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Arts and Letters

Staff Members’ Poetry in Spotlight in Local Contest

Home is where the art is — in this case, poetry. Three UToledo employees were honored in the Toledo City Paper’s Ode to the ZIP code 2020 contest.

Paying tribute to where you live is the goal of the contest, which is open to area residents who submit poems inspired by their ZIP codes — the number of words in each line determined by the corresponding digit in the postal reference tool.

Works by Amal Abdullah, coordinator of doctor of pharmacy admissions in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Charlene Gary, secretary in the World Languages and Cultures Department, and George Hayes Jr., electrician journeyman, were among those selected this year.

43623
By Amal Abdullah

big-box retail stores
restaurants and plazas
the intersection of neighborhoods and consumerism
birds perched
on cable wires

“I consider poetry to be a medium for creative expression that encourages one to reflect on the nuances and the ordinary through engagement with the written word,” Abdullah said. “The poetry contest provided a unique opportunity to write and share a succinct reflection on the space that constitutes my ZIP code. I have an affinity for writing, so it is an honor for my poem to be recognized.”

43616
By Charlene Gary

come time for harvest
loud lumbering combines
growl and grumble and wake the
humans
reminding us we are of earth

“We are kind of rural here in Oregon; there are a lot of farms. What really struck me when I first moved here is at harvest time, I would see these huge rolling machines just driving down the road like this is an everyday thing; it was surreal. The magnificent size of these machines, and the noises that they make driving by, was really striking,” Gary said.

“Poetry is succinct and efficient. When talking, I tend to be too wordy, so writing poetry forces me to use different words, $2 words, in the smallest way possible in order to express what I’m thinking,” she said. “It’s really a challenge, but I like challenges.”

43607
By George Hayes Jr.

Four twenty, birds singing
Gunshot sounds too
Life in the hood not good
0
Mayor says change is going to come

“Toledo is like two cities, the inner city and the rest of Toledo. It’s always been that way in my adult life here,” Hayes said. “This poem is just some of the many things that happen in the hood, daily sometimes, but weekly all of the time.”

He added, “I love poetry because it’s from the heart, sometimes life experiences, sometimes words to encourage others in a time of need. I love performing spoken word as well, kind of like poetry, but on steroids if it’s done with passion and heart.”

See all of the poems selected in the adult category of Toledo City Paper’s Ode to the ZIP code 2020 contest.

Dr. Jim Ferris, UToledo professor and the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, was one of the judges for this year’s contest. He is a former Lucas County poet laureate.

“The Ode to the Zip code is a great way to encourage us all to think creatively about where we live,” Ferris said. “It is particularly important in these unprecedented times to use the imagination to stay grounded and keep connected to our neighbors and our community.”

UToledo Faculty Members’ Play Wins 6 Theatre Awards in Chicago

The Chicago production of a play written and directed by Dr. Matt Foss and designed by Stephen Sakowski, both associate professors of theatre at The University of Toledo, has won six out of the seven nominations it received for the prestigious 2020 Non-Equity Jeff Awards.

Similar to the Tony Awards in New York, the Jeff Awards recognize Chicago’s top theater each year.

This battle scene is from the 2019 production of “All Quiet on the Western Front” at the Red Tape Theatre in Chicago.

“This is the first time a production that began in this department has ever gone on to a professional version and several professional awards,” said Dr. Edmund Lingan, professor and chair of UToledo’s Department of Theatre and Film. “We are extremely proud of Matt Foss and his team.”

“All Quiet on the Western Front” won for Best Production of a Play and for Best Ensemble —two of the top awards in Chicago theater each year. Two UToledo alumni, Austin Rambo (Theatre 2019) and Bianca Caniglia (Environmental Science and Women’s Studies 2018), were part of the Chicago production’s ensemble cast.

The production also was won awards for Best Choreography (Leah Urzendowski) and Sound Design (Dan Poppen).

Sakowski received the award for Best Lighting Design of the year, and Foss the prize for Best New Work.

Foss adapted Erich Maria Remarque’s historic novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” for the stage, and it premiered at The University of Toledo with a student cast in fall 2018 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the war in which the novel is set.

The professional premiere of the play featured a unique collaboration between The University of Toledo co-producing the production with Red Tape Theatre and the Greenhouse Theatre Center — two professional companies in Chicago. UToledo’s support resulted in an extension of classroom learning in a professional setting, with Sakowski and a number of former students also participating in the project. The opening of the production culminated in a showcase event highlighting the UToledo College of Arts and Letters’ commitment to the arts, student experiences and innovation.

In 2019, the play received the Kennedy Center’s David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, recognizing the year’s outstanding new work premiered at a college or university.

More information about the 47th Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards can be found at jeffawards.org.

UToledo Art Faculty Work Published in International Research Journal

University of Toledo Art Department faculty Eric Zeigler and Brian Carpenter received international recognition for a course they designed.

Their paper, “Engaging Tools,” was published this spring by the international research organization, Architecture_Media_Politics_Society (AMPS), in its conference publication, “AMPS Proceedings Series 17.1. Education, Design and Practice — Understanding Skills in a Complex World.”

Students get hands-on training in tool use in the UToledo Department of Art Foundations of Art Studio Technologies course.

Zeigler and Carpenter’s paper covers the development and implementation of a course they designed for The University of Toledo Department of Art: Foundations of Art Studio Technologies (FAST). The purpose of the course is to enhance students’ understanding of themselves as “tool-users” and to reinforce the importance of agency that is developed through the process of “making.”

The paper’s introduction states, “The paper examines … our approach for creating an environment where students understand the physical, historical and philosophical relationships between tools; can operate and discern the components of tools; and begin to create a foundation to become a manually competent knowledge worker.”

“I would add that the course is a foundational component in a college career where an understanding of the components of the systems we live within needs more scrutiny and analysis than ever before,” said Zeigler, assistant professor of art and coordinator of the Art Print Center.

The FAST course has been offered at UToledo since 2016, according to Carpenter, assistant professor of art and gallery director.

Students have appreciated the class. One wrote anonymously in a course evaluation, “I love that we are able to learn something conceptually and then immediately apply it hands-on. This isn’t common in most classes, and I really appreciate this.”

A compilation of all the papers presented at the AMPS conference was published this spring on the AMPS website.

UToledo Students Examine Human Consumption in International Biodesign Challenge Summit 2020

Four University of Toledo students have teamed up to critically investigate the behaviors of human consumption. Their project is competing in the international Biodesign Challenge Summit 2020, held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The competition is being held online June 15-19, but the video presentations are available for view anytime. Winners will be announced June 19 on the Biodesign Challenge Summit website.

The UToledo project, “Wastr: Reassessing Our Trash,” was the brainchild of students Jarrett Cunningham, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in film and video in May; Madalyn Jones, a senior majoring in environmental science; Michael Miller, a bioengineering major with an economics minor; and Mohamed Nawras, who received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 2018 and is a doctor of medicine candidate for fall 2020.

The team developed a presentation highlighting the paradox of creating an eco-friendly product that adds to consumptive behaviors. The ultimate goal is to get people to become more aware of the amount of waste they personally generate.

A video presentation of the project states, “Landfills are reaching capacity at alarming rates, impacting the environment tremendously while also contributing to a culture of consumption.”

Students from UToledo prepare for the competition every year through a class offered in the Department of Art. The spring 2020 Biodesign Challenge course brought together students from multiple disciplines into the Department of Art under the direction of faculty members Brian Carpenter and Eric Zeigler. Students worked in interdisciplinary teams to research real-world problems and then sought to solve those problems with biotechnology and/or biomaterials. This year’s groups addressed potential eutrophication solutions, antimicrobial structures, innovative health testing devices, and consumption.

The Biodesign Challenge course asks students to stretch their known capabilities by making meaningful connections between disciplines and designing unique solutions to complex problems in a normal year. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the course moved to virtual learning, the teams continued to work extensively on their projects.

“We are truly amazed at the tenacity of our students, and the outcomes from remote research they were able to accomplish in such a difficult time,” Carpenter, assistant professor of art and gallery director, said.

“We are proud of the work every student has done, and we are excited to compete internationally again,” Zeigler, associate lecturer of art, said.

UToledo Launches Bilingual Journal of Creative Writing

Cohetes (Rockets), The University of Toledo’s first bilingual journal of creative writing in Spanish, is soaring online.

Launched on World Book Day, the inaugural issue features six pieces penned by UToledo undergraduate and graduate students:

• “Dieciséis años y embarazada” (“Sixteen and Pregnant”) by Elizabeth Smithmyer;

• “La palanca” (“The Lever”) by Allison Edelbrock;

• “La vocación” (“The Vocation”) by Chloe McCammon;

• “Suerte” (“Lucky”) by Rhiannon Byrd;

• “Los pelirrojos” (“The Redheads”) by Caroline Hoffman; and

• “Golpea tus tacones juntos tres veces y di, ‘No hay lugar como el hogar…’” (“Tap Your Heels Together Three Times and Think to Yourself, ‘There’s No Place Like Home…’”) by Paula M. Boehm.

When Dr. Manuel R. Montes, assistant professor of Spanish, Latin American literatures and cultures in the World Languages and Cultures Department, saw the work submitted by his students in Spanish Conversation and Composition II and Spanish Creative Writing, he wanted to share it.

“I realized that some of my students were going beyond the expectations and learning outcomes of the language courses I’ve been teaching at UToledo,” Montes said. “Not only in terms of grammar accuracy, but also intuition, imaginative skills and literary quality, some writing samples, essays and short stories that I was receiving for grading were simply worth publishing.

“I thought an open-access journal would be the most appropriate space for students to be showcased outside the classroom, and perhaps a more encouraging way for them to keep improving their Spanish besides a well-deserved full credit at the end of the class.”

Montes plans to publish new issues of the journal in fall and spring semester. He also is looking to include artwork, multimedia content and research projects.

“Cohetes promises to showcase the linguistic, artistic and literary talents of students in the College of Arts and Letters,” Dr. Linda M. Rouillard, professor of French and chair of the World Languages and Cultures Department, said. “This marks a wonderful milestone in our Spanish program and shines a light on the talent and potential of our students and colleagues.”

While the entries are in Spanish, Cohetes does offer a translation to English for each piece on the website, which is maintained by Arjun Sabharwal, associate professor of library administration and digital initiative librarian.

“Creative writing in Spanish as an academic discipline is relatively new in the nation, with only a few programs that offer it as a degree and not too many colleges that have integrated it as a language course in their curriculum, which translates into a very small number of publications of this kind dedicated to promote it,” Montes said.

“Cohetes is a contribution to that trend that is likely going to be consolidated, thus paving the way for UToledo to stand out as another breakthrough institution that is not disregarding the cultural and artistic importance of a language that is spoken by roughly 54 million people nationwide and 450 million people on a global scale,” he said.

2016 Presidential Campaign Emails Reveal Strategy, Surprises

While public discussion during and after the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton largely focused on emails and email servers, a team of political science scholars zeroed in on email communications distributed by the campaigns and found that email is still an important campaign tool despite its mundane nature.

In their new research titled “The (surprisingly interesting) story of email in the 2016 presidential election” published in the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, Dr. Jeff Broxmeyer, assistant professor of political science at The University of Toledo, and Dr. Ben Epstein, associate professor of political science at DePaul University, explored 10 months of emails leading up to Election Day and analyzed ways that emails sent by campaigns reveal varied strategies and goals of campaigns.

Notably, Trump campaign emails were more participatory, fitting the populist theme of the campaign, and the Clinton campaign made the surprising strategic decision to stop direct email communication to passive email subscribers more than two months before Election Day.

“Trump’s campaign was oddly silent with emails through the primary and the general up until October. When it revved up, turns out his campaign had fewer appeals to donate and more appeals to do something — show up to an event or make phone calls,” Broxmeyer said. “That was a big outlier because we found that most of the top-tier candidates — the serious ones — ran sophisticated, full-gauge operations and used email extensively and almost entirely as an ATM to ply supporters with appeals for small donations, including Bernie Sanders despite his mobilizing rhetoric.”

A window into campaign intensity, the researchers found that Clinton was sending eight emails a week to her supporters at peak; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stopped campaign emails long before the Republican National Convention; Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia and chair of the Republican National Committee, didn’t send a single email to supporters; and Lincoln Chaffee sent a total of eight campaign emails to his supporters.

The emails showed the degree to which campaigns existed on paper, but were not actively being run.

“Some candidates — also-rans — claimed they weren’t getting enough attention from the press, but they didn’t really try to communicate at all with their own supporters, people who went on the website and actually signed up to be on the email list,” Broxmeyer said.

The researchers were surprised by the Clinton campaign’s decision to stop sending emails to accounts that had not engaged with the campaign since signing up for emails.

“The Clinton campaign made that move in August, nearly three months before the end of the election and just as the Trump campaign started ramping up its email campaign,” Epstein said.

“Overall, this study demonstrates how some strategies, such as the frequency of emailing, focus on fundraising, and consistent forms of interactions have become widely accepted norms. It is clear that email remains valuable for campaigns and an important subject for scholarship, despite its mundane nature.”

Former Rocket Distance Runner Elected Into MAC Hall of Fame

Former Rocket track and cross country star Briana Shook is one of six new members inducted into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.

Shook joins Stevi Large Gruber (Akron, women’s track and field), Bryan Bullington (Ball State, baseball), Margo Jonker (Central Michigan, softball), Wally Szczerbiak (Miami, men’s basketball) and Ellen Herman-Kimball (Ohio, volleyball) in the 2020 induction class.

She said she is honored to be representing The University of Toledo in the MAC Hall of Fame.

“It has been 15 years since I have raced, so getting the news of being inducted definitely took me back to the line, waiting for the gun,” Shook said. “Back then, I never thought there would be a time when running wasn’t my life. Today I try to teach my kids that hard work pays off and that the memories are worth living wholeheartedly at the time that you are making them. I would go back in a heartbeat to race again.

“Everyone wishes they had a super power; every time I raced, I felt like I found mine. I am so honored for the nomination and proud to be a Toledo Rocket alum.”

MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher praised this year’s induction class.

“We have such a storied history within our conference, and it is important to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of our former students, coaches and administrators, specifically these six individuals, and their achievements during their time competing in the Mid-American Conference,” Steinbrecher said. “We are honored to welcome this year’s class to the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame.”

Shook is one of the most decorated student-athletes on the track in Toledo and MAC history. She was a three-time All-American in both cross country and track and field. Over the course of her career, Shook (2000 to 2004) won 11 MAC titles and added three runner-up finishes, as well.

Shook helped lead the Rockets to back-to-back MAC Cross Country Championships in 2001 and 2002, winning the individual race both seasons. In 2002, she was named the NCAA Great Lakes Region Cross Country Runner of the Year. Shook was a three-time MAC champion in the indoor 3,000, and twice each in the indoor 5,000, the outdoor 5,000 and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She still holds the MAC record in the indoor 3,000 meters (9:25.91) and the steeplechase (9:49.44).

At the 2002 MAC Outdoor Championship Meet, Shook earned the Most Valuable Performance award for her victory in the steeplechase and 5,000 meters. She went on to finish in fifth place in the steeplechase at the NCAA Championship Meet that year. Shook also earned Most Valuable Performance honors at the 2003 MAC Indoor Championship Meet for her first-place finishes in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters.

In 2004, she was named the MAC Outdoor Championship Meet Most Valuable Performer and was named NCAA Mideast Track and Field Athlete of the Year. She won the steeplechase (9:59.22) and the 5,000 meters (16:22.46) at the 2004 MAC Meet and finished second at the NCAA Championship Meet in the steeplechase.

During the summer of 2004, Shook made history by setting the American record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with her 9:29.32 clocking in Belgium, a time that was fourth best in the world that year. She was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the steeplechase by Track & Field News in both 2003 and 2004, winning the USA Outdoor title in 2003. In 2004, she won the U.S. Olympic Trials, but was disqualified for missing a jump, even though she actually ended up running a longer race than her competitors.

Shook graduated from Toledo in 2004 with a degree in communications and photography, earning Academic All-MAC honors as a senior. She went on to join the Toledo coaching staff, serving as an assistant from 2004 to 2008. Shook was instrumental in helping to guide the women’s cross country program to a MAC runner-up finish in 2005 and an eighth-place finish at the 2006 NCAA Regional Championships, the highest of any MAC program that season. She also helped to guide Ebba Stenback to an eighth-place finish and All¬-America status at the 2006 NCAA Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Under Shook’s guidance, Stenback also was the NCAA Mideast Regional Champion and No. 2 all-time steeplechaser in MAC history behind Shook.

Shook later served as head women’s track and cross country coach at Heidelberg University from 2010 to 2013. She coached 13 All-Americans, two national champions, and was named Ohio Athletic Conference Women’s Track and Field Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2013. She retired from coaching in 2013 to help raise her three children with her husband.

Shook was inducted into The University of Toledo Varsity T Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Ohio Track and Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2020. She resides in Mexico, Mo., with her husband, Robert, and the couple have three daughters — Haleigh (13), Atley (7) and Georgia (5).

The MAC Hall of Fame was approved by the MAC Council of Presidents in 1987. The charter class was inducted in 1988 and subsequent classes were added in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994. After six induction classes, the MAC Hall of Fame maintained 52 members until it was reinstated in May 2012. This year’s class brings the number of MAC Hall of Fame inductees to 102 individuals from 15 classes.

UToledo Unites in Solidarity to Identify Solutions to Address Systemic Racial Injustice

The University of Toledo’s campus community united in solidarity and support Thursday evening for those affected by the killing of George Floyd.

The first Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Town Hall brought together University leadership, faculty, staff, students and the public to reflect on their experiences, identify solutions to address systemic racial injustice, and highlight campus and community resources to aid in coping with trauma.

“I am so pleased with the dynamic, meaningful ideas that resulted from our successful discussion,” Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said. “I appreciate the passion and motivation of our Rocket family and the support we have for each other. This is the beginning of a series of respectful, painful conversations in the coming weeks, including when the semester starts.”

More than 350 people attended the event that featured panelists:

• UToledo Police Chief Jeff Newton;

• Benjamin Davis, UToledo law professor;

• Dr. Monita Mungo, UToledo assistant professor of sociology;

• Dr. La Tasha Sullivan, director of the University Counseling Center;

• Nyah Kidd, president of the Black Student Union;

• Darren Gordon, former president of the UToledo chapter of the Student National Medical Association;

• Giselle Zelaya, president of the Latino Student Union;

• Nick Thompson, president of Student Government;

• Anjali Phadke, vice president of Student Government; and

• Asher Sovereign with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Members of the campus community shared personal experiences and the great sadness and fear sparked by watching the video of George Floyd’s death.

“As a teen growing up in Mississippi, my parents would consistently remind my siblings and me when we would leave the house for fun or to hang out with our family and friends, ‘Remember we love you, but you must come home at night,’” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “As I got older and started to experience racism, discrimination and prejudice firsthand, I began to understand the meaning of those powerful 11 words. In essence, my parents were saying, ‘Always obey the law and follow their instructions and rules. Do as you are told. Don’t argue.’ These past two weeks have been the most difficult weeks in my life. When will this behavior stop? Am I next? I’m at a loss for words.”

“As I reflect on the events of the last few weeks and our community discussion last evening, I am inspired by our students, faculty, staff and alumni for their commitment, perseverance and passion to change the world,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Yet I grieve the recent senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor. As a human and a mother, I cannot fathom the pain and anguish that their families are experiencing. Racial injustice, police brutality and disparate treatment have painfully existed for longer than all of us have been alive. As a campus community, we have made great strides to create a more open and inclusive community, working together to develop and implement UToledo’s first diversity plan. And yet it isn’t nearly enough. Now is the time to end this in our community, our country and in the world. I challenge each and every one of you to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’”

Panelists brought forward ideas and solutions to elevate our community, such as training students in nonviolence and conflict transformation to teach them how to respond to what they will face while protesting by utilizing faculty expertise in the Peace Education Program, which is part of the Judith Herb College of Education.

“I am proud of the strength and courage of our students as they engage in deep, thoughtful, critical discussions and examine the ways we can change our society for the better,” Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “It is our solemn responsibility and our honor to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to lead that change into the future.”

Leaders from across the University have expressed their commitment to embracing the critical role higher education can and must play in facilitating open and honest discussions that empower us as a community and a nation to translate our ideals into actionable change.

• Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College: “We believe in the power of higher education to address major societal problems like this injustice. We hope that by challenging our students to think deeply about the world they live in and to take actions that support greater diversity, equity and inclusion, we are helping to build a better world.”

• Dr. Anne Balazs, dean of the College of Business and Innovation: “It is with great sadness that we bear witness to the events of the past week, with the untimely and violent death of George Floyd and the continuing expressions of hatred and prejudice. As members of a scholarly community, one which is dedicated to education and improving our shared quality of life, it is unacceptable to idly stand by and allow racism in all its many forms to persist.”

• Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law: “The past week’s events have shown the realities of the work we must do as a nation to ensure that our justice system protects and serves all people. Our mission at the law school is intrinsically tied to the mission of equal access to justice. We are uniquely positioned to empower future generations of lawyers to evaluate our country’s legal systems, engage in thoughtful discourse, and address inequality. The change we need to see as a nation begins with each of us doing our part to create a diverse, supportive and inclusive community.”

• Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, dean of the College of Graduate Studies: “Life is heavy for all of us today. It has been that way for some of us for many, many days. First, a global pandemic and now violence and division dominate our news cycle. I am sad, I am afraid, and I am hopeful. I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for your fear, I am sorry for your anger, I am sorry for the lack of justice, I am sorry there is no cure, and I am sorry that I am sorry. You are valued, and we hear you. We are here for you today and every day.”

• Beau Case, dean of University Libraries: “The University Libraries believe that diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are not merely ideals — they are core values which we display daily in our work. Our campus doors are open to all. Our services are free of bias. We offer safe spaces for exploration, discovery, lifelong learning and wonder.”

• Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences: “From all appearances, he was neither protected with courage nor served with compassion. Now ‘I can’t breathe’ has become the rallying cry of protests locally and nationally, peaceful and violent. Lurking beneath this are the concerns and outrage of ongoing racism, systemic racism, institutional violence and failed inclusion. If we want to improve the world, we better start close to home with our region, our community and, most importantly, with ourselves.”

• Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters: “The peaceful protests occurring in many of our major cities and towns not only reflect the anger over the death of Mr. Floyd, but also represent years of frustration with the injustice and unequal treatment experienced by African Americans and people of color in communities all across this nation. The College of Arts and Letters is a community where we value and celebrate not only critical inquiry, but also thoughtful action. We want to thank every student, faculty member, staff person and alumnus who has participated in some form of action to add your voice to the many calling for justice.”

• Dr. John Laux, associate dean of student affairs in the College of Health and Human Services: “George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers is the latest example of violence perpetrated against African Americans. We honor George Floyd’s life, and those who were murdered or assaulted previously by focusing our attention on our society’s history of and ongoing racism and systemic social injustice by working collectively to be agents of change. The College of Health and Human Services trains students for careers in social service, health sciences and criminal justice, including police civil service. We recognize that we are a product of our society. The status quo is not acceptable. And, as such, we have work to do to root out and put an end to individual and institutional racism. We are committed to do the work necessary to be a part of the solution.”

• Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing: “We know that long-term discrimination has negative effects on physical and mental health and that violence, discrimination and racism directly impact social determinants of health and result in health disparities and inequities. Given the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our African-American communities, the health impact of continued disparities is even more profound. As healthcare professionals, we are in a unique position to address the health and the social justice issues that are so pressing in our nation at this time. Change begins with each one of us and is reflected in how we treat each other on a daily basis.”

• Mike O’Brien, vice president and athletic director: “Last night’s dialogue was excellent as it was very informative and insightful. We must stand together and be committed for equity, diversity and the fight against racial injustice.”

• Dr. John Plenefisch, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics: “The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics must translate the powerful words and feelings expressed by those protesting systemic racism into sustained action that makes a concrete difference in our community, including through our work and actions here in our college. As scientists and mathematicians, we can take action against racism, bigotry and prejudice in many ways, including choosing to focus our research on issues that disproportionally impact marginalized communities or groups, and deliberately supporting the careers and training of people of color as future generations of scientists and mathematicians.”

• Dr. Gary Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Our obligation to our fellow human beings is not diminished by the color of their skin, or by how they express their spirituality, or by their country of origin, or by whom they happen to love. Those characteristics, which some voices emphasize in an attempt to divide us, are infinitesimal compared to the many things that make us what we are: the human family.”

• Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the College of Engineering: “I found each of the speakers and the entire event to be compelling and inspiring. It is critical that we have administrators, faculty and student leaders on campus who are speaking out to support the protests against racial injustice in our nation. Eliminating institutionalized racism, white privilege and racist violence will take many voices and much work.”

• Dr. Raymond Witte, dean of the Judith Herb College of Education: “We all want to feel safe when in the presence of the police. This will require time and honest dialogue because many, including myself now, don’t feel safe. I am now faced with the reality that police may not act impartially and without bias. To be honest, most of us are biased in some way. However, the decisions police make can have life and death outcomes.”

The next Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Roundtable is scheduled Thursday, June 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Access and panelist participation information will be released prior to the event, which is titled “The Death of George Floyd: Race and Anti-Blackness in America.”

UToledo Alumnus’ Film Gets National Play on Amazon Prime

The film “Dream Runner” (2020) by University of Toledo alumnus James Aponte is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

The film’s national debut on Amazon is a major step forward in Aponte’s effort to take his film to mainstream audiences.

“It’s been two years of navigating distribution, but I am so happy to say that … my feature film ‘Dream Runner’ is now streaming on Amazon Prime!” Aponte, who received a bachelor of arts degree in film and video in 2016, wrote on Facebook announcing the film’s release.

Dr. Edmund Lingan, UToledo professor and chair of theatre and film, said he is thrilled that Aponte’s film is receiving national play, but not surprised.

“As a UToledo student — and later as a professional filmmaker — James always proved to be that rare blend of artist and entrepreneur that leads toward professional success. Our department has been proud and happy to support his work from the beginning, and I am sure this is only the beginning of a series of successes in his career that I will enjoy watching.”

The film’s subject matter leans toward sci-fi, as the opening text makes clear: “Humans no longer dream. Now man-made, dreams are sold in supermarkets, drug stores and fueling stations. Certain dreams are declared illegal by world governments and organizations. Patrons turn to dream runners to attain these illicit fantasies.”

Watch the “Dream Runner” trailer.

A host of UToledo and Theatre and Film Department grads star in and helped create the film.

Cast members include 2016 theatre alumna Olivia Pierce as Dana; 2014 UToledo alumnus Ian Davis as Drake; 2016 theatre graduate Nolan Thomaswick as Robbie; 2016 theatre alumnus Jeffrey Burden II as Julian; 2017 theatre graduate Christina Pinciotti as Rene; and 2017 theatre alumna Samantha Campbell as Victoria Kingsley.

Production team members include Nick Kostelnak, 2015 film/video graduate, producer; John Eidemiller, media producer/director in the Communication Department, producer; Stephen Mariasy, 2015 film/video alumnus, music; Andre Lewis, 2018 film/video graduate, cinematography; Marcus Jordan, 2017 film/video alumnus, production management/assistant director; and Ryan Dalton, 2017 music graduate, guitar.

UToledo Psychologists Study How Americans Are Coping With Impacts of COVID-19

New research from The University of Toledo Department of Psychology aimed at establishing a baseline of how COVID-19 and social distancing measures to curb the spread of the disease are affecting Americans’ mental health uncovered something unexpected — individuals’ loneliness appears to be lessened the more they personally feel affected by the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that being under a stay-at-home order was broadly associated with increased health anxiety, financial worry and loneliness.

Tull

Even so, people who said that their lives had been significantly uprooted by COVID-19 consistently reported feeling less lonely relative to those who saw the pandemic’s disruption on their daily lives as more minor.

“COVID-19 can impact people in a number of ways. Parents may have had to take on new responsibilities at home, regular schedules and habits may be disrupted, or a person may be concerned about a loved one who is vulnerable for COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Tull, a UToledo psychology professor and lead author on the study. “It looks like it’s possible that those who feel COVID-19 has had a greater impact on their daily lives might be trying to connect more with people and access social support. This could have some positive mental health aspects down the road.”

The findings, Tull said, are consistent with suggestions that the shared experience of COVID-19 could increase closeness and social cohesion, similar to what has been seen following other mass tragedies.

The study was published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

That people are anxious about their health, worried about their finances, and feeling isolated from their communities in the face of a pandemic is natural and understandable. Researchers say anxiety can be a motivating factor that leads to helpful behaviors, such as taking seriously the recommendations of public health officials and being cautious in your own decisions and assessments of risk.

However, when people struggle to cope with that anxiety, it can lead to problematic behaviors — substance abuse, seeking medical care that isn’t needed for reassurance, or, alternatively, putting off an emergency room visit that could be life-saving over worries of contracting COVID-19.

Researchers surveyed 500 people between March 27 and April 5 — roughly the peak of stay-at-home orders that asked more than 300 million Americans to significantly limit interactions outside their own household. The age of those surveyed ranged from 20 to 74, with a mean age of 40. About 52% were male. Income was broken down into three brackets, with roughly one-third reporting annual household income of less than $35,000, one-third reporting earning between $35,000 and $64,999, and another third reporting household income of at least $65,000. Respondents represented 45 states.

The findings were generally uniform across the board, although people in lower income brackets reported more anxiety, financial worry and loneliness.

By getting a baseline of how Americans were being affected during the high point of stay-at-home orders, psychologists can better understand the long-term mental health impacts of the crisis.

“This is just an initial snapshot of where people are. It’s really setting the stage for the next stage of the study, which will look at how people are coping over time,” Tull said. “I think that’s going to be particularly fruitful and give us ideas in terms of what kind of interventions should be offered or needs should be addressed in the community. Our hope is this work might help us identify over time individuals who are particularly in need of services and how we can best connect with them.”

Tull and fellow UToledo researchers Dr. Kim Gratz and Dr. Jason Rose are gathering data for the second phase of their study.