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President Recognizes Leadership in Action Amidst Global Pandemic in Annual Address

In her fourth annual State of the University address delivered via video amid the global coronavirus pandemic, University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber recognized the resilient leadership of the campus community to stay true to our mission amidst difficult circumstances.

The speech was shared with campus via email April 7 at the same time it was planned to be an in-person event before the COVID-19 outbreak required social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus. The State of the University video address is available online.

Gaber delivers virtual address

President Sharon L. Gaber delivers a virtual State of the University address amid the global coronavirus pandemic. In her fourth annual address, the president recognized the resilient leadership of the campus community.

“Despite these unprecedented times, our role as a public research university is more important than ever,” Gaber said. “We are educating the next generation of critical thinkers and innovative leaders, advancing knowledge through groundbreaking research, and serving as a strong community partner with our region and our state.”

Following a theme of “Proving Resilience: Leadership in Action,” the president highlighted success stories from the academic year and positive momentum that indicates a bright future ahead. Gaber discussed ways UToledo is innovating educational programs, how students are succeeding like never before, growth in research excellence, and ways the University is supporting our communities.

Reflecting an ongoing, campus-wide commitment to student success, Gaber underscored the University’s record-high six-year graduation rate of 51.7% after fall 2019 commencement. UToledo surpassed the target rate of 50% listed in the Strategic Plan three years ahead of schedule.

The president also recognized faculty researchers who continue their important work to apply for grants, test theories and publish papers even though we are not on campus.

“Our researchers are leaders in their fields facing the world’s most urgent problems head on, with a cross-disciplinary approach and innovative solutions,” Gaber said. “In just the first six months of this year, we received $32.2 million in competitive research awards, an increase of nearly 24% over this time last year.”

The University’s growing partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy national labs after hosting a National Lab Day in October was featured in a video story about Dr. Michael Weintraub, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, who is researching the terrestrial aquatic interface. Another video story shared the student success story of Naba Rizvi, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in information technology following internships with Google and Adobe and another opportunity lined up at Microsoft.

The University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was lauded throughout the president’s address. She recognized faculty and staff for finding innovative ways to make resources available to students remotely and highlighted how faculty experts are helping the community better understand the impact of this pandemic on our health and the economy.

“These may be challenging times, but we’re in this together,” Gaber said. “Thank you for all you’ve done, and continue to do, for The University of Toledo. I am so proud of how you’ve stepped up — as students, as faculty, staff, alumni and community members — to not only ensure that our academic mission continues forward, but also realizing that our collective sacrifices are for the greater good of our region.”

‘What Were You Wearing?’ Exhibit to be Shared on Social Media During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

An exhibit displaying the stories and re-creations of the clothing survivors were wearing at the time of their assaults is one of a number of events The University of Toledo will hold virtually during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The “What Were You Wearing?” installation, which is sponsored by the UToledo Title IX Office, will be shared on the Title IX Office’s website and social media pages.

This is one of the outfits included in the “What Were You Wearing?” virtual installation.

“Continued awareness surrounding sexual assault is key to changing perceptions,” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “This virtual exhibit allows survivors of assault the opportunity to be heard, validated and believed, and it also creates a space for the UToledo community to participate in this critical conversation.”

In its third year at UToledo, the installation features survivor stories that will be released on Wednesdays starting April 8 on the Title IX Office’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

The goal of the project is to debunk the myth that sexual violence happens because someone dresses a certain way or that they are “asking for it.”

“This year’s virtual exhibit allows for the important message to be shared even while we are not on campus,” Vicky Kulicke, director of Title IX and compliance, said. “We want our UToledo community to understand the difference between the messages received in media regarding victim blaming and the reality presented in this virtual installation.”

The exhibit has been presented on campuses across the U.S. since it was created in 2013 and changes at each campus based on the submissions of the survivors of sexual assault in each location.

“I am grateful that the Title IX Office adapted quickly to honor people who submitted their stories this year,” said Maya Mineoi, graduate assistant with the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Program. “Regardless of any limitations on in-person programming, I am inspired that the focus on survivors’ stories was not lost.”

“We are honored and privileged that those who submitted stories in the UToledo community trusted us to share their stories,” Lindsay Tuttle, sexual misconduct prevention education coordinator, said. “It’s important that we as bystanders react with empathy and support, not victim blaming, when someone is impacted by sexual misconduct.”

Additional events hosted by the Title IX Office in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month include:

Thursday, March 26 through April 30

Red Flag Campaign in Goddard Field along Bancroft Street across from University Hall. Red flags are displayed to spell out the number 3,537, which stands for the number of Toledo police reports last year of domestic violence, domestic assault, stalking and violations to protection orders.

Wednesday, April 8

• Bringing in the Bystander virtual training from noon to 1:30 p.m. Students, faculty and staff can sign up on Invonet to participate using Zoom. Title IX leaders at UToledo will explore different strategies to help a friend or acquaintance by safely intervening in instances of sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking.

Monday, April 13

• Bringing in the Bystander virtual training from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sign up on Invonet to participate using Zoom.

Thursday, April 23

• Bringing in the Bystander virtual training from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sign up on Invonet to participate using Zoom.

Wednesday, April 29

• Bringing In The Bystander virtual training from noon to 1:30 p.m. Sign up on Invonet to participate using Zoom.

• Denim Day. Faculty, staff and students are asked to wear jeans to raise awareness of sexual violence and post photos online using the hashtags #utoledotitleix and #utoledodenimday.

• Learn to make origami at 9 a.m. on Title IX’s Facebook and Instagram pages as a self-care activity during Rocket Coalition’s De-Stress Fest.

For information about Title IX or where to report an incident related to Title IX, visit the UToledo Title IX website.

Additional resources for students, faculty and staff can be found on the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Program website.

CORRECTION: Varsity T Hall of Fame Nominations Due May 1

Nominations for the 2020 class of the Varsity T Hall of Fame are being accepted through Friday, May 1.

Nominations may come from any source. Nominations from previous years automatically carry over to the next year.

Criteria are:

• Any former varsity student-athlete who has performed with athletic distinction at The University of Toledo. The student-athlete need not necessarily be a graduate. For the 2020 class, nominees must not have been active on or after July 1, 2015.

• Any coach, administrator, trainer, etc. who has served The University of Toledo with distinction for a period of at least five years and who has been retired or resigned or otherwise separated from his/her position for a period of at least five years. For the 2020 class, nominees must not have been active on or after July 1, 2015.

The nomination form can be found on the Toledo Rockets Varsity T Hall of Fame web page.

Email the nomination form along with all supporting data to Paul Helgren at paul.helgren@utoledo.edu.

Nominations also can be mailed to:

Paul Helgren
The University of Toledo
Athletic Communications Office MS 302
2801 W. Bancroft St.
Toledo, OH 43606

Members will be chosen by a three-quarters vote of the selection committee.

The Varsity ‘T’ Hall of Fame banquet will be held in the fall, with the 2020 class being presented at halftime of a Toledo football game.

Family Nurse Practitioner Students Holding Virtual Book Drive

Everyone remembers that cherished childhood book.

“My favorite was ‘Go, Dog. Go!’ by P.D. Eastman,” said Cassi Laberdee, a student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program. “Reading and being read to beginning at a young age can shape children in such a positive way; it can pave the way for a knowledge-filled life. And this allows parents and children another way to bond and grow their relationships.”

Jessica Asher, a student in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program, read “Bedtime Bear” to her 3-month-old twins, Jasey, left, and Jozey.

“I loved Dr. Seuss’ ABC book when I was a kid. It helped me to learn my alphabet in a fun way growing up. I always loved learning and reading,” said Stephanie Zecman, who also is in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

Laberdee and Zecman are teaming up with a couple peers to hold the family nurse practitioner students’ spring project — a virtual book drive that runs through Monday, April 20.

The drive is being conducted through Books By the Bushel, and donations will go to Reach Out and Read, a grant-funded program in the UToledo Department of Pediatrics.

“Our goal is to give 500 books to Reach and Read; that’s the equivalent of $1,000 — $2 a book,” Laberdee said.

Reach Out and Read prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.

Doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally appropriate books to children.

Locally, the program reaches 15,000 families with young children at 24 pediatric and family practice offices in northwest Ohio. The program distributes 30,000 new books a year.

Nationally, Reach Out and Read programs are located in 6,400 hospitals, health centers and pediatric clinics in all 50 states. The program also serves 4.8 million children and families each year. More than 7.4 million new, developmentally appropriate books are given to children annually.

“I think the book drive is important during this unfortunate time because it allows one to look forward to something and gives people the option to donate to a good cause,” Jessica Asher, family nurse practitioner student, said. “With these hard times in mind, it will help these kids to feel loved and have something to look forward to at their well visits.”

Asher’s favorite book as a child was “Kittens and More Kittens” by Marci Ridlon. These days, she reads “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin to her twin girls.

