2020 May | UToledo News - Part 2







Archive for May, 2020

Rocket Golf Classic Canceled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

The 2020 Thomas Baither Memorial Rocket Golf Classic presented by UBS Financial Services has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event, which was originally scheduled for June 18 at Stone Oak Country Club, is held every year and helps benefit The University of Toledo Athletic Department.

The 2020 Thomas Baither Memorial Rocket Golf Classic has been canceled this year.

“The Rocket Golf Classic is an event that many of our supporters look forward to every year, so we are very disappointed that we have to cancel it this year,” said Deputy Athletic Director Dave Nottke. “We appreciate their enthusiasm and support for our student-athletes, and look forward to the day in the very near future when we can once again gather together and celebrate our passion for the Rockets.

“We also very much appreciate any contributions to the Rocket Fund as we move into a significant fiscal challenge for our athletic department,” he added.

In light of the cancellation of the golf tournament, supporters may make contributions to the Athletic Department on The University of Toledo Foundation website.

UToledo Launches Summer Program and Event Registry

As part of The University of Toledo’s efforts to implement social distancing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a new registration process has been established to preauthorize any on-campus program or event.

While events, meetings and classes on UToledo’s campuses are limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some gatherings may be approved on a case-by-case basis with proper social distancing measures, good hygiene and sanitation practices, and wearing of face coverings by all participants. Requests should be mission-critical, and the University strongly advises no programs that bring minors on campus. Currently, the state of Ohio’s public health order permits gatherings of 10 or fewer people.

A new online Summer Program and Event Registry form has been created to track requests for campus events.

Any campus event must be preapproved by the appropriate college dean or associate vice president that oversees the department, and then receive final approval by the University’s senior leadership team.

If the event is approved and takes place, the names and contact information for all attendees must be collected to facilitate contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Rockets Land Impressive Academic Progress Rate Scores

The NCAA released its annual Academic Progress Rate (APR) figures May 19, and once again The University of Toledo received very impressive scores across the board.

For the four-year period from 2015-16 to 2018-19, all 16 Rocket varsity sports had at least a 939 score, above the NCAA’s “cut point” of 930, with women’s golf and men’s tennis leading the way with perfect 1,000 marks. Those two sports plus football (983) had either the highest APR score or were tied for the highest score in the Mid-American Conference.

Four other Rocket teams were within five APR points of the league leader: baseball, women’s basketball, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.

The football team’s APR of 983 set a record for the program and was the sixth time in the last seven year’s that the Rockets had the highest APR in the league.

“We are very pleased to announce these impressive APR numbers,” said University of Toledo Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien. “There is a strong correlation between APR and progress toward graduation, so this is an indicator we watch very closely. Our APR numbers have been consistently excellent, as have our graduation rates, which is the ultimate academic goal for our student-athletes. We take great satisfaction in knowing that 56 Rocket student-athletes received their diplomas this spring.”

APR is a gauge of every team’s academic performance at a given point in time. Points are awarded on a semester-by-semester basis for eligibility, retention and graduation of scholarship student-athletes. A score of 1,000 is considered perfect. Sports that fail to reach the “cut point” (930) can be penalized with the loss of scholarships, practice restrictions and post-season bans.

The APR data released this week is a cumulative figure taken from the 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.

Three Rockets Named MAC Distinguished Scholar Athletes

Three University of Toledo student-athletes were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes from the 2019-20 winter season by the Mid-American Conference. The awards were received following strong contributions in the field of competition and exemplary work in the classroom.

Women’s indoor track and field athletes Rayna Horner and Petronela Simuic were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes, as was Izzy Jones from the women’s swimming and diving team.

Horner is a sophomore majoring in pre-social work; she has a 3.774 grade-point average. Simuic is a senior majoring in health promotion and education; she has a 3.695 GPA. And Jones, a redshirt junior, is studying kinesiology and has a 3.734 GPA.

The award is given to student-athletes who have excelled in athletics and academics. Following each season, any student-athlete with a 3.20 GPA and participation in at least 50 percent of the contests is automatically named to the Academic All-MAC Team for each sport. First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award.

New for this 2019-20 academic season, the selection for the Distinguished Scholar Athlete included all student-athletes that were recognized as All-MAC selections and Academic All-MAC selections from their respective sport, along with maintaining a 3.50 GPA and above. Previously, a voting process among the MAC Faculty Athletic Representatives determined the selection of the Distinguished Scholar Athletes. MAC membership voted for the change in recognizing the Distinguished Scholar Athletes during the conference spring meetings in June 2019.

UToledo Experts Share What You Need to Know About COVID-19 as States Reopen

As governments begin easing restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, public health and infectious disease experts from The University of Toledo are offering insight into what you need to know about the novel coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to protect others.

The virus is still here. We have to act accordingly.


While the number of newly confirmed cases in many states — including Ohio and Michigan — appears to have peaked, the virus hasn’t gone away or become less dangerous.

“We all yearn for the way life was in the pre-pandemic days, and we are going to get there, but this is going to be the situation for a while,” said Dr. Brian Fink, an epidemiologist and professor of public health. “We have to respect that and continue taking the same precautions.”

Though it’s tempting to see businesses reopening and leisure activities resuming and think the threat of the virus is behind us, Fink said the reality is the novel coronavirus is still spreading across the United States.

Take steps to protect your own health and the health of others.

“People do still need to be careful,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, an associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “One of the worst things that people could do at this point is go out and resume their normal behavior. We would certainly have a resurgence.”

Diligent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth, staying home if you’re sick, and social distancing should all continue, UToledo experts said. Individuals who are older or high-risk because of underlying health conditions should be more careful.

Fink said there are simple things you can do. For example, when shopping, avoid picking up an item and then putting it back, and keep your distance from other shoppers. It’s also important, he said, to make decisions based not only on your own risk, but the risk of those around you.

“It’s difficult. We all want to see our friends and family,” he said. “We just have to be patient. If we’re patient and we follow the guidelines as best as possible, we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later, even though that’s going to take time,” Fink said.

Wearing a cloth face covering does make a difference. Wear one if you’re around others.


The shifting guidance from public health officials on mask usage has caused confusion and pushback, but Hanrahan encourages people to wear a simple mask or cloth face covering when around other people.

“Two things are happening. The person wearing the mask is reducing the amount of stuff they’re putting in the environment, and they’re also reducing the amount they breath in,” she said. “It’s not going to prevent everything, but there is some protection.”

Hanrahan said face coverings, combined with continued social distancing and new measures being implemented by businesses, such as clear barriers at cash registers and limits on the number of people allowed in one place at one time, will reduce the overall risk.

Fink said its important people recognize things such as mask recommendations or requirements are being done for the benefit of everyone, not to target specific individuals.

“I always tell my students there are going to be people in the population who aren’t going to be happy. We’re seeing that,” Fink said. “But we’re putting these guidelines in place for the health and well-being of everyone.”

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable, but no one is immune to the illness.

As physicians and researchers learn more about COVID-19, there are also some troubling discoveries. Along with older Americans and those who have diabetes, compromised immune systems and chronic lung diseases, Hanrahan said doctors are finding people with morbid obesity and high blood pressure are at high risk of complications.

“Hypertension alone would not necessarily be thought of as a potential problem with a viral infection, but it actually is,” she said. “For people who have those conditions or other underlying medical conditions, they really need to think about whether it makes sense for them to go to the grocery store or be around a lot of other people.”

Additionally, there are an increasing number of reports of children developing a severe inflammatory response linked to COVID-19, even when they weren’t previously sick.

“COVID-19 is not just affecting people who are at high risk for complications,” Hanrahan said.

Scientists and physicians have learned a lot about the virus, but we’re still a long way from having routine treatments or a vaccine.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was completely unknown before it began spreading among people early this year. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research both in how the virus spreads and potential ways to treat or prevent it.

“We have learned a lot about this virus,” Hanrahan said. “Most of the spread really is by droplets, typically within a few feet of the person. The social isolation part, keeping six feet of distance, that does actually make a difference.”

