17:55 PM

President Johnson: Ohio State is beginning to feel like home

First official day features tour of COVID-19 testing site, call center

On her first official day as the 16th president of The Ohio State University, Kristina M. Johnson focused on getting a firsthand look at the university’s efforts to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a day filled with meetings and visits across campus.

Johnson visited a busy call center staffed by employees who shoulder the responsibility of answering inquiries about testing and general questions about the virus. The new president also spent time with students and staff at the Jesse Owens North Recreation Center, now used for testing students living on and off campus.

“It’s phenomenal. It’s so professional. Everyone is wearing a mask and they are social distancing. It’s very automated,” Johnson said. “You’re in and out in less than 10 to 15 minutes. It’s very quick.”

The testing site has been operational since mid-August. Last week, the site processed more than 10,000 student tests, averaging 104 students every 15 minutes using a constant flow design to minimize wait times. The floor plan and flow are also in use at the Newark, Mansfield and Wooster regional campuses.

“I think it’s going to allow us to really understand who’s been infected, get them treatment as soon as possible and to stop the spread. That’s really our goal,” Johnson said.

She said she is impressed with the university’s commitment to confronting the pandemic on campus and in the community.

“It’s the Buckeye Nation, as I’m learning. They’re strong, they get after it and they make things happen,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier to be president of an organization, an institution, a university that just comes together like this.”

Johnson covered a lot of ground, stopping at labs dedicated to medicine, engineering and the arts: the COVID-19 testing lab in the Biomedical Research Tower, the Spine Research Institute housed in the College of Engineering, and the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design in Sullivant Hall.

While walking across campus between tour stops, Johnson introduced herself to students, faculty and staff. As president-elect, Johnson met with students during move-in.

“That’s the most fun, as you walk around the Oval and you meet students who are so excited to be here. They're so excited to be part of The Ohio State University and to start their education,” she said. “This is really a transition from one part of their life to the rest of their lives. We have the tremendous responsibility of bringing to them all the educational growth and leadership tools that we can, and we’re committed to doing that.”

Johnson is also embracing the transition in her life.

“It is the first official day, but it feels very familiar because I was able to meet a lot of people early on, which was terrific. I still have so many more that I want to meet,” she said. “[My wife] Veronica and I are thrilled to be here. This is our first day, but it’s beginning to feel like home.”

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