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PhD student spreading love to children with cancer on Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air year-round for Michaela Margida.

The 29-year-old University of Toledo PhD student who solves environmental problems through mathematical modeling prepares for Valentine’s Day with a passion to put a smile on the faces of hundreds of children with cancer or other chronic illnesses.

Michaela Margida started the Valentine Project seven years ago to brighten up the holiday for children with cancer and chronic illnesses.

“Valentine’s Day is all about love, but it can end up feeling isolating for those children because of social stigma associated with illness, appearance changes or absences from school,” Margida said. “Instead of being about the number of cards a child receives or whether someone has a crush on someone else, I wanted to take this holiday and reclaim it for these kids so they can forget about the way that illness affects their life just for a few minutes and feel special and loved.”

Margida, a childhood brain tumor survivor, and her brother, Gregory, created the Valentine Project seven years ago. The nonprofit organization collects care packages from volunteers around the world and ships them to children’s homes in time for Valentine’s Day.

It’s first year started with 80 children in Ohio. It has grown to nearly 1,000.

“For the first time this year, we branched out geographically,” Margida said. “My brother moved to San Francisco and started a branch in California.”

The Valentine Project’s local drop-off point — Margida’s home in the Old Orchard neighborhood adjacent to campus — recently received a care package for a 5-year-old girl that includes a U.S. puzzle, Wonder Woman doll, stuffed poodle, book, heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a pair of Disney leggings.

Margida and her mother, along with other volunteers, examine each donated care package to ensure all gifts are safe and age appropriate. They add to the packages, if needed, and then ship them to reach the children by Valentine’s Day.

This labor of love is a way of giving back after the acts of kindness her family received when Margida was a little girl.

“I was 5 years old when I started getting sick,” Margida said. “After I had surgery to remove the brain tumor, I had to learn to walk and feed myself again. Hearing stories of how family and friends supported my family during that incredibly hard and scary time by bringing us a meal or visiting us in the hospital taught me that small acts of kindness can mean so very much to people going through difficult times. Those acts of kindness and love kept my parents going. That’s the spirit of the Valentine Project.”

This time of year, the charity work is all-consuming. Margida credits her PhD adviser, Dr. Daryl Moorhead in the Department of Environmental Sciences, with helping impose order on her “sometimes crazy life.”

When not organizing care packages, Margida is focused on her research in plant litter decomposition.

“I am interested in what happens to the carbon dioxide stored inside leaves and other plant parts when they die,” Margida said.

Before she arrived at UT, Margida worked as a marine biology teacher for middle and high school students in Sarasota, Fla. She also volunteered with Jesuit Volunteer Corps to teach lower-income adults how to manage their electric bill through using less energy in Baltimore.

“I feel called to give back,” Margida said. “Life is happening right this moment, and we can all begin to make a difference today. Love is what will change the world.”

The Valentine Project is in need of volunteers and donations to help pay for shipping costs. Go to thevalentineproject.org to learn more. Registration begins in December to make a care package for Valentine’s Day 2019.

Professor writes, reads poem for new Toledo mayor

Poetry is a passion for Dr. Jim Ferris.

So when he received a request from Wade Kapszukiewicz to write a poem that could be read when he would be sworn in as the new mayor of Toledo, Ferris put pen to paper.

Ferris

“I wrote a poem that seemed to work for the moment; it’s called ‘Laborare,’” Ferris, professor and Ability Center of Greater Toledo Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, said. “The Latin title means ‘To Work.’

“My initial plan was to pick something off the shelf. Inspiration to order has never been my strong suit. But I found myself thinking about the Latin phrase on the Toledo city seal, ‘laborare est orare’ [to work is to pray], and that led me to pick up a pen.”

Ferris, who began his second two-year term as the Lucas County poet laureate last summer, read the poem Jan. 2 when Kapszukiewicz officially took office as the Glass City’s mayor.

“Laborare” also was included in the program for the mayor’s inaugural events last weekend.

“It is quite an honor to serve as poet laureate of Lucas County; I hope I can be an ambassador for poetry and the arts in general in northwest Ohio,” Ferris said. “And it is quite gratifying when people find my work engaging and useful.”

He is the author of “Slouching Towards Guantanamo,” “Facts of Life” and “The Hospital Poems.” His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, Text and Performance Quarterly, and the Georgia Review.

“For me, poetry is not separate from my work to create greater access and opportunity for people with disabilities, people of color, and other oppressed groups in society,” Ferris said. “My commitment to diversity and inclusion informs my poems, whether that commitment is readily apparent or not.”

As Lucas County poet laureate, he shares his love of words and presents poetry to the area community.

“Samuel Taylor Coleridge described poetry as the best words in the best order; I think of language as humanity’s most important tool and toy. We do things with language, we use language to perform work, and sometimes we are most productive when we are most playful,” Ferris said. “Language is fun, and this is sort of a productive paradox: I hope my poems are useful and fun at the same time, whether it’s laugh-out-loud fun or ‘Oh, that’s moving’ fun.”

Freeze frame: New book offers pictorial history of UT

There are 240 photos packed into the 128 pages of “University of Toledo.”

That’s a lot of pictures telling many stories in the new book by Barbara Floyd. Part of Arcadia Publishing’s Campus History Series, the work takes a look back at The University of Toledo.

Barbara Floyd holds her new book, “University of Toledo.”

“This book would not have been possible without the incredible images preserved in university archives created by photographers known and unknown,” Floyd said. “The Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections houses more than 15,000 UT images, and sifting through them to decide what to include in this book was a labor of love.”

Floyd was the perfect person to curate the book. She retired last month as director of the Canaday Center, where she worked 31 years, initially as university archivist and later also as director of special collections for 20 years.

And she is a UT alumna. She received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism, a master of arts degree in American history, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University.

“The University of Toledo changed my life,” Floyd said. “Having the chance to pay tribute to this beloved institution that means so much to so many was a wonderful opportunity.”

The pictorial review starts with one man who had a vision: Jesup W. Scott believed Toledo could be the “Future Great City of the World.”

“As a real estate investor, Jesup Scott saw the location of Toledo on railroad lines, on the Great Lakes, and near farmland as the elements of a future industrial powerhouse,” Floyd said. “And that future great city would need a university.”

Scott donated 160 acres of land to serve as an endowment for the Toledo University of Arts and Trade. While the school failed, it was resurrected in 1884 by Scott’s sons, who gave the remaining assets to the city to create a manual training school.

“By 1909, the institution was becoming a full-fledged university, but struggled financially and needed a permanent location,” Floyd said.

When Dr. Henry J. Doermann became president of the University in 1928, he began planning for a new campus. A $2.8 million bond levy was passed that November, less than one year before the Great Depression.

A photo shows Doermann at the 1929 groundbreaking ceremony for University Hall.

“President Doermann selected the Collegiate Gothic design elements of the great universities of Europe because he wanted the architecture to inspire students,” Floyd said.

University Hall with its iconic tower and dual courtyards continues to be one of the most photographed landmarks in Toledo.

Images chronicle the University’s growing campus and burgeoning student life, which flourished even more when UT joined Ohio’s higher education system in 1967.

“The focus of this book is on the major events that shaped the University,” Floyd said. “It celebrates the University’s growth as an institution.”

There was a lot to celebrate in 2006 when UT merged with the Medical University of Ohio. At the time, it was estimated the new entity would have a $1.1 billion impact on Ohio’s economy.

A few pages also commemorate when UT was in the national spotlight. A smiling Chuck Ealey, the quarterback known as the “Wizard of Oohs and Aahs” who led the Rockets to a 35-0 record from 1969 to 1972, is in the book, along with a shot of the men’s basketball team playing Indiana in the inaugural game in Centennial Hall, now called Savage Arena. UT won, 59-57, with a basket at the buzzer to end the Hoosiers’ 33-game winning streak. And the women’s basketball team is shown celebrating its 2011 WNIT Championship.

Floyd gave credit to the late longtime UT photographer Bill Hartough, MCO photographer Jack Meade, and current University photographer Daniel Miller: “Their keen eyes captured events big and small, as well as campus life.”

“University of Toledo” is $21.99 and available at the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore and online book retailers.

UT quarterback’s journey one for the record books

When Logan Woodside first arrived on the campus of The University of Toledo, he figured he would have to be patient. With senior Terrance Owens calling the signals and Alabama transfer Phillip Ely waiting in the wings, Woodside assumed he would be redshirted, and possibly wait in the wings for another year after that before he had his chance to become a starter.

He was wrong. But then he was right.

Logan Woodside has the most passing yards of any UT quarterback: 10,083 going into this weekend’s MAC Championship Game.

Nearly five years down the line, Woodside’s career didn’t go exactly as he planned. But as he and the Rockets (10-2, 7-1 Mid-American Conference) prepare to play in the 2017 MAC Championship Game vs. Akron Saturday, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s been the best five years of my life,” said Woodside, who graduated last spring and his working on his master’s degree. “I’ve met some of my best friends here. When you’re a freshman, you want time to move fast. When you’re a fifth-year senior, it’s like, where’d all the time go?”

Rocket fans are probably wishing time would stand still and Woodside could be their quarterback forever. He has set virtually every Toledo passing record in the books, including the most passing yards in a season (4,129 in 2016) and in a career (10,083 going into Saturday’s MAC Championship Game), most touchdown passes in a season (45 in 2016) and career (89), and many others. He has led Toledo to 28 victories as the starting quarterback, second only to the legendary Chuck Ealey’s 35 wins from 1969 1971.

But the numbers hardly tell Woodside’s story.

Woodside did not redshirt as a freshman — that came later. Injuries to Owens in 2013 forced him into the lineup for four games. A year later, Ely won the starting position, but an early-season injury put Woodside in the lineup. Under Woodside’s leadership, UT went 9-4 with a bowl victory. Only a 27-24 loss at Northern Illinois kept the Rockets out of the MAC Championship Game.

Everything seemed to be going Woodside’s way. Until it wasn’t.

The following season, Ely beat him out for the starting position for the second straight time, leading Toledo to a 10-2 season. Woodside sat out the entire season, using the redshirt year he thought would come in his freshman season. He has called that season the most difficult of his life.

“Being told that I wasn’t good enough for the second straight year was difficult,” Woodside said. “But it motivated me and made me become a better player. I’m grateful now for the opportunity to have the extra year. I believed in my coaches, and I knew they would put me in the best situation possible. I trusted in them, and it all worked out.”

Since Woodside took over as the starter last year, it is hard to argue that there has ever been a more prolific passer to wear the Midnight Blue and Gold. He was named Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and the Vern Smith Leadership Award winner this season. The Vern Smith Leadership Award, named for the former Toledo athletic director, has been given annually to the league’s most outstanding player since 1982. Woodside is the fourth Rocket to win the award. This is his second consecutive season as a first-team All-MAC quarterback, the first Rocket QB to accomplish back-to-back first-team honors since Gene Swick, who was a three-time first-teamer from 1973 to 1975.

In addition, Woodside has been named a contender for the Heisman Trophy in each of the past two seasons.

It wasn’t the typical college football hero’s journey, true, but Woodside certainly made it a memorable one. And now, as the curtain is about to close on one of the all-time great Rockets, there is little doubt that Woodside has left his mark on the program.

“I hope people will remember the legacy I’ve left here,” Woodside said. “I gave it everything I had. I left it all out on the field.”

Engineering alumna begins full-time career with Microsoft

Courtney Greer wanted to be part of the computer revolution.

“Computers are all around us. Whether you know it or not, they impact our lives every single day,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of that impact and innovation.”

2017 UT graduate Courtney Greer has a lot to smile about; she started working at Microsoft in Chicago in July.

Greer graduated from The University of Toledo with a bachelor of science degree in computer science and engineering with a minor in business administration in May.

Shortly after graduation, she accepted a job offer from Microsoft, the sixth largest information technology company in the world by revenue.

“I actually didn’t know anything about computer science or engineering until my senior year of high school. Before that, I was in between interior design and psychology,” Greer said. “My mother convinced me to take a look at engineering because of my love for math. Math has always been my favorite subject, but I never really knew how to make a career out of it. Engineering was the perfect choice for me once I started to learn about it. I chose computer science engineering once I realized how much growth and opportunity there was in that field.”

Once she began her studies at UT, Greer became involved with several student organizations, sports and jobs. She said her four engineering co-ops, three of which are required by the College of Engineering before graduation, especially prepared her for her future working with tech.

“I did two [co-ops] with Lubrizol in Cleveland and two in San Francisco with Visa,” Greer said. “My internships helped me narrow down exactly what I was interested in my field and helped me network with people from all over.

Courtney Greer is congratulated by Bill McCreary, UT vice president and chief information and technology officer, for landing a job at Microsoft.

“My studies at UT taught me how to learn and how to love learning, which is going to be key stepping into such a fast-paced field,” she added. “I also wouldn’t be anywhere without my organization, the National Society of Black Engineers. I was a part of NSBE all five years on campus, and the professional workshops, resumé building, community service, engineering conventions and leadership opportunities I’ve had with my colleagues in the org had a huge impact on where I am today.”

Greer seems to have found her groove at Microsoft in Chicago, where she is a partner development manager, working with a team called One Commercial Partner.

“I quickly came to realize that an average day doesn’t exist in my role,” Greer explained. “My team is responsible for creating the growth of Microsoft’s cloud, Azure, in market. My sole responsibility is recruitment. I work within a team of about 20 individuals in different regions and areas of expertise to bring startups, small to medium businesses, and consumers to the cloud.

“Once we are able to get a consumer integrated into Azure, we become a partner with that brand, and, in turn, I become one of their brand champions on Microsoft’s behalf. We want our consumers to get all they can out of Azure; we want them to leverage new technologies relating to Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things and more. It is so fascinating to see how our consumers are able to leverage our technologies to change the world.”

She helps contact more than 300 accounts in the Midwest region. These accounts vary from manufacturing, financial services, health care and more.

“I need to understand what their company produces and their mission, but also try my best to predict the business and technology needs of each business I interact with. This is why I say no day is average,” Greer said.

“Any day I could be talking to a CEO and CTO of a million-dollar manufacturing company or four college students hoping to create an app that helps hospitals manage patient data. I could be working from home, or I could be working downtown and showing clients one of the Microsoft Technology Centers. I could be traveling to Vegas to a conference to speak to up-and-coming startups about the capabilities of Azure.

“No day is set in stone, which is what I love the most. I love getting to speak to people who have created these wonderful technologies and assisting them to get to the next step.”

Greer is also passionate about encouraging young women and other minorities to pursue their interests in engineering. According to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, only 14 percent of engineers are women.

“Don’t let failures stop you,” Greer advised. “I’ve read a lot of studies about how insecurities in minorities and women tend to be their downfall. They believe they have to be the best when surrounded by the majority either in school, work or in social interactions ‘or else they’ll think we’re all dumb,’ ‘or else they’ll think I don’t belong.’ It’s called the stereotype threat, and it can be very hurtful to both women and minorities in their studies.

“Don’t fall into that trap. Look at failures as opportunities for learning, no matter where or who you are. We all make mistakes. I learned this insight from a book I read titled ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck. I recommend anyone beginning a new phase in her or his life read that book as it is very impactful.”

Black Hawk ride, educational visits help UT team members understand military students

Two University of Toledo team members who work with students in the military had a once-in-a-lifetime experience this past summer that helped them better understand the students they serve — a ride in a Black Hawk helicopter.

“After I got over the fact that I wasn’t going to get sick, I was able to enjoy it,” said Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, dean of University College.

Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller smiled for the camera in the Black Hawk helicopter.

Julie Rippke, a program accountant in UT’s Financial Aid Office who awards National Guard scholarships, also enjoyed the five-minute ride.

“I didn’t know it was on my bucket list,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

The Black Hawk flight was just one piece of an educational visit planned by the Ohio National Guard. University personnel who serve students in the military were invited to Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus to learn more about the National Guard and how to better support students who enlist.

The University of Toledo has more than 120 students who are members of the National Guard, Rippke said. They are active military who train and must be ready to deploy to national disasters or wherever the military needs them.

Kopp Miller, who works with ROTC students in University College, also visited Fort Knox, Ky., last summer to learn more about how ROTC trains future officers. Five people from each of the eight ROTC brigades around the country were chosen to attend the two-day event.

Julie Rippke posed for a photo with the Black Hawk helicopter, which she rode in last summer.

Kopp Miller lunched with cadets and participated in some physical training exercises, including an obstacle course. She and other attendees also learned about emotional intelligence and how soldiers are prepared to handle harrowing situations.

Conversations with colleagues and ROTC leaders confirmed for Kopp Miller that UT has “a well-run, efficient, high-quality ROTC program,” she said. The University’s dedicated classrooms, offices, gym and scholarships set it apart.

Both visits helped Kopp Miller better comprehend what UT students in the military go through.

“It gave me a better understanding of how they’re trained, and the level of commitment from the cadets and the National Guard students as well as the people who train them,” she said.

Toledo wins conference-best fifth MAC Tournament Championship

Senior forward Sophie Pohl found the back of the net with five seconds remaining in overtime to propel Toledo over Bowling Green, 2-1, in the Mid-American Conference’s championship match Sunday afternoon at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio. The win gives the Rockets their conference-best fifth MAC Tournament Championship and clinches a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

With the clock winding down, sophomore Kelsey Kraft found Pohl on the left wing, and Pohl was able to beat the Bowling Green keeper to the far post for her second goal of the match.

The women’s soccer team celebrated their big MAC Tournament Championship and posed for a photo Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been such a fun season and a fun ride,” said Toledo Head Coach TJ Buchholz. “Every one of these players battled for each other and that’s what it takes. They kept fighting, and they kept bouncing back.”

The Rockets (12-7-3) and the Falcons (13-7-1) played a highly competitive first half that was expected from the two rival teams. Both teams had chances with free kicks from just outside the box, but neither team could capitalize on the opportunity as the match was scoreless at the break.

In the 59th minute, Toledo tallied the opening goal. Junior Alena Sidwell found junior captain Regan Price down the right sideline. Price entered a perfect centering pass to Pohl, who tapped it in for the score.

However, BGSU battled back to tie the match less than 20 minutes later. First-team All-MAC selection Erica Hubert knotted the match, 1-1, in the 79th minute to keep the Falcons alive.

Kraft nearly regained the lead for the Rockets in the 84th minute before a great defensive play by Bowling Green stopped the attack. Neither team threatened in the final minutes of regulation.

The stage was set for Pohl’s last-second heroics and the St. Charles, Ill., native delivered with the match-winner to the upper right corner.

“Sophie is phenomenal,” Buchholz said. “The plays that she made down the stretch were unbelievable. That’s what she does, and I am so proud of her.”

UT out-shot the Falcons, 14-11, and had two more corner kicks, 3-1. Redshirt freshman Madison Perrin made four saves in goal for the Rockets to record her 12th win of the campaign.

With the win, the Rockets advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will take place Monday, Nov. 6, at 4:30 p.m., and fans are invited to watch the show with the team in the Savage Arena Joe Grogan Room.

Toledo set to court success in 2017-18 season

Expectations are high: UT is coming off a memorable 2016-17 campaign that saw the Midnight Blue and Gold capture its eighth Mid-American Conference title in program history and advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001.

The Rockets finished the year with a 25-9 overall ledger and a 12-6 mark in the league. They tallied at least 20 wins for the fifth time in Head Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop’s tenure, and their 25 victories tied for fifth most in school history. 

“Our players now understand what it takes to get to the NCAA Championships, and they are extremely motivated to get back,” Cullop said. “We would like to be the first team in a decade to repeat as MAC Tournament champions.”

Toledo also led the MAC in attendance for an unprecedented 27th consecutive season in 2016-17 and ranked No. 27 in the NCAA, averaging a league-high 3,744 fans per home game. UT has ranked in the top 30 nationally in home attendance each of the last six seasons.

“We’re excited to be on the court and get things started,” said Cullop, who is in her 10th year as head coach and ranks fourth in league history in overall winning percentage (202-96, .678) and seventh in conference winning percentage (108-44, .711).

Toledo’s roster in 2017-18 consists of three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen. As far as numbers go, the Rockets welcome back 77.4 percent of their scoring, 76.9 percent of their rebounding, 86.9 percent of their assists and 77.5 percent of their steals.

Providing experience and leadership for the Rockets will be two-time All-MAC honoree senior Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott (11.5 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game), 2016-17 third-team All-MAC selection junior Mikaela Boyd (12.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 4.0 assists per game, 2.0 steals per game), junior Kaayla McIntyre (10.0 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, 1.2 blocks per game) and 2016-17 MAC All-Freshman recipient Mariella Santucci (7.7 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game).

Toledo’s four returning starters have logged extensive minutes and played key roles for the Rockets, and their leadership will be crucial if UT wants to successfully defend its conference championship.

“I need these four players, as well as the other returning players, to set a good example for the younger players and be vocal,” Cullop said.

The Rockets’ lone home exhibition game is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 4, against NCAA Division II member Lock Haven. Tipoff will be at noon in Savage Arena.

Less than one week later, Toledo will open the regular season at home against Saint Francis (Pa.) in the first round of the Preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) Friday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.

“It’s certainly an honor to play in the Preseason WNIT,” Cullop said. “It’s a great way to create some buzz and enthusiasm for our program, as we will compete against some very good teams.”

The Rockets, who will take part in the Preseason WNIT for the fourth time in program history, are one of eight teams in the field that qualified for post-season play in 2016-17. The Preseason WNIT will feature at least three games for all squads with all contests hosted by participating schools.

“All of the teams that will participate in the Preseason WNIT are there for a reason,” said Cullop, whose team also took part in the Preseason WNIT during 1994-95, 1998-99 and most recently 2010-11. “We’re very excited to be included in this event and even more excited to start the season at home.” 

The winner of the UT-SFU contest will face either nationally ranked Louisville or Southeast Missouri in the second round at a site to be determined Nov. 12 or Nov. 14. 

Following the Preseason WNIT, Toledo will host 2017 NCAA Championship participant Dayton Nov. 22 before hitting the road for six of its final eight nonleague contests. That stretch of road games includes matchups at Iona Nov. 27, St. Bonaventure Dec. 4 and Duquesne Dec. 6. 

The two nonleague home games during this stretch are against Maine Nov. 30 and Cleveland State Dec. 9.

UT then will venture back to the road for a pair of neutral-court games against Northern Kentucky Dec. 17 and 2017 NCAA Championship participant Western Kentucky Dec. 18 at the West Palm Invitational before wrapping up nonconference action at Detroit Mercy Dec. 21.

The Rockets’ 18 MAC contests will consist of 10 games against West Division opponents and eight versus East Division foes.

UT will play four of its first five league contests at the friendly confines of Savage Arena, but will finish with four of its final seven conference games away from home. The 2017 MAC Champions have been nearly unbeatable in the Glass City under Cullop, compiling a stout 112-32 (.778) ledger. They have been even more dominant against MAC opponents on their home court, winning 63 of 79 contests (.797). 

The Rockets will begin defense of their league crown Dec. 31 when they travel to 2017 Postseason WNIT participant Ohio. Toledo will play two games against the Bobcats and Buffalo from the East Division as part of its conference schedule, as well as the five other MAC West Division schools.

Toledo also will face the remaining MAC East Division teams once, with Akron Jan. 3 and 2017 MAC East Division champion Kent State Jan. 24 visiting campus, and the Rockets traveling to archrival Bowling Green Jan. 27 and Miami Feb. 7.

The MAC Tournament will begin with first-round games at campus sites March 5.

Students are admitted free to home games with UT ID; tickets are half-price for University employees and retirees.

For ticket information, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in the Sullivan Athletic Complex at Savage Arena, go to utrockets.com or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Rockets ready to hit hardwood to open 2017-18 campaign

Men’s Head Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk was beaming and upbeat after the Rockets’ first official practice earlier this month.

“I’m really excited about the group we have and can’t wait to get going,” said Kowalczyk, who has guided the Rockets to the second most victories (81) in the Mid-American Conference over the last four years. “I believe the biggest strength of our team this season is going to be our versatility. We have a lot of length; we’re not a big, physical team, but we are long and athletic.

“I also think we’ll be able to cover some ground defensively. I hope that provides us the chance to play with more versatility defensively and with different types of lineups.”

The Rockets are returning a pair of starters, as well as one of the MAC’s top reserves in 2017-18. Junior point guard Jaelan Sanford is UT’s top returning scorer after tallying 13.6 points per game and a 39.2 three-point field-goal percentage last year. Junior forward Nate Navigato registered 9.5 points per game and a 40.8 three-point clip coming off the bench, while sophomore center Luke Knapke notched 6.9 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game in his initial season at the collegiate level.

UT also is gaining the services of a pair of impact transfers in senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher (7.1 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game at Colorado) and sophomore forward Willie Jackson (5.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game at Missouri). Jackson will not be eligible to play for the Rockets until the conclusion of fall semester.

The Rockets will play their only home exhibition game Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2:30 p.m. vs. NCAA Division III foe Trine University. The contest will follow the Rocket women’s exhibition contest vs. Lock Haven (Pa.) University.

Toledo will open its regular season with three straight contests in Savage Arena, beginning with its home opener vs. Saint Joseph’s Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m.

The nonleague slate consists of seven home dates and six road contests, including trips to Phog Allen Fieldhouse vs. Kansas, the Carrier Dome vs. Syracuse, and the historic Palestra vs. Penn.

“I thought our schedule last year was tremendous in terms of challenging us, and this year’s version is even better,” Kowalczyk said. “We’re playing at Kansas and Syracuse as part of the HoopHall Miami Invitational and have the unique opportunity to play in the Palestra, which is regarded as the most storied gymnasium in the history of collegiate athletics. I also think we have a good home schedule against quite a few strong mid-major programs, and I believe playing three straight early home games really helps us.”

After tipping off the season Nov. 11 in Savage Arena, Toledo will stay home for two more contests against NCAA Division III foe Ohio Northern Nov. 14 and 2016 NIT participant Oakland Nov. 18. The Rockets then will venture on the road for games at 2016 NIT participant Syracuse Nov. 22, Cornell Nov. 24, and 13-time defending Big 12 Champion Kansas Nov. 28.

UT will open the month of December with four of five games in Savage Arena, starting with a Dec. 2 matchup vs. 2016 NCAA Tournament participant Texas Southern. After making a short trip up I-75 to take on Detroit Mercy Dec. 6, the Rockets will host Marshall Dec. 9, Wright State Dec. 16 and Jackson State Dec. 20. Toledo will wrap up its nonconference slate with road contests against Cleveland State Dec. 23 and Penn Dec. 29.

The first two MAC contests in 2018 will be nationally televised. The Rockets’ road game against Buffalo Jan. 2 and home matchup vs. Akron Jan. 5 will be shown on the CBS Sports Network. UT’s matchup at Akron Feb. 3 also can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.

After its opening week of nationally televised games, the Rockets will host Western Michigan Jan. 9 before playing three of their next four contests away from Savage Arena. UT will visit Central Michigan Jan. 13 and Ohio Jan. 16 before entertaining defending MAC Tournament Champion Kent State Jan. 20. Following a trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., to battle the Broncos Jan. 23, Toledo will finish the month of January with home dates vs. archrival Bowling Green Jan. 27 and Ball State Jan. 30.

UT will open February with a rematch at the Zips Feb. 3 before hosting Northern Illinois Feb. 6 and Ohio Feb. 13. A contest at Miami Feb. 10 splits up the Midnight Blue and Gold’s home encounters vs. the Huskies and Bobcats. The Rockets then will visit Ball State Feb. 17 before meeting Eastern Michigan for the first time Feb. 20 in Ypsilanti. Toledo will close out its regular season with a home game vs. Central Michigan Feb. 24, a road date against Northern Illinois Feb. 27, and its regular-season finale vs. Eastern Michigan March 2.

Students are admitted free to home games with UT ID; tickets are half-price for University employees and retirees.

For ticket information, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in the Sullivan Athletic Complex in Savage Arena, go to utrockets.com or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Poet to read, sign book that explores domestic anxieties

The ultimate deadline — that’s what spurred Erin Adair-Hodges to get tapping on the keyboard.

“I’d kept intending to write poetry again only to realize one day in my late 30s that ‘one day’ had probably already passed and that my chance to create is finite,” she said. “This is true for all of us, it’s part of the mortal bargain, but knowing this intellectually and knowing this with your whole soul is pretty different.

“I kept waiting for someone to tell me it was OK to take myself and my work seriously, but it was understanding that no one would do so which actually allowed me to make the commitment to poetry.”

Making that promise led to her debut, “Let’s All Die Happy,” which was released last week. The 112-page book is part of the Pitt Poetry Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The title is the first line of the poem, “Everybody in the Car We Are Leaving Without You.”

“Titling a book is a fairly soul-crushing process,” Adair-Hodges said. “It has provoked strong reactions — love or hate … But, ultimately, I think it’s an honest presentation of the tone and concerns of the collection.” 

Through witty, spot-on observations infused with cerebral pop culture references, the UT visiting assistant professor of creative writing shares her perspective on being a woman. Titles of poems include “American Idyll,” “Ode to My Dishwasher,” “Self-Portrait as Banshee,” “The Mammogram” and “I Would Have Listened to Rush.”

“Many of us, especially women, are taught that adherence to certain conventions will provide us with meaning and fulfillment — the idea that if we do what we’re supposed to, believe what we’re told, we will be happy. I believed this for a long time until the evidence of my life could no longer support that,” Adair-Hodges said.

Adair-Hodges

“Breaking from what we’ve been inculcated with frees us to find the truest versions of ourselves, but it can also leave us without the security that these kinds of institutions provide. It can be scary, this figuring out of what’s next and why. This has been part of my own personal, intellectual, emotional and spiritual path, one that I’m still on and using art to sort out.”

After receiving a master of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona, Adair-Hodges shelved poetry — for eight years. She was the arts editor of a weekly paper for a while, taught writing, and started a family. After her son was born, the allure of words beckoned.

“At the newspaper, I wrote hundreds of pieces — criticism, profiles, reviews and more — all of which sharpened my attention to language and precision,” she said. “Teaching writing required I be able to articulate and provide evidence for my instruction and insight. All of this provided me with the tools to express the vision of my work I’d been carrying around inside me for years.”

The native of New Mexico recently had her work featured on “PBS NewsHour” and took home the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for “Let’s All Die Happy.”

“I think now as much as ever, we need to heed women’s stories. The work may resonate with some while challenging the imagination or empathy of others, but I believe it has value if for no other reason than it’s an honest expression of my experience in the world.”

That candor comes with comedy.

“As a poet, I use humor to engage, to get closer to the matter,” Adair-Hodges said. “Humor, to me, is a way to honesty, a path that must necessarily cut through some darkness.”

She will read from and sign “Let’s All Die Happy” Thursday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. in Libbey Hall. Books will be available at the free, public event sponsored by the UT Department of English Language and Literature. Purchases also can be made at online book retailers and the author’s website, erinmolly.com.

“I think we’re all drawn to poetic expression, the translation of our experiences into art, into something that connects to others,” Adair-Hodges said. “Poetry is only as hard to understand as life is, so I think if you’re inclined to work through some of life’s mysteries and truths, you’ll find value in poetry — often, it’s just a matter of finding the work that speaks to you.”