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Rocket to Compete in USA Track & Field Junior Cross Country Championship

Freshman Jacob Harris will represent The University of Toledo as he competes in the USA Track & Field Junior Cross Country Championship Saturday, Jan. 18, at 12:15 p.m. Pacific Time (3:15 p.m. Eastern Time) at Mission Bay Park in San Diego.

The top six finishers will be offered a spot on the USA Track & Field team for the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Championships.

Jacob Harris placed sixth at the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship and was named Freshman of the Year.

“We are really looking forward to Jacob racing at the USA Junior Cross Country Championship in San Diego this weekend,” said Assistant Coach Nick Stenuf. “Coming off of his freshman season that saw him place sixth at the Mid-American Conference Championships and earn Freshman of the Year honors, we knew he was ready and fit enough to go and compete with the best [under 20] distance runners in the U.S.

“It will also be a great experience for him on the national level, as well as a great representation for Toledo and what we expect for the men’s program going forward,” Stenuf added.

Harris is coming off an impressive rookie campaign last fall. In his collegiate debut at the Northern Illinois University Huskie Challenge Sept. 6, he captured the individual title with a time of 25:52.1, helping the Rockets to a fourth-place finish. The Toledo native was the first Rocket to cross the finish line at the MAC Championships, stopping the clock at 25:42.3 to place sixth. Harris’ top-10 finish earned him First-Team All-MAC and MAC Freshman of the Year honors.

At the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Nov. 11, he set pace for the Rockets with a time of 31:48.2 to place 54th overall and help the Rockets to a 17th-place team finish.

Fellows Named for MAC Leadership Program

Four UToledo faculty members have been selected to participate in the third year of the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.

The program was created to identify, develop, prepare and advance faculty as leaders in the colleges and universities that are members of the Mid-American Conference. Fellows participating in the program have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience by working closely with select administrators from other colleges and universities in the MAC.

“We are happy The University of Toledo participates in this worthwhile program that helps faculty members reach their leadership potential,” Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of public health, said.

Fellows for the 2019-20 academic year are:

• Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, professor of environmental sciences and director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships and Undergraduate Research;

• Dr. Maria Coleman, professor and chair of chemical engineering and associate director of the Polymer Institute;

• Dr. Scott Molitor, professor of bioengineering and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering; and

• Dr. Rebecca Schneider, professor of science and teacher education, and associate dean of graduate studies in the Judith Herb College of Education.

All tenured faculty with experience in administrative leadership and service are eligible to apply for the MAC Academic Leadership Development Program. Candidates submitted a letter of support from their dean, as well as an application and curriculum vitae for consideration.

“Our Fellows will work alongside UToledo leaders to learn from their experience,” Thompson said. “They also will benefit from working with administrators and peers from other MAC institutions.”

All MAC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows will attend one three-day workshop each semester. Topics to be addressed include budgeting, conflict resolution, accreditation and accountability.

“This program allows our Fellows a chance to prepare for leadership positions while experiencing the challenges and rewards of institutional service,” Thompson said. “This is a great opportunity to advance leadership for our UToledo faculty members.”

Read more about the MAC Academic Leadership Development Program on the Office of the Provost website.

Toledo Mayor, University President Invite Community to Unity Day Celebration

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber are inviting community members throughout northwest Ohio to the 2020 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Day Celebration.

The 19th annual Unity Day Celebration, which is free and open to the public, will take place Monday, Jan. 20, from 9 to 11 a.m. in Savage Arena. A free community breakfast will be served to begin the event.

This year’s theme of “Dream, Believe, Do” helps connect King’s iconic dream of freedom and equality with the belief and action needed to help make it a reality, according to organizers. As part of the celebration, winter kits will be packaged by community members for donation to Lucas County Children Services.

“At a time when our nation seems as divided as it has ever been, I encourage all Toledoans to join in the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., whose life’s work was dedicated to bringing people together and finding common ground,” Kapszukiewicz said.

“As the city of Toledo’s university, we view outreach and education as a critical part of our mission,” Gaber said. “The UToledo community is proud to partner with our neighbors in celebrating Dr. King’s legacy.”

Alexis Means, reporter for WTVG-TV Ch. 13, is master of ceremonies for the Unity Day Celebration. The program will feature the awarding of scholarships, as well as songs, dance and spoken word performances by UToledo students, the UToledo Blue & Gold Pep Band, UToledo TRIBE Dance Team, students from Toledo School for the Arts, and Alicia Russell, soprano with the Toledo Opera.

Recipients of UToledo’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, awarded each year based on academic excellence as well as civic and community service, also will be recognized.

The Unity Day Celebration is organized by a committee co-chaired by Sara Dastagir, assistant to Kapszukiewicz, and Dr. Willie McKether, UToledo vice president for diversity and inclusion, and vice provost.

Associate VP of Alumni Relations to Retire

Dan Saevig has been part of The University of Toledo every day for more than half of his life, first as a student and then as an employee at the institution he loves.

That will change soon: The associate vice president of alumni engagement and executive director of the UToledo Alumni Association will retire Monday, March 2.


“I love The University of Toledo; I know its life-changing powers,” Saevig said.

The native of Oregon, Ohio, received a bachelor of arts degree in communication and a master of business administration degree from UToledo in 1984 and 1989, respectively.

Then Saevig joined the staff at his alma mater as assistant director of alumni relations in 1990. Three years later, he was promoted to executive director of alumni relations. He left the University in 1999, but returned to campus in 2002 as associate vice president of alumni relations.

“Dan has dedicated his life to The University of Toledo. With his Rocket passion and energy, he has helped grow UToledo’s alumni participation, as well as alumni programs and donations,” President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We thank Dan for his tremendous service to the University for 27 years.”

Under Saevig’s leadership, the Office of Alumni Engagement has:

• Upped its annual programs from 40 in 1990 to 200 in 2019.

• Grown UToledo Alumni Association membership five consecutive years; this includes an 8% increase last year and an 8% increase so far this fiscal year, totaling more than 27,000 members around the globe.

• Helped increase alumni donations from 2.59% in 2015 to 5.37% last year as measured by U.S. News & World Report, with a portion of membership dues as a gift to the UT Foundation; 66% of donors last year were members of the UToledo Alumni Association.

“When I started working in the alumni office, we were mostly promoting events in Toledo. Now we truly are a national program,” Saevig said.

He added he is proud of the diversity of the UToledo Alumni Association Board and how the Koester Alumni Pavilion was a project that came together in six months in 2012. “The Koester Alumni Pavilion, a gathering spot just west of the Glass Bowl, is a real point of pride for alumni and friends of the University,” Saevig said.

In addition, he played a pivotal role in the expansion of Art on the Mall, the UToledo Alumni Association’s signature event that started in 1992 and has become a summer tradition. The UToledo Alumni Association also is financially secure, having increased its reserves by 300% during his tenure.

“I can leave UToledo knowing we have the right person to lead the Office of Alumni Engagement for the next 20 years,” Saevig said. “[William] Billy Pierce is that person. He’s an alumnus, he’s well-liked, he’s personable — alumni will enjoy connecting with him.”

Pierce, senior director of alumni engagement, will succeed Saevig.

A longtime UToledo donor, Saevig is giving a $150,000 parting gift to his alma mater — provided there is no official sendoff celebration.

“The donation is a thank-you for the University’s impact on me and my family,” he said. “It’s important for employees to give back. We are blessed to be working at UToledo. I wouldn’t be who I am without the friendships and relationships I developed here over the years. I want to show my support for the institution that I love.”

UToledo Veterinarian Elected to National Board

Dr. Lisa Root, attending veterinarian and director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, has been elected to the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science Board of Trustees.

The association serves as an educational resource for more than 13,000 members and maintains relationships with worldwide affiliate organizations with like-minded missions. It also publishes two scientific journals and a variety of educational and public outreach materials; sponsors a national educational meeting; and operates a certification program for laboratory animal technicians, technologists and laboratory managers.


Root will serve a three-year term as trustee representing the Midwest region, which includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky.

She is passionate about animal care and welfare, and is grateful to be surrounded by others dedicated to this mission and to have the support of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science.

“I am honored to have been elected to the board of this prestigious organization that works tirelessly to promote laboratory animal welfare, education and public outreach,” Root said. “I value the support the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science gives our industry, and I’m enthusiastic about this opportunity to give back.”

Root recently gave a presentation about one of The University of Toledo’s research projects at the national American Association for Laboratory Animal Science meeting in Denver. She said UToledo has an excellent research program, and she has enjoyed highlighting the University’s successes and putting researchers and animal care staff in the spotlight.

University Recognized as Healthy Worksite

The Healthy Business Council of Ohio is recognizing 111 Ohio employers for healthy worksite practices during its 16th annual Healthy Worksite Awards presentation in January. Among recipients being honored is The University of Toledo, earning a Bronze Award.

“We’re very proud to be acknowledged for our robust employee wellness programs,” said Wendy Davis, associate vice president and chief human resources officer. “Our wellness team is committed to providing offerings that support the wide variety of health needs among our diverse workforce.”

The Healthy Worksite Awards recognize Ohio employers that demonstrate a commitment to wellness through comprehensive worksite health and wellness programming. Organizations are scored on the extent their wellness practices motivate and support employee health, as well as ensure a healthy work environment.

“Receiving this award is a tremendous honor because it recognizes the University as being on par with the highest workplace wellness standards in the country,” said Brian Pack, director for benefits and wellness.

This year’s Healthy Business Council of Ohio assessment aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Worksite Health Scorecard.

“Organizations recognized this year should be especially pleased that they demonstrated their employee wellness programs are well-rounded and nationally competitive,” said Annie Cadmus, Healthy Worksite Award co-chair.

“Throughout the year, we offer employees programs we know are relevant, such as diabetes prevention, managing stress, Alzheimer’s awareness, and caregiving for elderly parents or a loved one,” said Vicki Riddick, senior wellness officer. “I’m glad so many of our employees participate in these free programs, which are provided on site and online for their convenience.”

To access the current list of UToledo employee wellness offerings, visit the Rocket Wellness/Healthy U website.

The Healthy Business Council of Ohio Awards ceremony will be held Thursday, Jan. 23, as part of the Health Action Council 2020 Annual Columbus Symposium, which features national experts on health reform, healthcare systems and employee benefits.

Study Examines Attitudes Toward Transgender Athletes

As several states draft legislation that would force student-athletes to play as their gender identified on their birth certificate instead of on a team that matches their gender identity, a team of political scientists investigated underlying factors that drive public opinion on transgender athletes.

The new study shows while women in general are more supportive than men of transgender athletes participating in sports by gender identity instead of biological sex, women who are sports fans are more likely to oppose it, holding views that resemble male sports fans.

The research recently published in the journal Sex Roles investigated public attitudes toward the participation of transgender people in sports by using data from a 2015 survey of 1,020 adults across the U.S.; the data was previously used by the same researchers to analyze public opinion on a variety of transgender rights issues.

Dr. Jami Taylor, professor of political science and public administration at The University of Toledo who focuses on transgender politics and policy, is part of the team who found that attitudes about transgender athletes are strongly shaped by an individual’s characteristics, political values and personality traits.

Also, the study shows people who have contact with transgender, gay and lesbian people, as well as those with stronger egalitarian attitudes, are more favorable toward transgender participation, whereas those with high moral traditionalism are more opposed.

“This is a very complicated area, and there are legitimate concerns about fairness for both transgender athletes and those who are not transgender,” said Taylor, author of the 2017 book “The Remarkable Rise of Transgender Rights.” “We need to have thoughtful policies that ensure fair competitions, but also ensure that transgender athletes aren’t discriminated against. As governments, nonprofits and businesses begin to craft policies that decide how and with whom transgender athletes will compete in sports, they need to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions because of the complexity of the issues.”

“Given the gendered nature of sports and the resistance to the issue among sports fans — both male and female — policymakers will likely need to tread carefully and should have a care in this area as they craft policy solutions. Our work might be helpful to inform policymakers, as well as advocates who promote inclusion.”

Research contributors include Taylor; Dr. Andrew Flores, assistant professor in the Department of Government at American University and lead author of the study; Dr. Donald Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas; Dr. Daniel Lewis, associate professor of political science at Siena College; Dr. Patrick Miller, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas; and Dr. Barry Tadlock, professor of political science at Ohio University.

Current policy depends on the position of governing bodies, such as the NCAA at the collegiate level, and applicable laws that may vary by location. For instance, California law requires that transgender students be treated according to their gender identity, not biological sex.

The issue, according to lawmakers proposing new legislation in New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri, is whether transgender-rights protections are leading to unfair competition in women’s sports, referencing male-to-female transgender students and arguing they have natural physical advantages over biological females.

However, the study cited a female-to-male case: Mack Beggs’ victory in the Texas Class 6A girls’ state wrestling championship in 2017, even though the female-to-male transgender student started his transition two years prior and took testosterone injections.

“It was a ridiculous situation. He wanted to wrestle with the boys and received harsh treatment from fans when he was forced to compete with girls,” Taylor said. “Due to his success, parents accused him of cheating, but the rule in Texas was he had to compete according to the gender on his birth certificate, which was a girl. If he was in California, he would’ve competed against boys.”

The study finds that 35.6% of women agreed with allowing transgender athletes to participate in sports aligned with their gender identity, compared to 23.2% of men.

As the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo approach, Taylor calls the Olympics reasonably inclusive to transgender athletes and commends the International Olympic Committee for its attention to both human rights and fair competition.

“The International Olympic Committee no longer requires transgender athletes to have had surgery, but there is a strict requirement around hormonal management,” Taylor said. “It’s far less restrictive for female-to-male athletes than for male-to-female athletes, which seems to be a reasonable attempt to grapple with this complex issue. Importantly, the IOC’s approach looks at evidence in this evolving area.”

Rocket Named to Freshman All-America Team

Toledo redshirt freshman offensive lineman Nick Rosi has been named to the Freshman All-America Team by the Football Writers Association of America.

