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Ohio State experts explore role of arts, sciences in promoting economic opportunity

College of Arts and Sciences event brought together students, faculty, alumni

The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences (ACS) brought together students, faculty and alumni to present research spanning a variety of disciplines aimed at better supporting traditionally underserved communities.

In the opening session, economics professors Bruce Weinberg and Meta Brown presented research about the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their research found that people with lower incomes who were deemed essential workers sometimes held high-risk jobs that increased their exposure to the virus. Low-income workers who lost their jobs tended to take on higher debt loads than unemployed individuals who had held higher-paying positions.

The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences symposium brought together  students, faculty and alumni.“We’re trying to build out this way of thinking about things: looking at policy and how it affects infections and economic activity, how the two of those interrelate to each other,” Weinberg said. He noted that because economic activity will increase infections and infections will impact economic activity, the work examined how those factors “feed into health outcomes and mortality risk and real disparities.”

During breakout sessions, graduate students presented research on a variety of topics, from the contributions of individuals with disabilities to art throughout the centuries, to a project aimed at preventing hearing loss.

John Layman, a second-year master’s fellow in geography, presented research about a bus rapid transit (BRT) proposal by LinkUs, a collaborative sponsored by the city of Columbus, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

LinkUs plans to add dedicated street lanes to accommodate high-capacity BRT service spanning 21 miles in three Columbus corridors: East Main Street, West Broad Street and the Northwest Corridor, which includes Ohio State’s campus.

LinkUs organizers say the BRT service could potentially transport central Ohioans to nearly 500,000 jobs each day as the region grows to an estimated 3.15 million residents by 2050. Layman said his research includes consideration of the potential impact on existing COTA bus service.

“What are the demographics of the areas that are losing service? Who does this impact? Who’s getting gains, who’s losing, and what kind of jobs?” he said. “What isn’t being served, as well, is something to look at.”

The opening session also featured presentations by Hasan Jeffries, history professor; Paloma Martinez-Cruz, Spanish and Portuguese professor; Maria Miriti, evolution, ecology and organismal biology professor; and Jasper Waugh-Quasebarth, director and archivist for Ohio State’s Center for Folklore Studies.  

Waugh-Quasebarth discussed his service-learning course that pairs undergraduate and graduate students with grassroots community organizations in Appalachian areas of southern and southeastern Ohio.

Students’ work includes documenting narratives that residents have passed down through generations, including long-overlooked verbal histories of Indigenous and Black residents. The students also chronicle environmental initiatives led by local groups, such as efforts to combat water pollution and deforestation.

Jasper Waugh-Quasebarth discussed his service-learning course that pairs students with community organizations in Appalachian areas of Ohio.“We work to document folklore in all its different forms with these grassroots community organizations,” Waugh-Quasebarth said. Over spring break each year, “students work for a week with a community partner around a project that the community partner has identified themselves as particularly important.”

Presentations were part of the college’s inaugural Equity and Justice Symposium, held on Jan. 26.

“We have a diverse slate of close to 30 presenters across the college, from departments like Chemistry and Earth Sciences, Music, Dance, Sociology and Economics,” said Korie Little Edwards, ACS interim associate dean of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice and chief diversity officer. “They are a small representation of the scholars, creators and professionals in our ASC community who pursue … equity and justice in our world.”

The symposium concluded with a panel featuring Ohio State alumni who are members of the ACS Dean’s Advisory Council. The alumni shared how they’re working to achieve equity in their industries and society at large.

Marquis Miller said earning a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State in social and behavioral sciences in 1981 and later working full-time in the university’s development office led him to his current leadership role with the Obama Foundation. Miller is vice president of economic development and principal adviser to the foundation’s Executive Leadership Team on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I’ve done a lot of things and seen a lot of things,” Miller said. “It does say a whole lot about what an Ohio State education can do for you because, as you know, we have alums all over the world. … With maybe one or two exceptions in 27 years, I have only had exceptional experiences because of my Ohio State background.”

The alumni panel also included presentations by Sherry Chan, chief strategy officer with insurance technology firm Atidot; Erwin Raphael, an Amazon Transportation Services executive; and Diane Straub, chair of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado/University of Colorado.

The symposium also featured a presentation by music professors Jason Rawls and Stevie “Dr. View” Johnson about their hip-hop course and a performance by dance professor Nyama McCarthy-Brown, Ohio State’s first-ever Artist Laureate.

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