Final week of autumn classes, leadership announcements, instructional breaks expanded for spring semester

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I hope you had a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday. This week is the last for regularly scheduled classes in an autumn semester like no other in our university’s history. 

My gratitude goes to you for your patience, flexibility and close adherence to our COVID-19 protocols. Wearing a mask, physically distancing, avoiding gatherings and practicing good hygiene are critically important even during periods of remote learning as we look to the spring and beyond. Please also continue to “homegate” when our football Buckeyes return to action this week against Michigan State. 

As a reminder, the first two weeks of spring semester classes -- January 11-22, 2021 -- will be virtual only. The university’s COVID-19 team continues to monitor conditions and collaborate closely with city, state and federal officials. We will be sharing updates on our spring return plans in the coming weeks. The decisions we make now will determine the extent to which we can learn, teach, pursue research and scholarship, and be Together As Buckeyes on our campuses in the coming months.

Leadership announcements

This week, we shared that Dr. Ayanna Howard will be joining our Buckeye family on March 1 as dean of the College of Engineering, subject to Board of Trustees approval. You can read more on Ohio State News. Dr. Howard is an accomplished roboticist, entrepreneur and educator. She comes to Ohio State from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is chair of the School of Interactive Computing in the College of Computing as well as founder and director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab. Dr. Howard will follow Dr. David Williams, who shared in May that he would be stepping down after a decade of outstanding service and accomplishment as dean. Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Dr. Williams for his leadership throughout the years -- and in welcoming Dr. Howard. She will be the first woman to lead our College of Engineering.

Today, Dr. Grace Wang began her role as our new executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise. Both of us will speak on Friday at the ninth annual Economic Development 411 event, sponsored by the Mid-Ohio Development Exchange and One Columbus. You can register for the virtual event here

I am also pleased to share that Dr. Melissa Shivers is being promoted from vice president for student life to senior vice president for student life. Dr. Shivers has taken a strong leadership role in our COVID-19 response, facilitating unprecedented move-out and move-in processes as well as a comprehensive quarantine/isolation housing infrastructure. She is an incredible advocate for students and the university community, consistently taking a hands-on and inclusive approach. Dr. Shivers served as co-chair of our University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being and was recently named a 2021 Diamond Honoree by the American College Personnel Association for her career-long contributions to student development.

Finally, we shared earlier today that Dr. Bruce A. McPheron has decided to step down from his position as executive vice president and provost, effective at the end of June next year. He has provided exceptional service to his alma mater in a number of roles, including dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences prior to his tenure as provost. Dr. McPheron will continue to serve as a professor of entomology at Ohio State. We will have many opportunities to express our gratitude for his service as provost in the coming months. A national search for the executive vice president and provost will begin shortly, and we will provide updates on our progress.

Breaks expanded for spring semester

After discussion with student leaders about how best to promote wellness, the university will expand instructional breaks during the spring semester. The first of these two-day breaks from classes will take place Feb. 23-24. The second will be March 31-April 1. These will replace the previously announced single-day instructional breaks. While we hope students can use these days to relieve some stress, we want to re-emphasize the importance of following COVID-19 safeguards -- particularly limiting travel -- should current conditions continue.

Please note several other adjustments related to adding these instructional breaks for wellness:

  • On April 2, Wednesday classes will meet instead of Friday classes. This conversion day will ensure that classes that meet on Wednesdays have the same number of sessions (14) as every other class day over the course of the semester.
  • The addition of these days will change the end of the semester. April 23 will now be the final day of spring classes, and final exams will take place from April 26-30.

The full academic calendar is posted on the University Registrar website.  

Thank you to the leaders of the Undergraduate Student Government, the Council of Graduate Students and the Inter-Professional Council for their insights into these adjustments.

Discovery, learning and impact

Congratulations go to the Ohio State team behind IR Medtek, one of 22 startup companies selected to participate in the national University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase. The showcase is sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities. IR Medtek, founded last year, has licensed technology developed at Ohio State, including the James Cancer Hospital, for the early, non-invasive diagnosis of skin and other cancers.

We shared new research with the potential to rewrite biology textbooks. Ohio State’s Dr. Irina Artsimovitch, professor of microbiology, is the co-lead author of a study that shows, for the first time, how the process of copying genetic material in cells is properly turned off. The international research team identified an entirely new role for a specific protein that is responsible for the action known as transcription termination. The work answers a fundamental question about a cellular function that is essential to life.

We continue to work each day to advance Ohio State’s national research-and-scholarship profile. The work of university scholars passed a media-related milestone with more than 10 million reads on The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit publisher of commentary and analysis authored by members of the academic community. In honor of the 10 million reads, check out a list of Ohio State’s top 10 most-read articles.

Finally, today is #GivingTuesday. The university is directing its efforts toward helping students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can learn more by visiting the COVID-19 Response: Help Ohio State students webpage.

In times of great challenges, the efforts of our students, faculty and staff continue to make our communities and our world a better place. Thank you, Buckeyes. Be safe and well.

Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD

COVID-19 Resources

Wellness Resources