Final exams, get vaccinated, Innovators of the Year

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

The last days of the spring semester are upon us, and I wish all of our students the best on their finals this week. It has been an extraordinary year, marked by unparalleled challenges and accomplishments. You are almost at the finish line. Don’t forget to try to take some moments to reflect and look back at how far you’ve come – as individuals and as members of the Buckeye community. 

And to our rising freshmen: I’m right there with you in coming to the end of my first academic year as a Buckeye. While nothing like what I expected or could even have imagined, the year was transformative in so many ways. I know you, like me, are looking forward to being able to experience more of what our campuses have to offer in the next academic year. Let’s continue to all do our part in keeping one another safe and healthy to ensure that happens.

Last week, we learned the verdict of the trial concerning the murder of George Floyd. At nearly that same moment, we were learning of the death of Ma’Khia Bryant in an officer-involved shooting in Columbus. This has rightly attracted nationwide attention, and I am thankful for the peaceful manner in which our students have led protests to address these critical issues of safety, policing and race. During an already stressful time, I encourage all of you to take care of one another while engaging in respectful and open dialogue. Support resources for all our campuses are available on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

Finally, I have heard from so many Buckeyes who join me in lamenting the behavior and destruction of property that occurred just off campus late on April 17 and into the morning of April 18. Most of the student body did not take part in these harmful behaviors, and I am grateful for your continued support of our safety and wellness efforts.

Individuals who destroyed property or committed other misconduct on Chittenden Avenue will be held responsible, and the university is taking steps to address future student-led gatherings. The university urges anyone with information to contact Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-TIPS (8477) or on Twitter at @OhioCrime.

We must all work to safely finish out this challenging year – and every year beyond.

Vaccine and COVID-19 updates

We are still at a critical moment when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. While our student positivity rate remains low, Franklin County is currently in a “purple” zone due to an uptick in positive cases, most notably in the 20 to 49 age group. In order to get through to the other side of this public health crisis, we must double down on our vaccination efforts. We are at the 47% mark – and aiming to get as many shots in arms as possible to achieve herd immunity.

A vaccine site for students, faculty and staff is now open in the Performance Hall on the first floor of the Ohio Union. This site will operate Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. through at least Friday, May 7. Appointments can be scheduled through MyChart or by calling the Wexner Medical Center COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 614-688-VAXX (614-688-8299).

Additionally, the university is dedicating a portion of two-dose vaccine appointments at the Schottenstein Center to students, faculty and staff (which can also be scheduled through MyChart). A shuttle to the Schottenstein Center is available for members of the university community with appointments. Lyft Ride Smart is also offering free rides for students.

Commencement reminders

For our class of 2021, I hope you are as excited as I am to be back inside the ’Shoe on May 9 to celebrate your hard-earned accomplishments. 

As a reminder, the university has partnered with state and local officials on a plan to ensure the health and safety of all graduates and their guests. Please know that we will be unable to grant entry to those who are not fully compliant with all health and safety requirements. In addition to wearing masks and physically distancing, all graduates – including staff members who are graduating – are required to complete a COVID-19 test during the week of May 3 and bring with them proof of a negative test to Ohio Stadium in order to participate in the ceremony.

Graduates will also be required to show a green status from their Daily Health Check on the day of commencement. Details are available on the commencement website.

Discovery, learning and impact

So many in our university community work every day to advance us to new heights of innovation and find solutions to issues that impact Ohio, the nation and the world. Below are just a few of the most recent examples.

  • Dr. Fritz Graf, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Classics, and Dr. Stewart Shapiro, the Steve R. and Sarah E. O’Donnell Professor of Philosophy, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The honor is among the highest that scholars can receive from their peers. Well done, Dr. Graf and Dr. Shapiro!
  • Dr. Anita Hopper, professor of molecular genetics in our College of Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Hopper is one of 120 new members and is part of the academy’s largest-ever cohort of 59 new female members.
  • The Research and Innovation Showcase recognized some of the incredible work being done by Ohio State scholars and scientists. I had the opportunity to commend our research, innovation and knowledge community, under the leadership of Dr. Grace Wang, for their hard work, resilience and dedication over the last year. As usual, there were many impressive candidates, and our congratulations go to them all. This includes Dr. Peixuan Guo, the university’s Innovator of the Year; Dr. Abraham Badu-Tawiah, our Early Career Innovator of the Year; and Dr. Jenny Barker and undergraduate student Caroline Karbowski, the Next Generation Innovators of the Year.
  • The Distinguished Scholar Awards honor faculty for exceptional achievements in their fields. Recipients receive a $20,000 research grant and a $3,000 honorarium to pursue scholarly activity. This year, there were 24 outstanding candidates, and the selection committee had a difficult task in whittling down the field to six awardees in law, physics, geography, English, pathology, and civil, environmental and geodetic engineering.
  • I was also delighted to be part of the 2021 Graduate School Award Ceremony. The virtual program honored our Presidential Fellows; President’s Postdoctoral Scholars; Graduate Associates in the areas of teaching, leadership and performance; and winners of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Join me in recognizing our graduate awardees.

We will have more updates to share soon. Together As Buckeyes, you are making a real difference in the places we live, work and learn.

Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD