COVID-19 vaccination and testing updates, commencement speakers, graduate program rankings

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Spring is finally here! It’s a time to celebrate new beginnings as we shake off winter and embrace the warmth and opportunities of the season. A wide variety of traditions and religions celebrate at this time; whatever your beliefs or practice, I hope you have had – or will have – a joyful and peaceful holiday. 

COVID-19 update, expanded testing, town hall

This spring, of course, is particularly special, as it brings with it hope that we might finally be coming out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic. But even with the positive developments on fast-tracking the distribution of vaccines – an effort in which we are playing a significant role – public health experts stress that we are not out of the woods yet. 

It is imperative that we stay vigilant and keep up with the public health protocols that have gotten us this far – wearing masks, keeping a safe distance from one another, and please keep washing your hands! In addition, I urge everyone who is eligible to sign up for and receive a vaccine to do so as soon as possible. 

As of last week, Ohio is among a group of states that is leading the way in making vaccines available to everyone 16 and older. We are so pleased to have been able to work with the state of Ohio to dedicate 25% of the Wexner Medical Center’s first-dose vaccine allocation to any Ohio State student, faculty or staff member, while maintaining our commitment to our patients and the central Ohio community. Visit the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website for more information on how to sign up for a dedicated appointment. The Wexner Medical Center administered almost 63,000 vaccine doses in March and gave a single day record-high 3,644 “shots at the Schott” on March 31. We are proud to be a part of the collective effort to end this pandemic and return to the activities we all miss and enjoy. Together, I know we will succeed.

A reminder: Starting this week, we moved back to our twice-a-week COVID-19 testing protocol for all students. Again, this is part of our ongoing efforts to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect our campus community and avoid a resurgence of the virus. This also coincided with the end of the second of our two instructional mini-breaks that, as you know, replaced a longer Spring Break due to COVID-19 concerns but also gave community members a chance to take a bit of a breather from academic rigors. I hope you took advantage of these days to fully rest and recharge.   

Finally, don’t forget to sign up for our April 12 Town Hall. Participants should register using their university email address and are encouraged to submit questions in advance. We will hear updates on the state of the virus and vaccinations and from our teams who are hard at work on fall campus reactivation plans. We will also have time for questions, which will again be moderated by Dr. Teresa Long. The town hall will be recorded and posted on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website

Commencement celebrations

We continue to actively plan for our spring commencement – actually, two commencements that are scheduled to be held on May 9, which is rapidly approaching. These will be the first in-person graduation ceremonies we have been able to hold since 2019, though they have been modified to ensure everyone can participate safely in light of ongoing COVID-19 concerns. 

Last week, we announced that commencement will feature four special guests with a diverse set of experiences. The university will welcome Mr. Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, as spring commencement speaker. Mr. Dimon’s remarks will be delivered virtually. Joining Mr. Dimon as speakers will be honorary doctoral degree recipients U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty; veteran NASA astronaut and the first Hispanic woman to go to space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa; and renowned chemical engineer Dr. Robert Langer, a co-founder of the biotech firm Moderna. Read more at Ohio State News

Graduates received an email today with instructions on how to reserve tickets for the ceremonies. More information is available at

I am so looking forward to publicly acknowledging the hard work of our 2021 graduates, and also to the August 8 in-person celebration with spring, summer and autumn 2020 graduates, who had virtual commencement ceremonies as a result of the pandemic. 

You have waited a long time for this moment, Class of 2020. It will be here before you know it! 

Community outreach and engagement

Last Tuesday was National Doctors Day, which was first observed in 1933 to commemorate the first ether anesthetic for surgery administered by Georgia physician Crawford W. Long on March 30, 1842. Then-President George H.W. Bush proclaimed National Doctors Day in 1991 to honor our nation’s many medical professionals. 

It has been a very challenging year for everyone involved in the medical field – especially doctors, who have been on the front lines of battling COVID-19 for over a year now. With this in mind, it was a particular honor last Tuesday for me to virtually visit the College of Medicine, where I was hosted by the dean, Dr. Carol Bradford, and had the opportunity to meet with a number of faculty, students and staff. We discussed the many ways in which health care can help advance the university’s mission to uplift and unlock opportunity for all Ohioans. I thank Dean Bradford and her team for facilitating such great conversations.

This week is National Public Health Week, a chance to recognize the contributions of the discipline and its professionals to our nation – contributions made particularly clear during the coronavirus pandemic. I look forward to spending part of the day this Thursday with the College of Public Health, whose leaders and faculty have been critical to our own COVID-19 response.

Discovery, learning and impact

Entrada Therapeutics, an Ohio State startup, announced the successful completion of a $116 million Series B financing. This biotechnology company is developing new ways of treating devastating diseases by delivering drugs into target cells – formally known as intracellular biologics. Entrada Therapeutics was co-founded by Dr. Dehua Pei, the Charles H. Kimberly Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the company plans to use the funding to advance its research and grow its pipeline of therapeutics. Read more at Ohio State News.

Sixteen of our graduate and professional programs are ranked in the top 10 in their fields in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2022 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools released last week.

Seven colleges have top 10 graduate and professional programs in the latest rankings: the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business (Fisher), Education and Human Ecology, Engineering, Law (Moritz), Nursing, and Public Affairs (John Glenn). U.S. News’ rankings of graduate and professional programs cover just a small portion of the programs offered at Ohio State, and not all programs are ranked each year. Read more at Ohio State News

Congratulations to Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Stamatikos, who received the prestigious Bruno Rossi Prize from the American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division. It is the third time in his career that Dr. Stamatikos has won the award, given annually for a significant contribution to the field with particular emphasis on recent, original work.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has recognized Ms. Trudy Bartley, associate vice president of local government and community relations, with the Regional Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals who make extraordinary efforts to ensure the future viability of the region’s communities. The award will be presented March 31 during MORPC’s State of the Region event.

The 15th Annual International Scholar Research Exposition is now available online. The exposition, supported by our Office of Research and Office of International Affairs, showcases exceptional research undertaken by more than 800 of our international visiting scholars. You can watch research-impact videos from 10 finalists on the Office of International Affairs website.

Thank you, Buckeyes, for all that you do. For those of you who observe Passover or Easter, I hope you had a joyous and safe holiday weekend.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD