Gratitude, autumn commencement, Seed Fund for Racial Justice

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

With the autumn semester concluded, I want to share my gratitude for your remarkable efforts to combat COVID-19 and ensure that our mission to educate, make new discoveries and provide excellence in outreach and patient care has flourished in the face of great challenges.

I hope all of you are able to take some time over the winter break to refresh and rejuvenate. For the faculty, staff and students working long, difficult hours in our health care system, it is hard to put into words the depth of our appreciation for what you do. Last week, Wexner Medical Center ICU nurse and alumna Kahlia Anderson was featured in the Washington Post, sharing her experiences treating COVID-19 patients. It crystalizes for me the selflessness, skill and perseverance that define Ohio State and our people.

Yesterday, the medical center began administering the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the highest priority front-line clinical workers. We are working hard in coordination with the state to assist in additional vaccine procurement and distribution.

While this is exciting and positive progress in our fight against the virus, COVID-19 remains a serious threat. We must continue to follow all safe and healthy requirements. Thank you for working Together As Buckeyes in everything you do.

COVID-19: return to on-campus activities

We are finalizing our post-break, return-to-campus protocols. Depending on how COVID-19 cases are trending this month and in early January, and with the guidance of Governor Mike DeWine as well as state and local health experts, the university will evaluate and make any necessary changes to our return plans. We will keep you updated. The current plan is for all classes to be held virtually for the first two weeks of spring semester: January 11-22.

Please continue to “homegate” when our football Buckeyes return to action against Northwestern on Saturday. I know we are all looking forward to seeing our team on the field soon, and cheering while keeping your friends and family safe and healthy. 

Autumn commencement

This past Sunday we awarded 3,938 degrees and certificates at autumn commencement. It was wonderful to celebrate virtually with so many new Ohio State graduates and their families on this exciting and special day. Our commencement speaker, ordained minister and longtime central Ohio television news anchor Jerry Revish, delivered a thoughtful and moving address about taking advantage of opportunities wherever they present themselves, even in challenging times. You can watch the full ceremony as well as the pre-event program here.

Racial justice, diversity and inclusion

As the Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities continues its work, the university has selected 10 proposals to receive funding through the $1 million Seed Fund for Racial Justice. Principal investigators on the projects represent colleges and organizations across our campuses in disciplines ranging from anthropology and mathematics to public affairs, obstetrics and more. They were selected from 72 initial proposals for creative projects that address structural racism, implicit bias and privilege, and racial and cultural disparities. We will issue grants of up to $50,000 each in two phases over the next two years.

This year marks the 16th Annual Statewide Tribute to Rosa Parks. In place of an in-person event this year, a virtual celebration video features messages from people throughout our community. I was thrilled to share my thoughts, and you can watch the video here. While Rosa Parks is most often remembered for her defiance of injustice on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., she also taught us that progress is a lifelong pursuit. We continue her work today.

Discovery, learning and impact

We recognized two student recipients of the 2021 President’s Prize. Christina Allen of Fairfax, Va., and Dominique Hadad of Dublin, Ohio, will receive a $50,000 living stipend and up to $50,000 in startup funding for their post-graduation projects. Christina will focus on creating Food Leads, working closely with dietitians and doctors to make nutrition a central part of type 2 diabetes treatment for Black and low-income Columbus residents. Dominique will launch Green Scope Consulting, a program aimed at helping food-related local businesses reduce waste to cut costs and propel sustainability goals.

The Moritz College of Law posted a 92% overall bar exam passage rate for exam takers, which is 7% higher than the state average. The college was also the most represented Ohio law school at the October exam with 156 graduates sitting for the bar. We were thrilled to learn that 2020 Moritz graduate Jessica Van Ranken placed first out of 189 examinees in the Arizona bar.

We were pleased to recognize students on the summer 2020 dean’s list. Our congratulations go to the more than 1,000 Buckeyes who achieved top grades for their work.

College of Engineering Dean-designate Dr. Ayanna Howard and faculty members Dr. Ramteen Sioshansi, Dr. Jin Wang, Dr. Xiaorui Wang and Dr. Dong Xuan have been named Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Fellows. IEEE Fellow is a distinction within institute membership for extraordinary accomplishments in their fields. 

Finally, I was honored to be recognized as the inaugural recipient of the Mildred Dresselhaus Medal, awarded by the IEEE. I had the great fortune to know Dr. Dresselhaus, who is widely considered the founder of carbon science-nanotube technology and carbon electronics. She paved the way for so many women faculty in science and engineering, including me. At Ohio State, we focus on providing opportunities to scientists and scholars from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Be safe, and warmest holiday wishes, Buckeyes. I look forward to sharing more soon.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD