UToledo News » Op-Ed








Dialogue Critical to Addressing Heart of Floyd Protests Across Country

Column written for and published in the June 3, 2020 edition of The Blade newspaper.

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd literally had his last breath squeezed from his body, akin to the lynching’s of thousands of African-American men and women in the American South up through the 1940s.

That awful image and moment in American history is played repeatedly on television and social media. More importantly, it is played repeatedly in the minds and hearts of many of us every day.

The killing of George Floyd and the aftermath make it difficult for me to separate my personal beliefs from my professional responsibilities as vice president of diversity and inclusion at The University of Toledo.


I am a professional African-American male who understands his privilege and responsibility to say something.

I will never again hear the words “I can’t breathe” without visualizing the image of the police officer’s knee deeply penetrating Mr. Floyd’s neck, and Mr. Floyd pleading for his life as he lies handcuffed on the ground.

In 2014, Eric Garner also died after a white police officer in New York held him in a choke hold that led to his death. He also cried out, “I can’t breathe.”

Now another unarmed African-American male has been killed at the hands of a white police officer.

To be clear, I believe the overwhelming majority of white police officers are good, law-abiding citizens who risk their lives each and every day to protect and serve our society. Like many of us, these brave men and women have families and loved ones, and at the end of their shifts, they want to go home safe and sound. I get it.

But what did George Floyd do to deserve his untimely and likely painful death? One could say his problem is that he was born male and black in America.

As an African-American male with three black sons, that is an awfully tough pill to swallow and feels too simplistic.

That pill is difficult, in part, because it means black men must bear the burden of surviving in ways men in other ethnic groups do not. It means that we must be mindful to double-dot our “i’s” and triple cross our “t’s” and know that our worth and contributions are scrutinized beyond that of our peers.

For many — not all — black men, women, and children, this is the reality.

That makes many black people, in particular our children, youths and young adults not OK. We are left asking ourselves, “What happened to being born with inalienable rights in our great country?”

While being born male and black in America may be part of the problem, I believe the larger problem is that we live in a society rooted in systemic racism that seemingly devalues the life of certain people — in this case, black men.

Let’s be honest, not all black men are perfect, and nor are all white men, or men from any ethnic group.

Regardless of our ethnic or racial differences, no one deserves to die an unnecessary tragic death at the hands of those sworn to protect us. That has to be our bond of humanity, regardless of our difference.

I am proud to work at an institution that is committed to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity, and stands in solidarity with those who mourn the tragic killing of George Floyd.

The University of Toledo in no way condones or supports violence of any type, but does support peaceful social protests.

As a member of our community, the University understands its responsibility to use its resources to help address societal issues such as racism.

We understand that it is our responsibility to teach our students important subjects such as American and Black History and the intersection of racism, race and class, and about privilege, diplomacy, respect for difference, and about social movements and protests through political science, sociology, anthropology, economics, education and many other disciplines.

Perhaps most importantly, we must care for our students, protect them, and include their voices in our work.

To address the killing of George Floyd and the larger issues of society, The University of Toledo will be hosting a series called “Dialogues on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity” composed of virtual town hall discussions designed to address a range of topics. The first in the series is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, through WebEx.

Please join us.

Dr. Willie McKether is vice president of diversity and inclusion, and vice provost, at The University of Toledo.

Learning From Our Viral Trial (With Style)

As an educator of college students, professionals, leaders and executives, I often ask people to identify the specific things that have had the most powerful impact on shaping them into the people they are today. Their “life-shaper” responses typically fall into three important categories.

First, human beings are molded in powerful ways by the people who are part of our lives, from family, friends, teachers, coaches and people in the workplace. At the same time, they are greatly influenced by the personal challenges and difficulties that they have had to face over the course of their lifetimes. These can include difficult family times, academic challenges, interpersonal conflicts, economic hardships and workplace difficulties. These “trying times” test all of us to be sure, but they can teach us invaluable life lessons about perseverance, discipline and grit.


The final category includes personal hardships and tragedies that people have had to endure that could include divorce, loss of loved ones, health crises, and unemployment among other truly difficult experiences.

I share these findings to remind you that each of us is shaped in powerful ways by the myriad of experiences and people that touch our lives.

At present, we find ourselves amidst the COVID-19 “viral trial,” which has caused extreme financial and economic uncertainty, large-scale unemployment and extensive discouragement for people. During this trying time, I have asked a cross-section of friends, co-workers, students, business associates, neighbors and family members what they are learning going through this period of sheltering in. Their responses have been very instructive and very encouraging to me, and I thought that you might enjoy them as well.

