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UTMC helps BMX racer beat paralysis to get back on track

Sixteen-year-old Dakota Gillett was an avid BMX bicycle racer with the dream of going pro.

“BMX was my passion. It was just my thing,” Gillett said. “I’d just focus on that and do my school — and that’s all I did.”

Dakota Gillett, who was diagnosed with lifetime paralysis after a bike accident last year, was pedaling again recently on Health Science Campus.

On July 3, 2016, while on vacation in Tucson, Ariz., he entered a BMX contest that would forever change his life. When attempting a jump over a barrel, Gillett fell and broke his C3 and C4 vertebrae, which resulted in him being paralyzed from the chest down.

His mom, Heidi, was home in Montpelier, Ohio, when her son was injured. After arriving at the hospital in Arizona, she was not prepared for what she saw.

“There was Dakota, with tubes everywhere. He had a ventilator in. He had tubes coming out of his neck, he had two central lines put in,” she said. “He was just sitting there. He just looked so miserable and so sad. I’ve never seen him like that.”

Eman Jarouche, physical therapist at UTMC’s Outpatient Therapy Services, worked with Dakota Gillett.

After undergoing surgeries and beginning rehabilitation, Gillett was transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio on the UT Health Science Campus to be closer to home. He then progressed to outpatient care at UT Medical Center.

“He started off here in our facility in a wheelchair,” said Eman Jarouche, physical therapist at UTMC’s Outpatient Therapy Services. “He had mentioned that he was able to stand a couple of times and try to take a step, but that was all he was able to do when he started here.”

During the next nine months, Gillett and his mom traveled more than an hour from their home to UTMC at least twice each week for physical therapy and occupational therapy services.

Gillett and Jarouche

“Once he came here, they instantly put him on a harness, and they put him on a treadmill and got him walking,” Gillett’s mom said.

In spite of a diagnosis of lifetime paralysis with little chance of walking, Gillett was determined to get back on his bike by the first anniversary of his accident.

“As my body got stronger, we started talking about getting back on my bike,” he said. “I went out and bought a helmet and bought a strap for my left leg and said, ‘OK, now it’s time to focus.’ They put the belt on and were like, ‘OK, you’re on your own,’ and I look back and I’m on my own! This was unbelievable.”

“His biggest goal was getting back on the bike by the one-year mark, and now he’s riding with the wind in his hair!” Jarouche said.

Gillett’s mom credits Jarouche and the rest of her son’s therapy team at UTMC for pushing him while giving him the quality care he needed.

“I felt like these guys actually cared and made sure that that person could get to where they needed to get,” she said. “When Dakota would get his goals, they would be doing dances with him. I’m just so happy with this place.”

“My experience at UT is possibly the best experience that I’ve ever had in my whole life because they never give up and they always push you to your limits,” Gillett said.

To watch Gillett’s story, click here.

Paralegal students gain valuable experiences in Norway

For students who have participated in work and study abroad programs, the consensus is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taylor Sanders, Samantha Denlinger, Travis Peterson and Colleen Anderson, all students in the Paralegal Studies Program, agreed that the knowledge they gained during their time in Norway extended past that related to their future careers.

“Traveling abroad is a 10 out of 10 recommendation for me, whether it be for studies, a job, a vacation or an internship. It was one of the absolute best experiences of my life,” Denlinger said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I would go back in a heartbeat to see the friends I made along the way. If anyone gets an opportunity to travel abroad, do it. You will learn some of the most valuable things.”

Travis Peterson, Samantha Denlinger, center, and Taylor Sanders posed for a photo in Trondheim, Norway.

The students were guided through the process by John Schlageter, director of the Paralegal Studies Program. Last year, Schlageter traveled to Norway with the goal of increasing collaborations with enterprises in the public and private sectors of the country.

“I believe that international learning helps students understand a variety of cultural and community perspectives. Prospective paralegal employers look favorably upon experience gained while living overseas,” Schlageter said. “In addition, graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study abroad experiences. Many students that obtain a bachelor of science in paralegal studies, an American Bar Association-approved program, use their degree as a pre-law program so they can go on with their education and become attorneys.

“Taylor, Samantha, Travis and Colleen deserve a lot of credit for their willingness to seek out new challenges and put themselves in academically challenging situations. They have represented The University of Toledo and the Paralegal Studies Program very well, and I could not be prouder of them.”

Samantha Denlinger, left, and Taylor Sanders, right, interned at Q-Free, where they worked with Tor Erik Nergård.

Schlageter secured internships for Anderson and Peterson with the Norwegian Courts Administration. They had the opportunity to become acquainted with the Norwegian society and the Norwegian legal system and judiciary; present on the state and federal judiciary in the U.S. to staff at the Norwegian Courts Administration; and present on the structure of the U.S. courts at a judicial regional seminar in Montenegro.

“This unique internship experience has not only given me the opportunity to integrate myself within another culture, but also to work firsthand within the Norwegian Courts Administration and gain knowledge about the Norwegian judiciary,” Peterson said. “By also attending a judicial reform conference in Budva, Montenegro, with the Norwegian Courts Administration to aid Western Balkan countries in improving their judiciary, I was able to speak with judges from many different countries and take back with me a lot of knowledge and experience that I will use in my future endeavors.”

Anderson also spoke highly of what she learned during her time in Norway: “I feel as though my perspective on the world and on the U.S. in particular has really been broadened. Seeing the way other countries run their judiciaries has taught me not to always assume that the way I’m used to is the only way, or even always the best way. To me, this trip only emphasized the importance of international sharing and collaboration. This internship has taught me the importance of being able to work both independently and with other people. It can be easy to decide that you’re a person who can only do one or the other. However, I think to truly be successful, a person needs to know when to focus independently on a project and when to reach out for input from others.

Travis Peterson, left, Audun Hognes Berg, senior adviser with the Norwegian Courts Administration, and Colleen Anderson smiled for the camera in Budva, Montenegro.

“My favorite part about the internship was attending a conference on judicial reforms hosted in the country of Montenegro. At the conference, the attendees spoke several different languages, and we utilized translators so we were all able to understand each other. Seeing this kind of problem solving and collaboration has really helped me realize the boundless possibilities that are available to those willing to pursue them. Participating in the conference itself was such an honor, and I feel as though I learned so much by listening to and conversing with other people who are in the same field I hope to enter one day.”

Denlinger and Sanders spent their summers interning with Q-Free, an electronic toll collection technology development company based in Trondheim, Norway. They reviewed proposed contracts, offers and bids to make sure they complied with Q-Free policies and interests, and learned about risk assessment, potential liabilities, commercial risks, legal feasibility and intellectual property rights protection.

“My favorite part about the internship was learning about the culture and comparing it to our culture back home,” said Denlinger. “The differences were incredible, and I loved seeing what the Norwegian work environment was like. It was truly an incredible experience.

“What I brought home with me was the knowledge of hard work. I learned that opportunities come and go, and that you have to take them whenever they come up. Specifically, I brought home a hard work ethic and the mentality of tackling an opportunity while it’s happening.”

Sanders was happy to speak on her time abroad and how it benefited her: “While working for Q-Free, I learned so much. I learned how to identify and assess potential risks and liabilities in different types of corporate contracts; I worked mainly with public procurement contract bids. The biggest thing I will take away from this experience is that it is important to dive in head first and try something you are unsure about. I’ve learned that no matter what country you are in, there is always a helping hand that will guide you through unfamiliar territory and topics.

“This was the experience of a lifetime, and I highly recommend traveling abroad to any other students contemplating it. I also want to give a little shout-out to John Schlageter, without whom this experience would not have been possible.”

For more information on the Paralegal Studies Program, contact Schlageter at john.schlageter@utoledo.edu or 419.530.7748.

Director delivers ‘Badass’ book

It was a party atmosphere at Sherry Stanfa-Stanley’s book launch Aug. 19 at Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee. The only thing missing? The author’s drink of choice: Bloody Marys.

“I was told no alcohol, sorry,” she told the standing-room-only crowd of about 150.

UT employee and alumna Sherry Stanfa-Stanley read an excerpt from her book, “Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares,” at Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee. It was the largest crowd to attend a signing event there, according to Jana Washington, store merchandise manager.

“Speaking to an empty room is awkward; this is terrifying,” she said. “I know quite a bit about terrifying and awkward.”

She was referring to the 52/52 Project, which she started in 2013. For one year, Stanfa-Stanley challenged herself with a new experience every week as she approached age 52.

“I wasn’t in a rut; I was in a crater. And I just wanted to shake things up a bit,” she said. “After traveling to Italy by myself in 2011, I realized if I could do that, there’s probably a lot of things I can do if I went outside my comfort zone.”

Her amazing, crazy and inspiring year included suiting up as Rocksy the mascot for a UT soccer game; babysitting quadruplets; going on a raid with the vice squad and SWAT team; spending 24 hours with nuns at a convent in Joliet, Ill.; performing as a mime outside a shopping center in Newport, Ky.; and crashing a wedding reception — and catching the bride’s bouquet.

“I took those weird and wonderful experiences and wove them into a book,” the director of communication and fund stewardship at the UT Foundation told the group.

“Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares” was published by She Writes Press and released Aug. 15. The 321-page book is $16.95 and available at most area bookstores and online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book retailers.

As folks flooded in and peeked around book shelves, Stanfa-Stanley read three excerpts from her debut.

She said “Catching a Flight to Nowhere” was one of her favorite adventures; she packed for an unknown destination, went to the Detroit Metro Airport, and booked the next flight out. It was winter, and, luckily, she jetted off to Fort Myers, Fla.

Conversely, “On the Ropes” was the least successful venture, she said. Stanfa-Stanley and two friends decided to skip the high-ropes course at the UT Student Recreation Center after seeing it was 35 feet above the gym floor — and watching an athletic college student slip from a beam and dangle by her safety harness.

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley suited up as Rocksy during a soccer game and exuded good cheer as part of the 52/52 Project.

“It’s obvious I can’t get away from the nude beach outing,” Stanfa-Stanley said and introduced her mother, Gloria Stanfa, a retired UT secretary, who accompanied her on the trip.

“‘Just be sure to mention we both kept our clothes on,’ my mother said,” Stanfa-Stanley read from the chapter titled “Baring it at the Beach.” “‘Um, maybe I didn’t clarify that,’ I replied. ‘I’ll be going au natural, too’ ‘Oh.’ She pondered this. ‘Well, then please don’t sit next to me. I saw you naked as a baby, and I really don’t care to anymore.’”

As laughter erupted during the readings, the author told the audience, “You’re a sadistic lot.”

Many seem to take pleasure in reading about Stanfa-Stanley’s frightfully fun escapades. Her debut has received raves from book bloggers, including dearauthor.com, bloglovin.com and abookishabode.com, as well as positive reviews from trade journals, including Kirkus Reviews, Midwest Book Review and Foreword Reviews. In addition, Buzzfeed.com named the book one of five fall reads “guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.”

In “Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares,” Sherry Stanfa-Stanley writes about the 52/52 Project adventures, which included performing as a mime in front of a Kentucky shopping center.

Even a Los Angeles-based production company headed by a well-known actor/comedian inquired about film and TV rights.

“Usually nothing comes of these requests; it’s happened to a few author friends,” Stanfa-Stanley, ever the realist, said. “But a girl can dream.”

Meanwhile, the 1983 UT alumna is scheduling book-signing events. She’ll have a booth at the Roche de Boeuf Festival in Waterville Saturday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And a reading and meet-and-greet will be held Saturday, Oct. 7, at the UT Barnes & Noble Bookstore at the Gateway; the time will be announced when the Homecoming football game kickoff is determined.

For the latest on appearances, check sherrystanfa-stanley.com, which links to facebook.com/The52at52Project, where the witty writer chronicled her derring-do — and daring don’t — and has more than 5,000 readers.

“I certainly wouldn’t say I’m fearless, but I’m desensitized. I worry less,” she told the crowd.

“My first published book out in the world at age 55 tells you it’s truly never too late to change your life. Maybe my stories will inspire you — or at least give you a couple laughs.”

Alumnus to inspire, sign book Aug. 31 at Gateway

Jacob Spellis will sign copies of his book, “More Than a Statistic: Stop Being Average,” Thursday, Aug. 31, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore at the Gateway.

He shares his story to give others hope.

“I was a high school dropout and spent much of my teenage years walking around Toledo’s east side using and selling drugs. My addiction left me isolated and homeless,” Spellis said. “Every day I woke up and said, ‘Man I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but the addiction just hijacks you and all of your pleasure-seeking abilities; it is like experiencing the best and worst feelings at the same time.

“For seven years, this cycle continued, and my mother expected to see me die from my addiction.”

Then a drug trafficking conviction changed his life. Behind bars for nine months, he began to turn things around.

“I acquired my GED from the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility, and I had a vision to revamp and reform the criminal justice system,” Spellis said. “In order to do this, I knew that I needed to further my education, and The University of Toledo was there every step of the way.”

With the help of campus support groups and tutors, he was able to get ready for college-level classes — and succeed. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

While pursing a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, Spellis worked as a graduate assistant in the UT College of Health and Human Services’ Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

All along the way, he helped others.

“I began speaking to individuals in treatment centers, jails, schools and colleges, which led to my desire to help people reach their full potential,” Spellis said. “As a reformed convicted felon, I advocate for social justice and for other returning citizens in my community. My goal is to revamp the criminal justice system and address disparities within different cultures and communities.

“Social work is a career for most, but a lifestyle to me. On a daily basis, I assist individuals with mental illness, legal issues and substance use disorders to work toward healthy adequate lifestyles.”

After receiving a master’s degree in social work from UM in 2016, Spellis started More Than a Statistic Academy, a nonprofit re-entry coalition in northwest Ohio that helps convicted felons find jobs and those suffering from substance abuse obtain stability and long-term recovery.

His book also was published last year.

“My life is much different from when I was buried in my addiction. I have a beautiful wife, daughter and son,” Spellis said. “I now have over five years of experience in motivational speaking and am passionate about community development.”

Local students with disabilities spend summer living on campus for college prep

“This has been eye-opening and life-changing,” said 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo as he waits patiently in his wheelchair for the elevator at Horton International House, a residence hall on The University of Toledo Main Campus.

He is one of nine local students with disabilities, most still in high school, spending five weeks this summer living on campus and working at local companies and organizations as part of an Ability Center of Greater Toledo program designed to prepare them for college, provide them with job experience, and boost their independence.

Waiting outside the Horton International House for the bus to take them to work, were, from left, 17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg, 19-year-old Zach Cotton of Galion, 17-year-old Donny Stewart of Sylvania, 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo, and 18-year-old Ana McGuire of Sylvania.

“I was so nervous,” said 18-year-old Ana McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in Sylvania in the fall and uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language. “This is the first time I’ve been away from my family for a long period of time.”

McGuire spends her days working with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. In the evenings, she does her own cooking, cleaning and laundry at International House.

The Ability Center provides staff that serve the role of a resident supervisor. They stay in the residence hall suites with the students to provide supervision and any accommodations needed related to their disability.

Donny Stewart read a book while waiting for the bus to take him to work at the Toledo Museum of Art. Stewart lives with autism and will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in the fall.

“The other night I made spaghetti and meatballs,” said Donny Stewart, a 17-year-old living with autism who will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in the fall. “I’m learning to live with other people, be more responsible, and make sure I have clean clothes. Mom is not here to do it for me.”

This marks the second year of the Next Steps Summer Program, a component of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo’s Life Skills Department and comprised of community partners.

“The Toledo Museum of Art participates in the Next Steps Summer Program because, as an employer in the community, it’s our responsibility to help all people acquire the necessary skills to become gainfully employed,” Siccorah Martin, human resources manager at the Toledo Museum of Art, said.

Ana McGuire, center, worked with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in the fall, uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language.

17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg works at the Toledo Area Humane Society walking and cleaning dogs and cats.

“This experience is awesome,” said Bentley, who lives with Williams syndrome and has had a stroke. “Making new friends is the best part. We’ve gone to Dave & Buster’s, out for ice cream, and next we’re attending a Mud Hens game together.”

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me,” said Shaffer, a student at Herzing University. “I got to show my true colors.”

Shaffer started experiencing symptoms of cerebral palsy at the age of 3 and uses a wheelchair for long distances. The Rogers High School graduate has a limited range of motion and goes to physical therapy to strengthen his legs.

For employment experience as part of the program, Shaffer works at Preferred Properties, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities buy homes.

“I’m really enjoying my summer here and also giving back to people like me,” Shaffer said. “It’s incredible to live in a residence hall with a roommate just like my friends. I feel better about myself. Coming here raised the bar for me.”

The program ends Thursday, Aug. 10.

“Our goal is to impact the students now and prepare them for the future as they enter the workforce,” said Mallory Tarr, marketing coordinator for The Ability Center of Northwest Ohio. “We encourage our students to think outside the box and explore what is possible. Our hope is that students will build on their increased feelings of confidence and continue that momentum into the next phase of their life.”

Center for Health and Successful Living patient navigator named Healthcare Hero

Barbara Ann Oxner is always looking for someone who might need help. 

“I meet prospective clients in grocery stores, doctors’ offices, seminars, garage sales, bus trips, walking, at physical therapy,” she said. 

Barbara Ann Oxner, a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, received a Healthcare Hero Award from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio.

Oxner is a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, where she has worked since 2016 thanks to a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Before that, she volunteered there for three years.

“I love my job. I identify women in northwest Ohio who need health education and medical services, specifically, mammograms. I look for women 40 and older who are high-risk with little or no insurance.

“For a long time, my motto has been, ‘helping people to help themselves.’ That’s exactly what a patient navigator does.”

Oxner does her job so well the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio last month presented her with one of its Healthcare Hero Awards, which recognize the contributions of health-care workers in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. There were 30 nominees; Oxner and five others received that distinction during a ceremony at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

“I don’t see myself as anyone special,” she said. “Being nominated was an unbelievable honor. Being recognized as a winner and named a Healthcare Hero? Wow — just wow!”

“Barb is an inspiration to everyone she interacts with,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She tirelessly works to help those in most need receive education, screening and care during the cancer survivor journey.”

It’s a journey Oxner started in 1985.

“I was a 38-year-old registered nurse with two children when, two weeks before my daughter’s high school graduation, I discovered a lump in my breast during a self-exam,” she recalled.

Three doctors confirmed the diagnosis: breast cancer.

“I had surgery and no chemotherapy and no radiation. My help came from God,” Oxner said.

But five years later, Oxner received devastating news: She had multiple myeloma.

“I was given six months to live,” she said. “I was at death’s door — but God was at my door, and He kept me; He healed me. My oncologist said I was a miracle, and I am.”

Her faith and determination are uplifting and contagious, and she shares both.

Barbara Oxner, sporting the pink hat in the center, and members of the Breast Cancer Survivors Support Group posed for a photo with UT students who work at the Center for Health and Successful Living and Dr. Amy Thompson, kneeling.

At the Center for Health and Successful Living, Oxner is the community outreach coordinator for the African-American Women’s Cancer Support Group. And she and Lorraine Willoughby started the Pink Sneakers Program, which brings together cancer survivors, friends and loved ones to walk three times a week.

“These and other programs not only educate our ladies, but provide opportunities to socialize and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “As a 32-year breast cancer survivor and a 27-year multiple myeloma survivor, I strive to be of comfort to others as I, too, have been comforted on this continual journey.

“The support group and Pink Sneakers are priceless opportunities to celebrate survivorship and allow new survivors to see they, too, can achieve longevity one step at a time.”

“As a patient navigator who connects adults to needed services, Barb is committed, reliable, persistent and talented,” said Dr. Timothy Jordan, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She combines her knowledge and talent with genuine concern and love for people. Clients sense that Barb truly cares for them — above and beyond their health needs. That is why they respond to her so positively. This is Barb’s secret to success. It is rare to see such an effective combination of knowledge, skill and love for people.”

“The best part of my job is when clients receive the care they need. It is hearing patients’ stories. It is seeing hopelessness turn to hopefulness. It is watching others become proactive in their own health care when the tools they need are provided,” Oxner said.

“The Center for Health and Successful Living strives to do this. I’m grateful to God for allowing me to meet Dr. Thompson and Dr. Jordan; I am thankful for the opportunity to serve others.”

Associate professor emeritus sketches Louie the elephant

On a recent Monday morning, Dr. Paul Brand found inspiration in the wise eyes of Louie, an elephant that was at the time housed at the Toledo Zoo.

“I belong to an informal group of artists, the Monday Morning Painters. We meet every Monday for breakfast and then sketch or paint in different venues around northwest Ohio,” explained the associate professor emeritus of physiology and pharmacology.

Dr. Paul Brand, who drew this sketch of Louie the elephant, will have a booth at Art on the Mall Sunday, July 30.

Though Brand was able to expertly capture Louie in his sketch, he pointed out that wild animals don’t always make the easiest subject matter: “Sketching at the zoo is fun, but challenging. Subject matter is mostly the interesting architecture; the animals would make great pictures if they would hold still. Happily, Louie held still for about 30 minutes while eating an enormous amount of hay.”

While Louie ate his breakfast, Brand studied the elephant’s features.

He described his artistic process: “I set up opposite him and laid out a sketch as usual, using a 2B drawing pencil, first noting the length and height of his body, the relative sizes of his head, ears and trunk, and the length of his legs compared to his height at his shoulder. Then I carefully outlined his body shape and used shading to give volume and character. I paid special attention to his face as that is where character is. Last, I made fine lines to show the creases around his eyes that give him the appearance of wisdom.”

Louie, born in 2003 at a whopping 275 pounds, recently was transferred to Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Neb. He resides with a herd of six other elephants rescued from Africa amid a severe drought. Zoo staff are hopeful that transfers such as these will serve a large role in saving the endangered species.

Though visitors aren’t able to visit Louie at the Toledo Zoo, they can still pick up greeting cards made from Brand’s sketch, and the original sketch, at Art on the Mall. The juried art fair will be held Sunday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Centennial Mall. Brand will be at booth No. 98, located near the Health and Human Services Building.

“I enjoy showing my work at art fairs; Art on the Mall is one of the best: well-organized; friendly, competent volunteers; and an excellent location on campus,” he said. “This is my fourth year at Art on the Mall.”

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.”

Study abroad trip broadens business horizons for students

As soon as spring semester ended and the last graduates walked off the stage with their cherished diplomas, dozens of College of Business and Innovation students embarked on an engaging study abroad program to London and Berlin.

All College of Business and Innovation students — all majors — are strongly encouraged to study abroad during their undergraduate degree program. Study abroad programs can assist students in the development of academic, intellectual, personal, professional and cross-cultural skills.

Business students smiled for the camera in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

These two- to three-week study abroad programs are led by College of Business faculty members, with Carol Sullinger and Dean Gary Insch leading May’s trip. Examples of College of Business faculty trips include eastern Europe, western Europe and Asia. Opportunities vary from year to year.

“I teach both marketing and international business classes and have experience in industry international business,” Sullinger said. “The trip is designed to be an immersion into the business culture, which includes the economic, political and cultural environments of a country. Those are the foundations of the business environment, and the trip is an experiential way to learn. The idea is to experience both the differences and the similarities of the different countries.

“My role was co-teaching the class with the dean throughout the semester in preparation for the trip, as well as planning the company, educational and cultural visits, everything from picking the hotels and assigning roommates to coordinating travel plans and the itinerary throughout the trip,” she added. “I think one of the really special parts of the trip was for the students to spend 10 days with the dean of the College of Business and Innovation. It was a privilege for all of us to learn from his knowledge and experience.”  

Business students met with members of a real estate agency in London.

“I went on this trip because I thought it was a great opportunity to squeeze in an extra class while being able to travel abroad and immerse myself into new cultures,” said Alex Odenweller, who majors in finance and accounting. “The biggest thing I learned was that the cultural and language barriers in European countries were more apparent than I thought they were. These barriers sometimes made it difficult to travel around the cities and immerse into the cultures.”

“I would definitely recommend this class to everyone,” Natalie Zerucha said. “I believe everyone should experience a culture change to make us as Americans realize how fortunate we are, as well as to show them that companies overall operate the same as we do and that it would be interesting to work with a business overseas.

The students also visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

“All businesses have the same sort of cycle no matter where you are in the world,” Zerucha added. “They might operate differently but they get their products from somewhere and someone else packages those products, so that is supply chain. Someone deals with their numbers. They market. I learned if you have an idea, run with it and see where it takes you, like Passle for example; they failed a few times, but they got back up and readjusted how they wanted to do things and be an asset to the business world. I also learned that you have to go with the trends to stay in the market, like QVC.”

Odenweller said, “The best experience for me was becoming very good friends with some of the people on the trip. I didn’t know anyone before going on the trip, and when I left I had made a whole new group of friends. Being able to experience everything London and Berlin had to offer with a group of friends made the trip an even greater experience. I would say that this trip was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and I would go on it again in a heartbeat.”

“My favorite part of the trip was watching each student grow,” Sullinger said. “We had a wide variety of travel experience in the group; one student had never been on a plane, and another was a graduate student who did international medical device sales for his career. The group bonded in so many ways. One of the students who had never run a 10K in his life decided to enter and compete in one in London. His roommate on the trip went with him to cheer him on. The whole group, after learning of his accomplishment, congratulated him for days. I have many more of those stories, and each one was really rewarding to see. Watching each student grow is what I love about teaching.”

The location of next year’s trip will be determined before the fall semester starts. Anyone interested can contact Sullinger at carol.sullinger@utoledo.edu.

“The dean and I are looking forward to another great trip with up to 20 students in May 2018,” she said.

Engineering student wins big on ‘The Price Is Right’

Since 1972, contestants on “The Price Is Right” have “come on down” for the chance to appear on television and win prizes. Jacob Mattoni, a UT student majoring in electrical engineering, never thought one day he would be among them.

Mattoni was on a trip to California with his girlfriend and fellow UT student, Kendall Bialecki, who is majoring in biology/pre-med, during spring break while taping of the show took place.

Jacob Mattoni celebrated as “The Price Is Right” host Drew Carey announced his 95 cents qualified him to advance to the Showcase Showdown.

“Her sister-in-law was looking into getting tickets for a show in Los Angeles because we would be traveling there for a few days to visit. The day of the taping, we showed up and stood in line waiting to get into the registration area. The registration process took about three hours,” Mattoni explained. “Part of this process was the interview, which is when they take about 20 people at a time and ask them a simple question just to see how they respond.”

When asked by the interviewer what he does, Mattoni responded enthusiastically, telling him about going to The University of Toledo and studying electrical engineering.

Drew Carey reached out to shake hands with Jacob Mattoni who won the Showcase Showdown.

“He then responded with, ‘I bet you could use a new computer,’ which is when I said, ‘I could, but I’d rather win a new car,’” Mattoni said.

Luck appeared to be on Mattoni’s side when he was called on to participate in the game show, after putting on a performance in the audience to act “as obnoxious as possible” in an attempt to gain the attention of those running the program.

“I thought I heard my last name, but with everyone cheering in the audience, I couldn’t hear a thing. I then look on stage and see a man holding up a poster board with my name on it. At that point, I basically blacked out and couldn’t remember anything,” Mattoni recalled. “Out of 300 people in the audience, I never would have imagined getting my name called.

Jacob Mattoni, second from right, posed for a photo with the Bialecki family, from left, Ken, Dawn, Jayne and Kendall.

“Participating in the show is all a blur, to be honest. With dozens of cameras in your face and people screaming and cheering for you, there wasn’t much focus on the actual objective of the show,” he continued.

Mattoni did express thanks to his girlfriend and her family for their help from the audience throughout the show, which aired May 25.

After a brief setback during one of his prize games, Mattoni won a chance to compete for a showcase prize after spinning 95 cents on “the Big Wheel,” the closest amount to $1 that was spun without going over.

He then bested his opponent with his bid on a showcase prize that included a roundtrip to Yosemite National Park, a Mongoose ATV and a 2017 Honda Fit, which he said he traded for a more “age appropriate” 2017 Honda Civic, which has plenty of room for his golf clubs.