President Biden visit, Pelotonia’s Team Buckeye, college-level commencement activities, COVID-19 vaccinations updates

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We were excited to welcome U.S. President Joe Biden to our campus this week – and share with him just some of what makes Ohio State such an incredible place for teaching and learning, research and scholarship, community outreach and patient care. 

The nation’s 46th president visited the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute to tour the Department of Radiation Oncology and provide remarks about the importance of access to health care. The visit came just days after our Wexner Medical Center crossed a major milestone by administering its 100,000th COVID-19 vaccination dose, an accomplishment that speaks to the innovation, expertise and level of care that Buckeyes show for their communities each day. 

Once again, our deepest thanks go to our health care professionals and support staff for the inspiring work they do to keep us safe and healthy. I couldn’t be more proud.

President Biden’s visit followed the tragic deaths of 10 people in Colorado on Monday, the second mass shooting in as many weeks after eight died in the Atlanta area (see my message to our campus community, including resources). I spent many years teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder and grew up in the state. It is a resilient, extraordinary community, and I know we all join President Biden in expressing our love and support for the victims’ families and the survivors. Please see a comprehensive list of resources for our students, faculty and staff.

COVID-19 vaccinations
We continue to encourage everyone who is eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccination. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has also announced that individuals over age 16 will be eligible as of Monday, March 29. I was thrilled to receive my second vaccination dose this week at the Schottenstein Center! 

Appointments can be scheduled via the Wexner Medical Center by logging into MyChart. You can also follow this step-by-step guide. If you are not a patient of our medical center or don’t have a MyChart account, please call 614-688-VAXX (8299) for assistance. If no appointments are available when you try to schedule, visit this website to sign up to be notified when additional appointment times are posted. Click on the “Get Notified” box and follow the instructions to enter your contact information.

We also encourage all who are eligible to access the vaccine at any health care location. In addition to the Wexner Medical Center vaccination location at the Schottenstein Center, the COVID-19 vaccine is available at more than 1,300 locations statewide and 110 locations in Franklin County including retail pharmacies, hospitals and public health departments.

Riding in Pelotonia
As the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow and vaccinations become available to more and more people, we are looking forward to enjoying more in-person opportunities. This includes the return of Pelotonia, a chance to give back by riding together. The community-wide cycling event is in its 13th year of raising funds for cancer research at the OSUCCC – James. You can register now to ride August 6-8 and learn more about ways to participate on Pelotonia’s website.

This year, I am excited to serve as the honorary captain for Pelotonia’s Team Buckeye. Team Buckeye is the university’s superpeloton, which includes all participants in Pelotonia who are currently Ohio State students, faculty, staff or alumni, as well as their family and friends. 

The fight to cure cancer is personal for me. When I was a senior in college going into graduate school, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system (the machine that treated me decades ago – the LINAC – is the same equipment President Biden toured). Throughout treatment, I relied on the support of my friends, family and colleagues. I am grateful to be able to continue this all-important effort as part of our Pelotonia team.

As in previous years, 100% of every dollar raised goes to cancer-fighting treatments and research. When we pool our resources, our knowledge and our research, we are far more likely to succeed in triumphing over life’s challenges. Together, we will move forward and conquer cancer – one mile and one dollar at a time. I hope you can join me.

In-person commencement celebrations
We’ve heard from so many of you expressing excitement about the news of our in-person commencements. The spring and summer ceremonies will take place in Ohio Stadium on, respectively, May 9 and August 8. While modifications will be in place to ensure the health and safety of our graduates and their guests, we are working hard to maintain as many of our traditions as possible. We also plan to hold a special in-person ceremony for our 2020 spring, summer and autumn graduates in Ohio Stadium on August 8.

The university is allowing for some college-level, commencement-related activities. These events will be permitted if they meet the health and safety protocols, including wearing masks, managing physical distancing and tracking attendance to support contact tracing if any is required. We have prioritized these events for consideration because of their importance to the student experience. Guidance is being developed for a wide variety of other in-person events and gatherings that may be considered after spring commencement on May 9.

These will be the first in-person commencement celebrations since December 2019 – and none of this would have been possible without your collective support of each other and our COVID-19 safe and healthy protocols. Thank you, and I can’t wait to see you there!

Community outreach and engagement
I had a wonderful virtual visit to our Ohio State Mansfield campus last week and met with students, faculty, staff and community members. It is great to see the partnerships between the campus and local businesses to grow our regional economy. Specifically, area businesses have invested in the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology program to grow their operations and a skilled workforce regionally. 

Next week, I look forward to visiting our College of Medicine to learn even more about the incredible impact Buckeyes are making to advance research and care in our communities.

Discovery, learning and impact
The Office of Student Life and the Columbus Foundation’s Kind Columbus initiative have collaborated with the Kids Around the World organization to create a pandemic-safe, food-packing event called “Pack at Your House.” Buckeyes spread out in groups of 10 or fewer across fraternity and sorority homes or university buildings on campus packed 120,000 meals in an effort to combat hunger. Read more about their efforts on Ohio State News.

Dr. Ayanna Howard, dean of our College of Engineering, recently appeared as a special guest on “The View.” Dr. Howard is the author of Sex, Race, and Robots: How to Be Human in the Age of AI, and she discussed how robots can change humanity for the better, as well as how to encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM. Watch her appearance on the show.

Congratulations to Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Dr. Stu Beatty, who has been recognized with the Daniel B. Smith Practice Excellence Award by the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management. The award recognizes “a pharmacy practitioner, in any practice setting, who has distinguished himself/herself and the profession through outstanding performance and achievements.”

Dr. Roger Ratcliff, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Psychology, ranks among the top 1% worldwide in career-long citations across all scientific disciplines, according to a recent analysis published in PLoS Biology. Other College of Arts and Sciences faculty members were recognized for prolific publishing in their fields.

The National Science Foundation has published a retrospective on the Ohio State researchers who became the first women at the South Pole in 1969. “One giant leap for womankind: Women at the South Pole” details the accomplishments of these history-making Buckeyes. I encourage you to read their fascinating story.

Finally, we are all so proud of the efforts of our student-athletes. Our men’s basketball team gave us a season to remember. Women’s hockey advanced to the Frozen Four for the second time in four years. Wrestling again finished in the Top 10 nationally. Our women’s swimmers and divers had the best NCAA Championships in school history by finishing seventh.

In particular, E.J. Liddell continues to be an exceptional Ohio State ambassador. After receiving threats via social media last week, he responded with great maturity and strength of character. Our community and people across the nation quickly rallied around him. As our Athletics Director Gene Smith said, E.J. epitomizes all that we hope for in our student-athletes. 

The dedication that all of our student-athletes have shown throughout this remarkable season is inspiring and yet another expression of the spirit we have seen time and again throughout this amazing community. Stay strong and stay Together As Buckeyes. 

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD