Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

March 2019

As I reflect on the past few months and look ahead to April, one thing that never ceases to astound me is the passion and generosity of our alumni and friends. This past Friday was Ohio State’s annual Day of Giving, and together — through #BuckeyeLove in the month of February and Day of Giving combined — we have raised we raised more than $330,000 for the College of Arts and Sciences, including The Lantern, our training ground for future journalists, and to help renovate and construct new spaces for the School of Music and Department of Theatre

A special thank you to members of our School of Communication Advancement Committee, who came together to provide a generous $9,000 in matching funds to support The Lantern.. 

Next month, we celebrate our alumni and friends and faculty and staff at two of our signature annual events: our Honoring Excellence Dinner and Ceremony — which provides us with an opportunity to recognize alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary achievements and service — and our Spring Recognition Ceremony, honoring the recipients of all endowed college awards and college-wide awards for teaching and mentoring in the Arts and Sciences. 

None of this would be possible without all of you — thanks to your support we are able to leverage our diversity and inclusiveness so that our faculty, staff and students may think big and generate knowledge that changes the world. I am truly grateful.

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

In this Issue

2018 Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award Winners

Five Arts and Humanities faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have been chosen to receive the 2018 Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Awards:

  • Sara Crosby, Associate Professor, English
  • Karen Eliot, Professor, Dance
  • Julia Nelson Hawkins, Associate Professor, Classics
  • Mark Rudoff, Associate Professor, Music
  • Mary Thomas, Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies/Geography

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 Reality 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.

Sara Crosby, Associate Professor, English

Sara Crosby teaches at The Ohio State University at Marion. Her classes include American literature, minority and gender studies, popular culture, and environmental and extractive literature. Through the diverse nature of her courses, Crosby aims for her students to learn to identify and analyze the narratives that shape themselves. 

In Crosby’s 12 years at Ohio State Marion, she has directed seven undergraduate theses and taught 66 classes and three independent studies. She has also directed a doctoral dissertation to completion, and many of her undergraduate students have received several university awards. In 2016, she received Ohio State Marion’s Teaching Excellence Award. The Ratner Award will allow Crosby to establish a study tour of southern Louisiana to expand her current capstone class that studies the region into an immersive and hands-on experience outside the classroom.

Karen Eliot, Professor, Dance

Karen EliotKaren Eliot teaches in the studio, where she offers classes such as ballet technique and repertory of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and in the classroom, where she leads classes in history, theory and literature. Her goal is to combine her knowledge of dance history, her commitment to student writing and her experience as co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Dance Chronicle, to serve her undergraduate and graduate students by improving their writing skills.

As her students learn to combine writing with their dance specialties, they will serve as advocates for the performing arts, and their critiques of performances will help audiences become more informed and engaged with contemporary art. In addition to learning about and training in performance and choreography, Eliot aspires to help students understand how to teach and write about their artform. Eliot proposes to use her Ratner Award to collaborate with the Wexner Center for the Arts on a yearbook containing student essays, criticism, interviews and photographs.

Julia Nelson Hawkins, Associate Professor, Classics

Julia Nelson HawkinsJulia Nelson Hawkins wants her students to understand the importance of pairing STEM and humanities pedagogies as a way to transform 21st-century education. After incorporating science and humanities to build up a small class about medicine in the ancient world, the interdependence of STEM and the humanities forms the basis of Nelson Hawkins’ educational vision.

Together with other Ohio State faculty, Nelson Hawkins has succeeded in establishing connections with the College of Medicine to create and develop curriculum that marries scientific and humanistic disciplines. This philosophy has been integral in launching the recently approved medical humanities minor and the medical humanities and social sciences master’s degree. Nelson Hawkins proposes to use the Ratner Award on developing a project that forges community partnerships to bring student education in line with local community exigencies in the healthcare sector.

Mark Rudoff, Associate Professor, Music

Mark RudoffThere’s a distinction between a cello professor and a professor who happens to teach the cello. Mark Rudoff considers himself the latter. While many cello professors tailor their teaching to technical and musical skills, Rudoff’s cello instruction is just one piece of his students’ whole education. Conventional studio pedagogy, Rudoff says, consists of a standard master-apprentice model in which the instructor critiques a students’ performance. This does little to cultivate artistry or independent thought. Thus, Rudoff aims to create a classroom atmosphere that encourages inquiry, collaboration, risk-taking and discovery, and pushes the idea that musical interpretation is a form of discourse that connects to larger issues in the humanities.

Rudoff has significantly grown the cello major and the cello studio, taught award-winning cellists and has worked to build strings chamber music in the School of Music. Rudoff proposes to use the Ratner Award to create and develop “Music Works,” a chamber music festival built around the philosophy that musical interpretation is an active, discursive process critical to musical collaboration.

Mary Thomas, Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies/Geography

Mary ThomasMary Thomas’ classroom is a place where students are encouraged to cast aside assumed narratives about what is right or true, and she invites students to enter into frank engagement about uncomfortable topics. Her teaching interests include girls studies, geographies of race, gender and sexuality, identity and social difference, and prison studies. Thomas’ courses, she says, require students to enter into arenas that may be new to them. She believes in the importance of creating an environment that allows expression of both personal experience and service to academics.

Thomas is a leader in the Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme, first in Environmental Humanities and now in Livable Futures. She’s working to develop a field course for undergraduates on queer ecologies, and she plans to design other coursework within feminist environmental humanities and science studies. She was nominated for th3 Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award in 2016. Thomas proposes to use the Ratner Award to develop field courses in London and Columbus that she hopes enhance professional training opportunities for students.

New NASA mission could find more than 1,000 planets

Andromeda galaxyA NASA telescope that will give humans the largest, deepest, clearest picture of the universe since the Hubble Space Telescope could find as many as 1,400 new planets outside Earth’s solar system, new research suggests.

The new telescope paves the way for a more accurate, more focused search for extraterrestrial life, according to researchers.

The study, by a team of astronomers at The Ohio State University, provides the most detailed estimates to date of the potential reach of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope mission (nicknamed WFIRST.) It was designed by NASA and astronomers throughout the country to find new planets and research dark energy, the mysterious force that pervades otherwise empty space and that could hold the keys to understanding how the universe expands. Their work was published Feb. 25 in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series

“We want to know what kind of planetary systems there are,” said Matthew Penny, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher in the Ohio State Department of Astronomy. “To do that, you need to not just look where the obvious, easy things are. You need to look at everything.”

The planets WFIRST is likely to find will be further from their stars than most planets found to date, Penny said. The mission will build on the work of Kepler, a deep-space telescope that found more than 2,600 planets outside our solar system. The Kepler mission ended Oct. 30, 2018.

“Kepler began the search by looking for planets that orbit their stars closer than the Earth is to our Sun,” Penny said. “WFIRST will complete it by finding planets with larger orbits.”

To find new planets, WFIRST will use gravitational microlensing, a technique that relies on the gravity of stars and planets to bend and magnify the light coming from stars that pass behind them from the telescope’s viewpoint.

This microlensing effect, which is connected to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, allows a telescope to find planets orbiting stars thousands of light-years away from Earth—much farther than other planet-detecting techniques. But because microlensing works only when the gravity of a planet or star bends the light from another star, the effect from any given planet or star is only visible for a few hours once every few million years. WFIRST will spend long stretches of time continuously monitoring 100 million stars at the center of the galaxy.

Penny’s study predicted that about 100 of those not-yet-discovered planets could have the same or lower mass as Earth.

The new telescope will be able to map the Milky Way and other galaxies 100 times faster than the famous Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990.

The WFIRST mission, with a budget of around $3.2 billion, will scan a small piece of the universe—about 2 square degrees—at a resolution higher than any similar mission in the past. That resolution, Penny said, will allow WFIRST to see more stars and planets than any previous organized search.

“Although it’s a small fraction of the sky, it’s huge compared to what other space telescopes can do,” Penny said. “It's WFIRST's unique combination – both a wide field of view and a high resolution – that make it so powerful for microlensing planet searches. Previous space telescopes, including Hubble and James Webb, have had to choose one or the other.”

WFIRST, Penny said, should give astronomers, astrophysicists and others who study space significantly more information about more planets outside of our solar system.

“WFIRST will allow us to find types of planets that we haven't seen before now,” Penny said. “From WFIRST's microlensing survey, we will learn how frequently different types of planets are formed, and how unique our solar system is.”

So far, scientists have discovered about almost 700 planetary systems—also known as solar systems—containing more than one planet. And they have discovered some 4,000 planets. But even though humans have searched galaxies near and far for signs of life, the search mostly has found planets that are closer to their stars than Earth is to our Sun.

The “infrared” piece of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope is also important, Penny said.

“Infrared light allows WFIRST to see through dust that lies in the plane of the Milky Way in between us and the galactic center, something optical telescopes on the ground cannot do,” he said. “This gives WFIRST access to parts of the sky that are more densely packed with stars.”

Ohio State has played an important role in WFIRST, from the project’s inception to the design of research programs the telescope will execute.

The mission is still in the planning stages; NASA announced plans to move forward with WFIRST in February of 2016, and began its initial planning in May of 2018.

Written by Laura Arenschield,

A glance at new Ohio State police chief, deputy chief

Arts and Sciences alumnae Kimberly Spears-McNatt and Tracy Hahn are making history as the new leaders of The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD). 

Their combined authority marks the first time the OSUPD has had both a female chief and deputy chief — a notable feat in a historically male-dominated field. In fact, women account for about 3 percent of local police chiefs, and less than 15 percent of local police officers, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

From left: OSUPD Deputy Chief Tracy Hahn and Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt.

From left: OSUPD Deputy Chief Tracy Hahn and Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt.

"Throughout my career, I’d go to a training or I’d go to a meeting and I’d be the only female [officer] in the room," Hahn said. "Early on in policing, it’s always 'OK the female officer is showing up on the call, let’s see how she handles it.' Everyone is watching you ...  you always have to prove yourself above and beyond."

Neither she nor Spears-McNatt are strangers to Ohio State — both are alumni of the Department of Sociology who began their careers on campus in the 1990s. 

Spears-McNatt has been with OSUPD for nearly 25 years, and served as interim police chief for the past six months following the departure of former chief Craig Stone. Hahn served OSUPD for three years before a long tenure with the Upper Arlington Police Division, of which she was named the first female police chief in 2016. She recently retired from the position before assuming her new role with the OSUPD.

But their connection to Ohio State didn't begin on the force — it started in the classroom. Spears-McNatt and Hahn both received their degrees in criminal justice (now criminology and criminal justice studies).

Police officers interact with people from widely different backgrounds, and Spears-McNatt and Hahn said their sociology-based education surrounding problem solving, de-escalation and psychology laid the foundation for their career and is something they continually draw on.

"On TV, everything is action and the excitement part of it," Hahn said. "But most of our job is talking to people and helping them through their problems."

Policing one of the largest university campuses in the U.S. comes with no shortage of issues to address, and Spears-McNatt said she wants her 56 officers to be as equipped as possible to interact with Ohio State's diverse community. 

"Ohio State is a diverse university population," she said. "It's important the agency that I lead is just as diverse as the population that we serve."

Minority Enrollment chart 2015-18

Of the record-high 68,100 students on the university’s Columbus campus, 12,873 (21 percent) are underrepresented minorities. And of the 7,851 freshmen that arrived last autumn, a record 1,658 (21.1 percent) were underrepresented minorities. 

“Regardless of religion, gender identity, background — wherever you come from — those are the things that make Ohio State great,” Spears-McNatt said. “You have a different perspective, you have a different view and it’s OK to express it and be comfortable with that and be able to share it here.”

Of equal importance to Spears-McNatt is that OSUPD officers don't just show up when something is going wrong. 

"I want to make sure that our officers are out engaging the community ... that students are comfortable when they see us and they don’t just shut down when they see the uniform,” she said.

And though it's likely her last stop in an impressive police career, Hahn is looking forward to returning to her Buckeye roots — which she will really be immersed in as the new commanding officer on football Saturdays. 

"When we have an extra 100,000 people on campus, it gets pretty interesting," said Hahn, laughing. "So that will be one of the big challenges and I think an exciting part of it for me."

All in all, they may be making history (and headlines), but "first and foremost, we're police officers," Hahn said.

"There are a lot of women who paved the way for us, especially starting with Norma Walker, who was the first female police officer with the police division," Spears-McNatt said. "We are definitely qualified, have the credentials, and confident that we can do the job." 

Transform property into a brighter future for Buckeyes.

Want to make a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences while realizing the maximum benefits from your real estate? Consider donating appreciated property. Such a generous gift helps us continue supporting student scholarships or other programs for years to come. Read more

Buckeyes Give: Month of Service — April 2019

Buckeyes have the ability to recognize problems in the world and the courage to work toward solutions. We see our communities not as they are, but as they could be. During the Month of Service and throughout the year, Buckeyes are organizing and engaging in rich, meaningful service opportunities that make a real difference. Join us as we put our commitment into action, continuing the long, proud tradition of paying forward and showing the good we can achieve together. Read more.


ACCAD Open House
April 5, 3-6 p.m.
Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD)

DISCO Ball 2019
April 7, 7-11 p.m.
Ballroom, The Blackwell Inn 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
April 10-20 
Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center

April 12, 7:30 p.m.
RPAC Plaza

SCIENCE SUNDAYS: Educational Neuroscience — How the Brain Supports Learning in Children and Adolescents
April 14, 3-5 p.m.
Ohio Union, U.S. Bank Conference Theatre