He is the only player from the Mid-American Conference to make the 2019 team and the first Rocket to be so honored since Eric Page in 2009.

Rosi started every game at left guard for Toledo in 2019; he earned third-team All-MAC honors.

The Powell, Ohio, native was an integral part of an offense that ranked second in the MAC and 18th in the country in rushing (224.5 yards per game).

Rosi was named a second-team All-American by Pro Football Focus.

Interim Leader Named Permanent Provost

Dr. Karen Bjorkman, a leading scholar in the field of astrophysics and The University of Toledo’s most senior dean, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Bjorkman, whose appointment to the permanent post is effective Jan. 13, had served as the interim provost since Jan. 15, 2019. She previously served as the dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from 2010 to 2019.


“Dr. Bjorkman has demonstrated throughout her academic career a passion for our educational mission and is, above all else, committed to student and faculty success,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We have made great progress on achieving the goals set forth in our strategic plan, including increased retention rates and record-high graduation rates. Under her leadership, I know we will continue to enhance the educational experience for our students and opportunities for faculty scholarly research and service activity.”

Bjorkman, also a Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy, has been a member of the UToledo faculty since 1996 when she joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the University in this leadership role,” Bjorkman said. “I look forward to working with our outstanding deans and faculty across all of our colleges to realize our collective vision of being a nationally ranked, public research university.”

Bjorkman is a leader in the research field of stellar astrophysics, applying spectropolarimetry to better understand the variable gaseous disks around massive stars. Her research has focused on studying the physical characteristics of these disks and the mechanisms behind their formation and variability.

In 2017, Bjorkman was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific and engineering society, in recognition of her important contributions to scientific discovery.

“Our students, faculty and scholars are champions in our pursuit to improve the human condition. They are internationally recognized for their expertise in research, teaching and clinical practice. It is my honor to work with them in achieving our educational mission,” Bjorkman said.

Prior to joining UToledo, Bjorkman was a scientist in the University of Wisconsin’s Space Astronomy Laboratory and a systems engineer for Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace.

Rockets Earn 3.302 Grade Point Average Fall Semester

UToledo student-athletes earned a combined grade point average of 3.302 in 2019 fall semester. It is the highest semester GPA in a fall term for the Rockets, and the second-highest mark ever, trailing only last spring’s 3.306.

It is also the 10th consecutive semester in which UToledo student-athletes have earned a semester GPA of 3.2 or higher, Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced today.

Softball recorded the highest semester team GPA with a mark of 3.723. Men’s golf (3.709), women’s golf (3.708) and women’s soccer (3.705) were each above the 3.7 mark, the first time in school history that four teams had GPAs above a 3.7.

Other highlights from this past semester include:

• 48 student-athletes earned president’s list honors with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

• 46.6% (173 of 379) were on the dean’s list by garnering at least a 3.50 GPA.

• 71.0% (269 of 379) made the honor roll by securing a 3.00 GPA or higher.

• A record-high 17 student-athletes competed in their sport while enrolled in graduate school courses.

“The superior academic achievements of our student-athletes have become an expected part of what it means to be a Rocket,” O’Brien said. “We have had consistently spectacular academic success in our program, winning the Mid-American Conference Academic Institutional Achievement Award for highest GPA in the conference in six of the last eight years. Our student-athletes can be very proud they have maintained and even exceeded the academic tradition that has become a hallmark of our program.

“I would also like to express my deep gratitude once again to the Student-Athlete Academic Services staff, dedicated University faculty, coaches and parents who support and nurture the efforts of our student-athletes,” O’Brien said. “Special congratulations goes to Head Coach Joe Abraham and our softball program for posting our highest team GPA just six months after winning the 2019 MAC Championship.”

Associate Athletic Director for Academic Services Ericka Lavender added, “Congratulations to all of our student-athletes for another outstanding semester in the classroom. The same dedication and determination to be successful in their sport also drives our student-athletes to excel academically. I am also grateful for the support and great work of my staff, as well as our head coaches and administration that makes these achievements possible. I would also like to thank our faculty and staff for all of their continued and outstanding efforts on behalf of our student-athletes.”

Toledo 2019 Fall Semester Team GPAs
Overall Department GPA: 3.302
Team GPAs

Baseball 3.200
Men’s Basketball 3.155
Women’s Basketball 3.189
Men’s Cross Country 3.375
Women’s Cross Country 3.615
Football 2.916
Men’s Golf 3.709
Women’s Golf 3.708
Softball 3.723
Women’s Soccer 3.705
Women’s Swimming and Diving 3.439
Men’s Tennis 3.599
Women’s Tennis 3.374
Women’s Track and Field 3.413
Women’s Volleyball 3.581