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Reflections of a First-Year Buckeye: Fulfilling real change – Together As Buckeyes

Johnson provides update on Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities, welcomes new leaders

In her weekly “Reflections of a First-Year Buckeye,” Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson celebrated recent faculty and institutional awards and recognitions and, inspired by her visit to the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, urged the community to continue the hard work of solving society’s most important and complex challenges.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

We just concluded #CelebratingBuckeyes week, and I want to thank all of you for highlighting the contributions of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who are changing the world for the better. Your stories posted across social media have inspired me, and I was proud to contribute as a new member of our Ohio State family.

Our strength is in our perseverance and collaboration — in a collective call to get after the challenges at hand. Below are just some of the ways that we are making a difference.

Register to vote

The deadline for voter registration in Ohio is today. Last week, our Office of Student Life and Office of Government Affairs sent out information about how and where to register — and shared information on the Big Ten Voting Challenge. The first day of early voting in Ohio is tomorrow, October 6.

As a reminder, Ohio State employees who serve as poll workers for the November 3 general election can now take a paid day off without using vacation time. Student employees and graduate associates are encouraged to work with their supervisors to arrange for time off to serve as poll workers if their department can accommodate the absence.

COVID-19 updates

Ohio State was the only institution of higher learning to receive an “A+” for its COVID-19 dashboard.

Our university is a leader in fighting COVID-19 because our students, faculty and staff are wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart and following the guidance on our Safe and Healthy Buckeyes website. We have conducted more than 110,000 tests, and the seven-day average positivity rate for all students has dropped to 0.8%. The seven-day average rate for students living off campus, meanwhile, has dropped to 1.3%. The rate has steadily decreased for nearly a month both on campus and off campus. We were also encouraged by the results of a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed less than 1% of providers at our Wexner Medical Center tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies — the lowest rate among the study’s 13 participating academic health centers nationwide.

Update on the Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities

Our Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities continues its work to examine and help develop an action plan that is modeled, in part, on a National Research Council-style report that presents Findings, Recommendations and Grand Challenges. I continue to discuss progress with the task force on a weekly basis and heard some of the Grand Challenges and Big Ideas for fighting racism at Ohio State. During the month of October, the task force will engage the university community via surveys, focus groups, and other listening sessions or forums to collect critical information to develop the Findings section of the plan. I encourage you to share your voices and suggestions for building the university we aspire to be.

Last month, we received 73 initial proposals for creative projects in response to a call for proposals for the university’s $1 million Seed Fund for Racial Justice. Thirty-eight teams were invited to submit full proposals, due October 31, for the initial round of funding. As a reminder, all funded projects will be announced on December 1. The community-engaged research and creative projects will represent cross-disciplinary, convergent scholarship that addresses structural racism, implicit bias and privilege, and racial and cultural disparities. These projects are one important step that we can take to help eliminate racism from all aspects of our university, city, state and nation.

Awards and recognitions

We were pleased to share today that Rattan Lal, a Distinguished University Professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, has been honored with the Arrell Global Food Innovation Award for improving soil health and helping to increase food production around the world. He was named the 2020 recipient of the World Food Prize and, last year, became the first Ohio State scientist to receive the Japan Prize. Thank you, Dr. Lal!

For the third consecutive time, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center has been rated as an exceptional comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) — the highest rating provided. This prestigious rating follows a review of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute’s application for redesignation as a comprehensive cancer center. Our deep appreciation goes to our outstanding and deserving team of cancer and health care leaders.

The OSUCCC – James and our College of Veterinary Medicine have been awarded a five-year, $9.1 million Program Project Grant (PPG) renewal from the NCI. The PPG has been continually funded since 2003 and will allow Ohio State investigators and collaborators at Washington University in St. Louis to continue studying retrovirus models of cancer.

Also, the university received a $5 million, two-year award from the National Institutes of Health RADx-UP program to support projects designed to rapidly implement COVID-19 testing strategies in populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Last week, Ohio State was recognized by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) with an OOD Employer Partners of Inclusion Platinum Award for 2020.

Art appreciation

Some of the earliest and best advice I received when I arrived at Ohio State was to check out the rich and vibrant arts scene on our campus and in our community.

This takes many forms, including the exhibitions, events, performances and virtual offerings offered through our Wexner Center for the Arts, School of Music, Urban Arts Space, on-campus arts tents and others. Artists and art venues have faced incredible challenges over the past few months, and I encourage you to support the arts and take advantage of opportunities to see, listen, feel and appreciate the sense of community and connectedness that creative expression brings to us all.

As I continue to explore our arts community, I will share some of my discoveries in future Reflections, and I hope you will give me some ideas to explore and share.

Recently, the choral ensembles in the School of Music came together to present a virtual performance of Carmen Ohio.

Leadership announcements

Please help me welcome several Buckeyes who have long dedicated themselves to service to new leadership roles at Ohio State.

Carly Sobol has been appointed a graduate student trustee by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. An MD candidate in our College of Medicine, she earned a BS in neuroscience with a minor in Jewish Studies from Ohio State in 2018. She will join the Board of Trustees as a vital student voice next month.

Alumnus JR Blackburn has returned to Ohio State to serve as chief of staff in the Office of the President. As chief of staff, he will serve as a key partner on my executive leadership team and will act as a visible representative for me in the university community, in central Ohio and across the state.

He brings more than 25 years of professional experience in the private sector and higher education, most recently as associate vice president for university development at the University of Maryland. A native of Nelsonville, Ohio, he earned a BA in psychology at Ohio State and was a member of The Ohio State University Marching Band. He remains an avid trumpet player!

Finally, the university officially welcomed our new dean of the College of Medicine, Dr. Carol Bradford, for her first day on the job last week. I know you join me in expressing our thanks to Dr. James Rocco, who led our college well as interim dean during a challenging time in health care.

Closing thoughts

Recently, I visited the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Speaking with students, faculty and staff, I was reminded of our shared mission to serve the greater good — and why that will always be so important. As Senator Glenn said in his 2009 commencement address, “We are fulfilled when we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Let’s continue the hard work of solving the most important and complex challenges in our communities. Together As Buckeyes, we can fulfill real change.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD


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