The University of Tulsa

Electrical engineering interns power up for job prospects

Juniors and seniors in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have a 100% internship and job placement rate. That means all May 2019 graduates are employed in the industry, and all incoming seniors have either concluded or are still working an internship.

A competitive edge

How important is an internship when setting off on the right foot after college? It’s everything, said Kaveh Ashenayi, Hans S. Norberg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ashenayi, who also serves as department chair, believes that young graduates with engineering experience have a competitive edge over others who do not. “It’s easier to get a job after graduation and experiencing what it’s like to work as an engineer makes a student more desirable to employ,” said Douglas Jussaume, applied associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

That’s why Ashenayi and his faculty sat around a table two years ago and set the lofty goal to find an internship for each junior and senior in the department. “We wanted to find honest-to-goodness engineering internships where students worked on actual projects at local companies,” he said.

Faculty tapped into their industry networks, made dozens of calls at Tulsa-area companies and connected students with electrical engineering mentors. Some students received three-month summer internships while others arranged for year-round positions, allowing them to work part time during the semester and full time in the summer. “We are trying to distinguish ourselves by obtaining internships for seniors, juniors, sophomores and even the freshmen,” Ashenayi said. “Many of the students are eventually hired full time where they interned.”

For all faculty and staff in the department that includes a senior class of less than 30 students, helping young engineers complete their degrees and start their careers is the ultimate reward after hundreds of hours spent teaching, advising and mentoring. “When they get internships, their self-confidence goes up,” said department administrative assistant Marla Zumwalt. “They begin to see how what they’ve learned in class can be used in the real world.”

Mason Holley, John Zink Hamworthy Combustion

electrical engineering internshipsInternships also provide exposure to different work environments, interaction with coworkers and customer service, said senior Mason Holley who interned this summer at John Zink Hamworthy Combustion in Tulsa. “I picked up a lot of soft skills and learned how the business aspect of engineering is a lot bigger than I realized,” Holley said. “You can build something, but if no one buys the product, what’s the point?”

Holley’s technical work involved embedded systems and hardware, but he also gave presentations to business leaders, took a speech class offered through the company and soaked in the advice he received from two company mentors who are TU alumni. “Everyone I bumped into was helpful and knowledgeable and that impressed me,” he said.

As Holley returns to campus for his senior year, he begins the semester knowing he has a job locked down at John Zink if he chooses to stay in Oklahoma. “They extended a job offer to me,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet if I want to go to grad school, but it’s pretty exciting and a relief to know that I already have something lined up. It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Caitlyn Daxon, Cymstar

electrical engineering internshipsHolley is not the only TU intern to receive a job offer. Senior Caitlyn Daxon has interned at Cymstar since March 2019 and has the option to work there full time in the future. Although there aren’t many engineers in her family, she excelled in math and participated in Project Lead the Way as a student at Union High School in Tulsa. This summer, she has helped Cymstar employees overhaul the website that manages and communicates all company projects. She has shadowed engineers, learned about the accounting skills they often use in projects and explored the inner workings of Cymstar’s flight systems. “Engineering is very hands-on, so you don’t know what you want to do without experiencing it first,” Daxon said.

Taylor Deru, Enovation Controls

electrical engineering internships“All of the professors have been very adamant and persistent with us on internship applications and helping us make connections,” said senior Taylor Deru who just finished a summer position with Tulsa’s Enovation Controls. The Houston native joined an office of longtime employees with decades of engineering experience. His tasks included troubleshooting faulty systems reported by customers and various testing with circuit boards, displays and electronic components.

“Once you move into a professional setting, you realize the point of a degree is to learn the fundamentals such as math, physics, circuits and electrical components,” Deru said. “A degree teaches you to think critically and how to solve problems, but there’s a lot you aren’t able to learn in academics. An internship is a very valuable sneak peek at what’s to come after college.”

Patrick Maley, Aaon

electrical engineering internshipsPatrick Maley’s internship at Aaon began in July, and, as a junior, he plans to continue working part time throughout the semester. Right away, he was handed a program used in the company’s HVAC systems and instructed to test inputs/outputs and communications on the product’s circuit board. “It’s about ironed out,” Maley said, “I’ve learned how much responsibility is needed in product and design.”

His assigned Aaon mentor, Senior Electrical Controls Engineer Thomas Burrow, said Maley’s product design was so good that it was sent to manufacturing, exceeding the skillset and quality of an entry-level engineer. “I would trust Patrick to go into any meeting and represent any department,” Burrow said. “When there are employees with 40 years of experience in the room picking apart a design, that can be intimidating, but TU interns are well-spoken and can handle the criticism.”

Burrow explained Aaon often uses the internship as a job interview and, considering Maley’s outstanding performance review, the odds are in his favor. If he chooses to join the industry after his undergraduate degree, a position awaits him. However, Maley still has two years of coursework remaining at TU, and although he’s keeping his options open right now, he knows he’s in the right field. “Electricity is badass, and I wanted a career that allowed me to help people,” he said. “Choosing electrical engineering was the best decision of my life.”

Around 20 local companies hosted TU electrical engineering interns in 2019. Ashenayi said the department is working on a new goal for next summer: to find internships for all freshmen and sophomores, too.

NSF-funded robotics project helps children with hypotonia at Little Light House

Members of the Biological Robotics at Tulsa (BRAT) Research Group in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, are studying the muscle condition hypotonia to improve the quality of life for children who suffer from it. Graduate student Bradford Kerst and Joshua Schultz, an associate professor and BRAT group director, partnered with teachers and therapists at Little Light House in Tulsa to learn how hypotonia reduces muscle tone and strength. Their research is sponsored by a grant from the Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering program at the National Science Foundation and is TU’s first nationally funded project in rehabilitation robotics.

Understanding hypotonia

Kerst said he and Schultz are beginning the final phase of data collection through a device that supports a child’s head and is worn by Little Light House students who experience weak neck muscles as a result of hypotonia. Known commercially as a Headpod, the device holds a child’s head in a neutral posture. Current therapy for hypotonia involves supporting a child’s head from a lightweight suspension frame using a cable and head strap, but TU researchers plan to build a robotic prototype that relinquishes a portion of the support when a child does not need it. This will allow therapists to program a regimen that trains neck muscles in the hope that strength development will enable children to hold up their heads on their own.

“We will use a motion capture system and the initial data gathered to pick out the right motor size for the device, and we’re working with therapists to determine what safety features we need,” Kerst explained.

Little Light House students who have worn the data-capturing Headpod so far have been able to access switches near their head to activate a switch-adapted power wheels truck. Lynda Crouch, assistive technology coordinator at Little Light House, also explained that, in some instances, the Headpod device has been attached to a stander. “Because of the support of the Headpod, we can see secondary results of increased visual attention and social interaction with other students. Their heads are supported in an upright position to see their world. Without the Headpod, they keep their head down or we have to position them reclined in wheelchairs.”

Robotics to the rescue

With mentoring from Schultz, Kerst and an undergraduate researcher who will be added to the TU team this fall will develop biomechanical computer models to program the device’s robotic support system. The project is Kerst’s first exposure to robotics research and has piqued his interest in a career that uses rehabilitation robotics to improve head control.

“Our goal is to understand hypotonia and learn new information about the disorder that we can use in the future to help people,” he said. “It’s been overlooked in a lot of research, so it’s something Professor Schultz and the therapists discussed and saw a need to study.”

As researchers complete the final phase of data collection, Little Light House therapists anticipate a TU design that will improve head positioning for students and allow them to participate fully in daily classroom activities.

“We already knew our students were special, but this research has shown us how unique and incredible they are,” said Crouch. “We’re learning how important it is to capture data that reflects what we as therapists and teachers observe in daily interactions with the children.”

TU faculty and students have a long history of working closely with the Little Light House. Schultz and Kerst meet bi-weekly with the school’s staff to incorporate problem-solving, strategic planning and engineering applications into the plan for a therapeutic device.

Once data collection is complete, Schultz and his team of student researchers will build a prototype that they plan to begin testing in 2020.

TU recruits tackle STEM Bootcamp before classes start

The first semester of college is an exciting time for students, but living in a different environment, adapting to university academics and making friends can cause anxiety. That’s why The University of Tulsa is introducing a STEM Bootcamp to prepare incoming students for this new and challenging phase in their lives.

Thirty-three participants will begin the TU program Aug. 5 and spend two weeks working on activities involving math, chemistry and academic skill development while completing self-paced math skill sessions and exploring science and engineering career opportunities. Students also will take field trips to facilities such as Fab Lab Tulsa to complete projects that reinforce concepts discussed in the classroom.

Improving the student experience

“The bootcamp is designed to help students feel confident in their abilities and know where to turn if something doesn’t go as planned,” said program coordinator Sheila Givens. “Our goal is to make sure that participants transition into their studies at TU with motivation and preparation and possess tools that can help them succeed to the point of graduation.” 

STEM BootcampGivens said students should expect an intense two weeks of college prep, but she also recognizes that learning occurs off campus. Some of the additional science and engineering excursions planned around Tulsa include stops at ONEOK Field and The Gathering Place.

The College of Engineering and Natural Sciences is sponsoring the program and will pick up the tab for participants’ first-semester math and chemistry books — a $400 value.

TU studied other university summer programs to identify best practices before developing its custom model. “We looked at a lot of schools close to us in the state or similar in size. We chose a program with carryover into the semester because that’s when it becomes real to students — four weeks in, they’ve got their first mid-term,” said Amy Schachle, senior math instructor and lead faculty for the bootcamp.

The summer session and six follow-up meetings are an incentive for students because those who complete the program will earn class credit. Once the semester begins, Schachle said the STEM Bootcamp participants will be required to check in regularly with her and Gabriel LeBlanc, Wellspring Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to evaluate how they are adapting to their classes and college life. Providing extra resources, boosting skills and starting the college transition process early are all priorities to improve the student experience, which program organizers hope will result in higher retention and graduation rates.

Math + chemistry = STEM foundation

LeBlanc said his role as a faculty adviser involves teaching students how to apply chemistry principles differently than they did in high school. Presenting these basic concepts before the semester begins could prevent some students from leaving the major.

“During a traditional chemistry course, there’s so much content to cover so quickly that we don’t get to spend very much time discussing how to set up problems to solve them,” LeBlanc explained. “Students who don’t understand that baseline information within the first week or two of the semester are destined to do poorly in class. If we can master some of this material on the front end, then chemistry won’t become a deterrent to their career path.”

Although math and chemistry are the two main topics that Schachle and LeBlanc will teach, representatives from TU’s Center for Student Academic Success will lead sessions on study skills, identifying and applying personal learning styles, notetaking, conquering test anxiety and exam prep, goalsetting and more. “It’s important we break down some of those barriers to tutoring, studying and taking notes the right way,” LeBlanc explained.

Students with STEM plans

STEM BootcampGivens said many of the students invited to attend the bootcamp program are interested in using a STEM degree to advance health care or pursue other philanthropic projects that make a difference globally. To become a scientist or engineer, Schachle said it all begins with a strong foundation in mathematics.

“We want to make sure they’re ready to hit the ground running,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure they can do college-level math by starting that transition process a little earlier and providing extra resources.” 

Givens explained the program is designed to improve student learning, but it is also a learning opportunity for TU. Participant feedback will be used to develop future summer programming and allow TU to better understand how to serve students such as Mai VuLe of Broken Arrow, who wants to one day serve in the medical field.

“I hope to make all types of friends, know the campus better, enjoy dorm life and become more prepared for my classes in the future,” VuLe said. Studying biochemistry is the first step toward her career goal to learn about the chemical processes that occur within living organisms.

“It’s a good opportunity to start in advance on being a college student,” VuLe said. “I’ll already have an idea of what classes are like, and I’ll be able to learn how to make sure I’m ready for each class.” 

Read more about TU’s efforts to serve students and help them achieve success in college. 

High school seniors perform cutting-edge research as TURC Junior Scholars

This summer, The University of Tulsa is hosting 13 rising high school seniors from the Tulsa area and surrounding communities as TURC Junior Scholars. The program stems from the nationally recognized Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC), which allows standout high school students to engage with tenured and tenure-track faculty in the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories. The Junior TURC program has hosted more than 70 high school students since its establishment in 2012.

Researching workout supplements

Seerut Parmar, a senior at Holland Hall, has been working with Gordon Purser, a TU chemistry professor. The two have taken on a project to determine whether a workout supplement is providing the extra boost that it claims.

Junior TURC
Professor Purser and Parmar

Purser explained that the supplement, l-arginine ethyl ester, has been endorsed by athletes for several years, but “we haven’t found any evidence in the literature to support that position.”

As a TURC Junior Scholar, Parmar has the opportunity to look for such evidence or disprove the claims altogether. The high schooler was not shaken by being thrust into an academic environment at the university level.

“I felt prepared coming in,” she said. “I had to adapt and learn things about arginine that I didn’t know, but the people at TU helped me feel included and engaged from the first day. They made the transition from an AP Chem classroom to an actual research project a comfortable one.”

Purser, likewise, had nothing but good things to say about Parmar and the Junior TURC program.

“The high school students do not have the preparation of TU students – they haven’t had organic chemistry here, for example. But they’re also exceptional students from around the Tulsa area, so with very little guidance, they can come into the program and make a big impact. Working with Seerut this summer has been a pleasure. Nobody has been more eager to help and driven to learn.”

As the team continues researching, Parmar is laying the foundation for a potential career. She wants to double major in chemistry and journalism in college, planning a future where she can explore “writing with chemistry, or doing chemistry with writing.”

Studying disease in cotton

In the Department of Biological Sciences, Junior TURC scholar David Steichen is working with TU Associate Professor Akhtar Ali on a project about mycoviruses, or viruses that infect fungi.

Junior TURC
Professor Ali and Steichen

One of these fungi, Fusarium oxysporum, has destroyed large percentages of cotton crops in Texas and will only continue to spread if no remedy is found. Since cotton is a major cash crop of the southwest, a deadly fungi could significantly damage the economy.

Steichen and Ali are working to prevent this. Their research with mycoviruses is aimed at using these mycoviruses as a control agent to stop the spread of the fungal disease.

As Steichen explained, “We are trying to isolate the virus and purify it, find its specific RNA, DNA and genetic material, then eventually get that into sequencing.”

Doing so would make the cure achievable.

“After sequencing, we would have to make a solution to drip near the root of every plant,” Ali added. “The virus would be transferred by nature. It would be a solution with no pesticides, no environmental pollution and positive long-term effects.”

In other words, Steichen has spent the summer focusing on research that can help the Midwest economy. Come August, he will return to high school at Bishop Kelley to focus on AP tests and choosing a university to attend next year.

Steichen spoke on this dichotomy of high school life versus college research, saying that he finds joy in both and values them for different things.

Junior TURC
Ali studies a field of cotton infected by the fungi.

“I recently took AP Bio and learned about DNA and how it’s sequenced,” he said, “But never had I actually sequenced it. At TU, after watching, learning and asking a lot of questions, I was able to dive into the research, and being immersed in what I’ve studied helped me truly understand it.”

Ali, regarding the Junior TURC program, said, “It’s a pleasure to work with such bright, intelligent high school students that want to engage with a research project such as this.”

While Steichen hopes to pursue more research or a career as a medical doctor, Ali will continue his research on crops, and both of them will certainly help advance their fields.

“This is a great experience to learn as much as I can to work with college research while in high school,” Steichen said. “I’m seeing how research works and getting a clear path of where I want to go.”

Learn more about the Junior TURC program.

TU featured in 2020 Fiske Guide to Colleges

The University of Tulsa is honored to again be listed in the Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of the top 300 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Fiske Guide to Colleges is a best-selling admissions publication used by millions of students, their families and educators nationwide.

General Student PhotoThe Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020 includes real student quotes and other background information typically not found online. The annual publication has provided honest, straightforward university statistics and profile information for the past 36 years. It highlights aspects such as student body, academics, social life, financial aid, campus environment, housing, food and university activities.

The University of Tulsa is committed to overall student success through inclusion, engagement, empowerment and self-discovery. TU’s original student success center is expanding to include additional services and resources to best serve our students. Working to insure students are successful both during school and after graduation is evident through our total job placement rate of 96% within six months of graduation. TU is improving the first-year experience with the University Studies program that introduces all students to the humanities during their freshmen year. The University of Tulsa is also dedicated to the quality of student life by continually adding new programs to student housing such as a competitive eSports club.

Edward B. Fiske served as education editor of the New York Times for 17 years. He was inspired during that time to write the Fiske Guide to Colleges to help students and their families make decisions about their college choice. The online resource is updated annually by the Fiske editorial team.

Amy Dodson is Ms. Homecoming 2019

This spring, The University of Tulsa’s Amy Dodson (BA ’80) was named Ms. Homecoming 2019 during a Tulsa Alumni Chapter board meeting. President Gerard Clancy’s special announcement came as quite a shock to Dodson, who has served as assistant director of alumni engagement for nine years.

amy dodson
Homecoming 2019 chair Calvin Moniz (left) and President Gerard Clancy (right) surprise Amy Dodson with the honor of Ms. Homecoming.

“I’m very humbled. There are so many worthy people, and I’m just so grateful to be considered,” she said.

To know Dodson is to know her friendly smile and infectious spirit for TU. Her role involves working closely with alumni of all ages to organize reunions, receptions, tailgates and other events while preserving items and memories from TU’s past. The Heritage Room in Collins Hall is filled with TU memorabilia and photos Dodson has helped acquire and carefully curate through relationships with alumni.

“That has been a treasure to me,” she said. “Those items have incredible stories, and I hope the collection continues to grow in the future.”

Dodson is a devoted advocate for TU’s 12 alumni chapters and 22 clubs and said one of her favorite parts of the job is collaborating with the Future Alumni Council. “I love working with these young leaders,” she said. “I love watching students grow through the years and then graduate as they go out into the world and take TU with them.”

Homecoming is a highlight each year for Dodson. After months of planning alongside colleagues, committee members and volunteers, all of the long hours culminate in a week of unforgettable experiences.

“I don’t know what it is, but every year the bonfire and fireworks make me cry,” she said. “And I love that moment on the football field when we recognize all of the Homecoming award recipients. Honoring them is so much fun!”

Now, it’s Dodson’s turn to receive one of TU’s most cherished distinctions. As Ms. Homecoming, she will represent TU at all Homecoming activities, scheduled this year for Oct. 24-27. Although it is not required for the honoree to be a TU graduate, Dodson’s status as an alumna makes the award that much more special. Originally from the St. Louis area, she remembers feeling an immediate connection to TU as a student. She is a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, majored in advertising and public relations and met her husband, Mike (BA ’80), during their junior year.

“Those bonds started instantly when I stepped on campus, and as a Tri Delta, I had instant friends and sisters for guidance,” she said.

This year’s Homecoming celebration will be particularly bittersweet for Dodson as she wraps up another TU chapter of her life. She has decided to move on to other adventures and will complete her last day as an employee on July 1.

“The main thing that touches my heart about all of this is the love and incredible passion I have for TU,” she said. “I’m so honored that I can continue to share that wherever I go. I’ve learned and grown so much, and being named Ms. Homecoming goes above and beyond anything I could ever dream of in my life.”

Dodson plans to remain active in TU Alumni volunteer opportunities and nonprofit projects around Tulsa. She’s excited to explore new adventures such as traveling more with Mike and visiting their sons, Jake (BS ’14) and Sam, in Texas as often as possible.

Although Dodson is not looking forward to letting go of her duties and responsibilities at TU, her job at this year’s Homecoming celebration will be a much-deserved change of pace. Surrounded by friends, family and Tri Delta sisters, it promises to be a week of memories, laughs and maybe a few sweet tears for one of TU’s favorite alumni.

High school senior offered $2.5M in scholarships at 35 universities, chooses TU

Recent high school graduate Nicholas Tsahiridis of Branson, Missouri, has chosen to attend The University of Tulsa after earning more than $2.5 million in scholarship opportunities at 35 universities.

Nicholas TsahiridisTsahiridis is planning a career as a neurologist/neurosurgeon. His inspiration to pursue medicine comes from his younger brother who suffers from conditions including epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy and ADHD. “Because of him, I became interested in medicine. I want to help cure brain disabilities,” Tsahiridis said.

He committed to attending The University of Tulsa after meeting TU President Gerard Clancy during a campus visit this spring. Tsahiridis, who has decided to major in biology on a pre-med track, said he connected immediately with Clancy, one of only four physicians in the country who also serves as a university president.

“Dr. Clancy said he would help me in my medical career with recommendation letters and advice,” Tsahiridis said. “At a lot of universities, the president is not on everyone’s level, but I could tell he will be very helpful during my time at TU.”

Tsahiridis is wrapping up a successful experience at Branson High School after competing in three varsity sports, completing several advanced placement and honors courses and achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

Before attending TU this fall, Tsahiridis will participate in Ionian Village, a three-week international summer camping ministry facilitated by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He looks forward to focusing on his academics while joining TU’s diverse community of students from all backgrounds and walks of life.

When asked why he applied to so many different universities, Tsahiridis said he wanted to set an example for high school students. “I wanted to show them that hard work pays off because if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Three faculty named TU Outstanding Researchers

The University of Tulsa honored its inaugural group of Outstanding Researchers at spring commencement on May 4. The Outstanding Researcher Award is a lifetime distinction, received only once in an individual’s career. It is intended to honor career-spanning achievements that have been validated in the scholar’s professional field.

These are the 2018-19 recipients:

outstanding researchersRose F. Gamble, Tandy Professor of Computer Science Engineering. Gamble developed a safety and security requirements model that can be embedded and used by a self-adaptive system to intelligently determine the least risky adaptation to deploy at runtime.

outstanding researchersJamie L. Rhudy, Director of the Psychophysiology Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology. Rhudy’s research identifies mechanisms that contribute to and/or maintain chronic pain (particularly in Native Americans) and seeks to develop non-invasive methods for assessing individuals at risk for developing chronic pain.

Outstanding ResearchersCem Sarica, F.H. “Mick” Merelli/Cimarex Energy Professor of Petroleum Engineering. Sarica’s research has been disseminated to the public at large through more than 240 publications and incorporated in various software. He has been recognized internationally with several awards by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, most notably with an SPE John Franklin Carll Award in 2015.

Candidates for the Outstanding Researcher awards were nominated by deans from the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Collins College of Business and the Oxley College of Health Sciences. Nominees were selected for their recognition of outstanding research and scholarship achievements based on a single project or a cumulative contribution.

Other considerations included pedagogical awards, honors from scholarly societies, grants, publication citation counts or other forms of public recognition. External recognition of a faculty member’s work also factored into the selection process.

Learn more about this year’s distinguished faculty awards, including the 2018-19 Outstanding Teachers and Medicine Wheel Award recipients.

Samuel Taylor receives Goldwater Scholarship

University of Tulsa junior Samuel Taylor has been selected as a 2019 Goldwater Scholar and is TU’s 64th student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. This award honors Senator Barry Goldwater and was designed to encourage outstanding college sophomores and juniors to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of this type in these fields.

samuel taylorTaylor is majoring in computer science and mathematics. He is a National Merit Scholar, a member of the TU Honors Program and participates in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. Taylor not only excels academically but lives out other aspects of the True Blue identity by giving back to the community. For more than a year, he has mentored high school students in a local Tulsa FIRST Robotics team. Taylor also helped design a bubble machine with the university organization Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU), which aids children with special needs.

From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship. Only 496 were selected. Many of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, including Taylor, have already published research and presented their work.

Taylor plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in cognitive science with an emphasis in computer science. This will include researching computational models of biological and artificial cognition to see how these models could inform better adaptive artificial intelligence. Ultimately, he hopes to teach and research within academia.

TU’s Conner Bender awarded Truman Scholarship for public service

University of Tulsa computer science senior Conner Bender has received the honorable Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers in public service leadership. The scholarship, awarded in 2019 to 62 students from 58 institutions nationwide, is the hallmark of the Truman Foundation, the nation’s official living memorial to the 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Bender will receive a maximum of $30,000 for graduate study.

conner bender
Bender with Jim Sorem, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences

Originally from Jenks, Bender is double majoring in computer science and mathematics, while earning his master’s degree in cyber operations. He will graduate with his bachelor’s degrees in May 2019 and continue his graduate degree at TU next fall. He serves as TU’s student body president, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, president of Future Alumni Council, and founding president of the Rotaract Club. Bender is a Presidential Scholar, Stanford University Innovation Fellow, orientation leader, university ambassador, triathlete and marathon runner-up.

Bender used his computer science skills to establish a meal swipe donation program and was awarded the prestigious TU Medicine Wheel Award for Community Service. He is a two-time teaching assistant for the TU President Gerard Clancy and one of 10 U.S. undergraduates selected for a Fulbright Summer Institute in Scotland. Bender was named 2019 Greek Man of the Year and has held several internships and research positions with the U.S. government. He created a free iPad app that enhances word association and motor skills for people with disabilities and at Harvard, helped develop an emotion-based text reading application for Android users who are blind or visually impaired.

Bender is a local nonprofit board member, a cappella singer in Phi Mu Alpha, ministry team member for Reformed University Fellowship and was selected to lobby for the Fraternal Governmental Relations Coalition. He also serves as the Philanthropy Committee undergraduate representative, ritual peer for the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and vice president of TU’s chapter of Sigma Chi. Bender is a member of the Diversity Action Committee, Foundation of Excellence Committee, University Council and Student Conduct Board. He also is a notary public and is in the process of obtaining his private pilot license.

This year’s Truman Scholars were selected from 840 candidates nominated by 346 colleges and universities — the largest and one of the most competitive application pools in Truman Scholar history. Finalists were chosen by 16 independent selection panels based on their academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.


TU’s Benjamin James and Jordan Sosa receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Two students from The University of Tulsa have been awarded Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation. TU’s 2019 recipients are Jordan Sosa, an engineering physics senior from Florissant, Missouri, and Benjamin James, a computer science senior, from St. Louis, Missouri.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited institutions in the United States. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 education allowance for tuition and fees. Other benefits include opportunities for international research and professional development and the option to conduct research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education.

Jordan Sosa

jordan sosaSosa currently focuses on materials research and metallic materials as a student in the TU Department of Mechanical Engineering. As a TU undergraduate, Sosa has received valuable experience in physics, materials science and engineering as a visiting researcher at West Virginia University, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his academic and research agenda, Sosa has served in leadership roles for TU’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Physics Students, attended the National Institute for Leadership Advancement and helped host a Noche de Ciencias, or “Night of Sciences” community event that invited local public school children to learn about STEM degrees.

“These experiences have instilled a stronger desire in me to pursue a higher degree so I can develop a stronger understanding of STEM and provide others with access to that education,” he said.

He plans to earn a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in materials science and engineering in research fields of energy storage and eventually work in a laboratory or the research and development department of a materials technology company.

Benjamin James

benjamin jamesJames has performed research in the bioinformatics subfield computational genomics, which emphasizes the use of computational and statistical techniques such as algorithms and machine learning/artificial intelligence to solve biological problems.

“At TU, under the mentorship of Dr. Hani Girgis, I created intelligent and adaptive software systems to compare and cluster nucleotide sequences, especially long, genome-length sequences, as a method of in silico data analysis for computational biologists,” James said.

The clustering algorithm currently is used by biologists in multiple pipelines, including groups of third-generation sequencing reads and grouping of microbial communities. James plans to attend graduate school at MIT and work independently on bioinformatics research projects that can have a positive impact on society.

AAC seeks to improve student athletes’ mental health

Dr. Gerard Clancy, TU president, addresses the 2019 American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium SymposiumLeaders from the American Athletic Conference and its 13 member institutions gathered at The University of Tulsa for the third annual Academic Consortium Symposium on March 28-30, 2019. The symposium brought together scholars, practitioners and current and former students to discuss the avenues that will improve overall well-being of both students and student-athletes.

TU Faculty Athletics Representative Christopher Anderson and Dr. Gerard P. Clancy, president of TU, served as facilitators. The event kicked off on March 28 with a welcome reception at TU’s Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education in Tulsa’s Arts District hosted by Clancy and the university’s Board of Trustees.

One recurring theme that arose from the symposium was the desire for TU to not only serve itself, but also the community. In the opening remarks, Anderson said, “We want to be heavily involved in the community. We involve them with us, and they involve us with them.”

Jessica Wagner, NCAA assistant director of prevention and health promotion, addresses the 2019 American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium SymposiumJessica Wagner, assistant director of prevention and health promotion for the NCAA, shared initiatives on student-athlete mental health and explained why mental health was the key focus for the conference.

“Before the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute was formed, we expected to hear that concussions were the greatest concern coming from NCAA universities. Instead, mental health was the greatest concern – even more so than concussions,” Wagner said. She went on to explain how programs were being put in place to support college athletes.

During his keynote address, Clancy, a psychiatrist who treated patients up until being introduced as TU’s president in 2016, explained the neuroscience of depression and suicide.

After engaging the audience with images of human brain scans and outlining the activity or disease associated with each, Clancy went on to explain how depression can be identified, managed and destigmatized. “Clinical depression is a brain disease. It’s very important for all of us to fight the stigma of mental illness,” he said. “Clinical depression should be treated early, as this can help prevent more episodes later in life.”

Clancy transitioned into a discussion about suicide, pointing to the dangerous extreme of brain disease to explain why depression needs to be held in the utmost importance moving forward, and offering potential treatments on the horizon.

Professor Chris Anderson, TU's faculty athletics representative, addresses the 2019 American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium SymposiumAnderson said the symposium gave TU an opportunity to lead a positive change in the American Athletic Conference, pointing to Clancy’s leadership as a catalyst in this development. “President Clancy is at the forefront of a lot of things, and the topic of this conference is something interesting to him both professionally and personally,” Anderson said. “He’s capable of helping the conference, and he’s a man who will stand up and do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. With so much expertise assembling at the symposium, joined by so many powerful student-athlete voices, I’m sure we will soon see new ways to handle these issues that have yet to be considered.”

In addition to Clancy’s keynote address, the symposium showcased the talent found across Tulsa’s campus through several presentations tackling various topics.

Lisa Cromer, associate professor of psychology, led a presentation on her Golden Strategies and Techniques for Achievements, Resilience and Transition (START) program, which received a consortium grant for research. The program helps students learn skills for dealing with stress, coping and the rush of college life.

“You can’t go to the gym and gain physical strength overnight, and we made sure the student-athletes understood that same concept applies to the psychological issues we’re discussing,” Cromer said. “Just like gaining muscle, learning these skills is done with reps.”

Professors Rachel Hildebrand and Laura Wilson discuss concussion monitoring at the 2019 American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium SymposiumRachel Hildebrand, TU’s director of athletic training, presented with Laura Wilson, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, about wearable technology and concussion monitoring. Hildebrand acknowledged with a laugh, “This might be a spoiler, but there are no wearable devices that monitor concussions the way we want them to.”

That said, there are a good deal of technologies that monitor head trauma to some extent, and Hildebrand and Wilson explained what they were, how they are working to improve concussion safety and the pros and cons of such technologies. “It’s important to realize that all of the devices out there offer indirect measurements of the trauma. There is not as much directionality associated with it, so their output is still one step removed from thinking about how the brain is actually moving in the head,” Wilson said.

A special Athletic Director’s Presentation featured a discussion with Akayleb Evans, a cornerback for The University of Tulsa. Evans spoke about student-athlete activism and the importance of being “more than an athlete” on campus, in the community and in life.

The conference also shined the spotlight on a TU graduate student. Devin Barlaan, along with Cromer, introduced the Student Health, Athletic Performance and Education (SHAPE) program, which is designed to provide psychological skills training to promote optimal performance for student-athletes in the classroom and their sport.

Clancy might have best summarized the symposium: “Not only was this a great opportunity to show off our amazing city to the rest of the conference, but this was also a great opportunity for the American Athletic Conference to distinguish itself, focusing on an important topic. The responsibility of universities is to get the most pressing issues in front of people, and the destigmatization of mental illness – specifically how we can help students do better – is really important, so that’s what we’ve done.”

TU mourns loss of Chairman Emeritus David R. Lawson

With sadness, The University of Tulsa announces that friend and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees David R. Lawson passed away Feb. 12. For decades, Dave and his wife, Leslie, have been major figures of guidance, support and inspiration at TU, and the entire TU family shares their family’s grief.

Dave was a TU Distinguished Alumnus (BS ’70, Accounting) who built a standout career in finance and banking, beginning with Arthur Andersen and ultimately retiring as President and Chief Executive Officer of Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. (Dave once shared that he had chosen his accounting major based on the flashy Corvette driven by one of his father’s business associates – an accountant.)

Dave and Leslie Lawson
Dave Lawson with wife Leslie

Dave joined The University of Tulsa Board of Trustees in 1989 and served on several key committees before serving as Chairman from 2008 to 2012. Under his leadership, we completed the implementation of our campus Master Plan, grew our programs with nearly 30 new degree options, admitted some of the most accomplished freshman classes in TU history and raised $698 million during the Embrace the Future campaign. Earlier in his service to TU, Dave had served as president of our Alumni Association (1982-88) and twice as president of the Golden Hurricane Club.

Dave and Leslie have been deeply committed allies of TU and Golden Hurricane Athletics, with more than 200 gifts to their credit. Among these, they established The David and Leslie Lawson Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship for the Collins College of Business; The David and Leslie Lawson Family Foundation Trustees Scholarship Endowment Fund for the Collins College of Business; The Gayle and Emilee Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund; and The David R. & Leslie L. Lawson Endowed Presidential Scholarship Fund.

The couple’s most recent giving had focused on our nursing program – a direct reflection of their experience dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, a diagnosis that affects about 5½ million Americans a year – including Dave. Leslie, Dave and their family met this challenge with strength and dignity. To honor the professionals who helped them and to help prepare future generations of nurses, in 2017 Leslie and her family established The Lawson Family Nursing Simulation Center and Skills Laboratory and The Natalie Lawson Dooley Endowed Scholarship in Nursing.

Our hearts are with Leslie and their three children, Clint Lawson (BS Marketing ’94), Natalie Dooley (BS Nursing ’94), and Matthew Lawson.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 23 at Sharp Chapel.

TU listed in 2019 “Best Value Colleges” by Princeton Review

The University of Tulsa is one of the nation’s best value colleges for an outstanding education with ample career preparation at an affordable price, according to the Princeton Review. The college admission and education services company recognizes TU as one of The Best Value Colleges: 200 Schools with Exceptional ROI for Your Tuition Investment for 2019.

TU earned this title from 2017-18 data collected through administration surveys at more than 650 colleges. Surveys from students and alumni conducted by through April 2018 also were considered. The TU 2018 freshman class received $24 million in financial assistance, a notable amount for a small, private university.

best value colleges“At The University of Tulsa, we work hard to make sure TU is accessible and affordable for all students,” said TU President Gerard Clancy. “We are different than other small private universities because of our vast encouragement of financial assistance and the expanding opportunities for students to receive financial aid.”

A new opportunity available to TU students is the Arnall Scholarship Fund. Each year, the Arnall Family Foundation awards 10 academic, non-athletic scholarships to African American students from Oklahoma. These scholarships are for undergraduate students or those studying in the TU College of Law. With a $5 million endowment, Oklahoma entrepreneur and TU alumna Sue Ann Arnall provides an attainable and affordable education at TU for these African American students. Recognition in the Princeton Review would not be possible without support from alumni and other university friends, like the Arnall Family.

The Princeton Review used more than 40 data points to tally return on investment (ROI) ratings and select the 200 featured schools. Factors included academics, costs, financial aid, student debt, graduation rates, alumni salaries and job satisfaction. TU places great emphasis on empowering a diverse student population to become leaders in their chosen professions. This commitment is evident in the support and resources devoted to students and faculty.

The University of Tulsa also was recognized in last year’s edition of Colleges that Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck.

TU launches partnership with Cenergistic to implement new sustainability program

University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy and the TU Board of Trustees have announced a partnership with the Dallas-based energy conservation firm Cenergistic to implement a new energy sustainability program that will increase technology, scaling capacity and organizational continuity among the university’s physical plant systems.

Cenergistic services will help TU redirect money from utility costs to improve classroom technology by managing energy and sustainability initiatives in TU Physical Plant. TU has a long history of engaging in sustainability projects including reducing water consumption among common campus areas, eliminating paper usage by moving to electronic records, installing solar panels, implementing recycling initiatives and adding educational content to its website about off-campus conservation strategies. TU also is home to a sustainability committee featuring faculty, staff and students who encourage campus engagement and conduct environmentally friendly research. Teaming up with Cenergistic reinforces TU’s priorities on further reducing energy usage, capturing additional cost savings and providing more resources for the Physical Plant staff.

“Our partnership with Cenergistic will help us close funding and personnel gaps, allowing us to spend our budget where it matters: providing students an exceptional education with the appropriate resources, said Jason Grunin, TU assistant vice president of business and energy. “Every dollar we save on energy helps us further the environment, experience and education of our students.”

new partnershipTwo energy specialists will be deployed to TU, equipped with Cenergistic’s Ceres cloud-based, machine learning software, which includes real-time alerts, to augment optimization of TU’s equipment and energy usage across all university buildings and facilities. Cenergistic also provides remote and onsite engineering and measurement and verification experts.

“Cenergistic is thrilled to partner with The University of Tulsa to implement our Energy Sustainability program. With our full-time onsite energy specialists equipped with the latest software working to ensure all facilities and systems are functioning at peak efficiency, coupled with an organizational behavior-based approach to energy conservation, we believe the university will see great success in both cost and energy savings,” said Dr. Randy Hoff, vice chairman of Cenergistic. “It is our mission that, with help from everyone in the organization, we will create a culture of sustainability that will progress into the future.”

Learn more about TU sustainability programs.

The Energy Sustainability Program will help TU qualify its buildings for ENERGY STAR® certification with the Environmental Protection Agency. University officials also look forward to strengthening the mindset of conservation and a culture of sustainability among staff and students prompted by the Cenergistic partnership.

About Cenergistic

For more than 30 years Cenergistic has helped over 1,400 K-12 districts, universities and government municipalities find more than $5B in hidden electricity, natural gas and water savings by applying sustainability as a service solution on their campuses. Superintendents, CFOs, COOs and board members can reduce energy and water spending by up to 25% annually with no capital investment, while improving the comfort and quality of classroom and building environments, helping students and employees achieve their full potential. For ten consecutive years, Cenergistic has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year. To learn more visit




TU named to Princeton Review “Guide to 399 Green Colleges”

The University of Tulsa is included in the Princeton Review 2018 edition of “Guide to 399 Green Colleges.” TU received a Green Rating score of 80 or higher in a Princeton Review survey from August 2018.

green collegesThe guide profiles colleges with the most exceptional commitments to sustainability. TU was selected for the survey based on its academic offerings, campus policies, initiatives, activities and career preparation for students. TU also is included in the 2019 release of the Princeton Review College Guide “Best 384 Colleges” where it is named a “Best Regional College” in the western region.

Students are passionate about sustainability at TU and have inspired university leadership to enforce green policies and programs to reduce the school’s environmental footprint, including a limit on the number of pages students are allowed to print each semester. Recycle bins are readily available across campus, shuttles run on compressed natural gas and students who wish to use a healthy and green mode of transportation can rent for free one of TU’s 450 bicycles through its Yellow Bike Program. Majors tied to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices are environmental policy, earth and environmental sciences and geology.

According to Princeton Review Editor-in-Chief Robert Franek, college applicants and their parents are increasingly interested in supporting sustainability efforts. The “Guide to Green Colleges” provides detailed “Green Facts” reports on a school’s use of renewable energy, recycling and conservation programs as well as the availability of environmental studies and career guidance for green jobs.

“Our sustainability committee is dedicated to improving existing sustainability projects campus wide while searching for new ways to conserve resources,” said Jason Grunin, assistant vice president of business and energy conservation.