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Soccer Player Excited for Next Chapter as Registered Nurse

As Abby Demboski comes to the end of one important chapter in her life, she begins another. As is the case so often these days, the coronavirus pandemic is at the center of both events.

Demboski, a senior on The University of Toledo women’s soccer team, will graduate in May with a degree in nursing. Like her fellow graduates, her final two months of college were spent in virtual classes. Her commencement experience next month will be virtual, too.

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

After graduation, Demboski intends to move to Colorado to become a registered nurse during a period of time in which health professionals are under tremendous strain. Despite the uncertainty and stress associated with the coronavirus, she is excited to join the work force and do her part.

“I’m gunning to get out to Colorado and become an RN,” said Demboski, who also has a minor in public health. “The whole coronavirus situation is pretty scary because of the worldwide impact it is having, but I can’t wait to be one of those people that helps others.”

Demboski knows her four years at UToledo prepared her well for the future, and she acknowledges all of the opportunities it provided for her.

“These last four years have made me into the person I am today and pushed me to be a better friend and leader,” Demboski said. “It taught me so many life skills, like time management, organization and prioritizing, and these are the same things that will help me become a successful nurse. My time at UToledo created a great base for me, and I’m forever grateful.”

The Columbus, Ohio, native, excelled on the field and in the classroom. A four-year starter, Demboski played an instrumental role in helping the Rockets secure the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament title.

“One of my best college memories was winning a MAC Championship,” Demboski said. “That team worked so hard and was rewarded for all of their efforts. I will never forget the journey we took to win that championship. In particular, I will always remember the day we beat our archrival [Bowling Green] in overtime in the finals.”

Abby Demboski, left, posed for a photo with former women’s soccer player Kelsey Kraft.

Following that championship run in 2017, Demboski went on to become one of the Rockets’ top players. She experienced her best statistical year last fall as a senior captain, posting a career-high seven points. She finished third on the team in goals scored (3) and total points. Among her three goals, Demboski was a perfect 2 of 2 converting penalty kicks.

“Being elected team captain was one of the biggest honors of my life,” Demboski said. “I had immense respect for each of my teammates and knowing they trusted me enough to lead the team meant a lot.”

Not only did Demboski excel on the field, she was ultra-successful in the classroom, garnering Academic All-MAC accolades a school-record three times.

“Although I spent a lot of time in college playing soccer, school always came first,” said Demboski, who will graduate with a 3.889 GPA. “Getting a quality education was my top priority at Toledo, and being a three-time Academic All-MAC honoree was truly icing on the cake.”

Head Coach TJ Buchholz truly appreciated Demboski’s contributions to the women’s soccer program, both on and off the field during her time wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold.

“Abby was a selfless leader who always cared more for her teammates over herself. I’m enormously grateful to have coached her,” Buchholz said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to a player like Abby after the lasting impact she made on her teammates and coaches, but I’m excited to see the tremendous impact she is going to have after graduation.”

Abby Demboski posted a career-high seven points last fall.

Demboski is excited to earn her nursing degree, but she is disappointed she will not get the chance to walk across the stage, as the University moved to a virtual ceremony because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“I’m certainly disappointed that I can’t go through graduation and walk across the stage with my fellow graduates,” Demboski said. “Ever since I was a freshman, I envisioned getting all dressed up, putting on my cap and gown, and walking across the stage to get my diploma. It was supposed to be a day to celebrate four years of hard work and dedication with family and friends.”

The Demboski family has alternate plans to help her celebrate the special day. They have something in the works to give her a well-deserved moment in the sun.

“My family and I will make the most of it,” Demboski said. “I might walk across my backyard and pretend it’s the stage. It’s certainly disappointing not to walk with my fellow graduates, but I totally understand why the decision was made.”

Demboski’s time as a student-athlete at The University of Toledo is quickly coming to an end. She arrived on Main Campus four years ago simply looking to secure a degree and continuing to play the sport she loved. But Demboski left with so much more.

“I had an amazing run at Toledo, and I would not change any part of my experience,” she said. “I met a lot of great people and developed some tremendous relationships that I will forever cherish.”

J.D. Candidate Ready to ‘Jump in Feet First’ Into Employment and Labor Law Career

For almost eight years, Lindsey Self worked in human resources, most recently at First Solar. It wasn’t planning Christmas parties and employee engagement programs that excited her. It was the legal compliance part of her job that she was passionate about ― investigating complaints, managing FMLA compliance and conducting audits.

In May, Self will graduate from The University of Toledo College of Law with her J.D., bringing together the two professional worlds she cares most about.

Graduation Cap

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

“I can jump in feet first,” she said. “All those things I enjoyed in HR that we passed along to counsel ― now I’ll be the counsel.”

Self will start her job as a labor and employment attorney this summer at Eastman & Smith in Toledo, a position the firm offered her last August.

When she began law school, Self was a part-time, evening student. The law program’s flexibility allowed her to work and still care for her two young children. A year into the program, she left her job and enrolled full time.

Self said she appreciated the faculty’s flexibility. Her daughter, Vivian, came to class with her a few times, and it was never an issue. The dean’s secretary even set up the kindergartener with candy.

“Toledo Law turned into a family for me. I was sick recently, and the dean of the college reached out to see how I was feeling. You don’t get that at other schools,” she said. “I had opportunities to build strong and real relationships with experts in their field, professors who went to Harvard and Yale. I feel prepared to walk into any practice.”

Self’s first internship was with Judge Darlene O’Brien at the Washtenaw County Trial Court. The supervising attorney there was a UToledo College of Law graduate and urged her to apply for an internship in federal court. She landed a position with Judge Jeffrey Helmick at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The judicial internships led to a clerk position with Eastman & Smith and eventually to a full-time job offer.

Lindsay Self

After graduation from the UToledo College of Law, Linday Self will start her job as a labor and employment attorney at Eastman & Smith in Toledo; the firm offered her the position last August.

“Lindsey is an extraordinary student, one of the best I’ve ever had,” said Joseph Slater, Distinguished University Professor and Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values. “She was always prepared, always thoughtful. She has a new, smart idea about labor law that no one’s come up with and is writing a paper about it.”

Self said she’s sad about not being able to walk at commencement. She wanted her children to experience the final moment, to see all that mom had worked for. But they’ll find another way to celebrate, she said. She knows there’s so much more good to come.

“I look forward to raising my family in Toledo and building my career here,” she said. “I want to help Toledo continue to be a great city and to be a community leader.”

Self graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2010 with a dual degree in psychology and sociology. She was the 2019-20 editor of the Toledo Law Review, a student-edited journal written by professors, judges and students. In 2017, while a first-year law student, Self spoke at TEDxToledo about unconscious bias, gender inequality and women’s empowerment.

She also is a member of the Emerging Leaders Council of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, the Northwest Ohio Human Resource Association and the Toledo Women’s Bar Association. She is co-founder of Make It Count Toledo, a local nonprofit that provides emergency mobilization services to nonprofits that work to help underrepresented and disadvantaged members of the community in crisis.

Self lives in Holland with her husband, Brian, and two children, Vivian (6) and Connor (4).

Graduate Breaking Gender Barriers in Information Technology, Computer Science

Sheltering in place in sunny California, Naba Rizvi already misses the bells.

The University of Toledo first-generation college student is in San Diego taking her final classes online before she starts working remotely at Microsoft Research and begins earning her Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the University of California at San Diego — her top choice — after graduation May 9.

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

“My favorite memory will always be hearing the bells from University Hall first thing in the morning when I lived in MacKinnon Hall,” said Rizvi, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in information technology. “I hope I will someday get to return to Toledo, walk across Main Campus again, visit my former professors and colleagues at Engineering College Computing, and say goodbye in a proper way to the University that played a big role in shaping the person I am today.”

Rizvi, who has published research on human-computer interaction and interned with tech giant Adobe in Silicon Valley, is a student in the Jesup Scott Honors College who found great success while majoring in information technology in the College of Engineering.

She was one of nine students to win the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship, one of 20 students to win the Google Women Techmakers Scholarship, and one of six recipients of the National Center for Women in IT’s Collegiate Award, to name a few of the many ways she has been recognized during the last few years as an outstanding female student studying computer science.

Rizvi is the founder of Non-Traditional Techies, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,000 members increasing socioeconomic diversity in the technology industry by connecting passionate individuals from underprivileged backgrounds with opportunities.

Naba Rizvi, center, holds the trophy the UToledo Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter received as the Outstanding New Student Organization in 2019.

At the forefront of initiatives related to gender diversity on campus, she also founded the UToledo Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter.

Originally from Pakistan, Rizvi’s parents are now based in Saudi Arabia and her grandparents and sister live in Michigan.

Her journey through higher education started at Oakland Community College in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where a recruiter told her about UToledo’s International Student Scholarship.

“I signed up for a campus visit and fell in love with Main Campus,” she said.

She credits the Honors College for access to additional scholarships and opportunities. She said it played a critical role in her ability to work by assisting with Curricular Practical Training, known as CPT, to complete her internships.

Naba Rizvi rode a bicycle outside the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., before posing for a photo with the other Google Women Techmakers Scholarship recipients during a retreat in 2018.

“Naba exemplifies what we hope all UToledo students experience — a passion for a subject and for helping others,” Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College, said. “What makes her extraordinary is that she’s using her experience and volunteer activities to shatter glass ceilings in her profession. We couldn’t be more proud.”

Rizvi’s skyrocketing success as an undergraduate in her field belies her uncertainty as a first-year student originally majoring in political science. But once exposed to programming, it was like flipping a switch.

“I discovered IT once I got to UToledo, and that’s when I discovered that I really enjoyed programming,” Rizvi said. “I immediately switched my major to IT and took all of the programming classes. I got involved with hackathons, and the rest is history.”

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

The five-time hackathon winner is an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Kevin Xu’s research lab working on analyzing biological networks of antigens that affect kidney transplant survival.

“I have been thoroughly impressed with Naba’s ambition and initiative — she is the founder of UToledo’s Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter and has turned it into one of the strongest student organizations on campus, regularly winning awards at hackathons all over the country,” said Xu, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “I believe Naba will become a tremendous researcher and, most importantly, that her research will have high societal impact.”

Rizvi is passionate about using computer science for social good, with a particular interest in breaking race, gender and accessibility barriers in education, healthcare and politics.

“Women are very, very underrepresented in computer science,” Rizvi said. “We make up less than 20% of the overall population of computer science majors, and now because of all the work we did with the Association of Computing Machinery Women’s Chapter, not only do they know that these opportunities are out there for them, but they have the passion and the courage to reach for them.”

While at Adobe, Rizvi worked on a project that helps blind people generate summaries of newspaper articles.

“That’s when I discovered my passion for developing assistive technologies for people with disabilities,” Rizvi said. “I’m hoping with all of these diversity initiatives, we can move toward a society where computer science is not just viewed as something for men. A lot of people from different backgrounds can see themselves as programmers or computer science researchers. I would really like to see the field that I’m in become more diverse and more open to different perspectives. I’m doing all I can to make that happen.”

Soprano Ready for More Golden Moments

Paige Chapman pictured it: She would wear a sky blue off-the-shoulder dress with a rose-gold necklace and matching earrings, and sparkly gold heels.

She would walk on stage of the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall and sing “Tornami a Vagheggiar,” a love song from Handel’s “Alcina.”

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

That song will still open her senior recital, but the performance will be a video online.

“I won’t totally get all glammed up. I won’t pull out the ‘Cinderella’ blue gown that is so pretty,” she said. “But I’ll still look nice.”

And even though the soprano will record that video in the basement of her Troy, Mich., home, it’ll be a soaring performance.

Chapman’s singing career has continued its upward trajectory since she became a Rocket in the College of Arts and Letters.

The ingénue has played six leading roles in UToledo operas and one supporting role in a musical. She took top honors in the Concerto/Aria Competition Collegiate Division in fall 2019, and she participated in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Competition, placing third in fall 2017.

“Paige is a highly talented performer and singer. She has purity, agility and depth in her tone that make her voice adaptable to many different styles ranging from classical to musical theater,” Dr. Emily K. Oehrtman, UToledo visiting assistant professor of music, said.

“She is a genuine and generous performer, portraying a wide variety of characters adeptly, expressing poetry through song with ease, and showcasing different styles of music with grace and accuracy,” Oehrtman said.

Paige Chapman played Titania, queen of the fairies, in the UToledo Opera production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Photo courtesy of Zach Mills Media

Chapman recalled her first opera role at the University — Natalie in Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widower.” “I definitely learned a lot in that production. I was cast with someone older and more experienced. It was interesting to see the differences and similarities in how we performed the role.”

She had fun playing the title role in UToledo’s presentation of Seymour Barab’s “Little Red Riding Hood.” Another of her favorite roles on the University stage was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” an opera with music by Benjamin Britten and libretto adapted by Peter Pears from Shakespeare’s classic comedy.

“I played Titania, queen of the fairies,” Chapman said. “I wore these ginormous wings — it was hard to walk in the hallway! It was an amazing costume to go along with amazing music.”

Chapman

She reached new heights as Despina in UToledo Opera’s production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte.” “This was the most challenging role. The entire opera is in Italian, and I had to master recitative — speaking that moves the story along. It was a very new skill to learn; it is music written with rhythms more speech-like with limited accompaniment,” Chapman said.

It wasn’t always about opera.

“I love music. I remember singing at Sunday school, and everyone told my parents [Steve and Annette Chapman] they should put me in voice lessons,” Chapman remembered.

When she turned 5, Chapman asked for voice lessons and a karaoke machine.

“The first song I learned in voice lessons was ‘The Beauty and the Beast,’” she said.

At age 11, she saw her first opera: Puccini’s “La Bohème” at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest.

“Opera did not resonate with me right away,” Chapman said. “It definitely was something I fell in love with later — like a switch flipped.”

And once it was on, it was really on.

After she receives a bachelor of music in performance May 9 at UToledo’s virtual commencement ceremony, Chapman will pursue a master’s degree in music performance at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she has a full ride and graduate assistantship.

“The goal is to perform a little — a young artist program, an opera company,” Chapman said. “The goal is to keep music in my life.”

As she ascends, she’ll take UToledo with her.

“I learned so much; I don’t think I can ask anything better as a student and person,” Chapman said. “There is such a tremendous sense of community here. I have made friendships and faculty relationships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Basketball Standout to Return Home to Italy Following Graduation

Women’s basketball player Mariella Santucci made the most of her time at The University of Toledo.

“I had a great four years,” she said. “I experienced a lot of great memories and met a lot of great people during my time here.”

Graduation Cap

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

On the hardwood, Santucci wrapped up her collegiate career fifth in school history in assists (614) and minutes played (3,878), sixth in steals (202), eighth in games played (130), and 24th in scoring (1,103).

In the classroom, Santucci earned Academic All-Mid-American Conference honors a school-record three times.

“I worked extremely hard to be the best on the court and with my studies,” Santucci said. “It was very important for me to do well at both.”

Santucci will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in international business and an impressive 3.39 GPA. She is also the only player in program history with at least 1,000 points, 600 helpers, 500 caroms and 200 thefts.

“I’m proud of what I accomplished at Toledo,” said Santucci, who will be the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

She is excited to earn her degree, but sad to not have the opportunity to walk across the stage because the University canceled the event due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“I feel bad for all graduates to not get the chance to walk,” Santucci said. “We need to look at the bigger picture, though, and it’s much more important to keep everyone safe.”

Mariella Santucci

“I’m the person that I am now because of all my experiences with the Rockets,” said Mariella Santucci, who earned Academic All-Mid-American Conference honors a school-record three times as a member of the women’s basketball team. She will receive a bachelor’s degree in international business.

Graduation was the last thing on Santucci’s mind when she arrived at Toledo as a freshman in fall 2016. Speaking little English, she was hesitant to leave her home country. A native of Bologna, Italy, the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy, Santucci had concerns about attending college in the United States.

“I didn’t know how I was going to adjust,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how basketball and school would go hand in hand. Back home, it was one or the other, but never at the same time. I just didn’t know what to expect.”

Santucci settled in quite nicely as a freshman and played a big role in the Rockets capturing the 2016 MAC Championship, its first title since 2001.

“One of my greatest memories at Toledo was winning the MAC Championship,” said Santucci, who was named to the 2016 MAC All-Tournament Team.

Over the next two years, Santucci helped the Rockets advance to the second round of the Postseason WNIT on both occasions.

Then this past season as a team captain, Santucci led the MAC in helpers (160) and finished second in assist/turnover ratio (1.70, 160-94). As a result of her efforts, she was named team MVP and was selected the Ultimate Rocket, which is awarded to the player who excels on the court, in the classroom, and in the community.

“It was a great honor to receive those two awards,” Santucci said.

Santucci is heading back to Italy in the coming weeks and will have to quarantine herself for 14 days before starting the next chapter of her life.

“We have many cases of the virus close to my home,” said Santucci, whose family is currently safe and healthy. “Every city around Bologna is in lockdown. The only places you can go are the grocery store or the pharmacy.”

Once she is home and the virus is under control, Santucci will begin the process of determining what’s next for her.

“I’m looking to play professionally overseas and get a master’s degree during the offseason,” Santucci said. “My initial thought is to get an MBA and specialize in trying to stabilize the economy.”

Santucci knows that whatever path she chooses, her time at Toledo provided her the proper foundation for future success.

“My time at Toledo was great and prepared me for my future,” Santucci said. “I’m the person that I am now because of all my experiences with the Rockets.”

Living With Autoimmune Disorder Made Distance Runner Appreciate College Experience

Jordan Doore knew something was off.

A distance runner for The University of Toledo track and cross country teams, Doore had battled through numerous injuries throughout her career. But as she was preparing for the 2018 cross country season, she began to notice something was not quite right. She was accustomed to the wear and tear of competitive running, but this was something else.

Graduation Cap

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

“I started to experience some pain and numbness in parts of my body. I didn’t know what was going on,” said Doore, who will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Then it got worse. The numbness spread throughout my whole body, and I had no energy. I was constantly on the verge of passing out and was unable to finish workouts. I knew something was really wrong.”

Doore went through a battery of tests and was eventually diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to regulate normal functions, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Symptoms flare up when she simply stands up. There is no known cure, but it can be managed with medication.

“It was a relief to finally get a diagnosis, but at the same time I still felt terrible physically,” Doore said. “Mentally it was tough as well. I deal with a disorder that you can’t see and most people have never heard of.”

Despite this setback, Doore was determined to continue competing. She was back on the track for the 2019 outdoor campaign. She set her personal best with a time of 4:49.44 in the mile at the RedHawk Invitational April 20 and had a solid time of 4:54.33 in the 1500 meters at the 2019 MAC Outdoor Championship Meet May 11. “I wasn’t the most fit, but I was determined to run,” she said.

Jordan Doore running

Jordan Doore, who was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, overcame challenges to continue as a distance runner on the Rocket track and cross country teams. She will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences.

Her determination has been an inspiration to her teammates, according to Head Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough.

“There were lots of reasons that Jordan could have stopped running. Certainly most people would have called it quits,” said McDonough, who took over as the director of cross country and track and field in July 2019. “But we are so grateful that Jordan continued to be a part of this team. She is a great teammate and a great role model. She comes to practice every day with a great attitude. She always seems to be in a great mood. I have never once heard her complain.”

Of course, life is not exactly easy for Doore. On some level, she deals with challenges nearly every day.

“My daily life can be difficult,” said Doore, who has aspirations to be a coach someday. “The medication helps, and I need to follow a good diet and always stay hydrated. Sometimes there is nothing I can do to combat symptoms, so all I can do is take a nap and sleep it off. I try to listen to my body and do as much as I can when I feel good, and rest when I don’t.”

Not being as active as she wants may be the toughest part for Doore. She is happiest when she is busy. In addition to being an honor roll student and a two-time Academic All-MAC honoree, she served four years on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, including as president this past year. Doore is one of two Rocket student-athletes who serves on the MAC Council of Student Athletes. And she is active in church and volunteer activities.

This past fall, Doore sprained her ankle early in the season, but came back to compete at her last cross country meet at the Eastern Michigan University Open Oct. 26. She rehabbed and came back to compete in the indoor track season. The Akron Invitational Feb. 8 would be her final competition wearing the Midnight Blue and Gold due to the COVID-19 pandemic that wiped out what would have been her last chance to compete in the outdoor track season this spring.

As she approaches graduation and her final days as a Rocket, Doore looks back on a challenging four years with no regrets.

“Nothing has gone as planned for me in my college experience,” she said. “But I’ve definitely learned from it. It’s been a great experience for me at Toledo. I know that something good can come from anything.”

Problem-Solving is Nothing New to Engineering Graduate

Justin Fleming knows how to make things work.

The Sycamore, Ohio native, who will graduate May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, served as an electrician for six years in the U.S. Air Force prior to transferring to The University of Toledo for his final two years of college. That experience brought a unique, valuable perspective to his studies.

Graduation Cap

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

“In this field, you work in the middle – you have to speak both the language of engineers, and the language of craftsmen like electricians,” Fleming said. “I hardly touched a plane during my time in the Air Force, but I did learn how to build and work with many different types of systems.”

While in high school, Fleming started in a vocational program for computer science, but gradually found his niche as an electrician thanks to influences in his family and basic training tests for the military, which reinforced where his strengths lied.

After four deployments — including to Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — all to build and maintain power lines, airfield lights, generators and other heavy-duty equipment, the transition from the military to his engineering coursework was relatively seamless. But he did find some surprises along the way.

“By the time I got to UToledo, I had been doing many of the things in my early courses for a long time,” Fleming said. “But the more I got into my degree, I started looking back and realizing why some projects didn’t work. We misunderstood how electricity runs through different systems and components.”

Understanding how to dismantle a problem and examine various possible solutions served Fleming well during his final semester when the shift to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic posed its own challenges.

Justin Fleming

Justin Fleming, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, is a member of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers. His six years in the U.S. Air Force paved the way for success at UToledo.

“The first person I called when we learned classes would not happen in person was Niki Kamm,” Fleming said. “We brainstormed on how to do senior design projects and labs when we couldn’t be there in person. She’s the type of instructor that refuses to let anyone fail.”

That combination of receiving hands-on, practical training from approachable instructors has prepared Fleming well for his career.

“Justin is the engineer any employer would be grateful to have,” said Kamm, associate lecturer in the Electrical Engineering Technology program. “He has been the kind of engineering student that betters the classroom experience for all those in it — inventive, intelligent and inspiring.”

As part of the unique, mandatory co-op program at the College of Engineering, Fleming has worked in three different rotations servicing electrical lines for American Electric Power: two in Fostoria, Ohio and one in South Bend, Ind.

Fleming in U.S. Air Force

Prior to attending UToledo, Justin Fleming (back row center) was deployed to United Arab Emirates as an electrician during his six years of military service with the U.S. Air Force.

Ultimately, he points to 39 days in Afghanistan that have set the tone for his career and livelihood. It was January 2016, and he was sent to a small U.S. Army base that had gone months without running water or electricity. In that time, Fleming’s team succeeded in their assignment to provide the basics: washing and drying equipment, showers, electricity for communications, a full-blown kitchen and more.

“I’ve never seen 40 guys look so happy to wash clothes,” Fleming said. “That’s the moment I saw that my turning wrenches and installing light bulbs makes an impact on other people.”

Nursing Grad Ready to Join Front Lines in Fight Against COVID-19

Hannah Kolinski was already on the fast track to earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. As a high school student, she’d taken advantage of The University of Toledo’s College Credit Plus program and was set to graduate from UToledo in just three years.

Graduation Cap

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

That timeline accelerated even more when the call came out from hospitals — they needed more nurses because of COVID-19, and they needed them as soon as possible.

With the support of the UToledo College of Nursing, Kolinski was able to graduate several weeks early to get a jump start on her job as an intensive care nurse at ProMedica.

“When they offered us the early graduation, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to take it and start early. I was excited about it,” she said. “I went into nursing to help people, and I feel like right now people need a lot of help. Any part that I can have in that, I definitely want to be there.”

Kolinski, who grew up in Oregon, Ohio, is scheduled to start soon at ProMedica. She will join the intensive care unit at ProMedica Bay Park Hospital, which has been designated ProMedica’s main site for treating patients with the coronavirus in the Toledo region.

In all, more than half of UToledo nursing students who were expected to graduate in May opted to graduate early in order to more quickly join the workforce and confront the pandemic.

Hannah Kolinski

Hannah Kolinski graduated several weeks early from the College of Nursing and will get a jump start on her career as an intensive care nurse at ProMedica.

For Kolinski, it was a natural decision. She can’t remember not wanting to be a nurse. She never considered another career path. As a high school junior, she tailored her post-secondary class choices to knock out as many nursing prerequisites as possible.

As fate would have it, Kolinski was finishing up her clinical work at that very ProMedica ICU when the COVID-19 pandemic forced UToledo to temporarily suspend clinical rotations for students.

“When it got cut short because of the pandemic, I was really sad. I was learning so much every shift, but it worked out perfectly. There was an open position, I interviewed, and I got it,” Kolinski said.

That familiarity with where she’ll be working, she said, makes her feel even more prepared to jump in and contribute — even in the midst of one of the most challenging times in healthcare.

“There’s always a little bit of fear going into the unknown. We don’t know a ton about this virus. It’ll be my first job, and I could be taking care of a patient with this, but I’ve always known I wanted to help people and be out there,” she said. “I’m excited to start helping people. There’s just so much of a need.”

And while COVID-19 cut short Kolinski’s time on campus, she said there’s a good chance she’ll be back in the future.

“I really enjoyed school, and UToledo made me want to further my education beyond just an undergrad degree,” she said. “I’m excited to explore the options.”

Golfer Ready to Play Professionally After Overcoming Injuries

For the first time in almost six years, Grant Godfrey is feeling like himself again.

After spending nearly his entire career with The University of Toledo men’s golf program overcoming a life-threatening auto accident suffered when he was 16, the Rocket senior is finally fully healthy and eager to show what he can do on the golf course.

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

“I have never felt better physically,” Godfrey said. “I have zero back problems now. I have gained almost 20 pounds in the last year and a half. I’ve also gotten a lot stronger which has helped a lot thanks to [Strength and Conditioning] Coach [Steve] Murray.”

That’s saying something considering Godfrey shattered his ulna bone in his forearm and doctors needed to put five screws and a plate in his right elbow after that car accident Dec. 28, 2014. He was told at the time there was only a slim chance he would play golf again.

However, the Delaware, Ohio, native beat those odds and returned to the links 10 months later. Pain lingered in his back, though, and doctors discovered ankylosing spondylitis, a condition that made his spine less flexible and led him to take a redshirt season following his freshman year.

“Grant wasn’t able to get out of bed after playing golf at that point,” Head Coach Jeff Roope said. “It was something that was very frustrating because he possesses the talent to be a great golfer.”

After lots of hard work over the last two years to get healthy, Godfrey, along with his Rocket teammates, were starting to hit their stride this spring. But Toledo’s season and Godfrey’s college career came to a halt March 12 when the season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Just two days earlier, the Rockets had turned in their best performance of the season at Auburn’s Tiger Invitational.

Golfer Grant Godfrey lines up his put

Grant Godfrey, who overcame a life-threatening auto accident, will receive his bachelor’s degree in marketing and plans to pursue a professional golf career.

“Our goal was to compete for the MAC Championship,” Godfrey said. “The starting five had just started to click as a group, and we were moving in the right direction. When it happened, it didn’t seem real. I’m still in a little bit of shock. Everything just ended so abruptly. There were a lot of unanswered questions for every sports team. The whole ‘What if?’ question still drives me crazy.”

With his college career over, Godfrey made the decision to play professional golf. He played in two tournaments in Florida before seeing that opportunity postponed as well.

Being part of a team is something that Godfrey said he will miss as he continues his golfing career. He said that fellow senior Rasmus Broholt Lind in particular provided him even more motivation.

“Rasmus had a big impact on me,” Godfrey said. “He helped push me on and off the course every single day. He helped make me a better man, and I can’t thank him enough.”

Unfortunately, walking across the stage at the Glass Bowl along with Lind is another memory Godfrey and his family will miss out on. Godfrey will receive his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the College of Business and Innovation.

“Earning a degree is a big thing for me and my family,” Godfrey said. “My dad was the first Godfrey to get a college degree, and I will now be the second. It’s a bummer for my family not being able to see me on stage receiving my diploma.”

Still, Godfrey is thankful for his time at UToledo and will take skills with him on his golfing journey that will last a lifetime.

“I have grown tremendously the past four years in all areas,” Godfrey said. “I’ve become a more well-rounded player and person. I have also learned how to be a leader and how to push people to be their best. I have become more resilient as a person. I had many ups and downs like many other athletes, but as bad as it got, I never gave up.”

Networking Opportunities Key to Law Graduate’s Success

Tessa Bayly, who graduates in May with her J.D. from the UToledo College of Law, didn’t follow a traditional path to law school. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, her post-graduate life won’t exactly follow a straight road, either.

Bayly was about two months into her dream internship when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the country. Instead of waking up in Washington, D.C., and heading into work at the Securities and Exchange Commission, she now rolls out of bed and works remotely from her home in Waterville, Ohio.

Graduation Cap

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

“I’m thankful I had the opportunity [at the SEC] in the first place and that they allowed me to continue to work remotely, even if the experience looks different than I expected,” she said.

Bayly’s entire academic career has looked different than she expected. She started out as a UToledo mechanical engineering student and switched to law and social thought after her second year.

She graduated in 2017 with her bachelor’s degree and went directly to law school, where she has set her own course.

“Tessa is a bright and inquisitive student, who has shown a limitless enthusiasm about learning the law,” said Law Professor Eric Chaffee. “I am excited to see where these qualities take her in her career. I am sure that she has a bright future ahead of her.”

When she first started law school, Bayly said she felt a bit adrift. She had no lawyers in the family. She only knew a handful of attorneys.

During a meeting over coffee, a former UToledo law student recommended Bayly join Toledo Law Review. Bayly took the advice and eventually won a spot as a note and comment editor for the student-edited journal.

Tessa Bayly

Bayly

Law Review became a defining experience, Bayly said, and the best preparation for her legal career.

“It opens doors,” she said. “Having that on my resumé helped me. It helped me become a better writer. I even had the chance to speak at the student symposium. It was a great opportunity. Presenting to all of those people was terrifying, but it showed me that, with God, I could succeed in the opportunities he’s provided me.”

The willingness of her professors to chat with her about career prospects was also helpful, she said, as were the networking opportunities that the UToledo College of Law offered with alumni and other legal professionals.

“It was nice for someone like me who didn’t know many lawyers or really what it meant to be a lawyer,” she said.

Tessa Bayly, who graduates in May with her J.D., was about two months into her dream internship at the Securities and Exchange Commission when COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the country.

After her first year, when she took some contracts and property classes, Bayly said she found her niche — corporate law. She secured two internships at an investment firm in the Chicago area.

At the SEC, she works in the Division of Enforcement investigating potential securities fraud, market manipulation and the like.

The abrupt end to her law school career feels anticlimactic, Bayly said. She didn’t get to say goodbye to her classmates or collect her diploma at a live commencement ceremony. Since starting law school, she’s looked forward to participating in her first graduation day. She didn’t attend her high school or undergraduate ceremonies.

She plans to take the bar exam this summer, hoping the state doesn’t cancel the July administration. She’d like to apply at the SEC ― one of her top job choices — which generally requires applicants to have taken the bar.

But Bayly has proven time and again that she’s nothing if not flexible.

“Everyone’s experiencing disappointment right now,” she said. “You just have to roll with it.”