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UToledo alumna to speak at United Nations on Earth Day

Markie Miller, who received a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from The University of Toledo in 2012, has been invited by the United Nations to speak before its General Assembly in New York City.

On Earth Day, Monday, April 22, Miller will be featured at the Ninth Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony With Nature.


Miller and Crystal Jankowski of Toledoans for Safe Water will travel to the Big Apple for the event. Miller plans to talk about the rights of nature movement, which views nature as an entity that has legal rights.

The two women worked for the Lake Erie Charter Initiative passed by Toledo voters in February, recognizing a Lake Erie Bill of Rights. With it, Lake Erie’s right to thrive, exist and flourish is protected in contrast to its treatment as property to be debased for the financial gains of special interests, according to Miller.

Miller plans to talk about the rights of nature movement, which views nature as an entity that has legal rights.

“I am honored to represent my community and this initiative,” Miller said. “I’m passionate about community rights and rights of nature; to represent those movements on such an international platform is a humbling and rewarding occasion.

“I’ve found my place in the environmental movement and it’s exactly where I want to be.”

In an invitation, Maria Mercedes Sanchez, coordinator of the UN Harmony With Nature Program, wrote to Miller, “I take this opportunity to congratulate you for the key role you have played in the passing of legislation granting rights to Lake Erie.”

Lake Erie’s newfound legal status is part of the growing international rights of nature movement that has been adopted by various Indigenous groups, including the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, the Ponca Nation in Oklahoma and, most recently, the White Earth Nation in Minnesota regarding protection of their wild rice fields.

However, the battle is not over as Lake Erie’s legal status will be challenged by the concentrated animal feeding operations in the Maumee River watershed, according to Miller.

“The life of the [Lake Erie Bill of Rights] is still uncertain, but one thing is for sure: We have made waves across the globe,” Miller said. “The story has received national and international attention — serving as a model for other communities looking to secure their rights and protect the very environments that sustain them.”

Miller, who received a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of Idaho, is on the board of directors for the Ohio Community Rights Network and the National Community Rights Network.

When she graduated from UToledo in 2012, Miller was recognized as the Outstanding Anthropology Student, Outstanding Foreign Language Student (German), and Outstanding Graduate of the College of Arts and Letters.

UToledo research: When smartphones aren’t used socially, there’s a link to anxiety

If endlessly scrolling through the news on your smartphone has you feeling anxious, it might not just be distress about current events.

New research from The University of Toledo has found a link between what psychologists call intolerance of uncertainty and problematic smartphone usage — particularly when the use isn’t for social interaction with others.

A new study about problematic smartphone usage by Dr. Jon Elhai, professor of psychology, was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

“We know from the past that anxiety is related to problematic smartphone use. We wanted to extend this line of research by examining intolerance of uncertainty,” said Dr. Jon Elhai, professor of psychology, whose research focuses on how some can develop harmful relationships with their smartphones.

Elhai and his team, which included Dmitri Rozgonjuk, a doctoral student from Estonia who was hosted at UToledo as a Fulbright Scholar, compared scores indicating problematic smartphone usage and intolerance of uncertainty, a type of anxiety where an individual worries about the future and not being able to control things that are beyond his or her control.

They found a strong correlation between that anxiety and non-social smartphone usage, which includes things such as reading news, playing games, or sorting one’s calendar — anything that involves little to no interaction with others.

No link was found between intolerance of uncertainty and using one’s smartphone for social engagement such as texting or sharing links on social media, even if they spent a lot of time using their smartphone.

“A lot of people know when to put down their devices, and the way we define problematic, excessive use of smartphones is not just based on the frequency of use. If you’re using your phone socially a lot, that tends not to be associated with the excessive use,” Elhai said. “But if you’re using your phone in a way that it’s interfering with your social life or you’re avoiding people, that’s the problem.”

The study was published recently in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

In a way, the findings suggest a feedback loop.

The more anxiety someone has, the more likely they are to dive into their smartphone looking to ease their uncertainty. That excessive use correlates with problematic non-social smartphone usage, which in turn feeds the intolerance of uncertainty.

“People who are having this anxiety can also find it spills over into social anxiety, and they may deal with that by avoiding people offline and online and instead use their phone for non-social purposes,” Elhai said. “The more you do that, the more you can excessively use your phone in ways that interfere with your social life offline.”

Elhai, who has co-authored more than a dozen papers looking at links to problematic smartphone usage including fear of missing out and anxiety and depression, said the findings are an important piece in understanding potential causes for problematic smartphone usage.

University Women’s Commission recognizes employees, awards scholarships to students

Six UToledo employees were honored for exceptional achievement and dedication to the campus community at the 33rd annual Outstanding Women’s Award ceremony.

More than 80 attended the University Women’s Commission program, which was held April 10 in the Savage Arena Joe Grogan Room.

Tricia Cullop, who just became the winningest coach in UToledo women’s basketball history with 241 victories, spoke at the luncheon.

Receiving the Dr. Alice H. Skeens Outstanding Woman Award were, from left, Angela Roach, Margaret “Peg” Traband, Linda Curtis, Dr. Amy Thompson, Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney and Amanda Schwartz Clark.

The recipients of the Dr. Alice H. Skeens Outstanding Woman Award were:

Linda J. Curtis, secretary 2 in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Curtis joined the University as an office assistant at the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women in 2002. She received a bachelor of arts degree and a certificate of diversity management from the University.

“Ms. Curtis is a truly exceptional champion, manager, coordinator, mentor, and an all-around excellent human being,” one nominator wrote. “In her 17th year at the University, Ms. Curtis still approaches every day and every person with a warm, friendly grace that is contagious and a living example of the best of what we want the UToledo community to be. Because I have the good fortune of having an office next to hers, I get to see firsthand how she manages it all — the multiple demanding people, the seriously heavy workload, the sheer variety and volume of the demands of her job — with grace and good cheer. She never fails to make time to connect, support, help or offer a warm gesture. Ms. Curtis also has maintained a high level of institutional involvement. She organized a support group for women that she continued to facilitate in our department, after work hours, long after she left her position at the Eberly Center for Women.”

Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney, assistant provost for student success and retention in the Office of the Provost. She has worked at the University for 20 years, starting as an academic program coordinator in the Chemical Engineering Department. Fischer-Kinney also has served as director of student services in the College of Nursing; director of New Student Orientation Programs; associate dean and interim dean of YouCollege; and director of success coaching. She received a bachelor’s degree in business administration majoring in marketing, and master of education and doctoral degrees in higher education from the University.

“I became familiar with Julie during the various Toledo Academic Advising Association meetings and noticed her passion for the advancement of student services, professional staff, and the mission of The University of Toledo,” a nominator wrote. “I have watched Julie provide her staff with valuable training, team meetings, and time to connect. In order to save the institution funding, she wrote mini-grants to be able to afford National Academic Advising Association webinars and has invited advisors across campus from various colleges to participate in these webinars. I have watched as she is investing in those around her — not just her staff, but The University of Toledo community at large through the work she is doing. I am impressed by her dedication, active engagement and forward thinking.”

Angela Roach, senior associate director of financial aid in the Office of Financial Aid. The UToledo graduate began working at her alma mater in 2007.

“I have called her numerous times about a student in need of financial assistance. She goes above and beyond searching for scholarships to help that student continue his or her education here at the University. She is a positive influence in the support of women’s issues and an advocate for students; she truly loves what she does,” one nominator wrote. Another noted, “We routinely receive calls from students in need of assistance with not just tuition, but for car repairs and medical bills and a myriad of issues that may keep students from completing their education. Angie is always two steps ahead of us by researching, based on the students’ majors and profiles, what resources are on hand for students. Her response is always, ‘Please send them directly to me.’ I can honestly say that there has not been a time that Angie has not found a way to assist a student in some way. And she does it all with a positive attitude.”

Amanda Schwartz Clark, associate director of alumni engagement in the Office of Alumni Engagement. She has worked at the University since 2008.

“Amanda engages with, supports and promotes UToledo alumni. Her efforts range widely from strategy, event planning, professional development and marketing to being the boots on the ground, strengthening University relations at alumni events around the United States,” a nominator wrote. “Besides her passion for UToledo and our alumni, Amanda is a leader and inspiration in the local running community. In 2014, she created and built an ambassador program for the Glass City Marathon. In this role, she cultivates and supports the local running community to participate in the Glass City Marathon whether as a runner, volunteer, sideline cheerleader, or a friend in the neighborhoods where the marathon course travels. As the program grew, so did her role. Now she volunteers at local races, manages the social media, works in targeted race promotions, and has a team of 19 ambassadors. Most importantly, she is a role model and an inspiration to other runners. She encourages and supports new runners, guiding them to opportunities and running classes that will help them to accomplish their own personal running goals.”

Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for faculty affairs, professor of public health, and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. She joined the faculty in 2008 and has served as president of Faculty Senate. A University graduate, Thompson received a doctorate in health education and master of science and education degree in public health.

