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University’s strategic plan taking shape

After several months of work and with the input of more than 1,000 people at the University, the strategic planning committee has defined the major areas of focus for the institution over the next five years.

The team shared the plan framework with various groups of University leaders last week, and soon will be conducting information sessions with students, faculty, staff and the community to review major components of the plan.

Areas of focus include:

• Student success and academic excellence;

• Research, scholarship and creative activities;

• Faculty, staff and alumni;

• Fiscal positioning and infrastructure; and

• Reputation and engagement. 

The team also identified themes that cut across all of the areas of focus. Those include:

• Athletics;

• Communications;

• Community engagement;

• Diversity and inclusion;

• Fundraising;

• Innovation;

• Technology; and

• UT’s Health System.

In addition to the plan, the strategic planning committee is working on new drafts of the University’s mission, vision, values and purpose statements.

“It is exciting to see the plan taking shape,” said UT President Sharon L Gaber. “It’s clear that we have a lot of things we’d like to do, and we are anxious to get started on the plan.”

Students, faculty and staff will have an opportunity to review the plan and discuss the proposed goals in the information sessions planned for Tuesday, Feb. 28, and Wednesday, March 1; see the chart below.

Trustees approve campus master plan

The University of Toledo Board of Trustees voted Monday to endorse the Multiple Campus Master Plan 2017 that establishes a guide to the evolution of UT’s campuses for the next decade.

The master plan is focused on four themes: repositioning the academic core, investing in research, consolidating athletics, and enhancing student life.

“This 10-year plan is the result of months of collaborations with our students, faculty, staff, trustees, neighbors and other stakeholders to guide future decision making for our physical campuses to support the University’s mission to serve students and benefit the community,” said Jason Toth, UT associate vice president for facilities and construction. “I look forward to watching the campuses evolve according to this plan.”

Efforts to develop the master plan, which was created in collaboration with the consulting firm Smith Group JJR, began in fall 2014, and the draft plan was presented publicly in December.

It was developed under the guiding principles of student success and student life experience; research, scholarship and creative activities; asset stewardship; campus character; and community interface.

The master plan honors the beauty of UT’s campuses and the Ottawa River by focusing the academic core on Main Campus around the iconic University Hall with renovations to nearby academic buildings, including Carlson Library. The Student Union, on-campus living and recreation options also will be enhanced to boost student life energy and excitement.

The Health Science Campus is positioned to respond to continued evolution in medical education and clinical research as the academic affiliation agreement between the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and ProMedica is implemented and the UT Medical Center plans to add more primary care and behavioral health options to meet the needs of the community.

The plan also calls for a new multidisciplinary research center near Nitschke Hall and a consolidation of athletics facilities moving baseball, softball and soccer from Scott Park Campus to Main Campus.

The campus master plan will be implemented in phases during the next decade.

The executive summary of the Multiple Campus Master Plan 2017 is available online at utoledo.edu/facilities/master-plan.

Researchers create online database to help inform public about harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie

It’s now easier for Toledo area residents and businesses looking for information about water quality and the health of Lake Erie to go directly to the source.

Researchers at The University of Toledo launched a website database containing hundreds of reports and studies discussing Lake Erie harmful algal blooms.

In 2014, the city of Toledo issued a ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory for half a million residents for three days due to the level of the algal toxin microcystin detected in the drinking water.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education, with the assistance of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, gave UT $66,000 in 2015 to develop the database and support research related to harmful algal blooms.

The Lake Erie algal bloom online database project was a collaborative effort between Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, and associate dean of social and behavioral sciences in the College of Arts and Letters; Dr. Kevin Egan, associate professor in the Department of Economics; and researchers from Ohio State University and Kent State University.

The database currently contains more than 300 reports, web links and key contacts, Lawrence said. The team plans to update the database and add more resources before the next algal bloom season.

“The intent is to help educate and inform stakeholders in the Maumee watershed by providing access to the best and most recent research and information so as to drive an open and participatory engagement with discussion about how we can all work collectively on a wide range of solutions to reduce the frequency, size and impacts of Lake Erie harmful algal blooms,” Lawrence said.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education has funded more than 20 projects from several Ohio universities, including cost-benefit analysis for potential options to use wetlands as a form of natural storage and treatment of nutrients from farmland; economic issues associated with improving farm practices to reduce runoff of nutrients; and an assessment of the connections and interactions among stakeholders within the Maumee basin involved or interested in harmful algal blooms and possible measures to address and reduce them.

For more information about Lake Erie harmful algal blooms, the database can be found at lakeeriehabsis.gis.utoledo.edu.

UT selected as one of six partners in U.S. to join first research network on misdemeanor justice

The University of Toledo has been selected to join a new national research network to study trends in low-level crimes to inform smarter criminal justice policies that enhance public safety, increase public trust in police, and save tax dollars.

The Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice is run by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and funded by a $3.25 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

UT is one of six universities in the country to join a national research network to study trends in low-level crimes. The study started in New York City.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice began focusing on misdemeanors in New York City years ago and is expanding the study’s scope to include six other cities. UT received a three-year, $169,000 grant to analyze local data and work with research institutions throughout the country.

In addition to Toledo, joining the new national alliance with New York City are Los Angeles, Seattle, St. Louis, Durham, N.C., and Prince Georges County in Maryland for a total of seven jurisdictions throughout the country working together.

“The University of Toledo is proud to be a part of this pioneering national project to inform policy discussions and reform because misdemeanors are the bulk of what police officers deal with every day, but there is not much research on it,” said Dr. David Lilley, assistant professor of criminal justice and the research director of the misdemeanor justice project at UT. “The vast majority of arrests are low-level offenses that carry a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail, such as drug possession, petty theft, simple assault and driving on a suspended license.”

Misdemeanors accounted for approximately 90 percent of total arrests by Toledo police officers in 2015 when there were 22,463 misdemeanor arrests and 2,296 felony arrests.

“Misdemeanors are the lion’s share of the charges that we usually bring against suspects,” Toledo Police Chief George Kral said. “I’m hoping this study gives us more ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. That valuable intelligence will help me change policy, if necessary, to make the whole process more efficient, keep the community safe, and give defendants the help they need. If we could nip it in the bud at the misdemeanor level, we could stop someone from escalating to felonies in the future.”

Toledo was chosen as part of the misdemeanor study out of 39 that applied, in part, because of the collaborations UT researchers already have with local law enforcement and the ongoing criminal justice reform efforts underway in Lucas County.

“We are one of the smallest cities on the list, but one of the factors that puts us ahead of the curve is that we have been doing this type of data analysis at UT for years by working with the Toledo Police Department,” said Dr. Kasey Tucker-Gail, associate professor of criminal justice, director of the Urban Policing and Crime Analysis Initiative, and principal investigator for the misdemeanor justice research project at UT. “TPD’s advanced data system is one of the best. Being chosen for John Jay College’s misdemeanor project is an honor that rewards our teamwork.”

UT researchers say many police agencies across the country do not know how many misdemeanor arrests result in incarceration.

“Part of what we’re doing is taking a close look at the outcomes and conduct cross-site analyses to figure out how to increase efficiency and effectiveness,” Lilley said. “Are people ending up in jail? Fined? Are charges dropped because the system is overburdened or there is not enough evidence? Are suspects going through a diversion program, such as drug court? Our research alliance will examine trends and outcomes of misdemeanor arrests, summonses, pedestrian stops and pre-trial detention at the local level.”

The University of Toledo will work with the Toledo Police Department, Northern Ohio Regional Information Systems and the Toledo-Lucas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council as part of the project.

“Hopefully, this research will help guide new alternatives for individuals that may need help instead of punishment,” said Holly Matthews, attorney and executive director of the Toledo-Lucas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. “We’re working on reducing our jail population by 18 percent. This misdemeanor project is going to help show the trends over the last three or four years — especially with the opioid epidemic — that we’re seeing locally. We have already been working proactively with the Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board to address other options besides incarceration for individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

Research partners for the Misdemeanor Justice Project also include the University of California in Los Angeles, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, the University of Maryland and the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

“To see the work of the Misdemeanor Justice Project expand from New York City to six other jurisdictions is very exciting,” said Dr. Preeti Chauhan, assistant professor of psychology at John Jay College and principal investigator of the research network. “We are looking forward to replicating the New York model to these sites and believe the results will guide smarter criminal justice reform.”

“The network has generated an outpouring of academic and government interest in pioneering a national conversation around enforcement of lower-level crimes — something that leads a large number of individuals to enter our justice system,” said Matt Alsdorf, vice president of criminal justice for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. “We are proud of the diverse U.S. cities leading this conversation, and we look forward to learning how the research partnerships inform local and national justice policies for the long term.”

AVP/director of residence life named

Valerie Simmons-Walston is UT’s new associate vice president of student affairs and director of residence life.

She started her new post Jan. 9.

Simmons-Walston

“Ms. Simmons-Walston brings a wealth of student affairs experience to her new role at UT,” Dr. Kaye M. Patten, vice president for student affairs, said. “In her most recent role as dean of students at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, she oversaw Residence Life staff, Career Services, Judicial Affairs, Office of International Studies, and the Office of Military/Veteran Affairs.”

“I am excited to be at The University of Toledo,” Simmons-Walston said. “I’ve enjoyed my first month on campus, and I look forward to learning more about this institution and getting to know more students, staff and faculty.”

Simmons-Walston said she is learning more about University’s academic culture daily.

“Working with multiple offices campus wide, it is my goal to collaboratively serve our students well and retain them through graduation,” she said. “I anticipate more opportunities to work with faculty and partner with my fellow colleagues in Student Affairs to develop and support innovative, noteworthy leadership programs for our students. It is our responsibility to ensure that our students graduate with a prepared advantage over their peers at other institutions.”

She added she plans to continue attending athletic events: “The energy surrounding the games is contagious.”

In 2012, Simmons-Walston received Brenau University’s Haggerman-Thompson Excellence Award for her work with students, faculty and staff.

Prior to joining Brenau University, Simmons-Walston worked at Hampton University in Hampton, Va., and Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.H. Early in her career, she was employed by the Norfolk Public School System in Norfolk, Va.

The Cleveland native received a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Kent State University and a master of arts degree in counseling from Hampton University. Simmons-Walston is working on her dissertation for a doctorate in education from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Commencement ceremony to return to Glass Bowl

The University of Toledo will again celebrate graduation day inside the Glass Bowl this spring in one campus-wide commencement ceremony to recognize all students.

The spring commencement ceremony will be held Sunday, May 7, at 10 a.m. inside the historic stadium rain or shine to recognize more than 2,000 candidates for doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate’s degrees across UT’s colleges that operate on the traditional academic calendar.

“We are excited to return to one large graduation ceremony in the football stadium to celebrate all Rockets earning their degrees and to wish them well on their future success,” Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and executive president for academic affairs, said.

In recent years, UT held its main fall and spring commencement ceremonies in Savage Arena, with several colleges opting to hold separate commencement ceremonies. Only the College of Law and College of Medicine and Life Sciences, which operate on a different academic calendar, will continue to celebrate commencement on different dates.

Prior to 1998, the Glass Bowl had historically been the site for UT’s commencement celebrations. It hosted graduation again in 2008 when Savage Arena was undergoing renovations.

The Glass Bowl was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1936 for $313,558 to seat 8,000 people. The football stadium has been renovated over the years, while keeping the atmosphere of the original facility intact, to now seat more than 26,000 Rocket fans.

For more information about the spring 2017 commencement, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

Rockets win first tournament of spring at Ball State Sunshine Invitational

The Toledo women’s golf team won its opening tournament of the spring Feb. 11 with a 12-stroke victory over Southern Illinois at the Ball State Sunshine Invitational in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The Rockets carded a 74-over par 938 (316-314-308) and shot their best round of the event Saturday with a 20-over par 308 to post their fifth top three showing in six tournaments this season.

Junior Napaphan Phongpaiboon paced the Rockets at 18-over par 234 and finished alone in fourth place in the individual standings.

Sophomore Pinyada Kuvanun tied for seventh place at 20-over par 236, while sophomore Pimchanok Kawil and freshman Saranlak Tumfong tied for 12th place at 24-over par 240. Sophomore Natcha Daengpiem tied for 18th place at 25-over par 241.

Freshman Thunpijja Sukkasem tied for first place in the overall standings at 15-over par 231 but competed as an individual along with sophomore Hannah Kochendoerfer (tied for 35th/251).

Researchers across region can apply for federal innovation grant funding at UT

A new grant program called The University of Toledo Rocket Fuel Fund is accepting applications from researchers throughout northwest Ohio in need of resources to help develop new technology and gain the edge they need to succeed.

Applications will be accepted three times a year through 2019. The first deadline is Monday, May 1.

Faculty researchers at UT, other academic institutions and nonprofit research organizations in the 18-county region are eligible to apply for federal innovation grant money awarded to the University last year.

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded UT $500,000 to help researchers in the region launch startup companies, move ideas to market, and spur job creation. UT matched the three-year grant with an additional $767,903 for the Rocket Fuel Fund.

“The UT Rocket Fuel Fund is an unusual and exciting program because grant funding will be available for any researcher at institutions throughout northwest Ohio, not only UT,” said Anne Izzi, licensing associate at UT’s Office of Technology Transfer. “It’s only done in a handful of areas across the country. This was a very competitive grant process.”

UT is one of 27 out of 215 applicants in the U.S. that received a portion of the $15 million i6 Challenge grant through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program.

The selected recipients of UT Rocket Fuel Fund grants will be awarded up to $50,000 each to enhance the scope or patentability of inventions, and improve market potential through targeted research, customer discovery, and development of a prototype and business model.

“This is an incredible opportunity for UT faculty and academic researchers throughout the northwest Ohio region to apply for this funding for further development of their cutting-edge innovation and help move their new technologies toward commercialization, including women and minorities who are typically underrepresented in innovation and entrepreneurship,” Izzi said.

To apply, go to utoledo.edu/rocketinnovations/rocketfuelfund.html.

Hospital leader named UTMC CEO

Dan Barbee has been named chief executive officer of The University of Toledo Medical Center after serving in the role on an interim basis since June 1, 2016.

Barbee, who has nearly 25 years of combined clinical and health-care management experience, is responsible for the operational and strategic activities of UT’s medical center and clinics that average each year more than 12,000 admissions, 36,000 emergency department visits and 250,000 ambulatory care visits.

Barbee

“We are very happy that Dan will continue to lead UTMC in the future,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “He has proven himself to be a passionate, flexible and effective leader. Together with his team, I am confident Dan will continue to guide the hospital successfully in the changing health-care environment.”

Prior to serving as CEO, Barbee was UTMC’s chief operating officer and vice president of clinical service. He joined the medical center in 2011 as chief nursing officer and associate executive director.

“I am honored for the opportunity to continue to lead our dedicated team of more than 2,300 employees and physicians who are committed to providing high-quality care in our community,” Barbee said.

Barbee received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Illinois State University and a master of business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.

He serves as a trustee for the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio and on the boards of The University of Toledo Medical Assurance Co. and Toledo/Lucas County CareNet. Barbee also is a member of the UT College of Nursing’s advisory board and Mercy College of Ohio’s nursing program advisory committee.

Speaker to discuss the value of promises Feb. 16

The day Alex Sheen buried his father, he also started an international movement.

Then a 25-year-old working in corporate software, Sheen was asked by his family to eulogize his father, UT alumnus Wei Min “Al” Sheen, a pharmacist who passed away in September 2012.

Sheen

Calling Al Sheen an “average man who was exceptional at one thing,” Sheen, of Lakewood, Ohio, said his father was someone who kept his promises. “Too often, we say things like ‘I’ll get to it’ and ‘tomorrow,’” Sheen noted in an excerpt from his website, becauseIsaidIwould.com. “One day, there is no tomorrow. The promises we make and keep and those we choose to dishonor define us and this world.”

That day in 2012, he handed out the first of his promise cards, nondescript pieces of paper that remind people of the value of commitment.

Sheen will have plenty of promise cards during his public lecture Thursday, Feb. 16, in Doermann Theater. During the free, public event, the final of the 2016-17 Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series, Sheen will discuss the importance of accountability and the effect of a simple kept promise in today’s society.

“Because I said I would” will begin at 7 p.m.

Sheen said handing out the first promise cards “set off a chain of events to the scope of which I may never understand.”

The purpose of the cards is simple; house a written promise as a tangible reminder to fulfill a pledge. Since 2012, becauseIsaidIwould has distributed more than 5.6 million promise cards to people in 153 countries.

Some of the promises, Sheen said, are small: “Keep my room clean” and “Sincerely compliment someone every day.” Others have the capability to enact change and even save lives.

A woman donated a kidney to an acquaintance. A teenage girl testified against her attacker. A man with terminal cancer left daily “napkin” notes for his daughter so she would have comfort after his death. On YouTube, another man confessed, “I killed a man,” explaining he was the drunk driver whose actions resulted in the death of a stranger. The accused’s promise? “I will take full responsibility for what I have done.” While the man is in prison, the video he made with Sheen has been viewed by millions and has spurred thousands of promise cards from people pledging not to drink and drive.

Sheen practices what he preaches. His own list of promises is current, visible and ranges from the innocuous — “Watch ‘Gone With the Wind’” — to the exceptional. He has walked 240 miles across Ohio to support victims of sexual violence, spent 24 hours picking up trash in the Cleveland area, provided 24 hours of free rides for those who have been drinking, and raised enough funds to send 20 cancer-stricken children to Walt Disney World, all on the spark of a promise.

“Alex’s work is the perfect antidote to our busy lives, during which we forget to think about meeting longer term goals and commitments to ourselves and to others,” said Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College. “Turning this into a social movement was a brilliant step to help us collectively meet our promises, and provides great inspiration for would-be social entrepreneurs among our students.”

Sheen’s movement has expanded to include the development of city chapters and outreach to schools, businesses and other organizations. His message remains uncomplicated: Accountability. Character. Hope.

“Make and keep a promise,” Sheen wrote on his website, “to improve yourself, your family or your community. If you need a promise card to make the commitment real, we will send you one. The world is in need, so you are needed.”

To reserve a free ticket to the lecture, go to utoledo.edu/honorslecture.