“We hope to gather donations to give children the gift of reading and new memorable books to take home,” Asher said.

“Doing this virtual book drive through the Reach Out and Read Program, especially during these challenging times, can give people some positivity that they are helping children in need,” Allison Locke, a family nurse practitioner student, said. “Knowing we can help provide books to children through their pediatric care offices brings me so much joy.”

Zecman worked in a pediatric clinical site last semester and saw the program in action.

“Passing out books to all of my pediatrics patients was a great feeling. They would get so excited to get a book, even after they may have had to get poked for blood, they walked out smiling with a book in hand,” Zecman said. “It is especially important during these hard times where kids may not be getting hands-on education every day at school; having a book collection would be so beneficial for the kids that need it the most.”

Donations to the virtual book drive may be made on the Books By the Bushel website.

For more information on the drive, email cassi.laberdee@rockets.utoledo.edu.

UToledo to Celebrate Class of 2020 with Virtual Commencement

The University of Toledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a virtual commencement ceremony while we cannot celebrate together amid the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Celebrating Success online ceremony will go live on Saturday, May 9, the same date graduates and their families had planned to celebrate commencement in the Glass Bowl before drastic social distancing measures were required to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The spring commencement ceremony recognizes UToledo’s undergraduate and graduate candidates for degrees. The College of Medicine and Life Sciences and College of Law hold separate graduation ceremonies and also are planning to hold virtual events due to the state’s stay-at-home order.

On the website, utoledo.edu/commencement, graduates and their families can watch videos from President Sharon L. Gaber and other University leaders congratulating them on their successes.

Most importantly, each graduate has the opportunity to be personally recognized. In a traditional live commencement ceremony, a graduate’s name is read as they walk across the stage to be recognized. In this virtual ceremony, each graduate has a custom online graphic display with their name and degree and the opportunity for additional personalization with a photo and recording of their name.

Students interested in personalizing their commencement graphic need to respond to the email request from Marching Order, the company UToledo is working with to host this virtual commencement ceremony, and provide their information by the April 13 deadline.

“I am heartbroken that we cannot have a traditional commencement ceremony this year and it was important to me that we find another way to recognize the perseverance of the Class of 2020,” Gaber said. “I am proud of the way this group of graduates has handled this unprecedented situation and I look forward to celebrating them virtually.”

Graduates who planned to participate in the spring commencement ceremonies also are invited to participate in the University’s fall commencement ceremony planned for Dec. 12 in Savage Arena.

In the days and weeks leading up to the virtual commencement on May 9, UToledo will celebrate graduates on social media using #UToledo20. Members of the Class of 2020 are encouraged to share favorite campus memories, mentors who helped them succeed and other stories. UToledo alumni, faculty and staff also will provide words of encouragement and congratulations to the newest UToledo alumni.

President to Deliver Video State of the University Address

President Sharon L. Gaber will continue the University’s tradition of giving an annual State of the University Address, but in a different, digital format as advised by our public health experts.


The 2020 State of the University speech will be published to utoledo.edu/video and shared with the campus community via email at the time it was originally scheduled to be delivered live, at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7.

“Despite these unprecedented times, our role as a public research university is more important than ever,” Gaber said. “We are educating the next generation of critical thinkers and innovative leaders, advancing knowledge through groundbreaking research, and serving as a strong community partner with our region and our state.”

This will be Gaber’s fourth State of the University address since being named president in July 2015.

Toledo Athletics Launches Rocket Spring Reading Program

The University of Toledo Athletic Department is launching the Rocket Spring Reading Program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

To complete the program, students must read at least 10 books between March 25 and May 31. Each book must be recorded in the student’s Rocket Reading Log.

With recent developments requiring students to learn from home, the Rocket Spring Reading Program is designed to encourage kids to continue hitting the books. The reward for completing the program is one free ticket to the Toledo Football home opener against San Diego State Saturday, Sept. 12.

Each student must bring his or her completed Rocket Reading Log to the Rocket Ticket Office located at Savage Arena on Main Campus. The guardian of the student will receive the ticket via email/mobile to the Sept. 12 game. Tickets are based on availability.

There are three separate specialized categories: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth through eighth grade. The deadline to redeem the 2020 Rocket Spring Reading Program reward is Friday, July 10, at 5 p.m. at the Rocket Ticket Office.

Download the Rocket Reading Logs: kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade.

For more information, email Adam Simpson at adam.simpson@utoledo.edu.

