Message of gratitude, Class of 2021, National Conference on Diversity, Race and Learning

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Finals are behind us and we’re now in the countdown to our first in-person commencement in over a year. Amid this swirl of activity, I am taking time to look back and recognize how far we’ve come over the past nine months – an experience none of us could have possibly predicted.

Now that things are slowly reopening, we are focusing on new beginnings. The future does look much brighter, which is something to look forward to and celebrate. The difficulties of the past year shaped us and made us stronger. The resilience, tenacity and coping skills you honed will take you far and serve you well in all manner of situations.

Whatever challenges we may face, I am confident we’ll be ready.

From a personal standpoint, this past year impacted me deeply. I embarked on a journey as president at a time when so much was in flux, with no blueprint to follow in the face of a public health crisis. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a passionate student body, committed staff and dedicated faculty, expert researchers and talented administrators – all of whom played a role in getting us through this year safely while preserving our commitment to academic excellence.

At the same time, we have faced important societal challenges, including systemic racism broadly, as well as issues of safety, especially off-campus safety, policing and race. Again, we have worked peacefully and respectfully – and with consideration for a range of perspectives – to make our world a better place, and that work will not stop.

I extend my deepest thanks and gratitude to all of you for everything you have done this year – down to the smallest gesture – that lifted us all up during difficult days. I am prouder than ever to be a Buckeye.

For now, it’s time to celebrate our 2021 graduates. As the May 9 commencement draws closer, a quick and important reminder: While infection rates are dropping and vaccines are in wide distribution, COVID-19 is still very much with us. Working within state and local guidelines, we are taking precautions to keep everyone healthy and safe on commencement day. Please familiarize yourself with the requirements for in-person attendance here.

May 9 is also Mother’s Day – making our commencement celebration even more of a special occasion. So many of us, myself included, would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the support and love of our families. If you are celebrating commencement with your mother, be sure to take a moment to thank her for all she has done. I know she’s proud of what you have accomplished, as are we.

COVID-19 vaccination and summer testing updates

On Thursday, April 29, the Wexner Medical Center hit a significant milestone: 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines distributed. This is an amazing accomplishment, and I congratulate and thank all our hard-working health care professionals who have made this possible.

We have come a very long way since administering the first vaccine doses last December. At the time, vaccines weren’t easy to come by. Now, however, the rate of vaccination has plateaued in Ohio and nationally. It’s imperative that we continue to vaccinate as many individuals as possible to improve our ability to return to all the events and activities we love. The Wexner Medical Center is collaborating with a coalition of 60 top hospitals and health care institutions across the nation to encourage adults to get vaccinated. Learn more about that here.

In addition, we are making plans for a safe and healthy summer term, during which students will be living and learning on campus in the coming months. Those who will be living in university housing or who are enrolled in courses in Columbus will need to complete weekly testing at the Jesse Owens North testing facility. Testing appointments can be scheduled in advance by logging into MyChart. Testing hours and additional information are available on the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Diversity and inclusion

Early this week, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion held its annual National Conference on Diversity, Race and Learning – a two-day dialogue around issues of diversity, cultural inclusion and acceptance. I was privileged to be able to participate in this year’s virtual event, which attracted a record-high 511 participants from public, corporate and nonprofit organizations, as well as academics from across the country.

This is one of Ohio State’s most comprehensive conferences focused on these important topics, which have become the subject of long-overdue national debate over the past year.

The overarching theme was Diversity is a Verb: The Journey to Equity and Inclusive Excellence. Participants examined approaches to effectively bridge the economic, political and socio-educational divides that have long persisted in this nation. I am proud that Ohio State continues to facilitate these kinds of important conversations that will help move us to a more just and equitable place in the world.
You can also register for a special webinar being held on Tuesday, May 11 from 3 to 4 p.m. in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Dr. Grace Wang, executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge, will be one of five Asian Pacific American leaders in public higher education participating on the panel.

The speakers will discuss their respective personal journeys and discuss the important role Asian American and Pacific Islander students, faculty, and staff play on campus and in their communities. In addition, they will address how university leaders can best support this community while recognizing and honoring their diversity.

The webinar will be hosted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information and to register, click here.

Discovery, learning and impact

I’m pleased to report that Ohio State’s Office of Student Life has, for the seventh year in a row, been named one of the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. With a focus on workplace diversity, staffing practices and work environment, the publication uses a web-based survey approach to examine categories including family friendliness, salary/benefits and professional development opportunities.

Congratulations to Allyana Rice, a PhD student at the ElectroScience Laboratory on West Campus, who has won a prestigious NASA fellowship for her work in bioelectromagnetics. The NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities fellowship program sponsors graduate students “who show significant potential” in contributing to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies that advance science exploration and contribute to the country’s economic future.

In other innovation news, Ohio State and IGS Energy, a leading sustainable energy provider, recently announced a new public-private initiative to support research, student engagement and other university programs to combat climate change. IGS will invest $1 million over five years in sustainable energy research and student learning through the university’s Sustainability Institute with the goal of developing new innovations and cultivating a new generation of leaders who will help facilitate the transition to renewable energy.

Thank you, as always, for the work you do and your ongoing commitment to our campus community. To our Class of 2021: I look forward to celebrating with you shortly.

Stay safe, be well and look out for one another.


Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD