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Reflections of a First-Year Buckeye: Veterans Day, election resources, COVID-19

Johnson urges students to follow safety precautions on football Saturdays

President Kristina M. Johnson sent the following email to The Ohio State University community today (Nov. 9).

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

It was my privilege to join students and alumni outside Bricker Hall for the university’s 102nd annual Rock Ceremony. The event honors those who serve and have served this country, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Wednesday is Veterans Day, which offers us a special opportunity to express our gratitude to those who served and are currently serving. Ohio State has more than 2,000 students who are veterans, active-duty personnel or reservists. Please take a moment to thank them, and have a safe and healthy Veterans Day.

Bringing together Buckeyes and election resources

Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are projected to become president and vice president of the United States, respectively, on January 20. Regardless of how you voted, there is no doubt that the 2020 election was historic, with an estimated 160 million Americans exercising their right to vote. In addition, Senator Harris is poised to become the first woman and woman of color to be vice president — an amazing achievement and one that signals to girls across the country that the sky is the limit when it comes to their dreams and aspirations.

Up and down the ballot, we as a nation and as members of a community of learners, teachers, scholars and public servants have made our individual voices heard. Though we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, and passionate opinions will be shared in the days and weeks to come, I know Ohio State will continue to set an example for respectful and peaceful dialogue and debate.

Let’s stay engaged in dialogue, Buckeyes. Below are some upcoming opportunities and resources to do so:

  • Our “Education for Citizenship Post-Election Dialogue Series,” in partnership with the Divided Community Project at Moritz College of Law, will hold a second virtual discussion this week. “Unpacking the 2020 Presidential Election — Can we talk?” will include breakout sessions and will focus on positive and productive ways to engage in post-election conversations. The event is tomorrow from 6 to 7:30 p.m. You can register at the Divided Community Project website.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences will host the webinar “Election 2020: Understanding the Outcome,” an interdisciplinary discussion moderated by Executive Dean and Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter. It will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday. To learn more and register, visit the College of Arts and Sciences website.

Our Buckeye unity is stronger than the issues that divide us. We will move forward together. 

COVID-19 updates

We continue to monitor our COVID-19 positivity rates, and we are concerned that student positivity rates have ticked up slightly in recent days. Overall, the seven-day average student positivity rate is 1.94% while the on-campus and off-campus rates are 1.46% and 2.00%, respectively. While these numbers remain low compared to the state’s 9.4% rate, even small changes warrant close scrutiny. 

While our COVID-19 team is sharing daily reports and analyzing the data for trends and patterns, we need everyone in our community to double down and follow the Safe and Healthy Buckeyes requirements.

Following the requirements is especially important with the Thanksgiving holiday and winter break approaching. We urge all students who plan to travel to be tested before leaving their residence halls or off-campus housing. Once home, we should all continue to follow safety protocols. As people gather with family and friends for the holidays and spend more time together indoors, these protocols are vital to protecting the most vulnerable among us, including those in our lives with chronic health conditions and older adults.

COVID-19 remains a serious threat. Wear your mask. Stay 6 feet apart. Practice good hygiene.

Return to fall sports

Congratulations to our football Buckeyes on a 49-27 win over Rutgers on Saturday in the ’Shoe.

This coming Saturday, in addition to following the standard COVID-19 requirements, we strongly urge students living on campus to stay on campus and cheer on the Buckeyes as they face Maryland at 3:30 p.m. If you live off campus, please diligently follow all safe and healthy protocols, limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people, wearing masks and maintaining a 6-foot physical distance from one another.

Please continue to be smart and stay safe, Together As Buckeyes.

Autumn commencement

We announced last week that our autumn commencement ceremony will be held virtually at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 13. A pre-ceremony program featuring messages from graduates, deans and other university leaders will begin at 1:30 p.m. All will be livestreamed and shared with Buckeyes in Ohio and around the world. Jerry Revish, an Emmy award-winning reporter and former broadcast news anchor in central Ohio, will be the commencement speaker. We expect to award about 3,500 degrees and certificates on this special day for our graduates, their families and their friends. I very much look forward to my first Buckeye commencement!

Racial justice, diversity and inclusion

Members of our Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities have been meeting regularly to discuss approaches and action steps that we can take as a community to advance Ohio State’s anti-racism efforts. Co-chairs Dr. James L. Moore III and Dr. Tom Gregoire recently issued a call for input to assist the task force in identifying big ideas and grand challenges. I encourage all students, faculty and staff to participate. Please share your input by November 15.

University Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being

Our safety task force recently examined resources available to the campus community. These include Rave Guardian, which allows students, faculty and staff to select friends or family as a virtual guardian to track them via GPS; and Lyft Ride Smart, which offers discounted rides on and around campus between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. Last week, the group discussed a preliminary set of recommendations for safety improvements with an initial report to be finalized this month.

Discovery, learning and impact

We were excited to announce a partnership with the U.S. Air Force to increase opportunities for minority STEM students and graduates. Ohio State will co-lead the $40 million, six-year effort with Wright State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The program, through partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions, will include summer internships, access to equipment and laboratory space, project support and more.

Our annual Innovator of the Year awards honored faculty and students for advancing science and technology across multiple fields. Dr. Alper Yilmaz, professor of geo-informatics in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, was named Ohio State’s Innovator of the Year for his work to develop wireless geolocation technology. Dr. Arnab Nandi, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was named the Early Career Innovator of the Year. His work focuses on bridging human interaction and data infrastructure. The Next Generation Innovator of the Year award went to Devin Swiner, a PhD candidate in analytical chemistry and president of Ohio State’s chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. She is developing a skin patch that can be used for cystic fibrosis screening.

We also celebrated several additional research, teaching and service honors:

  • Dr. Bernadette Melnyk, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing, received the prestigious Ada Sue Hinshaw Award from Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research. The award is presented annually to a prominent senior scientist with a substantive and sustained program of science. Dr. Melnyk’s research and science portfolio features more than 430 publications and $33 million in funding as a principal investigator from federal agencies and foundations.
  • Dr. Hasan Jeffries’ edited volume Understanding and Teaching the Civil Rights Movement was awarded the American Historical Association’s 2020 James Harvey Robinson Prize. The prize is given biennially for the teaching aid that has made the most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history in any field.
  • Dr. Melissa Shivers, vice president for student life, was named a 2021 Diamond Honoree by the American College Personnel Association. This honor recognizes outstanding commitment to higher education through student affairs and student development.
  • Senior Vice President of Talent, Culture and Human Resources Susan Basso has been appointed to serve a second two-year term on the Columbus Women’s Commission, which works to advance the economic well-being of women in the community. The commission focuses on four key areas: gender equity in the workplace, health, housing and workforce development.

None of what we do is possible without the strong support of Ohio State alumni, friends and supporters around the world. Three of the university’s most committed and generous supporters were recognized recently with our highest awards for philanthropy and volunteerism. Pat Brundige received the Everett D. Reese Medal in recognition of exceptional service in private philanthropy. Libby and Rick Germain received the John B. Gerlach Sr. Development Volunteer Award, honoring utmost dedication and personal investment in university fundraising efforts.

Land-grant mission and impact

I was thrilled to join a virtual fireside chat on the history and future of the nation’s land-grant institutions with Dr. Stephen Gavazzi, professor in the Department of Human Sciences; Dr. David Staley, associate professor in the Department of History; and Dr. E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University and former president of Ohio State. Dr. Gavazzi and Dr. Staley edited “Fulfilling the 21st Century Land-Grant Mission,” a book of essays that includes contributions from Dr. Gee, former Ohio State Presidents William “Brit” Kirwan and Michael V. Drake, and university faculty and staff. You can read more and watch the fireside chat at Ohio State News.

Thank you, Buckeyes, for your continued commitment to each other and the countless communities we serve. I look forward to sharing more soon.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD

COVID-19 Resources

Safe and Healthy Buckeyes information and guidance
Testing resources for students
Resources for faculty
Resources for COVID-19 research
Resources for students
Resources for staff

Wellness Resources

Safe and Healthy Buckeyes - mental health and wellness 
• Faculty and staff can use the Human Resources Keep Well website, the Chief Wellness Officer Health and Wellness page and Your Plan For Health.
• Students can use the Counseling and Consultation Service (CCS) and the Buckeye Peer Access Line (PAL), which operates Monday through Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight.
• CCS also provides guidance for ways for faculty and staff to support students.
• The Ohio State: Wellness app is designed for students but offers tips and guidance useful for all members of our community. It is available for Android and iOS devices.

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