Commencement, celebrating nurses and hospitals, GRO Academy

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

While Mother Nature did not cooperate, even the rain could not put a damper on the excitement and enjoyment of our first in-person commencements since 2019 – two in one day!

We conferred 12,345 degrees and certificates, and attendees adhered to pre-arranged public health protocols that made these in-person experiences possible. I thank you for your cooperation and for observing requirements to continue to keep yourselves and one another safe and healthy. 

Every graduating class of Buckeyes is special, and the Class of 2021 will be forever remembered for epitomizing the very definition of resilience. With your help, we overcame challenges and out-performed expectations. 

It was a true privilege for me to celebrate with our graduates and their families, and also to mark the end of my first academic year. I was so inspired to hear the personal stories and expressions of gratitude from so many of you.

We also recognized six individuals from business, public service, science and education who, as I said at commencement, share our Buckeye commitment to seeing and amplifying the good.

JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Mr. Jamie Dimon, U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, renowned scientist and Moderna co-founder Dr. Robert Langer and NASA astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa – our honorary degree recipients – have each made an indelible mark in our society by challenging and changing our perspectives for the better. And our Distinguished Service Award honorees Dr. David Harrison, president of Columbus State Community College, and Mr. Frederick L. Ransier III, a distinguished lawyer and public servant in central Ohio for decades, remind us that deep and sustained commitment close to home yields benefits for us all

As Mr. Dimon, our commencement speaker, put it so eloquently, this past year was “extraordinary by any measure” – from the pandemic to a presidential election to long-overdue debates about equity and social justice. 

The tough times, while incredibly difficult in the moment, only serve to make us stronger. I know you will all go on to do great things, equipped with all the tools you need to succeed. 

Once again, congratulations to all!

COVID-19 updates

We are thankfully continuing to see infection rates drop across the state and nation. Just last night, Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state of Ohio’s public health orders will be lifted, effective June 2. We will continue to closely monitor evidence and public health guidance and adjust our safe and healthy protocols as needed based on our congregant setting.

In order to keep the infection trends going in the right (downward) direction, it is critical that you get vaccinated over the summer if you have not done so already. It is increasingly easy to get a shot – many locations are no longer requiring appointments. To schedule an appointment, see the nearly 1300 locations in Ohio and many other sites outside of Ohio.

Also, a reminder about the summer term: Students living in university housing or who are enrolled in courses on the Columbus campus will need to complete weekly testing at the Jesse Owens North testing facility. Students can schedule testing appointments in advance. 

Students can also pick up a take-home saliva test kit at testing locations on all campuses to complete each week. We are encouraging you to engage in regular at-home testing to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy. Kits are also available at various locations around the state – including at local libraries.

May 6 was National Nurses Day, kicking off National Nurses Week, which ran through May 12. The theme for this year’s week, according to the International Council of Nurses, is “Nurses: A Voice to Lead”. Nursing is regularly ranked among the most respected, honest and ethical professions in the U.S. – a well-deserved honor, and one that is perhaps truer now than ever before. Nurses, and all medical professionals, did incredible work over the past year battling the COVID-19 crisis, and without them we could not possibly be where we are today. I know you’ll join me in offering them a very hearty and public: THANK YOU.

Discovery, learning and impact

Amazing accomplishments and well-earned accolades are continuing across our campus community. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few of the latest announcements with you:

  • We are pleased to share that the College of Engineering’s Dr. Umit S. Ozkan and Moritz College of Law’s Martha Chamallas, JD, have been named Distinguished University Professors. Each year, the university recognizes Ohio State faculty members for exceptional records in teaching, in research, scholarly or creative work, and in service. Dr. Ozkan and Professor Chamallas were selected for their scholarship, leadership and mentorship in, respectively, the field of heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis, and the fields of tort law and feminist theory. Congratulations to you both!
  • Dr. Wendy Smooth, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, is one of eight members who have been appointed to the national advisory board of the Kamala Harris Project. The project, based at the University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for Leadership by Women of Color, is a collective of academics who will track all aspects of Harris’ vice presidency.
  • Dr. Ayanna Howard, dean of the College of Engineering, has been named the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2021-22 Athena Lecturer. The recognition from the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society is for Dr. Howard’s contributions to robotics, artificial intelligence and broadening participation in computing.
  • Dr. Michael Mills, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and McDougal professor, has received Germany’s most prestigious award in the field of materials science and engineering. The German Materials Society selected Dr. Mills to be the 2021 recipient of the Heyn Denkmünze (Heyn Memorial Medal) for his scientific contributions to the materials science and engineering field along with his significant efforts to advance scientific relations between the U.S. and Germany.
  • The OSU Early Head Start Partnership Program received a $10 million federal expansion grant to build on vital services funded by its current five-year grant for $18 million that supports the health, learning and well-being of young children and families in central Ohio.

Faculty leadership

Starting May 16, University Senate’s faculty leaders will begin their roles for 2021-22. They include:

Good luck to our graduates! We look forward to seeing our summer students around campus, and to seeing everyone else in the fall.  

Have fun, be safe and take care of one another.


Sincerely yours,


Kristina M. Johnson, PhD