State of the university and new initiatives, instructional breaks for wellness, Shared Values Initiative

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

During my first six months as a member of our Buckeye family, I have been inspired and motivated by the connections I’ve made both on our campuses and in the communities we serve. Even when faced with the challenges of a global pandemic, unprecedented in the modern age, the Ohio State spirit has not wavered. If anything, it shines brighter in our care and support for one another. I am truly honored to be a part of that.

Thursday, I delivered my first State of the University address – an opportunity to recognize the incredible work that is occurring across Buckeye Nation and also to share my long-term vision for our institution. My thanks go to our University Senate for hosting the virtual event and to all who joined us. You can read more and watch the full address here.

We remain, as ever, 100% committed to our core mission as a land-grant university and the state’s flagship public research university. I was pleased to share in my address several initiatives to further that commitment by focusing on four specific areas of excellence:

Academic excellence

While our undergraduate enrollment has grown by more than 5,800 students since 2008, the net number of tenure-track faculty has declined over the same period. To ensure a better student-to-faculty ratio and maximize the academic experience, we will hire a minimum of 350 net new tenure-track faculty. Vitally, 150 of those positions will be focused on addressing social equity and racial disparities through RAISE: race, inclusion and social equity. RAISE has a goal of hiring at least 50 faculty in racial equity research and scholarship in health care, education (with particular emphasis on STEM), economy, leadership, justice and public safety, arts and creative expression and 100 underrepresented and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) faculty.

Research and creative expression

We announced a $750 million investment in researchers and research over the next decade. Part of that investment will be dedicated to the Presidential Research Excellence program, which supports two types of projects: curiosity-driven research proposals and initiatives in pressing and convergent fields. In particular, Ohio State will lead in areas of research and creative expression ranging from next-generation computing and communication, life sciences and living therapeutics to the arts, humanities and social sciences, with a goal to double sponsored research and empower the next generation of explorers and discoverers.

Entrepreneurship and partnership

Ohio State’s new comprehensive unit focused on research, innovation and the knowledge enterprise will spearhead efforts to cultivate and grow entrepreneurship opportunities and deepen our private-sector partnerships through investing in startups. This includes building out our new Innovation District, which received a boost from the recent announcement of a $100 million partnership with JobsOhio, Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This effort will help increase sponsored research in biomedical science and engineering by 50% and educate 22,500 STEM graduates over the next 15 years. We are also launching the Buckeye Entrepreneur Awards Program, which will create an annual competition for students to be selected as Buckeye entrepreneurs and awarded $50,000 to work on their new ventures for a year. The program will also introduce students to potential investors and partners.


The nation has experienced a national social justice reckoning over the past year, and it is more important than ever that Ohio State leads in racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. Central to these efforts is recruiting, retaining and graduating students from underrepresented groups. To do that, we must continue to address the biggest barrier to accessing a college degree for most students: affordability. By the end of this decade, we intend for our graduating seniors to leave our campuses debt-free. This first-in-the-nation initiative to offer a zero-debt bachelor’s degree, at scale, is well within our reach.

These initiatives represent a snapshot of our vision for the future of Ohio State. Our university’s size, scale and scope combined with the diversity and curiosity of our people create unlimited potential. Together, we will be the model 21st century land-grant institution. 

COVID-19: return to campus

Our seven-day average total student positivity rate has held steady at 0.5%. This is remarkable, and we are on the right track as we work to bring more students back to our campuses and classrooms this fall. Your care and compassion for one another are clear. Let’s keep it up!

Students who complete their weekly, required COVID-19 test will be eligible to win a variety of prizes offered by the Office of Student Life and partners across the university. Prizes include gift cards, tech products and more. Please continue to do your part to keep all of us safe and healthy. Details of the program are available at

As a reminder, our next COVID-19 virtual town hall is scheduled for March 1 at 5:30 p.m. The discussion will include information on university planning efforts related to the summer term and fall semester as well as updates on vaccinations and other topics. You can register here. More details will be available soon on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Instructional breaks

The first of our spring instructional breaks will take place on Tuesday, February 23, and Wednesday, February 24. The second will take place March 31 and April 1. These breaks are designed with student wellness in mind. I strongly encourage everyone to use these days to take some time, recharge and refresh. At the same time, please maintain safe and healthy COVID-19 practices, including limiting travel and avoiding large gatherings. Be well, Buckeyes.

Discovery, learning and impact

I am delighted to share that Dr. Elizabeth Newton, executive director of our Battelle Center for Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, has been selected as the winner of the Sally Ride Excellence in Education Award by the American Astronautical Society. The award is given each year to an outstanding educator in the delivery of space education and the use of space in STEM education. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor!

Ohio State is ranked No. 1 nationally and is the top producing Fulbright U.S. Scholar university for the 2020-21 academic year. We have 15 Fulbright scholars, three times the number of awardees over the previous year. The university also ranks among the top schools for the number of students offered a Fulbright award.

The university has joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) Program on Fairness in Artificial Intelligence. Created with funding from NSF and Amazon, the project explores fairness in the realms of automated machine learning and artificial intelligence. Dr. Parinaz Naghizadeh, assistant professor in the Integrated Systems Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, is leading Ohio State’s work in the program.

Dr. James L. Moore III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, has been named to the Board of Directors of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. The institute is dedicated to advancing access to and success in higher education for all students. He brings valuable insight and expertise to this national role, and we thank Dr. Moore for all of his service. 

University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being

The university has shared a safety survey with a sample of more than 14,000 students, which is part of the continuing effort to implement recommendations made by the task force. The goal of the survey is to gauge the overall perception of safety both on and off campus as well as awareness of Ohio State’s resources and programs. Additional implementation announcements will be made throughout the spring semester. As always, please take time to explore the university’s comprehensive Safety Resources webpage.

Also, the Office of Student Life’s Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services is offering free window and door alarms and light timers to increase student home security. See details here

Shared Values Initiative survey

Results from our values and ethics survey are now available on the Shared Values Initiative webpage. The university began the Shared Values Initiative in 2019. This survey, conducted in late 2019, was an initial step to gather data to support the initiative. The data reveal encouraging signs of alignment on core essential values as well as opportunities for further improvement and engagement among students, faculty and staff.

My thanks and appreciation go to everyone who took part in this survey as we work to make our Ohio State community the very best it can be. This is an important part of our Shared Values Initiative to further advance and enrich our university culture. We look forward to incorporating the data and lessons learned into ongoing efforts to advance this work on all of our campuses.

Each week connecting with you brings new inspirations and opportunities. Thank you, Buckeyes, and I look forward to sharing more soon.


Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD