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UT Upward Bound receives $2 million federal grant

The U.S. Department of Education renewed funding for The University of Toledo Upward Bound program for the next five years.

The program that has been helping local high school students prepare for college and succeed for more than five decades will receive $417,693 a year through 2022 for a total of approximately $2 million.

“The University of Toledo is committed to helping low-income and first generation college students succeed,” Pamela Rogers, director of UT Upward Bound, said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to continue impacting the lives of Toledo’s students and plant seeds for higher education. After all, today’s student is tomorrow’s leader.”

The funding allows the program to serve 100 high school students a year.

Rogers says for the last 24 years, 97 percent or more of participants have graduated high school, and the majority go on to college.

UT Upward Bound offers a six-week summer program on campus where students attend academic classes. This year 68 students are enrolled, and last year 60 students participated. Students also will travel to Washington, DC, this summer to visit colleges and cultural sites.

During the school year, the Upward Bound program offers workshops on taking tests, study skills and interviewing, as well as tutoring and financial aid advice.

“We want to raise high school GPAs to levels that make college entry possible,” Rogers said. “Our goal is to help these students and their families follow their dreams.”


UT receives $420,000 grant to help students through financial emergencies

The Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates has awarded The University of Toledo a two-year, $420,000 grant to help low-income students who experience a financial emergency, such as an unexpected car repair or medical bill, focus on their studies and stay in college.

The Dash Emergency Grant allows UT to provide emergency grants for up to $1,000 per student to help pay for unexpected costs within 48 hours of the approved application.

UT is one of 32 four-year colleges in six states to be awarded $7.2 million in grant funding.

A student must meet income eligibility guidelines in order to receive a Dash Emergency Grant.

“Life is full of unexpected challenges and this grant provides another tool for us to help students through those emergencies so we can keep them in the classroom and on the path to graduation,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said.

Dr. Michele Soliz, UT assistant vice president for student success and inclusion, focuses on strategic retention initiatives and will serve as program director.

“I’m excited we received this highly competitive award,” Soliz said. “Lack of financial aid is a main reason for not completing a degree. These funds will help students who find themselves in extreme circumstances that otherwise could mean the end of college. We will work collaboratively with partners across campus to make sure students are aware of these resources.”

The UT Office of Multicultural and Student Success is hosting information sessions in July and August about how the application process works. The program will begin providing grants to students in fall 2017.

Since 2012, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates has committed $3 million to fund emergency grant programs at two-year colleges. This is the first time Great Lakes is providing Dash Emergency Grants to four-year colleges in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“We’re pleased to extend our emergency grant program to four-year colleges dedicated to helping low-income students overcome financial obstacles,” said Richard D. George, president and chief executive officer of Great Lakes. “In addition to helping more students progress to degree completion, we look forward to learning the nuances between programs at two-year and four-year colleges and sharing that knowledge with other institutions looking to establish emergency grant programs.”

For more information, go to community.mygreatlakes.org/community/press-releases/issues/170615.


UToledo alumnus captured photos featured on new stamp commemorating total solar eclipse

In honor of the upcoming total solar eclipse, the U.S. Postal Service is debuting a trailblazing stamp that features two images captured by Fred Espenak, a University of Toledo alumnus and retired NASA astrophysicist affectionately known as Mr. Eclipse.

The Forever Stamp uses thermochromic ink and changes upon touch. With the heat of a finger, Espenak’s photo of the total eclipse of the sun transforms into an image of the full moon, also captured by Espenak.

“Other countries have used this technology, but it’s the first time in the United States,” Espenak said. “When you rub the stamp, a second image appears from the warmth of your finger. You’ll see the total eclipse of the sun and, with the touch of your finger, you’ll see the full moon.”

On Monday, Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the United States mainland for the first time in 38 years.

“The track of the moon’s shadow will cut diagonally across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina through 14 states,” Espenak said. “Inside the 70-mile-wide path of totality, the moon will completely cover the sun as the landscape is plunged into an unsettling twilight, and the sun’s glorious corona is revealed for more than two minutes.”

Espenak has had a long career of chasing eclipses around the world. Planes, trains and automobiles have taken Espenak to 27 total eclipses on seven continents.

Millions have seen his work; Espenak’s photos have been published in National Geographic, Nature and Newsweek.

To commemorate the Aug. 21 event, the Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever stamp will be released Tuesday, June 20, during a ceremony at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Espenak and his wife will be there.

“I’m honored to have my photographs on a stamp. But more importantly, the stamp will spread the news about America’s Great Eclipse to many more people,” he said. “And what a fantastic opportunity. For a lot of people, this is the chance of a lifetime to see a total eclipse.”

“Fred Espenak is another great example of a ‘rocket scientist’ who has really lived up to that name,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy; and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “He has made solid contributions to NASA science missions for many years, and also is doing a wonderful job of sharing his passion for and knowledge of eclipses with the public both on national and international stages. We’re really proud that he is an alumnus of The University of Toledo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.”

Espenak will return to his alma mater to speak Thursday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. in UT’s Memorial Field House Room 2100. He will preview the Great American Total Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21 that will star the moon passing between the sun and Earth, which will be visible in the contiguous United States for the first time since 1979 — weather permitting.

During the free, public talk funded by the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professorship in Astronomy, the 1976 UT graduate who received a master of science degree in physics will discuss eclipses and share his eyewitness accounts around the globe through video and photos.

And he’ll offer two words of advice: road trip.

“I’m going to show people what they can expect to see in Toledo and how to watch it using safe eye protection, but I’m also going to encourage people to start making plans for a car trip to the eclipse path of totality because that’s where you have to be to see the total phase of the eclipse, and it’s worth the drive.

“It’s something you remember your entire life because it’s so unusual from anything you’ve seen before,” Espenak said. “The bright sun is completely gone in the sky, and you see this very strange-looking black disc, which is the unilluminated side of the moon, and it’s surrounded by this gossamer, feathery halo that’s the sun’s corona, which is two million degrees. It’s the only time you can see something that’s two million degrees with the naked eye. It’s such a stunning, overwhelming experience: The temperature drops probably 10 degrees as you go into totality, so you feel a chill in the air; animals react strangely; birds quiet down as if they’re going to roost at night.”

Espenak, a retired astrophysicist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, operates the Bifrost Astronomical Observatory in Portal, Ariz. He is the author of “Eclipse Bulletin: Total Solar Eclipse 2017” and “Road Atlas for the Total Solar Eclipse 2017.”

To view Espenak’s work, go to mreclipse.com.

For more about the commemorative stamp, go to about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2017/pr17_020.htm. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtag #EclipseStamps.


UT to host author June 9, partner with Ghana schools throughout year

Yvonne Pointer, renowned youth advocate, author and philanthropist from Cleveland, will visit The University of Toledo along with two chiefs from West Africa to speak with the students of Toledo Excel’s Global Diversity Institute Friday, June 9.

The Global Diversity Institute is a program for fourth-year students that allows them to study the global community.

In 1984, Pointer’s 14-year-old daughter, Gloria, was the victim of a murder that took three decades to solve.

This tragedy started Pointer’s passion for improving the safety of communities around the world through programs that provide alternatives to violence and increase self-confidence.

She also has established three schools in Ghana, West Africa, in her daughter’s name.

Two prominent leaders from Ghana, Chief Nana Kodwo Eduakwa V and Chief Nana KraKwamina II, will join her at UT and speak to students about the areas they govern and how students can get involved.

Pointer will deliver her talk 11 a.m. Friday, June 9 in Memorial Field House Room 2200.

“I had heard bits and pieces of Pointer’s story over the years, but had the opportunity about a month ago to actually hear her speak and tell her full story in person at my church in Toledo,” said David Young, director of Toledo Excel.

“The timing was perfect because our staff was developing our curriculum for Global Diversity. I had been giving a great deal of thought to our students studying countries on the continent of Africa as we had done in the past, so when I heard Pointer’s amazing connection to Ghana, I saw the potential for a wonderful partnership.”

Through a partnership with the three schools in Ghana, Toledo Excel students will have the opportunity to study and connect with their peers in the country throughout the year.

“Students gain insight into the effects of history, geography and politics on the human rights of individuals. They study specific countries and their cultures, and when possible connect with those countries through cultural exchange and service,” Young explained.

“They gain a better understanding of how small a place the world is and the importance of a global marketplace and economy. The cultural and academic enrichment gained enables students to better understand how their career aspirations might connect with international opportunities.”

For 28 years, UT’s Toledo Excel has provided college preparation and scholarships to underrepresented students, including African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans.

Through services such as summer institutes, academic retreat weekends, campus visits and guidance through the admission process, students increase their self-esteem, cultural awareness and civic involvement.


State renews grant to support UT Minority Business Assistance Center Program operations

The state awarded The University of Toledo a $330,000, two-year grant to continue to host the Minority Business Assistance Center Program that serves the 17-county region.

The program, which supports economic development in northwest Ohio by providing resources for minority-owned, early stage businesses, is housed in the UT Minority Business Development Center (MBDC) on Scott Park Campus and funded through the Ohio Development Services Agency Minority Business Development Division.

“The University of Toledo Minority Business Development Center is once again glad to be selected an award site for this important grant,” said Dr. Shanda Gore, associate vice president of the Minority Business Development Center and the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women. “We are one of the few incubators in the country that focuses on minority businesses. This award supports our commitment to the community, our students and research to support business growth and economic development.”

The program offers no-cost counseling, state certification support and trainings focused on creating jobs and increasing sales.

“Through our partnerships across the state, minority-owned businesses will be better supported in their growth and development,” said Jeffrey L. Johnson, chief of the Minority Business Development Division at the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The grant will be used in Toledo to hire a regional director and an operations manager.

Last year the MBDC’s 11 member companies and 11 affiliate companies supported 97 jobs and generated $15.5 million in sales.

Since receiving the state grant in 2015, the Minority Business Assistance Center Program in Toledo engaged 211 new clients. It helped 33 companies earn minority business certification and helped 37 earn EDGE certification, which recognizes workplace gender equality.

In two years, $2.3 million in capital was awarded in approved state bonds to minority-owned businesses that grew with the help of the program. The companies also were awarded 649 public sector contracts valued at $22.3 million. In the first grant-cycle period, 2,400 jobs were retained and 110 jobs were created.


UT professor, students part of team selected to participate in $5 million national solar competition

A University of Toledo physics professor and students are members of a Toledo team awarded $60,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy to participate in a $5 million prize competition called the Solar in Your Community Challenge.

The team, which is named Glass City Community Solar, aims to expand solar electricity access to low- and moderate-income residents. It’s comprised of community partners, including UT, Vistula Management Co., Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and City of Toledo.

The Glass City Community Solar team is one of 35 teams nationally to be selected to receive seed funds from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to support project planning and to raise awareness. All teams will compete for $1 million in prizes, which will be awarded by judges based on each project or program’s innovation, impact and replicability.

Over the next 18 months, Glass City Community Solar will demonstrate innovative financing for commercial solar installations.

“It is extremely exciting for us to be able to have a hand in a project that has so much potential to benefit families by reducing electric bills, as well as educating the Toledo community about the use of renewable energy,” said UT student Blaine Luszcak, who is co-president of the UT student group called Building Ohio’s Sustainable Energy Future.

Glass City Community Solar will develop 300 to 750 kW of photovoltaic systems on rooftops and vacant lots to serve low- and moderate-income housing across the metro Toledo area. The cost savings will reduce electricity expenses and also will support residents interested in pursuing education and training in the solar energy field.

“Our students will benefit tremendously from these real-world photovoltaic projects, as they create an extended learning lab that will result in several large, operational photovoltaic power systems,” Dr. Randy Ellingson, UT professor of physics, said.

“We are thrilled that our team was selected to join the challenge,” said John Kiely, president of Vistula Management Co. and the team leader of Glass City Community Solar. “Our projects will benefit the people of Lucas County, and bring The University of Toledo’s leadership and passion for photovoltaic technology to real-world applications that benefit the people in our community that need it most.”

Find more information about the competition at solarinyourcommunity.org.


New dean selected to lead UT College of Engineering

A civil and environmental engineer with a focus on design and construction innovation and safety will join The University of Toledo as the leader of the College of Engineering effective Aug. 1.

Dr. Michael Toole comes to UT from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Over his 18 years at Bucknell, he served as professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate dean of engineering, director of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program and director of the Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management. During the current academic year, Toole has been a faculty fellow associated with the Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Architectural Engineering.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Michael Toole to The University of Toledo,” Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “His robust experience in higher education, the private sector and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineering Corps will enhance and strengthen our commitment to research and training in the College of Engineering.”

Dr. Michael Toole

“I can’t wait to begin working with the excellent faculty and staff at UT to help provide quality engineering education that strengthens the Toledo region, as well as our nation,” Toole said. “The commitment on campus to achieve excellence in both teaching and research is inspiring. The strong co-op program, extensive research facilities and wonderful ties with regional industry partners make this opportunity very compelling.”

Prior to Bucknell University, Toole worked at Packer Engineering as director of construction systems and vice president of HomeCAD; Ryland Homes as purchasing and construction services manager; Tonyan Composites Corporation as president and co-founder; Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an instructor of business and technology strategy; Brown and Root Services Corporation as project manager; and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps as assistant resident officer in charge of construction and company commander in a SEABEE battalion.

Toole earned a PhD in technology strategy and a master’s in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Bucknell University.

Toole is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a member of the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program Steering Committee, the American Society of Safety Engineers and the American Society of Engineering Education. Toole won teaching awards at MIT and Bucknell and received two best paper awards from ASCE.

“My primary goal for the foreseeable future is to strengthen the scholarly profile for UT’s College of Engineering,” Toole said. “Securing funded research is an integral part of our mission because acquiring new knowledge leads to vibrancy within classrooms and throughout campus.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Steve LeBlanc for his leadership as interim dean of the College of Engineering since January,” Hsu said. “Dr. LeBlanc and the engineering faculty have made tremendous progress in moving the college forward.”


UT class to investigate mock crime scene at Wildwood May 23

Consider it CSI: UT.

University of Toledo students studying criminal justice and paralegal studies will get a dose of reality as part of a pioneering summer course titled Criminal Forensics and Trial Practice.

It’s a collaboration between the Paralegal Studies and Criminal Justice programs.

Students are placed on prosecuting and defense teams and assigned as crime scene investigators, paralegals and attorneys. They are responsible for investigating a mock homicide, indicting a suspect and conducting a trial.

The exercise begins with a fake crime scene at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 23 at the southwest corner of Wildwood Metropark near the maintenance building. Sixteen undergraduate students plan to spend up to 10 hours at the site.

The students will test their knowledge of forensic principles, such as securing a crime scene, photographing and collecting evidence, blood spatter analysis and interrogation, with the guidance of John Schlageter, director of the UT Paralegal Studies program and a former attorney who practiced in Ohio and Michigan, and Andrew Dier, director of the UT Criminal Justice program and a retired UT police officer.

“This is an opportunity for students to step out of the traditional classroom setting and practice hands-on skills that they will use in their careers,” Schlageter said.

A mock jury trial will be Thursday, June 22 in the McQuade Courtroom located inside the Health and Human Services building on the UT Main Campus.

At the trial, students will test their knowledge of trial procedure, including the preparation and examination of trial witnesses, how to make a closing arguments and rules of evidence.

“Following proper procedure from the very beginning at the crime scene could be the deciding factor in a guilty verdict from a jury,” Dier said. “This is practical training to put the students in real situations and force them to make mistakes here because in the real world of law enforcement, we get one shot to do it right, one bite of the apple.”


UT researchers study red-headed woodpeckers to solve mysteries of the charismatic, declining species

The red-headed woodpecker’s feisty, loud personality fits the reputation of crimson-maned creatures, but the student researcher gently holding the bird bucked the trend.

University of Toledo graduate student Kyle Pagel was calm, steady and methodical as he banded the woodpecker’s legs with tiny, colorful identifying rings and looped a miniature backpack armed with a light-level geolocator and pinpoint-GPS around its legs.

UT graduate student Kyle Pagel holding red-headed woodpecker

“The woodpecker is wearing it like a climbing harness,” said Pagel, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental sciences at UT. “The backpack is so thin and light that it doesn’t inhibit flight or movement.”

The bird that flies freely once again from tree to tree isn’t the scarlet mohawked woodpecker regularly spotted in backyards. The red-headed woodpecker is about the size of a robin or ten times larger than a warbler.

This 70-gram, boldly patterned “flying checkerboard” is the seventh bird of its kind in a week that the UT team has examined at Oak Openings Metropark, taken a blood sample from, and outfitted with tracking technology to identify migration routes.

“This is such as photogenic, popular species, it’s surprising how little is known about them,” Pagel said. “It’s fascinating to work with such a charismatic bird.”

Red-headed woodpecker at Oak Openings Metropark

Pagel, along with UT ornithologist and assistant professor Henry Streby, launched a study this month of red-headed woodpeckers that could last up to ten years and solve many mysteries about the species.

For the next several weeks, the birding team’s office will be located throughout the Oak Openings region, including sites along Girdham Road and Jeffers Road at Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. They expect this year to put tracking technology on 20 adult red-headed woodpeckers in Ohio and 20 in Minnesota, and on another 25 juveniles in each of those states.

“They’re in extreme decline, especially in the Midwest and Great Lakes area, maybe because of habitat loss and changes in their food supply,” Streby said. “We’re lucky to have Oak Openings just west of Toledo because it’s a place where red-headed woodpeckers seem to be doing relatively well. We want to figure out what’s working here and see if we can offer recommendations for habitat management elsewhere.”

UT ornithologist and assistant professor Henry Streby setting up the mist net

Every morning the team sets up mist nets and uses recorded calls, drums and decoy birds to attract the woodpeckers.

Researchers are using blood samples to analyze DNA and hormones, as well as measure stress, immune system condition and aging.

The miniature backpack weighs about two grams and uses a light-level geolocator to gather data about when the birds go in and out of tree cavities each day. Pinpoint GPS, like on a cell phone, will tell the researchers where the birds traveled.

“Red-headed woodpeckers are inconsistent,” Streby said. “Some years they migrate for the winter, some years they don’t. We want to know why. We also want to know where they go when they’re not here on their breeding grounds. It could only be as far south as Kentucky or Tennessee. That is what we will learn for the first time when we recover the backpacks from the birds.”

Food availability, specifically acorns, is one of the factors being observed at Oak Openings this season, as well as reproductive success and genetics.

“We’re studying all of this without knowing whether these woodpeckers are going to leave or not,” Streby said. “It’ll take several breeding seasons to be able to analyze their habits and help us know what needs to be done to conserve the species, especially in places where the populations are shrinking.”

Streby also has been studying golden-winged warblers for five years using light-level geolocators that weigh less than half a paper clip to track migration patterns. The songbirds, which are about the size of a ping pong ball, travel thousands of miles once they leave their spring and summer nesting grounds.


New dean selected to lead UT College of Arts and Letters

An award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and scholar of women’s and gender studies will join The University of Toledo to lead the College of Arts and Letters.

She also is a familiar face on campus.

Charlene Gilbert

Charlene Gilbert returns to UT from Ohio State University at Lima where she has served as dean and director since 2014, as well as professor in the Departments of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her appointment is effective July 10.

Prior to Lima, Gilbert worked at UT for seven years as professor and chair of the UT Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, founding director of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and director of the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women.

“The University is excited to welcome Charlene Gilbert back to Toledo,” Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “Her excellent, diverse experience and enthusiasm for student and faculty success will be strong assets as dean of the College of Arts and Letters.”

“I am honored to have been selected as the next dean of the College of Arts and Letters,” Gilbert said. “This is an inspiring time for The University of Toledo, and it is clear to me that the College of Arts and Letters will be a critical part of the University’s highest aspirations for the future.”

Gilbert was a documentary filmmaker and professor at American University in Washington, D.C., from 2001-07 in the School of Communication.

Her documentary films have been screened nationally on PBS and in film festivals across the country. Some of her best-known works include “Homecoming: Sometimes I Am Haunted by Memories of Red Dirt and Clay,” about African-American farmers and their struggle after the Civil War to own and farm land in the rural South, and “Children Will Listen,” which is about elementary school children planning and performing a junior production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Her current projects include an experimental documentary on the international prototype for the kilogram and a documentary on Mary Fields, a female pioneer known as “Stagecoach Mary” who has ties to Toledo.

Gilbert is a past recipient of Harvard University’s Radcliffe Fellowship, the Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship and American Council on Education Fellowship.

She has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Yale University and a master of fine arts in film and media arts from Temple University.

“The College of Arts and Letters has an incredibly talented community of faculty, staff and students,” Gilbert said. “I am looking forward to joining this community and building on the strong legacy of excellence that can be found in all of the departments and schools within the college.”

Once Gilbert’s appointment begins at UT, Dr. Jamie Barlowe will join the Provost’s Office full-time as interim vice provost for faculty affairs.