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TU faculty offer ways to support first responders during COVID-19 crisis

Research from The University of Tulsa looks to help first responders and health care workers as they continue battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

*Pictured is TU alumnae who working on the front lines and facing the virus daily.*

Left to right is Abigail Schmitt, Avery Culpepper, Madeline Oleksiak, Maddy Studebaker and Kaylie Schneider.

The pandemic has changed how millions of Americans work or learn, shifting offices or classrooms to their homes. Despite the mass changes, first responders and health care workers do not have the choice to work from home, and many of them are walking into the front lines of a battle against the virus every day. With those brave people in mind, TU faculty have been doing everything they can to help, including sharing their knowledge and expertise. Elana Newman, McFarlin Professor of Psychology, is an expert in disaster mental health with a specialty in journalism. She worked with journalists in New York for nearly a year after 9/11 and has helped journalists prepare for and respond to many disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Journalists and health care workers are two distinct professions, but many common threads run between the two, according to Newman. A lot of the advice she might give a journalist also can apply to health care workers.

“With a pandemic like COVID-19, when these workers are out in the field and interacting with the sick every day, they’re bringing that stress home with them daily,” Newman said. “They question will they get their loved ones sick? Will they harm family members, friends or neighbors? What might they face tomorrow?”

The stress is gripping not only at home but on the job as well. Because of limited equipment and resources, first responders and health care workers are witnessing events that transgress their moral beliefs and expectations. “That leads to something called ‘moral injury,’” Newman said. “It’s unlike PTSD because it is an ethical or spiritual maladaptation, but it manifests in real-world effects like stress, feeling ill, guilt and a lot more.”

Left to right is Sierra Adair, Keli Solomon Miller, Marci Brubaker, Kristen Rodriguez and Michelle Proctor. 

Fortunately, despite the grimness of the circumstances, Newman has advice for anyone working grueling shifts with the sick and dying. “Some of the stuff is obvious: exercise best judgment and be safe. Remember to take care of yourself first and foremost, because if you aren’t well, then you can’t take care of others. It’s also important to take time off, even when things get crazy, for self-care. It’s a way of retaining energy for the long haul, as a boundary and finding pleasure to stay healthy and provide for others.”

She also has tips for anybody else going through this pandemic, explaining that the anxiety many people are feeling is normal, but it can be overcome.

“With so many unknowns, we’re all feeling anxiety, but there are ways to cope with that. Make a list of what you can control and what you can’t control — having a sense of control is important. It’s also important to stay social, even while we are physically distant because as humans we need social interaction,” Newman explained.

She offered one more piece of advice for anybody who is feeling that, because of quarantine, they are not able to live a productive life: “Having a sense of purpose is crucial in times like these, and meaningful things that can be done right now are making masks, sending thank you notes and any other act to express appreciation. Not only will this give a feeling of purpose to the creator, but the product will go toward fighting against COVID-19.”

Dr. Gerard Clancy, TU professor of community medicine, added five other ways that people who are not serving on the front lines of COVID-19 can help. According to Clancy, staying home is the best way to support medical care workers. “The one thing I’m hearing over and over again from leadership in the health care system and physicians is, ‘This is real. If you want to help us, stay home and slow the spread of this virus,’” Clancy said.

For people with extra medical supplies, donating those to the health care system can meet the serious demand. People with the ability to make supplies also is very beneficial. “Every mask, every face shield, every pair of gloves helps a great deal,” he said.

When it comes to interacting with health care workers, Clancy says it is important to understand what they’re going through: “They’re working shifts after shifts. They’re working tons of hours, they’re exhausted, they don’t have the supplies they need and they’re vulnerable to becoming traumatized. Any kind of support you can offer them would be appreciated, but some of the best ways involve listening to them talk about what they’re going to if they want to share but not forcing them to talk about anything if they don’t. Getting a good meal in front of them can go a long way, as well. Good food tastes even better to them, at this point.”

While first responders and health care workers are fighting what is probably the most grueling war of their careers, applying these ideas from TU faculty will send a message to the heroes that they are not alone.

Understanding the dangers of eating disorders

Eating disorders are surrounded by misconceptions and confusion, but this does not have to be the case.

Ashli Sharpton, a post-doctoral intern at TU’s Counseling & Psychological Services Center, recently shared a wealth of knowledge about eating disorders. Often, people do not realize how dangerous eating disorders (EDO) can be, and that is a focus of Sharpton’s research.

“EDO have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder,” she  said. “They can cause numerous physical and mental health problems, including heart problems; gastrointestinal issues; problems with your hair, teeth and nails; and tend to occur alongside other mental health issues like anxiety, depression and substance abuse.”

Often EDO are associated with shame and stigma, so many people suffering from them try to keep the information to themselves. But EDO are nothing to feel ashamed about, according to Sharpton, there are many ways to intervene.

“Moderation, self-compassion and the ability to listen to your body are what I would recommend as ways to practice good health,” she said. “Food is not good or bad; some foods give you more nutrients and some give you less, but everything is okay in moderation and provides fuel for your body. You’re not going to ruin your health or gain a lot of weight if you have pizza or cake once in a while.”

When it comes to best-practices with food, she added, “Listen to your body because it generally knows what it needs and sometimes we get in our own way. We have hunger and satiety cues for a reason, so if you’re hungry, eat. If you’re full, stop eating. It sounds very simple, but when people start dieting or trying to change their eating habits drastically, those things can get lost.”

While anyone can be affected by eating disorders, athletes are more likely to suffer from EDO because of their participation in a sport based on performance and often physical fitness. This extra pressure to look and perform well can manifest in an EDO.

At The University of Tulsa, coaches understand this potential issue and work to prevent it from becoming a problem.

Kevin Harris, head coach of the Golden Hurricane rowing team, explained how health is managed in a sport that requires the athletes to weigh in before a competition.

I don’t ever conduct weigh-ins and I rarely, if ever, discuss actual numbers with the individual athletes,” Harris said. “One of our female strength or athletic training staff conducts the weigh-ins and the trainer then sends me the numbers. We also have a dietician available if people have concerns they would like to address.”

While EDO are potentially fatal if not properly treated, TU is taking mindful steps through research and student support to prevent them among its athletes.



Not Playing Games: CSG graduate is ensuring real-world safety with flight simulation

For many outsiders, The University of Tulsa’s computer simulation and gaming degree sounds like a lot of fun and a lot of play — after all, it has the word game in the its name.

In many cases, it comes as advertised: an exciting program that teaches students what they need to know before entering a world of simulation and gaming.

For Alvaro Gudiswitz, who graduated from TU in 2018 after studying both CSG and computer science, the world of simulation is giving him a chance to help save lives in the real world. It’s a serious job, but he’s having fun while doing it.

Gudiswitz, a St. Louis native, now works at Tulsa’s CymSTAR, a simulation-developer that works primarily with the United States government to develop simulations that can be used to train pilots and better prepare them for active duty.

In his second year with CymSTAR, Gudiswitz is learning the ropes and applying what he learned from his time at TU to the high-stakes job of simulation development.

“There are some similarities between creating simulations and video games,” he explained. “But the biggest difference is that simulations have a lot of moving parts. Based on the reactions of the training pilots, the simulations are programmed to physically respond to mimic flight. Things run in real-time.”

Changing Plans Leading to Exciting Futures

Gudiswitz has been interested in the idea of simulation development since early in his time at TU. 

“It was my sophomore year when the CSG degree became an option,” he said. “And it’s a great program design because it pairs so nicely with computer science, which is what I started with and intended to pursue. I managed to do both, and they really helped prepare me for my job. Classes like game engines really translated well to what I’m doing now, as did networks.”

Recently, Gudiswitz has been helping with the flight simulator for a USAF C-5 Galaxy cargo plane and thoroughly enjoying the process.

“It’s a chance to poke around in different areas of coding,” he said. “And I enjoy all of it. Basically, this is a chance to use the practical applications of all the things I’ve learned in class. I get to travel some, do things I never imagined I’d find myself doing, and at the end of the day, we’re also helping people learn how to fly, which is the most important thing of all.”

Gudiswitz says that TU helped make this possible. The CymSTAR job came from networking — connections he’d made while on campus — and the development of the CSG program encouraging him to branch out and try new things.

While the CSG degree program might be a lot of fun, there’s also important applications, and graduates like Gudiswitz are using the knowledge from a digital world to keep people safe in reality.

TU research cited by International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently cited research from The University of Tulsa in a paper titled “Mental health in elite athletes: International Olympic Committee consensus statement.” The paper used research about obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and stigma from the lab of Lisa Cromer, an associate professor of psychology at TU.

The research was originally performed as part of the Student Health Athletic Performance and Education (SHAPE), a free program started by Cromer to help student-athletes develop sport psychology skills. Cromer was not personally notified of the citation, but rather discovered it by chance.

“While working on a new manuscript, I wanted to double check a fact, and when I went to the web, this IOC article popped up. I started reading it and then realized they cited a lot of work from my lab, here at TU,” she recalled. “The International Olympic Committee consensus statement is basically a task force from the IOC telling the world about the health of elite athletes, so citing the work performed at TU in a paper about best practices is a tremendous honor.”

One of the citations caught her eye because it was the work of Mitchell Johnson, who was an undergraduate student at the time.

Johnson (BS ’12) was pleased with the recognition.

“When I heard the IOC was citing our work, I was thrilled to see this topic receiving greater attention within athletics, especially from one of sports’ highest governing bodies,” he said. “I expect this topic – the mental health of athletes – to continue to receive more attention at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, and it’s great that The University of Tulsa is contributing to this important work.”

Cromer recounted how Johnson came to work in the research lab. “I tend to have a lot of undergrads in my lab and support undergraduate research,” she said. “In this case, one student that was just a gem in my undergrad classes. He took advantage of the opportunity to work with my graduate students, and together their work was so impactful that now one of the most important committees of sport recognized it.”

Danielle Zanotti (MA ’16, PhD ’19), whose work was also cited, said that the research, in addition to the work of the SHAPE program at TU, is spotlighting an increasingly prevalent issue.

“Collegiate athletes are extremely resilient and high-achieving individuals,” Zanotti said. “However, that doesn’t mean they are immune to mental health issues and in some ways are at a higher risk for developing mental health issues due to the multiple and compounding stressors they face related to academic, athletic and developmental demands.

“It’s an honor to have played a role in several years of research and intervention carried out by the SHAPE research team that has contributed to a growing research base focused on understanding and improving the mental well-being of elite athletes. The citation from the IOC is both an honor and a reflection of the importance of the work that so many people at TU have contributed to.”

Cromer agreed, and said it was not a stroke of luck that work from an undergraduate was cited, but rather a combination of hard work and an environment that supports such research. “This highlights the strengths of TU: small class sizes allow me to get to know each student and his or her strengths; I have my own research lab; and having graduate assistants to help coordinate and support research allows me to publish work, including work with undergrads.”

She added, “I’ve always known I have incredible grad students and undergrads, but times like this show the world how special TU can be.”

New TU podcast sets up first-year students for success

The University of Tulsa is releasing a new podcast, TU Starter Pack, on Jan. 13, 2020.

Starter Pack will be the second podcast from The University of Tulsa podcasting, following the launch of TUniverse in fall 2019.

Unlike TUniverse, which aims to share TU-based research to all parts of the galaxy, Starter Pack has a different audience: current and prospective TU students.

Currently, the podcast has two focuses: health issues and insider tips. 

For the health-related issues, the podcast will focus on mental and physical wellbeing. Episodes will feature experts and personalities from the Collins Fitness Center, Alexander Health Center, Counseling & Psychological Services Center and other on-campus entities.

The student success tips will come from standout TU students along with advice from different groups around campus, like the Center for Student Academic Success.

Senior Rizka Aprilia, who will be featured on the podcast, said these episodes will aid the transition into college life for many students. 

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t know my way around TU,” she recalled. “It’s not until I met and talked to other students that I finally found my way throughout campus. Knowing that this podcast will have students talk about their experience around campus will be very helpful, especially to first-year students. Hearing wisdom from someone else who was once in the same shoes as you is a great tool for surviving college.”

The podcast will alternate the student health and student success episodes, with a new episode releasing every Monday. The episodes are short and full of information; none of them will have a longer runtime than the length of time it takes for a stroll across campus.

Starter Pack is designed to answer all sorts of questions students may have: How can I get personal fitness training? How do I pay my tuition bill? What are the best ways to get to know my professors?

Michael McClendon, a contributor to Starter Pack and director of Counseling & Psychological Services Center, believes the new show could be useful for a number of reasons. 

“I think that podcasts are the perfect medium for students to access information when and where they need it,” McClendon said. “Not all of the structures in life align with the busy schedules of students, but anyone with internet access has podcasts at hand throughout the day. And with a podcast regularly stocked full of useful information about how to successfully navigate the gauntlet of university life, TU students can get some helpful insight whenever they need it. Of course, none of the information will be a silver bullet that will fix everything at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, but it could help streamline the search or pursuit of the resources that will help change the course come the break of day.”

Be sure to tune in to Starter Pack by adding it on your favorite podcast app using our RSS feed or downloading it directly here. The podcast is available on these major podcast apps.

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tu-starter-pack/id1494738219?mt=2&app=podcast

Google Podcasts: https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly90dXN0YXJ0ZXJwYWNrLmxpYnN5bi5jb20vcnNz

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-university-of-tulsa/tu-starter-pack

TuneIn: http://tun.in/pjHvu

Nationally recognized TU cyber programs expanding in 2020

The University of Tulsa’s national reputation as a leader in computer science and cybersecurity education spans more than two decades, and in 2020, TU is poised to launch a new wave of opportunities that will benefit students, faculty, local educators and the entire cybersecurity industry.

Cyber Summit 2020

TU cyberLast year, TU introduced a cybersecurity conference unlike any other in the country. The Tulsa Cyber Summit welcomed students, executives, entrepreneurs and innovators for high-profile keynotes such as former CIA Director John Brennan, Facebook Security Director Aanchal Gupta and Team8 Founder and CEO Nadav Zafrir, as well as workshops and panel discussions with more than 40 leaders and executives in the cybersecurity industry.

Organizers are preparing for an even bigger conference March 22-24, 2020, at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Tulsa. The event will spotlight Tulsa’s emerging cyber industry and the valuable relationship TU holds with local and national cyber partners. Learn more about this year’s program and register to attend at utulsa.edu/cybercon.

“This year’s Cyber Summit is multi-focal,” said event organizer and Tandy School of Computer Science Chair John Hale. “We will continue the dual leadership and technology tracks, but also are incorporating a mini-track dedicated to cyber insurance, a thread of talks that will be of special relevance to small and medium-sized enterprises, and a panel on gender and diversity issues in the cyber workforce. In addition, we will welcome a group of national cyber experts as this year’s keynote speakers.”

TU-Team8 Cyber Fellows

Also new in 2020, TU is joining forces with the Tel Aviv, Israel-based cyber venture creation firm Team8 to establish the TU-Team8 Cyber Fellows program for doctoral students in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. The program is designed for students seeking to advance cyber R&D across security, big data and artificial intelligence, creating new methods and commercially viable solutions that enable a secure and productive all-digital future.

TU cyberFunded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the cyber fellowship program provides full financial support for 10 STEM-related doctoral degrees at TU to develop research projects that have the potential to fundamentally impact the world. Students receive free tuition, an annual living stipend/salary, TU graduate student benefits and a $20,000 bonus if they stay in Tulsa for at least two years after graduation.

TU’s rich history in cyber education and expertise combined with Team8’s ability to identify big problems and assemble the team, ecosystem and capital to drive a solution will prepare students with the cyber resilience and data science capabilities to enact a worldwide digital transformation.

The Ph.D. program officially begins in fall 2020. Students can apply by contacting Rose Gamble, Tandy Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, at gamble@utulsa.edu.

MS Cybersecurity Online

TU cyberTU’s master of science in cybersecurity online degree has produced its first two graduates. Aaron Arneson, a U.S. Air Force civilian employee, and Jon Clemenson, director of information security at 10th Magnitude, graduated in December 2019 and will use their TU graduate degrees to advance their cybersecurity careers. The TU online program is designed for working professionals seeking to gain the skills and expertise necessary to thrive in the growing cyber field. The curriculum can be completed in 24 months, and students can continue to work as full-time professionals while completing their degree.

To apply to the program or for more details, contact Randy Roberts, program business manager, at 918-631-6523 or rsr1451@utulsa.edu.


Just announced, TU will debut the multi-year CyberCity program in the summer of 2020 to infuse cyber education into every school and eventually every classroom in the Tulsa metropolitan area. The initiative will energize a generation of students to transform the city and its economy.

CyberCity also is sponsored by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and will be led by Sujeet Shenoi, professor of computer science and chemical engineering and founder of TU’s Cyber Corps, along with Kimberly Adams, Chapman Senior Instructor of Mathematics. Four week-long workshops will be held in June and July for elementary and middle school teachers. Enrollment in each week’s workshop will cap at 36. Groups of teachers from Tulsa-area schools are encouraged to participate in a workshop to create critical mass, foster collaborative efforts during the academic year and add cyber curricula and activities to their schools.

Workshop topics will include cybersecurity concepts and best practices, online safety, cyber ethics, computer gaming, the Internet of Things, robot and drone programming as well as the critical infrastructure, cryptography and coding involved in Python programming language. Each teacher will receive a $600 stipend, Raspberry Pi with a keyboard and mouse, flash drive with instructional materials, lockbox kit and the book “Cracking Codes with Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Cyphers.”

“We envision enabling a generation of cyber-savvy ‘tinkerers’ and innovators capable of changing the city’s economic base,” Shenoi said. “This is something we should do if we want to change our city.”

TU cyberTU will support teachers throughout the school year with an interactive web platform to share ideas and ask questions, creating an online community that fosters collaboration in developing lesson plans and other learning materials.

Find more information and sign up for the program by contacting Kimberly Adams at kimberly-adams@utulsa.edu or Sujeet Shenoi at sujeet@utulsa.edu.

SIDEBAR: Competitive student learning events

For undergraduate and graduate cyber students, competitive events are an annual highlight of the academic year that demonstrate their talent, skillsets and potential as future professionals.


In the summer of 2019, TU students collaborated with Professor of Computer Science Sandip Sen to design, develop, implement, test and field an agent that could perform repeated negotiations with human partners to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. The agent, named Draft Agent based on the core negotiating protocol used, was entered into the Human-Agent League of the Tenth International Automated Negotiating Agents Competition at IJCAI 2019, Aug. 10-16, in Macao, China. One of TU’s two entries was named a finalist and later the official winner, receiving a cash prize of $250.

TU students finished second at the 2019 Central Region Collegiate Pen Testing Competition (CPTC) Oct. 12-13 at Tennessee Tech. The event focuses on improving the offensive security posture of a fictitious organization and reporting on risks in a manner that is similar to a real professional environment. Students participate as part of an in-house red team, a consulting firm providing penetration testing services or an information security analyst to hone the technical, communication and collaboration skills they will use as professionals.

On Nov. 11, a group of students participated in the south-central regional event for the International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC). Both TU teams finished at or near the top of the Oklahoma rankings and in the top third of the 60 total teams that competed. Team Aleph Naught placed first in the state and #11 in the region, and team Turing Tested received third place in Oklahoma and #20 in the region.

Nov. 29-Dec. 1, the Tandy School of Computer Science virtually hosted the TU Capture the Flag (CTF) information security competition. Around 1,000 teams from around the globe participated in the community-oriented event that featured high school and collegiate brackets. Capture The information security competition requires teams to solve a series of challenges to prepare students for careers in digital security.


In 2020, TU students will attend the Information Security Talent Search Feb. 28-30 at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. The event is an annual three-day cyber attack/defend competition, challenging students to solve scenarios in computing security, system administration, networking and programming. Competitors engage in code review, architecture design, incident response and policy writing while defending a student-built infrastructure.

One of the most anticipated student events of the year is the Southwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) Regional, March 20-22. Hosted on TU’s campus, the regional CCDC event requires students to assume administrative and protective duties for an existing “commercial” network. The eight regional CCDC winners will compete in the national competition April 16-18.

Other upcoming events include the AI, Creativity and Copyright conference March 27 and an annual high-performance computing competition on TU’s campus in April. The AI symposium will involve a panel discussion on the complicated idea of who owns copyright to the music an artificial intelligence system generates. This is complicated by the fact that machines cannot currently generate or own copyrights under U.S. law. The discussion will be followed by a hackathon in which student programmers create AI-driven music pieces. The event will conclude with a talk by one of the lead AI experts at Pandora music.

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.

Schweitzer Leadership Summit addresses Tulsa health disparities

The first-ever Schweitzer Leadership Summit welcomed more than 60 graduate students and professionals from across the country to Tulsa earlier this month to learn how local leaders are improving health disparities and strengthening the Schweitzer Fellowship U.S. network.

The event was hosted November 2-4 by current and past Albert Schweitzer Fellows who saw an opportunity to bring their counterparts to Tulsa and expand the organization’s network of alumni through meaningful engagement.

The role of a Schweitzer Fellow

schweitzer leadership summit“Schweitzer Fellows and alumni are talented, passionate individuals who do ground-breaking work to address health disparities,” said Rachel Gold, director of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Tulsa chapter. “The goal of this leadership summit was to reinforce the energy, passion and spark that drove Fellows and alumni to the Schweitzer Fellowship in the first place, and that will continue to inspire them towards reaching their leadership goals.”

Schweitzer Fellows are competitively selected from graduate and professional degree programs statewide in traditional health-focused fields such as medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health as well as related fields including education, social work, law and the arts. Schweitzer Fellows gain knowledge and experience in innovative project design, leadership and community health by designing and implementing yearlong initiatives that address health disparities and social determinants of health such as poverty, the environment and education.

schweitzer leadership summitPast projects include a concept developed by University of Tulsa clinical psychology doctoral student Danielle Zanotti, a member of the inaugural class of Tulsa Schweitzer Fellows in 2016. Zanotti implemented a program to help veterans strengthen parenting skills and gain developmentally appropriate knowledge about what to expect from their children. The community site was The Coffee Bunker — a place in Tulsa where veterans can connect. After her year of Schweitzer service, Zanotti was selected for an internship at a VA hospital in Houston and plans to return to Oklahoma to pursue her career in mental health and community leadership.

A deep dive into Tulsa, growing as a leader

Other fellows such as Ekene Ezenwa, a third-year student in the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, focused their projects directly on health education. Ezenwa and her Schweitzer Fellow partner established a health leadership program called HEAL at Union Middle and High Schools, where they connected participants to health professions and supported them in designing health workshops for younger students.

“This fellowship is good for anyone who wants to do a deep dive into Tulsa and be able to not only help the community grow but also grow as a leader,” Ezenwa said. “The Schweitzer Fellowship provides participants with so many resources and so much guidance to do the things they want to do – design projects that the community really wants and needs, learn how to successfully write grant proposals and advocate in the community.”

Through careful planning, including a series of virtual meetings with counterparts around the country, the Schweitzer Fellowship Leadership Summit planning team, including seven Tulsa Schweitzer alumni and Gold, created an agenda that shone a spotlight on the status of health and social issues in Tulsa, the second-largest city in a state that ranks 48th, 49th or 50th in many national health measures. Gold says Tulsa was the perfect backdrop for Schweitzer Fellows and alumni to reunite and take a closer look at Tulsa efforts to reduce community health gaps while brainstorming new strategies for improving health outcomes.

“This conference reinforced the leadership skills of our planning team, refined their own career goals related to improving health and promoted self-awareness of their capabilities and visions for the local and national Schweitzer Fellowship communities,” Gold said.

Renewed inspiration from a Schweitzer alumna

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Leslie Hsu Oh

Award-winning writer, skilled photographer and honored public health leader Leslie Hsu Oh served as keynote speaker for the event. As a 1997-98 alumna of the Schweitzer Fellowship at Harvard University School of Public Health, she founded the Hepatitis B Initiative to tackle the prevalence of hepatitis B in Boston’s Asian communities by offering free screenings and vaccinations. Her Schweitzer project is still in operation.

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The Gathering Place

A special session led by Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy discussed health disparities in the city. Participant-led workshops at Tulsa’s 36 Degrees North entrepreneurial hub focused on approaching mental health through a social justice lens, gratitude as an act of leadership and transforming health care organizations through immigrant-friendly policy. Conference attendees visited facilities for Women in Recovery, the Take Control Initiative, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Center for Individuals with Physical Challenges and Community Health Connection. The weekend concluded with a tour of The Gathering Place.

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Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (left) and TU President Gerard Clancy

Sponsors included the TU Oxley College of Health Sciences, Morningcrest Foundation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, TYPROs, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and Trust Co. of Oklahoma.

True Service: Cycling for a cause

Geology junior Grant Morey of St. Louis is wrapping up a summer-long cycling excursion from Virginia to Oregon, constructing homes with the organization Bike & Build. A competitive road racer, Morey said the project presented an opportunity to ride across America with purpose. The service-oriented cycling trip engages young adults with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, YouthBuild and local nonprofits while raising awareness of the need for affordable housing. Participants ride an average of 66 miles per day while relying on the generous hearts of churches, community centers and schools for food, rest and showers.

Students empowered to serve

grant morey in cycling garb stands next to a fence overlooking wooded hillsMorey’s desire to combat one of America’s leading social issues is a common attitude among the TU student population. The TU community empowers students to get involved and make a difference in the lives of those struggling in their home towns and around the world.

“In Tulsa, I’m in contact with homeless people all the time, and it’s just heartbreaking to see,” Morey said. “Hopefully, by the end of the trip, I will have made some sort of difference. I hope it’s life changing.”

Morey’s adventures on a bike began when he found Tulsa’s cycling community as a TU freshman. During a local group ride one evening, he made several friends who became cycling mentors.

“I have two lives — one here at school and one out cycling,” Morey said. “It takes a lot of my time, but I just love getting outside, pushing myself and hanging out with new people. It’s just a great sport.”

Morey is primarily a road cyclist with category 4 racing status, but he hopes to improve his rating to a 3 by the end of the year. Tulsa is home to several annual cycling festivals such as Tulsa Tough that offer an array of criterium races, but he said he prefers the open road. “I’m more of a road race guy — longer distances with some hills. I like the idea of an endurance challenge.”

Cycling in Tulsa

grant moreyHe averages about 10 hours a week on his GURU bike that he has carefully upgraded for performance, joking that it “is probably nicer than my car.” Between maintenance and travel to rides, Morey devotes anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a week to cycling at some of his favorite locations such as Riverside and the hills north of the city.

“Tulsa is a great area to ride because you can get out to the open roads quick,” he said. “There’s not a lot of traffic, and it’s a great community for cycling.”

Morey also is a regular at Tulsa’s Wednesday night rides that attract hundreds of cyclists each week. This spring, he spent almost every weekend racing competitively within the region. Morey said cycling helps relieve the worries and stress of a demanding school schedule.

“For anybody interested in riding, I’m always happy to talk to them or ride with them,” he said. “You just have to find the right people to help you along and get started.”

Watch from earlier this spring as Morey discusses cycling in Tulsa and the Bike and Build project.

Once Morey concludes his Bike & Build tour in mid-August, he plans to study abroad this fall in Copenhagen and research glaciers in Greenland. In addition to his degree in geology, he is earning minors in environmental policy and philosophy to prepare for graduate school and a career in the Earth sciences field.

“I love being outside, and I’ve always loved math and science,” Morey said. “I want to do something that helps the Earth or helps me understand it better.”

After choosing TU for its small size and comfortable distance from his St. Louis home, Morey is now certainly True Blue, falling in love with the campus, the city and the sport of road racing.

Learn more about Morey’s journey across the United States or follow the Bike & Build group on Instagram at #cus18.