Songfest Moves Online During Coronavirus Pandemic

The song, dance and philanthropy of Songfest has united students at The University of Toledo since 1937.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 83rd annual event won’t take place at Savage Arena in front of a big crowd as originally planned.

However, organizers found a way for the show to go on online.

The fun has already started on Twitter. Go to @UToledoSongfest to vote for the best Songfest performances of all time.

Students who have been preparing their performances for Songfest 2020 “Rockets Hit Shuffle” also will share their dances and songs from home to the Twitter account using the hashtag #Songfest2020. And money will still be raised for this year’s charitable organization — the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center.

“We want to turn this sad time for many students into an opportunity to engage and raise awareness for the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, which works to promote healthy relationships and break the cycle of family violence so every home can be a safe home,” said Grace Garcia, UToledo student and member of the Mortar Board National Honor Society. “Many hours of practice go into the weeks and months leading up to Songfest, and we want to carry on this beloved tradition in the safest way possible in this unprecedented time when we can’t be together.”

Garcia said raising money and awareness to help domestic violence victims is especially important right now as families are huddled at home because of the national shutdown to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Spotlighting this issue can have a huge impact because children and families with a history of domestic violence are at an increased risk of facing more problems as schools are closed and many employees are working from home or not working,” Garcia said.

The Songfest donor drive is open until Monday, March 30. To donate, go to the Fundly website.

UToledo Launches COVID-19 Emergency Support Crowdfunding Campaign to Help Students

As the world grapples with the growing coronavirus pandemic, The University of Toledo has created a fund to assist students during this unprecedented time.

Rocket nation is asked to consider donating to the COVID-19 Student Emergency Support Crowdfunding Campaign.

The University of Toledo Foundation is partnering with the UToledo Division of Student Affairs with a goal to raise $30,000 by the end of the fiscal year. The campaign collected $10,000 in a matter of hours after launching, and, as of March 23, more than $20,000 has been raised.

“The outpouring of support since this fund launched has been amazing,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We want to thank alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the University who are coming together to assist our students. We are Rockets helping Rockets.”

“So many UToledo students are being impacted by this new reality we are living,” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “Within a week, 1,159 of our students can no longer work on campus, and 125 students are not able to return home to their native countries.”

“Gifts through this campaign will alleviate some financial stress and worries for UToledo students who are struggling to maintain basic needs,” said Dr. Michele Soliz, associate vice president for student success and inclusion.

This online giving campaign will provide emergency relief for students in need. Donations will help students facing financial hardships pay for housing, utilities, car repairs, medical bills, food and toiletries.

“Together, we can make a difference for our UToledo students,” Cockrell said. “Gifts of any amount will be appreciated.”

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

UToledo students can apply for up to $500. For details, go to the Division of Student Affairs website.

“We encourage students in need to apply for help,” Soliz said. “We will review applications and work with the Office of Financial Aid to distribute funds.”

For more information, contact the Office of Multicultural Student Success at omss@utoledo.edu.

UToledo Medical Students Learn Residency Placements Via Virtual Match Day Event

A total of 165 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo learned their residency placements March 20 during a live-streamed, virtual Match Day event.

The annual Match Day celebration is a highly anticipated moment for medical students in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences and at medical schools across the country. Soon-to-be physicians discover at the same moment where they will spend the next three to seven years in residency as they train in their chosen specialties.

Under normal circumstances, students gather together in person with family and friends to share the experience of learning the next step in their careers. However, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need to limit large gatherings, UToledo celebrated the 2020 Match Day remotely.

“We know this is a very important time in the lives of our students, and one they expected to spend with friends and colleagues as they take one of the final steps before going out into the community as physicians,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We worked very hard to create something special despite the difficult realities we’re living with right now. We are so proud of this class of fourth-year students who will soon be providing care in the communities in which they’ll be practicing.”

In addition to the 165 who learned their match Friday, two individuals had already matched with the U.S. Armed Forces, bringing the total to 167.

The number of students who matched with The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences residency programs increased 30% over the previous year, while the total number of students staying in the greater northwest Ohio region increased nearly 50% over the 2019 match.

“We are delighted so many of our students will be staying in our region as they begin their careers as physicians,” Cooper said. “One of our key missions is to provide a pipeline of well-trained, well-qualified physicians to care for our region’s health. It’s encouraging to see such a large increase in the number of students who matched in northwest Ohio.”

Among the other institutions where UToledo students will do their residency work are Yale, Brown, Emory, Duke, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.