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Moroccan-Born Author to Discuss Why She Calls Her U.S. Citizenship ‘Conditional’

Author Laila Lalami, whose new book “Conditional Citizens” traces her path to American citizenship as an Arab Muslim immigrant, will present The University of Toledo’s 20th Annual Maryse and Ramzy Mikhail Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Lalami’s discussion will focus on what it means to belong to a country, with the virtual event scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Participants will receive details on how to join the lecture after they register at the event’s website.

Author Laila Lalami

“As a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Award for Fiction and the Kirkus Prize, Laila Lalami has proven to be a leading Arab American voice in literature today,” said Tess Waggoner, granddaughter of Maryse and Ramzy Mikhail.

“This lecture series was established 20 years ago by my immigrant Egyptian American grandparents, who were proud to facilitate a space to ask tough questions in the pursuit of knowledge and mutual understanding. We are delighted to be able to continue this tradition virtually with Laila Lalami, the UToledo community and the broader public this year.”

Lalami, who was born in Morocco and came to the United States for graduate school, is the author of four novels, including “The Moor’s Account,” which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Her novel “The Other Americans” was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. And her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, Harper’s, the Guardian and the New York Times.

She also has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Lalami lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.

The free, public lecture has been a continuous event at The University of Toledo since 2001 and is sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters and the Mikhail Endowment Fund.

The Mikhail Lecture Series is sponsored through the Mikhail Endowment Fund, which was originally established through a donation from the Mikhail family to honor the work and contributions of Maryse Mikhail and her involvement in educational, philanthropic and interfaith organizations.

The fund supports an annual lecture dealing with Arab culture, history, politics, economics and other aspects of life in the Middle East, including issues of peace and justice.

More information is available on the event website.

Those who wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to the fund can go to the UToledo Foundation website.

Islamic Studies Scholar to Discuss World Deglobalization

“Is Our World Deglobalizing?And What Does It Mean for Racial and Religious Minorities?” is the topic of the annual Imam Khattab Lecture on Islamic Thought.

Dr. Ovamir Anjum, UToledo Imam Khattab Endowed Chair of Islamic Studies and associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, will give the free, public lecture 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17 on Webex.

Dr. Ovamir Anjum, UToledo Imam Khattab Endowed Chair of Islamic Studies and associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

“Driven by technological changes such as automation, environment and cultural nativism, deglobalization has been accelerated by the current pandemic,” Anjum said. “We will examine the potential pros and cons of this development, focusing in particular on the perspectives of racial and religious minorities and how we might better prepare for it.”

The event is part of the UToledo Center for Religious Understanding’s annual lecture series, which has been active for more than a decade. The center promotes a deeper understanding of religion on campus and throughout greater Toledo.

Register to attend at the event’s website.

Annual Veterans Appreciation Breakfast Converted to Drive-Thru Event

The University of Toledo’s annual event to recognize area veterans has been converted to a drive-thru in order to safely recognize those who have served our country.

The Veterans Appreciation Breakfast and Resource Fair for 2020 will be a “Breakfast in a Bag”-style event outside Savage Arena in lot 4 off of Douglas Road.

From 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11, the first 500 participants who drive through the parking lot will receive a challenge coin and a voucher for a free breakfast from participating locations of Tim Hortons.

The drive-thru event was created as a safe and meaningful way to honor local veterans and active military while taking necessary precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UToledo to Celebrate Graduates with Virtual Commencement

Rocket Nation will gather together virtually on Sunday, Dec. 6 to celebrate the Class of 2020 during an online version of the traditional commencement ceremony.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing a large crowd from gathering together in Savage Arena, Rockets in Toledo and beyond will fire up their computers and smartphones to follow along together remotely as University leaders recognize graduates, including a keynote address and messages from each dean to the graduates of their colleges.

Dr. David Satcher


“We are proud to celebrate our graduates at every commencement ceremony, but the Class of 2020 is unique,” UToledo Interim President Gregory Postel said. “The resilience these students have shown to successfully achieve their educational goals despite the significant challenges caused by a global pandemic is incredible. We look forward to celebrating their achievements at our virtual commencement ceremony.”

Dr. David SatcherThe virtual commencement will go live at 9 a.m. online at and will include the pomp and circumstance of a traditional in-person ceremony, with a processional, messages from campus leaders, presentations of degrees, and singing the alma mater.

A distinguished physician-scientist will serve as the keynote speaker. Dr. David Satcher, who served as the 16th Surgeon General of the United States from 1998 to 2002, and the 10th Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services from 1998 to 2001, will address the newest alumni of UToledo.

Dr. Satcher also served as the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

He spent his career working to improve public health policy for all Americans and has remained committed to eliminating health disparities for minorities, the poor and other disadvantaged groups. Currently, he is the founding director and senior advisor for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

The digital format of the commencement also will allow for more participation from the campus community through video submissions of what it means to be a Rocket and from graduates about their plans after graduation.

Each graduate will be recognized with a scrolling of names on the screen during the ceremony, an online graphic display with the opportunity for additional personalization on the commencement website, and in a printed formal commencement event program.

‘Water in the Courts’ Topic of Great Lakes Water Conference on Nov. 6

Water-related cases of international, national, regional and local import are the focus of the 20th annual Great Lakes Water Conference.

The conference titled “Water in the Courts” will be conducted as a live webinar from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

The conference is sponsored by The University of Toledo College of Law and its Legal Institute of the Great Lakes.

“While the format of the conference this year will be virtual for the first time, the conference promises to be as timely and informative as always,” said Ken Kilbert, UToledo professor of law and director of the Legal Institute of the Great Lakes.

The conference will feature six legal experts addressing topics such as litigation about the Enbridge oil pipeline underlying the Straits of Mackinac; a pending U.S. Supreme Court case regarding interstate groundwater allocation; the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent County of Maui decision affecting permitting under the Clean Water Act; challenges to the new federal ‘Waters of the United States’ rule; high water levels and flooding in and around Lake Ontario; and the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

Registration for the half-day conference is free for the public and $50 for attorneys seeking 3.0 hours of Ohio Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit.

For more information about the Great Lakes Water Conference and to register by Nov. 4, visit the event’s website.

Ohio Native to Share Journey From Political Science Major to Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’

Broadway performances are shut down for the rest of the year, but the associate and supervising director of the hit musical “Hamilton” isn’t throwing away his shot to inspire students at The University of Toledo.

Patrick Vassel, a native of Akron, Ohio, who majored in political science in college and also earned a master’s degree in teaching, is the first person to be featured in a new virtual series offered by the UToledo College of Arts and Letters titled “Tell Me Your Story: Liberal Arts Careers.”

Dr. Melissa Gregory, associate dean for undergraduate education and curriculum and professor of English, will interview Vassel from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20. The free, public event can be accessed on Zoom using the access code 870 2931 5293. The meeting password is 939421.

Patrick Vassel, associate and supervising director of the hit musical “Hamilton”

Vassel will talk about his journey from studying political science at the University of Notre Dame to teaching middle school students in New York and eventually pivoting to opportunities in musical theater.

“We want to show our students how liberal arts degrees can be the foundation of dynamic and fascinating careers,” Gregory said. “I’m excited to have a conversation with Patrick because he’s a fantastic example of someone who leveraged all of his liberal arts training to make it to Broadway. The skills that he learned as a liberal arts major helped him figure out when and how to change his path.”

After graduating with a political science degree in 2007, Vassel interned for then-U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, taught special education for Teach for America and worked as a freelance theater director.

He made his Broadway debut in 2012 as the assistant director of “Magic/Bird,” a play about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Vassel joined “Hamilton” for an initial staging workshop prior to rehearsals for The Public Theater run in 2014. Since then, Patrick has been involved in all “Hamilton” companies except London.

His role as associate and supervising director includes casting, hiring and supporting resident directors, and regular communication, collaboration and travel to each of the five North American companies. He is currently finalizing the Australian cast, and in the midst of virtual casting for the German-language production of “Hamilton.”

During the UToledo event, Vassel will discuss plans for “Hamilton” productions overseas in Australia and Germany in 2021.

“I’m excited to connect with the campus community in this unprecedented year to share what I can about what I know and what was helpful for me when I was a college student in the Midwest and trying to figure out what to do next,” Vassel said. “If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that we all need one another and all need to offer whatever we can to help those around us. I’m honored and grateful to have this time with The University of Toledo campus community and hope I can shine some light in a time of uncertainty.”

Gregory said the goal of the new “Tell Me Your Story” conversations is to highlight the value of pursuing a degree in the humanities, social sciences and the arts.

“Liberal arts degrees lead to great careers because those majors provide critical skills that make you capable of reflecting on what you want, seizing opportunity and adapting to new situations,” Gregory said. “In Patrick’s case, he has a lot of different interests and explored several different paths with his education and his post-college life. He ended up becoming an important part of a musical that has made an indelible mark on American theater and continues to expand its influence around the world. We’re lucky to have someone talk to us about what it was like to work on such an important theatrical event.”

UToledo Awarded $1.1 Million Federal Grant to Advance Clean Water Technology

Searching for new ways to address the growing threat to drinking water in northwest Ohio and across the globe, Dr. Jason Huntley discovered that native freshwater bacteria can destroy toxins produced during harmful algal blooms.

The University of Toledo scientist has now received a $1.1 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to advance that research into real-world solutions.

