Gretchen Ritter, PhD

Alumni and Donor News from the Arts and Sciences

June 2019


The College Welcomes a New Executive Dean

Gretchen Ritter, a leading expert in the history of women's constitutional rights and contemporary issues concerning democracy and citizenship in American politics, has been appointed executive dean and vice provost for The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences.

Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron announced the selection on May 15, with Ritter’s appointment effective August 1, 2019, through July 31, 2024. She joins Ohio State from Cornell University, where she was a professor in the Department of Government and served as the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences from 2013 to 2018 before returning to faculty.

“This college is foundational to Ohio State’s mission and future success, and I know it is in great hands with Gretchen, who will build on our momentum,” said Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Vernal Riffe Professor of Political Science, who has served as interim executive dean and vice provost since last July.

Box-Steffensmeier will return to the political science faculty this fall and also has been nominated to serve as president-elect of the American Political Science Association for 2019-2020. “The excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences shows we are committed to the ideals of the university’s motto, ‘Education for Citizenship,’ and I am excited to see where we go next.” 

Read more

In this Issue

New images offer closer look at Ohio State’s planned Arts District

New renderings of Ohio State's planned Arts District — viewed by the Board of Trustees on May 30 at a meeting of the Master Planning and Facilities Committee — highlight a renovated Weigel Hall, home of the School of Music, and a new building for the Department of Theatre and Moving-Image Production major, which originated in the Film Studies Program. Both facilities feature new performance spaces, modern recital halls and high-tech classrooms.

The Department of Theatre's new building will include a thrust stage, in addition to black box and proscenium stages.

Weigel Hall renovations will include new rehearsal spaces and recital halls." title="Weigel Hall renovations will include new rehearsal spaces and recital halls.

The Department of Theatre's new building will include a thrust stage, in addition to black box and proscenium stages, and Weigel Hall renovations will add new rehearsal spaces and recital halls.

The university is currently seeking approval to increase professional services and enter into construction contracts for the new district.

“These facilities, located centrally and prominently near the Oval, will anchor the university’s ambitious new Arts District and reinforce our commitment to creative inquiry and performance,” said Peter L. Hahn, dean for arts and humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This project will bring world-class spaces to our School of Music and Department of Theatre for teaching, learning and performance — all for the benefit of our students, our faculty and the Columbus community.”

The Department of Theatre's new building will include a proscenium stage." title="The Department of Theatre's new building will include a proscenium stage

Weigel Hall renovations will include a central atrium

The total project cost is $161.6 million, including $1.6 million from Ohio State Energy Partners. Ohio State is seeking board approval for the remaining design and construction cost of $146.6 million. Private fundraising is expected to support about $50 million of the cost of the project.

Pending approval by the trustees, construction will begin in June and include work to enhance roadway and pedestrian access. The facilities are expected to open in December 2021. 

The Arts District is part of the long-term vision to open Ohio State’s front door to the heart of the University District at 15th Avenue and High Street. 

A rendered view of the Arts District from Annie and John Glenn Avenue

A view of the Arts District from Annie and John Glenn Avenue.

“Momentum continues to build for our investment in the arts programs through these new facilities and the nearby 15+HIGH project led by Campus Partners,” said Keith Myers, vice president of Planning, Architecture and Real Estate.

We envision this district as a centerpiece for the campus, and a place for the community to come together to engage the arts.”

The Arts District is part of Framework 2.0, a long-range plan for the environment of the Columbus campus guided and informed by Ohio State’s Time and Change strategic plan.

The new district is a complement to the 15+HIGH project on the east side of High Street. Campus Partners, the university-affiliated nonprofit, is leading the 15+HIGH construction.

The development includes a University Square, a new home for WOSU Public Media and development of a “signature building,” envisioned as a hotel, featuring direct sightlines to the Oval and William Oxley Thompson Library. A renovated Pearl Alley will serve as a retail corridor with new stores and restaurants.

Alumni Spotlight: Anne Sabol (BS, zoology, 2016)

Alumna Anne Sabol’s research interests have crisscrossed the globe. The 2016 zoology graduate has trekked through the American Midwest, combed the forests of Fray Jorge National Park in Chile and conducted research in the shadow of two active volcanoes to unlock the secrets of animal behavior. Now, the animal-loving Buckeye is working with researchers from the San Diego Zoo to save a rare Hawaiian bird from extinction.

Tell us about your time at Ohio State.

My major was zoology, and I was involved in the Honors Program. One of my favorite classes was a special seminar on mathematical biology with Ian Hamilton, associate professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology. I also really liked taking conservation biology with Professor Lisle Gibbs.

What were some of your research experiences on campus?

For research, I worked in Ian Hamilton’s lab — a fish behavior lab — for 3 ½ years. My big project was studying how this particular type of fish uses their UV vision and coloration to determine if it was a sexual signal or signal of quality. It hadn’t been looked into in that species before.

Where did your research take you outside of Ohio State?

I also participated in a few summer research programs at other schools. I took part in an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Oklahoma State, where I worked studying bluebird coloration related to nest size and growth to see if there are trade-offs there. We also looked at how bluebird parents are able to cope with different resources. I also did an international research program through the National Science Foundation where we went to Chile and studied how differing predation risk affected behavior and stress physiology in degus, which are a species of social rodent. It was really cool to get the field experience and live in another culture like that and work with the Chilean researchers.

What are you researching now?

After graduating with my master’s from the University of Michigan, I started working with the San Diego Zoo on the Big Island in Hawaii. They have two bird conservation centers here in Hawaii, one on the Big Island and one in Maui, where they breed and reintroduce endangered Hawaiian birds. They’re really trying to contribute a lot and bolster their research program there, and so I was hired as a researcher to work on the ʻAlalā or Hawaiian crow project under a postdoctoral researcher. In the 1990s, there were fewer than 20 birds left. We now have a population of over 125 birds, thanks mainly to hand-rearing efforts.

Two 'alalā (Hawaiian crows) reintroduced by the San Diego Zoo team. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

Two 'alalā (Hawaiian crows) reintroduced by the San Diego Zoo team. Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global.

What do you do as part of this research?

I work mostly with the captive population. My main project is to study what factors lead to breeding success in their mating pairs. Obviously, for a really endangered species — and this species is extinct in the wild, except for the small population the project has reintroduced — breeding and getting up their numbers as high as we can is really important. Essentially, the birds are only in these two bird centers on these two islands. So I design experiments to see what behavioral factors in a mating pair promote reproductive success. Fun fact: They are one of the few birds that can naturally modify and use tools.

How did your time at Ohio State prepare you for the work you do now?

All of the hands-on research I did in the Hamilton lab really helped set a foundation for my research. I started out with very little research experience. Through the lab, I learned how to design a behavioral experiment, how to create an ethogram, which is how you define behaviors that you’re going to study, how to look for what behaviors are important in certain circumstances, as well as how all of this fits in an evolutionary or ecological context.

Because I had all this training at Ohio State, I was able to approach my own research with ideas about how to observe behavior, how to quantify it and how to design a study where you are targeting those behaviors."

As part of her work, Sabol often recorded the calls of the alalā.

As part of her work, Sabol often recorded the calls of the alalā.

How would you describe the environment of the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology?

I found that the faculty were very open. A lot of them were very willing to give me advice on how to look for research opportunities; how to look for grad school opportunities, that kind of stuff. I also thought the grad students were really amazing, both in the lab I was in and elsewhere in the department. They were always willing to help connect undergrads with research opportunities or just look through your cover letters or CVs to help you get these opportunities.

While I was there, the undergrad Evolution and Ecology Club started in the department, and we really tried to better connect undergraduate and graduate students and help make a better community for both groups.  It was really nice to create a community within the department.

What advice do you have for current undergraduates in EEOB?

I would say just always seek out people who are knowledgeable about what you want to do. I found that professors are really willing to talk to students and offer help and connect you with good resources. And if you’re interested in research, try to start as early as you can. Since you start out with essentially no experience, to get to the point where you can maybe design your own project and where you feel really comfortable as a researcher, it helps to start early. You can build up that experience with a lab where then you can then get to those later steps. That’s where I feel like research becomes really exciting, when it's questions you want to do and you’re the one driving it.

Department of Sociology to offer Bachelor of Science in autumn 2019

Townshend Hall Beginning autumn 2019, the Department of Sociology will offer a Bachelor of Science. 

With only four other Big Ten universities offering a Bachelor of Science in sociology, this new course of study positions Ohio State as a leader in this rigorous, research-focused major. Tapping into the deep well of faculty expertise and robust resources at Ohio State and in the College of Arts and Sciences, the degree will allow students to become well-versed in both the substantive and methodological foundations necessary to utilize data, research and curiosity to investigate the world.

Andrew Martin, professor and director of undergraduate studies in sociology, recently spoke with us about this new major and its import, impact and origins.

What are the origins of the Bachelor of Science in sociology?

We know the quality of Ohio State undergrads has only been increasing, and more students are interested in research and working with data. Thus, we needed to create a program that provided structure and support for the students seeking that kind of work and that kind of education.

Can you elaborate on the difference between the existing BA and the new Bachelor of Science?

The Bachelor of Science option is more intensive and rigorous in its methodological training, as well as more research-focused. Students will have additional opportunities for engaging in research and analyzing data. 

What should students expect in the major?

The program will offer three different areas of focus — population and wellness, criminology and law & society, and social inequality — and their study will be geared toward gaining research experience, studying abroad, working with faculty and receiving training through advance methods and statistic courses.

How is Ohio State’s Bachelor of Science in sociology unique?

The state of Ohio doesn’t have any school offering a Bachelor of Science in sociology, and only a few other Big Ten schools have them, so we’re very much a leader in that regard. We are making sure students can acquire a substantive background through their work by leveraging the department’s strengths in research in qualitative and quantitative methods to increase their success in graduate or professional school. Additionally, given the nature of the job market, working with data and analyzing data is critical, and this program provides our graduates those skills.

Arts and Sciences students receive Rising Star Awards

Four College of Arts and Sciences students have been honored with Rising Star Awards from the college's Office of Undergraduate Recruitment. The awards are part of the college’s recruitment, retention and recognition programs for undergraduate students. The awards are given to first-year students who participate in the Program for Advancing Scholarship and Service (PASS), engage in active involvement in campus organizations, demonstrate leadership and participate in community service. Read more.

An easy way to deepen your connection

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 this estate plan to support the College of Arts and Sciences? A gift in your will or living trust, also called a bequest, is an effective and flexible way to support the future of our students, faculty and programs. Learn more.


"Start at Home" Exhibition Walkthrough
June 28, 2 p.m.
Urban Arts Space, 50 W. Town Street

Ohio State Day at the Columbus Zoo 
June 29, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell, OH

Ohio State Day at the Columbus Crew
July 6, 5:30 p.m.
MAPFRE Stadium, One Black and Gold Blvd., Columbus, OH

The Greatest Showman with NightLight 614
July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Genoa Park, 303 W. Broad Street, Columbus, OH

Buckeye Smart: The impact of the state of Ohio’s budget on The Ohio State University
July 16, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Fawcett Event Center, 2400 Olentangy River Road