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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Hawkins sewed eyes on an owl doll.

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

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

That desire to save is strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alumnus/Doctoral Student Offers Musical Inspiration With New Disc

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

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

The title track was inspired by his sister, Tiffanie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holloway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UToledo alum, flight director for International Space Station leading NASA’s launch of commercial crew vehicle

After an eight-year hiatus, NASA is one step closer to rocketing its astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil, instead of buying seats aboard Russian spacecraft.

An alumnus of The University of Toledo will serve as flight director for the launch of the unmanned test flight of the Boeing Starliner slated for late August, about a month after the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Dr. Robert Dempsey, NASA flight director for the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control in Houston, is leading the launch of a commercial crew vehicle. He received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from UToledo in 1987 and 1991. Image courtesy of Nasa

“The CST-100 Starliner is designed as a space taxi,” said Dr. Robert Dempsey, NASA flight director for the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control in Houston. “I’ve been working on this project for eight years, longer than it took me to earn my Ph.D. at The University of Toledo. I joke that I have a doctorate in Starliner now.”

Dempsey, who received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics from UToledo in 1987 and 1991, is working around the clock to train and troubleshoot for the upcoming launch, which — if successful — could lead to a crewed flight by the end of the year.

“I will be flight director for the rendezvous and docking,” Dempsey said. “I’m excited because the current timeframe means the Starliner would dock on my birthday, Aug. 18, which would be a cool present.”

The Starliner is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership in which the agency contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to fly crews to the space station, an orbiting laboratory.

This NASA graphic shows the Boeing Starliner that is scheduled for an unmanned test flight in August. Dr. Robert Dempsey, UToledo alumnus, is the flight director for the launch.

The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations.

It’s an expansion of NASA’s success in unmanned cargo supply ships.

The vision is for private companies to someday fly customers to hotels in space and other celestial destinations.

“When we look at the space program, the Commercial Crew Program is one example of what to expect over the next 50 years,” Dempsey said. “NASA will focus strategically on big-vision projects like getting to Mars, but private companies can invest and develop technology for low-Earth orbit transportation. We’ll focus on the hard stuff at NASA so that down the road Boeing and SpaceX can launch commercial vehicles to take customers to the moon or Mars.”

Leading up to the debut launch of Starliner, Dempsey spends his time thinking of everything that could go wrong on the mission and figuring out how to fix it.

It’s familiar territory.

Dempsey started working at NASA 21 years ago when the agency was creating the International Space Station.

“We were about three years from launching the first piece of the space station,” Dempsey said. “The design was mostly done, but the software was immature. I helped out with finishing the software.”

It’s a dream career sparked 50 years ago by one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Dempsey was 6 years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon July 20, 1969.

“I remember watching the lunar landing on television and thinking, ‘I want to do that,’” Dempsey said. “I have never wavered. Here I am today doing that work.”

Creativity blossoms with University’s Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition

A small flock of enigmatic birds intently gaze across Centennial Mall. A wayward sea turtle suns itself near the southwest corner of Bowman-Oddy Laboratories. And a wave rolls between UToledo Medical Center and Mulford Library.

“Birdzels” by Mark Chatterley, “Turtle” by Jonathan Bowling and “Blue Wave” by Mike Sohikian are three of the 10 new works installed for The University of Toledo’s 14th annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition.

Mark Chatterley’s “Birdzels” are perched on the west side of Centennial Mall.

“For me, ‘Birdzels’ were meant to be fun. They are a cross between anime, emojis and Angry Birds — with a little Snoop Dog mixed in,” Chatterley said and laughed. “They are made from high-fired clay with a crater glaze on the outside. I feel I am pushing the material to make it unrecognizable as clay.”

Bowling’s recycled reptile features a dredge scoop, railroad spikes, horseshoes and stove grates.

“Being able to make something from nothing is what I like to do,” Bowling said. “It’s economical, too.”

Thanks to the President’s Commission on Campus Design and Environment, new sculptures sprout up each spring.

“Big Blue X” by Brian Ferriby sits atop the hill west of University Hall, and Glenn Zweygardt’s stainless steel work titled “New Mexico Passage” shines on the west side of the Student Recreation Center.

Bernie Dominique’s geometric work “Four Square” can be found by the northeast side of Wolfe Hall, and Beau Bilenki’s engineering feat “Hole in One” is between Nitschke and Palmer halls.

A 250-pound fish flies near the University Parks Trail and Ottawa House with Michael Angelo Magnotta’s “Above the Waves.”

“My sculptures typically begin with a trip to the metal yard,” Magnotta said. “From the shapes and textures I rescue, a conversation takes place — a visual conversation — that results in my sculptures.”

“Turtle” by Jonathan Bowling sits near the southwest corner of Bowman-Oddy Laboratories.

Gregory Mendez’s forceful “Kometes” is located north of Ritter Planetarium, and Kenneth M. Thompson’s intricate “Laminated Stack, Triangle” sits on the east side of the Health and Human Services Building.

More than 180 artists submitted proposals to the Midwest Sculpture Initiative, and the President’s Commission on Campus Design and Environment reviewed the entries and selected pieces for this year’s exhibit.

Since the exhibition began, more than 130 sculptures have rotated through the display on UToledo campuses, and several have become part of the University’s collection courtesy of campus benefactors, colleges and departments.

Those wishing to make a gift to support the exhibition are encouraged to contact the UT Foundation at utfoundation@utoledo.edu or 419.530.7730.

First graduates of joint J.D./M.D. program look to future at the intersection of law and medicine

Mark Fadel came to The University of Toledo well-informed about what lie ahead.

One of his brothers is a surgeon. Another, an attorney. Fadel had seen firsthand the rigors of completing just one of those degrees.

He was embarking on both simultaneously. Law and medicine combined.

Mark Fadel and Alexis Holman are the first graduates of the University’s J.D./M.D. program.

“Watching them go through those programs individually, they sacrificed a lot,” he said. “To do it together was very difficult. It took a lot of perseverance.”

After six years of intense study, switching between medical textbooks and case law, clinical rotations and writing projects, Fadel will join Alexis Holman as the first graduates of UToledo’s J.D./M.D. program.

Holman also is set to receive the valedictorian award at the law commencement ceremony.

“There is a famous quote, ‘Faith is taking the first step when you do not see the top of the staircase.’ That is a great analogy for the program,” Holman said. “There were some challenging moments for us, but I am so happy we saw it through. Graduation will be a special moment.”

One of roughly two dozen such programs in the country, UToledo’s joint degree, established in 2013, is geared toward individuals who are driven to work at the intersection of medicine and law who seek opportunities to shape the future of health-care policy.

D. Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law, said it takes an amazing amount of talent, ambition and perseverance to complete two professional doctorates in such a short time frame.

“The combination of the two degrees can be very powerful. There are a wide range of intersections between law and medicine, and there are only a few people who are fully trained in both,” Barros said. “Recipients of this joint degree are well-poised to be leaders in a wide range of areas, including health-care policy, health-care system management and health-care regulation. We are incredibly proud of Alexis and Mark.”

After graduation, Fadel is going to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for a residency in otolaryngology, more commonly known as an ear, nose and throat specialist. He has already taken the bar exam and expects to learn his results within the month.

Holman will head to the University of Michigan for a residency in anesthesiology. She elected to take the bar exam after learning where she matched for residency.

Each said their respective residency programs were receptive to their dual degrees and the perspective that brings. They intend to continue researching and writing on medical law topics while in residency.

Looking further into the future, Holman and Fadel see a wide range of opportunities to put their unique training to use.

“With the changing face of health care — the shift to bigger medicine and increase in regulation — I was interested in trying to give physicians a seat at the table to help shape the future of care delivery in the United States,” Holman said.

Fadel and Holman already have had their work recognized at a national level, winning the Hirsch Award in the American College of Legal Medicine Student Writing Competition in back-to-back years. Fadel was recognized in 2018 for a piece arguing for stronger limitations on who can opt out of measles vaccinations read the UT News story. Holman won in 2019 for a paper questioning whether the FDA’s processes for determining equivalency between name brand and generic drugs were sufficient; read the UT News story.

“We are very proud of these two for their academic accomplishments and excellence,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “They were the pioneers of this new program, and they have set an excellent example. They have a bright future ahead of them.”

Holman and Fadel credited faculty in the College of Law and College of Medicine and Life Sciences for being open to working with them as the first students in the program, and each other for their support during the difficult parts of their journey.

“Watching our friends match, graduate, sit for the bar, and participate in all the exciting things you do at the end of each of these programs was pretty hard to watch,” Fadel said. “We always wondered when it would be our moment and, finally, it came.”

The College of Law commencement is Sunday, May 5. The College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement is Friday, May 10.

College of Nursing graduate to continue education at Johns Hopkins to earn doctorate

Hunter Perrin grew up seeing the difference his mother made in the lives of her kindergarten students and knew early on he wanted to devote his career to caring for children.

Now the soon-to-be graduate of The University of Toledo is preparing to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he’ll work toward a doctorate of nursing practice in pediatrics.

Perrin

“It’s such a vulnerable population, and every person who enters this profession is going to make a difference in the lives of every patient they touch,” Perrin said.

Perrin came to the UToledo College of Nursing with the idea that he would earn a bachelor of science in nursing, work in pediatrics as a registered nurse, and eventually go on to become certified as a nurse practitioner.

He didn’t anticipate that would happen so quickly — and certainly not at the country’s top-ranked nursing program. But with the encouragement of UToledo faculty and a number of key connections made at nursing conferences across the country, he was able to get into his dream program.

“Every single experience here at The University of Toledo has been great. The one thing I love about this place is that there’s a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to seek them out and put in the effort,” Perrin said. “I’m not sure I would have gotten that anywhere else.”

Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing, praised Perrin’s accomplishments and his dedication to pediatric nursing.

“It’s always inspiring to identify UToledo students who show the passion, skill and drive to make a difference that Hunter has. As a former Hopkins faculty member, I know that being admitted to the D.N.P. program at Johns Hopkins is very competitive and the program is very demanding,” she said. “However, I have no doubt that Hunter will excel there as he did here at UToledo. The nursing profession always needs caring leaders, and I am certain that Hunter will make a positive difference in the lives of many children and families in the future and make us proud.”

Perrin, who also was a student in the Jesup Scott Honors College, completed a capstone project on the psychological development of children after a school shooting. He and two graduate students analyzed research on the role of health-care professionals and looked at legislation and policy that might help guide the response of nurses after a tragedy.

“There are varying levels to what each child experiences after a school shooting, but it’s important to note that every single child will have a reaction, even if they’re not outwardly displaying it,” he said.

Perrin presented the findings at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Master’s Education Conference in Tampa, Fla.

He also traveled to Taiwan in 2018 with other nursing honors students to learn about their health-care system, and is on the board of the UToledo Student Nurses Association.

At Hopkins, Perrin hopes to tackle another societal health-care issue by examining the best care methods for newborns whose mothers have opioid use disorder.

“If there’s a need,” he said, “I’m going to try to go there.”

Internships lead to full-time jobs for graduating business students

The stress of finding a full-time job in their desired field is over for Octavio Vazquez-Ederra and Emily Antypas.

The University of Toledo seniors will walk across the commencement stage and into business careers.

The secret to their success? Internships.

Antypas

“I did three internships with The Andersons in Maumee and that led to a job offer in its ethanol accounting group,” said Antypas, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and marketing. “I am excited to start working full time after commencement.”

While taking classes, Antypas, who is from Lambertville, Mich., was active in the accounting fraternity Beta Alpha Psi and worked in the UToledo College of Business and Innovation’s Office of Student Services.

“The UToledo College of Business and Innovation fueled my success in many ways,” Antypas said. “I took advantage of job fairs, resumé critiques, interview practice and advisors who helped me stay on track.”

“My four years here were so memorable and successful because of friends, professors and meaningful classes,” she said. “I loved every moment.”

Vazquez-Ederra is moving to Dallas next month for a full-time job in the sales development program at Owens Corning, which makes insulation, roofing shingles and composite building materials. The opportunity stems from his internship that already turned into a part-time job at the company’s world headquarters in Toledo.

Vazquez-Ederra

“With Owens Corning, I have been pioneering Spanish trainings in order to target the Hispanic contractor network where nine out of 10 roof installers south of the Mason-Dixon line speak Spanish,” said Vazquez-Ederra, who is graduating with a degree in international business and professional sales. “I wrote my honors thesis on the consultative selling method as it applies to Hispanic populations in order to create a tailored approach to our changing market demographics.”

Vazquez-Ederra, who was born in Argentina and moved to the United States at the age of 4 with his family, competed in national sales competitions both at UToledo and in Atlanta. He credits the people at UToledo for making a difference in his life.

“No question was out of line for professors, advisors and staff,” Vazquez-Ederra said. “They were flexible and guided me on the right path.”

“I have already found an apartment down in Texas,” Vazquez-Ederra said. “I’m excited to start this next chapter, but will always be grateful to the faculty and staff of The University of Toledo, who feel like family.”

Both Vazquez-Ederra and Antypas also are students in the Jesup Scott Honors College.

Last year, 90 percent of graduating seniors had jobs lined up upon graduation in the College of Business and Innovation. Eighty-five percent of all undergraduate business students complete internships.

“Success breeds success,” Dr. Anne Balazs, dean of the UToledo College of Business and Innovation, said. “We are proud of the determination and focus of our students as they learn hands-on in the field that interests them while working toward a degree. Business internships provide exposure to accomplished leaders, build confidence and — as we’ve seen over and over again — lead to full-time positions.”

Building foundations: Recent UToledo cosmetic science and formulation design grad lands dream job with Estée Lauder

Margaret Gorz was two years into an undergraduate degree at a college in northern Michigan with a tentative plan to go on to medical school, but she was far from certain she was on the right path.

“I enjoy science, but I felt like something was missing because I can also be a creative person and an artsy person,” Gorz said.

UToledo alumna Margaret Gorz stood outside Estée Lauder, where she is an associate scientist.

That nagging feeling there was something better suited to her interests led to a series of Google searches. Who develops cosmetics? How do you get a job designing makeup? Where can you learn how to make personal care and beauty products?

Gorz quickly zeroed in on the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program in The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences — the only such undergraduate program in the country.

“What really drew me in was that I could mix two of my passions into one career,” she said. “I knew going into the program that this was probably my best shot at becoming a cosmetic scientist.”

Three months after earning her bachelor of science degree in 2018, Gorz landed a job in New York as an associate scientist for the Estée Lauder Companies.

Established in 2013, the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program teaches students how to design, produce, test and market cosmetics and personal care products.

In addition to basic sciences, the program teaches pharmaceutical formulation and manufacturing, the mechanisms behind how cosmetics and pharmaceuticals work, and outlines the raw materials that go into cosmetic and personal care products.

Gorz

“It’s a mixture of science, art and business. We really train our students with a focus on the industry,” said Dr. Gabriella Baki, assistant professor of pharmaceutics and director of the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program. “I continuously look at job advertisements, and I look at what skills they usually require to ensure we hit those target skills and knowledge set.”

While there are a handful of master’s programs that offer cosmetic science, the cosmetics industry traditionally looked to individuals with an undergraduate education in chemical engineering, biology, chemistry or biochemistry to fill formulation jobs.

But Baki said employers are taking note of UToledo’s program, which includes a unique combination of classroom work and laboratory experience. During their studies, students in the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program will create about 60 different cosmetic and personal care products in the lab.

“Employers love that our students have these hands-on skills. They can formulate right away,” Baki said. “That’s something that chemists or chemical engineers are not trained to do, and we are competing against those graduates.”

Working for one of the world’s largest cosmetic companies was where Gorz envisioned herself eventually ending up — not starting out just a few months after graduation.

Now she’s formulating color cosmetics such as lipstick and foundation for brands including Smashbox, Becca, Origins and Aveda.

“This job was basically my dream job,” Gorz said. “Our program really gives us a competitive advantage that makes us stand out. We already have some of that super-specific knowledge in things like the raw materials that go into the products.”

Other graduates of the program have gone on to careers in a variety of formulation, marketing, quality control, and clinical testing roles at companies including Amway, Henkel Beauty Care, Nu Skin, Wacker, Fareva, Active Concepts and KDC/One.

As for Gorz, her success stands as a testament to the impact and support of the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program — and as an example of where UToledo grads can go.

“That was something very special,” Baki said. “What she’s doing is something that a lot of other students now see as possible, and they’d like to follow in her footsteps.”

Canine in training on campus through Rocket Service Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch into Law bridge to profession program prepares students for law school application process, experience

The University of Toledo College of Law piloted the Launch into Law bridge to the profession program this year to increase the number of historically underrepresented students enrolled in law school. The free, weeklong program took place last month.

Launch into Law prepared participants to be stronger law school applicants and law students. Participants were immersed in courses to prepare them for the Law School Application Test (LSAT) and to improve legal writing and study skills.

Additionally, the participants sat in on a first-year law school class, and attended sessions on success strategies, clinical education, the admissions process, and legal career opportunities.

Faculty members in the UT College of Law presented practice spotlights on business law, health law, criminal law, and intellectual property law. The program also included a field trip to observe proceedings at the Toledo Municipal Court.

The first cohort was composed of 11 undergraduate students and recent graduates of The University of Toledo, as well as institutions around the country: Ohio State University, Penn State University, Roosevelt University, Spring Arbor University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Xavier University. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 30.

Each participant was matched with a student mentor and a professional mentor based on the student’s background and expressed practice interest. Professional mentors included a common pleas court judge and prosecutor, as well as attorneys in small and large firms, legal aid/nonprofit agencies, and senior corporate counsel.

Jelani Jefferson Exum, professor of law and associate dean for diversity and inclusion, designed the Launch into Law program in collaboration with Amber Chuhy, assistant director of law admissions.

“Programs providing a pipeline to law school are vitally important, not only in providing individuals from a variety of backgrounds with access to a legal career, but also in enhancing the legal profession itself so that it better reflects the rich diversity of our society,” Exum said. “I was so pleased with the caliber of students that participated in our first program. They are bright, passionate, and all very interesting individuals whom I have no doubt will be excellent law students.”

The Launch into Law pilot was a success. Official LSAT practice tests were administered pre- and post-experience. Participant scores increased an average of 4.6 points with increases as high as 8 points. Three participants already have applied to the UT College of Law for fall 2019, with two more planning to apply in the future.

“This program has enlightened me to the true practice of law and has given me a glimpse as to what I should expect as a future law student,” said Noelle DeRiso from Penn State University. “Hearing each of the member’s journeys has only strengthened my passion to one day work within the law.”

DeRiso added, “Launch into Law has only solidified my desire to attend The University of Toledo’s law school. With the array of opportunities offered through its legal clinics and extensive courses taught by such knowledgeable professors, I know I will receive an exceptional education that will prepare me for the real world.”

For more information about the program, contact Chuhy at amber.chuhy@utoledo.edu.

Launch into Law participants gathered with their professional mentors for a group photo last month.