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Archive for April, 2020

University of Toledo Board of Trustees to Consider Leadership Transition Options

Following the announcement of President Sharon L. Gaber’s appointment as the fifth chancellor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, The University of Toledo Board of Trustees will convene a special meeting in the near future to consider transitional leadership options to ensure a seamless transition as the University prepares for a national presidential search.

Known for her focus on student success, interdisciplinary research and advancing the University’s reputation as a nationally recognized public research university, Gaber has served as the president of The University of Toledo since July 2015. She announced Tuesday that she has accepted the leadership position of UNC Charlotte.


In a letter to campus, Gaber thanked members of the University community for their hard work, dedication and support. “Together, we have made great strides to improve student success and elevated the national stature of UToledo.”

During her tenure, UToledo has significantly increased student retention and graduation rates; strengthened research efforts; and added programs and training to improve diversity, inclusion and sexual assault awareness.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank President Gaber for her leadership, service and commitment to our mission to provide a world-class education for tomorrow’s leaders,” UToledo Board of Trustees Chair Mary Ellen Pisanelli said. “Together, we have celebrated many accomplishments and faced challenges head on. We wish her nothing but success in her future endeavors.”

Pisanelli added, “As stewards of the University and the state, we will continue to focus our efforts on addressing the fiscal challenges that universities and hospitals across the nation are confronting including exploring all options regarding the future of UTMC.”

“Challenges remain for all of higher education, but I remain confident that UToledo’s future is brighter than ever,” Gaber said. “I am certain that with the Board’s leadership they will not only find the next president that the University deserves, but also that the University will continue the momentum to become an even stronger institution.”

UToledo Student Organizations Donate $187,000 to COVID-19 Student Relief Fund

Students at The University of Toledo are stepping up to help fellow students who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 60 student organizations mobilized to donate $187,000 to the Rocket to Rocket Fund that is supporting students in need during the public health emergency.

The donation comes from University-allocated funds that student organizations had budgeted for activities, events and campaigns for the spring semester that they now can’t use.

“When we got word that funding was frozen, we asked if we could put it toward students who had lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent or buy groceries,” Becca Sturges, Student Government president and fourth-year neurobiology major, said. “We worked together to collectively pool the money to give to students in need. Whether we can be together on the campus we love or not, we support each other, especially those of us facing tremendous financial stress and anxiety right now.”

The student organizations that contributed about two-thirds of the massive donation include Campus Activities and Programming, Latino Student Union, Student Government, Student Bar Association, Dancing Rockettes, WXUT, Sports Clubs and Black Student Union.

“I am so grateful for our students’ altruistic and generous nature,” said Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost. “These funds will be used to help hundreds of needy students. Our student leaders are living our mission of improving the human condition, and I could not be more proud of them.”

Donations to the Rocket to Rocket Fund help students facing financial hardships pay for housing, utilities, car repairs, medical bills, food and toiletries.

Make a donation and learn more about the drive on the COVID-19 Student Emergency Support Crowdfunding Campaign website.

UToledo students can apply for up to $500 by completing the University’s application for Rocket Aid.

Soprano Ready for More Golden Moments

Paige Chapman pictured it: She would wear a sky blue off-the-shoulder dress with a rose-gold necklace and matching earrings, and sparkly gold heels.

She would walk on stage of the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall and sing “Tornami a Vagheggiar,” a love song from Handel’s “Alcina.”

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

That song will still open her senior recital, but the performance will be a video online.

“I won’t totally get all glammed up. I won’t pull out the ‘Cinderella’ blue gown that is so pretty,” she said. “But I’ll still look nice.”

And even though the soprano will record that video in the basement of her Troy, Mich., home, it’ll be a soaring performance.

Chapman’s singing career has continued its upward trajectory since she became a Rocket in the College of Arts and Letters.

The ingénue has played six leading roles in UToledo operas and one supporting role in a musical. She took top honors in the Concerto/Aria Competition Collegiate Division in fall 2019, and she participated in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, placing third in fall 2017.

“Paige is a highly talented performer and singer. She has purity, agility and depth in her tone that make her voice adaptable to many different styles ranging from classical to musical theater,” Dr. Emily K. Oehrtman, UToledo visiting assistant professor of music, said.

“She is a genuine and generous performer, portraying a wide variety of characters adeptly, expressing poetry through song with ease, and showcasing different styles of music with grace and accuracy,” Oehrtman said.

Paige Chapman played Titania, queen of the fairies, in the UToledo Opera production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Photo courtesy of Zach Mills Media

Chapman recalled her first opera role at the University — Natalie in Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widower.” “I definitely learned a lot in that production. I was cast with someone older and more experienced. It was interesting to see the differences and similarities in how we performed the role.”

She had fun playing the title role in UToledo’s presentation of Seymour Barab’s “Little Red Riding Hood.” Another of her favorite roles on the University stage was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” an opera with music by Benjamin Britten and libretto adapted by Peter Pears from Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

“I played Titania, queen of the fairies,” Chapman said. “I wore these ginormous wings — it was hard to walk in the hallway! It was an amazing costume to go along with amazing music.”


She reached new heights as Despina in UToledo Opera’s production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte.” “This was the most challenging role. The entire opera is in Italian, and I had to master recitative — speaking that moves the story along. It was a very new skill to learn; it is music written with rhythms more speech-like with limited accompaniment,” Chapman said.

It wasn’t always about opera.

“I love music. I remember singing at Sunday school, and everyone told my parents [Steve and Annette Chapman] they should put me in voice lessons,” Chapman remembered.

When she turned 5, Chapman asked for voice lessons and a karaoke machine.

“The first song I learned in voice lessons was ‘The Beauty and the Beast,’” she said.

At age 11, she saw her first opera: Puccini’s “La Bohème” at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest.

“Opera did not resonate with me right away,” Chapman said. “It definitely was something I fell in love with later — like a switch flipped.”

And once it was on, it was really on.

After she receives a bachelor of music in performance May 9 at UToledo’s virtual commencement ceremony, Chapman will pursue a master’s degree in music performance at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she has a full ride and graduate assistantship.

“The goal is to perform a little — a young artist program, an opera company,” Chapman said. “The goal is to keep music in my life.”

As she ascends, she’ll take UToledo with her.

“I learned so much; I don’t think I can ask anything better as a student and person,” Chapman said. “There is such a tremendous sense of community here. I have made friendships and faculty relationships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

UToledo Installs New Solar Array on Health Science Campus

A new 2.3-acre, 332-kilowatt solar array on Health Science Campus is expected to save The University of Toledo nearly $30,000 a year while increasing the amount of renewable energy powering the University.

The HSC Tech Park Solar Field is located off Arlington Avenue along Main Technology Drive near the Facilities Support Building.

Mike Green, UToledo director of sustainability and energy, took this photo of the solar array on Health Science Campus.

First Solar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar cells and a company that originated in UToledo laboratories, donated 365 kilowatts of its Series 5 modules valued at $192,000 to the University in 2017. Approximately 10% of the donated modules are being reserved for maintenance.

A senior design team made up of UToledo students studying mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering worked with UToledo Facilities and Construction to identify the site and prepared construction engineering drawings with assistance from JDRM Engineering. The UToledo Student Green Fund approved spending $350,000 to cover the costs to install the array. The construction contract was awarded to Solscient Energy LLC after a public bidding of the project.

The projected electrical production over the 25-year life of the system will be more than $700,000, enough to power about 60 homes annually.

“The University of Toledo continues to reduce its carbon footprint and strengthen its commitment to a clean energy future,” said Dr. Randy Ellingson, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Thanks to First Solar’s generous donation of modules and UToledo working to keeping costs down, the array will produce some of the lowest cost solar energy in the state of Ohio. We are excited to connect our students to these solar projects. They gain valuable experience with this fast-growing energy technology that generates carbon-free electricity directly from sunlight.”

Based on avoided combustion of fossil fuels, the array will prevent the release of approximately 6 million kilograms of carbon dioxide while generating approximately 10.5 gigawatt hours of clean electricity for Health Science Campus.

A portion of the value of the electricity generated will go to a fund for use on future renewable energy projects.

Building on its more than 30-year history advancing solar technology to power the world using clean energy, UToledo researchers are pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded UToledo $4.5 million to develop the next-generation solar panel by bringing a new, ultra-high efficiency material called perovskites to the consumer market.
The U.S. Air Force also awarded UToledo physicists $7.4 million to develop solar technology that is lightweight, flexible, highly efficient and durable in space so it can provide power for space vehicles using sunlight.
Plus, the U.S. Department of Energy last year awarded UToledo physicists $750,000 to improve the production of hydrogen as fuel, using clean energy — solar power — to split the water molecule and create clean energy — hydrogen fuel.

Basketball Standout to Return Home to Italy Following Graduation

Women’s basketball player Mariella Santucci made the most of her time at The University of Toledo.

“I had a great four years,” she said. “I experienced a lot of great memories and met a lot of great people during my time here.”

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

On the hardwood, Santucci wrapped up her collegiate career fifth in school history in assists (614) and minutes played (3,878), sixth in steals (202), eighth in games played (130), and 24th in scoring (1,103).

In the classroom, Santucci earned Academic All-Mid-American Conference honors a school-record three times.

“I worked extremely hard to be the best on the court and with my studies,” Santucci said. “It was very important for me to do well at both.”

Santucci will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in international business and an impressive 3.39 GPA. She is also the only player in program history with at least 1,000 points, 600 helpers, 500 caroms and 200 thefts.

“I’m proud of what I accomplished at Toledo,” said Santucci, who will be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

She is excited to earn her degree, but sad to not have the opportunity to walk across the stage because the University canceled the event due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“I feel bad for all graduates to not get the chance to walk,” Santucci said. “We need to look at the bigger picture, though, and it’s much more important to keep everyone safe.”

Mariella Santucci

“I’m the person that I am now because of all my experiences with the Rockets,” said Mariella Santucci, who earned Academic All-Mid-American Conference honors a school-record three times as a member of the women’s basketball team. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in international business.

Graduation was the last thing on Santucci’s mind when she arrived at Toledo as a freshman in fall 2016. Speaking little English, she was hesitant to leave her home country. A native of Bologna, Italy, the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy, Santucci had concerns about attending college in the United States.

“I didn’t know how I was going to adjust,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how basketball and school would go hand in hand. Back home, it was one or the other, but never at the same time. I just didn’t know what to expect.”

Santucci settled in quite nicely as a freshman and played a big role in the Rockets capturing the 2016 MAC Championship, its first title since 2001.

“One of my greatest memories at Toledo was winning the MAC Championship,” said Santucci, who was named to the 2016 MAC All-Tournament Team.

Over the next two years, Santucci helped the Rockets advance to the second round of the Postseason WNIT on both occasions.

Then this past season as a team captain, Santucci led the MAC in helpers (160) and finished second in assist/turnover ratio (1.70, 160-94). As a result of her efforts, she was named team MVP and was selected the Ultimate Rocket, which is awarded to the player who excels on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.

“It was a great honor to receive those two awards,” Santucci said.

Santucci is heading back to Italy in the coming weeks and will have to quarantine herself for 14 days before starting the next chapter of her life.

“We have many cases of the virus close to my home,” said Santucci, whose family is currently safe and healthy. “Every city around Bologna is in lockdown. The only places you can go are the grocery store or the pharmacy.”

Once she is home and the virus is under control, Santucci will begin the process of determining what’s next for her.

“I’m looking to play professionally overseas and get a master’s degree during the offseason,” Santucci said. “My initial thought is to get an MBA and specialize in trying to stabilize the economy.”

Santucci knows that whatever path she chooses, her time at Toledo provided her the proper foundation for future success.

“My time at Toledo was great and prepared me for my future,” Santucci said. “I’m the person that I am now because of all my experiences with the Rockets.”

COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance Available for UToledo Students

The University of Toledo is coordinating emergency financial assistance programs for current students experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic through existing financial aid processes.

“We know many of our students are struggling due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and want to get this financial relief to them as quickly as possible,” said Gina Roberts, assistant vice president of enrollment management. “We’ve compiled emergency funds available for students and have streamlined the application process to expedite the distribution in an effort to assist as many students as possible.”


UToledo is expected to receive $13.5 million in funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help mitigate financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of this total, $6.7 million will be used to immediately assist current students experiencing financial hardships caused by the pandemic. The funding can be used for immediate needs, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and childcare.

Students enrolled for spring 2020 who received a federal Pell Grant will receive a one-time grant of $500, and no application is required. About one-third of the federal relief dollars will be used to prioritize aid to these students.

All current students need to use the existing Rocket Aid application to request CARES funds. To be eligible to receive CARES funding, a student needs to be eligible to receive federal aid by having a valid Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or equivalent documentation on file. The Office of Student Financial Aid will determine eligibility based on guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education.

CARES funding applications will be processed as quickly as possible to get this emergency aid to students as soon as possible. UToledo’s goal is to process the first awards by the end of the week.

The new federal relief dollars available are in addition to the more than $1 million in emergency aid that has already been awarded to UToledo students.

Rocket to Rocket Fund and Other Emergency Aid Available

In recent weeks, individuals and organizations on campus and in the community have made generous donations to help students who need financial assistance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Student Emergency Support Crowdfunding Campaign surpassed its goal two months ahead of schedule, raising more than $93,000 thanks to the generosity of more than 590 donors.

Student leaders also donated $187,000 of their unused funds that had been planned for spring events and activities.

And Team Sports, a local sportswear company and longtime supporter of Rocket athletics, has raised more than $7,000 through the sale of face masks that feature the Toledo Rocket logo and “Toledo Rocket Strong” T-shirts.

Those donations support the Rocket to Rocket Fund that provides relief of up to $500 for students who need help paying for housing, utilities, car repairs, medical bills, food and toiletries.

In addition, the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women has set aside $20,000 from its Center for Women Progress Fund to provide grants of up to $1,000 for students, prioritizing those who are caring for children or experiencing intimate partner violence.

And the Office of Student Financial Aid also makes available $1.4 million in emergency aid available for students each year from donor supported funding accounts.

Each student who submits a Rocket Aid application will be evaluated individually to identify funding sources available to help them with expenses and keep focused on their studies.

“Once a student submits the Rocket Aid application, our team will review their situation and identify the best options for emergency aid, access to federal student or parent loans, financial planning assistance or referrals to community resources,” Roberts said.

The Financial Emergency Intervention Program and Rocket Aid application process was formalized earlier this academic year to help organize the financial assistance options available to students.

It is even more important now to follow this process, Roberts said, because there are a number of financial resources available to assist students facing financial hardships because of the current pandemic.

“By having all of these assistance programs coordinated, we can get students aid more quickly and make our dollars stretch farther to help more students,” Roberts said.

Rocket Signs Free Agent Contract With Buffalo

Former Rocket tight end Reggie Gilliam signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills Saturday shortly after the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I’m very excited to be going to Buffalo,” Gilliam said. “I thought they might draft me but it didn’t work out that way. I’m going there either way so I’m happy.”

Reggie Gilliam made second-team All-Mid-American Conference at tight end in 2018, but he will be used as a fullback by Buffalo.

Though he was listed at tight end in college, Gilliam will play fullback for the Bills. Gilliam did a fair bit of blocking in the backfield in his college career, so he said he is ready for the challenge.

“I actually played a lot of fullback in college, so it’s not a big change for me,” he said. “Buffalo said they really liked how I played the position. They have a veteran player at fullback [Patrick DeMarco], but they said I will have a chance to earn the job.”

Gilliam was a two-year starter at tight end at Toledo, earning second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors in 2018. He caught three touchdown passes that season and led the country and set the school record with four blocked kicks.

A two-time Academic All-MAC selection, Gilliam was a nominee for three national awards in 2019: the Campbell Award (top scholar-athlete), the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award (leadership) and the Burlsworth Trophy (top player who began career as a walk-on). He graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies and is working on a master of liberal studies degree.

UToledo Participating in Spring 2020 National Recreation Movement Challenge

Get up and get moving: UToledo students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to join the Spring 2020 National Recreation Movement and log their activity minutes.

The challenge is designed to keep everyone active by accessing online workout classes from 40 colleges and universities across the country. The national goal: 5 million minutes of movement.

“This is a way for all of us to come together to be part of something bigger during the pandemic — and it’s good for our well-being,” Rachel Decker, associate director of programs and assessment at the Office of Recreational Services, said. “We are excited for UToledo community members to represent Rocket Nation.”

As of April 26, The University of Toledo ranked No. 25 in the country in average workout minutes per student. A total of 61 schools are participating in the virtual event, which runs through Wednesday, May 6.

“We are proud of our showing so far, but we would love to crack the top 20,” Decker said.

To help the University boost its active minute average, go to the National Recreation Movement website and create an account with your UToledo email address. Once you have an account, you have access to live and recorded workout, fitness and movement classes.

UToledo is offering a different virtual fitness class schedule every week. Check out the many activities available; these include Zumba, Pilates, yoga, cardio drumming and kickboxing.

“This challenge is about staying active together even when we’re apart,” Decker said. “Moving at your own pace is not only good for your physical health, but for your mental health, too, and that’s so important, especially now.”

UToledo community members who are physically active throughout the day are asked to log their total number of active minutes.

And TikTok videos showing how you #RecAtHome are welcome.

Go to the National Recreation Movement website to learn more.

Living With Autoimmune Disorder Made Distance Runner Appreciate College Experience

Jordan Doore knew something was off.

A distance runner for The University of Toledo track and cross country teams, Doore had battled through numerous injuries throughout her career. But as she was preparing for the 2018 cross country season, she began to notice something was not quite right. She was accustomed to the wear and tear of competitive running, but this was something else.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“I started to experience some pain and numbness in parts of my body. I didn’t know what was going on,” said Doore, who will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Then it got worse. The numbness spread throughout my whole body, and I had no energy. I was constantly on the verge of passing out and was unable to finish workouts. I knew something was really wrong.”

Doore went through a battery of tests and was eventually diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to regulate normal functions, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Symptoms flare up when she simply stands up. There is no known cure, but it can be managed with medication.

“It was a relief to finally get a diagnosis, but at the same time I still felt terrible physically,” Doore said. “Mentally it was tough as well. I deal with a disorder that you can’t see and most people have never heard of.”

Despite this setback, Doore was determined to continue competing. She was back on the track for the 2019 outdoor campaign. She set her personal best with a time of 4:49.44 in the mile at the RedHawk Invitational April 20 and had a solid time of 4:54.33 in the 1500 meters at the 2019 MAC Outdoor Championship Meet May 11. “I wasn’t the most fit, but I was determined to run,” she said.

Jordan Doore running

Jordan Doore, who was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, overcame challenges to continue as a distance runner on the Rocket track and cross country teams. She will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences.

Her determination has been an inspiration to her teammates, according to Head Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough.

“There were lots of reasons that Jordan could have stopped running. Certainly most people would have called it quits,” said McDonough, who took over as the director of cross country and track and field in July 2019. “But we are so grateful that Jordan continued to be a part of this team. She is a great teammate and a great role model. She comes to practice every day with a great attitude. She always seems to be in a great mood. I have never once heard her complain.”

Of course, life is not exactly easy for Doore. On some level, she deals with challenges nearly every day.

“My daily life can be difficult,” said Doore, who has aspirations to be a coach someday. “The medication helps, and I need to follow a good diet and always stay hydrated. Sometimes there is nothing I can do to combat symptoms, so all I can do is take a nap and sleep it off. I try to listen to my body and do as much as I can when I feel good, and rest when I don’t.”

Not being as active as she wants may be the toughest part for Doore. She is happiest when she is busy. In addition to being an honor roll student and a two-time Academic All-MAC honoree, she served four years on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, including as president this past year. Doore is one of two Rocket student-athletes who serves on the MAC Council of Student Athletes. And she is active in church and volunteer activities.

This past fall, Doore sprained her ankle early in the season, but came back to compete at her last cross country meet at the Eastern Michigan University Open Oct. 26. She rehabbed and came back to compete in the indoor track season. The Akron Invitational Feb. 8 would be her final competition wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold due to the COVID-19 pandemic that wiped out what would have been her last chance to compete in the outdoor track season this spring.

As she approaches graduation and her final days as a Rocket, Doore looks back on a challenging four years with no regrets.

“Nothing has gone as planned for me in my college experience,” she said. “But I’ve definitely learned from it. It’s been a great experience for me at Toledo. I know that something good can come from anything.”

Problem-Solving is Nothing New to Engineering Graduate

Justin Fleming knows how to make things work.

The Sycamore, Ohio native, who will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, served as an electrician for six years in the U.S. Air Force prior to transferring to The University of Toledo for his final two years of college. That experience brought a unique, valuable perspective to his studies.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“In this field, you work in the middle – you have to speak both the language of engineers, and the language of craftsmen like electricians,” Fleming said. “I hardly touched a plane during my time in the Air Force, but I did learn how to build and work with many different types of systems.”

While in high school, Fleming started in a vocational program for computer science, but gradually found his niche as an electrician thanks to influences in his family and basic training tests for the military, which reinforced where his strengths lied.

After four deployments — including to Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — all to build and maintain power lines, airfield lights, generators and other heavy-duty equipment, the transition from the military to his engineering coursework was relatively seamless. But he did find some surprises along the way.

“By the time I got to UToledo, I had been doing many of the things in my early courses for a long time,” Fleming said. “But the more I got into my degree, I started looking back and realizing why some projects didn’t work. We misunderstood how electricity runs through different systems and components.”

Understanding how to dismantle a problem and examine various possible solutions served Fleming well during his final semester when the shift to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic posed its own challenges.

Justin Fleming

Justin Fleming, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, is a member of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers. His six years in the U.S. Air Force paved the way for success at UToledo.

“The first person I called when we learned classes would not happen in person was Niki Kamm,” Fleming said. “We brainstormed on how to do senior design projects and labs when we couldn’t be there in person. She’s the type of instructor that refuses to let anyone fail.”

That combination of receiving hands-on, practical training from approachable instructors has prepared Fleming well for his career.

“Justin is the engineer any employer would be grateful to have,” said Kamm, associate lecturer in the Electrical Engineering Technology program. “He has been the kind of engineering student that betters the classroom experience for all those in it — inventive, intelligent and inspiring.”

As part of the unique, mandatory co-op program at the College of Engineering, Fleming has worked in three different rotations servicing electrical lines for American Electric Power: two in Fostoria, Ohio and one in South Bend, Ind.

Fleming in U.S. Air Force

Prior to attending UToledo, Justin Fleming (back row center) was deployed to United Arab Emirates as an electrician during his six years of military service with the U.S. Air Force.

Ultimately, he points to 39 days in Afghanistan that have set the tone for his career and livelihood. It was January 2016, and he was sent to a small U.S. Army base that had gone months without running water or electricity. In that time, Fleming’s team succeeded in their assignment to provide the basics: washing and drying equipment, showers, electricity for communications, a full-blown kitchen and more.

“I’ve never seen 40 guys look so happy to wash clothes,” Fleming said. “That’s the moment I saw that my turning wrenches and installing light bulbs makes an impact on other people.”