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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.

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.”

By Charlene Gary

come time for harvest
loud lumbering combines
growl and grumble and wake the
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.”

By George Hayes Jr.

Four twenty, birds singing
Gunshot sounds too
Life in the hood not good
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 Medical Students Create Program to Assist Healthcare Community During Pandemic

For Sara Shafqat, peace of mind is everything.

The second-year resident in internal medicine at ProMedica Toledo Hospital has been treating coronavirus patients since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. For Shafqat and many in the health professions, this has meant longer hours and the fear of bringing the virus home; her husband also works tirelessly as an attending physician at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and they have two young sons.

Fortunately, a group of proactive students at The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences are supporting healthcare workers and others in the community through the recently created UTCOMCares program, which provides volunteer assistance with child care, groceries, pet sitting and other basic needs.

Christian Carwell and Joshua Posadny pet sitting

Christian Carwell, left, and her husband, Joshua Posadny, assisted UTMC anesthesiology resident Kevin Lee by pet sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the UTCOMCares program.

“It’s been a very stressful time, both physically and mentally. Especially since the boys were home schooling and our regular babysitter wasn’t available,” said Shafqat. “I never imagined the students’ help would have been so valuable. They were energetic, my sons had a wonderful time with them, and they really started looking forward to their time together.”

UTCOMCares was born from a natural urge of anyone entering the medical field: the desire to help. In March, UToledo medical students were dismissed from their clinical rotations as part of campus-wide precautions against the spread of COVID-19. That left a group of them with a combination of time, opportunity and sense of urgency.

“It’s hard to hear that the best thing for everyone is to step away,” said Christian Carwell, a fourth-year medical student specializing in emergency medicine. “We all come to medical school for different reasons, but we love Toledo and wanted to help in any way possible.”

UTCOMCares, together with the UToledo Geriatrics Club, is piloting a program with residents at The Laurels of Toledo, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The students send handwritten notes and create art projects for those who may be struggling with loneliness or depression after social distancing guidelines have prevented them from visiting with family.

“The residents’ biggest need is to be with their families. They miss them so much,” said Page Rostetter, recreation services director at The Laurels. “We are providing opportunities to FaceTime, Zoom and do window visits, but it’s not the same. The students have provided a great connection, and it gives residents something to look forward to during the day.”

Angie Jacob, a fourth-year medical student specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, helped spearhead UTCOMCares.

“This is certainly a confusing stage of our medical careers and is filled with many mixed emotions. We felt helpless,” said Jacob. “We began this journey in the hopes of helping those in need, so we are choosing to attend to the ‘little’ things so our colleagues, teachers and mentors can focus on the greater good.”

Kevin Lee, a resident in anesthesiology at UTMC, worked in the COVID intensive care unit for several weeks.

“Witnessing the severity of the virus was difficult to cope with,” said Lee. “I just got a new puppy, so the students helped out with pet sitting. I’m truly grateful and appreciative of them being able to take care of Zoey when I was not able to during the pandemic.”

“When you are treating patients, you have to be totally focused on what you’re doing. It’s devastating to have to worry about what’s happening at home, too,” said Shafqat. “Feeling that peace of mind was a great help. We’re so proud of what the students are doing.”

UTCOMCares continues its outreach and assistance in the Toledo community. If you are a student in the health sciences and wish to volunteer, complete the online form. Healthcare workers in need of assistance also can complete the request form.

Class Explores Natural Wonders on Trip to Galapagos Islands

Over spring break before travel restrictions and shelter-in-place mandates, seven honors students explored the Galapagos Islands as part of their class in the Jesup Scott Honors College.

Known for crystal-clear waters and wildlife found nowhere else in the world, the remote islands located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador proved to be a place of awe and inspiration.

During time on campus and on the trip itself, students in the Galapagos Islands: Biology and Conservation class taught by Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Honors College and professor of environmental sciences, learned about the unique life of the islands, the evolutionary processes creating it, and current challenges to preserving it. The land-based trip — with boat rides between the islands — included the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Española.

Snorkeling submerged lava tunnels, swimming with sea lions, and learning about the danger of dumping plastic garbage in the ocean, the students’ journey carried even greater poignancy because of escalating worries about COVID-19.

Upon returning home, Appel and the students spent 14 days in self-isolation and reflected on their time in a place defined by resilience and change — the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dr. Heidi Appel, right, and students from the Jesup Scott Honors College watched a giant tortoise at El Chato Giant Tortoise Ranch.

Day One

After arriving on a flight from Guayaquil, the class headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to see the unique Scalesia forests and the El Chato Giant Tortoise Ranch.

“As with the animals, most of the plants on the islands are endemic and found nowhere else,” Appel said. “But it is the animals that capture our imagination.”

“The Galapagos tortoise is one of the most iconic species on Earth,” Gabrielle Cario, a bioengineering student, said. “To be able to stand within a few meters of such astonishing creatures was incredible.”

“I was so surprised to learn that this tortoise is over 100 years old,” Alexx Rayk, exercise physiology student, said.

Sierra Negra Volcano

Day Two

Situated on the Nazca continental plate near junctions with two others, the Galapagos Islands are all volcanic in origin. Students had the opportunity to hike up a volcano on Isabella Island.

“Despite the heavy showers that prevailed during our hike to the Sierra Negra Volcano, the experience was amazing,” Michelle Cherian, biology major, said. “While the volcano is now extinct, the previous eruptions have left behind enormous calderas and unique flora and fauna endemic to the Galapagos Islands.”

“The hike up and down to the viewpoint was one of the most memorable days on the trip, as we were all soaked through,” Cario said. “Seeing the newly formed lava rock and streams was incredible.”

A sea turtle swam in the lava tunnels.

Day Three

Isabella Island also is home to a large complex of lava tunnels formed millions of years ago when lava flows were cooled on the outside by water but stayed molten on the inside and emptied.

The top of the tunnels was a rocky desert habitat with Opuntia cactus the size of small trees and lots of nesting blue-footed boobies.

“It was also the best example of natural selection for the flightless booby born outside of the typical mating season,” said Dilpreet Kaely, bioengineering major, who had taken her first swim lessons in preparation for snorkeling on the trip.

Taylor Boyd, a biology major, enjoyed looking down from the top of the tunnels.

“The water was so clear we could see everything underneath the surface from the boat,” Boyd said.

Whitetip sharks circled in the lava tunnels.

Students jumped into the submerged lava tunnels to snorkel.

“Within the maze of underwater lava tunnels, we weaved in and out of rocky coves and shallow corals, sighting schools of fish, sea horses and sea turtles along the way,” Cherian said. “The green sea turtles were especially impressive due to their size and mellow activity.”

“I never realized how large sea turtles were until we were swimming right next to them,” said Tessa Keran, a chemical engineering student.

“I have always wanted to swim with marine wildlife, and to be able to swim into a cave with a bunch of whitetip sharks was a highlight in my life,” Ashima Thusu, bioengineering major, said.

“We encountered turtles, sea horses, sting rays, several different types of fish, and a cave full of sharks,” Cario said. “It was an amazing snorkeling trip.”

The honors class saw this saddleback tortoise at the Darwin Research Center.

Day Four

The class returned to Santa Cruz Island to visit the center of conservation efforts in the islands.

“It was really interesting visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center and learning about their conservation initiatives,” Keran said. “Saddleback giant tortoises are critically endangered due to the historic harvesting for food and oil by seafarers and later introduction of invasive species such as dogs, rats and cattle.”

The species of saddleback from Pinta Island was thought to be extinct with the death of Lonesome George in 2012, and the species from Floreana Island was believed to be extinct for 150 years.

But good news came recently in a report from the Darwin Research Center that they had recently located on Isabela Island some tortoises with DNA like those from Pinta and Floreana islands, perhaps a last-minute drop-off from those same seafarers as they left the island archipelago.

New challenges are more sobering though. Twenty Galapagos bird species, including 12 species of Darwin’s finches, are under threat from a parasitic fly accidentally introduced to Galapagos that feeds on the blood of hatchlings causing all of the chicks to die.

“We have to remember that the amazing animals we saw in the Galapagos may not always be there if things continue the way they are,“ Rayk said.

Botany Bay, San Cristobal

Day Five

The students arrived on San Cristobal Island, their home base for the last three days of the trip.

Except for the rainy hike up the Sierra Negro volcano on Isabela, all of the days were hot.

After lunch, they visited the Tijeratas Interpretive Center featuring the geological, biological and cultural history of the islands. It included a large topographic map of the islands and the surrounding ocean, giving a full sense of their volcanic origins.

The class posed for a photo with the Charles Darwin statue in San Cristobal.

“Tijeretas Hill, or Frigate Bird Hill, was my favorite view from the Galapagos. It is also historically important because it was where Darwin first came on San Cristobal,” Kaely said.

Something special happened for Thusu while overlooking Botany Bay.

“This view will be forever ingrained in my head,” Thusu said. “The uphill trek was steep, but once we reached the top, it was worth it. At that moment, I received an email saying that I had been accepted to medical school, an email I had been waiting for two months. It was truly one of the most joyous experiences of my life.”

Kicker Rock

Day Six

Kicker Rock, or Leon Dormido, is an hour and a half boat ride from San Cristobal and home to a very different kind of marine habitat.

Rising almost 500 feet above the ocean, this remnant of a volcano cone was home to nesting frigate birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies. Its stronger currents and upwelling attracted different marine species.

“Despite not being an adequate swimmer, the snorkeling experience at Kicker Rock was breathtaking,” Cherian said. “From swimming with a manta ray to spotting several sea lions, it was most definitely an unforgettable day for me.”

“Right off the boat, we saw an enormous pool of fish swimming in silver streaks while besting a mighty sea lion from becoming its prey,” Thusu said.

The class visited a geyser on Española Island.

Day Seven

“One of my favorite days was the day trip to Española Island,” Cario said. “The nature here was surreal, as it was not disturbed by human interaction except on the small foot trails. The natural geyser was also incredible. Birds, iguanas and lizards were everywhere.”

“We found a huge flock of Nazca boobies, and it was really cool to see them all together, and we could even see some fluffy babies,” Boyd said.

That evening, students met with Juan Pablo Muñoz, special projects director from the Galapagos Science Center, a joint partnership between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

This Nazca booby stands outside the Galapagos Science Center; the sculpture is made from recyclable material to raise awareness about plastic pollution.

Muñoz gave a lecture on plastic pollution in the Galapagos Islands, a problem that is particularly bad because of their position at the intersection of three major ocean currents. Plastic has been recorded inside of 18 marine species.

Through research by an international consortium of scientists, the major sources of plastic pollution have been identified: the coasts of Ecuador and Peru, and discharge from Asian fishing vessels in international fishing zones adjacent to the islands.

Outside the Galapagos Science Center stands a sculpture of a Nazca booby made from recyclable material to raise awareness about this plastic pollution.

“The conservation efforts established within the Galapagos Islands have given me an entirely new insight into the issue of pollution as a whole,” Cherian said.

Over a farewell dinner on the waterfront in San Cristobal, students reminisced about the trip with David Cevallos, their Ecuadorian trip leader.

They realized that heading home during the worsening spread of COVID-19 was bittersweet.

“The opportunity to go on a trip like the Galapagos Islands was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Cherian said. “Despite the prevailing sense of anxiety and chaos that developed during the influx of COVID-19, I was truly able to enjoy the endemic flora and fauna, as well as the unique animals that have evolved on the islands.”

Pitcher Finishes Collegiate Career as Student Assistant Baseball Coach

They say college is a time of change and transformation.

That definitely has been true for senior Caleb Scoles.

Scoles started his college life as a player on The University of Toledo baseball team and then ended it as a coach. In between those two milestones was a series of physical setbacks that sent him on a challenging path he certainly didn’t anticipate. Nevertheless, Scoles ultimately found his college journey very rewarding.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

A Richland, Mich., native, Scoles became a Rocket following a prep career in which he was a two-time all-district and all-league pitcher at Gull Lake High School. While he had other offers, the campus and academics swayed him into donning the Midnight Blue and Gold.

Scoles’ baseball career, however, did not get off to a great start. He missed his freshman season in 2017 after experiencing arm pain in the fall. Instead of taking the mound for the Rockets that year, he underwent physical therapy to try and relieve some of the pain in his bicep and shoulder.

He came back as a sophomore in the fall and was looking to work past the injury issues that plagued him the year before. But his arm wasn’t feeling any better. He was still experiencing discomfort even after months of physical therapy. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn labrum. Once again, his season was over before it began.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I have been through,” Scoles said.

By the start of Scoles’ junior season, it appeared that the physical therapy had paid off. That fall, Scoles was throwing again without pain for first time in years. He was on track to be ready for the 2019 season when, again, the pain in his biceps and shoulder reappeared.

Caleb Scoles, third from left, was a student assistant coach for the Rockets in 2020 after
spending three years on the roster as a pitcher.

This time there was no avoiding it; Scoles underwent surgery to repair his labrum and bicep tendon that spring, wiping out his 2019 season. It was the third straight year he missed due to injury, and it would end up being his last season as a Toledo baseball player. He ended his career having never appeared in a game for the Rockets as a player.

“Despite the surgery and extensive rehab efforts, my arm didn’t heal the way I hoped it would,” Scoles said. “I was very fortunate that I had teammates around who supported me. Even though I didn’t see time on the field as a player, I made the most of being a part of the team during games and practices.”

Entering his senior year and the 2020 baseball season, Scoles was presented with an opportunity to continue his baseball career in a different capacity. Instead of being on the roster as a player, he could serve as a student assistant coach.

“When I was hired last summer, one of the first things I did was call all the players on the current team,” Head Coach Rob Reinstetle said. “I talked to Caleb, and he gave me some insight into the arm struggles he’d had during his time at Toledo. He said that he loved Toledo baseball, but didn’t feel he could pitch anymore. We talked about his options and had the idea of him being a student assistant coach.”

For Scoles, the decision was a no-brainer.

“It was a simple decision for me because I loved all of my teammates, and I love the game of baseball,” he said. “I knew that I would have really missed everything if I said no.”

So, for the 2020 season, Scoles played an important role on the Rockets’ coaching staff. He served as the team’s first base coach and helped relay signals from the dugout when Toledo was pitching.

“My favorite part of being a coach was getting to travel with the team across the country and getting to play great competition,” Scoles said of his coaching stint with the Rockets this past spring. “I also couldn’t complain about being at the baseball field every day. I thoroughly enjoyed my time being a coach.”

“He proved to be a very valuable member of my staff,” Reinstetle said. “He was a great leader and had the respect of the team. He worked daily with the pitchers and took on just about every task we threw his way.”

Of course, for Scoles and the rest of the Rockets, this past season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. After returning with the baseball team from its spring break trip in March, Scoles stayed in Toledo for a couple weeks before heading back to his parents’ house in Michigan.

Scoles is set to graduate this weekend with a degree in marketing and professional sales. He has a sales job lined up that will begin in July. With his college career winding down, he is able to reflect on the time he spent at The University of Toledo and how it prepared him for life after college.

“Being a college athlete really helped me handle the ups and downs that I’ve experienced over the last few years, which really helped me grow as a person,” he said. “From an academic standpoint, I was able to grow a ton within my sales classes, which really helped prepare me for my job after college.”

Getting Involved Fueled Engineering Graduate’s Passion for Environment

Elizabeth Markert was inspired to get involved from her first moments on campus.

She joined Engineers Without Borders after seeing a student presentation her freshman year, and has helped to raise money and write grants and proposals, most recently for a project to supply water to an indigenous tribe of 2,000 people in Kenya.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

The work includes providing pumps, generators and a concrete storage tank, where previously the tribe had to travel 15 kilometers for clean water. Plans for Markert to travel to Kenya were canceled due to COVID-19, but the experience has taught her about herself.

“I’m not the leader type, traditionally,” said Markert, who will graduate May 9 with her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. “But working with Engineers Without Borders has helped me grow into it, to figure out how to lead and become better at it.”

She connects her Louisville, Ky., roots to her initial interest in pursuing her degree program.

“I was a student that always liked school,” said Markert, whose favorite subject growing up was English. “My parents were very environmentally conscious. We volunteered with the parks conservancy in Louisville to pull invasive species of vines when I was younger; I really enjoyed that and it stuck with me.”

Another opportunity that made an impact was during her first year when Markert indulged her creative side as a carpenter for the UToledo Department of Theatre and Film. It’s a role she’s kept throughout her time at the University and a passion that she will continue.

“I plan to volunteer for the arts no matter wherever I live after graduation,” Markert said. “It’s wonderful to see a show, to have a sense of accomplishment, and see what I made and designed be part of an experience for so many people.”

Elizabeth Markert

Elizabeth Markert credits study abroad opportunities, such as in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 with an environmental sciences class, with shaping her experience at UToledo.

As part of the nationally recognized mandatory co-op program in the College of Engineering, Markert was able to complement her activities on campus with three consecutive summers working for Gresham Smith, an architecture, transportation and engineering firm with offices in Louisville. One of her favorite projects was helping to design bike lanes around the city, which allowed her to see the real-time impact and benefits of her work for the community.

Dr. Defne Apul, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, saw Markert’s creativity firsthand through her senior design class and research on the environmental cost of recycling photovoltaic technology.

“The sky is the limit for Elizabeth. It has been an amazing experience working with her,” Apul said. “What do we want our students to have? Problem solving and critical thinking? Excellent time management and communication? Leadership and being a change agent? Elizabeth has demonstrated all of these skills and more.”

Some of Markert’s greatest experiences at UToledo came from continents away when she was able to travel to Beijing, China, with the Department of Theatre and Film in 2017 and to Trinidad and Tobago with an environmental sciences class in 2019.

“Those study abroad opportunities were the best parts of UToledo for me,” Markert said. “I was able to work with film and music students in China, and study endangered wildlife in South America. It changed my life.”

Softball Player Never Gave Up

Morgan Paaverud has been filled with a competitive spirit since grade school. Growing up in Anoka, Minn., she earned a spot on her high school’s swim team as a seventh-grader. She excelled in that sport to the point where she qualified for the state meet as a sophomore and junior.

During that time, however, she discovered a passion for softball. By her sophomore year, she was traveling around the country, competing in national tournaments and improving her skills. It was then that she started to realize where her future lay.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“As I started putting more time into softball, I developed friendships with teammates who also had the love for softball and dreamed about playing college softball,” Paaverud said. “They pushed me to work even harder than I was. I began to fall in love with it. Swimming definitely kept me in shape, but my heart was in softball.”

It was that love for softball that brought Paaverud to the Glass City as she accepted a scholarship to play for the Rockets in 2016. Her experience at UToledo lived up to her expectations and more.

“My experience as a softball player here was unbelievable,” Paaverud said. “It molded me into the person I am today. I learned the true meaning of what hard work really is. From putting in the extra practice time, to 6 a.m. workouts, to the time spent in the classroom.”

Paaverud’s academic efforts can be seen by her 3.65 grade-point average. She will receive her bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy Saturday, May 9. It’s a field that is responsible for planning, organizing and directing recreational activities to promote health and well-being for patients who are physically, mentally or emotionally disabled. She plans on taking a national exam to become a recreational therapist in July and then apply for occupational therapy school in fall 2021.

Morgan Paaverud posed for a photo during a UToledo class trip to the Smoky Mountains to learn how to facilitate an outdoors group while navigating risks when hiking in the mountains.

“I really didn’t know what recreational therapy was as a freshman, but a former academic advisor thought I would like it and the impact it has on individuals,” said Paaverud, who arrived on the UToledo campus as an exercise science major. “It has been the best experience. Our Recreational Therapy Program is one of the best in the country and prepares you for the real world. There are five different clinical rotations and an internship that prepares us to be the best therapist possible.”

Paaverud also was pushed to excel on the softball diamond. After coming off the bench in her first two seasons as a Rocket, she opened her junior year as the team’s starting first baseman. Midway through the year, though, she was hitting just .111 at the plate, nowhere close to her own expectations. She found herself on the bench, but wasn’t ready to quit on herself.


“Morgan came to me asking for another shot at playing time,” Coach Joe Abraham said. “She wasn’t hitting well and had been benched the previous weekend against Akron. We were playing Oakland in a mid-week doubleheader, and I was planning to give her one start anyway. We started her in the first game and she had a huge game. Then we started her in game two. She had another big game. She was a starter for us from that point forward.”

“The key for me was to be relentless,” Paaverud said. “I knew that if I wanted something, I needed to keep working for it. I knew if I wanted to be a starter, I had to have an outstanding game. I happened to go 6 for 7 with a home run and five RBIs that day. It was the best day I have ever had in my career. It showed me the importance of working hard and to keep pushing to get what you want.”

Paaverud and her teammates displayed that same attitude at the end of their 2019 season. That’s when the Rockets came out of the consolation bracket to become the lowest seed ever to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

“We never gave up. We kept pushing and grinding it out until it was over,” Morgan said. “I feel like that is a true definition of anything is possible. We barely made it into the tournament as the No. 7 seed and then won five games in less than 48 hours to win it all. It felt like I was on cloud nine for the week after we won it. It still feels surreal. It’s a memory I will cherish forever in my softball career as a Rocket.”

Business Graduate Brings Servant Leader Mindset to Human Resources Career

When Carley Palmer is sitting across from someone as a recruiter and getting to know them, she is truly in her element.

The human resource management major has developed that passion throughout her time at The University of Toledo, and she will join Owens Corning’s human resources team after receiving her bachelor’s degree in business administration May 9.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

In addition to its beautiful campus, Palmer chose UToledo on the strength of its student organizations and found her place in the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. While she started as a nursing major, she discovered a niche for herself when meeting and developing new members for the organization — where she ultimately served as vice president for recruitment.

“I took a tour of UToledo and fell in love,” Palmer said. “I knew right away I wanted to be involved in Greek life. Alpha Omicron Pi taught me a lot about servant leadership, and I wouldn’t have found my career path without that experience.”

Palmer’s resumé includes a broad set of experiences that have paralleled her work in the classroom. As part of the Klar Leadership Academy in 2019, she learned the importance of aligning the complementary skills of classmates and colleagues.

“Being involved with Klar really taught me how important it is to work as a team,” Palmer said. “I learned that when working toward a common cause, my strengths will offset others’ weaknesses and vice versa.”

She began learning some of the basic principles of human resources during an internship with MaritzCX, a customer experience and research company. There, she saw how critical it is to recruit the best people and how high employee turnover rates can devastate productivity.

Carley Palmer in front of Owens Corning sign

An internship with Owens Corning led Carley Palmer to a full-time position at the company’s world headquarters in Toledo after she graduates with a bachelor’s degree in human resource management.

During an internship with Owens Corning the following summer, she connected what she learned in class with real-time assignments at one of the company’s facilities in Aiken, S.C.

“That was one of my most challenging, yet rewarding experiences,” Palmer said. “One project was to create a training program that would get approved by the employees’ union. I actually used a proposal developed in class to help develop the program, and it resulted in a pay increase for people. To see that impact makes me excited to join the profession.”

Palmer will begin a three-year rotational development program at Owens Corning’s world headquarters in Toledo this summer.

She is one of the 2020 recipients of the Student Pacemaker Award, the College of Business and Innovation’s highest honor that recognizes individuals for outstanding achievement in business as well as contributions to the community.

“Carley has been an amazing, resourceful and driven student since she came to the College of Business and Innovation,” said Alison Devolder, a co-worker of Palmer’s in the Business Career Programs office, where she has worked part time since 2017.

“She has been able to easily translate her passion for human resource management and marketing to the benefit of the office. I am excited for her as she journeys on to what I know will be a bright future.”

Inquisitive Medicine Graduate Ready to Help Patients

Jack Edminister can trace his inquisitive nature back to his childhood.

At the age of 6, his 8-year-old brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He began asking questions as part of that new challenge for his family — and showing the hunger for knowledge that would foreshadow his later career.

Graduation Cap

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“Once my brother was diagnosed, I quickly became interested in some unfamiliar words and concepts,” said Edminister, who will graduate with a doctor of medicine degree Friday, May 15, from the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “I started asking what a pancreas is, what insulin does and why it’s important. Those were life-saving pieces of information for my brother.”

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Edminister followed up that early curiosity with a request to his instructors during his sophomore year in high school to allow him to take an AP chemistry class as a junior. He and a friend successfully lobbied and were able to take the course the following year.

Edminister went on to earn a bachelor of science in biology from Ohio State University in 2014.

“During my undergraduate experience, the idea was there, of how to use my love of science,” Edminister said. “But once I interviewed at The University of Toledo for medical school, I knew this was where I belonged. The collaborative atmosphere among everyone I met, students and faculty, made me feel right at home.”

As he made his way through medical school, Edminister ultimately settled on dermatology as his field of medicine. While it’s a competitive specialty, the choice was made clear by a combination of faculty mentorship and his interactions with patients during clinical rotations.

“My experiences showed me that I wanted to impact people directly, not from behind the scenes,” Edminister said. “I saw firsthand how certain dermatological patients would enter the clinic very defeated by their conditions and would leave more confident as they received treatment. I’m invigorated by helping people in that way.”

Jack Edminister White Coat Ceremony

Jack Edminister, second from left, received his white coat when starting medical school at UToledo in 2016. Edminister, pictured here with his brother, George, left, mother, Alice, and father, John, is specializing in dermatology.

Dr. Lorie Gottwald, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Dermatology, is one of the instructors who inspired Edminister to pursue dermatology as a career.

“His sensitivity toward patients is unparalleled; he makes everyone comfortable and confident in his presence,” Gottwald said. “He is the kind of individual you would be proud to call a brother, a son, a family member. I am just extremely proud to call him my student. I know he will make his mark.”

During UToledo’s virtual Match Day event in March, Edminister learned that he will perform his three-year residency at Wake Forest University beginning in July 2021. First, however, his transitional year as a medical intern will be completed at hospitals of the Mercy Health system in the Toledo area.

Edminister expects the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis to play a large role during that transitional year. He’s better able to face that challenge thanks to two things: the support he received during medical school, and a bedside manner reflected in his induction to the Gold Humanism Honor Society after being nominated by his peers and UToledo faculty.

“It was a huge honor to be selected. That’s why I’m going into medicine, to impact people in a positive, respectful way,” Edminister said.

“We’re entering the medical field at an interesting time. But the people around me always believed in me, perhaps more than I believed in myself. I’m honored to call this year’s other graduates my colleagues.”

Student-Athlete Gained Lifelong Impact From Basketball

To say that Luke Knapke took advantage of his basketball scholarship from The University of Toledo would be an understatement.

On the hardwood, Knapke went from becoming a big man “project” out of high school to becoming one of the best centers in Rocket history. In the classroom, he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree during his five years on campus. It goes without saying he is extremely thankful for the opportunity he was provided.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“Being part of the basketball program was very, very special to me,” Knapke said. “I made a lot of great friendships and had the pleasure of being led by a lot of great coaches. Each person that was a part of Toledo basketball impacted me in a way that I will not forget.”

Rocket fans certainly won’t forget Knapke’s contributions on the court. He was part of teams that won 82 games and a pair of Mid-American Conference West Division titles. He finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and is one of five individuals to score more than 1,400 points and grab at least 800 rebounds.

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk credits much of Knapke’s on-court success to his determination to be the best.

“Luke is one of the hardest workers I’ve coached,” Kowalczyk said. “We knew there was a good possibility he would be a very good player, but to his credit, he put the work in every day to reach his potential.”

That type of perseverance transferred into the classroom as well for Knapke, who was a double major in marketing and management as an undergrad. After graduating in May 2019, the four-time Academic All-MAC team member continued his studies and will receive his master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies this spring. Outside of the classroom, the Maria Stein, Ohio, native also completed summer internships with the Toledo Mud Hens, Toledo Walleye and Team Sports.

Luke Knapke finished his Toledo career as the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and is one of five individuals to score more than 1,400 points and grab at least 800 rebounds.

“I learned different things from each of my internships,” Knapke said. “With the Mud Hens and Walleye, I Iearned how promotions are developed. I also saw how they set up their ticket and merchandise sales for their fans. With Team Sports, I found out about what really goes into the equipment side of sports.”

His experiences on and off the court have allowed Knapke to grow into the person he is today.

“I am a much better leader than I was coming in as a freshman,” Knapke said. “I am much more comfortable talking with people I may not know, and I know what it takes to be successful outside of basketball based off what we learned in basketball.”

Now Knapke is ready to explore the world using the tools he acquired as a member of the men’s basketball program. Next fall, he will begin his professional career in Belgium.

“Playing professional basketball is something I’ve always dreamed of and it feels really good to have the opportunity to make that a reality.”

Tennis Player Found a Home at UToledo

Danilo Vukotic found a home at The University of Toledo.

Well, eventually.

A senior on the Rocket men’s tennis team, Vukotic initially took a slight detour to New Jersey from his home in Nis, Serbia, before landing in Ohio. Both places are a long way from home, but he could not have been more satisfied with the final destination on his collegiate journey.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

Becoming a top tennis player also was a bit of a journey for Vukotic. As a boy, he played several sports: basketball, soccer, volleyball and, of course, tennis. His path was not settled until he was 14, when he reached the semifinals of the U14 Tennis National Championship and was nationally ranked in the top five for his age group in Serbia.

“That gave me a pretty good indication that I can keep playing well and on a high level,” Vukotic said.

Though Vukotic had always dreamed of playing professionally, he opted to pursue the collegiate route instead.

“After giving it some thought, I started thinking that college tennis might even be a better idea than playing professional tennis,” Vukotic said. “Traveling all over the U.S., playing the sport I love, and getting a degree seemed like a good deal to me.”

Moving from Serbia to the United States was obviously a huge decision, and it took Vukotic and his family some time to find a school that was the right fit for him. Finally, in June 2016, he inked a national letter of intent to play for Farleigh Dickinson in Teaneck, N.J. Vukotic enjoyed a successful freshman year at FDU, earning first-team all-conference honors and helping his team reach the semifinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament.

Despite his success as a freshman, the fit wasn’t quite right, so Vukotic opted to transfer. He began talking to some of his friends who played collegiate tennis, and one of those friends, former Rocket and fellow countryman Luka Vitosevic, suggested he check out Toledo.

Danilo Vukotic wrapped up a successful tennis career this spring and is set to graduate with a degree in information technology.

“I liked the coach [Al Wermer] and the school even though I did not come for a visit,” Vukotic said. “I saw pictures, and coach was FaceTiming me so I saw some things around campus.”

Along with Vitosevic, Vukotic also mentioned tennis player Nikola Arsic and swimmer Jovana Djuric as fellow Serbians who made his transition to Toledo easier.

“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” he said. “It really makes it more special and unique. People don’t realize how much it helps. Speaking my native language, hanging out with them, sharing stuff and asking for advice when we’re going through a rough patch, etc. Those were the people that made it feel like home.”

With friends by his side and a comfortable setting, Vukotic continued to thrive as a tennis player. This past season, he was a two-time Mid-American Conference Player of the Week honoree, once in singles and once in doubles, and he was on track to wrap up his career on a high note.

“This year he clearly came in with something to prove,” Wermer said. “His mindset was palpable and consistent. Danilo was clearly headed for an All-MAC finish to this year. He mobilized the team. His leadership kept a young roster on the same page.”

Unfortunately, Vukotic’s senior tennis season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. What made it even worse for him was missing out on commencement and graduation celebrations this spring. Vukotic comes from a place where donning a cap and gown is not a given, so that made it sting just a bit more than it might for an American student.

“For people back home, going to the U.S. is like a dream, and college is only really seen in movies,” Vukotic said. “For me, throwing my graduation cap in the air would have been a dream come true. I’m super sad I will never get a chance to experience walking at the Glass Bowl and getting the honor of being there with all the other graduates. My family was supposed to come the week of graduation as well. They were supposed to stay for graduation and then we were going to go to New York City to explore. I wanted to show them so many places, but, unfortunately, we are unable to do that now.”

Despite his disappointment, Vukotic is making the most of his time at home. He flew home shortly after the news that campus was shutting down. While self-isolating for 28 days, per Serbian law, he took time to reflect on his time as a college student.

“I think I matured a lot during these last four years, especially my three years at Toledo,” Vukotic said. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have spent four years in college in the U.S.”

An information technology major in the College of Engineering, Vukotic already has a job lined up in his chosen field. And while he was not able to end his athletic career on his terms, he is doing everything he can to go out on a high note academically.

“I’ve been keeping my head up because this semester has been one of my best semesters, if not the best semester, grade-wise,” he said. “Even with everything going on, I have managed to keep myself motivated and will try to finish with all A’s.”