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Toledo Football Player Followed His Heart to Find a Career Path

Like many college students, Bryce Harris arrived on campus as a freshman looking for some guidance.

A scholarship football player, Harris had all the help he needed from the Rocket coaching staff. There was no issue there. But on the academic side, he had no idea what to major in, or beyond that, what he would like to pursue as a career after football. He only knew one thing for sure: He liked working with young people.

Bryce Harris ran with a youngster at Victory Day in 2016.

An introductory career class and some assistance from a UToledo success coach helped send him in the right direction.

The class was Career and Self-Evaluation, taught by DeMya Wimberley, who also became Harris’ success coach. By his sophomore year, Harris had his direction — school counseling.

“DeMya helped me find my academic niche and my career field,” said Harris, the Rockets’ starting center. “My goals in life centered around helping people. I just needed to find a career that would allow me to do that.”

Winberley said Harris possessed all the tools for success before he came to college. He just needed a little nudge.

“I saw right away that Bryce had a maturity about him. He had a focus. He just needed direction,” said Wimberley, who is a program manager for the Center for Success Coaching. “My class helps students learn more about themselves. Sometimes you need to learn a little more about yourself before you can choose a career path.”

Since UToledo does not have an undergraduate major in school counseling, Harris chose psychology as his major with a minor in school counseling. He earned his bachelor’s degree in spring 2019. He then entered the College of Graduate Studies, which does have a school counseling major. He is on course to receive his master’s degree next spring.

While the time commitment of being a student-athlete can pose its challenges, for Harris it has provided an opportunity he might not otherwise have had.

“My home life was very stable growing up, but in reality, I’m not sure I would have even gone to college right out of high school if it wasn’t for football,” said Harris, who attended Firestone High School in Akron. “It would have been a bit tough financially. I probably would have worked for a few years and then maybe pursued it later in life.”

In addition, the circumstances of his athletic career have made it possible for him to finish six years of higher education while on an athletic scholarship. After sitting out his first season as a redshirt in 2015, Harris moved his way into the starting lineup the following season. He became a stalwart on the offensive line, earning second-team All-Mid-American Conference honors as a junior in 2018. However, off-season surgery forced him to sit out the 2019 season, while the Coronavirus pandemic has put the 2020 season on hold. With his athletic career delayed, Harris has forged ahead on his academic journey. A two-time Academic All-MAC honoree, Harris gained the opportunity to earn not one, but two degrees during his playing career as a Rocket.

Bryce Harris posed last year with some students from St. Pius X Catholic School in Toledo.

“Bryce is someone who has always maximized his ability and potential in everything he does, both on and off the field,” said Toledo Head Football Coach Jason Candle. “He’s a mature young man who has really grasped the concept of what it means to be a student-athlete. It takes a special person to be in a position to earn two degrees while playing college football. It says a lot about his parents, too. They have been supporting him through every step of the way.”

Harris said the highlight of his academic experience thus far has been an externship at St. Pius X Catholic School in Toledo. There, he worked with students in a classroom, helping them with their assignments, but also getting to know them as individuals, listening to their problems, and offering guidance. He was required to work 60 hours in the program, but enjoyed it so much he volunteered for an additional 60 hours. He also participated in an after-school program there, spending time with students until their parents or guardians were able to pick them up. For Harris, the experience fit perfectly with his goal to help others. It’s something he does in his spare time as well.

“My parents always taught me that if you’re in a position to help others, do it,” Harris said. “I’ve been doing some type of volunteer work since my freshman year of high school back in Akron. So coming to Toledo and participating in all of the volunteer opportunities they provide for us in the football program has always been a no-brainer for me to sign up. I love working with the youth, or anyone in need. Seeing a smile on someone’s face is all I need to brighten my day.”

Harris’ life away from football is on a pretty clear path right now. He has two more semesters left to finish before he receives his master’s degree in May. He also got married during spring break last March to his high school sweetheart, Janelle Perry, a former track and field star at both Ursuline College and Central Michigan University.

What is somewhat less certain is his future on the gridiron. Like all his teammates, Harris is hopeful that there will be a spring football season so he can wear the Midnight Blue and Gold one last time. There is also more at stake than just school pride for Harris, who is a candidate for the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center and the Outland Trophy as the country’s top down lineman. Another good season also could improve his prospects for a potential NFL career, especially since he has not played football in almost two years.

“I’ve been playing football since I was 8 years old and all that time I’ve dreamed of playing in the NFL,” Harris said. “I worked hard to get an athletic scholarship so I could get my college degree and get a chance to play in the NFL. Hopefully, I can do both.”

Medical Student Finds Artistic Inspiration During Anatomy Class

Fourth-year medical student Meghan Lark is at the intersection of art and medicine.

“I’ve loved art and drawing my whole life, but I didn’t really know how I was going to integrate it into my future career as a physician,” Lark said.

Lark

It was during her second year of medical school that inspiration came while taking her anatomy course.

“I fell in love with anatomy and realized that it was much easier to learn if I drew it out,” she said.

Lark has been sharing her drawings on Twitter and has caught the eye and appreciation of fellow students and others in the medical profession.

Her artwork recently was featured on Twitter as part of #AnatomyMonday by the American Association of Clinical Anatomists, which promotes clinical anatomy knowledge and services in education, research and scholarship.

“We stumbled upon her beautiful anatomical drawings on Twitter recently and they are a must-see,” the tweet read.

Lark said she started keeping anatomy journals to reference while studying, which eventually turned into drawing anatomy as a hobby.

“In the future, I plan to become a surgeon and continue to develop drawings to help educate medical students and explain surgical procedures to my patients,” she said.

Drawings by fourth-year medical student Meghan Lark are receiving widespread attention.

Greek Life Provides Opportunities to Raise Awareness for Political Science Student

Ala’a Kayed had a plan.

Born and raised in Toledo, UToledo first attracted her interest with its diverse programs, particularly in political science.

“There were people in that program who were passionate about political science and knew what they were doing,” she said.

Hooked, she enrolled as a political science major and made plans to eventually pursue the field all the way through grad school. But a Federal Work-Study opportunity changed those plans. Kayed ended up working at the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, which opened a door to something she’d not considered before: Greek life.

Kayed

“A lot of people just have different ideas of what Greek life is, and being a student of color and a woman of color, that really wasn’t an idea for me,” she said. “It wasn’t until I got to see a better glimpse of what it was about and what the students of the Multicultural Greek Council were able to do, I began to think ‘Maybe going Greek really is for me.’”

Kayed did go Greek, joining Alpha Psi Lambda National Inc. and the Multicultural Greek Council. She became the president of the council in December and has big plans for the organization heading into the fall 2020 semester. Specifically, she’d like to expand the Multicultural Greek Council’s scope, adding new representation wherever possible.

“Even though we’re under a multicultural title, we, up until this last year, strictly represented organizations that were Latinx or multicultural but with Latinx backgrounds,” she said. “It wasn’t until this past semester that we chartered a Muslim-interest sorority. So we’re really looking to expand our offerings to encompass those cultures as well.”

In addition, Kayed wants to continue the campus conversation surrounding social justice in the United States, a topic that’s come increasingly into the national focus during the summer.

“Especially with the unjust murder of George Floyd and many other innocent Black people, we want to continue to raise awareness around the issues that arise in those communities,” she said. “We want to help our students and show them how to unlearn their subconsciously ingrained ways while relearning new anti-racist approaches.”

Helping students — especially students who may not have a clear idea about what path they’d like to pursue at UToledo — is the crux of Kayed’s college experience, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed among campus leadership.

“Ala’a is a role model for other students who may not necessarily understand the whole college experience when coming into school,” said Alex Zernechel, UToledo’s assistant director of Greek life. “She regularly speaks out against injustice and unfair practices occurring. She is always quick to support her fellow students to achieve their goals. She advances what it means to be a Rocket every single day that she is on campus.”

The drive to help others is natural for Kayed, who added an Africana studies major to her original political science plan. After she graduates, she’ll go on to grad school, ultimately hoping to land a position where she’ll have the opportunity to work with college students, hoping to help others recognize that small opportunities can grow into big things.

“The most important thing to realize is that it just takes that first step and first grain of effort. For me, it just took that one little push.”

Handmade Face Coverings With a Message Benefit UTMC

The purple and teal-colored cotton fabrics were originally meant to be part of a quilt. Instead, they will help protect nurses and other healthcare workers at The University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC).

The colors weren’t chosen at random. Purple honors National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which began in 1981; teal symbolizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observed nationally in April since 2001. The fabrics were to be stitched together with panels featuring supportive messages from students, faculty, staff and others in The University of Toledo community to create a “Messages of Hope” quilt as part of UToledo’s “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, part of a nationwide effort to shed light on the experiences of sexual assault survivors and combat the myth that sexual violence is caused by a person’s choice of clothing.

Community volunteers Jennifer Kregel, Barbara Limes and Jen Minard, together with UToledo’s Title IX Office, donated 40 handmade masks for use at The University of Toledo Medical Center. The colors honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October).

But in March, as facilities and operations throughout UToledo shifted remotely in response to the growing threat of COVID-19 — including the format of the exhibit going to a virtual setting — the team in the University’s Title IX Office saw a different potential purpose for the energy and materials behind the quilt.

“We talked it over and quickly decided that cloth face coverings could have an immediate, meaningful impact at UTMC,” said Lindsay Tuttle, sexual misconduct prevention education coordinator for Title IX. “Our goal right now is to pull together as an institution, help our peers, and at the same time send a message in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault.”

That’s where volunteer Jennifer Kregel comes in. Kregel, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Perrysburg High School and friend of the Title IX Office, saw right away how the two bundles of fabric for the quilt could be repurposed. Along with her mother, Barbara Limes, and Jen Minard, an acquaintance from church, the three began trying patterns and fits to determine what would be most comfortable.

“We really wanted the coverings to be practical, something you could wear all day,” Kregel said. “Especially right now, it was nice to know we were helping people in need and making people feel safer in their jobs. And the colors to raise awareness of sexual assaults and domestic violence were a big part of that.”

“Bringing awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence is not just a day or a month, so finding positive ways to continue the conversation is essential,” said Vicky Kulicke, UToledo’s director for Title IX and compliance, and Title IX coordinator. “If the recipients of the face coverings share the meaning behind the colors, then the conversation and awareness continue.”

Ultimately, 40 face coverings were completed with the group’s materials and delivered to UTMC, where they will be sent directly to the teams of nurses, clinicians and other workers.

“We are providing the cloth coverings to any department on site that is in need,” said Jennifer Pastorek, senior supply chain director for UToledo’s Health Science Campus. “Since they’re required, many staff wear the cloth face coverings in before transitioning to their personal protective equipment (PPE) required in the clinical spaces, thus preserving the use of PPE. We are so very grateful for this community outreach and outpouring of support for our hospital and clinical teams.”

Nursing Student Tapped to Serve on UToledo Board of Trustees

Helping others is in Anthony Gennings’ DNA. He is pursuing a degree in nursing at The University of Toledo — and assisting many on campus along the way.

The ultra-busy senior has added another responsibility to his list: He has been appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees.

His term began in July and will expire July 1, 2022.

Gennings

“I wanted to be a student trustee because I love to advocate for students,” Gennings said. “There have been plenty of issues that arose over the past few months and years that I believe should be brought to institutional attention. Also, I want to be able to impact future UToledo students positively.”

He has been making a difference since arriving on campus in 2017. Gennings joined the Black Student Union, receiving its Upcoming Leader Award one year later, and participated in the Freshman Leadership Program, where he now serves as a mentor for first-year students.

“When I came to The University of Toledo, I felt that there is plenty of room to thrive,” he said.

And he’s been thriving.

Since 2018, he has worked in the Office of Residence Life to help students transition to new living and learning environments. He is a resident advisor for the Health Professions Living Learning Community in Presidents Hall, and this summer served as a resident advisor in Ottawa House West for the football team.

Last summer, Gennings became a peer mentor for TRIO Student Support Services.

“The experience as a peer mentor has been amazing,” he said. “I impact the underserved student populations on-campus — students who are first-generation, low-income, military-connected, and those with disabilities. I help develop and maintain relationships with and aid and support for first- and second-year students, focusing on a smooth transition, acclimation, and a sense of belonging.”

“Anthony is a fantastic person, student and leader; his compassion and empathy serve him well when relating to others,” Kenny Brown, advisor with TRIO Student Support Services, said. “Anthony has that ‘it’ factor and a drive that fuels him to accomplish anything. He possesses the intangibles needed to lead and learn in all of his endeavors.”

Gennings also is president of the Student African American Brotherhood, an organization with 120 members.

“The importance of this group is significant because it provides a safe space where Black males can build community, embrace their culture, and have a sense of belonging,” he said. “I want members to know they have a support system and family that is composed of African American male peers and faculty and staff.”

