Importance of connecting, research excellence program, campus reactivation updates, safety and well-being communications

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

On Sunday, I was honored and excited to be invited to Gospel Fest, part of the university’s 43rd African American Heritage Festival. The event featured music, dancing and more – a joyous expression of pride and celebration organized by an amazing and dedicated group of students.

Like so many other events and gatherings over the past year, Gospel Fest was held virtually. Yet, the spirit, passion and engagement of our students was undaunted and undeniable. As I have so many times since becoming president of this university, I felt a great connection to Ohio State and our community members. This truly is a special place, and what makes our campuses incredible centers for education and growth are the individuals we count as classmates, colleagues and members of our Buckeye family. I know we all look forward to the day when we can study, teach, sing, dance and embrace each other in person.

That day is coming. But until then, keep reaching out. Keep connecting and keep faith in one another. This is an extraordinary community of which I am proud to be a part. I know that you are, too. 

COVID-19: campus reactivation and vaccination updates

We shared last week that planning is underway for a reactivation of our campuses this fall. The goal is to offer safe and robust in-person experiences significantly expanded from current restrictions. We could not have reached this point without the incredible efforts and sacrifices you have made to combat the spread of the virus from the start of this pandemic. 

Together As Buckeyes, we have helped drive down our seven-day average total student positivity rate to 0.5%. Let’s continue to wear our masks, physically distance, practice good hygiene and avoid large gatherings so that more Buckeyes can be together in person this fall. Thank you for continuing to follow our testing protocols – a vital element of the fight against COVID-19.

The Wexner Medical Center has administered more than 66,000 total vaccinations in accordance with updated state guidelines. Last Tuesday was our highest single day for vaccinations thus far at 2,297 doses. Our second COVID-19 virtual town hall last night included additional information on vaccinations as well as planning efforts related to the summer term and autumn semester. These town halls are recorded, and last night’s event will be posted to the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website soon. A third virtual event will take place on Monday, April 12.

Buckeyes don’t quit, especially when we are caring for and supporting one another.

President’s Research Excellence program

As part of our vision for accelerating excellence in research and creative expression, I want to share additional details on the newly announced President’s Research Excellence program. This program, part of a larger investment in Ohio State researchers and research, will be supported with $2 million a year on average for 10 years. Calls for two different types of proposals will be issued annually: accelerator grants in the spring and catalyst grants in the fall. Details for both types of proposals – including submission requirements and review and selection processes – are available on the Office of Research website.

Broadly, Ohio State will make a $750 million investment over the next decade in research and researchers, with a goal to double sponsored research and empower the next generation of explorers and discoverers.

University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being

As often as possible, we are sharing safety and well-being resources as well as action steps taken by the university. Please continue to check for updates in these Reflections emails; onCampus communications that go to students and their families, faculty and staff; our comprehensive safety resources webpage; and social media feeds like @OSU_EMFP and @OSUPOLICE.

Task force co-chairs Mr. Jay Kasey, senior vice president in the Office of Administration and Planning, and Dr. Melissa Shivers, senior vice president in the Office of Student Life, shared a safety implementation and resources letter with parents this week. Read it here.

We continue to implement recommendations from our task force of staff, faculty, community partners, and student and parent representatives. These include enhanced security measures like increased police patrols in the immediate off-campus area, including a combination of OSUPD and CPD officers. The enhanced security measures complement investments to improve lighting, expand the Community Crime Patrol program and extend operating hours for Lyft Ride Smart’s discounted late-night rides.

We recently sent out a safety survey with a sample of more than 14,000 students, another task force recommendation. If you received the survey, please fill it out and share your thoughts. The goal of the survey is to gauge the overall perception of safety both on and off campus as well as awareness of resources and programs. Additionally, I encourage you to watch the entries in the university’s Safety Spotlight series. In the most recent video, OSUPD Lt. Marjorie Rizalvo discusses what you can do to add another layer of security to your residence. Watch it here.

Leadership announcements

Please give a warm Buckeye welcome to Dr. Ayanna Howard, who joins our university this week as dean of the College of Engineering. She is an accomplished roboticist, entrepreneur and educator. I can’t wait to work with her to further advance the student experience and our impact in the many communities that we serve.

We are deeply grateful to Dr. David Williams, who helped elevate our engineering college to incredible heights during two terms as dean. I am thrilled to share that Dr. Williams has agreed to serve as a senior adviser to Dr. Grace Wang, executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise, as we continue to strengthen our important industry partnerships.

We were delighted to announce that Elizabeth Parkinson will serve in the new position of senior vice president for marketing and communications. She brings more than 25 years of experience in higher education, professional sports, business services, government and more – most recently as assistant vice president for marketing communications at the University of Michigan. We will welcome her to Ohio State on March 22.

The university is launching a national search for the next senior vice president for talent, culture and human resources. Deciding who will become the next HR leader is a pivotal decision for our ability to continue to attract and retain the talent that makes Ohio State such a special place. Our gratitude goes to the members of our search committee, and we will continue to provide updates as the search progresses.

Finally, we wish the very best to Dr. Morley Stone, who shared recently that he will be leaving his post as senior vice president for research to join a startup looking at applications of explainable artificial intelligence networks. He has made a lasting impact on our university’s research enterprise as well as our response to the pandemic as chair of Ohio State’s COVID-19 Implementation Response Team. Thank you, Dr. Stone, for your service as a Buckeye, and we look forward to another successful startup in the greater Columbus area.

Discovery, learning and impact

Congratulations go to Dr. Alan Luo, FEF Key Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who has been awarded the International Conference on Magnesium’s Distinguished Scientist Award. The award recognizes research contributions that are considered highly significant and innovative.

College of Education and Human Ecology Distinguished Professor Dr. Donna Ford was featured in The Conversation, an independent national publisher of academic commentary and analysis, for her work on why Black students are underrepresented in gifted education programs. Read the article here.

The Wexner Medical Center is one of four health institutions nationwide to be recognized as a Million Hearts Health System for efforts to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The Million Hearts Hospitals & Health Systems Recognition Program is a national initiative co-led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes within five years.

Dr. Karen Hutzel was selected as the Ziegfeld Service Award recipient by the United States Society for Education through Art for outstanding national service in art education. Dr. Hutzel serves as chair of our Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy.

Thank you for all of your ongoing contributions to our shared mission, and I will share more with you soon.

Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD