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Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

July 2019

In this Issue

Alumna's play exploring opioid epidemic performed by local high school students

When Arts and Sciences alumna Abby Noel (BA, theater, 2018) was in third grade, her friend got sick the day of the school play: a fairy tale mash-up. The teacher asked Noel to fill in for her sick friend as Cinderella, a main narrator in the show. She immediately fell in love with theater. 

Abby NoelWith a father in the military, Noel moved a lot growing up, but she had some family in the Midwest and decided to tour arts schools in the region and eventually decided on Ohio State.

Noel found, “At most schools, you pick acting or scenic design and you do that for four years. I was interested in so much that I didn’t want to be pigeonholed. At Ohio State, you do everything.”

After writing, producing and acting in a one-act show through the Department of Theatre Lab Series, Noel was encouraged by Associate Professor Jennifer Schlueter to take a playwriting class. Every week, students were given a new prompt for a 10-minute play, which Noel said taught her not only about the format and structure of playwriting but the intentionality of writing.

In December 2018, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theater and a minor in arts entrepreneurship. Barely a month later, she had her first playwriting commission.

Noel wrote "If A Tree Falls," a play exploring the opioid epidemic, for high school actors. The project was a partnership between Whetstone Academy of Performing Arts, Columbus City Schools and the College of Arts and Sciences, and was funded by the Barbara Lipton Pinchuk and Sheldon Pinchuk Arts Community Outreach Fund.

Professor Lesley Ferris, one of Noel’s mentors in the Department of Theatre, connected her to the opportunity. Professor Ferris recruited another mentee, Christopher Ray (BA, theater, 2010; MEd, 2012), drama teacher at Whetstone High School, to collaborate on the project. Whetstone High School students acted in the production. Ray and Noel co-directed the show, which took place on May 4 at the Roy Bowen Theatre.

Rehearsal of If a Tree Falls, a 30-minute patchwork play highlighting the opioid crisis in Ohio as seen through the eyes of local high school students.

“I’d be happy just acting, but it’s more fun to do everything, and more realistic. No one in theater ever does just one thing for their career. No one in the arts ever does just one thing,” Noel said.

The opportunity for high school students to work with a university, to have that training and experience is remarkable. I wish I had that in high school.”

The play, a series of vignettes addressing the opioid crisis, includes a scene of students joking around at school while ambulance sirens played in the background. During rehearsal, a guest faculty member didn’t realize the siren was part of the show. “About half the time you hear a siren, that ambulance is going to somebody who just overdosed. It is so normal to hear sirens that we tune it out,” Noel explained. 

“This story wasn’t about characters, but about this issue that affects so many different people. To make it more manageable, I made it bite-sized with scenes that could move around and evolve through rehearsal,” Noel said. “Some pieces completely came from the students. We wanted to leave space for the students, to give them the experience of being on the creative team — not just learn your lines, say your lines.”

Rehearsal of If a Tree Falls,a 30-minute patchwork play high school students

One student, after learning that 47,600 people died from opioid overdose in 2017, couldn’t get the statistic out of his head and shared the fact with his friends all week.

“I can’t change Columbus and the world, but the population I can control are the students in the show. They will take something away from this experience,” Noel said. “It felt good to help give these students a platform that shows how capable they are.”

Rehearsal of If a Tree Falls,a 30-minute patchwork play high school students

Images courtesy Laura Falb

Because of "If a Tree Falls" — a project at the intersection of art and social change — Noel was empowered by a professional commission at the start her career.

“At the beginning, I had a lot of imposter syndrome, that these students would figure out I’m not a real playwright. I definitely feel more now that I know what I’m doing,” Noel said. “The sensory experience of being in one room together is the most powerful tool of theater. You can reach just about anyone. Art connects us all.”

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry joins American Chemical Society's inclusive graduate education program

Image courtesy of ACS Bridge ProgramThe American Chemical Society (ACS) announced it has selected six university departments — including Ohio State's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry — as partners in the ACS Bridge Program, an initiative that seeks to increase the number of graduate students from underrepresented groups in the chemical sciences.

“Diversity, inclusion and respect are core values of the ACS, and this program is another important addition to our overall efforts to create opportunities for students from all backgrounds,” said LaTrease Garrison, executive vice president of the ACS Education Division. “We are grateful to our institutional partners for helping us advance both the chemical sciences and the chemists of the future.”

In September 2018, ACS joined the Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN), a coalition of five scientific societies formed to bolster the number of minority students in the physical sciences. The ACS Bridge Program supports this national effort by assisting chemical science departments in creating a “bridge” for students from underrepresented groups who plan to enter a doctoral program in chemistry or chemical engineering.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry joins the chemistry departments at the University of Massachusetts at Amerherst and Indiana University, along with the chemical engineering department at the University of Arkansas, as partners in this initiative. These departments will also enroll students who have submitted their graduate school application to the ACS Bridge Program and will provide a supportive, bridge-like environment for students from underrepresented groups.

There is still a large gap in the fraction of minority STEM majors who get a PhD, and a great deal of that gap arises from an opportunity gap," notes Thomas Magliery, associate professor and vice chair of graduate studies in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. "This partnership will help give us the reach to bridge that gap, and as a top chemistry program in one of the nation’s largest land grant universities, we have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact.”

The Georgia Tech School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Chemistry will be the first ACS Bridge Sites. They will offer master's or post-baccalaureate programs that will support students on their way to a PhD in the chemical sciences. These two sites will receive funding from ACS to assist in the establishment of these programs.

The ACS Bridge Project is supported by the National Science Foundation.

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus.

American Religious Sounds Project breaks new ground in religious studies

Isaac Weiner and Amy DeRogatis

Isaac Weiner, associate professor of comparative studies, and Amy DeRogatis, professor of religious studies at Michigan State University.

A one-of-a-kind resource developed by researchers at The Ohio State University and Michigan State University is breaking new ground in the area of religious studies by offering scholars and the public a new way to think about and explore the diversity of American religious life.

The American Religious Sounds Project (ARSP) website, which launched last month, challenges scholars, educators, students and others to examine American religious diversity in new and complex ways by listening to its sounds.

The website contains an extensive (and growing) audio archive that documents everyday religious life and practice in the United States. This unique audio archive features newly produced field recordings, interviews, oral histories and other related materials.

The website stems from a collaborative research initiative co-directed by Isaac Weiner, a scholar of American religious studies and associate professor in the Department of Comparative Studies, and Amy DeRogatis, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Michigan State.

Using this audio as a source of knowledge and understanding, we can go deeper into understanding religion and religious practice in America,” Weiner said. “It is an invaluable tool for seeing and hearing religious practice in a new way.”

“Sound broadens and complicates the ways that we conceptualize and categorize religious places and practice," DeRogatis said. "It invites us to imagine religion as something that people do, in particular times and spaces, rather than something people ‘are’ or ‘have.' Sound directs our attention to collective performances and embodied rituals, rather than approaching religion as solely a matter of interior conviction or private belief. As sound travels, it also crosses physical and social boundaries, allowing for contact in unexpected or new ways.”

The ARSP audio archive includes hundreds of short audio clips, excerpted from longer audio field recordings, providing an intimate look into the vast sonic landscape of religion in the United States, including how secular and religious sounds intersect.  

The audio files were produced at a wide variety of religious communities, spaces and practices, from formal sounds of religious institutions, such as prayer, chanting and hymns, to public conflicts over religious monuments in civic spaces and ecstatic exclamations at a rodeo or racetrack.

“It represents religion capaciously, tuning into practices that occur within traditional religious spaces like churches, synagogues and mosques, but also listening for sounds of religion that cross boundaries between religious and secular, public and private,” DeRogatis said. “It represents religion both as extraordinary and transcendent and as a mundane feature of everyday life, and it challenges us to reconceive what counts as religion and where we are likely to encounter it.”

The audio archive allows users to discover connections among recordings, to plot them on a map according to the geographical location where they were produced and to listen to the short, edited clips. The audio clips can be filtered using a range of criteria, such as religious tradition, language, type of sound, type of space, season, day of week, time of day and geographical location. Accompanying each short clip is a brief description of the recording, when and where the recording took place and who did the recording.

The ARSP website also includes a digital gallery featuring multimedia exhibits on selected themes that emerged from the project. These multimedia exhibits integrate audio clips, interpretive audio collages, images, explanatory texts and essays to offer a more in-depth analysis of particular sounds, practices and communities.

The ARSP website is designed to be used by multiple audiences, including:

  • Scholars, who may use it to spark imagination and creativity for new projects and as a platform for engaging broader publics and presenting their own interpretive work;
  • Educators, who can use it as a resource for engaged classroom experiences that move beyond textual forms and analysis and as a template for community-engaged learning;
  • Media, who can use it as a way to inform the stories they tell about religion in the United States; 
  • Anyone visiting the site may be educated, engaged and inspired to think in new ways about religion and its place in American life.

“The website and archive will serve as an invaluable part of research and innovative scholarship, giving educators and the public an in-depth, experiential learning experience that will open up new avenues of understanding religion’s place in American life, an essential pathway to understanding and empathy as the country grows more diverse,” DeRogatis said.

Currently, about 100 audio clips are available on the website. The research team is continuing to add new recordings to the audio archive, with a goal of eventually having between 300 and 400 recordings uploaded to the site.

Plans also are being made for a traveling exhibit on religion and sound in the United States and to eventually award grants to support the research of other scholars working in these areas whose projects would be featured on the website.

The need for understanding religious pluralism has arguably never been greater,” Weiner said. “Given the remarkable diversity of American religious life and the increasing polarization of our politics, building a civic culture that is inclusive and valuing of all people constitutes one of the most pressing challenges we face today."

Weiner continues, "the ARSP’s resources are intended to educate and engage multiple audiences around issues of religious diversity in ways that are accessible, compelling, and theoretically informed. Our intention is not to advocate for or against any particular religion, or for the value of religion in general, but to invite critical reflection on how and why we come to conceptualize religion in the ways that we do and the implications of this for American civic life.”

In addition to DeRogatis and Weiner, the current ARSP leadership team includes Lauren Pond, multimedia producer; Caroline Toy, Ohio State project manager; and Alison Furlong, project coordinator. The website was designed and built by an application development team at Ohio State.

The ARSP is supported by a generous grant to Ohio State University’s Center for the Study of Religion from the Henry Luce Foundation. Other support has been provided by the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Material support also is provided by Michigan State and Ohio State.

Nominations are open for the 2020 Arts and Sciences Alumni Awards

The College of Arts and Sciences is seeking nominations for the 2020 Arts and Sciences Alumni Awards: Distinguished Alumni Achievement; Young Alumni Achievement; and Distinguished Service, to be presented at the annual Honoring Excellence dinner and ceremony in April 2020. The deadline for submissions is September 1, 2019. Learn more or nominate someone today.

A new use for your IRA

Consider making a gift from your IRA to support Ohio State. The IRA charitable rollover allows you to transfer funds directly from your IRA to The Ohio State University Foundation, while offering tax benefits in return. Read more.


Buckeyes at the Ballpark: Toledo Mud Hens vs. Buffalo Bisons
Aug. 6, 6 p.m.
Fleetwood’s Tap Room, 28 N. St. Clair Street, Toledo, OH

Movie at the Ballpark: "The Sandlot" 
Aug. 8, 7:45 p.m.
Bill Davis Stadium at The Ohio State University, 560 Borror Drive  

New Buckeyes, New City: Chicago 
Aug. 14, 6 to 8 p.m.
Beacon Tavern, 405 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL

Buckeye Smart: Solving the Mystery: How do we cure back pain? 
Aug. 20, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Fawcett Event Center, 2400 Olentangy River Road 

Buckeyes and Broadway in Cleveland
Aug. 22, 6 p.m.
KeyBank State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH