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Shark Advocate, Wildlife Researcher to Deliver Commencement Address May 7

One year after competing on Discovery’s Shark Week series “Shark Academy,” an alumnus of The University of Toledo will return to campus to speak at spring commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 7, in Savage Arena.

Randy Thomas, a wildlife technician with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in southern California who graduated from UToledo in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences, will address 1,889 candidates for undergraduate degrees — 1,840 bachelor’s and 49 associate’s candidates. The undergraduates will be split into two ceremonies: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The University’s graduate commencement ceremony and doctoral hooding are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, May 6, in Savage Arena, and will commemorate 819 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees as well as graduate certificates. Dr. Rhonda Foster, an alumnus of the UToledo College of Nursing and healthcare consultant and leader, will be the keynote speaker.

Tickets are required for admission.

“Rocket Nation is excited to celebrate our newest alumni and their successful academic journey as members of the Class of 2022 — a historic year as The University of Toledo celebrates 150 years of serving students and our community,” said UToledo President Gregory Postel. “We also are pleased to welcome successful alumni back home to share their experiences and insight to inspire our graduates and their families.”

Randy Thomas

Thomas, the speaker for the undergraduate ceremonies, is a wildlife researcher and educator whose passion for animals and endangered species has taken him to land and water habitats around the world, while working with government, private and nonprofit organizations committed to conservation.

Currently working for the USGS, Thomas conducts field and lab research on the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise and the surrounding desert habitat. In addition to his research, Thomas develops scientific and public awareness communications related to the USGS conservation efforts and educational programs.

At the Bimini Biological Field Station Shark Lab in the Bahamas, Thomas tagged sharks as part of research into population dynamics, movement patterns and behavior. He also serves as an ambassador and instructor with “Sharks4Kids,” a nonprofit organization that specializes in creating a new generation of shark advocates through access to a dynamic range of educational materials and experiences.

In 2021, Thomas was selected to participate in Discovery’s “Shark Academy” and worked on a research vessel for six weeks with a team of scientists engaged in great shark diving expeditions and research on one of the world’s most fascinating predators.

Thomas has taught water safety skills to children in Japan, worked for the U.S. Department of Defense in Bahrain as a child youth program coordinator and served as a marine science educator with the Pigeon Key Foundation in Key West.

Dr. Rhonda Foster

Foster, the graduate ceremony speaker, is a widely published healthcare consultant and leader who has served as an executive officer at leading academic medical centers, community hospitals and healthcare systems. With an expertise that focuses on the development of leadership cultures that support inclusion and engagement, she has provided executive consulting on quality improvement and transformational change in healthcare organizations across the United States and internationally in Brazil, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

Foster has served as vice president for clinical services and chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; interim senior vice president and chief nursing and patient services officer at City of Hope National Medical Center; interim chief nursing officer at St. Joseph Health Sonoma County; vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; and assistant vice president of women and children’s services at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo.

Foster has served on a variety of regional, state and national advisory boards, including the Lucas County Mental Health Board, the Ohio Advisory Committee for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and the American College of Healthcare Executives Northwestern Ohio Advisory Board of Regents.

In 2019 Foster received the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the UToledo College of Nursing and in 2021 she was recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal as a Women of Influence in Healthcare.

Foster earned an Ed.D. from Bowling Green State University, a master of science degree in nursing administration from Georgetown University, a master of public health degree from the Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health and a bachelor of science degree in nursing from UToledo.

UToledo’s spring commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; and University College.

The College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will host its commencement ceremony 6 p.m. Saturday, May 7, in Savage Arena.

The College of Law will host its commencement ceremony 1 p.m. Sunday, May 8, in Savage Arena.

The College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony 2 p.m. Friday, May 20, in Savage Arena.

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