People have shared:

• “How fortunate we are to have medical personnel and first-responders who are willing to risk their lives for complete strangers.”

• “I have a newfound appreciation for my kid’s teachers and what they have to put up with.”

• “I enjoy my work and co-workers more than I realized.”

• “Going for a walk is very refreshing even when the weather isn’t great.”

• “I will never take my paycheck for granted again.”

• “To never take toilet paper for granted.”

• “It’s important to look for ways to be kind and connected to the people around us.”

• “It’s great to have family dinner on a regular schedule.”

• “You never really know what you will find when cleaning out a closet or drawers.”

• “It is so important to take time to just think and reflect on life.”

• “Reconnecting with old friends on the phone and internet is really a great thing.”

• “You never really know what you will find when cleaning out the garage.”

• “I can be very productive wearing pajama bottoms and slippers at a Zoom meeting.”

• “I didn’t realize how many home projects actually needed my attention.”

• “Shame on me for not taking the time to get to know my neighbors until now.”

• “We are so blessed to have access to food and supplies in our grocery stores.”

• “I need to do a better job of saving money for a rainy day or another pandemic for that matter.”

• “Hey, I can feel close to someone even at a distance.”

• “I am taking my family, friends and faith much more seriously.”

• “With the exception of hand washing and tooth brushing, other hygiene activities can become more or less optional.”

• “That there’s a big difference between having wants and having real needs.”

• “It is very sobering and even embarrassing that it has taken a crisis to make me step back and appreciate the quality of my life before the pandemic.”

I think it’s safe to say that all of us can relate to any number of these invaluable lessons as we go through this pandemic, and there will be further lessons to learn. And while the loss of life and financial impact of this pandemic are incalculable, we now share a common bond in that we are all looking at life and our blessings differently than we did back in February 2020. We are being shaped by this experience. It has been said that hard times can make you bitter or they can make you better and the choice is ours. Choose wisely, my friends, to learn large from this experience.

Longenecker is a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Business and Innovation at The University of Toledo.

Advice for Job Seekers During Coronavirus Pandemic

“I was just.” I shudder every time I hear that phrase from a student in the midst of building a resumé.

It all starts somewhere, right? I tell students in order to be considered for a position they need to have a resumé for the employer to review and assess their potential.

True, yet somewhere along the line, a significant number of students presume that the only way they will get hired for an internship is if they have experience in their desired field.


Now, how can that happen if it is the internship that gets them the experience? How do we convince students that their experiences are so much “more” than they realize? If I had a nickel for each time I heard, “I was just a

• Server;

• Caddy;

• Babysitter;

• Cashier;

• Fill in the _______,” I’d have retired long ago and retreated to my favorite 14th-floor destination in Puerto Vallarta.

It’s hard enough convincing students and job seekers that all experiences matter and that transferable skills — those skills we build in one environment that transfer to our desired careers — are developed and fostered in everything we do.

Add to that a global pandemic that has impacted the economy and hiring plans in unprecedented ways, and you find a bunch of downtrodden, internship-hopeful students who think they’re never going to get a break.

Times are hard now, but they will change. And when they change, you need to be ready. So, unless you work for a healthcare provider, a grocery store, or are a delivery driver for the most popular takeout in the city, you’ve got time to consider how your skills are so much more than you realize and package them properly.

Applicant Tracking Systems scan those resumés that are uploaded to job boards or company career sites “looking” for those keywords or skills that are required for the position.

LinkedIn’s algorithm performs in a similar manner. Sources conduct keyword searches looking for candidates to present to employers. If you’re not aware of the required skills for your industry and how to work them into your job search materials, you will remain “just a______.”

Pro tip: Those required skills are more likely to be the soft transferable skills you have built over your lifetime. I’ve had conversation after conversation with employers who always tout soft skills over technical skills.

Can you communicate? Get along with others? Work on a project longer than you spend trolling TikTok? Done — there’s a job out there for you. Now you just need to believe in yourself and trust in the value of your skills. And, of course, tell the story.

We all start somewhere. Even the richest, most influential people in the world started humbly. Oprah Winfrey was a grocery store clerk. Warren Buffett was a newspaper delivery boy. Jean Nidetch worked in a furniture store. Tom Hanks pushed stadium peanuts. Sound glamorous? Maybe not, but those people learned how to capitalize on their strengths and tell their story. You can, too.

Where do you start? Let me suggest what I do with my students on the first day of class. Ask yourself, “What are my top three skills?” Start small and don’t overthink it. Some of the most common skills are what employers crave.

For example, topping the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ list of attributes employers seek on a candidate’s resumé (Job Outlook 2020) are:

1. Problem solving;

2. Ability to work on a team;

3. Strong work ethic;

4. Analytical/quantitative skills; and

5. Communication.

Here are some real-life examples:

Problem solving: Ever have to figure out how to get your sister to softball practice 20 minutes away when you need to be at work in 15 minutes?

Ability to work on a team: Have you played team sports, participated on the debate team, or picked up sticks in the backyard with siblings? Yep, teamwork.

Strong work ethic: Realize you haven’t looked at the clock for the last two hours while in the midst of a project, or you arrived early or stayed late because it was the right thing to do?

Analytical/quantitative skills: I had an accountant friend of mine tell me he was always running his personal stats in his head — baskets made versus shots taken while he was on the court.

Communication: Can you tell a story and keep people’s attention? Better yet, can you compose one with appropriate grammar?

You’ll find those skills in the most common of places. So, get started. Here is a step-by-step list of how to move forward:

1. Create a list of skills.

2. Without even going to the resumé, develop and type stories recalling how you developed those skills.

3. Compose action resumé statements using those skills and plug them into your resumé — think:

a. What did I do?

b. How did I do it?

c. What was the result?

d. Begin them with action verbs and work in numbers.

4. Reach out to Career Services, the College of Business and Administration Business Career Programs, the College of Engineering Shah Center for Engineering Career Development, and the College of Law Office of Professional Development — they are still working during this shutdown. Check their website to see how they are providing services. This goes for current students and alumni.

5. Move those cleaned up statements into your LinkedIn profile.

6. Identify companies where you want to work.

7. Look for people in the roles you want to play.

8. Reach out with customized invitations and ask to connect — follow career expert JT O’Donnell’s advice in this YouTube video.

9. When they say “yes,” ask for 15 minutes of their time to talk about their career path. Believe me, most everyone has 15 minutes.

10. Listen to how they tell their stories and how they built their skills. I bet they sound the same as yours.

If you apply yourself, in a month’s time you’ll have a bang-up resumé and 25 new influential LinkedIn contacts. Once the economy starts to turn, you will be positioned to transition. So, score the “more.” If you cannot recognize the value of your experiences and articulate them in writing and eventually verbally, you are destined to be “just.”

Amy O’Donnell is Distinguished University Lecturer of Career Development in The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation.

Union and Management Cooperation Needed to Reopen American Pro Sports

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, professional sports leagues briefly suspended play. The NFL shifted its week two games from Sept. 16 and 17 to January. In the midst of playoff races, Major League Baseball initially announced a one-day pause before extending the cancellation period to three and then six days. The return of baseball on Sept. 17 in some locations, and then on Sept. 21 in New York City, and the return of football on Sept. 23 (and Monday Night Football on Sept. 24), 2001, provided vivid moments for a stunned nation to come together and express its grief and its resolve.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a suspension of professional and amateur sports far exceeding the shutdowns associated with 9/11 and World War II, and likely to exceed the early termination of the Major League Baseball season during World War I.

For many Americans, the return of professional sports will be the signal moment that the country is ready to shift from crisis response to a “new normal.” The return of sports will be about more than just the big business it entails, but also a symbolic moment for the country. (While leagues have endured lengthier absences at times of labor strife, a return-to-play where the pause resulted from internal matters rather than external forces lacks the same symbolic import.)

Reaching this important moment will require cooperation between the professional league owners and the labor unions representing athletes. Because athletes in each of the major sports leagues are represented by unions, all matters relating to wages, hours and conditions of employment must be the subject of collective bargaining. The length of the season, return-to-work dates for preseason training, and the periods for free agent negotiations and contract signing are all topics included in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the major sports leagues. CBAs are in force for each of the leagues, with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) concluding voting on a new CBA last month.

So far, the unions and leagues have embraced a cooperative approach to adjustments required by the crisis. The NBA reached quick agreement with its players association to cut paychecks by 25%, with the funds held for a later calculation of reduced salaries based on canceled games (the league can, under the terms of its CBA, reduce pay by “1/92.6th” — around 1% — for a game canceled due to “epidemics,” among other items). The NFLPA’s executive committee and board voted unanimously to accept the NFL’s modification of its off-season rules, which prevents any NFL franchise from bringing players in for off-season work until all 50 states have removed stay-at-home restrictions. Based on the seeming likelihood that the country will re-open gradually, it now seems probable that this agreement will mean that the off-season is delayed even though stay-at-home orders have been lifted in some of the states in which NFL teams operate.

As the lockdown continues, however, there’s a greater chance that modifications required to address the public health crisis will lead to disagreements between the unions and the teams. Scheduling of games is the subject of provisions in each contract — in the case of baseball, detailed provisions, including start times of games and travel issues, cover more than seven pages, and modification might be required in the face of ongoing public health developments. Another obvious topic that could prove controversial are COVID-19 testing requirements for players once games resume. The NBA and its Players Association are investigating technology for “near instant” testing, but how and when such testing is mandatory would need to be subject to agreement.

If the public health crisis continues, each of the leagues will also likely need to consider whether to begin to schedule games without fan involvement. This may involve conducting games in states where stay-at-home orders have been lifted, outside of the ordinary “home territory” of particular teams. For instance, Florida has already exempted sports exhibitions from stay-at-home orders, allowing filming of sports events as long as the public is not allowed to attend (so far, an opportunity that only the “sport” of professional wrestling appears to have embraced).

Resolving these kinds of issues will typically require negotiation between the union and the league because the contracts themselves do not provide a mechanism for responding to all of the issues raised by this public health crisis. Baseball provides for a Safety and Health Advisory Committee (with an equal number of representatives for players and the teams) to deal with “emergency safety and health problems as they arise,” but the committee’s role is purely advisory.

Hopefully, the spirit of cooperation continues, so that communities can again come together to grieve over those lost and recommit to a shared purpose in that only sports provides.

Geoffrey Rapp is the Harold A. Anderson Professor of Law and Values and associate dean for academic affairs at The University of Toledo College of Law, where he teaches sports law and other courses.

Women’s Golfer Begins Fight Against Cancer

An ending to a season is often abrupt, unexpected or surprising. For Saranlak Tumfong, the way this 2019-20 season — and her collegiate career — ended was all three and more.

A senior from Chang Mai, Thailand, Saranlak (Sara) Tumfong came to The University of Toledo sight unseen. Her first three years on campus, like for many others, were filled with becoming a great teammate, adjusting to college life, getting a strong start to her golf career, and earning a reputation as a top-notch student.

Each season comes with anticipation, plans and goals. Sara looked forward to her senior season in a very different way, with blooming possibilities, higher goals for herself, and vision to continue great team chemistry. Injuries and illnesses are always a concern, but you learn to adjust and then put healing first when they do come. However, when major disruptions to our life happen, we aren’t usually prepared.

No one could be prepared for what happened to Sara, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Cancer is a punch in the gut to anyone. Cancer for a 22-year-old in her last semester of college is like someone punching you in the gut over and over again.

Sunday, March 1, in Panama City, Fla. was just like any tournament day. Wake-up call, breakfast with the team, and off to the course. Or so I had planned. At breakfast, Sara asked me about some strange bruising she noticed inside her mouth. She also had been noticing some bruising on her arms and legs and wasn’t able to remember where they came from. She didn’t have any other symptoms and wanted to go ahead and play. After consulting with our trainer, all decided to monitor the situation, and she teed it up. She played like any other round, with no other symptoms, and we packed up to come home. After the flight, the bruising increased on her legs. On March 2, she visited with the UToledo medical staff. It was determined that she is allergic to aspirin and would need to follow up with additional tests. It sounded like great news, a minor thing that could easily be avoided going forward. The overall feel was crisis averted, let’s move on.

Unfortunately, the final test results came in, and they weren’t what anyone was expecting. Sara was immediately called in and taken to the hospital for more testing, consultations and confirmation of diagnosis. When the doctor starts the diagnosis with a “C,” you find it hard to breathe at all and your mind goes blank.

Acute myeloid leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow that releases immature white blood cells into the body, preventing the release of healthy white blood cells. It also impacts red blood cells and platelets, causing severe bruising and bleeding. It requires a minimum of 30 to 45 days of hospitalization with chemotherapy treatments, a battery of tests, and a load of antivirals and antibiotics — not to mention the many side effects associated with cancer treatment.

We love this girl as we would love a sister. Her smile, compassion and leadership are infectious. She is absolutely a person you want to be around and enjoy life with. She was on track to have the best season of her collegiate career. She is a leader on our team, not just on the course, but off of it as well. Others look to her for guidance in life. She had her sights set on graduation this spring, and, like most 22-year-olds, was trying to determine what was next — art, media or golf. Now her focus is on fighting for her life.

We share her story as one of hope and strength. Sara and our whole team have shown strength beyond their years through our trials this season. Her prognosis is hopeful. However, she is facing a long journey ahead.

Many have asked how they can support Sara through this journey. Encouragement, emotional support and sharing your energy is what she needs. Sara can be found on social media @saranlak.t on Instagram.

Coluccio is the UToledo women’s golf coach.

Leading Remotely in Times of Crisis

Over the last week, my inbox has been flooded with questions from students, clients and colleagues. The biggest questions involve how to lead employees remotely in times of crisis. There’s plenty of research on how to lead remotely, most of it concentrating on quality over quantity of communication, establishing norms, building trust and monitoring goals. We can still do that in times of crisis.

Most of the problems in the workplace (maybe as much as 80%) are caused by poor communication (low quality and/or not enough). I always tell clients that face-to-face communication is best because that way you get the entire message; only 7% of our message is in the words we say. The rest is tone and nonverbal communication. Really, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Dr. Jenell Wittmer, associate professor of management, leads a UToledo Staff Leadership Development class.

That immediacy is lost in email and text messages. Communication is going to be more difficult when leading remotely, especially in times of crisis. So here are some tips for communicating remotely in times of crisis to establish norms, build trust and monitor goals:

1. Acknowledge that you are communicating remotely and thus are losing some of the message. Do not try to add tone or nonverbal communication to email. Using emojis or putting something in all caps (“Why are you YELLING at me?” your audience will wonder) is likely to lead to misinterpretation. Best to just use email for its intended purpose: objective, factual, non-emotional information (with no praise, blame, persuasion or otherwise).

2. Acknowledge that people have other responsibilities when working from home. In our current crisis, parents with children are playing the roles of employee, teacher, parent and playmate. Many leaders are facing the same challenges. Let’s just acknowledge that this is going to be tough — for example, my kids are fighting over cereal at the present moment. Establish norms and a schedule; perhaps parents want to work at night, or maybe they want to work in smaller blocks of time throughout the day. Discuss how this will work for you and work for them. Do not assume that they know what you want and vice versa. We are all in this together.

3. Acknowledge that you are going to lose some control. For all you micromanagers out there, this is going to be a crash course in letting go of control. In the office or out of the office, when you ask too many questions about how, when and why to your employees, it leads them to feel like you don’t trust them. Empowering your employees to make decisions and keep their own schedule helps you to build trust in them and them to build trust in you. Win-win. Again, establish norms — how frequently are you going to check in? What is the expected output? How will you measure performance during this time? Establish this up front and then let them figure it out. Freedom and flexibility become the name of the game in leading remotely in times of crisis — trust them.

4. Acknowledge that it is not business as usual. Back to No. 1: If we cannot communicate face to face and we can only use email and text for factual, objective, non-emotion information, how do we communicate the rest? Many leaders are going to be tempted to take full advantage of all the technology we have available. I had one leader tell me that he planned to have a video conference call with each of his employees each day. That’s overkill — and it may feel like micromanaging. If I am going to be a teacher, parent, professor and consultant, I am not going to take time for hair and makeup. We are encouraging comfortable clothes and a relaxed atmosphere at our house; don’t add the additional stress of making employees feel like they need to look professional and have a professional backdrop — this is not business as usual. If there is an important meeting with a client, it may require a video call. Don’t spring this on employees. Give them time to prepare and find somewhere to hide the kids. It’s not business as usual, so again, be flexible on deadlines and day-to-day expectations. When monitoring goals, reassess if they need to be daily goals, weekly goals, or are they goals where you can provide a little more flexibility. Overall, there are going to be many situations where you are just going to have to tell yourself (and probably your employees), “It’s not business as usual.”

5. Acknowledge that some employees are going to be better at this remote thing than others. Currently, students around the globe are being told that they are going to be online learners, but we constantly tell students that online learning is not for everyone. Not everyone is created to be a self-paced, self-managed, self-learning, self-motivating employee. Not only personality and communication style differences make some people better at this, but personal circumstances at the current time also are going to play a big part in remote performance. The best leaders are those who know that not every employee needs the same support, same motivation, same direction or same communication. Now is the time to have a conversation about how much support, what kind of support, how much communication, how much daily, weekly accountability, etc., an employee needs. Be open, be supportive, and be a good listener.

When responding to emails from students, clients and colleagues, my usual response is “We are writing this book together.” None of us knows exactly how to lead in times of crisis. Let’s lean toward each other and be open to the needs of others. Ask for help. It’s OK not to have the answers.

Wittmer is an associate professor of management at The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation.

Using Visual Literacy in the Classroom

“Visual literacy is not just about art …”

We’ve all heard the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Learning to read those pictures gives us advantages in both work and life. The University of Toledo and Toledo Museum of Art’s Visual Literacy Initiative is paving the way for what it means to speak visual.

Visual literacy is defined as being able to read, comprehend and use visual images effectively. The initiative provides faculty with visual literacy tools to prepare students for the future. To date, the initiative has advanced student learning across all disciplines by launching visual literacy modules for UToledo faculty to use with their students.

UToledo students visited the Toledo Museum of Art for a visual literacy exercise called Back to Back Drawing.

“Visual literacy is not just about art. It’s about understanding the world around us through observation, critical thinking, perspective and collaboration in a vast world of images and visual stimulation,” Dr. Heidi M. Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College, said. “To communicate successfully in our increasingly image-saturated culture, we must also learn to read, understand and critique images — to become literate in visual language.”

The ability to speak visual will be important in all fields of study and employment whether it’s to read and design schematics, visualize problems and solutions, see data, diagnose patients, interpret clinical images, or communicate information.

“Visual literacy is a way to engage students to begin the process of deep learning and creative thinking,” Dr. Arun Nadarajah, UToledo professor of bioengineering, said.

There are new University of Toledo courses that focus exclusively on visual literacy in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the Honors College, and the College of Arts and Letters.

Shari Norte, assistant lecturer in the School of Exercise Rehabilitation Sciences, left, and Mirta Parodi, senior lecturer of Spanish, participated in a visual literacy activity that challenged teams to build something with Legos and write instructions so others could replicate the same object.

All faculty now can include visual literacy in their courses using modules and exercises to support instruction while achieving student learning outcomes. The modules are made to be easily adaptable and span across all disciplines.

“We’re all visual learners. These modules are a great way to infuse our already vital subject areas with more active learning strategies that increase visual literacy,” Dan McInnis, assistant lecturer in the Jesup Scott Honors College, said. “The visual literacy modules and exercises assist me as a faculty member to deliver specific skill sets to students, giving them conduits to stronger visual understanding.”

One module from the initiative titled Infographic Creation and Interpretation “is designed to meet student learning outcomes and provide students with an understanding of the use of infographics for communicating complex ideas efficiently and effectively.” Students also have shared their experience with this module. One student said, “This module taught me that we process pictures faster than words, so by having a picture represent information, people want to share.” Another student said, “Infographics should be an aid to help us tell a story.” Not only did this module teach students how to interpret and read infographics, it taught them how to create their own infographics. A student reflected on his experience: “The module put the ‘common sense’ of visual interpretation into words. It helped me understand why we need concise, accurate and appealing infographics beyond ‘they look nice and are easy to understand.’”

Another student said, “I feel more confident when analyzing an infographic. I look at its content, the structure of the image, how clear it is, if it’s simple, how did they emphasize on the problem. For the design, I pay attention to the colors, if it’s attractive, how easy it is for me to digest and retain the information provided.”

The visual literacy modules and exercises are made available through the Visual Literacy webpage or Blackboard. To access the visual literacy modules and exercises through Blackboard, use the Faculty Support tab on the top of your Blackboard page to find Other Resources and select the Visual Literacy link. Visual literacy will then show up as one of your organizations below your courses. You’ll find instructions on how to use the modules and exercises there.

Campus community members are invited to explore visual literacy modules and exercises during open houses:

Friday, Jan. 31, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Nitschke Hall Room 5013;

Friday, Feb. 28, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Center for the Visual Arts Conference Room on the University’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus.

Friday, April 24, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in MacKinnon Hall Room 1370.

An extended workshop also is planned for Friday, March 27, from noon to 3 p.m. in Toledo Museum of Art Room 128.

Register to attend an open house or workshop on the University Teaching Center website.

To inquire more information about the Visual Literacy Initiative and its campus-wide efforts, visit the Visual Literacy Initiative website or contact visualliteracy@utoledo.edu.

Mejias Santoro is an academic and adult programs coordinator at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Attending Propel Collegiate Leadership Summit 2019

Civic engagement involves working to make a difference in the civic life and improving the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political methods.

To me, civic engagement means volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to tutor students in inner-city schools, participating in community service opportunities with the Toledo women’s soccer team, encouraging family members and peers to vote in local elections, coaching soccer to my community’s youth, and staying active in the community by engaging with its leaders.

UToledo students who attended the Propel Collegiate Leadership Summit posed for a photo; they are, from left, John Young, Lexa Bauer, Rebecca Dangler, Liam Walsh, Myla Magalasi, Lexi Alvarado and Stephanie Smith.

When I was informed of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s annual Propel Collegiate Leadership Summit, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. I am so grateful to have been accepted and to have had the pleasure of attending the summit with 400 other civically engaged students from across Ohio.

The theme for this year’s summit was civic engagement, and it was incredible to meet and listen to other students’ experiences and opinions. It was eye-opening to realize the number of people who exemplify the definition of being civically engaged so well.

I was lucky enough to accompany six other UToledo students to the summit: Rebecca Dangler, Liam Walsh, John Young, Lexi Alvarado, Stephanie Smith and Myla Magalasi. It was humbling to be surrounded by so many awesome leaders, and I loved knowing that six others were from the same community as I am.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown spoke last month at the Propel Collegiate Leadership Summit.

The summit began with a tremendous discussion between Sen. Brown and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz. They discussed their backgrounds, opinions and gave advice on how to move forward. When the floor opened for questions, there were a number of thought-provoking, intellectual and fascinating questions asked by the students, including one asked by Dangler. Schultz and Sen. Brown had very good answers to the questions and did a great job engaging everyone and meeting us at our level.

Following their discussion, there was a panel of influential leaders from northwest Ohio that included Katy Crosby, chief of staff for the city of Toledo; Richie Webber, founder of a nonprofit for recovering addicts; and Ruth Chang, founder of Midstory, a nonprofit created to share the historic and social history of northwest Ohio through different multimedia mediums. Their panel was equally as groundbreaking and set a great tone for the remainder of the summit.

The keynote speaker for the summit, Monica Ramirez, spoke of her work with the migrant farming communities in Fremont and across the country. She told her story with a passion and articulateness that drew the audience in and truly left an impression. After the keynote presentation, Diana Patton took the stage to prompt discussion amongst the audience about what each of our individual stories looks like and what that means to us. She challenged us all to look within ourselves to find a passion, a gift, and a way to use them to change the world.

Patton’s talk was a great segue into the breakout sessions that followed. Each session had a different focus. The first that I attended focused on how to advance your career and professionalism. The second, called the Engagement Fair, gave everyone an opportunity to meet and reach out to organizations and professionals that promote civic engagement. The third and final session focused on how to tell your story and how to make it mean something to others.

The speakers in each session conducted themselves with such a high level of professionalism without presenting their lives as untouchable. It was so inspirational to be able to engage with these amazing leaders. I learned a great deal about myself, my career, and how to make this world a better place.

It was an honor to have been selected to attend this summit with so many other outstanding leaders and students. I appreciate all of the speakers’ willingness to dedicate their day to helping students like us succeed. They are true examples of what it looks like to be civically engaged.

My life, career aspirations and worldview were so positively affected by this experience, and I hope that many others feel the same. I also hope that future University of Toledo students go and continue to make differences in our communities.

Bauer is a pre-law sophomore majoring in political science in the College of Arts and Letters, and also a member of the soccer team.

Paddling and Pondering: Kayaking on the Ottawa River

It was a perfect Sunday in October for a paddle down the Ottawa River. Dr. Charles Beatty-Medina, professor of history, and I planned to follow the river through Ottawa and then Jermain parks with an expected distance of 2.5 miles. It had rained recently, so the water level was elevated, and the forecast called for partial clouds with temperatures in the mid to low 60s.

We met at the new pedestrian bridge, with its new kayak launch, connecting the East Parking Garage and Savage Arena. Because we had two cars, we were able to drive one to the location where we planned to exit the river and drive the other back to the launch. With a car parked at our expected exit downriver, we could paddle with the current and not worry about paddling back against the current through areas we’d already seen.

Dr. Charles Beatty-Medina looked at the Ottawa River in October before climbing into his kayak on campus.

We were struck at how quickly the environment transformed. We got on the river with a parking garage to the left and Savage Arena to the right, but within minutes we were fully enclosed within the forested banks of a meandering river and nothing but the sights and sounds of nature surrounding us. We played a game with the various bridges — trying to guess which street we were passing under. Because the view from the river is so different, we were essentially guessing based only on distance we’d paddled and our knowledge of the streets above. Nothing about the habitat along the river was the same.

We spotted a heron as we crossed into Ottawa Park. The heron would take flight as we approached, camp out in a tree downriver — seemingly waiting for us to catch up — then take flight again as we neared. The heron was our guide for a good quarter mile of the trip. Shortly thereafter, we came to our first obstruction — a large tree laying across much of the river. Luckily, there was a gap to the right and to the left where the current was faster, which meant we could ‘shoot the chute’ over and between the trees limbs.

A deer watched as Dr. Christopher Martin and Dr. Charles Beatty-Medina traveled by kayak on the Ottawa River.

Less than a mile down river, we heard a rustling in the foliage ahead and spotted several deer out for a stroll. They were as curious about us on the river as we were of them on the land. The deer may have been trying to warn us, because shortly after their sighting, we heard the eerie sound of water moving quickly downhill and over rocks: We’d come upon a rapid.

Charles’ Rapid (we named it) was not difficult, but Charles did have an inflatable kayak, which meant a sharp rock could puncture it. We opted to risk it and ran the rapid straight down the middle. Most of the time, the deepest water is in the middle of the rapid, and, thankfully, there was more aerated water nearer the sides, suggesting that rocks are closer to the surface than in the middle — the safer route for a kayak, especially one full of air.

Paddlig further east into Ottawa and Jermain parks, we came across logs blocking most or all of the river three or four different times. We later learned trees had fallen naturally and usually are left to stimulate the ecosystem. But unless you can paddle under or over them, you’re schlepping your kayak onto the bank, up the mud, and back down to the river on the other side. Our muddy carries over the logs are the ecosystem’s gains.

Dr. Christopher Martin paddled his kayak last month on the Ottawa River.

The log dams also function as collection points for the sadly large amount of garbage that finds its way into the river. We hope to find a student group on campus who would be interested in an Ottawa River cleanup. We could bring trash bags with us for a paddle, scoop as much of the garbage behind the log dams as the bags hold, and place the full bags along the bank to retrieve and properly dispose of once off the water.

When we left our car along the road where we intended to exit the river, we thought we should walk down to the river to study the location so that we would be able to know, on the river, when we were there. A blue empty chip bag we found nearby served as a nice marker, which we tied to a branch on a tree reaching over the water. Once I spotted the bag, I knew our journey had come to an end.

Ottawa and Jermain parks are beautiful from the land, but we encourage you to see them from the perspective of the river, which, in our experience, changes everything. In season, students can borrow a kayak, paddle and a life vest (which you must wear) for free from Recreational Services. We recommend getting out when the spring buds are appearing, summer blooms abound, or fall leaves are ablaze; these sights, especially from the seat of a kayak meandering down the river, take the breath away.

Martin is a visiting associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, and director of the Roger Ray Institute for the Humanities.

American Dream Comes True

In 1989, my father, Zhong Chen, who was a professor in academia, was under pressure due to political turmoil in China. With the help of Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, he secured a student visa to The University of Toledo to escape the unstable fallout of his home country, where he left his wife and 4-year-old son with a hug.

My mother, Liping Gao, and I were not able to join him at the time and stayed behind in China. We did not know that it would be four years until we would see him again. That is how long it took for my mom and I to secure our visas to come to the United States.

Yixing Chen smiled during the naturalization ceremony Sept. 17 in the Law Center.

I still remember the multiple long journeys to visit the U.S. Embassy and staying in hotels night after night to wait to be granted an interview. From 1991 to 1993, my mom and I would take the train from Xian, our hometown, to Beijing, the capital. Each trip took 12 hours one way. The trip was tough on my mom, especially with an 8-year-old in tow. Each time we went, we had to wait outside in a line most of the day just hoping to get in the embassy; the weather was not always nice. We were denied visas three times before they were granted the fourth time.

I still remember the cold winter air when our plane finally landed in Detroit on New Year’s Eve in 1993 and seeing a man that resembled the memory of my father waiting for us with a hug. I still remember the drive to Toledo that night and seeing all the New Year’s fireworks as my life in America started.

My dad graduated with his Ph.D. from The University of Toledo soon after. Like most immigrants, my family had to change our visa status many times to remain in the U.S. legally. Every few years, we had to renew or reapply for different visas, hoping that it wouldn’t be denied. One denial is all it takes for us to go back to a country where we have nothing. That uncertainty of your family’s life is what most immigrants talk about when they describe the difficult, long journey to citizenship.

I grew up in the Toledo area most of my life and graduated from The University of Toledo with a dual master’s degree in public health in 2011. I work at UToledo’s Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center.

During my 25-year journey to citizenship, I never lost the dream of being able to hold my hand to my heart proudly when my classmates recited the Pledge of Allegiance; or when my friends sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Toledo football games; or when I hang the stars and stripes in front of my home in Toledo; or when I tell my beautiful daughter, Lilian, that her “baba” (Mandarin for daddy) is also an American like her.

To my fellow Americans: Don’t forget the journey and sacrifice of your immigrant family to get here, and never take for granted the privilege and responsibility that so many people around the world are currently fighting to obtain. It is the duty of we the people to make this country a more perfect Union.

Chen is a clinical simulation and educational research associate in the Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center. He was among more than 70 people who became U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony Sept. 17 in the Law Center.