And Gennings was selected last year to attend the Klar Leadership Academy.

“Klar has helped me gain confidence, build relationships, and, most importantly, become comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he said.

His passion for becoming a nurse began while attending middle school in Cincinnati and continued after his family moved to Amelia, Ohio.

“I was inspired to pursue nursing when my mother was diagnosed with stage I colorectal cancer in July 2017. Ever since then, I have been inspired to pursue a career in nursing to impact the lives of patients,” Gennings said.

His mother, Eldra Gennings, said her son was very involved in her treatment. “He was always asking questions, asking about outcomes and the liklihood of the cancer returning,” she said. “He has always been a helpful soul. His passion for learning and reaching new heights blows me away.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has increased that desire to help.

“The pandemic has changed the way I view the profession. It has motivated me more to help vulnerable populations and facilities that are in need nationally,” Gennings said. “I am ready to graduate and help and impact lives.”

Staff Members’ Poetry in Spotlight in Local Contest

Home is where the art is — in this case, poetry. Three UToledo employees were honored in the Toledo City Paper’s Ode to the ZIP code 2020 contest.

Paying tribute to where you live is the goal of the contest, which is open to area residents who submit poems inspired by their ZIP codes — the number of words in each line determined by the corresponding digit in the postal reference tool.

Works by Amal Abdullah, coordinator of doctor of pharmacy admissions in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Charlene Gary, secretary in the World Languages and Cultures Department, and George Hayes Jr., electrician journeyman, were among those selected this year.

43623
By Amal Abdullah

big-box retail stores
restaurants and plazas
the intersection of neighborhoods and consumerism
birds perched
on cable wires

“I consider poetry to be a medium for creative expression that encourages one to reflect on the nuances and the ordinary through engagement with the written word,” Abdullah said. “The poetry contest provided a unique opportunity to write and share a succinct reflection on the space that constitutes my ZIP code. I have an affinity for writing, so it is an honor for my poem to be recognized.”

43616
By Charlene Gary

come time for harvest
loud lumbering combines
growl and grumble and wake the
humans
reminding us we are of earth

“We are kind of rural here in Oregon; there are a lot of farms. What really struck me when I first moved here is at harvest time, I would see these huge rolling machines just driving down the road like this is an everyday thing; it was surreal. The magnificent size of these machines, and the noises that they make driving by, was really striking,” Gary said.

“Poetry is succinct and efficient. When talking, I tend to be too wordy, so writing poetry forces me to use different words, $2 words, in the smallest way possible in order to express what I’m thinking,” she said. “It’s really a challenge, but I like challenges.”

43607
By George Hayes Jr.

Four twenty, birds singing
Gunshot sounds too
Life in the hood not good
0
Mayor says change is going to come

“Toledo is like two cities, the inner city and the rest of Toledo. It’s always been that way in my adult life here,” Hayes said. “This poem is just some of the many things that happen in the hood, daily sometimes, but weekly all of the time.”

He added, “I love poetry because it’s from the heart, sometimes life experiences, sometimes words to encourage others in a time of need. I love performing spoken word as well, kind of like poetry, but on steroids if it’s done with passion and heart.”

See all of the poems selected in the adult category of Toledo City Paper’s Ode to the ZIP code 2020 contest.

Dr. Jim Ferris, UToledo professor and the Ability Center Endowed Chair in Disability Studies, was one of the judges for this year’s contest. He is a former Lucas County poet laureate.

“The Ode to the Zip code is a great way to encourage us all to think creatively about where we live,” Ferris said. “It is particularly important in these unprecedented times to use the imagination to stay grounded and keep connected to our neighbors and our community.”

UToledo Medical Students Create Program to Assist Healthcare Community During Pandemic

For Sara Shafqat, peace of mind is everything.

The second-year resident in internal medicine at ProMedica Toledo Hospital has been treating coronavirus patients since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. For Shafqat and many in the health professions, this has meant longer hours and the fear of bringing the virus home; her husband also works tirelessly as an attending physician at The University of Toledo Medical Center, and they have two young sons.

Fortunately, a group of proactive students at The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences are supporting healthcare workers and others in the community through the recently created UTCOMCares program, which provides volunteer assistance with child care, groceries, pet sitting and other basic needs.

Christian Carwell and Joshua Posadny pet sitting

Christian Carwell, left, and her husband, Joshua Posadny, assisted UTMC anesthesiology resident Kevin Lee by pet sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the UTCOMCares program.

“It’s been a very stressful time, both physically and mentally. Especially since the boys were home schooling and our regular babysitter wasn’t available,” said Shafqat. “I never imagined the students’ help would have been so valuable. They were energetic, my sons had a wonderful time with them, and they really started looking forward to their time together.”

UTCOMCares was born from a natural urge of anyone entering the medical field: the desire to help. In March, UToledo medical students were dismissed from their clinical rotations as part of campus-wide precautions against the spread of COVID-19. That left a group of them with a combination of time, opportunity and sense of urgency.

“It’s hard to hear that the best thing for everyone is to step away,” said Christian Carwell, a fourth-year medical student specializing in emergency medicine. “We all come to medical school for different reasons, but we love Toledo and wanted to help in any way possible.”

UTCOMCares, together with the UToledo Geriatrics Club, is piloting a program with residents at The Laurels of Toledo, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center. The students send handwritten notes and create art projects for those who may be struggling with loneliness or depression after social distancing guidelines have prevented them from visiting with family.

“The residents’ biggest need is to be with their families. They miss them so much,” said Page Rostetter, recreation services director at The Laurels. “We are providing opportunities to FaceTime, Zoom and do window visits, but it’s not the same. The students have provided a great connection, and it gives residents something to look forward to during the day.”

Angie Jacob, a fourth-year medical student specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, helped spearhead UTCOMCares.

“This is certainly a confusing stage of our medical careers and is filled with many mixed emotions. We felt helpless,” said Jacob. “We began this journey in the hopes of helping those in need, so we are choosing to attend to the ‘little’ things so our colleagues, teachers and mentors can focus on the greater good.”

Kevin Lee, a resident in anesthesiology at UTMC, worked in the COVID intensive care unit for several weeks.

“Witnessing the severity of the virus was difficult to cope with,” said Lee. “I just got a new puppy, so the students helped out with pet sitting. I’m truly grateful and appreciative of them being able to take care of Zoey when I was not able to during the pandemic.”

“When you are treating patients, you have to be totally focused on what you’re doing. It’s devastating to have to worry about what’s happening at home, too,” said Shafqat. “Feeling that peace of mind was a great help. We’re so proud of what the students are doing.”

UTCOMCares continues its outreach and assistance in the Toledo community. If you are a student in the health sciences and wish to volunteer, complete the online form. Healthcare workers in need of assistance also can complete the request form.

Class Explores Natural Wonders on Trip to Galapagos Islands

Over spring break before travel restrictions and shelter-in-place mandates, seven honors students explored the Galapagos Islands as part of their class in the Jesup Scott Honors College.

Known for crystal-clear waters and wildlife found nowhere else in the world, the remote islands located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador proved to be a place of awe and inspiration.

During time on campus and on the trip itself, students in the Galapagos Islands: Biology and Conservation class taught by Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Honors College and professor of environmental sciences, learned about the unique life of the islands, the evolutionary processes creating it, and current challenges to preserving it. The land-based trip — with boat rides between the islands — included the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Española.

Snorkeling submerged lava tunnels, swimming with sea lions, and learning about the danger of dumping plastic garbage in the ocean, the students’ journey carried even greater poignancy because of escalating worries about COVID-19.

Upon returning home, Appel and the students spent 14 days in self-isolation and reflected on their time in a place defined by resilience and change — the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dr. Heidi Appel, right, and students from the Jesup Scott Honors College watched a giant tortoise at El Chato Giant Tortoise Ranch.

Day One

After arriving on a flight from Guayaquil, the class headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to see the unique Scalesia forests and the El Chato Giant Tortoise Ranch.

“As with the animals, most of the plants on the islands are endemic and found nowhere else,” Appel said. “But it is the animals that capture our imagination.”

“The Galapagos tortoise is one of the most iconic species on Earth,” Gabrielle Cario, a bioengineering student, said. “To be able to stand within a few meters of such astonishing creatures was incredible.”

“I was so surprised to learn that this tortoise is over 100 years old,” Alexx Rayk, exercise physiology student, said.

Sierra Negra Volcano

Day Two

Situated on the Nazca continental plate near junctions with two others, the Galapagos Islands are all volcanic in origin. Students had the opportunity to hike up a volcano on Isabella Island.

“Despite the heavy showers that prevailed during our hike to the Sierra Negra Volcano, the experience was amazing,” Michelle Cherian, biology major, said. “While the volcano is now extinct, the previous eruptions have left behind enormous calderas and unique flora and fauna endemic to the Galapagos Islands.”

“The hike up and down to the viewpoint was one of the most memorable days on the trip, as we were all soaked through,” Cario said. “Seeing the newly formed lava rock and streams was incredible.”

A sea turtle swam in the lava tunnels.

Day Three

Isabella Island also is home to a large complex of lava tunnels formed millions of years ago when lava flows were cooled on the outside by water but stayed molten on the inside and emptied.

The top of the tunnels was a rocky desert habitat with Opuntia cactus the size of small trees and lots of nesting blue-footed boobies.

“It was also the best example of natural selection for the flightless booby born outside of the typical mating season,” said Dilpreet Kaely, bioengineering major, who had taken her first swim lessons in preparation for snorkeling on the trip.

Taylor Boyd, a biology major, enjoyed looking down from the top of the tunnels.

“The water was so clear we could see everything underneath the surface from the boat,” Boyd said.

Whitetip sharks circled in the lava tunnels.

Students jumped into the submerged lava tunnels to snorkel.

“Within the maze of underwater lava tunnels, we weaved in and out of rocky coves and shallow corals, sighting schools of fish, sea horses and sea turtles along the way,” Cherian said. “The green sea turtles were especially impressive due to their size and mellow activity.”

“I never realized how large sea turtles were until we were swimming right next to them,” said Tessa Keran, a chemical engineering student.

“I have always wanted to swim with marine wildlife, and to be able to swim into a cave with a bunch of whitetip sharks was a highlight in my life,” Ashima Thusu, bioengineering major, said.

“We encountered turtles, sea horses, sting rays, several different types of fish, and a cave full of sharks,” Cario said. “It was an amazing snorkeling trip.”

The honors class saw this saddleback tortoise at the Darwin Research Center.

Day Four

The class returned to Santa Cruz Island to visit the center of conservation efforts in the islands.

“It was really interesting visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center and learning about their conservation initiatives,” Keran said. “Saddleback giant tortoises are critically endangered due to the historic harvesting for food and oil by seafarers and later introduction of invasive species such as dogs, rats and cattle.”

The species of saddleback from Pinta Island was thought to be extinct with the death of Lonesome George in 2012, and the species from Floreana Island was believed to be extinct for 150 years.

But good news came recently in a report from the Darwin Research Center that they had recently located on Isabela Island some tortoises with DNA like those from Pinta and Floreana islands, perhaps a last-minute drop-off from those same seafarers as they left the island archipelago.

New challenges are more sobering though. Twenty Galapagos bird species, including 12 species of Darwin’s finches, are under threat from a parasitic fly accidentally introduced to Galapagos that feeds on the blood of hatchlings causing all of the chicks to die.

“We have to remember that the amazing animals we saw in the Galapagos may not always be there if things continue the way they are,“ Rayk said.

Botany Bay, San Cristobal

Day Five

The students arrived on San Cristobal Island, their home base for the last three days of the trip.

Except for the rainy hike up the Sierra Negro volcano on Isabela, all of the days were hot.

After lunch, they visited the Tijeratas Interpretive Center featuring the geological, biological and cultural history of the islands. It included a large topographic map of the islands and the surrounding ocean, giving a full sense of their volcanic origins.

The class posed for a photo with the Charles Darwin statue in San Cristobal.

“Tijeretas Hill, or Frigate Bird Hill, was my favorite view from the Galapagos. It is also historically important because it was where Darwin first came on San Cristobal,” Kaely said.

Something special happened for Thusu while overlooking Botany Bay.

“This view will be forever ingrained in my head,” Thusu said. “The uphill trek was steep, but once we reached the top, it was worth it. At that moment, I received an email saying that I had been accepted to medical school, an email I had been waiting for two months. It was truly one of the most joyous experiences of my life.”

Kicker Rock

Day Six

Kicker Rock, or Leon Dormido, is an hour and a half boat ride from San Cristobal and home to a very different kind of marine habitat.

Rising almost 500 feet above the ocean, this remnant of a volcano cone was home to nesting frigate birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies. Its stronger currents and upwelling attracted different marine species.

“Despite not being an adequate swimmer, the snorkeling experience at Kicker Rock was breathtaking,” Cherian said. “From swimming with a manta ray to spotting several sea lions, it was most definitely an unforgettable day for me.”

“Right off the boat, we saw an enormous pool of fish swimming in silver streaks while besting a mighty sea lion from becoming its prey,” Thusu said.

The class visited a geyser on Española Island.

Day Seven

“One of my favorite days was the day trip to Española Island,” Cario said. “The nature here was surreal, as it was not disturbed by human interaction except on the small foot trails. The natural geyser was also incredible. Birds, iguanas and lizards were everywhere.”

“We found a huge flock of Nazca boobies, and it was really cool to see them all together, and we could even see some fluffy babies,” Boyd said.

That evening, students met with Juan Pablo Muñoz, special projects director from the Galapagos Science Center, a joint partnership between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Universidad San Francisco de Quito.

This Nazca booby stands outside the Galapagos Science Center; the sculpture is made from recyclable material to raise awareness about plastic pollution.

Muñoz gave a lecture on plastic pollution in the Galapagos Islands, a problem that is particularly bad because of their position at the intersection of three major ocean currents. Plastic has been recorded inside of 18 marine species.

Through research by an international consortium of scientists, the major sources of plastic pollution have been identified: the coasts of Ecuador and Peru, and discharge from Asian fishing vessels in international fishing zones adjacent to the islands.

Outside the Galapagos Science Center stands a sculpture of a Nazca booby made from recyclable material to raise awareness about this plastic pollution.

“The conservation efforts established within the Galapagos Islands have given me an entirely new insight into the issue of pollution as a whole,” Cherian said.

Over a farewell dinner on the waterfront in San Cristobal, students reminisced about the trip with David Cevallos, their Ecuadorian trip leader.

They realized that heading home during the worsening spread of COVID-19 was bittersweet.

“The opportunity to go on a trip like the Galapagos Islands was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Cherian said. “Despite the prevailing sense of anxiety and chaos that developed during the influx of COVID-19, I was truly able to enjoy the endemic flora and fauna, as well as the unique animals that have evolved on the islands.”

Pitcher Finishes Collegiate Career as Student Assistant Baseball Coach

They say college is a time of change and transformation.

That definitely has been true for senior Caleb Scoles.

Scoles started his college life as a player on The University of Toledo baseball team and then ended it as a coach. In between those two milestones was a series of physical setbacks that sent him on a challenging path he certainly didn’t anticipate. Nevertheless, Scoles ultimately found his college journey very rewarding.

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.

A Richland, Mich., native, Scoles became a Rocket following a prep career in which he was a two-time all-district and all-league pitcher at Gull Lake High School. While he had other offers, the campus and academics swayed him into donning the Midnight Blue and Gold.

Scoles’ baseball career, however, did not get off to a great start. He missed his freshman season in 2017 after experiencing arm pain in the fall. Instead of taking the mound for the Rockets that year, he underwent physical therapy to try and relieve some of the pain in his bicep and shoulder.

He came back as a sophomore in the fall and was looking to work past the injury issues that plagued him the year before. But his arm wasn’t feeling any better. He was still experiencing discomfort even after months of physical therapy. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn labrum. Once again, his season was over before it began.

“It was probably one of the hardest things I have been through,” Scoles said.

By the start of Scoles’ junior season, it appeared that the physical therapy had paid off. That fall, Scoles was throwing again without pain for first time in years. He was on track to be ready for the 2019 season when, again, the pain in his biceps and shoulder reappeared.

Caleb Scoles, third from left, was a student assistant coach for the Rockets in 2020 after
spending three years on the roster as a pitcher.

This time there was no avoiding it; Scoles underwent surgery to repair his labrum and bicep tendon that spring, wiping out his 2019 season. It was the third straight year he missed due to injury, and it would end up being his last season as a Toledo baseball player. He ended his career having never appeared in a game for the Rockets as a player.

“Despite the surgery and extensive rehab efforts, my arm didn’t heal the way I hoped it would,” Scoles said. “I was very fortunate that I had teammates around who supported me. Even though I didn’t see time on the field as a player, I made the most of being a part of the team during games and practices.”

Entering his senior year and the 2020 baseball season, Scoles was presented with an opportunity to continue his baseball career in a different capacity. Instead of being on the roster as a player, he could serve as a student assistant coach.

“When I was hired last summer, one of the first things I did was call all the players on the current team,” Head Coach Rob Reinstetle said. “I talked to Caleb, and he gave me some insight into the arm struggles he’d had during his time at Toledo. He said that he loved Toledo baseball, but didn’t feel he could pitch anymore. We talked about his options and had the idea of him being a student assistant coach.”

For Scoles, the decision was a no-brainer.

“It was a simple decision for me because I loved all of my teammates, and I love the game of baseball,” he said. “I knew that I would have really missed everything if I said no.”

So, for the 2020 season, Scoles played an important role on the Rockets’ coaching staff. He served as the team’s first base coach and helped relay signals from the dugout when Toledo was pitching.

“My favorite part of being a coach was getting to travel with the team across the country and getting to play great competition,” Scoles said of his coaching stint with the Rockets this past spring. “I also couldn’t complain about being at the baseball field every day. I thoroughly enjoyed my time being a coach.”

“He proved to be a very valuable member of my staff,” Reinstetle said. “He was a great leader and had the respect of the team. He worked daily with the pitchers and took on just about every task we threw his way.”

Of course, for Scoles and the rest of the Rockets, this past season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. After returning with the baseball team from its spring break trip in March, Scoles stayed in Toledo for a couple weeks before heading back to his parents’ house in Michigan.

Scoles is set to graduate this weekend with a degree in marketing and professional sales. He has a sales job lined up that will begin in July. With his college career winding down, he is able to reflect on the time he spent at The University of Toledo and how it prepared him for life after college.

“Being a college athlete really helped me handle the ups and downs that I’ve experienced over the last few years, which really helped me grow as a person,” he said. “From an academic standpoint, I was able to grow a ton within my sales classes, which really helped prepare me for my job after college.”

Getting Involved Fueled Engineering Graduate’s Passion for Environment

Elizabeth Markert was inspired to get involved from her first moments on campus.

She joined Engineers Without Borders after seeing a student presentation her freshman year, and has helped to raise money and write grants and proposals, most recently for a project to supply water to an indigenous tribe of 2,000 people in Kenya.

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.

The work includes providing pumps, generators and a concrete storage tank, where previously the tribe had to travel 15 kilometers for clean water. Plans for Markert to travel to Kenya were canceled due to COVID-19, but the experience has taught her about herself.

“I’m not the leader type, traditionally,” said Markert, who will graduate May 9 with her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. “But working with Engineers Without Borders has helped me grow into it, to figure out how to lead and become better at it.”

She connects her Louisville, Ky., roots to her initial interest in pursuing her degree program.

“I was a student that always liked school,” said Markert, whose favorite subject growing up was English. “My parents were very environmentally conscious. We volunteered with the parks conservancy in Louisville to pull invasive species of vines when I was younger; I really enjoyed that and it stuck with me.”

Another opportunity that made an impact was during her first year when Markert indulged her creative side as a carpenter for the UToledo Department of Theatre and Film. It’s a role she’s kept throughout her time at the University and a passion that she will continue.

“I plan to volunteer for the arts no matter wherever I live after graduation,” Markert said. “It’s wonderful to see a show, to have a sense of accomplishment, and see what I made and designed be part of an experience for so many people.”

Elizabeth Markert

Elizabeth Markert credits study abroad opportunities, such as in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 with an environmental sciences class, with shaping her experience at UToledo.

As part of the nationally recognized mandatory co-op program in the College of Engineering, Markert was able to complement her activities on campus with three consecutive summers working for Gresham Smith, an architecture, transportation and engineering firm with offices in Louisville. One of her favorite projects was helping to design bike lanes around the city, which allowed her to see the real-time impact and benefits of her work for the community.

Dr. Defne Apul, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, saw Markert’s creativity firsthand through her senior design class and research on the environmental cost of recycling photovoltaic technology.

“The sky is the limit for Elizabeth. It has been an amazing experience working with her,” Apul said. “What do we want our students to have? Problem solving and critical thinking? Excellent time management and communication? Leadership and being a change agent? Elizabeth has demonstrated all of these skills and more.”

Some of Markert’s greatest experiences at UToledo came from continents away when she was able to travel to Beijing, China, with the Department of Theatre and Film in 2017 and to Trinidad and Tobago with an environmental sciences class in 2019.

“Those study abroad opportunities were the best parts of UToledo for me,” Markert said. “I was able to work with film and music students in China, and study endangered wildlife in South America. It changed my life.”