Doctors also have a better idea how to manage the virus, and hundreds of drugs are being examined to potentially fight COVID-19 and its effects. Some, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, are showing promising early results. Progress also is being made in vaccine development.

However, while there is reason for hope, Hanrahan said it will take time to get any of these therapeutics in the quantities needed. Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, anticipates making a million courses of that drug globally by December.

“That’s not going to be enough to treat people if we get a really huge outbreak. This is unfortunately going to be with us for a while,” Hanrahan said. “That’s why it’s important everyone continue to treat this pandemic seriously.”

Learning From Our Viral Trial (With Style)

As an educator of college students, professionals, leaders and executives, I often ask people to identify the specific things that have had the most powerful impact on shaping them into the people they are today. Their “life-shaper” responses typically fall into three important categories.

First, human beings are molded in powerful ways by the people who are part of our lives, from family, friends, teachers, coaches and people in the workplace. At the same time, they are greatly influenced by the personal challenges and difficulties that they have had to face over the course of their lifetimes. These can include difficult family times, academic challenges, interpersonal conflicts, economic hardships and workplace difficulties. These “trying times” test all of us to be sure, but they can teach us invaluable life lessons about perseverance, discipline and grit.


The final category includes personal hardships and tragedies that people have had to endure that could include divorce, loss of loved ones, health crises, and unemployment among other truly difficult experiences.

I share these findings to remind you that each of us is shaped in powerful ways by the myriad of experiences and people that touch our lives.

At present, we find ourselves amidst the COVID-19 “viral trial,” which has caused extreme financial and economic uncertainty, large-scale unemployment and extensive discouragement for people. During this trying time, I have asked a cross-section of friends, co-workers, students, business associates, neighbors and family members what they are learning going through this period of sheltering in. Their responses have been very instructive and very encouraging to me, and I thought that you might enjoy them as well.

People have shared:

• “How fortunate we are to have medical personnel and first-responders who are willing to risk their lives for complete strangers.”

• “I have a newfound appreciation for my kid’s teachers and what they have to put up with.”

• “I enjoy my work and co-workers more than I realized.”

• “Going for a walk is very refreshing even when the weather isn’t great.”

• “I will never take my paycheck for granted again.”

• “To never take toilet paper for granted.”

• “It’s important to look for ways to be kind and connected to the people around us.”

• “It’s great to have family dinner on a regular schedule.”

• “You never really know what you will find when cleaning out a closet or drawers.”

• “It is so important to take time to just think and reflect on life.”

• “Reconnecting with old friends on the phone and internet is really a great thing.”

• “You never really know what you will find when cleaning out the garage.”

• “I can be very productive wearing pajama bottoms and slippers at a Zoom meeting.”

• “I didn’t realize how many home projects actually needed my attention.”

• “Shame on me for not taking the time to get to know my neighbors until now.”

• “We are so blessed to have access to food and supplies in our grocery stores.”

• “I need to do a better job of saving money for a rainy day or another pandemic for that matter.”

• “Hey, I can feel close to someone even at a distance.”

• “I am taking my family, friends and faith much more seriously.”

• “With the exception of hand washing and tooth brushing, other hygiene activities can become more or less optional.”

• “That there’s a big difference between having wants and having real needs.”

• “It is very sobering and even embarrassing that it has taken a crisis to make me step back and appreciate the quality of my life before the pandemic.”

I think it’s safe to say that all of us can relate to any number of these invaluable lessons as we go through this pandemic, and there will be further lessons to learn. And while the loss of life and financial impact of this pandemic are incalculable, we now share a common bond in that we are all looking at life and our blessings differently than we did back in February 2020. We are being shaped by this experience. It has been said that hard times can make you bitter or they can make you better and the choice is ours. Choose wisely, my friends, to learn large from this experience.

Longenecker is a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Business and Innovation at The University of Toledo.

Rockets, Wingstop Team Up to Donate 400 Meals to UTMC Staff

Rocket Sports Properties is teaming up with The University of Toledo Athletics’ corporate partner Wingstop to donate 400 lunches to doctors, nurses and other hospital staff at UTMC Tuesday, May 19.

