Stories of resolve
In the span of just a few weeks, everything seems to have changed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Everything, that is, except the drive of the Ohio State community to fulfill its academic mission. These stories of resolve show the unique resilience of Buckeyes in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Do you have an example of an Ohio State community member fulfilling the university's academic mission or simply brightening someone's day? Send your accolade to Maddie Thomas, OAA Communications, at email@example.com.
Sociology task force distributes emergency aid
When Ohio State announced students had to move off-campus in March, Associate Professor Hollie Nyseth Brehm immediately thought of the many students who depend on campus for housing, a job or a nutritious meal. Would they have enough money to buy gas or a plane ticket home? What about students without access to transportation, a place to store their belongings or a home to go back to?
Brehm reached out to Ryan King, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, about starting a department-wide task force to help sociology and criminology undergrads in financial crisis. Assistant Professor Kara Young, undergraduate Jacob Caponi and doctoral student Alexandria Fraga came on board. To date, they’ve helped more than 75 students in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The task force secured a $5,000 grant through FAST Fund, an emergency student aid fund distributed through the non-profit Believe in Students. (FAST Fund stands for “faculty and students together.) Brehm crowdsourced more than $2,000 on Facebook to put toward the effort, and the department contributed an additional $2,000.
Brehm sent a Qualtrics survey to majors and minors that assessed their needs for food, housing and transportation. Young took the lead in distributing funds to students using Venmo, and the department is currently working on another round of assistance. Any leftover money from the campaign will be put toward a departmental fund dedicated to helping students in crisis.
To help alleviate the stress of moving off-campus, Brehm and her colleagues also coordinated a team of faculty, staff and graduate student volunteers using Airtable to facilitate rides to the airport or back home, temporary storage spaces for students’ belongings and short-term housing options. More than 30 people have signed up to volunteer.
“In moments of crisis, I think it’s important for people to think about how to help each other,” Brehm said. “It’s truly the only way we will get through the pandemic.”
Preparing graduate teaching associates for remote learning in linguistics
Hope Dawson, senior lecturer and graduate teaching coordinator in the Department of Linguistics, used Ohio State’s extended spring break as an opportunity to prepare the 17 graduate teaching associates in her department for virtual learning. She met individually with each GTA over Zoom to adjust the syllabi for their undergraduate linguistics courses and to discuss tactics for communicating effectively with their classes for the rest of the semester.
“I had not actually done any online teaching before, but I have worked with GTAs and lecturers in developing and implementing online classes over the last several years,” Dawson said. “I had virtually ‘sat in on’ quite a few online class sessions, both synchronous and prerecorded, though I had not led any myself.”
From classroom to quarantine: Remote learning in the age of COVID-19
With campus closed and much of the world sheltering in place because of the coronavirus outbreak, first-year business student Kexin (Cathy) Qian decided to leave Ohio State for her home in Guangzhou, China. Three weeks after boarding a plane at John Glenn International Airport, she finally made it.
Like all Ohio State students, Qian had to keep up with her studies, regardless of her travels. Unlike most students, however, she had to do it in quarantine and in a time zone that put her at opposite ends of the day with her instructors in Columbus.
College of Arts and Sciences moves close to a thousand courses online
Home to more than 2,000 faculty and staff and almost 18,000 undergraduates, the College Arts and Sciences is the largest college at Ohio State. When in-person instruction was suspended in early March, ASC faculty and staff didn’t have a minute to spare—they had to mobilize quickly to move nearly 1,000 courses to CarmenCanvas during the university’s extended spring break.
To make the transition as seamless as possible, each of ASC’s 38 departments identified a faculty or staff member from within the department to serve as a point of contact about Carmen. ASC Tech also assigned an academic technology liaison from its team to each department, as well as a support liaison to handle any IT needs. Throughout the extended spring break, including on weekends, ASC Tech staffed a help desk online and by phone to ensure instructors’ needs could be met as they migrated their courses online.
Such a vast undertaking wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of such dedicated faculty, staff and GTAs across the college, said Gretchen Ritter, executive dean and vice provost.
“This enormous success is credit to the leadership of our academic departments and our Arts and Sciences Technology Services colleagues,” Ritter said. “Faculty, staff and graduate associates across the college worked tirelessly during spring break to ensure that we were prepared for the virtual resumption of classes so that our students will be equipped to finish the academic year successfully.”
A dissertation defense for the ages
It took a little bit of troubleshooting, but after nearly a decade of working toward his PhD, Brian Padgett, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, successfully defended his dissertation defense from his home in Hawaii.
It marked the first time in his department that Zoom has been used to defend a dissertation since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Padgett currently works as a forensic anthropologist for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Pearl Harbor, where he helps locate the remains of American soldiers who went missing in action. For his 500-page dissertation, “The Bioarchaeology of Violence During the Yayoi Period of Japan,” he studied violent conflict in prehistoric Japan using analyses of ancient Japanese skeletal remains.
“Our online doctoral dissertation defense was wonderfully smooth and engaging, fully allowing the flexibility for everyone to interact and discuss as though we were in the same room on campus,” said Clark Larsen, Padgett’s advisor and a Distinguished University Professor of anthropology. “Nothing can replace the face-to-face dissertation defense, but this was a very close second.”
The Lantern springs into breaking news mode
When Ohio State suspended face-to-face classes in early March, many of The Lantern’s staff members were traveling for spring break. Regardless, they sprang into breaking news mode, recognizing that a monumental milestone in university history was unfolding.
They’ve been working tirelessly ever since, covering major developments from student reactions to the first day of virtual classes to managing anxiety around the COVID-19 coronavirus. The start of the spring semester marked one of the few times in Ohio State history that the newspaper was published with the entire staff working remotely.
Tools like Zoom are making the transition to remote digital publishing relatively seamless, said Spencer Hunt, lecturer in the School of Communication and faculty advisor for The Lantern. The newspaper’s editorial team can still conduct regular budget meetings to assign stories, and student reporters in Hunt’s COMM 2223 class, The Lantern Practicum, are submitting stories via email. The app GroupMe has been great for group text messages, while breaking news alerts have been communicated over Slack.
“Students are learning how to be nimble and react, and how to be accurate, complete, and give readers what they need,” Hunt said. “I'm very proud of the students for the job they’ve been able to do remotely. They've been working super hard.”
Breaking news is still very much a priority for The Lantern, but Hunt said editors are starting to think more broadly about future coverage, including the longer-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak on students. With the newspaper planning to publish digitally for the rest of the semester, they’re also starting to reimagine special editions, such as the paper’s annual commencement and Best of Ohio coverage.
“I'm hopeful and optimistic that the flow of stories is going to continue, because even before the transition to virtual learning, students would email their stories in,” Hunt said. “I think it’s very possible that it's going to be easier to connect with sources. Campus is closed, but we're all at home. There's a lot more time, I think, for people to respond to the students and their questions.”
Nursing’s Innovation Studio taps the power of “we”
For clinicians at the center of the corona outbreak, the tools they need aren’t always available. In some cases, they might not even exist.
“We can help people on the front line who are saying, ‘I wish someone would just build me this,’ ”said Tim Raderstorf, the College of Nursing’s chief innovation officer.
In response to the outbreak, the college’s Innovation Studio is hosting the Coronavirus Challenge to bring together students, faculty and staff to collect ideas that could help health-care workers deal with the crisis. Of course, in a time of social distancing, it’s all done on a virtual platform
Opened three years ago, the Innovation Studio provides funding, prototyping tools and mentoring.
Ideas can be submitted online. Submissions will be reviewed every Monday through the rest of Ohio State’s spring semester. To be eligible for seed funding, ideas must follow the Innovation Studio’s usual requirements: They must be created by a team of two or more Ohio State students, faculty or staff who represent different disciplines or professions.
Pharmacy team providing peace of mind for fourth-year students
For professional students nearing the end of their academic careers in the College of Pharmacy, uncertainty about graduation and residency requirements has created an additional level of worry. Thankfully, Julie Legg, PharmD, and Katie Marks, both members of the college’s Experiential Education team, have stepped up to provide clarity for fourth-year students concerned about completing clinical training—a requirement for graduation.