Connect: Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

February 2018

There is so much exciting and compelling work happening at the College of Arts and Sciences. From unique donor gifts, to illustrious awards, to innovative alumni endeavors, the stories in this second edition of Connect illustrate the many ways in which our students, faculty, alumni, donors and friends are shaping the world.

We are sincerely grateful for your continued support, which makes these advancements possible, and hope all of you will join us tomorrow, on the Day of Giving, a 24-hour, fun and inspiring event encouraging individuals to support Ohio State. 

Visit our Day of Giving page to learn more and give back by helping students focus on their studies, obtain a degree and achieve their dreams.

Together, we have much work to do. We look forward to a continued partnership to keep the momentum going!


David C. Manderscheid

In this issue:

Spotlight: Earth Sciences

Students attend Field Camp 2017
Students participate in Field Camp in 2017.

Spotlight on the School of Earth Sciences

The Ohio State University School of Earth Sciences (SES) is a dynamic and diverse group of faculty, staff and students. The school embraces a threefold mission of multidisciplinary research, educating the next generation of Earth scientists, and outreach and engagement to Ohio, the nation, and the world. 2017 was a banner year for the SES — full of extraordinary endeavors, innovative teaching and research, and impactful philanthropy — and 2018 is already shaping up to surpass it. SES Director Matt Saltzman selected some of his favorite recent accomplishments and high points. 

A Dinosaur for Orton Hall

The dinosaur Cryolophosaurus ellioti is named after School of Earth Sciences Professor Emeritus David Elliot, who discovered the fossil in Antarctica in 1991 while completing field work. Now, the Orton Geological Museum is in the process of bringing the skeleton in its entirety to campus. The museum is currently home to a replica of the dinosaur's skull, but thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends who donated during a recent crowdfunding campaign, the full skeleton will be housed in the lobby of Orton Hall, which will increase our impact and outreach efforts for the more than 200,000 visitors to the museum. Learn more about our continued efforts to expand and improve the museum.

Professor Andréa Grottoli Named AAAS Fellow

Andréa Grottoli, professor of Earth sciences, has been chosen as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Fellows are elected to receive this prestigious award based on their scientific advancements, and Professor Grottoli has made distinguished contributions to the field of coral reef status and resilience. Her research addresses coral biogeochemistry and responses to climate change, increasing surface sea temperature, and ocean acidification. She was honored in a ceremony at the AAAS annual meeting in Austin, Texas, this month.

New Hands-on Hydrology Learning Lab Facility

The School of Earth Sciences has committed to building a hands-on hydrology learning lab as part of the Mirror Lake restoration project. Spearheaded by Professor Audrey Sawyer, the laboratory facility will allow students to monitor water levels in Mirror Lake and a groundwater well and measure water quality using state-of-the-art sensors and scientific equipment. Because the lab is centrally located near The Oval, a large number of classes from science and engineering will be able to take advantage of the facility as part of lab and lecture periods, exposing hundreds of students each year to hands-on learning activities and valuable scientific skills. This month, we broke ground by drilling a 100-foot groundwater well, which was generously donated by Jamison Well Drilling. Students will gather on March 1 to observe the drilling process as part of Professor Sawyer's water issues class and Professor Ann Cook's borehole geophysics class. A portion of the funding for scientific equipment comes from the National Science Foundation.

New Gift to Support Field Camp

Since 1947, the School of Earth Sciences has run a six-week long undergraduate capstone Field Camp course in geologic mapping in a remote part of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Alumni and students alike consistently relate back to us that Field Camp was one of the most satisfying experiences of their lives — that it has made them more thoughtful and disciplined individuals and contributed positively to their worldview.

This past December, the School of Earth Sciences received another major commitment that will go a long way toward the goal of endowing Field Camp. Jim and Pam Griffith, 30-year residents of Canton, Ohio, and longtime Ohio State fans recognized an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to students through this program. The Griffiths gave to the The School of Earth Sciences Field Experience Travel Fund, which provides support for students to offset and costs of the camp and ensure its financial sustainability.

This fund was originally established in 2009 with a generous gift by Mike (BS, geology, ’69) and Cindy Morgan. The Morgans hoped that by creating this fund, others would step forward with their support to help Earth Sciences purchase and maintain vans, provide support for students to offset the costs of camp, and instructional support, and step up they have. Joe (BS, geology, ’69) and Marcia (BS, physical therapy, ’68) Newhart, have also given generously to support this fund, which enables the school to leverage Field Camp as one of its top priorities. After celebrating the 70th anniversary of Field Camp with an alumni reunion this past summer, the school is now planning for a 75th reunion with a fundraising campaign leading up to the event.

We are so very grateful for the support of the Griffiths, Morgans, Newharts, and the many dedicated alumni who are seeing their efforts realized. 

Stay connected with the School of Earth Sciences on LinkedInFacebook and Instagram or by emailing

Spaghetti sauce supports student scholarships!

Bonnie Daneker

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker (BA, journalism, ’89), a member of the Arts and Sciences Alumni Society Board, and Bill Hildebolt, a distinguished alumnus of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) have co-written a book about how Prego® Pasta Sauce came to be on supermarket shelves.

It’s In There!® is based on Hildebolt’s experience as vice president of research and development at Campbell Soup Company. Hildebolt, who earned three degrees from CFAES including his doctorate, led the development of Prego Pasta Sauce, in addition to garnering roughly 20 patents.

Hildebolt teamed up with Daneker, an author and entrepreneur, to create this part-memoir, part-product history of the iconic brand found today in kitchens around the world.

Proceeds from book sales will support student scholarships at Ohio State. The book is available for purchase from The Ohio State University Press.

“Very few authors I have worked with possess the depth of knowledge of their subject matter like Bill does,” Daneker said. “Our collaboration process included my education on subjects like plant breeding and mass production, which I didn't anticipate but enjoyed. It was a pleasure working with such an expert.”

Daneker, who resides just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, is CEO of WasteLine Sustainability Communications, a firm that helps companies showcase their social responsibility efforts.

She is a member of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP), SouthFace, Conscious Capitalism–Atlanta, the Ohio State Arts and Sciences Alumni Society Board, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Green Chamber of the South.

Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards announced

Five Arts and Humanities faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have received Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards:

  • Alison Beach, Associate Professor, History
  • Kris Paulsen, Associate Professor, History of Art
  • Lauren Squires, Associate Professor, English
  • Mytheli Sreenivas, Associate Professor, History/Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Brian Stone, Associate Professor, Design

The Ratner Awards were announced in December to recognize faculty for making a difference in students' educations, lives and careers. Candidates are chosen for creative teaching and exemplary records of engaging, motivating and inspiring students. Each Ratner Award includes a $10,000 cash prize, as well as a $10,000 teaching account to fund future projects.

This group will be formally recognized at the college's annual Honoring Excellence ceremony in April.

The Ratner Awards were established in 2014 with a generous gift by Ronald and Deborah Ratner. In addition, Forest City Realty Trust donated space in Cleveland at Tower City for The Ohio State University Recruitment and Outreach Center, aimed at increasing the overall college-going rate for the greater Cleveland area.

Ronald Ratner served on Ohio State's Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2015, appointed by former Governor Ted Strickland. Ratner is currently director and executive vice president of development for Forest City Realty Trust, Inc., a real estate investment company based in Cleveland.

Deborah Ratner is the founder of ArtWorks, a Cleveland-based arts apprenticeship program and Reel Women Direct, an award for women film directors.

2017 Ratner Award Winners

Alison Beach, Associate Professor, History

Alison Beach teaches medieval European history in a way that brings this period alive to students. Her classes mix traditional lecture with problem-based learning, and they incorporate role playing, simulation activities, field trips and engagement with primary sources. Her May study abroad course in Ireland, which is co-taught with an archaeologist, is an example of interdisciplinary teaching at its best. Students in her classes reenact key events to understand them in a new way, such as convening the 1138 War Council of Acre to debate the concept of Just War or baking Viking-era bread.

Professor Beach convenes a monthly student medieval club and has inspired some of her students to pursue graduate degrees in medieval studies at top programs around the world. Her teaching combines a commitment to the traditional liberal arts with an equally strong commitment to experiential learning. The Ratner Award will allow Beach to continue this commitment by increasing access to the study abroad program. 

Kris Paulsen, Associate Professor, History of Art

Kris Paulsen’s excellent teaching of contemporary art and cinema garnered her the college’s Rodica C. Botoman Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2015, and it’s easy to see why. Paulsen challenges her students to analyze art and film in ways that are sophisticated and engaging. In her classes, readings in theory and philosophy are paired with hands-on, experiential learning. She has expanded opportunities for students to think about the public importance of art by creating courses in which they collaborate with her on mounting exhibitions.

She has been a driving force behind the new master’s program in contemporary art and curatorial practice, which will enroll its first students this fall. Her service as chair of undergraduate studies and leader of the department’s curatorial club has been accompanied by extensive student advising. Paulsen proposes to use the Ratner Award to enhance the curatorial curriculum through site trips and collaborations with professional curators.

Lauren Squires, Associate Professor, English

Lauren Squires teaches the English language in all of its dimensions to English majors, as well as education majors who intend to teach English in high school. She inspires her students to see the direct relevance of highly technical and difficult material to their lives. As Chair of the Department of English Robyn Warhol puts it, in Professor Squire’s classroom, “linguistics has a clear social justice mission, getting students to understand the role that language differences play in hierarchies and stereotypes.”

Squires also has a commitment to collaborative engagement. She provides cultural “touchstones” that help students see everyday words through a critical lens — whether puzzling over the phonetic basis for a misheard word in a Beyoncé song or using computer software to investigate grammatical patterns in their own writing. Squires has shown her commitment to affordability and accessibility by developing an online text book with a grant from the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, and plans to use the Ratner Award to develop mobile apps for use in English linguistics courses. 

Mytheli Sreenivas, Associate Professor, History/Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Mytheli Sreenivas brings an interdisciplinary expertise in the history of sexuality and the family to a pedagogical vision that, in her words, aims to “create an environment in which students are recognized for what they bring to the classroom, where they are pushed to grapple with what is unfamiliar and where we engage in a process of collective research and inquiry.” Professor Sreenivas has been particularly successful in motivating students to undertake independent research as part of their studies, as well as engage in community outreach.

Students in her History of Feminist Thought course compiled an online oral and archival history of feminist action on Ohio State’s campus. Thanks to a grant from the Office of Service Learning, students in her Reproductive Rights and Justice course partnered with community organizations to formulate research questions and combine theory and practice. Sreenivas will use the Ratner Award to continue the digital history project, as well as expand the network of community partners in her service-learning course. 

Brian Stone, Associate Professor, Design

Brian Stone has inspired a steady stream of majors in visual communication design through his commitment to project-based learning and problem solving, as well as fostering a deep understanding of and reflection on the principles of design. As Chair of the Department of Design Mary Anne Beecher puts it, “Brian’s students maximize their ability to practice design and to see connections between theory and practice.” Professor Stone has been particularly innovative in establishing collaborations that help students hone their skills.

For example, his students visited Taipei, Taiwan, to present their work to a leading consumer electronics company. Last year, he facilitated a trip to San Francisco that enabled visual communication design senior students and faculty to visit leading technology and design companies. With the Ratner Award, Stone intends to amplify these enrichment opportunities by developing a long-term collaborative project with one of the design firm in San Francisco. 

Click here learn more about additional Arts and Humanities Teaching Awards and find out how you can support them.

ACCAD alumnus earns Academy Award in Technical Achievement

Matt DerksenEver wonder how the tiger from Life of Pi or the Hulk from The Incredible Hulk came to life? Odds are, alumnus Matt Derksen (BFA '01, MFA '03) had something to do with it.

Derksen has made his mark on the motion picture industry through his work at Rhythm & Hues, a visual effects and animation company, and has helped create a one-of-a-kind character rigging construction kit. In three-dimensional animation, rigging involves constructing a skeleton for a model so that it can be adjusted throughout the animation process.

The technology involved in Derksen’s software has proven to be advanced enough to earn his team an Academy Award in Technical Achievement, an honor awarded to those who have made great positive contributions to the process of making motion pictures. Derksen and his fellow awardees will be honored when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents its annual Scientific and Technical Awards on Saturday, Feb. 10, in Beverly Hills.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Derksen said of the recognition. “I have been involved with the Academy over the years, but being from an arts background, I never thought I would be considered.”

Derksen isn’t the only alumnus from Ohio State’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) to recently be recognized by the Academy for work in the motion picture industry. More than 15 alumni have worked on Academy Award-winning content, including Ian Butterfield (MFA 1999, art), who worked on Oscar-winning films Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, as well as nominee Moana; and Chris Wedge ​(master's in art education, 1985), who directed ​Epic ​and co-founded the studio that created the Ice Age ​series. Steve May (BA 1990, MA 1992, PhD 1998, computer and information science), Fran Kalal (BA 2005, MFA 2008, design), Beth Albright (MFA 2008, design), Kyoung Lee (MFA 2004, art) and Jenny Macy (BFA 2000, art) are all credited on the film Brave, which won for Best Animated Film in 2013.

Like many of his fellow alumni, Derksen began working intensely in animation as a graduate student at ACCAD, specifically focusing on character rigging. He first learned about 3D animation while studying for his undergraduate degree in art and technology. It was the first time that Derksen had access to a computer, and once that was paired with a 3D animation package, he was hooked.

When he started at ACCAD, his work focused on creating short animated films, later concentrating on non-linear storylines involving obsessive compulsive disorders. However, Derksen found that character rigging was really where he hit his stride. Not only was he able to create his own designs, but he was also able to share his talents with his classmates and collaborate on their projects.

“ACCAD allowed me to work on other people’s projects for the first time,” Derksen said. “I would happily rig characters for students who were more interested in animating them. This was a huge help in eventually getting my current job.”

Rhythm & Hues visited Ohio State during Derksen’s final year in ACCAD and he was eager to get some professional feedback on his work. However, he got that and more when the company invited him out to Los Angeles for an interview and offered him a job on the spot. Derksen was elated to be offered a job doing what he loved, but stepping into the industry presented new challenges.

“When I got hired, creating character rigs for animation was a slow and inefficient process that created rigs that were inconsistent and hard to use,” Derksen said. “A few months after getting hired, we had a meeting where the owner of the company told everyone that the rigging department was the most expensive and could be costing us work. We immediately started thinking about this problem, and that is where the construction kit system started.”

Fifteen years later, Derksen has helped Rhythm & Hues develop a character rigging software that is incomparable to any other in the motion picture industry. It has been used to create stunning visual effects in a variety of productions, including Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games and Night at the Museum. Through everything he’s encountered in his career, Derksen is grateful to have the diverse and intensive education he received at Ohio State to fall back on.

“I think the most important part of going to ACCAD and Ohio State was the fact that I was able to have access to so many different kinds of courses and people,” Derksen said. “It made me a more mature and well-rounded person, so once I did get my dream job, I could excel.”

Interested in supporting ACCAD? Learn more here

By Hannah Smith, fourth-year journalism major

Make a difference in the college, and receive tax benefits in return

The IRA charitable rollover law allows donors age 70.5 or older to transfer up to $100,000 tax-free directly from an IRA to The Ohio State University Foundation without undesirable tax effects. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, March 3

6th Annual Night Market, presented by East Asian Culture Club and Taiwanese American Student Association
MLK Lounge, Hale Hall

Wednesday, March 7

10th Annual R. Jack and Forest Lynn Biard Cosmology and Astrophysics Lecture: Planet 9 from Outer Space
Center of Science and Industry (COSI), 333 W. Broad Street

Thursday, March 8 & Friday, March 9

Opera & Lyric Theatre Presents Leonard Bernstein's Candide
Weigel Hall Auditorium, 1866 College Road

Sunday, March 18

Science Sundays: How Microscopy Can Help Understand Nanomaterials
Ohio Union, U.S. Bank Conference Theatre

Friday, March 23

NYC Alumni Reception with Arts and Humanities Scholars
Sardi's, 234 W. 44th Street, New York City