Meals will be provided at 11:30 a.m. for the day-shift employees and at 7:30 p.m. for night-shift personnel.

“It’s a privilege for us to be able to do this with Wingstop — to serve our community and to provide food for very deserving hospital personnel who are doing so much to protect us during the pandemic,” said Robert Rice, general manager for Rocket Sports Properties, the University’s athletics multimedia rightsholder and locally based Learfield IMG College team.

“Right now, more than ever, it’s important for us to give back to our community, and there are millions of people who need our help,” said Tommy Pipatjarasgit, Wingstop brand partner. “We have donated thousands of wings to hospital workers, fire fighters and police departments working the front lines in Detroit and Toledo. It has really boosted team morale that they are making a difference by giving back, and it gives everyone a sense of hope and positivity.”

Pipatjarasgit’s Wingstop locations are at 3330 Central Ave. in Toledo and 1399 Conant St. in Maumee.

Weekly Virtual Meetups Help Faculty, Staff Stay Positive, Connected

Virtual gatherings organized by the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion are now available to help share ideas and meet fellow Rockets while working remotely.

The virtual meetups, each available on WebEx and listed on the Eberly Center website, include:

• We Persist: Mondays at 10 a.m. join women-identified faculty or staff who are looking for connection and inspiration to persist through these unprecedented times. The Eberly Center asks participants to come as you are, when you can, and they’ll be here for you. For the WebEx link and additional information, contact ecwomen@utoledo.edu.

• Coffee Break For Caretakers: Wednesdays at 10 a.m. take a break with the Eberly Center and other caretakers. Learn strategies for working from home with children, prioritizing self-care, and advocating for yourself in the workplace. For the WebEx link and additional information email ecwomen@utoledo.edu.

• Sister Circle: Fridays at 9 a.m. the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is hosting Sister Circle, a space for women of color to meet, gain support, and promote positivity. For the WebEx link and additional information, email Malaika Bell at malaika-beauta.bell@utoledo.edu.

For additional support and resources related to working remotely, staying active, and caring for family members during COVID-19, UToledo faculty and staff are encouraged to visit Rocket Wellness.

UToledo Electrical Engineer Leading Charge to Build Ventilators in the Congo

Feeling powerless to help her native country in Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic, an electrical engineer at The University of Toledo found a way for people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to build their own breathing machines from scratch using equipment and materials accessible to them.

Using Twitter, Dr. Ngalula Sandrine Mubenga, assistant professor of electrical engineering technology, tapped into her worldwide network of engineers with ties to the DRC and engineers and students inside the country.


Mubenga is the founder of the STEM DRC Initiative, a nonprofit organization that has awarded scholarships to pay all associated costs, including transportation and books, for more than 60 students in the Congo to go to college since 2018.

“There are less than 1,200 ventilators in a country with nearly 85 million people, and about 50 of those machines are in the capital city of Kinshasa,” Mubenga said. “Kinshasa will need a minimum of 200 ventilators by mid-May when COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in the Congo.”

In the DRC, there are more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, more than 40 deaths caused by the new coronavirus, and about 3,000 suspected cases. An estimate last week showed the country had a maximum capacity of 200 tests per day for the whole country.

“When I was watching the news here in Ohio and heard the president of the United States announce that General Motors was going to build 100,000 ventilators, I thought, ‘What is going on in the Congo?’” Mubenga said. “We have the opportunity, means, technology and knowledge to do that here, but the Congo is a state that is rebuilding its infrastructures with very few factories for assembly.”

In three weeks, the team of about 20 people who answered her call to volunteer worked together — through videoconferencing and emails — and developed a prototype of a life-saving ventilator using open-source specs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The working prototype next needs to undergo testing and certification, which Mubenga hopes to accomplish by the end of this year.

Nicole Bisimwa, a student at Loyola University in Congo, is helping to build ventilators.

“It costs up to 30,000 U.S. dollars to buy a ventilator right now,” Jonathan Ntiaka Muzakwene, who teaches engineering on the faculty of Loyola University of Congo, said. “Dr. Mubenga is timely to respond to the needs of our country and help save lives.”

Mubenga teamed up with many partners, including a hospital in Kinshasa and the national trade school.

Dividing the team based on their talents, they built an emergency ventilator that makes use of Ambu resuscitator bags commonly hand-operated in hospitals by medical professionals to create airflow to a patient’s lungs until a ventilator becomes available. The new device includes a mechanism that automates the squeezing and releasing motions.

“Instead of having a doctor or a nurse pressing the bag manually, we have a machine pumping the bag so the patient can breathe,” Mubenga said.

Muzakwene and his engineering students inside the DRC made use of their school’s 3D printer in their work to fabricate, assemble, program and test the prototype, a process made more challenging because of troubles with internet access, expert resources, and unclear laws and standards for validation of the technology.

“All the materials, components, parts and equipment necessary for the production of these ventilators are difficult to find here on site in the DRC,” Muzakwene said. “The big challenge then is to find what we need to make these ventilators locally here in the country, challenges that the United States does not have.”

“A ventilator is very delicate,” Mubenga said. “You have medical, mechanical and electrical specifications that have to be met. And while MIT provided most of the design documents, it did not include the most important piece until very recently: the controls code of the model. We’re talking about how to get feedback from different sensors to the microcontroller and adjust the system based on that feedback.”

The controls adjust the timing and compression of the Ambu bag based on three main input parameters: the volume of air pushed into the lungs, the ratio between inspiration and expiration time, and the respiratory rate, or breath per minute.

The task is personal for Nicole Bisimwa, a student at Loyola University in Congo. She worries about friends, family and loved ones across the African country.

“The clinics of Ngaliema and university have only one ventilator each, which is sorely insufficient in case they have several patients who need it,” Bisimwa said. “Limiting international trade is a barrier to supply, but we continue to find solutions to overcome this problem. Any help is welcome.”

The project also is personal for Mubenga, who understands the life-changing power of technology. When she was 17 years old in the DRC, she waited three days for surgery after her appendix burst because there was no power at the hospital.

“I was living in a small town called Kikwit, far away from the big and beautiful capital city of Kinshasa,” Mubenga said. “I was very sick, doctors needed to do surgery, but they couldn’t find any gas to turn on the power generator. For three days, my life depended on electricity. I was praying. I could not eat. And decided if I made it alive, I would work to find a solution so people wouldn’t die because of lack of electricity.”

The hospital found fuel to power the generator, doctors did the surgery, and Mubenga survived.

Mubenga started studying renewable energy at the UToledo College of Engineering in 2000 and earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering. After receiving her professional engineer license in Ohio, she went on to found her company called the SMIN Power Group, which develops and installs solar power systems in communities throughout the DRC.

Mubenga next plans to test the ventilator prototype using software from the DRC that can be accessed online.

“We still have a lot to do, but this prototype is a big step,” Mubenga said. “We are putting together the clinical team of doctors who will provide feedback so we can improve the device. After that, we will proceed through certification. We have applied for funding to help spark production, but we’re committed to continue volunteering our time, talent and resources. Taking action to find a solution is our way to bring light in this dark, gloomy time. It’s the right thing to do.”

Orders for Rocket Face Masks Extended to May 24

Rocket fans will have one last chance to order face masks that show off their school pride, and help UToledo students in the process.

Team Sports, a sportswear company located in Holland, Ohio, and a longtime supporter of Rocket athletics, is taking orders for Rocket logo face masks until Sunday, May 24, at 11:59 p.m. This will be the final order placed by Team Sports for the face masks.

In addition, fans can still place orders for “Toledo Rocket Strong” T-shirts.

Team Sports is contributing a substantial portion of the proceeds from the sale of both items to UToledo’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund. Online sales of the masks and T-shirts so far have contributed more than $10,000 to the fund, which aids UToledo students who are facing financial challenges due to the pandemic.

Face masks and shirts can be ordered on the Team Sports website.