Winter On The Oval

Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

February 2020


In this Issue

Finding the right fit in the College of Arts and Sciences

Rachel SkaggsRachel Skaggs, Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Assistant Professor of Arts Management, sits in her office in the Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise with her coat on. She is still “adjusting to the cold,” having recently transplanted from Nashville, Tennessee, but she is smiling and bright-eyed.

Her origin story is rooted at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where her professors encouraged her to follow her interest in sociology and anthropology into an academic profession.

“My capstone research was on songwriters, and that came from my experiences growing up,” Skaggs said. “My dad was a songwriter, and I remember seeing him get a check for 10 cents in royalties from Sweden and wondering, ‘What is this about?’”

Her interest in artistic endeavors coupled with her academic pursuits merged into a desire to help artists make a living with their art.

“When looking for graduate programs, I thought to myself, ‘I should be in Nashville, where the songwriters are!’” Skaggs said. “I spent the next seven years at Vanderbilt University trying to better understand artists and researching how we can create more robust art ecosystems.”

After completing her PhD at Vanderbilt, Skaggs started her postdoc at the Curb Center for Art Enterprise and Policy where she honed her skills in a strategic program-based setting. This particular trajectory aligned with the fall 2018 open search at Ohio State for the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Professorship of Arts Management.

Television industry pioneer Lawrence Barnett attended Ohio State in the mid-1930s and reflected fondly on his experiences on campus. He, his late wife Isabel Bigley Barnett and the Barnett family generously established in their names the multidisciplinary Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise, the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Distinguished Visiting Professor Fund in Arts Policy and Administration, the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Fellowship Fund, and the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Endowed Professorship of Arts Management.

It was Barnett’s vision to create an environment that would prepare student artists for their careers in the industry and to promote connections with arts organizations, performance opportunities and collaborative projects around the world.

Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy Chair Karen Hutzel focused the professorship search on the spirit of the Barnett family legacy, noting, “We are in a unique position and have the dedicated support to improve how we study, teach and impact the arts society across disciplines.”

Hutzel acknowledged that a pivotal point of the professorship position is to “teach art students about business and teach business students about managing arts organizations.”

While completing her postdoc, Skaggs started searching for positions in business schools, sociology and arts management programs. At the end of her search, she came across the Barnett Professorship position.

“It was the last job I applied for, and as cliché as it sounds, when I saw the posting I knew, ‘This is my job; it was written for me,” Skaggs reflects. “My research and work focuses on entrepreneurial artists, or artists as workers, and when I got to come to campus and meet the students and faculty, it really connected. The kinds of questions that they are interested in exploring and the research that they are doing and impact they are having in the arts community locally and around the world solidified it for me.”

Larry Barnett, Rachel Skaggs and Executive Dean and Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter

Larry Barnett Jr., Rachel Skaggs and Executive Dean and Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter at the installation ceremony of Rachel Skaggs as the Barnett Endowed Professor of Arts Management. The event took place in California on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

A renowned position like this is coveted in part because it indicates the department’s and the college’s commitment to the kind of research that inspires faculty and engages students. As the inaugural holder of the professorship, Skaggs is committed to uphold the intentions of the Barnett family while contributing to the field with her own research.

“I’m excited for the Barnett support of the idea of integrating arts and enterprise,” Skaggs said. “There is a discord among artists that commercialization is ‘selling out,’ and it limits students and artists from learning skills and facilitating day-to-day careers in art.”

Teaching and mentoring students is an important part of this position that Skaggs takes seriously. She’s already become an advisor to two student recipients of the Barnett Fellowship and plans to work closely with undergraduates in and outside the classroom.

Skaggs comes from an academic experience that was reinforced by philanthropy, which, she notes, isn’t always the case.

“Philanthropic support has allowed me to attend conferences and have the time and space to develop my research and do the kind of work that makes me the scholar that I am.”

She is especially grateful for the close connections that she has made with the Barnett family and the opportunities that she will have at Ohio State thanks to their support.

“In this role, I get to see the impact that donors can have not only on one person, but through that person, our students, programs and communities around them and the spaces that they are in.”

Rachel Skaggs with members of the Barnett family

Rachel Skaggs (third from right) with members of the Barnett family at the installation ceremony of the Barnett Endowed Professorship of Arts Management.

March 22, 2020 is Ohio State’s annual Day of Giving. This year, the College of Arts and Sciences will be raising money to support our talented and diverse faculty through the Arts and Sciences Faculty Excellence Fund (#316318). This fund advances special faculty research and teaching projects that drive innovation locally, nationally and worldwide.

Marquis Miller, Chicago's first chief diversity officer, continues a legacy of mentorship and support

Marquis Miller headshot

Marquis Miller '81 grew up in a household with high expectations. He came from three generations of college students: His great-grandmother went to what is now West Virginia State University (WVSU), his grandfather went to Livingstone College and his parents went to WVSU.

 “I had such a legacy and the lineage to live up to that even with some of the challenges that confronted me — some of my own doing — I didn't have a choice. I had to succeed,” Miller said. “That's all of the incentive I needed to continue to drive and drive.”

Now, as the first chief diversity officer for the city of Chicago, Miller wants to open doors for minorities and other underrepresented communities, too.

His entrance into diversity and inclusion wasn’t “by design,” he said. Instead, after he graduated from Ohio State with a degree in social and behavioral sciences, he went to work for a savings and loan company and then for a furniture company. 

It's a great feeling to help people start to see themselves as the true and authentic people that they really are and help them to realize that they have something of value to contribute to the world.”

In his jobs, he was often one of a handful of people, if not the only person, from a non-white background, and he found himself advocating for increasing access and opportunities for African Americans and other minorities. Then, he came to work for Ohio State in a development capacity.

“I was one of a handful of African American leaders fundraising for the university,” Miller said. “This led me to being more active with opportunities to recruit African-Americans to get involved in the university.”

The position launched a career for him in fundraising and business development. He eventually became vice president of the Midwest region for the United Negro College Fund, which took him to Chicago and set him on the path to his current job with the city.

Miller defends in an Ohio State basketball game.

Marquis Miller, pictured in his Buckeyes jersey to the right, graduated from St. Charles Preparatory School as one of the most celebrated basketball players in the school’s history.

“Working with diverse business owners gave me some unique perspectives about strategic sourcing, about recruiting and about how to remove or at least ameliorate the barriers that prevent minorities — African Americans, Hispanic and Latinos and Asians in particular — from navigating and negotiating opportunities where historically there had been obstacles,” Miller said.

Now, he’s leading the development and implementation of Chicago’s diversity and inclusion plan, part of which includes building networks and affinity groups among city offices to create a stronger culture of belonging and employee support. 

Miller understands the power of such support systems, both through his family and also through the mentors and role models he worked with at Ohio State. He said Jim and Barbie Tootle, who together held various academic and administrative positions at Ohio State, counseled him to take a deep and broad view of his academics, motivating him to create his own major that helped him develop his public speaking while gaining a better understanding of human behavior.

Miller additionally said Frank Hale, former vice provost for diversity and inclusion and professor emeritus, and Ed Ray, a former economics professor, were also key mentors throughout his undergraduate education. 

On top of his regular coursework, Miller was also recruited to play basketball and became a student-athlete. He said Larry Romanoff and others in the Department of Athletics pushed him to continue growing and to take advantage of all the academic resources and services at his disposal.

Together, this environment helped Miller work through challenges he encountered while a student, like when he became a teen parent.

“My daughter was born when I was 19 years old, and she was born with some health challenges, so you need to grow up really fast or you wither,” Miller said. “Ohio State was so supportive, and I certainly chalk up a lot of whatever I consider to be success to my Ohio State experience.”

 Miller playing basketball Miller, pictured above playing against Kentucky's basketball team, became a father while in college. His daughter, Janae Miller, now works with the Harmony Project in Columbus as a blind adult.

The mentorship Miller received as an undergraduate inspired his work once he came back to the university as an employee, enabling him to also counsel other students to make the most of their time at Ohio State.

Now, he says he feels a sense of obligation to give back to people and pay forward the help he received throughout his education and career. 

“It's a great feeling to help people start to see themselves as the true and authentic people that they really are and help them to realize that they have something of value to contribute to the world,” Miller said.

2019 Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Five Arts and Humanities faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have been chosen to receive a 2019 Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award:

  • Theodora Dragostinova, Associate Professor, History
  • Robin Judd, Associate Professor, History
  • Namiko Kunimoto, Associate Professor, History of Art
  • Shari Savage, Associate Professor, Arts Administration, Education and Policy
  • Christa Teston, Associate Professor, English

The Ratner Awards recognize faculty who demonstrate creative teaching and extraordinary records of engaging, motivating and inspiring students. Each Ratner Award winners receives a $10,000 cash prize, as well as a $10,000 teaching account to fund future projects.

In 2014, Ronald and Deborah Ratner gave $1 million to establish the Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards. Ronald Ratner, of RMS Investment Group, is also the former director and executive vice president of development for Forest City Realty Trust, Inc. From 2007 to 2015, he was appointed by former Gov. Ted Strickland to serve on Ohio State’s Board of Trustees. Deborah B. Ratner founded ArtWorks, a Cleveland-based arts apprenticeship program, and Reel Women Direct, an award for women film directors.

Theodora Dragostinova, Associate Professor, History

Theodora DragostinovaTheodora Dragostinova’s research interests lie at the intersection of migration studies and European and global history. Migration has become a defining issue of the 21st century, and she strives to provide her students with the intellectual tools that will allow them to explore knowledge-based, compassionate solutions to this societal challenge.

Dragostinova’s migration-focused curriculum includes classes such as “People on the Move: Migration in Modern Europe,” and “Europe Since 1950,” and she plans to propose a 2000-level course, “Refugees and Immigrants: Global Mobility and Migration.” She has been involved with the Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme since 2015, and she pursues active and immersive student experiences by incorporating digital platforms, arts engagement and experiential learning into her teaching.

Dragostinova will use funds from the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to enhance her classes in three areas: the development of teaching collaborations that brings other classes together around shared readings, assignments or class visitors; the organization of class visits, film screenings and dance performance visits; and the development of an upcoming field trip to Cincinnati to examine the Eastern European immigrant experience in Ohio.

Robin Judd, Associate Professor, History

Robin JuddRobin Judd is a specialist in Jewish and East European history with research interests in human conflict, peace and diplomacy; power, culture and the state; and race and ethnicity; and religion in history. She teaches classes from “History of the Holocaust” to “American Jewish Cultures and Identities” to “Migration, Mobility and Refugee Politics, 1993-Present.”

Judd’s pedagogical approach promotes critical thinking and historical analysis by having students interpret various historical documents and media, and her coursework typically emphasizes class discussion and debate, student research and community engagement.

Judd will use funds from the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to redesign her courses on American Jewish history, integrating a digital platform for students to collect, organize and present research on the Jewish community in Columbus. Her plans include student access to software like Hypercities and ArcGIS to gather archival documents, as well as field trips to historic Jewish sites around the city, such as historic Jewish cemeteries and the Jewish Historical Society.

Namiko Kunimoto, Associate Professor, History of Art

Namiko KunimotoNamiko Kunimoto is a specialist in modern and contemporary Japanese art with research interests in gender, race, urbanization, photography, visual culture, performance art, transnationalism and nation formation.

She teaches classes on contemporary East Asian art, such as “From Modernism to Manga: Modern and Contemporary Art in Japan” and “East-West Photography.” Her teaching philosophy is to create environments of mutual trust and respect that encourage student engagement and challenge students to articulate their thoughts and ideas in written and visual formats, as well as through debate and discussion with their peers.

Kunimoto plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to establish a curatorial curriculum at Ohio State. She will form an upper-division class in curatorial studies that will center on trips to spaces such as local museums and the Cleveland Museum of Art; include visiting lectures and network opportunities with successful curators; and a final project for which students jointly curate an exhibit at Ohio State.  

Shari Savage, Associate Professor, Arts Administration, Education and Policy

Shari SavageShari Savage specializes in preparing future art educators and connecting students to the power of art, the importance of critical thinking and the need for creativity. A common thread that guides her teaching vision is an enthusiasm for the arts as a human connector.

She teaches classes such as the general education course “Criticizing Television,” the graduate course “Arts-based Research Methods,” and the course catered toward incoming graduate teaching associates, “College Teaching.” Savages strives to make her content continually relevant, find new and engaging activities and create supportive and challenging opportunities for her students to grow.

Savage plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to redesign a study abroad trip to Ireland she piloted in 2015 with Christine Ballengee Morris, professor of AAEP and comparative studies. The course examines material cultures, specifically how Ireland’s Office of Public Works engages Irish citizens and tourists with the arts, educational and cultural activities, and World Heritage sites.

Christa Teston, Associate Professor, English

Christa TestonChrista Teston teaches rhetoric, composition and literacy, and her specialties lie in professional and business writing and medical rhetoric. She has taught courses such as “Business Writing,” “Rhetoric and Community Service,” “History and Theory of Writing” and “Graduate Seminar in Research Methods.”

Teston subscribes to four elements of teaching that support her vision to encourage experiential, problem-based and socially conscious learning:

  • Committing to low-stakes, exploratory writing projects that respond to events of social consequence.
  • Collaborating with community partners when facilitating learning
  • Providing students opportunities to navigate questions by examining connections between writing and rhetorical theory in actual communities of practice
  • Modeling an ethic of generosity in and out of the classroom.

Teston plans to use the Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award to design a user experience mobile lab that would enable students to learn how their written texts are received by readers. She would use funds to outfit one mobile usability kit that could be transported around campus where students could test the reception of the texts they compose.

Get help with your last minute recruiting!

If you are still looking for the perfect candidate for an internship or job, the Center for Career and Professional Success is available to help you with a targeted recruiting campaign. Recruit from among the high-caliber and diverse student population at Ohio State to find the best individual for your open position.  

Support your passion with guaranteed fixed lifetime payments

With a charitable gift annuity, you can make an impact at the College of Arts and Sciences while increasing your cash flow and enjoying tax benefits. Learn more.


SCIENCE SUNDAYS: Collections as Data: Combining Data Science and the Power of Library Collections to Unlock New Understanding
March 1, 3 to 5 p.m.
Ohio Union, U.S. Bank Conference Theater, 1739 N. High Street

Webinar: Laid Off — Now What?
March 6, Noon to 1 p.m.

March 18, 7 p.m.
Film/Video Theatre, Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High Street

43rd Annual Ohio State Jazz Festival
March 18-22
Hughes Hall Auditorium, 1899 College Road

Arts and Sciences Sesquicentennial Breakfast
March 21, 9 a.m.
Vernier Physics Commons, Physics Research Building, 191 West Woodruff Avenue