Unofficial start of summer, diversity enhancement and staff awards, Annual Merit Compensation Process, Pride Month

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I hope you had an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, despite the cool temperatures, and found a moment to reflect on members of the U.S. armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and its ideals. 

The holiday weekend is traditionally the unofficial start of summer. Here at Ohio State, our summer term is already well underway. There is so much going on in our campus community, and I want to be sure to keep you all up to date.

Campus reactivation planning

Looking ahead, we continue to plan for a fall semester that will be a lot closer to normal. Our campuses will be reinvigorated with activity in classrooms, labs, studios and throughout the Ohio State experience. 

A reminder: To return to the activities we love with maximum flexibility, we need to have as many people vaccinated as possible. As such, we continue to strongly encourage each and every one of you to avail yourself of the ample opportunities to obtain a vaccine no matter where you might be this summer.

We also are asking students to voluntarily share their vaccination status with the university so that we can better determine our overall vaccination rate – and to allow us to relax health requirements as appropriate. For instance, Columbus campus students who are vaccinated will test once a month or less frequently, while other students will be tested at least once a week. To share your vaccination status, log in to My BuckMD. We expect to launch a similar voluntary reporting process for employees in the coming days.

On a related note, Ohio State has signed on as a proud participant in the White House’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge, an effort to increase vaccination rates among younger Americans. As a champion of the program, Ohio State has committed to engaging with our campus community members about the importance of vaccinations and facilitating vaccine access for those who want to take part. 

The university is continuing to refine plans for the fall, and we will keep you updated as additional details are available. For up-to-date information, visit the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website.

Annual Merit Compensation Process 

We were pleased to announce that the university will resume its Annual Merit Compensation Process for eligible faculty and staff. The process was paused last year to proactively address financial challenges caused by COVID-19, and we are very happy to bring it back for fiscal year 2022. 


Pelotonia is almost here! Though we won’t ride until the weekend of August 6-8, all of the training and fundraising to benefit critical and life-saving cancer research is already well underway. 

There’s an extra incentive to give this month for Team Buckeye members. From June 7-13, every gift of $25 to $500 will be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $30,000. If eligible donations exceed $30,000, Pelotonia will draw names at random for members of Team Buckeye to receive matching funds. All Team Buckeye members (Riders, Challengers and Volunteers) are eligible to participate. 

I will be joining you for a portion of the ride in my role as this year’s honorary captain for Team Buckeye and am so excited to see you there. Whichever your Team Buckeye peloton this year, let’s ride to fight cancer. 

Mental well-being 

I have asked Dr. Melissa Shivers, senior vice president for student life, and Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, to co-chair a commission that will study how the university can further promote mental health and well-being. 

This effort is a progression of Ohio State’s Suicide and Mental Health Task Force, formed in 2018. Over the past three years, students’ mental health needs have continued to change and grow – including accounting for impacts from the pandemic, the extent and significance of which we have yet to fully understand. The commission will review current approaches and identify new, evidence-based recommendations. We have invited members of our student, faculty and staff populations to take part and will share more as this work progresses. 

Welcoming new Buckeyes! 

Last week, we were thrilled to announce the latest addition to our Buckeye leadership team. Dr. Melissa L. Gilliam will serve as our next executive vice president and provost, effective August 1 – the first woman of color to hold the prestigious post of our chief academic officer. 

Dr. Gilliam is currently serving as vice provost at the University of Chicago, where she is the Ellen H. Block Distinguished Service Professor of Health Justice, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics. In her role as provost, she will be charged with advancing the university’s strategic priorities, including increasing the number of net new tenure-track faculty and maximizing the academic experience. Through the RAISE initiative I announced this past February, for example, one of her focus areas for the initiative will be on faculty whose work addresses social equity and racial disparities. 

Also coming on board is the Wexner Center for the Arts’ new Chief Curator & Director of Exhibitions Kelly Kivland, who will join us August 2. She is currently the curator at the Dia Art Foundation in New York, where she has been working since 2011. Welcome!

Discovery, learning and impact 

I’m proud to announce our 2021 Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award recipients, selected for exceptional contributions to the university and advancing diversity and inclusion efforts in our community. This year’s recipients are: Lidia K. Garcia Berrelleza; Dr. Donna Hight; Dr. Jamie L. Robinson; Dr. Sondos Al Sad; and the Ohio Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, under the direction of Dr. Dorinda Gallant. Read more here about the winners.

We are also honored to share that 13 individuals have been selected to receive Ohio State’s Distinguished Staff Awards, which are the university’s highest recognitions for staff and the critical work they do to advance the university’s mission each day. Congratulations to all! You can read profiles of each recipient on the Ohio State Human Resources website.

Below are just a few more of the incredible honors and achievements our Buckeyes have received in recent weeks: 

  • Dr. James L. Moore III, the university’s chief diversity officer and professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology, received the 2021 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE President Dr. Ted Mitchell described Dr. Moore as “one of the most influential voices in our country” on issues related to racism and equity on campuses and in communities. Watch a video.
  • At our Board of Trustees meeting last month, we were thrilled to announce that Dr. N. Geoffrey Parker, Distinguished University Professor and Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the university’s 2021 Sullivant Medal. This prestigious award is bestowed once every five years.
  • As I shared in May, Dr. Ayanna Howard, dean of the College of Engineering, was named the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2021-22 Athena Lecturer. Now, MIT Technology Review has featured Dr. Howard for her work toward the award and beyond.

In closing … 

Before I go, a few final items of note: 

June is Pride Month, which is held annually to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising (June 28) in Manhattan – a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. Programming and events are available throughout the month both on campus and off. Our Multicultural Center, for example, on June 9 is hosting a virtual workshop on creating LGBTQ inclusive classrooms. In addition, this is a good opportunity to remind you of the upcoming Virtual LGBTQ+ Unity Summit, which will be hosted by the Ohio Diversity Council on Friday. Learn more about the summit and other events on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

June is also the 25th anniversary of National Safety Month, which was established to elevate awareness about leading health and safety risks and decrease the number of unintentional deaths that occur in homes, at workplaces, on the roads and elsewhere across the U.S. I want to take this opportunity to urge everyone to take precautions this summer season. Related to safety on and off our campuses, we continue to implement recommendations from our Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being. Also, we’re all very excited about getting back out and about after a long year of lockdowns and curtailed interactions. Even with the reduced threat of COVID-19, we still need to remain vigilant to care for ourselves and one another. 

Take care, have fun, and above all, stay safe.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD