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UToledo a National Leader in Online Quality Matters Certified Courses

The University of Toledo continues to be a leader among U.S. institutions of higher education for the number of online and hybrid courses that have been awarded Quality Matters certification through the rigorous QM peer review process.

UToledo currently has 108 courses certified by the nonprofit organization, the seventh most out of 344 U.S. institutions with QM-certified courses. Eleven UToledo courses have been certified so far in 2020, with additional certifications pending.

“The University of Toledo has placed a significant emphasis on developing online and blended course offerings that meet the highest educational standards,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our faculty and instructional designers deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done to ensure our students receive a top-tier education.”

Quality Matters is the gold standard for benchmarking quality of online and hybrid courses. The organization’s nationally recognized, faculty-driven peer-review process examines a course’s overall design, learning objectives, instructional materials, and student interaction and support.

Dr. Colleen Quinlan, associate professor in the College of Nursing and one of UToledo’s QM-certified peer reviewers, said the certification is an important way to show a course’s added value.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘this is a quality course,’” Quinlan said. “What is the evidence to support this claim? QM certification is the distinction that sets the course apart in a marketplace where students have lots of choices.”

Another benefit of QM certification is that it helps to foster a predictable structure across courses, reducing anxiety about how to participate and interact with the online materials.

“Certified courses should look familiar to students no matter what the subject matter, providing them a sense of security so they can concentrate on learning and achievement,” Quinlan said.

Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, dean of University College, said getting more faculty familiar with the Quality Matters standards and more courses QM certified has been a consistent priority for UToledo — and has become even more important recently.

“We’ve really ramped up our training for faculty since the pandemic hit. When we were forced to move all instruction online this spring, we were doing the best we could to meet our student’s expectations, but not every course is created with online components in mind,” Kopp Miller said. “These QM-certified courses are specifically designed to follow nationally recognized standards that provide a quality experience for our students.”

Dr. Carmen Cioc, associate professor in the College of Engineering who teaches a pair of QM-certified courses, said she has found the program to improve not only the experience for students, but for instructors as well.

“The benefits for students include the accessibility of online learning while maintaining the same student-centered focus on content they’ve come to expect from in-person education,” Cioc said. “Experience with QM-certified courses has been extremely positive for both me and my students, especially during the required online-learning transition as a result of the ongoing crisis.”

The value of high-quality online learning is becoming increasingly important as new modalities of education are explored amid the pandemic. UToledo also was recently included among the top colleges in the state by Educate to Career in its list of the Best Colleges for Career Planning Curriculum, which used robust software and systems to support distance learning and faculty experience with teaching online among its criteria.

In addition to the 108 courses that have been formally QM certified, UToledo has had 85 additional courses informally meet QM standards through internal review that have not been officially evaluated for certification.

Nursing Graduate Student Named Ohio Recipient of New Scholarship

A University of Toledo graduate student is one step closer to becoming a leader in her profession thanks to a newly created scholarship that supports nursing students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandra Boateng, a student in UToledo’s Clinical Nurse Leader Master’s Degree Program, was the only recipient of the $500 scholarship in the state of Ohio. Boateng was selected from a pool of more than 2,800 applicants nationwide.

Boateng

Born and raised in the West African nation of Ghana, Boateng is the first in her family to attend college and received a bachelor of arts in biology from UToledo in 2013. She owes her success, in part, to the instructors and faculty she’s partnered with at the University.

“If it wasn’t for the professors and support they have given me, I wouldn’t have gotten this achievement. I appreciate them for all they do and really want to give credit to them,” said Boateng, who also works as a nurse aide at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “With this scholarship, I will be able to buy the books I need to complete my studies.”

The scholarship was awarded by the Foundation for Academic Nursing, a new philanthropic initiative of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing that promotes the importance of academic nursing and educational programs around the country.

“We applaud the Foundation for Academic Nursing for launching this new COVID-19 Nursing Student Support Fund and are very pleased that one of our very deserving students was chosen as the only recipient from Ohio,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the UToledo College of Nursing. “Sandra is an excellent student with great career goals to make a difference, and this scholarship will help her in her quest to achieve them.”

The foundation’s COVID-19 Nursing Student Support Fund was launched in April 2020 to remove barriers to new nurses entering the workforce. The program helps nursing students who are facing hardships as a result of the pandemic and need financial assistance to complete their degree programs.

University of Toledo Music Alumnus’ Band Inks Contract

A University of Toledo music alumnus’ band, Inner Circle Avenue, has signed a partnership contract with Sony Music and AMG.

The band is composed of Logan Alexander, who earned a master of music in performance degree this past spring, and his siblings, Allison and Eric Alexander, who are UToledo students. Eric is a junior majoring in electrical engineering tech, and Allison is a senior who will graduate with a nursing degree in December.

Inner Circle Avenue is composed of siblings, from left, Allison, Logan and Eric Alexander.

Logan credits his time at the University as playing a significant role in his success. His undergraduate degree was in electrical engineering. He wanted to understand the fundamentals and technology behind recorded music. For his master’s degree, he chose a music degree, which also included a concentration in music technology.

“My professors were Wade Paul, Dr. [David] Jex and Dr. [Lee] Heritage. They always made the classes exciting and encouraged students to actively participate in unique ways. I really found that teaching style enjoyable and helpful,” Logan said, adding his classes directly impacted his music. “I really loved music theory and the classical music influence. It really helped improve my music writing skills in every way.”

As a graduate assistant, Logan also had the chance to teach, an experience he thoroughly enjoyed. “I loved the whole process of teaching and working with students. I really liked being able to help other people learn. I think I made it fun. I didn’t just drone on and on.”

Inner Circle Avenue’s sibling members hail from Blissfield, Mich. They have been performing together for the past five years, playing many local and regional clubs, including Frankie’s, the Ottawa Tavern and the Distillery. Two years ago, they won the Next2Rock local Battle of the Bands through Cumulus Media and Bar 145.

The group also has been heavily self-promoting their music on Spotify and many other social media outlets. Their efforts and the quality of their work caught the attention of AMG Executive Vice President Michael Usry.

Logan said, “We got a call out of the blue late last December. Michael from AMG said, ‘We really love your music and want to work with you.’”

The partnership was to include promotion and distribution of the group’s music, as well as a college concert tour and a tour in Asia.

“We knew this was really something big. We decided to sign with them because we wanted to maintain the rights to our music and this contract lets us do that,” Logan said.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the band’s plans for touring, but the siblings remain determined to record and distribute their music.

Logan noted that an important dynamic of Inner Circle Avenue is the band members’ commitment to hard work and their stout refusal to give up. “I have seen so many bands that showed such great promise, genius even, on the brink of success and give up because of a setback or two. We’re not like that. We’re going to push through and make it happen.”

Visit Inner Circle Avenue’s website to learn more and listen to their music on Spotify.

UToledo Students Earn Recognition in Statewide Health Professions Competition

Tomorrow’s doctors, nurses and other health professionals aren’t waiting for a diploma to contribute to their fields. Several Rockets set themselves apart in a recent statewide competition among health science and biomedical programs in events testing their medical knowledge, presentation skills and analytical abilities.

The UToledo chapter of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Future Health Professionals competed remotely for the first time in the organization’s annual State Leadership Conference against chapters from other Ohio colleges and universities. More than 1,000 teams from high schools and postsecondary institutions participated in the competition.

Because of their placing performances, the UToledo students qualified to compete in the HOSA International Leadership Conference, which will be held virtually Wednesday through Saturday, June 24-27.

“Despite the challenges faced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our members continued to showcase dedication and pride,” said Rupesh Boddapati, a bioengineering major as well as founder and president of UToledo’s chapter of HOSA Future Health Professionals. “We cannot thank them enough for their participation as well as their involvement in the UToledo chapter.”

Members of the UToledo chapter of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Future Health Professionals posed for a photo after preparing food during a CommunityCare Clinic service event before the pandemic.

HOSA Future Health Professionals, founded in 1975, is an international student organization with more than 245,000 members that helps to develop leadership and technical skills in health science education programs around the world.

Qualifying students were:

• Aditya Acharya, first place in medical law and ethics;

• Amarjot Bhangu, first place in job-seeking skills;

• Rupesh Boddapati, first place in pathophysiology;

• Sharvari Brahme, third place in prepared speaking;

• Samhitha Dasari, second place in human growth and development;

• Maya Girn, second place in cultural diversities and disparities;

• Megha Girn, second place in nutrition;

• Jeremy Mathews, second place in medical math;

• Drew Pariseau, first place in nutrition;

• Jessica Rinehart, third place in medical math; and

• Calvin Sunny, third place in medical law and ethics.

UToledo Unites in Solidarity to Identify Solutions to Address Systemic Racial Injustice

The University of Toledo’s campus community united in solidarity and support Thursday evening for those affected by the killing of George Floyd.

The first Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Town Hall brought together University leadership, faculty, staff, students and the public to reflect on their experiences, identify solutions to address systemic racial injustice, and highlight campus and community resources to aid in coping with trauma.

“I am so pleased with the dynamic, meaningful ideas that resulted from our successful discussion,” Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said. “I appreciate the passion and motivation of our Rocket family and the support we have for each other. This is the beginning of a series of respectful, painful conversations in the coming weeks, including when the semester starts.”

More than 350 people attended the event that featured panelists:

• UToledo Police Chief Jeff Newton;

• Benjamin Davis, UToledo law professor;

• Dr. Monita Mungo, UToledo assistant professor of sociology;

• Dr. La Tasha Sullivan, director of the University Counseling Center;

• Nyah Kidd, president of the Black Student Union;

• Darren Gordon, former president of the UToledo chapter of the Student National Medical Association;

• Giselle Zelaya, president of the Latino Student Union;

• Nick Thompson, president of Student Government;

• Anjali Phadke, vice president of Student Government; and

• Asher Sovereign with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Members of the campus community shared personal experiences and the great sadness and fear sparked by watching the video of George Floyd’s death.

“As a teen growing up in Mississippi, my parents would consistently remind my siblings and me when we would leave the house for fun or to hang out with our family and friends, ‘Remember we love you, but you must come home at night,’” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “As I got older and started to experience racism, discrimination and prejudice firsthand, I began to understand the meaning of those powerful 11 words. In essence, my parents were saying, ‘Always obey the law and follow their instructions and rules. Do as you are told. Don’t argue.’ These past two weeks have been the most difficult weeks in my life. When will this behavior stop? Am I next? I’m at a loss for words.”

“As I reflect on the events of the last few weeks and our community discussion last evening, I am inspired by our students, faculty, staff and alumni for their commitment, perseverance and passion to change the world,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Yet I grieve the recent senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor. As a human and a mother, I cannot fathom the pain and anguish that their families are experiencing. Racial injustice, police brutality and disparate treatment have painfully existed for longer than all of us have been alive. As a campus community, we have made great strides to create a more open and inclusive community, working together to develop and implement UToledo’s first diversity plan. And yet it isn’t nearly enough. Now is the time to end this in our community, our country and in the world. I challenge each and every one of you to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’”

Panelists brought forward ideas and solutions to elevate our community, such as training students in nonviolence and conflict transformation to teach them how to respond to what they will face while protesting by utilizing faculty expertise in the Peace Education Program, which is part of the Judith Herb College of Education.

“I am proud of the strength and courage of our students as they engage in deep, thoughtful, critical discussions and examine the ways we can change our society for the better,” Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “It is our solemn responsibility and our honor to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to lead that change into the future.”

Leaders from across the University have expressed their commitment to embracing the critical role higher education can and must play in facilitating open and honest discussions that empower us as a community and a nation to translate our ideals into actionable change.

• Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College: “We believe in the power of higher education to address major societal problems like this injustice. We hope that by challenging our students to think deeply about the world they live in and to take actions that support greater diversity, equity and inclusion, we are helping to build a better world.”

• Dr. Anne Balazs, dean of the College of Business and Innovation: “It is with great sadness that we bear witness to the events of the past week, with the untimely and violent death of George Floyd and the continuing expressions of hatred and prejudice. As members of a scholarly community, one which is dedicated to education and improving our shared quality of life, it is unacceptable to idly stand by and allow racism in all its many forms to persist.”

• Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law: “The past week’s events have shown the realities of the work we must do as a nation to ensure that our justice system protects and serves all people. Our mission at the law school is intrinsically tied to the mission of equal access to justice. We are uniquely positioned to empower future generations of lawyers to evaluate our country’s legal systems, engage in thoughtful discourse, and address inequality. The change we need to see as a nation begins with each of us doing our part to create a diverse, supportive and inclusive community.”

• Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, dean of the College of Graduate Studies: “Life is heavy for all of us today. It has been that way for some of us for many, many days. First, a global pandemic and now violence and division dominate our news cycle. I am sad, I am afraid, and I am hopeful. I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for your fear, I am sorry for your anger, I am sorry for the lack of justice, I am sorry there is no cure, and I am sorry that I am sorry. You are valued, and we hear you. We are here for you today and every day.”

• Beau Case, dean of University Libraries: “The University Libraries believe that diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are not merely ideals — they are core values which we display daily in our work. Our campus doors are open to all. Our services are free of bias. We offer safe spaces for exploration, discovery, lifelong learning and wonder.”

• Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences: “From all appearances, he was neither protected with courage nor served with compassion. Now ‘I can’t breathe’ has become the rallying cry of protests locally and nationally, peaceful and violent. Lurking beneath this are the concerns and outrage of ongoing racism, systemic racism, institutional violence and failed inclusion. If we want to improve the world, we better start close to home with our region, our community and, most importantly, with ourselves.”

• Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters: “The peaceful protests occurring in many of our major cities and towns not only reflect the anger over the death of Mr. Floyd, but also represent years of frustration with the injustice and unequal treatment experienced by African Americans and people of color in communities all across this nation. The College of Arts and Letters is a community where we value and celebrate not only critical inquiry, but also thoughtful action. We want to thank every student, faculty member, staff person and alumnus who has participated in some form of action to add your voice to the many calling for justice.”

• Dr. John Laux, associate dean of student affairs in the College of Health and Human Services: “George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers is the latest example of violence perpetrated against African Americans. We honor George Floyd’s life, and those who were murdered or assaulted previously by focusing our attention on our society’s history of and ongoing racism and systemic social injustice by working collectively to be agents of change. The College of Health and Human Services trains students for careers in social service, health sciences and criminal justice, including police civil service. We recognize that we are a product of our society. The status quo is not acceptable. And, as such, we have work to do to root out and put an end to individual and institutional racism. We are committed to do the work necessary to be a part of the solution.”

• Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing: “We know that long-term discrimination has negative effects on physical and mental health and that violence, discrimination and racism directly impact social determinants of health and result in health disparities and inequities. Given the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our African-American communities, the health impact of continued disparities is even more profound. As healthcare professionals, we are in a unique position to address the health and the social justice issues that are so pressing in our nation at this time. Change begins with each one of us and is reflected in how we treat each other on a daily basis.”

• Mike O’Brien, vice president and athletic director: “Last night’s dialogue was excellent as it was very informative and insightful. We must stand together and be committed for equity, diversity and the fight against racial injustice.”

• Dr. John Plenefisch, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics: “The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics must translate the powerful words and feelings expressed by those protesting systemic racism into sustained action that makes a concrete difference in our community, including through our work and actions here in our college. As scientists and mathematicians, we can take action against racism, bigotry and prejudice in many ways, including choosing to focus our research on issues that disproportionally impact marginalized communities or groups, and deliberately supporting the careers and training of people of color as future generations of scientists and mathematicians.”

• Dr. Gary Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Our obligation to our fellow human beings is not diminished by the color of their skin, or by how they express their spirituality, or by their country of origin, or by whom they happen to love. Those characteristics, which some voices emphasize in an attempt to divide us, are infinitesimal compared to the many things that make us what we are: the human family.”

• Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the College of Engineering: “I found each of the speakers and the entire event to be compelling and inspiring. It is critical that we have administrators, faculty and student leaders on campus who are speaking out to support the protests against racial injustice in our nation. Eliminating institutionalized racism, white privilege and racist violence will take many voices and much work.”

• Dr. Raymond Witte, dean of the Judith Herb College of Education: “We all want to feel safe when in the presence of the police. This will require time and honest dialogue because many, including myself now, don’t feel safe. I am now faced with the reality that police may not act impartially and without bias. To be honest, most of us are biased in some way. However, the decisions police make can have life and death outcomes.”

The next Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Roundtable is scheduled Thursday, June 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Access and panelist participation information will be released prior to the event, which is titled “The Death of George Floyd: Race and Anti-Blackness in America.”

UToledo Students Join Volunteer Army of Contact Tracers

A group of nursing, public health and physician assistant students from The University of Toledo is playing a vital role in the region’s effort to curb the spread of coronavirus by serving as volunteer contact tracers.

Contact tracing is a core tool that public health officials use for stopping the spread of infectious diseases. It sounds deceptively easy — interview patients with a confirmed illness, find out who they were in close contact with, notify those individuals, and ask them to pay close attention to their health and limit their exposure to others.

In reality, it’s a time-consuming process that, in a pandemic, can quickly overwhelm existing resources.

Joseph Dake

Dake

“Those calls take a fair amount of time,” said Dr. Joseph Dake, professor and chair of the UToledo School of Population Health. “When there’s only three or four cases coming in per day, that’s no problem. When we get to 30 or 50 cases per day, it’s much more difficult for health departments to keep up.”

In early April, after speaking with Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. Eric Zgodzinski, Dake put out a call for volunteers interested in being trained as contact tracers. The first group of students began working with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department on April 8.

As of the first week of May, the Volunteer Contact Tracing Program has grown to include 57 public health students, 65 students from the College of Nursing and five students from the physician assistant program. Nearly 100 additional nursing students will be trained early this summer.

“Dr. Dake took the idea of using UToledo students for contact tracing far beyond my expectations,” Zgodzinski said. “Through the work of UToledo, this will allow us to take what we have and may be used as a national model and training program for any local health jurisdiction to protect their community from COVID-19.”

Together, UToledo students have made more than 350 calls to individuals in Lucas County who have either tested positive or been identified as having been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“This is vitally important. You’ll hear a lot in the next few weeks about contact tracing and the need for more trained individuals. At the end of the day, the whole idea is prevention,” Dake said.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates the nation is likely to need nearly 100,000 contact tracers — tens of thousands more than currently exist.

“We really need to have stronger infrastructure for mass contract tracing,” Dake said. “We’re really trying to make sure we build the capacity the right way.”

Dake has been in contact with officials at the Ohio Department of Health and shared one of UToledo’s training modules to be incorporated in their training program.

Bailey Kurtz

Kurtz

The training program developed by Dake takes about six hours of independent study. The students must then do a full mock interview with a faculty member or clinical instructor who is part of the team, and be cleared before they begin making calls.

One of the first students trained was Bailey Kurtz, who is in her first year of the Master in Public Health Program.

“There are times where I’ll spend an hour and a half talking to someone who’s in the hospital and doesn’t have anyone to talk to,” she said. “It’s not just about the data collection. It’s about making sure people in our community are doing OK. Being that light to answer their questions and give them some peace of mind.”

Kurtz, who hopes to eventually go to medical school, estimates that she has made between 20 and 30 calls since she finished training. She’s providing a crucial service to the community and getting hours that count toward her required internship.

The pandemic and their response to it is also giving Kurtz and her peers perspective that’s likely to last the rest of their lives.

“We have to prepare for the unknown. We have a unique opportunity as young professionals. We can implement some of that preparation into our careers later in life,” she said. “We’re going to be talking about this for the rest of our professional careers.”

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.”

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.”

Nursing Leader Graduates Early to Join Fight Against Coronavirus

Rushing to the front lines comes naturally for Josh Howarth.

He enlisted with the Army National Guard in 2016, after earning a bachelor of science degree from The University of Toledo. The memory of the United States’ involvement in Iraq was fresh in his mind when making that decision — from both a military perspective and a humanitarian one.

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 paid close attention to the Iraq situation while in high school,” said Howarth, who through the individualized studies program earned his undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies with a pre-physician’s assistant concentration. “I always wanted to connect military service with nursing, but didn’t really know what that looked like.”

Four years later, Howarth will earn his second UToledo diploma today — a master of science in nursing degree through the Clinical Nurse Leader Program — a few weeks early. In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the University is allowing more than 275 medical and nursing students the option of graduating early.

Howarth has always thrived in fast-paced environments that allow him to help people. He welcomes the opportunity to take his UToledo education to the field sooner than expected, joining other healthcare professionals fighting coronavirus directly.

His passion for serving veterans was stoked early. Howarth’s first job in his native Flat Rock, Mich., was caring for the grounds at the cemetery of a community church with his father, David. He remembers planting flags and making other preparations in honor of Veterans Day.

Josh Howarth

Josh Howarth will earn his second degree from UToledo — master of science in nursing degree through the Clinical Nurse Leader Program — a few weeks early taking advantage of the University’s efforts to help respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by allowing medical and nursing students to graduate early.

Throughout his education, Howarth has continued to sharpen his skills in nursing beyond the classroom working night shifts as a nursing assistant at Regency Hospital, an acute care facility in the Toledo area. And he’s drawn valuable insights from interprofessional team simulations, completing a seminar for mental health first aid and participating in academic boot camp activities.

“Whether we students want to be respiratory therapists, speech pathologists or physicians, when we get into the real world we have to be able to collaborate,” Howarth said. “These experiences have been great because I’ve been able to network with colleagues and people I might never have met.”

Entering the profession during an unprecedented public health crisis doesn’t intimidate Howarth.

“The field of nursing is ever-changing. I’ve learned you have to be comfortable with a little chaos.”

UToledo Med, Nursing Students Get Option to Graduate Early

In response to the unprecedented public health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, The University of Toledo is allowing more than 275 medical and nursing students the option of graduating early.

Students in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and the College of Nursing who have completed all course work, met their degree requirements, and been approved for early graduation are eligible to receive their diploma starting as soon as April 17.

Students not graduating early will receive their diplomas at UToledo’s previously scheduled commencement ceremonies, which are May 9 for the College of Nursing and May 15 for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

The option for early graduation was approved Monday by The University of Toledo Board of Trustees with the support of President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Karen Bjorkman.

“The College of Medicine and Life Sciences is committed to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We are proud of our graduating medical students that will be joining residency programs in our region and across our nation. These soon-to-be young doctors will play an important role in meeting people’s healthcare needs.”

In order for a fourth-year medical student to graduate early, they must also enter their residency program early. After receiving their diploma, they must apply for and receive a medical license in the state in which they will be practicing.

Nearly half of UToledo’s fourth-year medical students matched with residency programs in Ohio. Students also matched in some of the hardest hit states, including New York, Michigan and California.

Nursing graduates also have the ability to quickly begin practicing. The state of Ohio recently updated its regulations to allow newly graduated nurses to receive a temporary license before taking the national standardized licensure examination that has been delayed due to the pandemic. The state of Michigan has taken similar steps.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge need for nurses, both in our region and across the country,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing. “Many of our students have expressed interest in getting out into the field ahead of the predicted surge to help relieve the strain on our healthcare system. These students are ready to practice now, and we’re proud of their eagerness to make a difference.”