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— Judith Herb College of Education

Sew Cool: Alumna Creates Funky Cats for Art on the Mall

Carrie Hawkins will bring more than 500 fun, fuzzy felines to her booth for Art on the Mall.

Dubbed Ragamuffins, the recycled kitty dolls come in three sizes and sport tags that say “saving ugly sweaters from landfills since 2018.”

Carrie Hawkins showed off a large Ragamuffin she made from a mohair sweater.

“I make all the cats from recycled sweaters. I go to rummage sales and thrift stores, so it’s kind of neat: It helps charity, and then I turn around and make it into something else,” she said. “I use everything — the collars and the cuffs of the sweaters will become the collars of the cats. I use mismatched earrings for charms.

“Any way I can reduce waste — that’s my big thing: I love to recycle.”

She sews the cute creatures in her home studio in Temperance, Mich. Jars of antique buttons line a shelf above bolts of fabrics. Two sewing machines and a box of jewelry and trinkets sit atop a table. Bins of ribbon and fabric scraps are stacked in the corner. And, oh yes, there is a Siamese cat: Ellie is sleeping on a chair.

“Ellie likes to get up on my lap and help me,” Hawkins said and laughed. “Sometimes I sew and she’s hitting the bobbin on the machine constantly like it’s a toy.”

Two other muses roam about the house — Saki, a black cat, and Lilith, a tiger tabby.

The 2001 UToledo alumna found her creative groove by fusing her passion for the past with her fondness for felines.

“I wanted my art to represent me and what I stand for,” Hawkins said. “So I designed the pattern for the cats and decided to make them as earth-friendly as possible and recycle.

“Creating is just something I have to do,” she added.

That love of art began early. The Toledo native recalled having her own art studio at age 6.

“I took a toy box in the closet and that was my art table. And I made little refrigerator pictures, but I didn’t give them to my mom, I sold them to her,” Hawkins said. “I had a little portfolio, and pictures were a nickel if they were a little more detailed. There were a couple penny ones if she just needed something quick to throw on the fridge.”

Carrie Hawkins sewed eyes on an owl doll.

Since receiving a bachelor of arts degree in graphic design and painting, and taking graduate courses in art education at UToledo, she has been selling her award-winning creations for more than 20 years. Hawkins and her company, Scaredy Cat Primitives, have been featured in Prims and Your Cat magazines.

“Once my family moved to Temperance, my parents and I would go to a lot of antique shows and estate sales, and I was always fascinated with rescuing all the things. You’d go to estate sales and it’d be kind of sad because you’d see photos and letters that got left behind that nobody wanted,” she said.

That desire to save is strong.

“We moved to a rural dead-end street, which was a dumping ground for unwanted cats. I was very well-known for bringing home strays,” Hawkins said. “At one time, I had eight rescues. I learned how very different their personalities were and the little quirks they had that made them different.”

She repurposes found objects, bits and pieces to give her Ragamuffins distinct personalities.

“I love how something can tell a story by its wrinkles, dents, chips and stains. That inspires my art. I love paying tribute to the past by recycling. People give me all kinds of things for my work. I’ll make use of it instead of throwing it away. If I didn’t have an outlet for it, I’d end up being a hoarder,” she joked.

Small Ragamuffins sit in Carrie Hawkins’ studio; the cat dolls will be finished for Art on the Mall.

Some owls will fly in with Hawkins and her cats for Art on the Mall Sunday, July 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University.

“I make owls out of tweed and wool skirts and blazers,” the deconstructionist artist said. “Some I make out of a linen fabric and put a little bit of coffee dye on them. I dye them really lightly, let them dry, and then I do embroidery.”

Coming to Centennial Mall on Main Campus for the juried art show is a highlight of summer.

“This is probably my seventh year at Art on the Mall. I love it,” Hawkins said. “The atmosphere is nice, and it’s a great, laid-back crowd.”

When she’s not in her studio with her cats, Hawkins is a member service associate at the Francis Family YMCA in Temperance, where she also teaches art classes.

“I love creating unique things. I hope people appreciate these are one-of-a-kind pieces of art, something they can’t find at a big-box store,” she said. “Like the tag on the back says, these [cats and owls] are handmade with love.”

Alumnus/Doctoral Student Offers Musical Inspiration With New Disc

Jeremy Holloway, a Ph.D. candidate in the Judith Herb College of Education at The University of Toledo, has released a worship album featuring 12 original songs.

“No More Delay” became available July 4 on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and Google Play.

The title track was inspired by his sister, Tiffanie.

“‘No More Delay’ came to me after witnessing my sister’s battle with diabetes at such a young age,” Holloway said. “She lost the ability to walk and was in and out of the hospital for years.”

He wrote, “It’s at a point when you’re broken, when you have nothing left/ When you’re crying and can no longer see/ God tells the angels, ‘Do you hear my child? That’s my little baby/ Now no more delay. Send her a story of hope/ A story of goodness, a story of grace/ And let it ring for all time.’”

Holloway’s sister temporarily lost her vision due to diabetes, which adds to the emotion and real strength of the lyrics.

Being moved by music — many genres of music — is something Holloway has experienced from an early age.

“When I was 17, I was into grunge and wanted to play the guitar, and I learned to play the guitar after watching Kurt Cobain in Nirvana perform on MTV,” he recalled.

At age 18, Holloway became a Christian and started to play the guitar and sing in church. He volunteers on the worship team at Calvary Church in Maumee, and he recently was a worship leader at Intersection Church in Oregon, Ohio.

Holloway

“I love playing music, but I also really enjoy writing songs,” he said.

Holloway decided to record the disc after meeting Glenn Scott, who used to be a manager for the Beach Boys for more than 20 years.

“We met here in Toledo at church, and he graciously opened up his studio for me to record this album. I regard it as truly a blessing,” Holloway said.

Other individuals who performed on “No More Delay” are Brandon Michael (spoken word poet), Evan Gilligan (spoken word poet), Jared Robison (guitar), Reagan Patterson (vocals) and UToledo student Kayla McCraney (vocals). The album was produced by Glenn and September Scott.

Holloway’s gratitude is evident on the disc, especially in the song, “Everything.”

“‘Everything’ is a reminder to me,” he said, singing the lyrics, “I don’t have the right to complain all the time/ I don’t have the right to a negative mind/ I don’t/ I don’t have the right, even if I think I might/ Because you gave me everything/ You gave me a song to sing.”

He smiled and said, “I remember how good life is and how wonderful God is in my life. And I remember, I try not to complain because I’ve been given so much.

“I want to encourage my listeners to see God’s goodness in their lives as well,” Holloway added. “It is one of my goals to link my passion with my purpose and connect others, as this is the true educational experience.”

The native of Toledo is a second generation Rocket; his parents, Tyrone and Delores Holloway, are both graduates of the University. Holloway received a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and a bachelor of education degree from UToledo in 2005. He taught Spanish at area schools and graduated from the University in 2014 with a master’s degree in English as a second language.

Last year, Holloway published a book, “God Wants You to Smile Today: 25 Epiphanies of God’s Goodness — Secrets to Living With Radical Peace, Joy and Hope.” And in 2017, he was honored with the 20 Under 40 Leadership Award, which recognizes Toledo community members 39 or younger who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities.

For more information on the disc, contact Holloway at jeremy.holloway@rockets.utoledo.edu.

Drive to Stock Teacher’s Supply Pantry for Old Orchard Elementary School

A survey by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed 94 percent of public school teachers spend their own money on classroom materials — up to $500 a year for grade school teachers. To help address this issue, The University of Toledo is leading efforts to connect teachers at Old Orchard Elementary School with supplies for their students.

“We recognize the importance of supporting schools in our community,” said UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber. “By collectively sharing the responsibility of equipping students with essential school supplies, we hope our collaboration with campus partners will contribute to students’ success.”

Officials at Toledo Public Schools identified the need to provide more supplies for area teachers throughout the year. Drawing inspiration from a model developed by Grace Church in Toledo, UToledo has organized a donation drive to stock a teacher’s supply pantry.

While Old Orchard Elementary is the pilot school for the pantry project, the University hopes the initiative will grow to serve more schools.

“Helping provide school supplies to local young students reflects our commitment to fostering an environment where learning can thrive,” said Dr. Raymond H. Witte, dean of the Judith Herb College of Education. “We are invested in the success of Toledo Public Schools by being both a resource for immediate, material needs and providing access to our community-based research and educational programs.”

From Monday, July 8, through Friday, Sept. 26, donations will be accepted at several locations on Main Campus and Health Science Campus.

The supply pantry will be housed at the Carver Resource Center in Gillham Hall on UToledo’s Main Campus and will open to teachers at Old Orchard Elementary School beginning in October.

The UToledo community is encouraged to contribute. Old Orchard Elementary has identified a list of the most needed items: pencils, colored pencils, dry-erase markers, Clorox wipes, Crayola markers, facial tissues, Crayola crayons, index cards, Ziploc bags and masking tape.

Visit the Teacher Supply Pantry website to find drop-off locations and learn more.

Questions? Contact teachersupplypantry@utoledo.edu.

Trustees approve 2020 operating budget

The University of Toledo Board of Trustees approved June 17 a balanced operating budget for fiscal year 2020 that positions the institution to continue to make progress on its strategic priorities. The approximately $770 million budget includes an investment in the people who make UToledo successful.

Because the state of Ohio biennium operating budget continues to work through the legislature containing language that limits tuition and fee increases, the University’s budget leaves undergraduate tuition for continuing students not part of the Tuition Guarantee unchanged at this time. The board approved a resolution that authorizes UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber to modify tuition and fees if permitted by law.

The budget does include differential tuition increases in selected graduate and professional programs.

In an effort to make online programs more accessible, trustees approved a resolution to reduce the non-Ohio surcharge to just $5 per credit hour for students enrolled exclusively in online programs.

The budget reflects a 2 percent wage increase for professional staff and faculty members who are not part of a bargaining unit. University employees who are members of unions will receive increased compensation as determined by their collective bargaining agreements.

In other board action, two new undergraduate degrees in data analytics were approved and will be sent to the Ohio Department of Higher Education for consideration.

The bachelor of arts degree in data analytics in the College of Arts and Letters has an emphasis on social sciences and will prepare students for careers that focus on interpreting and applying structured data for clients. The bachelor of science degree in data science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is designed to prepare students for careers that involve statistical tools to extract meaning from large data sets for specific applications.

Trustees also approved a reorganization of departments in the Judith Herb College of Education to combine programs into two areas — one related to teacher licensure and one focused on the study of education.

The Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Department of Early Childhood, Higher Education and Special Education will be combined and renamed the Department of Teacher Education. The Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership and the faculty in the Higher Education and Education Technology programs will be combined and renamed the Department of Educational Studies.

At its final meeting of the fiscal year, the Board of Trustees elected officers for the 2019-20 year. Mary Ellen Pisanelli will continue to serve as chair, and Al Baker will continue as vice chair.

The June meeting completed the term of Sharon Speyer, president of the Northwest Ohio Region for Huntington National Bank. She was given the title of trustee emeritus, along with Steven Cavanaugh, who resigned upon beginning his new role as ProMedica’s chief financial officer. A proclamation also was read to recognize student trustee Hedyeh Elahinia, a junior in the Jesup Scott Honors College studying biology, who completed two years of service on the board.

Assistant provost receives Hymore Award

Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney, assistant provost for student success and retention in the Office of the Provost, is the 2019 recipient of the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award.

She received the honor named for the longtime executive secretary May 6 at the Outstanding Staff Awards in the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center.

Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney received the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award from Wendy Davis, associate vice president and chief human resources officer, left, and University President Sharon L. Gaber.

The award is presented annually to an individual whose work defines the core values of the University in Hymore’s spirit of support, encouragement and service.

“In the two decades Dr. Fischer-Kinney has dedicated to the University, her decisions have always been shaped with the student in mind,” a nominator wrote. “She constantly seeks student feedback on various issues in order to ensure the best outcome for the student. This allows her to stay grounded and make sure decisions are best for the current generation of students.”

Fischer-Kinney has worked at the University 21 years, starting as an academic program coordinator in the Chemical Engineering Department. She also has served as director of student services in the College of Nursing; director of New Student Orientation Programs; associate dean and interim dean of YouCollege; and director of success coaching.

“Dr. Fischer-Kinney is an outstanding supervisor, mentor and student advocate,” a nominator wrote. “She tirelessly champions efforts that impact student success and retention. Additionally, she has transformed the success coaching initiative from a raw idea into a powerful movement that is truly impacting student lives.”

Another noted that in addition to her many responsibilities, Fischer-Kinney always takes the time to serve as a success coach for students each semester.

“Many students struggle to find their ambition, but Dr. Fischer-Kinney helps instill motivation to allow the student to discover their full academic potential,” a nominator wrote. “Regardless of how busy her schedule may be, Dr. Fischer-Kinney always makes time to be there for the student. They value her as an advocate who will help them reflect on their college and life goals, and connect them to the resources and tools. Dr. JFK, as students call her, always carves out time to focus on the individual at hand.

“Success coaching and retention work can be challenging. Every day coaches hear a variety of student concerns or chase after students with assorted academic, financial and personal issues bubbling up. Dr. JFK is committed to an open, candid and warm environment where we can embrace a team approach, lean on each other as needed, and grow from each other.”

Fischer-Kinney received a bachelor’s degree in business administration majoring in marketing, and master of education and doctoral degrees in higher education from the University.

Families invited to Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium May 18

A graduate student at The University of Toledo who aspires to someday teach at a planetarium went above and beyond to elevate an annual event aimed at inspiring and motivating children to engage with science.

From playing hide-and-seek moon using binoculars to creating a pocket solar system to scale to using a tub of water to explain rising sea levels and climate change, this year’s Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium will feature a new set of hands-on activities in astronomy and earth science using interactive demonstrations in collaboration with NASA and the National Informational STEM Education (NISE) Network.

Heidi Kuchta received kits from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network that will be distributed during Earth and Space Exploration Day Saturday, May 18, at Ritter Planetarium.

Heidi Kuchta, who started working as an assistant at Ritter Planetarium five years ago as a freshman, applied for and secured one of 350 kits distributed nationwide.

“I love that families in our community will have something incredibly interesting to do and stuff to take home,” Kuchta said. “With the support of the NISE Network and NASA, we are able to add a wonderful spark to our annual Astronomy Day by expanding and escalating the overall fun, learning experience for children.”

Earth and Space Exploration Day will take place Saturday, May 18, from noon to 4 p.m. at Ritter Planetarium. The free, public event also will include planetarium shows running in full dome every hour starting at 12:30 p.m., as well as solar observing, weather permitting.

“From the beginning, Heidi has shown tremendous dedication to our outreach efforts,” Alex Mak, associate director of Ritter Planetarium, said. “This workshop is just one example of her ability to expand upon our traditional educational mission.”

Children use binoculars and play hide-and-seek moon with a kit from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network.

Kuchta earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and geology from UToledo last year and is pursuing her master’s in an accelerated teaching program in the Judith Herb College of Education.

“A lot of planetariums are in schools, so I thought this innovative path would be a good way to combine education and what I love to do here,” Kuchta said. “At a planetarium, we only have students for a short period of time. They’ll learn here, but, more importantly, it will get them asking questions, expand their curiosity, and maybe nourish the dream of becoming the scientists who get people to Mars or become the first person to walk on Mars.”

Kuchta’s connection to the cosmos began as a baby, according to family legend.

“My mom took me to a planetarium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I was a few months old because she was chaperoning a trip for one of my older siblings,” Kuchta said.

Ritter Planetarium proved to be the deciding factor in choosing a college.

“During a campus tour, I was hooked when we walked through the planetarium and checked out the telescope,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta helps put on planetarium shows that explain current celestial phenomena and leads tours from different groups of visitors ranging from residents of a senior center to a preschool class. She also helps create content.

“Heidi is creative, energetic, and always willing to find new ways to help people learn more about the universe,” Mak said. “She has a bright future.”

Entertainment icon Katie Holmes to deliver commencement address May 4

Katie Holmes, a native Toledoan who rose to fame as an actor, producer and director, will return to her hometown to deliver the keynote address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, May 4.

A Notre Dame Academy alumna and international icon of screen, stage and film, Holmes will address 2,078 candidates for degrees — 2,023 bachelor’s and 55 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The University’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled the same day at 3 p.m. in the Glass Bowl, and will commemorate 915 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Analese Alvarez, an educator and musician who has recorded with the Grammy Award-winning rock group Fleetwood Mac, will be the keynote speaker. She is a candidate for a doctoral degree.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the University Views website.

President Sharon L. Gaber will present Holmes with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree before the keynote address.

“The University of Toledo is pleased to welcome Katie Holmes as our commencement speaker to inspire our newest alumni as they celebrate receiving their degrees,” Gaber said. “As a Toledo native with close, personal connections to the University, we are eager for her to share her experiences and accomplishments in the entertainment industry and as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

Holmes

Holmes is an internationally recognized film and television actor, producer and director, as well as a Broadway actor and an entrepreneur.

An exceptional student at Notre Dame Academy, Holmes was accepted to Columbia University, but deferred to embark on an entertainment career. She made her feature film debut in “The Ice Storm” in 1997, then established herself as a rising young actor the next year in the television show “Dawson’s Creek.” For six years, she played Joey Potter, a character still recognized in pop culture.

Holmes has appeared in supporting or starring roles in more than 30 films and television programs, including acclaimed performances as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in “The Kennedys” and “The Kennedys: After Camelot,” Hannah Green in “Wonder Boys,” Rachel Dawson in “Batman Begins,” April Burns in “Pieces of April,” Rita Carmichael in “All We Had,” and Paige Finney in “Ray Donovan.”

Her credits as a director and producer include “All We Had,” “Touched With Fire,” “The Romantics” and “The Kennedys: Decline and Fall.”

Holmes made her Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” in 2008 and played the role of Lorna in “Dead Accounts” in 2012.

As an entrepreneur, Holmes managed and designed a well-received fashion line, Holmes & Yang, with Jeanne Yang, from 2009 to 2014.

Her philanthropic efforts include the Dizzy Feet Foundation, an organization Holmes co-founded in 2009 that increases access to dance education in the United States. She also supports the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes; Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit organization that fights violence and neglect against U.S. children; Raising Malawi, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping vulnerable children in extreme poverty through health, education and community support; and the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.

Alvarez

Graduate ceremony speaker Alvarez has been an educator for nearly two decades and is a candidate for an education doctorate in educational administration and supervision.

The Santa Barbara, Calif., native has enjoyed an outstanding career teaching high school music, highlighted by leading her previous school’s music department to become a Grammy Signature Schools recipient in 2015. She has continued teaching music while pursuing her doctorate at UToledo by serving as a graduate assistant for the Rocket Marching Band and athletic bands since 2015.

Alvarez”s long career as a musician includes recording with Fleetwood Mac on “The Dance” and appearances on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and Nickelodeon’s “The Big Help.” She also was a member of the Los Angeles Laker Band, a subset of the University of Southern California’s Trojan Marching Band. She has performed with numerous professional ensembles, including The Desert Winds and the Gold Coast Wind Ensemble.

A volunteer club advisor for Gay Straight Alliances, Alvarez co-chaired the Southern Nevada chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network and served the Gay and Lesbian Center of Las Vegas. During the past year, she has been executive director at Equality Toledo, where she has worked to support the local community.

Alvarez earned a bachelor of music degree from the University of Southern California and a master of music degree from Northern Arizona University, both in music education.

UToledo’s spring commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

UToledo’s College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Angelita Cruz Bridges, a 2000 graduate of the College of Law who serves as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, will give the commencement address.

The next week — Friday, May 10, at 4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena. Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician and inventor whose career included serving 17 years as an astronaut, during which time he flew five space shuttle missions and conducted seven spacewalks, will be theutoledo.edu/commencementrmation, visit the commencement website.

Professor named American Council on Education Fellow

Dr. Robert A. Schultz of The University of Toledo Judith Herb College of Education has been named a Fellow of the American Council on Education (ACE) for 2019-20.

Schultz

The professor of gifted education and curriculum studies, and chair of early childhood, higher education and special education, is one of 39 to receive the distinguished designation.

Established in 1965, the ACE Fellows Program is designed to strengthen institutions and leadership in American higher education by identifying and preparing faculty and staff for senior positions in college and university administration through its distinctive and intensive nominator-driven, cohort-based mentorship model.

More than 2,000 higher education leaders have participated in the ACE Fellows Program over the past five decades, with more than 80 percent of Fellows having gone on to serve as senior leaders of colleges and universities.

“The ACE Fellows Program epitomizes ACE’s goal of enriching the capacity of leaders to innovate and adapt, and it fuels the expansion of a talented and diverse higher education leadership pipeline,” ACE President Ted Mitchell said. “Each year I am impressed by how many former Fellows are named to prominent leadership roles, which makes it even more exciting to meet each new cohort. I’m left wondering, ‘Where will these Fellows end up?’”

“I am honored to have been selected as an ACE Fellow and to serve The University of Toledo in this capacity,” Schultz said. “The program and training will provide a broad array of resources and experiences that are sure to be transformative in my growth and development as a leader.

“I want to thank President [Sharon L.] Gaber for her support and encouragement to pursue this unique and prestigious opportunity,” Schultz added.

Schultz has been a faculty member at the University since 2001. In addition to professor and chair, he serves as director of the Honors Program in the Judith Herb College of Education and is the assessment liaison for the University-wide Visual Literacy Consortium. He also is a member of The University of Toledo Leadership Institute class of 2018.

He was nominated to be an ACE Fellow by a senior administrator at the University and completed a rigorous application process.

The ACE Fellows Program combines retreats, interactive learning opportunities, visits to campuses, and other higher education-related organizations, and placement at another higher education institution to condense years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year.

During the placement, Fellows observe and work with the president and other senior officers at their host institutions, attend decision-making meetings, and focus on issues of interest. Fellows also conduct projects of pressing concern for their home institutions and seek to implement their findings upon completion of the placement.

At the conclusion of the year, Fellows return to their home institutions with new knowledge and skills that contribute to capacity-building efforts, along with a network of peers across the country and abroad.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn from and broadly explore leadership with top officials at another college or university,” Schultz said. “This will be an exciting and transformative experience as I continue my career in higher education.”

He is an alumnus of the University of Akron, where he received bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in biology/chemistry and cytology, respectively, and a master of arts degree in education. Schultz also received master of art and doctoral degrees in gifted education and curriculum and instruction, respectively, from Kent State University.

Rocket club to compete in National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships this week

The Rocket Disc Golf club will travel to Appling, Ga., to compete in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships Wednesday, March 27.

Club members will leave Tuesday, March 26, to arrive in time for the event, which will take place at the International Disc Golf Center. UToledo is one of 34 universities from across the country that will hit the course.

Rocket Disc Golf qualified for nationals with a second-place finish at the Great Lakes Collegiate Open earlier this month at Deerfield Nature Park in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

“Thankfully, Chris Wojciechowski, Rocket Disc Golf No. 1 player, shot the hot round of the day to secure a berth for us,” said Aaron Chelchowski, president and founder of the club. “Our team is getting ready, and we are excited to show the rest of the schools that are going to nationals that we are to be taken seriously.”

The team consists of Chelchowski, a senior majoring in sales and marketing; Wojciechowski, a Ph.D. student in measurement; Ryan Rau, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a focus in education and leadership; and Alex Phillips, a senior majoring in professional sales.

“It has been a whirlwind starting this club in time to compete this year,” Rau said. “An absolute round of applause to Aaron Chelchowski for all the hard work and hours of time he has put into this. He has truly been the thrusters that have propelled this rocket of a club.”

After qualifying for nationals, the club had to figure out how to make the trip happen. Rau and Chelchowski went into fundraising overdrive and received more than $1,000 in less than one week via GoFundMe. Donations came in from UToledo alumi, family, and disc golfers from collegiate programs around the country.

“This club raised more than $2,000 in funding through shirt sales and disc sales through a partnership with Discraft Discs, the world leader in disc sports, before ever getting to the first budget allocation meeting,” Wojciechowski said. “The club has staying power and will be a part of the fabric of the University for years to come.”

Students who want to get involved with the Rocket Disc Golf club can email Chelchowski at aaron.chelchowski@rockets.utoledo.edu or rocketdiscgolf@utoledo.edu.

Canine in training on campus through Rocket Service Dogs

She was one of the most popular residents in Ottawa House West: an energetic blonde with sparkling brown eyes and an outgoing personality.

“Aspen is why most people come to our room,” Alana Shockley, a sophomore majoring in communication, said and then laughed while petting the Labrador retriever.

Aspen, center, was happy to pose for a photo Courtney Koebel, left, and Alana Shockley of Rocket Service Dogs in Ottawa House West.

The 1-year-old dog definitely turned heads and made a lot of friends.

“Some people ask, ‘How did you get a dog in a residence hall?’ And we explain she’s a service dog in training,” Courtney Koebel, a sophomore majoring in education, said. “Some ask if they can pet her, and we have to calm her down first.”

Settling down is just one thing Shockley and Koebel worked on with Aspen.

“We are trying to teach her commands — sit, stay, kennel — and to get her to focus,” Koebel said. “It’s going well. She has a good work ethic, but she gets distracted sometimes.”

Koebel and Shockley welcomed their four-legged roommate last fall. They are members of Rocket Service Dogs, a University organization partnering with Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence and the Ability Center of Greater Toledo to encourage students to foster and train dogs.

“We were trying to figure out how to get more involved on campus and were looking at all the organizations,” Shockley said. “And once we saw Rocket Service Dogs, we fell in love because we’re really crazy animal lovers, it’s dogs, and we’re helping people.”

Students in the organization take an orientation and policy class through Rocket Service Dogs, and then a handling course taught by Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence.

Aspen is the first canine to live and train in a residence hall through Rocket Service Dogs.

It took a year of planning between the University, Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence and the Ability Center of Greater Toledo to make the placement possible, according to Josephine Biltz, a third-year student majoring in biology and president of the Rocket Service Dogs.

“Aspen seemed to really like the residence hall from the second she walked in, and I think it was a really great atmosphere for her to be exposed to a lot of different people,” Biltz said.

While Aspen wasn’t ready to attend class on campus with Shockley and Koebel, she did go to school once a week. Every Friday, the trio headed to Flower Hospital for class with Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence.

“We practice attention, loose-leash walking. Sometimes they teach us new commands, and then we’ll practice old commands,” Koebel said. “We work on Aspen’s attention, get her to focus for long periods of time, so she’ll be able to come to University classes with us. And sometimes instead of class, we’ll have outings. We’ll go out with [Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence] to a public place to see how she reacts.”

Praise and rewards bolster Aspen’s desire to please — and learn.

“We usually give her small treats to motivate her; sometimes we just use her kibble,” Shockley said. “We bought her some little Milk-Bones, and she really likes those.”

“When you’ve been working with her for a while and she finally understands what we’re trying to do, it’s rewarding to see her get excited,” Koebel said. “She really likes treats, so she’s kind of always excited.”

Aspen recently moved on to continue training through Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence’s prison program, where she was paired with an inmate.

While their time working with the Lab was brief, Koebel and Shockley will remember Aspen and her goal.

“Depending on how well Aspen does and if her attention span gets longer, she could be paired with someone with a disability,” Shockley said. “But if not, she’ll be a therapy and emotional support animal.”

“It makes me feel good that I’m able to help someone who has a disability and can’t help themselves, so it’s cool to know I’m part of the process to help make their life a little bit easier,” Shockley said.

Learn more about Rocket Service Dogs at facebook.com/rocketservicedogs, or email rocketservicedogs@gmail.com.