“Since joining the University, Dr. Thompson has made significant contributions in the areas of teaching, research, publications, university/college/department service and community engagement. Some of her achievements include being director of a top-ranked Public Health Doctoral Program; co-chairing the University Opioid Task Force, the University Sexual Assault Task Force and the Associate to Professor Program; and serving as a Mid-American Conference Leadership Fellow, Provost Fellow, and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Fellow,” one nominator wrote. “She also is to be commended for her exemplary work through the Center for Health and Successful Living with breast cancer survivors. She provided not only health screenings and the opportunity for advanced medical treatments, but the ability to interact and support — and receive support from — other survivors. Dr. Thompson became a mentor and friend to these women and assisted in making the University a guiding light for their recovery.”

Margaret F. “Peg” Traband, who retired as senior vice provost of academic affairs in 2018. She began her career at UToledo as an instructor in the Respiratory Care Program in 1975 at the former University Community and Technical College. The UToledo alumna served the Respiratory Care Program as director of clinical education and program director. She was promoted to professor in 1991. Traband also was an associate dean and interim dean of the College of Health Science and Human Service (now Health and Human Services) prior to joining the Office of the Provost in 2008.

“I first worked with Peg when she became the leader of the UT Learning Collaborative in 2008,” a nominator wrote. “Though this unit only lasted a few years, under her leadership, she helped to grow the study abroad program, with the eventual creation of the Center for International Studies and Programs. She also assisted in the creation of the Rathbun Cove for the Learning Collaborative. Through working with her in the Office of the Provost, I have learned a lot about higher education. She is willing to share her knowledge about state regulations and the ins and outs of curriculum and program development.”

The University Women’s Commission also presented $1,000 scholarships to four students. Receiving awards based on academic achievement, support of women’s and gender issues, and campus involvement were Diala Abou-Dahech, a senior majoring in recreational therapy; Laura Heckenmueller, a senior majoring in pharmaceutical sciences; Elizabeth Konopka, a senior majoring in history; and Rose Mansel-Pleydell, a senior majoring in art.

Four seniors received scholarships from the University Women’s Commission. They are, from left, Rose Mansel-Pleydell, Laura Heckenmueller, Elizabeth Konopka and Diala Abou-Dahech.

UToledo develops precise method to test for exposure to toxic algae

Researchers at The University of Toledo have developed a highly accurate method to test for microcystin in blood or urine samples, an advancement that could provide clinicians a powerful new tool in assessing a patient’s exposure to the dangerous toxin.

The discovery is a continuation of the work UToledo has done around harmful algal blooms since the 2014 Toledo water crisis that temporarily left the city without drinkable water.

Dr. David Kennedy, left, and Dr. Dragan Isailovic have developed a test for microcystin in blood or urine samples that could prove to be a powerful new tool to assess a patient’s exposure to the toxin.

“We don’t want to just be known as the people who turned off the tap, we want to be known as the people who come up with the solutions,” said Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor of medicine in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and one of the researchers involved in the project. “We’re leading in that area, and the way we’re leading isn’t just going to help northwest Ohio — it’s going to help the world.”

Kennedy’s lab collaborated with Dr. Dragan Isailovic, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Dr. Steven Haller, assistant professor of medicine, to develop and test the method. The research was funded from grants awarded from the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative.

UToledo’s microcystin test combines a method for separating the toxic compounds out of blood or urine samples by liquid chromatography with further examination using mass spectrometry.

The test can identify various microcystins and quantify concentrations of six common microcystins, including the types most often found in Lake Erie.

“Together, we have created a reliable tool that hasn’t existed before. From a clinician’s point of view, you can’t underestimate the importance of having certitude in your diagnosis. We’re helping to provide new diagnostic methods for clinicians to rule in or rule out exposure to microcystin,” Haller said.

Most other attempts at testing blood or urine samples for microcystin have relied on the ELISA test, which is the standard method for quantifying microcystins in water but isn’t as effective in biological samples.

“Our method is very sensitive and reproducible for identification and quantification of microcystins in biological fluids,” Isailovic said. “It would be difficult to do this with the same sensitivity and specificity using any other method.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Chromatography A. Other UToledo contributors on the paper were Dr. Dilrukshika S.W. Palagama, David Baliu-Rodriguez, Apurva Lad and Dr. Bruce S. Levison. A provisional patent on the testing method has been filed.

The researchers are exploring opportunities to use the lab’s technology to offer testing of samples to outside entities.

Accreditation restored to UToledo’s Physician Assistant Program

The University of Toledo’s Physician Assistant Studies Program has been granted full accreditation in recognition of the high-quality education provided to students in a program that meets or exceeds national standards.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) notified the University in a letter sent April 11 that its accreditation has been restored. The program is now on accreditation-continued status, which is in effect until its next review in September 2027. The program had been on accreditation-probation status.

“We are proud [the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant] recognized our efforts to enhance the quality of our PA program and continually improve on our processes and procedures,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We have remained committed to our students in the program throughout this process and are happy to share this positive outcome with them.”

“We are pleased with this outcome, and I want to thank the leadership from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, College of Graduate Studies, and the Provost’s Office for their efforts to develop and implement an action plan focused on enriching the academic experience for the students in our Physician Assistant Studies Program,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said.

The University’s accreditation status is:

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to The University of Toledo Physician Assistant Program sponsored by The University of Toledo. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be 2027 September. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Zooming in on nature: Winners of Lake Erie Photo Contest announced

A total of 161 eye-catching entries vyed for top honors in the ninth annual Lake Erie Photo Contest.

Photographers of all ages were invited to submit up to three shots that fit the theme, “The Nature of Our Region, From Oak Openings to Maumee Bay.”

All entries are on display in the Lake Erie Center Lobby, 6200 Bayshore Road, Oregon.

“We love this contest; we love seeing the fantastic photographs that are submitted every year, and we love that everyone is out enjoying nature,” said Rachel Lohner, education program manager for the Lake Erie Center.

Winners took home cash prizes. Listed by category, they are:

• Best of Show — Michael Henningsen;

• Adult — Henningsen;

• Teen (13 to 18 years old) — Bekah McVicker; and

• Youth (7 to 12 years old) — Natalie Gibbons.

Lohner said the photo contest is designed to inspire camera enthusiasts and others to explore nature in the Lake Erie region.

Visit the Lake Erie Center’s Facebook page to see more photos from the contest.

Michael Henningsen took home the overall top prize for this photo of raccoons.

Michael Henningsen also won first place in the adult category for his photo of foxes.

Bekah McVicker placed first in the teen category with this shot of a hummingbird.

Natalie Gibbons received top honors in the youth category for her photo of a praying mantis.

Toledo women’s basketball ranks No. 30 nationally in home attendance in 2018-19

The NCAA released its final home attendance figures for the 2018-19 season April 8 and the Toledo women’s basketball team finished No. 30 in the country, averaging 3,728 fans per contest.

The Rockets also led the Mid-American Conference in attendance for an unprecedented 29th consecutive season.

Toledo led the Mid-American Conference in attendance an unprecedented 29th consecutive season in 2018-19 and ranked No. 30 in the NCAA, averaging 3,728 fans per home game.

Toledo drew at least 4,000 fans to seven of its 17 home contests during the year; this includes a season best 6,059 against 2019 NCAA Championship finalist Notre Dame Dec. 8, the third-largest crowd in school history.

The Rockets have ranked in the top 30 nationally in home attendance in seven of the last eight years under Head Coach Tricia Cullop. The Midnight Blue and Gold also finished No. 28 (3,748) in 2011-12, No. 25 (4,012) in 2012-13, No. 24 (3,932) in 2013-14, No. 28 (3,636) in 2014-15, No. 24 (4,050) in 2015-16, No. 27 (3,744) in 2016-17 and No. 31 (3,420) in 2017-18.

In 11 years under Cullop, the Rockets are 137-40 (.774) on their home court, including 77-22 (.778) against conference opponents.

Toledo also has won at least 11 home contests in nine seasons under Cullop, including a school-record 19 victories during the 2010-11 campaign.

Spring football scrimmage, food trucks, games, prizes highlight annual fan event

The Toledo Rockets will hold their annual Blue and Gold Spring Football Scrimmage at the Glass Bowl Friday, April 12. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Admission is free.

The scrimmage will use a running clock and is expected to last about one hour. Player autographs will be available for fans immediately following the game in the west stadium concourse.

Bryant Koback and the Rockets will compete in their annual spring
scrimmage Friday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in the Glass Bowl.

Fans may enter the Glass Bowl via Gate A, located on the west side of the stadium near the press tower. Fans can park in lots 9 or 10.

Earlier in the day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Rockets will host Food Court Fridays on campus in lot 6 adjacent to the UT Outdoor Track. Food trucks from Deet’s BBQ and Rosie’s Rolling Chef will be on campus for Rocket fans to purchase lunch.

Fans also will have the opportunity to renew or purchase their 2019 football season tickets and receive a free Toledo Rockets flag.

There will be fun activities such as corn hole, giant Jenga, a football toss contest, music and photo opportunities with the Toledo mascots. A raffle will be held with prizes, including football tickets, pre-game field passes, a signed football and a Coach Jason Candle bobblehead.

The deadline to renew or buy 2019 Toledo football season tickets and receive a free Toledo Rockets flag has been extended to Friday, April 12, before the start of the spring scrimmage. Call 419.530.GOLD or visit the Toledo Rockets’ website to get your tickets and flag today.

Head Coach Jason Candle’s 2019 squad returns 51 letter winners and 14 starters from last season’s team, including sophomore running back Bryant Koback, who led the Rockets with 917 yards rushing as a freshman. The Rockets were 7-6 in 2018, and are one of only nine schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision that have had a winning record in each of the past nine seasons.

In the event of inclement weather, the spring scrimmage and Food Court Friday will be canceled. Check Twitter (@ToledoRockets), Facebook (UTRockets) and the Athletics’ website for any cancellation notices.

UToledo physicist awarded $1.1 million to boost performance of solar cells

A physicist at The University of Toledo was awarded a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop ultra-high efficiency solar cells that accelerate the conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity.

Dr. Yanfa Yan, professor of physics, is teaming up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the photovoltaics project to create what are referred to as all-perovskite tandem solar cells that would have a higher conversion efficiency and lower cost.


While the majority of solar panels based on polycrystalline absorber materials on the market today have about a 16 percent efficiency rating, Yan’s goal is to raise the bar by creating a cell with more than 25 percent efficiency.

“We are excited about this opportunity and eager to collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to push the performance of solar cells to a higher level and make contributions to the U.S. Department of Energy’s clean energy goal,” Yan said.

Yan’s work is one of 25 projects recently awarded a total of $28 million in federal funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, which supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of solar technologies on the grid.

“This $1.1 million award recognizes The University of Toledo as a national leader in photovoltaics research,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “This is part of an effort to innovate toward a cleaner energy future. With First Solar’s footprint in northwest Ohio and the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization at The University of Toledo, Toledo is a hotbed for clean energy and photovoltaics research. This is another success story for northwest Ohio’s green energy economy.”

Yan is one of the leaders of UToledo’s area of excellence in solar energy, water quality and sustainable technologies.

“I am delighted about Dr. Yanfa Yan’s continuing success in advancing his research on perovskite solar cells,” UToledo Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “Building upon his remarkably impressive publication record in solar energy science, this award confirms the quality and importance of his research and provides him and his collaborators funding to develop techniques to increase the power conversion efficiency of these cells up to 28 percent.”

Alumnus, business students to receive 2019 Pacemaker Awards

The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation and the Business Engagement and Leadership Council will hold its 56th annual Pacemaker Awards Friday, April 12, at the Inverness Club.

Ramon E. Gonzalez III will receive the 2019 Business Pacemaker Award at the ceremony, which will start at 7 p.m.


He received a bachelor of business administration degree from the University in 1961. Gonzalez split his career between serving as a foreign service officer at the U.S. State Department, as assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch, and as chief financial officer of Lone Star Seed Co. in San Antonio. He is now retired.

Gonzalez served in the military and is a retired captain of the United States Army Reserve. He also is a past member of the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives, and a member emeritus and past secretary of the Explorers Club, Washington Group.

The University alumnus is a strong supporter of the College of Business and Innovation’s Edward H. Schmidt School of Professional Sales. Gonzalez and his family regularly visit the University every fall.

“The Pacemaker Award is the College of Business and Innovation’s highest honor, recognizing individuals for outstanding achievement in business, as well as contributions to the community and the University,” said. Dr. Anne L. Balazs, dean of the College of Business and Innovation. “We also are proud to recognize our business students at this prestigious annual event.”

Student Pacemaker Awards are presented to College of Business and Innovation graduate and undergraduate students for their outstanding academic achievement, University and community service, and leadership.

The 2019 Student Pacemaker Award recipients are:

• Master of Business Administration — Himabindu Katrapati;

• Master of Science in Accountancy — Constance Baumgartner;

• Accounting — Rachael Noe and Hannah Smith;

• Applied Organizational Management — Gregory Matuszynski II;

• Finance — Landon Bleau and Spencer Shoemaker;

• Information Operations Technology Management — Cassidy Hamill and Scott Pribe;

• Management — Laurie Britt and Quinne Meyer;

• Marketing and International Business — Olivia Wright and Jovan Sanson; and

• Dean’s Award — Abigail Brannan.