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President praised for strategic plan progress in annual review

Under President Sharon L. Gaber’s leadership, The University of Toledo has met the graduation rate goal set in the strategic plan three years ahead of schedule.

The six-year graduation rate for undergraduate students has increased nearly 9 percent over the last three years to its highest level in school history, according to preliminary data available. The graduation rate has the potential to increase as additional students graduate following the summer session.

Gaber

“We set an ambitious goal, and President Gaber accepted that challenge in her commitment to ensuring student success,” said Mary Ellen Pisanelli, chair of the UToledo Board of Trustees. “The University is stronger today because of her vision for our future and her sense of urgency and collaborative style getting everyone on board to accomplish it.”

The graduation rate was one of a number of successes praised by the Board of Trustees during the president’s annual review during the final board meeting of the fiscal year.

The trustees recognized Gaber for consecutive years of increased student retention rates and research awards during her tenure and two years of strong fundraising that exceeded goals.

Her leadership also was credited for the new brand, scheduled to launch July 1, that speaks confidently and boldly of UToledo with an emphasis on personal stories. It is part of Gaber’s focused effort to boost Rocket pride and the University’s national reputation, which has led to successfully recruiting the most academically prepared class of first-year students in school history.

“I am proud of the progress we have made together to advance The University of Toledo,” Gaber said. “It an honor to lead this great team. We would not have been able to accomplish all that we have without the dedicated individuals who are so committed to our students.”

As part of the performance review, the board voted to give the president a performance incentive, to be paid with private funds, per her five-year contract approved in 2018.

A nationally respected higher education leader, Gaber is one of the longest serving presidents among Ohio’s public colleges. She recently was selected to chair the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which represents the state’s 14 public universities. She serves on the NCAA Strategic Plan Committee and represents the Mid-American Conference on the NCAA Division 1 Presidential Forum.

Gaber also is a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, which is a network of 37 public urban research universities working to drive transformational change throughout their institutions and the communities they serve in partnership with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.

Trustees approve 2020 operating budget

The University of Toledo Board of Trustees approved June 17 a balanced operating budget for fiscal year 2020 that positions the institution to continue to make progress on its strategic priorities. The approximately $770 million budget includes an investment in the people who make UToledo successful.

Because the state of Ohio biennium operating budget continues to work through the legislature containing language that limits tuition and fee increases, the University’s budget leaves undergraduate tuition for continuing students not part of the Tuition Guarantee unchanged at this time. The board approved a resolution that authorizes UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber to modify tuition and fees if permitted by law.

The budget does include differential tuition increases in selected graduate and professional programs.

In an effort to make online programs more accessible, trustees approved a resolution to reduce the non-Ohio surcharge to just $5 per credit hour for students enrolled exclusively in online programs.

The budget reflects a 2 percent wage increases for professional staff and faculty members who are not part of a bargaining unit. University employees who are members of unions will receive increased compensation as determined by their collective bargaining agreements.

In other board action, two new undergraduate degrees in data analytics were approved and will be sent to the Ohio Department of Higher Education for consideration.

The bachelor of arts degree in data analytics in the College of Arts and Letters has an emphasis on social sciences and will prepare students for careers that focus on interpreting and applying structured data for clients. The bachelor of science degree in data science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is designed to prepare students for careers that involve statistical tools to extract meaning from large data sets for specific applications.

Trustees also approved a reorganization of departments in the Judith Herb College of Education to combine programs into two areas — one related to teacher licensure and one focused on the study of education.

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Department of Early Childhood, Higher Education and Special Education will be combined and renamed the Department of Teacher Education. The Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership and the faculty in the Higher Education and Education Technology programs will be combined and renamed the Department of Educational Studies.

At its final meeting of the fiscal year, the Board of Trustees elected officers for the 2019-20 year. Mary Ellen Pisanelli will continue to serve as chair, and Al Baker will continue as vice chair.

The June meeting completed the term of Sharon Speyer, president of the Northwest Ohio Region for Huntington National Bank. She was given the title of trustee emeritus, along with Steven Cavanaugh, who resigned upon beginning his new role as ProMedica’s chief financial officer. A proclamation also was read to recognize student trustee Hedyeh Elahinia, a junior in the Jesup Scott Honors College studying biology, who completed two years of service on the board.

UToledo alum, flight director for International Space Station leading NASA’s launch of commercial crew vehicle

After an eight-year hiatus, NASA is one step closer to rocketing its astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil, instead of buying seats aboard Russian spacecraft.

An alumnus of The University of Toledo will serve as flight director for the launch of the unmanned test flight of the Boeing Starliner slated for late August, about a month after the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Dr. Robert Dempsey, NASA flight director for the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control in Houston, is leading the launch of a commercial crew vehicle. He received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from UToledo in 1987 and 1991. Image courtesy of Nasa

“The CST-100 Starliner is designed as a space taxi,” said Dr. Robert Dempsey, NASA flight director for the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control in Houston. “I’ve been working on this project for eight years, longer than it took me to earn my Ph.D. at The University of Toledo. I joke that I have a doctorate in Starliner now.”

Dempsey, who received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from UToledo in 1987 and 1991, is working around the clock to train and troubleshoot for the upcoming launch, which — if successful — could lead to a crewed flight by the end of the year.

“I will be flight director for the rendezvous and docking,” Dempsey said. “I’m excited because the current timeframe means the Starliner would dock on my birthday, Aug. 18, which would be a cool present.”

The Starliner is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership in which the agency contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to fly crews to the space station, an orbiting laboratory.

This NASA graphic shows the Boeing Starliner that is scheduled for an unmanned test flight in August. Dr. Robert Dempsey, UToledo alumnus, is the flight director for the launch.

The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations.

It’s an expansion of NASA’s success in unmanned cargo supply ships.

The vision is for private companies to someday fly customers to hotels in space and other celestial destinations.

“When we look at the space program, the Commercial Crew Program is one example of what to expect over the next 50 years,” Dempsey said. “NASA will focus strategically on big-vision projects like getting to Mars, but private companies can invest and develop technology for low-Earth orbit transportation. We’ll focus on the hard stuff at NASA so that down the road Boeing and SpaceX can launch commercial vehicles to take customers to the moon or Mars.”

Leading up to the debut launch of Starliner, Dempsey spends his time thinking of everything that could go wrong on the mission and figuring out how to fix it.

It’s familiar territory.

Dempsey started working at NASA 21 years ago when the agency was creating the International Space Station.

“We were about three years from launching the first piece of the space station,” Dempsey said. “The design was mostly done, but the software was immature. I helped out with finishing the software.”

It’s a dream career sparked 50 years ago by one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Dempsey was 6 years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon July 20, 1969.

“I remember watching the lunar landing on television and thinking, ‘I want to do that,’” Dempsey said. “I have never wavered. Here I am today doing that work.”

Families invited on cruise to learn how UToledo monitors health of rivers, Lake Erie

Scientists and students at The University of Toledo work tirelessly to study the waters of Lake Erie and its tributaries in the fight against harmful algal blooms and invasive Asian carp. They also evaluate potential for reintroducing historic fish, such as sturgeon.

This summer, families are invited to board the Sandpiper and cruise the Maumee River while learning how researchers at the UToledo Lake Erie Center collect water information.

“The Maumee River may look like just a muddy river, but it’s full of life,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UToledo professor of ecology and director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center, said. “We show kids how sediment and algae affect water clarity, but they also get to see the tiny, shrimp-like animals that are eating the algae and — in turn — feeding the fish that make western Lake Erie the ‘Walleye Capital of the World.’”

The two-hour “Discover the River” cruise starts at 10 a.m. every Saturday through August at the dock at Water Street and Jefferson Avenue near Promenade Park in downtown Toledo.

Admission to the 100-passenger Sandpiper is $19. Children younger than 12 are $11. Purchase tickets in advance on the Sandpiper website.

Theatre students studying abroad at Moscow Art Theatre

Two students and a faculty member from The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film are in Russia for the month of June as part of a study abroad experience at the Moscow Art Theatre.

In addition to taking classes with the theatre, the students, Bailey Flint and Gillian Martin, have received grants to work behind the scenes on a collaboration with the International Public Theatre at Moscow’s Meyerhold Center. The production is directed and written by Dr. Matt Foss, UToledo assistant professor of theatre.

Bailey Flint, left, Dr. Matt Foss and Gillian Martin posed for a photo on campus before leaving for Russia.

The students are taking a full range of classes six days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and watch plays most evenings.

“[We] will see about 28 plays in like 30 days. So we don’t have much time to venture too far out,” Flint said. “But we’re pretty much in the heart of Moscow, so there’s a lot to see around where we’re at.”

The University of Toledo collaboration with the International Public Theatre and Meyerhold Center will perform Sunday and Monday, June 16 and 17. The students are rehearsing with their Russian counterparts in preparation for the production.

Flint, who is majoring in theatre and media communications and is a punter for the football team, said, “I will act as a deck manager and understudy to one of the main Russian actors.”

Martin, who is majoring in media communications and minoring in theatre, also will be part of the crew for the show. “I’ll be serving as a stage manager, so I will be doing a lot of the sound cues,” she said. “We all kind of get a hand in the experience and to be a part of the production, which is really cool.”

The students received Undergraduate Summer Research and Creative Activities Program Grants to support their work on the production. Martin and Flint will work with the UToledo Office of Undergraduate Research to reflect on their work and present at a symposium in August.

The Moscow Art Theatre is home to Anton Chekhov’s plays and Konstantin Stanislavsky — a pioneer in modern actor training. This is the second year UToledo students have traveled to train and study at one of the world’s leading theater schools.

UToledo student studying suicide and opioids awarded prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Margaret Baer, a first-year doctoral student in The University of Toledo Department of Psychology, uses science to help make sense of suicide and substance use, leading causes of death in the United States.

Baer’s somber work is driven by these widespread sources of pain and unlocking new ways to ease suffering and prevent the loss of more lives.

Baer

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Baer a Graduate Research Fellowship in clinical psychology, recognizing her potential for significant research achievements.

The fellowship is worth $34,000 a year for three years. It is regarded as one of the most competitive and respected scientific fellowships in the country. This year the NSF awarded fellowships to 2,050 students around the country out of about 12,000 applications.

“I am immensely grateful for the NSF support,” said Baer, who is currently examining the link between suicide and substance abuse. “My passion is to conduct impactful, innovative research that ameliorates these large-scale public health problems. Among other studies, I hope to investigate the mechanisms underlying the co-occurrence of suicide-related behaviors and opioid misuse.”

Baer, who is from Evansville, Ind., works in the Personality and Emotion Research and Treatment Laboratory of Dr. Matthew Tull and Dr. Kim Gratz, both UToledo professors of psychology.

“Margaret is highly dedicated to conducting innovative and clinically relevant research, particularly in the areas of substance abuse and suicide,” Tull said. “I am incredibly pleased that the NSF has recognized her with this fellowship, which will provide her with even more opportunities to contribute to the field, as well as provide a foundation and resources for Margaret to build a highly impactful career.”

Baer’s own undergraduate experience at several different colleges sparked her interest in becoming a suicide researcher.

“I thought of college as a very exciting, hopeful time. I was shocked at the number of students who struggled with thoughts of suicide,” Baer said. “Kids were at their healthiest and youngest, on the cusp of exploring their extraordinary potential in higher education. It was an eye-opener. I felt the urgency of suicide prevention.”

Before arriving at UToledo in August 2018 to pursue her Ph.D., Baer worked with researchers at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md.

“There is great need for suicide prevention at all ages — adolescents, seniors and middle-aged adults. All may resort to risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or self-injury — cutting, for example — while also having thoughts of suicide or attempting suicide,” Baer said. “My focus right now is on substance use impacting barriers to suicide. Soon I hope to examine the relationship between negative social interactions in daily life and opioid craving.”

Since 1952, NSF has funded more than 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships out of more than 500,000 applicants. Currently, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates.

Annual CampMed program shows area students their potential in studying medicine

The University of Toledo will provide more than three dozen teens from across northwest Ohio a hands-on introduction to studying medicine during its annual CampMed program.

The students, all of whom will be high school freshmen this fall, will be on Health Science Campus Thursday and Friday, June 13 and 14.

Now in its 22nd year, CampMed gives students who excel in science and mathematics a window into what it’s like to pursue a career as a physician or medical researcher.

“We want to inspire these students and help give them an outline of how to prepare for an education in medicine,” said Courtney K. Combs, director of the UToledo and Ohio Area Health Education Center programs. “As much as CampMed is educational — and it really is — we also want it to be a fun time for the kids. It’s summer. It’s camp. It might be the first time they’re surrounded by kids their own age who have the same interests. We try to make it as hands-on as possible.”

Under the guidance of UToledo faculty members and physicians, the students will be taught Heartsaver CPR, learn how to suture, and practice forming a cast. They’ll also receive hands-on tours of the Emergency Department at The University of Toledo Medical Center, the gross anatomy lab, and the Jacobs Interprofessional and Immersive Simulation Center.

Second- and third-year medical students serve as camp counselors.

Most of the students who attend CampMed are underrepresented minorities in medicine, from underserved rural or urban communities, or the first in their family planning to attend college.

“We want to encourage these students to help them realize that a career in medicine is a realistic goal for them. Some of them may have never even been on a college campus before,” Combs said. “We want to provide that exposure to let them know if they work hard and are serious about their schoolwork now, this could be an option and The University of Toledo College of Medicine would welcome them.”

CampMed, which began in 1998, was implemented by and is coordinated through the UToledo Area Health Education Center program, which works to improve the well-being of individuals and communities by developing the health-care workforce.

The competitive scholarship program requires students to submit a letter of recommendation from a science or math teacher or guidance counselor, grade transcripts, and a personal essay to be chosen to participate.

UToledo precision medicine researcher edits premier textbook on cellular response to stress

Within every living cell are microscopic proteins that play the role of chaperone when things get dicey.

Called heat shock proteins, the molecules have a starring role in a cell’s response to external stresses such as excessive temperatures, infection or exposure to toxins.

Asea

“There is always motion in the cell, but when stressors come, those motions can actually stop. When they stop, the cell dies,” said Dr. Alexzander Asea, a professor in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Heat shock proteins prevent that from happening.”

By wrapping themselves around other proteins, heat shock proteins preserve order and essential functions within the cell, ensuring it can survive.

Asea has studied heat shock proteins for more than 20 years. His work has been key in identifying and developing potential targets for cancer vaccines and in identifying new cancer biomarkers.

Recently, Asea collaborated with Dr. Punit Kaur, an assistant professor also in the Department of Medicine, to edit a new textbook called “Regulation of Heat Shock Protein Responses.”

Kaur

“The book provides the most comprehensive review on contemporary knowledge on the regulation of heat shock protein responses and the consequences to human diseases and disorders,” Asea said. “Since we know heat shock proteins have a very important role in regulating a sort of immune response against stress, many have been working on designing drugs targeting that action.”

The book, published by Springer Nature, is available in both digital and print versions.

Asea, who also is director of the new Precision Therapeutics Proteogenomics Diagnostics Center, joined UToledo in 2018 from MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, where he was a visiting professor of radiation oncology. He also has taught at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine and the Morehouse School of Medicine.

At UToledo, Asea is playing an important role in furthering the precision therapy cancer treatment program by using proteogenomics to better understand an individual patient’s disease so doctors can identify the specific targeted therapies that are most likely to help them.

“It’s a more wholistic approach. For precision medicine, we have to look at the whole human and not just part of the human,” he said. “That’s what makes medicine now really exciting.”

Nurse education history book published by UToledo Press receives award

“Caps, Capes, and Caring: The Legacy of Diploma Nursing Schools in Toledo” has won the 2018 Local History Publication Award in the Independent Scholar Division from the Bowling Green State University Center for Archival Collections.

Published by The University of Toledo Press, the book chronicles a century of nursing education in the Glass City.

Authors Patricia Ringos Beach, Susan J. Eisel, Maria E. Nowicki, Judy Harris Szor and Beth E. White will receive a $300 cash prize this fall at an event at Bowling Green, where they will discuss their work.

The BGSU contest was established to encourage and recognize authors of outstanding publications about northwest Ohio history.

This is the UToledo Press’ seventh award since 2006.

“This group of health-care professionals are so deserving of this honor,” Yarko Kuk, managing editor of the UToledo Press said. “They interviewed countless fellow nurses and produced a book that documents more than 100 years of the evolution of nursing schools in Toledo. The memories, stories and history contained in ‘Caps’ would have been lost were it not for the efforts of these dedicated women. Their book offers a wonderful peek into the field of nursing as it evolved over the past century.”

“Caps, Capes, and Caring” tells the story of the eight hospital-based diploma schools of nursing that were operating in Toledo from 1893 to 1999.

The authors, all hospital diploma school graduates, taught together as nursing faculty at the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing. Beach, Eisel, Nowicki and Szor are alumnae of MCO/MUO/UToledo, where they received advanced degrees in nursing and education.

To write the book, the authors interviewed nearly 100 Toledo diploma school graduates. Their memories and stories are celebrated in the book, which also includes historical images and photographs.

“I was a bit curious about how the book would turn out, considering we were working with five authors,” Kuk said. “When they initially pitched the book idea, they were describing something far different than the 320-plus-page work we have today. They thought it might be around 100 pages with about 100 photos. But as they turned in the manuscript, chapter by chapter, it became clear we had something really special. When I sat down with them after our first major edit of the entire draft and told them we were around 280 pages without photos, they just could not believe it. I had to tell them several times they had something really exceptional before it sank in.”

“We are so pleased to have won this award,” Beau Case, dean of University Libraries, said. “The prize both recognizes the hard work of Yarko Kuk and the authors, as well as the continued valuable contributions to local history that the Press makes.”

“Caps, Capes, and Caring: The Legacy of Diploma Nursing Schools in Toledo” is $24.95 and available on the website of The University of Toledo Press.

Art faculty member awarded Ohio Arts Council grant

Deborah Orloff, professor of photography and associate chair of The University of Toledo Department of Art, has received an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council for her body of work, “Elusive Memory.”

According to the Ohio Arts Council website, the excellence awards “are peer recognition of artists for the exceptional merit of a body of their work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.”

Orloff

Orloff said the $5,000 grant will be used to expand her “Elusive Memory” series and to exhibit it nationally.

The work was inspired by an experience she had following the death of her father in 2007 when she was preparing a eulogy for his funeral. While drawing upon specific memories, she realized all of them were directly connected to photographs, causing her to wonder if she remembered the moments, or if the pictures had created false memories.

“I wanted to make work about this phenomenon, but the project didn’t actually take form until many years later,” Orloff said.

“About five years ago, I inherited thousands of neglected prints and slides that had been in my father’s basement, where they were damaged by flooding. I started photographing them in the studio, not knowing what I would do with the images, but hoping to salvage some of the family pictures for posterity,” she said. “It wasn’t until I saw them enlarged on a computer screen that I recognized their poignancy and greater relevance: I saw metaphors for loss and the fragmentary, ephemeral nature of memory.”

“My Favorite Dress” from “Elusive Memory,” color photograph on rag paper, by Deborah Orloff

Her new work utilizes the severely damage photos.

“‘Elusive Memory’ explores the significance of vernacular photographs as aesthetic objects and cultural artifacts. The resulting large-scale photographs make commonplace objects monumental and emphasize their unique details,” Orloff said.

The exhibition is on display at Workspace Gallery in Lincoln, Neb. Upcoming exhibitions include Youngstown State University’s Solomon Gallery, Vincennes University’s Shircliff Gallery in Indiana, and Anna Maria College’s Art Center Gallery in Massachusetts.

In addition, Orloff’s project was featured recently online at “Aint — Bad,” an independent publisher of new photographic art.

Samples of Orloff’s work can be seen on her website at deborahorloff.com.