News from the Arts and Sciences

April 2020

With the first week of virtual classes behind us, I write to thank you for your incredible support and resilience during this extraordinary time. It is inspiring to see so many Buckeyes near and far come together to support one another.

It was no small task converting more than 4,000 Arts and Sciences classes to online delivery, and I am especially grateful to our faculty and staff, who worked tirelessly throughout the extended spring break to get us up and running for the resumption of the semester. I am also appreciative of our students, who have displayed remarkable patience and flexibility in the face of this unprecedented challenge.

I am grateful to be part of this college, where our faculty, staff, students and alumni are making very real contributions to help the state and the nation fight against this pandemic. We have faculty experts in mathematics, geography and microbiology working with the Ohio Department of Health to help us understand the course of the virus, how it will spread, and how to prepare our hospitals; we have faculty and staff in dozens of labs and studios across the college that have donated masks and other personal protective equipment to health care workers across the state; and we have alumni who are at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine research and who are leading organizing efforts to help business impacted by the pandemic.

And still, in the midst of so much uncertainty and disruption to our everyday lives, many of you have reached out to ask how you can help Arts and Sciences students in need. This mobilization of resources and outpouring of generosity are just a few of the countless examples of the resilience of our Arts and Sciences community. All of this inspires my confidence that we will emerge from this stronger.

Below, you will find links to university resources and COVID-19 updates, as well as avenues for supporting our students, health care workers and researchers. The health and well-being of our Buckeye family is our top priority, and together, we will navigate this uncharted territory.

Please stay safe and be well.

Gretchen Ritter
Executive Dean and Vice Provost

In this Issue

Berkowitz raises profile of interpreters at coronavirus briefings

Marla Berkowitz interprets for Gov. Mike DeWine during a briefing on the coronavirus.Marla Berkowitz interprets for Gov. Mike DeWine during a briefing on the coronavirus.

As the only certified deaf interpreter in Ohio, Marla Berkowitz is typically called to interpret for critical settings such as court arraignments, therapy sessions and educational trainings.

Her latest assignment is no exception. She is part of a team of ASL interpreters at Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily briefings on the coronavirus crisis.

“The responsibility is enormous when it comes to interpreting for the public, especially during crisis times,” Berkowitz, a senior lecturer in Ohio State’s ASL program, said via email. “Deaf people who use ASL deserve to have first-hand information at the same time as their hearing counterparts about their health and safety. For me, the ASL interpreting profession is sacred.”

During DeWine’s COVID-19 briefings, Berkowitz, who is deaf, captures the information from a hearing ASL interpreter, then interprets it to make it more understandable to the Deaf community members.

Hearing ASL interpreters tend to sign in literal terms, which can get lost among the Deaf community, said Tia Jones, program manager of Ohio State’s ASL program.

Berkowitz makes the language more accessible, especially for those who can’t read the captions or have low English skills. She signs using the regional dialect and breaks down concepts that employ ASL grammar versus an English one.

“Sometimes, hearing interpreters can’t break down the language to that level,” Jones said.

For example, facial expressions are important in conveying the nuance of a message. When interpreting “stay home,” Berkowitz said she emphasizes it with a stern face as an urgent plea to take action. Facial expressions also help the Deaf community understand whether the speaker is asking a question or making a statement, she said.

Typically, ASL interpreters are hearing people and second-language learners, Berkowitz said.

“The Deaf audience culturally can relate more to certified deaf interpreters,” she said.

Berkowitz was drawn to interpreting in the early ’70s when she was 7 at a residential school for the deaf in New York, where she is from. She had teachers who were not fluent in ASL, and her classmates would turn to her to explain or clarify the teachers’ message. In the ’80s, she worked at a nonprofit that provided services for Deaf, Deaf and Blind, Deaf and Disabled and those who were hard of hearing, where she was often asked by clients and hearing staff to clarify, explain or interpret letters from social security, health insurance companies and utility agencies.

She was called to do more interpreting work when she was asked to lip-read for a man who couldn’t use his voice while communicating to his family in the hospital. That led to other interpreting work, including the courts system in New York.

While there are other deaf interpreters in Ohio, Berkowitz is the only one certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, a state agency that provides financial and educational support for those with physical and mental disabilities, requested her for DeWine’s daily briefings.

In addition to her interpreting duties, Berkowitz teaches two sections of American Sign Language 1101 and co-teaches The Intersections of American Sign Language, Deaf Culture, and the Deaf Community service learning course with Kristin Wickham-Saxon

Hannah Portmann, a speech and hearing science major, has been watching her former instructor with pride. She took Berkowitz’s American Sign Language Deaf Arts and Literature and ASL service learning courses as a sophomore and junior. Through Berkowitz, she has gotten a better understanding of cultural norms surrounding the Deaf community and aspires to be an advocate for them.

“She is very engaging, and she likes to add a lot of her own passion and personal touch,” said Portmann, who graduate this spring and will be attending graduate school for speech therapy in the fall. “She clearly cares a lot about what she is giving in terms of information.”

Berkowitz’s demonstrative facial expressions and her sharp gestures have garnered fanfare from Ohioans tuning into the televised press conferences, including a Facebook fan page and several Twitter memes. Berkowitz appreciates the attention and hopes her work offers a sense of calm amid a time of uncertainty and helps people feel less scared about what they need to know to protect themselves.

“If that’s what it takes, I can sleep at night knowing I have made a difference,” she said.


Beyond the newsroom: Lantern journalists step up to provide coronavirus coverage

Reporters around the country have been working tirelessly to ensure their communities stay informed with the latest information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The journalists at The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper, are no different.

“I’ve been super proud of what they’ve been doing,” said Spencer Hunt, lecturer in the School of Communication and faculty advisor for The Lantern. “This group has really taken to heart and internalized all the things they’ve experienced this year, and they’re applying it now to a situation we’ve really never seen before.”

The coronavirus is a complicated, multifaceted story that is evolving daily. Its effects have reverberated around the globe, affecting economics, transportation, athletics, business and health care.

As those waves rippled across Ohio State, administration has taken swift action to keep the university community safe. From restricting international travel to suspending face-to-face classes to canceling athletic events, the coronavirus’s impacts on campus have been abrupt and jarring, and The Lantern has been at the forefront of the breaking news to keep Buckeyes up-to-date amid the chaos and uncertainty.

I chose journalism because I wanted to help people and give them the information they need to make decisions,” said fourth-year journalism major Kaylee Harter, editor-in-chief of The Lantern. “To me, this is why we all wanted to be in journalism. I genuinely feel like we’re providing this public service right now to the Ohio State community.”

The Lantern editor-in-chief Kaylee Harter.The Lantern Editor-in-Chief Kaylee Harter works from The Lantern newsroom in November 2019. Photo credit Jo McCulty.

Harter was poolside in Mexico on spring break when Ohio State announced on March 9 that face-to-face instruction had been suspended and that classes were moving online. She ran back to her hotel room and fired up her laptop to start writing, editing and planning how The Lantern would cover the developing story.

Since then, reporting on the coronavirus has been an around-the-clock endeavor.

“When coronavirus started breaking, my first reaction wasn’t as a student,” said campus editor and third-year journalism major Sam Raudins, who will serve as editor-in-chief next year. “My first reaction was to start covering it.”

The Lantern has a webpage devoted entirely to its coronavirus coverage. Click here for the most up-to-date stories.

Fourth-year journalism major Griffin Strom was in Indianapolis preparing to cover Ohio State in the Big Ten Conference men’s basketball tournament. On the morning of March 12, The Lantern sports editor was leaving his hotel to scope out the basketball arena when he learned the tournament had been canceled.

At that moment, Strom shifted gears. Instead of covering the Buckeye men’s basketball team, he began reporting on the shockwaves the coronavirus was sending across the Ohio State sports landscape. The dominoes were falling fast — from the conference tournament to the NCAA Tournament to the entire Big Ten spring sports schedule — and Strom was adapting on the fly to the bombardment of news.

“We’d never encountered a situation where things happened that fast,” Strom said. “We had to be on our toes more so than any other time all year. Every few minutes, it was like something you’d just put out was already old news because there was something new happening. It was definitely an invaluable experience.”

From left: Griffin Strom, Lantern sports director Brian Nelson and Lantern assistant sports editor Andy Anders in front of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in IndianapolisFrom left: Griffin Strom, Lantern Sports Director Brian Nelson and Lantern Assistant Sports Editor Andy Anders in front of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis shortly after it was announced that the Big Ten Conference men's basketball tournament was canceled. 

After the initial news onslaught, The Lantern had a chance to regroup and strategize content about the fallout caused by cancellations, restrictions and suspensions. From reporting how international students were impacted to a story on seniors reflecting on their semester being turned upside-down, the newspaper’s coverage expanded to include a broader picture of the coronavirus’s ramifications.

“Our entire staff is dedicated to covering Ohio State,” Harter said. “We’ve been able to provide some pretty in-depth coverage and look into some things beyond what’s breaking.”

One of The Lantern’s most recent projects is “Lantern Lites,” a daily, 15- to 20-minute podcast hosted by sophomore journalism major Kevin Lapka that covers the latest coronavirus developments. Guests have included several Lantern reporters and Ohio State spokespeople.

Lapka has experience with podcasting, and the medium is something he’s interested in pursuing in the future. Hosting “Lantern Lites,” which is influenced by other daily news podcasts such as NPR’s “Up First” and The New York Times’ “The Daily,” is an opportunity for Lapka to cover the pandemic from a variety of angles.

A screenshot from the virtual production of an episode of "Lantern Lites." Clockwise from top left: reporter Max Garrison, Associate Professor-Clinical Nicole Kraft, reporter Owen Milnes and Kevin Lapka.A screenshot from the virtual production of an episode of "Lantern Lites." Clockwise from top left: reporter Max Garrison, Associate Professor-Clinical Nicole Kraft, reporter Owen Milnes and Kevin Lapka.

“Everybody [at The Lantern] is adjusting to the situation, and they’re informing the people,” Lapka said. “Being able to respond and adjust in such a pressure-filled time is more valuable than anything.”

Covering the coronavirus for reporters — especially those who also have to navigate their lives as students — can be emotionally and physically draining. But the journalists at The Lantern are rallying together to serve their community as a team.

And when the dust finally settles, The Lantern’s dogged news team will know its efforts in the face of unprecedented adversity made a difference.

“We love doing this, and we know it’s necessary work,” Raudins said. “It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it.”

Added Harter: “Without the team we have and the support we have, it would be a lot harder. But everyone has done such a great job coming together to support each other. … If there’s anything this all has shown me, it’s how close a bond all of us have and how much we all look out for each other.”

The Lantern journalists' weekly tradition of sporting denim in the newsroom. The Lantern journalists' weekly tradition of sporting denim in the newsroom.

Science Sundays goes online

Science Sundays, one of the premier outreach events of Ohio State’s College of Arts and Sciences, is bringing cutting-edge research presented by outstanding speakers into people’s homes. 

The upcoming April 5 lecture with John M. Horack, inaugural Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy in the College of Engineering and John Glenn College of Public Affairs, will be streamed through Zoom, a free webinar tool users can either download or use on their web browser. It will be followed by a live online Q&A.

“Science Sundays shows the excitement of discovery,” said John Beacom, College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Physics. “It encourages scientific thinking, and it nurtures a community of like-minded people. These things are all the more true now, to say nothing of providing a bit of welcome distraction.”

The final Science Sundays lecture of the semester will explore gamma ray bursts, which were accidentally discovered and have long been a leading mystery in astrophysics. Horack will discuss the history of gamma ray research, including breakthroughs enabled by the 1991 launch of the Gamma Ray Observatory and subsequent experiments that showed these are the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Science Sundays is a free public lecture series offered and supported by The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences. Speakers are leading experts in their fields dedicated to making their work interesting and accessible for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Lectures cover diverse topics in science, arts and technology that touch our everyday lives.

For instructions on how to access the April 5 webinar, please visit the Science Sundays webpage.

COVID-19 updates and resources

Ohio State is providing consistent updates to this ever-evolving situation. Read the latest developments in the university’s COVID-19 response at

Ways to support 

  • To help students in the College of Arts and Sciences in need of immediate financial assistance, we ask that you to direct contributions to the Arts and Sciences Students First Students Now Fund (#313137), which provides scholarships and emergency funds to Arts and Sciences students who have critical need. You can give online by visiting
  • To support students across the university with emergency assistance, please visit the Buckeye Funder page, which was set up specifically for Ohio State students affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. 
  • If you would like to support our medical professionals on the front lines, accelerate research on testing and treatments for COVID-19 and assisting with the purchase of additional medical equipment to help treat more patients, consider giving to the Wexner Medical Center Greatest Need Fund, via Buckeye Funder or by texting COVID19 to 91999.