Huntley, an associate professor in the UToledo Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, has already shown in lab experiments that biofilters using those Lake Erie bacteria can remove microcystin at levels exponentially above current exposure guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

“This grant will enable us to extend our research to the next level,” Huntley said. “We did this successfully in the lab. Now we want to scale it up and put the bacteria to work in the water treatment plant.”


The three-year research project will take a multifaceted approach to translate Huntley’s earlier finding into technologies that safeguard the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people.

“One of our big pushes here at UToledo is to not just do science for science’s sake, but to ask questions about how it can improve human health,” Huntley said. “This isn’t just a Toledo problem. There are harmful algal blooms all across the country and all across the world. This is a solution to a global health problem.”

Water treatment plants primarily use activated carbon to capture the microcystin toxins released during some harmful algal blooms. While effective, there are drawbacks. It can be expensive, there’s a limit to how much toxin can be removed from the water and the process generates microcystin-laden waste products that have to be dealt with.

Huntley and his research team believe their bacteria could help address those issues. Biofilters could be used to treat drinking water before it reaches the tap, and the bacteria could be added to the treatment plant byproducts to degrade the lingering toxins.

It’s also an inexpensive solution.

“It’s not free, but it’s really cheap to grow these bacteria that chew up and degrade the toxins. We grow them in water, that’s it. We think we can use them to treat water coming into the treatment plant as well as eliminating toxins in the water treatment byproducts, eliminating the need to incinerate these waste products or send them to a landfill,” Huntley said.

Prior to large-scale testing at the Toledo wastewater treatment plant, researchers will work to further develop and test the biofilters in a range of conditions, such as different water pressures and temperatures.

The research team also will work to isolate and identify the bacterial enzymes that break down microcystin, with a goal of being able to produce them on an industrial scale. Some of that work will be done in collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — a connection that was made during 2019’s National Lab Day at UToledo. The long-term goal is to develop water treatment tablets or droplet bottles that could be used to quickly detoxify water while boating, at family cabins or while hiking.

Huntley’s early work on this issue was funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative and the Ohio Sea Grant. The success of that research helped UToledo earn the NOAA grant.

“This is turning taxpayer money here in Ohio to federally funded grants that bring big money back to Ohio,” Huntley said.

U.S. Department of Defense Awards UToledo $3 Million to Promote STEM Education in Early Childhood to Military-Connected Families

NURTURES, an innovative early childhood STEM education program led by The University of Toledo that has shown success in classrooms and homes across the region, is going national.

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded UToledo a three-year, $3 million grant to offer the program to military-connected families across the country with partners including Georgia State University and Washington School Research Associates.

UToledo’s project is one of 12 selected out of 185 applicants in the U.S. to be awarded a total of $31 million through the National Defense Education Program.

“The Department of Defense is proud to support the STEM workforce our Nation needs to maintain our technological superiority far into the future,” said Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering. “We are particularly pleased with the range of initiatives pursued by this year’s awardees, with programs for early childhood education, post-secondary study and outreach to student veterans. This investment will be critical to expanding STEM opportunities to students, educators and veterans in underserved, underrepresented and military-connected communities.”

NURTURES improves pre-K-through-third-grade STEM education, which includes science, technology, engineering and math, through teacher professional development, family engagement and community outreach. These efforts to enhance teaching and learning early in a child’s life have resulted in greater student interest and achievement in STEM in the program’s nine years in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Data from standardized testing in Toledo Public Schools show an increase in reading, early literacy and math scores in students of teachers who have participated in NURTURES, with gains being sustained through 5thgrade.

According to research published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, every year that a student has a NURTURES program teacher adds on average 8.6 points to a student’s early literacy standardized test score compared to control students, 17 points to a student’s mathematics score and 41.4 points to a student’s reading score.

The program through the Department of Defense will be transitioned from a face-to-face format to a virtual format, while also mailing family science take-home packs and community event materials directly to schools for home and community use.

Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UToledo College of Engineering

“We are proud to scale up nearly a decade of work that our UToledo team started here in the Toledo area,” said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UToledo College of Engineering, who is leading the project. “NURTURES has helped more than 5,000 students and 330 teachers across northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. I believe it is a great fit for military families. They move so often, it is critical to invest in opportunities to engage families and focus on family and community.”

A hallmark of the NURTURES program is that it goes beyond professional development and coaching for early childhood education teachers to better teach science to their young students. By also educating parents how to support their child’s STEM learning at home and through events in the community, NURTURES provides a lasting mechanism to support STEM learning across a child’s lifetime.

The Department of Defense award allows NURTURES to be offered to 135 teachers, 2,700 underserved and underrepresented pre-K-through-3rdgrade students, and 10,800 military-connected family members throughout the United States.

In the first year, professional development for early childhood teachers will be delivered on-site to Purple Star schools in Ohio and schools linked to Fort Benning in Georgia and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

In the second year, NURTURES will be transitioned to an online format. It will be offered fully online by the third year and expanded across the country to military bases, the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, military-connected schools and Purple Star schools in Georgia, Alabama, Washington, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts and New Mexico with all branches of the military represented.

Twelve states now have Purple Star-designated schools.

“The award for military family-friendly schools recognizes campuses and communities that show a major commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military,” said Pete LuPiba, commissioner for the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who founded the Purple Star School Award initiative four years ago to address the educational challenges of transitioning children of military families.

“We have witnessed the positive outcomes of this program on young children attending schools in our region, and the UToledo College of Engineering is fortunate to have Dr. Charlene Czerniak continue her leadership of this project as it expands from a regional to a national level,” Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the UToledo College of Engineering, said. “As a military veteran, I also am pleased that the NURTURES program will be able to make a positive impact on military families and their children.”

Dr. Scott Molitor, professor of bioengineering and senior associate dean of academic affairs in the UToledo College of Engineering, is working with Czerniak to lead the national project. Several experts from the UToledo Judith Herb College of Education are also involved in the project, including Dr. Susanna Hapgood, associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education, and Dr. Joan Kaderavek, professor emerita of early childhood, physical and special education and Distinguished University Professor.

Family packets and community event materials are planned to be mailed to participants through a process using Lott Industries in Toledo, a nationally recognized and award-winning nonprofit organization that hires individuals with developmental disabilities for light packaging and assembly.

The NURTURES program was originally a five-year, $10 million program funded in 2011 by the National Science Foundation to engage teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive science lessons. The National Science Foundation awarded an additional $2.3 million dollars to NURTURES three years ago.

In 2017 the American Association of State Colleges and Universities honored UToledo with its Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in recognition of NURTURE’s success in improving student achievement.

UToledo Hosts Dialogue on Diversity to Discuss 2020 Presidential Election

The University of Toledo is continuing its Dialogues on Diversity series with a conversation about the presidential election in November and the importance of participating in the political process.

The next virtual town hall in the series titled “The Vote!” will take place 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 and can be accessed on Webex using the access code 172 130 2385. The meeting password is DoD9. Join by phone at 415.655.0002.

“The right to vote is at the very center of democracy in America,” Dr. Jeffrey Broxmeyer, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, said. “I am delighted to moderate a panel of students and community members who will discuss what the struggle for that right means today.”

Broxmeyer will moderate the discussion with participants including:

  • Alexandra Bauer, UToledo student in political science and pre-law, women’s soccer player and executive board member for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee;
  • Alexis Alvarado, UToledo student in political science;
  • Precious Tate, civil rights investigator for the Toledo Fair Housing Center;
  • David Person, political organizer; and
  • Kyra Valentine, UToledo student in political science and special education, and Democracy Fellow providing leadership for the Campus Vote Project.

This is the ninth in a series of recent virtual Dialogues on Diversity since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by a police officer, sparking protests against systemic racism across the country.

College of Business and Innovation Job Fair is Going Virtual

For the first time, The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation’s fall job fair will be held in a virtual format.

The job fair is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30 and can be accessed on Handshake. It will provide business students with opportunities to expand their job search and connect with numerous recruiting organizations through video, audio and text chat.

More than 70 employers will be in attendance ready to hire for full-time, part-time and internship roles. These companies will have online “booths” providing information and conduct virtual meetings discussing available positions, advancement capabilities and professional development options.

Some of the companies attending include 3M, Amazon, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Fifth Third Bank, Hilti North America, Marathon, Owens Corning, ProMedica, Quicken Loans and Savage and Associates.

“The Business Career Programs Office is proud to be able to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of the changing educational and hiring landscapes,” said Dr. Terribeth Gordon-Moore, senior associate dean of the College of Business and Innovation. “We are extremely excited to be able to play a role in enabling our students to continue their career progression despite the challenges that accompany the pandemic.”

Before attending the Virtual Job Fair, students can view all of the companies and the roles they are looking to fill on the Handshake website. The site also provides features that enable students to sort based on job types, employment types, desired school year standings, majors and industries to better tailor their search to fit their personal needs.

Job seekers can pre-schedule one-on-one or group sessions with employers or join an open session on the day of the event.

Group information sessions are available to learn more about the company. The 30-minute group sessions are limited to three sessions per employer and a maximum of 15 people can join each session.

Over the past five years, the College of Business and Innovation has consistently achieved over a 90% job placement rate of its graduates in their chosen field. In addition, business students have an 85% internship participation rate, allowing them to build an impressive resume while still in school.

To learn more about the Job Fair, the companies that will be in attendance or register for the event, visit Handshake’s Virtual Job Fair website.