Return to in-person classes, COVID-19 vaccinations, United Black World Month, Seed Fund for Racial Justice, top online program rankings

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We are now in our fourth week of classes and our second week of some face-to-face instruction. I am excited to welcome many of you back to our campuses. Together as Buckeyes we got the job done this past fall, fighting the virus and remaining on campus to do the things we love. Let’s do it again, Buckeyes. 

We asked all students to quarantine prior to returning to campus and sent at-home tests to students living in residence halls to make sure they were COVID-19 negative before in-person instruction began. Students also took a second test on the day they arrived and quarantined before they received a negative test. Now, as we process an average of 3,000 COVID-19 tests per day, our positivity rates remain at encouragingly low levels. Your collective efforts and support of one another are paying off. In the fall, shortly after classes began, the student positivity rate was at nearly 6%. To date this spring, the seven-day average rate for all students is less than 1%, with the on-campus average at 0.3% and the off-campus average at 0.87%.

As a reminder, students living in university-managed housing on all campuses as well as undergraduate, graduate and professional Columbus-campus students are required to take a COVID-19 saliva test each week. Additionally, anyone accessing the recreation facilities – including for academic classes – will need to show a green status from their Daily Health Report. We also will continue to support our employees to balance work and home responsibilities by offering flexible work arrangements, including remote work options when appropriate, to faculty, staff and student employees this spring. For more, visit the Human Resources website.

COVID-19: vaccination

We continue to plan for expanded vaccine distribution for students, faculty and staff as allowed by the State of Ohio and in coordination with Governor Mike DeWine and state and local health experts. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are being distributed to individuals in phases 1A and 1B as determined by the Ohio Department of Health. We recently shared a vaccination update and announced a series of virtual COVID-19 town halls the first Monday of each month through April. The February 1 town hall focused on information about the vaccine. You can watch it on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes COVID-19 Vaccination Information page.

Please continue to check the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website for the latest vaccine information.

Education for Citizenship Discussion Series

On January 20, we observed the peaceful transition of power in our nation’s capital, a more than 220-year tradition vital to our democracy. As Buckeyes, we will continue to do our part through education and by engaging in civil and productive discourse.

The university’s Education for Citizenship Discussion Series kicked off with virtual conversations focused on “Fostering Deliberative Democracy in Our Era of Political Polarization,” “Becoming Weavers in a Divided Nation” and “Race and Democracy in America.” We were pleased to welcome hundreds of participants from across our university and Buckeye Nation for these discussions. The series continues from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday with “Navigating the Post-Truth World.” Details and links to view previous events are available on the Education for Citizenship Initiative website.

Racial justice, diversity and inclusion

The university has opened applications for the second round of funding for the Seed Fund for Racial Justice. You can review the first round of funding here. The grants will be used to seed innovative research approaches and creative ideas that will contribute to the elimination of racism and address its underlying causes and consequences.

Campus community engagement

Last week, I enjoyed a terrific virtual visit with students, faculty and staff in our College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE). I was so impressed with their passion for advancing fundamental and applied research in areas ranging from nutrition to the impact of education on physical and mental well-being. The visit was hosted by Dr. Don Pope-Davis, the college’s outstanding dean. Under his leadership, EHE is doing truly remarkable work that is making a difference.

I also visited virtually with more than 70 faculty, staff and students from our College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), my home department. My gratitude goes to each of the participants, including ECE Chair Dr. Hesham El Gamal, for the warm welcome and overview of the work being done through initiatives like the Institute for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust, Center for High Performance Power Electronics, ElectroScience Laboratory and National MicroElectronics Security Training Center. I continue to be excited by the work of the department and college. We look forward to celebrating Dr. David Williams, who is stepping down as the college’s dean at the end of this month after a decade of incredible service. On March 1, we will welcome Dr. Ayanna Howard to our Buckeye family as the new dean of the College of Engineering. Read more here.

I presided over the University Senate, which approved a new grading system to help students while they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic or future crises. The Emergency Pass grading system will be implemented this semester, pending approval by the Board of Trustees.

Finally, two virtual town halls will be held on Wednesday, February 3, to gather input on the search for Ohio State’s next executive vice president and provost. Your input and engagement are critical. A session will be held for faculty and staff from 2-3 p.m. and another for students from 3-4 p.m. The input will be used to inform the leadership profile of our next academic leader. More information and links to join the sessions are available here.

University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being

We continue to implement recommendations made by our task force surrounding safety education and programming, including:

Expect additional implementation announcements throughout the semester.

Discovery, learning and impact

The accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff continue to make us all proud. Below are just a few reasons to celebrate:

  • U.S. News & World Report ranked our online Master of Science in Nursing No. 3 overall and No. 2 among public institutions for 2021. At the undergraduate level, Ohio State’s online bachelor’s programs are again ranked among the top five nationally. Read more.
  • Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion announced the 2021 recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship, recognizing undergraduate students with exceptional academic records and demonstrated involvement in leadership and service.
  • Our Graduate School announced its Presidential Fellows. The award recognizes the scholarly accomplishments and potential of graduate students entering the final phase of their dissertation research or terminal degree project.
  • Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, College of Nursing dean and our chief wellness officer, and Dr. Tim Raderstorf, the college’s chief innovation officer, served as editors on the book “Evidence-Based Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Nursing and Healthcare.” It placed as the top publication in the Nursing Management and Leadership category of the American Journal of Nursing’s 2020 Book of the Year Awards.
  • Dr. Mary Howard and Dr. Deena Chisolm have been named 2021 YWCA of Columbus Women of Achievement award recipients. The award is given for exceptional contributions to the community as well as exemplifying the organization’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
  • Dr. Joshua Joseph received a Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service. He was recognized for helping to advance the Wexner Medical Center’s community mask distribution program, Anti-Racism Action Plan, Healthy Community Day and quality improvement projects -- and his work with the African American Male Wellness Agency.
  • Dr. Bharat Bhushan received the Tribology Gold Medal Award for outstanding achievements. Dr. Bhushan has pioneered the tribology of magnetic storage devices, bio-/nanotechnology, cosmetics and biomimetics, nanotribology and green tribology.
  • Dr. Amrita Dhar and Dr. Christopher Pincock were awarded National Endowment for the Humanities grants. The grants support humanities scholars and their projects, innovative digital public initiatives and infrastructure programs at cultural institutions.
  • The Wexner Center for the Arts is now offering free admission to its galleries every Sunday after a contribution from the AEP Foundation. The program, which will broaden access to the arts, began this week with health protocols in place.

I look forward to sharing more accomplishments from across the university and my vision for our shared future at the State of the University Address on February 18 at 4 p.m. Register here.

Finally, we celebrate the life of renowned artist, teacher and mentor Pheoris West, who passed on January 23. An emeritus professor, he served on the art faculty for 40 years at Ohio State while contributing immeasurably to our culture and community. His life and work will be long remembered.

Have a great rest of your week, Buckeyes. I will share more soon.

Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD