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College of Medicine and Life Sciences Launches Program That Introduces UToledo Research to Saudi Medical Students

A new program at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences that brings medical students from Saudi Arabia to UToledo for an intensive, six-week research program will look to expand next year.

Under the leadership of Dr. Alexzander Asea, professor of medicine, and Dr. Punit Kaur, associate director of the Precision Therapeutics Proteogenomics Diagnostics Center, five students from Alfaisal University College of Medicine in Riyadh spent a portion of their summer in Toledo getting experience in various biomolecular techniques.

Dr. Punit Kaur worked in the lab with medical students from Saudi Arabia.

Students also toured UToledo’s facilities and met Saudi-born faculty who shared their current research work and career path.

Unlike in the United States where getting into medical school requires an undergraduate degree, in Saudi Arabia and many other parts of the world, students enroll in medical school right out of high school.

“Because of that, they lack the lab experience and the experience of doing research, so it can really put them at a disadvantage,” Asea said. “We give them a hands-on look at how to analyze proteins in proteomics, how to look at DNA in genomics, and how to identify different cell lines in cell cultures. We think those are all things they are going to use in whatever specialty they ultimately choose.”

All of the projects the students engaged with were tied to colorectal cancer, which has become one of the most common forms of cancer in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Alexzander Asea, left, talked with medical students from Saudi Arabia who visited UToledo during the summer.

Asea brought the idea to UToledo from Texas A&M, where he developed a similar program in 2010.

The students’ home university pays a stipend for each student who enrolls; this covers the costs of the program and provides additional resources for research equipment and supplies.

The program also helps to establish a pipeline between Saudi medical schools and UToledo. Kaur said all five students who participated in the 2019 program hope to eventually practice in the United States.

“We wanted to give them an opportunity to learn about The University of Toledo and see what a great institution this is,” Asea said. “When they finish their medical degrees and are looking for fellowships or residencies, we hope they come here because they know the faculty and institution. Our hope is this establishes a pipeline.”

Asea and Kaur are aiming to expand the program to include at least 30 students in 2020.

Blown Away: Glass Artist Reflects on Human Condition

Eamon King remembers watching an artist working with a fiery-orange blob of molten glass.

“I was a kid on a field trip to Sauder Village in Archbold, Ohio,” he said. “That’s when my passion for glass began.”

This glass skeleton is part of Eamon King’s exhibit, “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry,” which is on display on the fifth floor of Carlson Library this semester.

When he was 16, he took a glassblowing class at the Toledo Museum of Art.

“My first piece was a very ugly paperweight that only my mother would love, so it was a gift to her while I was in high school,” King said and laughed. “She still has it.”

These days his hot work is turning heads.

Check out “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry,” which is on display this semester on the fifth floor of Carlson Library. King created the fantastical mirrors and glass skeleton for his master of liberal studies degree, which he received in May.

“When I created the figure and the mirrors, I thought about how similar we all are as human beings on the inside. We all have the same needs and are built from similar DNA with the most minute differences in traits,” King said.

This mirror is part of Eamon King’s “Recycled Reflections Through Human Chemistry.”

From sketching to glassblowing to flameworking, the project took about one year. He needed to bone up on anatomy.

“A typical adult skeleton has 206 bones. In my project, I made some changes to the overall skeleton to incorporate scientific glass pieces into the bone structure,” he explained. “All of the glass bones are welded or sealed together and actually consist of only 12 individual pieces that are supported on the metal armature I built.

“For example, in my figure, the spine doesn’t have each individual vertebrae; I used double manifold systems, or Schlenk lines, that are common in chemistry labs and that I built for the spine instead of duplicating vertebrae. I then blew holes and sealed all the ribs and sternum into the manifolds instead of vertebrae. The only bones that are left out from the skeleton other than the spine are the patellas and the hyoid bone.”

Eamon King created a punch bowl at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

King is familiar with scientific glass: He is a part-time glass shop assistant in the UToledo Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“Eamon King is a very gifted artistic glassblower who has made huge strides in scientific glass,” said Steven D. Moder, master scientific glassblower in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who mentored King for his master’s degree project. “The glass skeleton had a variety of scientific pieces that Eamon was able to pull together for a beautiful, artistic, scientific sculpture.”

In addition to being artful, King is all about recycling.

“I built the frames to hold the large glass pieces for this project. I constructed the frames from wood floor joists that were reclaimed lumber from a renovation of a more than 100-year-old building project in downtown Toledo,” King said.

The cool mirrors feature 100-plus glass pieces that received a reflective coating. King then placed the individual pieces around the larger mirrors.

“The University of Toledo allowed me to create my own program through the Master of Liberal Studies Program, and I worked with Steve Moder in the Scientific Glassblowing Lab, where I learned a whole different skill set,” King said.

As an undergraduate at UToledo, King traveled overseas to learn about Murano glass and worked with traditional Venetian artists. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree from the University in 2008, he taught glassblowing and flameworking at the Toledo Museum of Art for 12 years.

“Compared to working as an artist in area studios the past 15 years, this adventure in precision glassware for chemistry apparatus has been a big change for me,” King said.

“Eamon will keep the argument thriving on whether scientific glass is artistic or highly technical,” Moder said.

Over the summer, King traveled to Corning, N.Y., for a weeklong symposium with the American Scientific Glassblowing Society.

“I had the opportunity to work with and meet many skilled scientific flameworkers from around the world,” King said.

The UToledo alumnus is pursuing a career as an artist while working with Moder in the glass shop.

And doors continue to open: King recently was one of seven artists selected to make a glass key for the city of Toledo.

“I enjoy working with glass due to its limited lifespan and fragile nature,” King said. “It is a constant reminder that if it is not treated with care and respect, it could be destroyed, and eventually, it will be, very similarly to ourselves.”

UToledo Alumna Powering Opportunity for Minorities in Tech

Irma Olguin Jr. is an unlikely tech leader, building a technology ecosystem in an equally unlikely place.

As the co-founder and chief executive officer of Bitwise Industries in Fresno, Calif., Olguin is one of the leading forces in an effort to revive underdog cities by building a robust — and inclusive — technology sector.

Irma Olguin Jr., a 2004 UToledo graduate, is the co-founder and CEO of Bitwise Industries in Fresno, Calif.

Collectively, the company has redeveloped 250,000 square feet of space in downtown Fresno, created 2,000 jobs, and trained more than 4,000 computer coders.

Bitwise recently secured $27 million in investor funding, allowing it to continue its growth in Fresno and expand to a new market in Bakersfield, Calif.

That kind of success was far from the future Olguin imagined herself having as a teenager growing up in a small town near Fresno in California’s Central Valley.

“I grew up the daughter of farm laborers. In my head, I was going to be the daughter of farm laborers for the rest of my life,” she said. “I didn’t expect college to be part of my story.”

After scoring exceptionally well on the PSAT, however, scholarship offers began rolling in. One offer in particular stood out for how comprehensive and supportive it was. At 17, Olguin scraped together money for a Greyhound ticket, packed her bags, and left California for the first time to begin classes at The University of Toledo College of Engineering.

“For many, going off to college might be obvious or second nature, but it was certainly not the case for me or my family. How am I going to eat, where am I going to live? The University of Toledo provided a great deal of that in the scholarship package, and it allowed me to whittle down the number of issues I had to worry about.”

Her experience at UToledo changed her life.

Irma Olguin Jr. stands outside Bitwise Industries in Fresno, Calif.

Olguin received a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering in 2004 and returned to Fresno, where she soon entrenched herself not only as one of the area’s technology pioneers, but one with a mission.

“The technology industry has a giant need to fill jobs,” she said. “We have to do a better job of making more people capable of filling those roles, and I think the solution is looking in unlikely places.”

Following a short stint in education, Olguin co-founded 59DaysOfCode, a software development competition that, in part, was meant to show off the area’s capability and talent. The competition has since grown into a nonprofit organization promoting and fostering technology development in and around the Fresno area.

Olguin also co-founded Hashtag, the area’s first membership-based collaborative workspace, and started a successful software development company.

In 2013, she co-founded Bitwise Industries.

Bitwise is attempting to build the tech industry from multiple angles. The firm has a coding academy, a business incubator, custom software design services, a real estate development arm, and a service that matches programmers and engineers with local businesses who need tech support.

One of the key parts of Bitwise is the diversity of its coding academy. The company says more than half of its Geekwise Academy students are women or people of color.

“The technology industry as a whole has been grappling for an answer on how to build a diverse and inclusive work force and has completely fallen short,” Olguin said. “All the big names have statements saying this is a problem and we don’t know how to fix it. We think we’re sitting on the solution to that.”

And Olguin believes the true obstacles to getting more women and minorities in tech aren’t desire and aptitude — “you find those aplenty,” she said — it’s small things like a bus ticket, appropriately using email, or finding childcare.

The supportive network Olguin found at UToledo helped her unlock her own potential. Now it’s important for Olguin to help others unlock their potential.

“The University of Toledo is near and dear to my heart and played a huge role in my formative years,” Olguin said. “The College of Engineering was a really welcoming place even though I was very much in the minority in terms of gender and race. I felt very much a part of the school system and believed from day one that people were there to see us succeed.”

UToledo Alumna Recognized as Advocate for Pharmacists

Dr. Krystalyn Weaver was passionate about pharmacy, but it was the advocacy opportunities she gained in her student leadership roles at The University of Toledo that helped guide her to a career focused on how government policy affects practicing pharmacists.

A self-described shy kid when she arrived as a freshman from her hometown of Elyria, Ohio, it didn’t take long for Weaver to immerse herself in the UToledo community.

Weaver

She served in Student Government, was elected student body president, and was a student trustee on the UToledo Board of Trustees. She also was a member of Blue Key National Honor Society and Mortar Board Honor Society.

“I really loved Student Government and the advocacy part of it. When issues would come up on campus, we could be advocates for the student body,” she said. “I love pharmacy. It’s my whole life, but I didn’t see myself fitting into the clinical aspect.”

With guidance from Dr. Mary Powers, associate dean for Main Campus student affairs and enrollment management and professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies, Weaver found her niche.

After receiving a doctor of pharmacy degree from UToledo in 2012, Weaver went on to the executive residency program at the American Pharmacists Association Foundation.

Since 2013, she has been working for the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, where she focuses on state pharmacy policy, especially the authority of pharmacists to prescribe medications. Currently, she is vice president of policy.

“U.S. colleges of pharmacy train pharmacists to be the medication experts. No one else in the healthcare world knows drugs like pharmacists do, but we send pharmacists out into practice and often don’t allow them to make those decisions for their patients,” Weaver said. “Aligning the scope of practice with pharmacist education creates a lot of efficiencies, improves patient care, lowers patient costs, and it’s a more satisfying way for pharmacists to practice because it allows them to utilize the skills they worked so hard to attain.”

Earlier this year, Weaver received the APhA-Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management Distinguished Achievement Award in Pharmacy Management from the American Pharmacists Association.

Powers recalled Weaver as an energetic and enthusiastic student who had unique leadership abilities and experiences.

“I was most impressed by her sincere interest and regard for the profession of pharmacy and its future direction,” she said. “I always thought Krystal would evolve as a leader in our profession, and this has proven true. Her recent award is especially significant because the American Pharmacists Association is the oldest and largest professional pharmacy organization.”

Weaver’s connections to both UToledo and the pharmacy profession run deep. Her father, Fred Weaver, and aunt, Kathy Weaver, both graduated from the University’s College of Pharmacy in 1989 and 1995, respectively. Both practice pharmacy in northeast Ohio. Fred is the outgoing president of the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

Her mother also is a UToledo alumna, having received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1988.

Still, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Weaver would attend UToledo. As a teen, she had thoughts of going elsewhere to forge her own path. A visit to a UToledo chemistry camp in high school changed her mind.

“It’s really hard to come to Toledo’s campus and not want to be part of it. It’s such a beautiful campus. I just fell in love with it,” she said. “Everything felt like college should feel like.”

And just as Weaver followed in her father’s footsteps, a younger sibling is following in hers. Her brother, Bryan Weaver, began at UToledo this fall to pursue a dual master of business administration/doctor of pharmacy degree.

“Pharmacy is a really rewarding career path, and I think he’s seen the very different tracts that my father and I have taken,” Weaver said. “Toledo offers students a great opportunity with this dual-degree program. That flexibility is a big draw for our college of pharmacy.”

Career Services Preparing Record Numbers for Bright Futures

A big investment in people, programs and renovations has translated to ginormous returns for Career Services.

The numbers tell the story:

• Attendance at Career Services’ events skyrocketed from 606 in academic year 2017-18 to 2,565 in 2018-19.

• Users of the Virtual Career Center more than doubled from 3,700 to 9,303 during that time frame.

• Student appointments increased from 593 in 2017-18 to 1,016 in 2018-19.

Shelly Drouillard, director of Career Services, right, talked about resumé branding with Bailey Loughlin, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in higher education, left, and Ashlen Torio, a senior majoring in operations and supply chain management, in the updated office in Thompson Student Union Room 1533.

It’s no wonder statistics are up: Career Services looks so inviting. Located in Thompson Student Union Room 1533, the bright hallway features widescreen monitors advertising jobs and internships. And the windows have been a game-changer for the center.

“Students are constantly looking in our windows and seeing activity going on,” Shelly Drouillard, director of Career Services, said. “We have career ambassadors that we launched last fall, and those are peer-to-peer interactions. So when students see other students in here having fun and engaging, oftentimes that’s the impetus to make them come in to see what’s going on.”

And there’s a lot going on.

Two career consultants hired last year meet with students to discuss their majors and job prospects, and help them prepare resumés and polish their interview skills. Career peer ambassadors assist students who stop by. And a student browsing Handshake, the online interactive job database, hits a button on the monitor in the hallway and pops in to pick up a printout.

Meet the staff members of Career Services: They are, from left, Davlon Miller, Laura Jane Moser, Josh Vail, Christine Albright, Shelly Drouillard, Tom Avery and Shannon Niedzwicki.

“Managing your career really isn’t a one-time event, but a process, and we can help you through that process. It’s never too early or too late to start,” Tom Avery, career consultant, said.

“We love it when freshmen come see us because we can help them build that career-ready mindset early,” he said. “And it allows them plenty of time to gain experience that will be of great benefit down the road as employers are really looking for experience outside of the classroom when recruiting graduates.”

“We have staff who genuinely care about helping UToledo students and alumni,” Christine Albright, career consultant, said. “We are knowledgeable about the newest trends in career development and can provide a wealth of information to help students and alumni become successful.”

Positioning students to network with thriving graduates also started last year with Rocket Connect. The free online mentoring platform helps students and alumni who have questions about career paths, businesses, additional education and more.

In its first year, 653 students and 710 alumni signed up for Rocket Connect.

Jimmy Russell signed up for that networking program as a student last year — and as a UToledo graduate this year.

“Career Services assisted me in getting the position as a disability rights advocate at the Ability Center of Greater Toledo,” said Russell, who received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and communication in May. “I discovered the job on Handshake, and I practiced my presentation I had to give during the interview and received feedback to better prepare.

“Students should stop by Career Services because it is a one-stop employment shop. Any help a person could possibly need with getting ready for post-graduate employment, Career Services can provide it,” Russell said. “The staff there are a joy to talk to and are extremely passionate about helping students reach their full potential.”

Russell was one of many who signed the career success blackboard in the center.

“It’s always an exciting day to speak to a recently hired student as they sign our career success board,” Davlon Miller, assistant director of career development, said. “It tells the story of not only the student’s success, but also the success of our office and The University of Toledo.”

Celine Schreidah also picked up the chalk and shared her success. She graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and is a first-year medical student at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“The one-on-one interview practice was wonderful, and it allowed me to gain confidence in my interviewing skills,” Schreidah said. “I also was introduced to Big Interview, which is UToledo’s free interview preparation resource that is linked directly to the myUT portal. This allowed for a variety of interview types and scenarios, and I highly recommend it to anyone interviewing for a job position or graduate and professional schooling.”

Career Services also can help with dressing for success with the Professional Menswear Closet and referrals to the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women’s Kate’s Closet. In addition, the center has partnered with JCPenney on events where students and recent graduates received 40% off business attire. More than 1,000 attended these special sales.

“Students’ professional development should begin when they first start taking classes,” Josh Vail, student employment specialist, said. “We invite students, alumni and campus community members to stop by to meet our career development team.”

Making Connections: Engineering Student Interns in Silicon Valley

Naba Rizvi is one of nine students selected from more than 1,000 applicants to receive the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship.

In addition to that $10,000 award that honors women students who show great promise in the field of computer science, The University of Toledo junior landed an internship on Adobe Research’s team in San Jose, Calif.

Naba Rizvi was an intern at Adobe Research in San Jose, Calif., this summer.

“I worked on two projects,” said Rizvi, who is majoring in information technology in the College of Engineering. “They both focused on natural language processing and human-computer interaction.”

Her Adobe Research mentor was Dr. Franck Dernoncourt, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who specializes in natural language processing.

“My first project involved research engineering. I used my experience as a web developer to develop a visualization for a sentence compressor and text summarizer,” Rizvi said. “For the second project, I worked on making the output of latent Dirichlet allocation models for automatic document topic classification more human readable.”

In other words, Rizvi’s research is focusing on topic modeling — training the computer to recognize topics in written text with an algorithm.

Naba Rizvi, left, posed for a photo with Lisa Wang, a student at Westmont High School in California. Rizvi mentored Wang during the Girls Who Code Camp run by Adobe Research.

“I learned so much about natural language processing, particularly text summarization. I even submitted my first paper to a conference.”

That paper, “Margin Call,” which she wrote with Dernoncourt and Sebastian Gehrmann, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University, was accepted by the International Conference on Natural Language Generation. That conference will be held in Tokyo this fall.

“My colleagues and myself were delighted to host Naba this summer at Adobe Research,” Dernoncourt said. “Naba is a fast learner and highly motivated. She made a great impact on our research projects.”

What was a typical day like?

“I read a lot of research papers, wrote code, tested the output, and turned to Stack Overflow, my co-workers or my mentor for help if I got stuck,” Rizvi said. “I met with my mentor every week to discuss my projects, progress toward my goals, and any roadblocks.”

“We are proud of Naba Rizvi and all that she continues to accomplish,” Dr. Michael Toole, dean of the UToledo College of Engineering, said. “Her success is well-earned and spotlights the strength of our Engineering Technology Department in the College of Engineering.”

The student in the Jesup Scott Honors College made the most of her time in Silicon Valley, home to many global technology and startup companies.

“To receive such a competitive internship as a first-generation college student really motivates me to work harder and take advantage of all the opportunities available to me,” Rizvi said. “I embrace the growth mindset and believe it is the key to success.”

And she is familiar with success: Last year, Rizvi won the $10,000 Google Women Techmakers Scholarship, which included a scholar retreat with Google scholars from around the world on Google campuses, including the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif.

She is taking her momentum and launching a nonprofit organization called Nontraditional Techies.

“We already have 600-plus members and a job board,” Rizvi said. “I will be creating a mentoring program and an interview series featuring people who have overcome great obstacles on their path to a technical career to inspire others to pursue a career in technology.”

Toledo Football Shares Joy of Victory With Area Special Need Students

The University of Toledo football program shared the joy of victory with approximately 30 special needs students from around the area at its sixth annual Victory Day at the Glass Bowl.

Participating students met Rocket football players, ran drills on the field, and heard their names announced over the public address system as they scored a touchdown.

The Rockets celebrated a touchdown during their sixth annual Victory Day last month in the Glass Bowl.

Victory Day is an opportunity for special needs students to have their moment in the sun on the football field. Each student was partnered with a Toledo football player who served as his or her mentor for the day. Toledo cheerleaders also were there to cheer on the participants.

“I’m not sure who gets more out of this, the kids or our players,” said Head Football Coach Jason Candle. “It’s an awesome day to give a chance to a young person who may have some limitations to have a special day. We’re just happy that we are able to provide a smile today and an opportunity for our players to interact with the community.”

Many Rocket players said the event not only is a chance to make special connections in the community, but it also helps provide them with a sense of perspective.

“It’s a great honor to be able to see these kids enjoying themselves,” said senior running back Ronnie Jones. “It gives me a sense of humility knowing that there is something bigger out there than just you. Giving back is the biggest thing you can do. And the thing is, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Just coming out and playing with a kid can make their day.”

Added senior center Bryce Harris, “We get a chance to do this all year round. I think we take it for granted sometimes. It’s a great opportunity for us to step back and let these kids be the Rockets for a day.”

Some of the students come back every year and have built special bonds with individual Rockets. Junior punter Bailey Flint has been paired with Nick Fish for three years.

“I’ve been able to build a relationship with Nick and his entire family,” Flint said. “They shoot me messages on what he’s doing, how he’s doing in school. He plays on an ice hockey team, and he brought half the team today, which is awesome. It’s really great to see these kids score a touchdown. That’s something that I’ve never even done.”

Victory Day was started in 2010 by Aaron Segedi, a teacher and football coach from Trenton, Mich., a cancer survivor whose life was saved thanks to a liver donation from his sister, Rhonda. Since then, the Victory Day program has been adopted by high schools and universities throughout the country.

The Rockets first celebrated Victory Day in 2014. Candle said he hopes the event will continue for years to come.

“We grow up looking up to athletes, entertainers and historical figures,” Candle said. “But there are some real heroes right in front of us with these parents. We have no idea what they go through on a day-to-day basis. It’s a very small piece in a big puzzle, but we’re happy to be a part of it.”

Grad Student Keeps Children ‘Bookin’ Through the Summer’ Using Mystery Readers, Social Media

On a 90-degree day during one of the last precious weeks of summer break, nearly 30 children gathered at the Bedford Public Library to read together, sing, dance and scavenger hunt.

“The worst thing about going to the library is when I have to leave the library,” said 7-year-old Gunnar Talley, who is entering second grade at Monroe Road Elementary School in Bedford, Mich.

Amy Kochendoerfer, UToledo Ph.D. student, read “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” by Iza Trapani to children participating in “Bookin’ Through the Summer” at the Bedford Public Library in Michigan.

That’s music to Amy Kochendoerfer’s ears.

The Ph.D. student in The University of Toledo Judith Herb College of Education and assistant principal of Monroe Road Elementary School is focused on getting and keeping children hooked on books through her innovative, 12-week summer reading program, which debuted 11 weeks ago.

“This is an incredible turnout today — almost half of the children participating in our program — because we’re competing with football and cheerleading practices and end-of-summer vacations,” Kochendoerfer said. “Every week we’ve averaged about 40 children at the library.”

She and Dawn Henderson, a speech pathologist for Monroe County, spent the summer piloting their program to help the youngest children at Monroe Road Elementary School avoid the “summer slide,” the term used to describe how reading and academic skills regress over summer break.

The two raised $4,300 from organizations in Bedford to fund “Bookin’ Through The Summer,” an intervention project blending free books, mystery readers, parents, social media and library adventures.

“We want them to go back to school ready to start at the point they left off,” Henderson said. “This has been a true community-wide effort.”

It stems from Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law, which goes into effect this school year.

“I created this new spin on how to keep kids reading over the summer because the state of Michigan passed a law that if a child can’t read by third grade, he or she will be retained and have to repeat third grade,” Kochendoerfer said. “They need to catch that bug for books to keep growing, so we created a way to turn reading from a boring task into something fun and interactive.”

Talley is one of the 68 children in kindergarten, first, second and third grades participating in the program who received a book every week in the mail with a flyer for parents outlining suggestions to make reading the book together more engaging.

Aside from the optional meetings once a week at the library, the key ingredients that make this recipe sing are Facebook and mystery readers.

The organizers created a private Facebook page where parents interacted and shared photos and videos of their children’s thoughts or crafts stemming from the books, including puppet shows.

Mystery readers from throughout the community also popped up regularly on the page reading and discussing the book of the week.

“Everyone we approached was excited to shoot a video of themselves reading the book and talking about the book in order to help keep the children motivated. The mystery readers sent us their videos, we posted them, and the parents sat down and watched them with their kids,” Kochendoerfer said. “We had varsity football players, cheerleaders, our state representative, a sheriff’s deputy and teachers reading to our children on social media. The buy-in from the community was incredible.”

Especially from the parents.

“These moms and dads understand the importance of literacy, but we know how difficult it can be in the summer when you’re out of the school routine,” Henderson said. “They took this opportunity to help their children discover the love of reading by sitting down with them and modeling these weekly habits.”

Kochendoerfer, who is already coming up with creative ways to enhance the project next summer, believes this program also allowed parents to model responsible social media interaction.

“You see so much how social media is a negative influence on children, but our summer reading program was all about encouragement,” Kochendoerfer said. “Kids are able to contribute and share their ideas through their parents in a forum that is not threatening. Our secret group is a safe environment to receive immediate, supportive feedback. That’s critical.”

“Amy’s work to encourage children to have fun and enjoy reading books together is yielding great results,” said Dr. Susanna Hapgood, associate professor in the UToledo Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “We know even just 10 to 15 minutes a day of reading to children can give them a boost in terms of vocabulary knowledge and motivation for reading that has long-lasting repercussions.”

Though the data comparing student testing results from the end of the last school year to the beginning of this school year aren’t available yet, Gunnar Talley’s dad already calls the program a success.

“This experience is helping my son because it’s not such a drudgery to get him to read anymore,” Edward Talley said. “It still can sometimes be a battle, but not what it used to be.”

Choral Students, Faculty Sing in Scotland

Five University of Toledo choir students and several UToledo faculty traveled through Scotland in June as a part of a tour with Perform International.

The tour, led by Dr. Brad Pierson, UToledo assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, included time in Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow, along with an afternoon in Ayr and Alloway.

UToledo students posed for a photo during a trip with Perform International to Scotland last month. Making the trip were, from left, Caris Croy, Madeline Repka, Cheyenne Kastura, Sterling Wisniewski and Karina Gibson, who are shown with Dr. Brad Pierson, who led the tour.

The students performed as a part of the American Burns Choir, an ad hoc choir of amateur singers from all around the United States. The choir performed music with lyrics by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, as well as a collection of traditional drinking songs.

Performances were held at the Robert Burns Museum in Alloway, and the Blair Athol and Glen Ord whisky distilleries, plus the Scotia Bar in Glasgow, and the Dalriada Bar on the beach in Edinburgh. The performances at the two pubs were part of “Trad Nights” — or evenings of traditional music — and the choir was joined by local musicians in their performance of Scots music.

UToledo choral students on the tour were Sterling Wisniewski, a music education major; Caris Croy, who is majoring in theatre and music; Cheyenne Kastura, a media communications major; Karina Gibson, a paralegal studies student; and Madeline Repka, a psychology major. Amanda Rasey, artistic director for the UToledo Children’s Choir, also went.

In addition, several UToledo faculty members from the Department of Pharmacy Practice joined the tour as a part of the choir: Dr. Michelle Seegert, associate professor; Dr. Megan Kaun, associate professor; and Dr. Sarah Petite, assistant professor.

Alumna Designs Mural for Inner-City Beautification Project

Artist Caroline Jardine, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from The University of Toledo in 2017, recently designed and completed a mural project intended to beautify abandoned homes on North Huron Street in the historic Vistula district, the Glass City’s first neighborhood.

The houses have good bones and may yet be rehabilitated. The project is intended to protect the homes from vandalism in hopes that a buyer may one day remodel them.

These photos show the house at 1105 N. Huron St. in Toledo before and after the mural project.

Jardine’s mural consists of panels that cover the windows and doors of the structures. Each panel has a unique design that connects in color scheme and concept to the other panels.

The project was initiated by Reginald Temple, director and vice president of community development for First Federal Bank of the Midwest. Temple, a UToledo College of Arts and Letters alumnus who received a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2003, often partners with the Lucas County Land Bank on various projects.

Jardine

Temple said this mural is similar to other board-up projects the Lucas County Land Bank and the Arts Commission have done, like the one for the former residence of Art Tatum, Toledo’s legendary jazz pianist.

The Huron Street project was organized through the collaborative efforts of First Federal Bank of the Midwest, the Lucas County Land Bank and the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. First Federal Bank provided volunteers, plus lunches and restrooms for the volunteers. The Lucas County Land Bank provided the properties, and the Arts Commission commissioned an artist and provided the paint and boards.

Ryan Bunch, communications and outreach coordinator for the Arts Commission, asked Jardine to design 16 murals for the North Huron Street properties.

“I designed the panels so that they would function as individual pieces and as a whole,” Jardine said. “Lindsay Akens [creative place-making facilitator with the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo] and Ryan Bunch showed the Vistula community members the designs and received their approval to move forward with the project.”

Volunteers painted the panels for the houses on N. Huron Street.

Jardine added that her design was inspired by her own work and the houses themselves.

“I chose to include abstracted, minimalist figures that look out to the viewer,” she said. “The vacant houses are given character and life through these figures. The house at 1109 N. Huron was partially blue to begin with, so I brought in blue as one of the colors in this mural.”

Temple arranged for nearly 60 volunteers from his company to carry out the painting.

Jardine said she was impressed with the volunteers because they did so much more than paint: “The houses that the murals were installed on needed a lot of work. Volunteers cleared brush, mowed the lawns, picked up trash, pulled weeds, and cleaned the porches.”

Volunteers did some brushwork, too. Some of the large panels were four feet by eight feet.

“Once we finished priming each of the 16 panels, I outlined the designs and color-coded them so that the volunteers could begin painting them,” Jardine said. “We had two to three days of painting, one and a half days of touch-ups and detail work, and one and a half days of installation. Finally, we clear-coated the panels and installed them on the first floors of the houses.”

Three young girls from the neighborhood came by daily and watched as the project unfolded. Lindsay Akens and Liam Johnson of the Arts Commission suggested the scope of the project be increased so the girls could participate.

Jardine designed several additional panels to cover the basement windows for the girls to paint. Temple noted that the girls were thrilled to be included. “The excitement on their faces was phenomenal,” he said.

The houses are adjacent to each other at 1105 N. Huron and 1109 N. Huron St.