University Hall in snow

Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

January 2019

The start of a new year and new semester always brings excitement, and 2019 is certainly off to a busy beginning in the College of Arts and Sciences. I am excited to announce the launch of five new undergraduate majors, all of which incorporate emerging trends and issues into carefully designed, interdisciplinary academic programming. 

These five new majors — Integrated Major in Math and English (IMME), Italian Studies, Medical Anthropology, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Statistics — converge disciplines in innovative ways, preparing students to be competitive in their careers and pursuit of advanced study in this ever-evolving job market and global landscape. Read more here

We, as a college, are able to make these big and bold ideas a reality thanks to our excellent faculty and staff, and of course, the support of our alumni and friends like you. I look forward to sharing even more exciting highlights throughout the year!  

Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier
Interim Executive Dean and Vice Provost
Vernal Riffe Professor of Political Science

In this Issue

Cardiologist and historian collaborate to teach racial health disparities course

Eric Herschthal (center left) and Dr. Quinn Capers (center right) pose with students from the class they co-teach, AFAMAST 4326: RaceThe list of health disparities between black and white America is long and troublesome.

White Americans, on average, live four years longer than black Americans. Infant mortality rates are twice as high in black babies than they are in white babies. Black women are three to four times more likely to succumb to pregnancy-related complications than white women. Black Americans are twice as likely to develop diabetes as their white counterparts.

Racial health disparities have for years been a major issue for Dr. Quinn Capers, a cardiologist at the Wexner Medical Center and associate dean for admissions in the College of Medicine. After earning his medical degree from Ohio State in 1991, Capers was a resident trainee at an academic medical center in Atlanta when he saw two people — a black man and a white man who both came in suffering heart attacks — receive vastly different treatment. That disconcerting experience fueled Capers’ desire to raise awareness of racial health disparities, and this fall semester, he co-taught an undergraduate course he created around the topic, AFAMAST 4326: Race and Medicine.

The class is housed in the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS), and it is co-taught by AAAS postdoc Eric Herschthal, an historian and journalist whose areas of expertise include race, slavery and medicine. AFAMAST 4326 examines the ways in which black and white Americans receive health care differently, explores their historical background and root causes, and discusses potential solutions to these inequalities. Students learn about the history of medical mistreatment of black Americans, how implicit bias influences medical treatment of African Americans, the connections between race and genetics, and how systemic racism perpetrates racial health disparities.

Leveraging the knowledge of both a physician and an historian, Capers says, leads to an interdisciplinary course that draws students from a variety of academic interests and allows its instructors to cover the nuanced topic of racial health disparities comprehensively.

Having Dr. Herschthal involved really allows us to talk about not just contemporary health care disparities, which I consider my expertise, but he really allows us to go back and see kind of where this started,” Capers said. “I think interdisciplinary education can be really helpful in cementing a concept. We can talk about how the health care system treats [African Americans] today, but we’ve got this incredible historical component. I think that’s an incredible one-two punch.”

The diverse nature of the course has led to a diverse set of students from a variety of academic backgrounds. Capers and Herschthal agree that while the course’s subject matter is vital for students entering medical school, it is just as important for students who have career interests ranging from journalism to law to economics.

“We want them to feel comfortable understanding systemic racism and the ways in which it manifests itself,” Herschthal said. “In this case, it manifests itself in health care, but racism can manifest itself in all areas of society.”

Capers and Herschthal give roughly a third of the lectures each, and the other third are delivered by various physicians and faculty from the College of Medicine and the Wexner Medical Center. Though the course focuses on health, Capers crafted it so students don’t need a background in medicine to understand its concepts.

Ultimately, Capers and Herschthal hope students are encouraged to take a step back from problems and think about what the root causes are. Capers and Herschthal plan to offer the course each fall, with plans for a course fall 2019 co-sponsored by AAAS and the College of Medicine but targeted primarily to undergraduates.

“It’s very timely in American society right now to have this course,” Capers said. “Obviously, we’re having a lot of discussions about race, about immigrants, about how we treat people who aren’t like us. I’m really proud of this course, proud to be working with Dr. Herschthal and proud of AAAS and their support.”

Family Matters: Children create scholarship to honor their parents

Chen Ya Liu and Siuha Anita Go on their wedding day in New York City, 1956. Their children established a professional writing scholarship in their honor.

Chen Ya Liu and Siuha Anita Go on their wedding day in New York City, 1956. Their children established a professional writing scholarship in their honor.

When Ohio State alumni give back, many want their contributions to reflect the values and skills they learned during their time on campus. The Liu siblingsLeo (BA, humanities, 1978), Ursula (BS, international studies, 1985) and Isabel (BA, economics, 1979) — wanted to honor their parents, the people who instilled in them high values for education.

“Both of our parents came from very poor countries and, through education, achieved professional success and personal happiness in raising our family,” said Isabel. “They set very high standards for us, not only for education, but also for achieving excellence through hard work. They were pioneers in many ways, which I only appreciated later in life.”

The Liu siblings established the Chen Ya and Siuha Anita Liu Fund for Professional Writing, an annual award for an undergraduate student majoring in a science, technology or engineering field and minoring in professional writing. The writing aspect is an homage to their parents’ high regard for well-written work.

“In (our father’s) own career as an engineer originally from China, he knew how important communication is for scientists,” said Leo. “So, my sisters and I thought, ‘Why not create a scholarship to further this sort of interdisciplinary education?’ The more we talked about it, the more we felt that such a scholarship should honor our mother, as well as our father. She wrote and published several stories while she was still in high school.”

Chen Ya and Anita Liu met as graduate engineering students at New York University in the 1950s. Through hard work, they were both able to earn their degrees and professional qualifications, becoming pioneers in their respective fields.

“My mom and dad both emigrated to New York City to pursue graduate studies in engineering,” Leo said. “It’s difficult to convey the number of obstacles they had to overcome to get to America, including a complete lack of family and financial support, and political and social barriers of their time and place.”

Through their endowment, the Lius hope to eliminate as many barriers as possible for others, opening up the possibility for professional writing education to as many students as possible.

“College is a significant financial burden,” Isabel said. “The purpose of the skills gained in the professional writing program is to help students learn to communicate across boundaries — to effectively communicate technical content. The more the program can be open to students from a broad range of backgrounds, the better.”

“I, like many other children of immigrants, am completely humbled by our parents’ perseverance and ability to succeed against the odds,” Leo said. “My sisters and I believe that it’s very fitting to name the scholarship in their honor.”

The endowment was approved by the Board of Trustees in summer 2017 and was available to students starting in fall 2018.

Halima Mohamed, a fourth-year psychology major, is the first student to receive an award in autumn 2018. Mohamed said that the endowment will enable her to incorporate her passion for writing with her desire to improve her professional writing abilities.

“I feel extremely lucky to receive the endowment. It will help me further succeed at Ohio State because it will allow me to better focus my time into my studies,” said Mohamed.

Mother of two, astronomy and physics student set to graduate after unique educational journey

Ness Mayker with her two children: 13-year-old Draylen and 21/2-year-old Amelia.

Ness Mayker had to let go of one passion to make room for another.

Life for the astronomy and physics double major is, admittedly, a little hectic. Between balancing preparations to graduate this spring, graduate school applications, her research in the Department of Astronomy and her family life, the mother of two has every second of every day planned out.

And for Mayker, that’s OK. With support from her family, a wide range of financial aid opportunities, and plenty of ways to connect with other students and faculty, she has just the backing and encouragement she needs to succeed.

“I love it,” she said. “I’m really happy, and I feel like I’m living my dream.”

Mayker’s winding academic process has been over a decade in the making. She began her journey in 2004 at Columbus State Community College but stopped just short of earning her associate’s degree after realizing she didn’t know what step she wanted to take next. After apprenticing under her partner’s mother, who was a fiber artist, Mayker and her family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where she started her own fiber art business.

An unexpected nerve injury in 2012, however, temporarily robbed Mayker of her ability to use her hands, and she was forced to end her business.

“I was very depressed,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t feel like I could just find another job because I was suffering from this disability with my hands.”

Then one day, Mayker began watching the educational television series, “The Universe.” A desire to learn about astronomy quickly blossomed, and she felt a new calling. She began taking free online astronomy courses — some multiple times. She bought a telescope, joined the Columbus Astronomical Society and volunteered at the Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio, where she helped set up equipment at public events.

“My problems didn’t feel so big anymore,” Mayker said. “I really enjoyed learning about all these things very far away, and I realized I had a sort of inspiration, a passion, that I hadn’t felt for a very long time.”

Mayker was falling in love with astronomy, and at first, she was content with being a citizen astronomer. But she kept having questions, and the free courses she was taking couldn’t answer them. So, in spring 2016, she decided to go back to school, and for her, Ohio State was the place to be.

Mayker has leveraged scholarships and grants to help pay for her studies. After earning scholarships from the James L. Smith Student Support Fund and the Bevra Hannahs Hahn, MD, Undergraduate Merit Fund, among others, she managed to get her tuition covered her senior year. She also works as a student researcher in the Department of Astronomy. Over the summer, Mayker was accepted into the department’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program, and this January, she will present her research at the 233rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

Mayker’s ambitions don’t stop with graduate school. She wants to continue on to earn her PhD, follow the academia track and become a professor. Her biggest goal is to continue doing research.

Mayker’s academic adventure so far has been unique, and she’s grateful for the opportunities Ohio State has provided her. Though she suffered a setback after being injured and closing her business, she has found a way to shoot for the stars — literally.

“Even though I had to let go of my first dream, I feel like this is even more true to what I should’ve been doing,” she said.

Make a difference during our annual Day of Giving

You can change the world — by starting right here. On Friday, March 22, Buckeyes from all over will come together to help Ohio State tackle the local and global challenges that affect us all. Save the date to join us for the most remarkable 24 hours of the year. Read more

An easy way to deepen your connection with Ohio State

An up-to-date estate plan is your most effective tool for protecting the security of your loved ones. But did you know you can also use your estate plan to support the College of Arts and Sciences? When you include a gift to The Ohio State University Foundation in your will or trust, you join a group of instrumental supporters. Read more.


Department of Dance Winter Concert
Jan. 31-Feb. 2
Barnett Theatre, Sullivant Hall

"The Wolves"
Feb. 14-Feb. 24
Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center

Middle School Honor Band Festival
Feb. 16, 4 p.m.
Mershon Auditorium 

SCIENCE SUNDAYS: Mobility Matters — Why Sustainable Transportation is Essential for our Future
Feb. 17, 3-5 p.m.
Ohio Union, U.S. Bank Conference Theatre

Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2019: Fairies and the Fantastic
Feb. 22-23
Hagerty Hall and the Ohio Union