Hopeful signs, course planning for fall, spring commencement, vaccinations update

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

At Ohio State and around the world, we have been seeing hopeful signs of renewal and reasons for optimism. There’s a new vaccine – the single dose version created by Johnson & Johnson and approved by the FDA for emergency use. We had an early taste of spring weather that brought us out onto the Oval and other favorite campus spots. There are even plans to allow for limited fans – with public health restrictions in place – at the Big Ten basketball championships.   

Each day brings new opportunities to expand Ohio State’s reach and impact across all of the many communities that make up our Buckeye family. As I said in my recent State of the University address, together we will set new standards of excellence in academics, discovery, partnerships and service. 

Here are some important updates and examples of your extraordinary work.

COVID-19: campus reactivation planning
One year ago, the university began pivoting to remote instruction and operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. I have been reflecting with many of you on the inspiring resilience this community has shown during this past 12-month period. We have learned so much, and we are as committed as ever to staying strong, Together As Buckeyes.

We have seen a limited return to our classrooms, laboratories, studios, performance spaces and residence halls with restrictions in place. Now, planning is underway for a reactivation of our campuses this fall with the intent to offer significantly more safe and robust in-person experiences. Our ability to plan for reactivation would not be possible without the commitment you have demonstrated time and again to adhere to the protocols necessary to keep us all safe and healthy. Again, I thank you, Buckeyes, for your willingness to sacrifice on behalf of one another.

As part of our reactivation plans, Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Bruce A. McPheron shared some early thinking around course planning for autumn 2021. We anticipate that course scheduling windows will open the week of March 22, allowing four weeks for students to consider their autumn plans. As of now, each department will provide at least 75% of course sections in person. We will balance approaches to classroom density and class size, allowing smaller classrooms to return to pre-COVID density while adding constraints on larger classes. Classes of fewer than 50 students, for example, may take place in classrooms with “full” (not physically distanced) capacities. Classes of 100 or more will be taught via distance learning or through a blended modality in which in-person sections include fewer than 100 students.

Please also remember that students who live in university housing or university-managed facilities on the Columbus campus are now required to test twice a week in order to more quickly identify COVID-19 cases and continue to slow the spread of the virus. See the university’s COVID-19 dashboard here. As we look ahead to the coming months – including the potential of an in-person commencement – it’s imperative that we keep up our vigilance to remain as safe and healthy as possible.

Spring commencement
I want to thank everyone who participated in the commencement surveys sent to our graduates to gather feedback about potential in-person ceremonies or celebrations later this spring or summer. More than half of our upcoming 2021 spring graduates responded to the surveys and provided us with valuable feedback.

We have heard you and understand the importance of commencement in Ohio Stadium to our graduates and their families. We are working on plans for an in-person event and look forward to sharing more soon – stay tuned!

We are also committed to celebrating our 2020 graduates at an in-person event and are exploring options to recognize these students during the coming year.

These decisions impact our campus, city and state communities, and we will continue to work in partnership with Columbus and Ohio officials to make the best decision for everyone.

COVID-19: vaccinations update
Last week, our Wexner Medical Center made history by being the first in the nation to administer the aforementioned Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID-19 vaccine. The medical center was also the first health system in Ohio and one of the very first in the nation to administer the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020. Since that time, the medical center has administered more than 74,500 total vaccinations in accordance with state guidelines.

I was thrilled and grateful to be eligible to receive my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday at the Schottenstein Center. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated at the appropriate time, and I want to send a special “thank you” to our health care professionals for making my vaccination experience both safe and joyous. 

University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being
The task force has implemented some immediate, short-term recommendations, including increased Community Crime Patrols, improved lighting and expanded ridesharing hours as part of Lyft Ride Smart at Ohio State.

In addition to these steps, the university has once again increased police presence in the off-campus area with a combination of OSUPD and CPD officers (see the update shared on Monday). Ohio State and the city of Columbus are partnering to adjust to crime trends by redeploying on-duty patrols and staffing patrols on overtime to add to the police presence in the University District. Added police and Community Crime Patrols will continue throughout the spring semester.

In this week’s Safety Spotlight, OSUPD Detective Cassandra Shaffer demonstrates self-defense techniques. You can watch it here. The remainder of the series, plus additional information, is available on Ohio State’s comprehensive safety resources webpage. Additionally, you can now connect with OSUPD via Instagram to receive news and updates.

Discovery, learning and impact
We were excited to recognize a team of scholars from the Department of Psychology for winning the “Coolest Science Story of the Year,” determined by readers of Ohio State News. In an online celebration, Assistant Professor Dr. Zeynep Saygin and graduate student Jin Li were honored for discovering that the human brain is “pre-wired” to see words and letters. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports before being featured on Ohio State News. Dr. Saygin and her team were one of five contenders for the third-annual award.

A national team of scientists led by the College of Nursing has earned a 2020 Paper of the Year award from the American Journal of Health Promotion. The team, led by Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, College of Nursing dean and university chief wellness officer, developed a systematic review examining interventions to improve the health and well-being of physicians and nurses. This work is especially pertinent and important given the rise in burnout symptoms among health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, our congratulations go to Dr. Anna Babel, associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Arts and Sciences, who has been honored with the Award for Public Outreach and Community Service from the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.  

I look forward to sharing more next week. Go Buckeyes!

Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD