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Women’s Golfer Begins Fight Against Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coluccio is the UToledo women’s golf coach.

Leading Remotely in Times of Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Visual Literacy in the Classroom

“Visual literacy is not just about art …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attending Propel Collegiate Leadership Summit 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paddling and Pondering: Kayaking on the Ottawa River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Dream Comes True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Basketball Team Travels to Italy for Exhibition Games, Sightseeing

Members of the women’s basketball team posed for a photo in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

Our trip to Italy was an incredible experience for our student-athletes, staff and fans.

We planned our last three foreign trips around the home countries of players on the roster. We went to Israel in 2011 for Naama Shafir, and England and Spain in 2015 for Jay-Ann Bravo-Harriott, Janice Monakana and Inma Zanoguera. This time we chose Italy for Mariella Santucci.

Quickly after we landed, we found ourselves navigating the waters of Venice, tasting our first pasta dish, and absorbing the Venetian culture. That evening we traveled to Bologna to find our bus greeted by the Santucci family. It was such a moving experience to see Mariella’s entire family there to see her play at our first game; many hadn’t seen her play in a very long time, if at all.

One of the highlights of our trip was spending an evening celebrating the occasion with Mariella’s parents and sister. We enjoyed a five-course, authentic Italian dinner, which left us all stuffed and energized for the days ahead. While in Bologna, we also attended a cooking class, where our players learned how to make tortellini and spaghetti. We may have a future Julia Child or two in this group.

Head Coach Tricia Cullop and Mariella Santucci smiled for the camera in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

Next, we explored the sights in Florence and collected many souvenirs before making our way to Naples by way of a high-speed train. After a quick lunch of margherita pizza, we traveled the curvy, scenic drive to Sorrento by bus. The cliffs unveiled the beautiful coast, where we would play our second game and enjoy a few days by the water.

Another highlight of the trip was taking 10-passenger boats to the island of Capri. We stopped on the back, rugged side of the island to enjoy a refreshing swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Game t
wo took place in the high hills of Sorrento and ended in a second victory for our team.

Our final stop was Rome. Despite record-high temperatures that reached 105 degrees, we attended mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and toured the Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum and Trevi Fountain. We also had unbelievable opportunities to hear the pope give his Sunday blessing to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and visit the Sistine Chapel to see the famous works of Michelangelo. In addition, our third and final exhibition game took place in Italy’s capital city against the Rome All-Stars.

In our three exhibition games, we had a chance to mix up the lineups, give our new players time to show what they can add to our team, and witness our returnees grow in their leadership roles. I was very pleased with how hard we played and how coachable they were. With only 10 practices to prepare, we threw a lot of new things at them, and they absorbed it at a very rapid pace.

In our final night, we went to an interactive opera dinner show with the entire travel party, which included 22 fans. We are so fortunate to have a tremendous fan base that supports Toledo women’s basketball. Seven out of the last eight years, we have been ranked top 30 in the country in attendance. It was fun to share this trip with some of our fans who have helped us enjoy our amazing atmosphere in Savage Arena through the years. That night, we had our final pasta dish from Italy and shared many laughs before returning back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early departure home.

To sum up the trip, we immersed ourselves in art, culture and history, as well as tasted amazing cuisine. This voyage gave our six newcomers a chance to learn our style of play, gain valuable playing experience, and bond as a team. I’ve always felt that team chemistry is the foundation of any great program. We won three games and grew closer as a team. Many of us traveled throughout Italy for the first time and gained memories that will be etched in our minds for a lifetime.

We will forever be grateful to our Rocket family for their generosity and making this trip a reality. We return home feeling very grateful, thankful and blessed.

Cullop is the head coach of the women’s basketball team — and the winningest coach in UToledo women’s basketball history with 241 victories.

Racing Internship With Hendrick Motorsports Fuels Dreams

In spring semester, I moved down to Charlotte, N.C., with the opportunity of a lifetime to work for one of the top teams in American racing, Hendrick Motorsports.

As a young person interested in cars, every Sunday I had watched their four NASCAR Cup Series race cars compete with others on tracks across the country. It is that passion that directed my educational goals to become a mechanical engineer in the hopes that I could play some role in the automotive industry. Although I had such a strong desire, I never believed that I would have the opportunity to work in professional racing, let alone a team of this pedigree.

Michael Day, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, had an internship at Hendrick Motorsports.

As you enter the Hendrick Motorsports race shops every morning, the front lobbies are lined with race and championship trophies. Hendrick Motorsports has more championships than any other team in NASCAR history, and more than 250 race wins in NASCAR’s top series. Every day this reminded me of the high expectations of cleanliness, hard work and results that are expected in order to achieve success in each race.

The group of engineers that I worked with oversaw the recording and distribution of data to each of the four race teams that compete every weekend. This information is crucial for their performance throughout the race weekend. Some of this information is gathered right before the cars leave for race weekend on a suspension rig; this was an area where I spent most of my time. It was a very surreal feeling to be wrenching on cars that would take to the track in front of millions the following weekend!

Another type of lab test we performed is on a seven-post machine, where the car was bolted down to hydraulic actuators that mimic the road and aerodynamic inputs on the vehicle throughout a lap. This allowed us to test new theories as we prepared for upcoming events.

Michael Day locked in the steering wheel of a car so vehicle measurements could be taken for an upcoming race.

However, real track testing is still the most valuable. Because of this, I was able to join the team on a two-day tire test during my internship. This exposed me to the extensive data systems that are used in the cars for testing, as well as the unique goals that were set in order to record data that we could use at that track for the race weekend.

I also was able to experience a variety of areas throughout the rest of the shop; these included building shock absorbers, post-race car teardowns, and assisting the race engineers with various reports throughout the week. Above all, I was impressed with the high work ethic and attention to detail that every employee showed day in and day out.

This was my fourth co-op at The University of Toledo, and I don’t believe that this opportunity would have become available without the experience gained and growth that took place throughout my previous internships in the automotive industry. Over the past four years, UToledo has given me the power to grow my skills and the ability to truly capture my dreams.

Day is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

Service learning trip to Guatemala an eye-opening experience

This is my senior year at The University of Toledo, and I will graduate in May. Every year during our breaks, I have always worked as many hours as possible in order to save money for the next step of my life. However, it being senior year, I realized that I had never studied abroad and it saddened me to think that I might miss out on such an opportunity.

When I received an email in November stating the Jesup Scott Honors College was going on multiple service trips for spring break, I thought, “There’s my chance to see more of the world!” When I saw that one of my favorite, now retired, professors [Dr. Page Armstrong, former associate lecturer in the Honors College] was coming back to lead the trip to Guatemala, I was sold.

Brianna Becraft took a selfie with Lake Atitlán on her first day in Guatemala.

I’ve traveled to eight countries prior to going to Guatemala, but they were all tourist trips. I knew Guatemala would be different, that my purpose was to serve. I wasn’t expecting the large differences that greeted me.

When nine students and I first got to Guatemala, it was dark. The airport was eerily empty, and everyone was tired from flying. Leaving the airport in our packed van, I tried to soak it all in. There was barbed wire on nearly every wall of the airport and other buildings. People everywhere were walking the streets. The homes seemed to be made out of metal materials all pieced together, and motorcycles weaved wildly in and out of traffic — culture shock.

The retreat we arrived at was beautiful with its center courtyard and artistic paintings and sculptures scattered throughout. It was a building I came to truly appreciate over the course of the week as I “recovered” from the hard days’ work.

On our first day, we visited the area of Atitlán, which included a gorgeous view of Lake Atitlán, a calming boat ride, and lunch with a breathtaking view. The three-hour drive to Atitlán provided me with plenty of time to take in more sights with daylight; to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. So many people were out walking on dirty, trash-covered streets; dogs belonging to no one ran to and from people begging for food; children followed parents or were held to their mothers by cloth wrapped around shoulders; and women carried bundles of their trinkets for sale on their heads. Dust kicked up as we drove through different villages. Roadside markets popped up every now and then, and I watched as people unloaded their products and set up their displays. I had no idea what to expect for our first day of service, so I made sure to take in everything during our trip to Atitlán.

This photo shows the river Brianna Becraft saw each time she pushed the wheelbarrow to move dirt while helping to renovate a tutoring center in Chinautla.

The service began on Monday, and I was excited to be put to work, but nervous about the conditions we might be working in. We arrived at the job site in Chinautla, and I was sad to see the way the houses were pieced together, sheets of metal screwed to one another, dirt floors that got muddy when it rained, and loose dogs, chickens, goats, kittens and cows scattered throughout the village. While it was shocking and hard for me to understand why people lived this way, coming from my place of privilege, I came to really appreciate the village and began to find beauty in it over our five days of working.

I spent a lot of time loading up wheelbarrows of dirt and gravel and moving it from its original pile to the tutoring center, which we were working to improve. I was tired early on and contemplated whether I could make it another four days. After lunch the first day, I started to take comfort in the view of the river every time I rounded the corner with yet another load of dirt. I began having conversations with the students from my trip, and I became more confident in my ability to stick it out.

This is a page from Brianna Becraft’s journal she kept during the service trip to Guatemala.

I also learned how to bend iron and tie metal to rebar in a way that created structures to solidify the tutoring center’s foundation once cement was able to be poured. My fingers hurt from pushing wires together, and my arms were burnt because I had forgotten to apply sunscreen that first day, yet I was so happy to be of service, to learn about an area of the world that I had never thought about, and to see how the people of Guatemala truly appreciated what little they had.

I learned a lot from the service in the village, but I also learned a lot from our nightly group discussions. Each night, we were presented with questions to journal about from blame and solutions, to listening and learning who we tell ourselves we are. I was able to hear different views from my peers and even continue group discussion with a few close friends each night, until we felt like we had solved some of the world’s greatest problems (although I can assure you, we did not). My journal is filled with answers to group discussion questions, self-reflections, and poems about the things I saw, heard and learned. It felt great to serve, get to know my peers, learn about myself, and be away from technology for a while.

Everyone should consider taking some form of service trip because it’s a totally immersive and creative way of learning about things that a classroom just isn’t able to provide. I can’t express how grateful I am for everything that I have here at home, and I’m also interested in continuing service work in some way as I move onto the next chapter of my life, post-graduation next month. I made lifelong friends and self-realizations that I would not have made had I stayed home for break another year and worked.

Becraft is a senior majoring in paralegal studies in the College of Health and Human Services; she also is a student in the Jesup Scott Honors College. She will graduate in May.

In search of excellence found: UT Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Services

Nobody wants to hear these words: “The surgery is really, really painful, but the rehab is even worse.” And that is exactly what everyone was telling me this past spring when I had rotator cuff surgery caused by a college football injury plus a lifetime of active living.

When I came out of surgery, the doctor shared that this was the worst rotator cuff tear that he had seen during his 30 years of surgery, and he reminded me that rehab was going to be very, very challenging.

Dr. Clinton Longenecker, center, posed for a photo with Dr. Mike Travis and Deborah Rohloff.

So with this background, I walked in to the UT Medical Center Outpatient Rehabilitation Services in early summer with a certain level of apprehension and excitement to get started with my rehab to bring back the use of my right shoulder and arm.

Now as a business professor for the past 30 years who studies organizations for a living, I can state with great confidence that excellent organizations tend to be few and far between. Some of the characteristics of excellent enterprises include exceptional care and concern for clients/customers; the use of cutting-edge technology and best practices in delivering services; passionate and dedicated professionals; teamwork and a positive organizational culture; and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Well, based on my recent experience, I have to tell you that our UTMC Outpatient Rehabilitation Services is an excellent organization and demonstrates these attributes day in and day out in performing its invaluable mission of helping thousands of people heal and get healthy.

Several years ago, I had Marci Cancic-Frey, director of therapy services, as an MBA student, and I was always impressed with her passion and enthusiasm as she talked about the quality of our physical therapy services and the exceptional people that she works with. She always said, “Our people are truly dedicated to our patients in delivering exceptional PT services and helping people get well … I truly love my job.” So, needless to say, my expectations were very high going into this experience, and her organization did not disappoint.

When you walk in the door, you are warmly greeted by Sheila Burk or Lakisha Carter or Shannon Walker or Chantel Carter, and you sit in a very comfortable waiting room. The therapy staff is exceptionally punctual, and not one time in my 40 trips to therapy was my therapist ever late or running behind schedule, and they were always sensitive to my time. When your therapist approaches you to walk you back to therapy, you are always greeted with a smile and encouraging words, and their energy is contagious. Our physical therapists use a team-based approach to ensure an effective assessment, a best practices treatment plan that is known and understood by everyone (including me, the patient), and therapy sessions that are designed to help the patient learn, practice and master the necessary exercises to speed recovery. I was also very impressed with the fact that their goal is to schedule treatments in a time frame that was most convenient for me as the patient; this included thoughtful text message reminders of upcoming therapy sessions.

My therapy team included Dr. Mike Travis, physical therapist, and Deborah Rohloff, physical therapy assistant, with support from Alyssa Nino and Kayla Pickard, physical therapy assistants. Each of these professionals had a passion for their work, patient sensitivity, and a willingness to inspire me to push myself during our therapy sessions while at the same time encouraging me to do my exercise homework.

Travis shared his personal philosophy of physical therapy with me when he said, “It’s all about helping people do the things that are necessary to help them achieve good outcomes.” Rohloff shared a similar philosophy: “The best part of my job is seeing my patients achieve their goals and perform life activities that they were previously unable to perform.”

And as you look around the therapy room, you see this philosophy at every turn as our terrific UTMC therapists might be helping a high school athlete come back from a knee injury or a person with severe head trauma learn how to walk again and everything in between. These great professionals became friends as they help me in so many ways, and I’m thankful and proud to know that we are all part of this terrific institution.

I have to say that our UTMC Outpatient Rehabilitation Services, from this patient’s perspective, is simply excellent at the life-changing work that they perform every single day. A special thanks for helping me and countless others. Go UTMC Rockets!

Longenecker is a Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation.