16:33 PM

President Johnson visits College of Engineering, her faculty home

Discussion covers collaboration, student well-being, pandemic safety, anti-racism work

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson is continuing a whirlwind first month in office, getting acquainted with the Columbus campus through a series of college tours.

This week, Johnson spent time in the College of Engineering. In discussions with faculty, she noted the importance of collaborative research and the need to focus on the physical and mental well-being of undergraduates and graduate students.

“It was great to see President Johnson’s interest in talking with our faculty, undergraduates and grad students,” said College of Engineering Dean David Williams. “Her commitment to high-quality research, diversity and education is clear and her expectations that we partner across the university and beyond in everything we do reinforces Engineering’s strategic plan.”

The afternoon included visits to the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry (CBEC) building, Smith Lab and the Kokosing Design Studio, part of a $2.5 million renovation of Bolz Hall.

An engineer by training, Johnson left an impact – her experiences and education mirror those of many of the students and faculty she met. Michael Charles, a chemical and biomolecular engineering doctoral student, appreciated the opportunity to meet the new president and ask her about her priorities.

“I think it means a lot [to have] leadership that comes in, is willing to listen to students and especially students from different backgrounds,” Charles said. “Because it means that they’re willing to take time to listen and try to figure out the next direction for the university.”

Johnson told members of the college that her top priorities were maintaining a safe and healthy environment during the COVID-19 pandemic and leading the university’s anti-racism efforts. For Charles, that message resonated.

“I grew up in the Navajo Nation,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that I’ve always had through academia is never seeing other native people in higher education. I’ve never seen, specifically in engineering or chemical engineering, any other students or faculty members that are also native or indigenous.”

Johnson said representation is critical, and she will continue to emphasize minority recruitment across the university. She shared a story from her time as a student at Stanford University, noting there were no female faculty leaders to serve as role models when she was beginning her career.

“That’s a very similar experience to what I’ve gone through,” Charles said. “I think the biggest thing for me is it puts a different pressure on you as either the trailblazer or the pioneer.”

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