benefactors in the larger UT community, for which I will always remain grateful.”

Naganathan joined the UT faculty in 1986 and has led the College of Engineering as dean since 2003 after serving as the college’s interim dean for two years. He also served as interim president of the University from 2014 to 2015. Naganathan is a tenured professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, with expertise in smart material systems and structures, robotics, vibrations and control, and microcomputer applications in electromechanical systems.

Under Naganathan’s leadership, the College of Engineering has achieved record high student enrollments and elevated its mandatory co-op experience program — one of only eight in the nation — exceeding 15,000 placements in partnership with more than 1,600 employers in more than 40 states in the U.S. and in more than 30 countries.

He grew the College of Engineering with the addition of the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex and the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center. Naganathan also created the Engineering Leadership Institute with philanthropic support from Roy and Marcia Armes. Roy Armes is a 1975 UT mechanical engineering graduate who served as CEO of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

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.”

Electrical engineering student lights up holidays

It’s a cool Yule outside iHeart’s WRVF station in downtown Toledo as more than 3,000 lights in the shape of a Christmas tree pulsate in time to 101.5 the River’s holiday music.

Last February, Alec Connolly was given the task of brightening up and adding joy to the sonic world this Christmas season. The UT junior majoring in electrical engineering is completing his co-op with iHeartMedia.

Alec Connolly, a UT junior majoring in electrical engineering who is working a co-op at iHeartMedia, posed for a photo by the lights that he synced for 101.5's Christmas on the River.

Alec Connolly, a UT junior majoring in electrical engineering who is working a co-op at iHeartMedia, posed for a photo by the lights that he synced for 101.5’s Christmas on the River.

“My boss, Gary Fullhart [market director of engineering and information technology at iHeartMedia] came up with the idea, and we brainstormed and put the project together,” Connolly said. “He went up to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, Mich., and he put this big bag of Christmas lights on my desk, and that’s when I knew it was actually going to happen.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Connolly began researching the project. By April, the UT engineering student had three units built for stations in Toledo, Lima and Napoleon.

“Most of the Christmas displays that you see are programmed to prerecorded songs; they pick 10 or 15 songs, and they program each individual light,” Connolly explained. “What we wanted to do is program it in real time. I can’t program every single light because on the radio, it’s random Christmas songs that play, so I wanted to do it in real time.”

Add a Raspberry Pi — a computer about the size of a credit card — running the free software LightShow Pi and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

“The Raspberry Pi actually listens to the audio and converts it to the lights, which is what you see on the tree,” Connolly said. “Playing along to the music, the tree looks absolutely fantastic.”

“This is an interesting work that Alec has done,” Dr. Mansoor Alam, professor and chair of electrical engineering and computer science, said. “This shows that electrical engineering is not just hard work, but is also fun.”

“I visited Alec’s employer, iHeart Media, and talked to him about this project earlier this year,” Karen J. Gauthier, associate co-op director for electrical and computer science engineering, said. “His enthusiasm and willingness to go the extra mile to complete a project was evident.”

Synchronizing holiday songs and the lights proved inspirational for Connolly: “I’m planning to get the materials and make a unit again so that my house next year will have a display set up that’s synced to the River as well.”

The Sylvania resident wrote about the project for Radio World; read his article here.

And see the project in action in this video. Or dash down by the station at 125 S. Superior St.

“Folks can park by the Spaghetti Warehouse and sit in their cars and listen to Christmas on the River and watch,” Connolly said.

Office of Research to gain support of two faculty members

Two senior UT faculty members will bring their experience to help advance UT’s research enterprise.

Schall

Schall

Dr. Connie Schall, professor of chemical engineering, will be the interim associate vice president for research beginning Jan. 1, and Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health, will join as a faculty fellow for the remainder of the 2016-17 academic year.

“I am delighted that President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu are such strong advocates of UT’s research mission by providing the financial support to have two talented individuals contribute their expertise to our research office,” Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president of research, said.

Schall will represent the UT Research Office both on and off campus in Calzonetti’s absence. She also will provide leadership and support to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Schall, who has a strong record of publications and external funding on protein crystallization and ionic liquids, can help provide support to faculty members preparing and submitting grant proposals to external agencies.

Thompson

Thompson

Working closely with the University Research Council, Thompson will focus her energies on the assessment of the University’s research enterprise that will be incorporated into the UT strategic plan. This assessment will examine UT’s current research support infrastructure and staffing, as well as provide direction for strategic investments to enhance the institution’s national research stature.

Thompson, who also is the co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living, has a broad portfolio of publications and external grants, and most recently has been involved in cancer survivorship, firearm violence, and public health policy research.

Both Schall and Thompson will have offices in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs administrative suite in the Research and Technology Building.