Recognizing individuals or groups who have demonstrated a significant commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion at The Ohio State University.
Nikki Trautman Baszynski
Third-Year Law Student (now Alumna)
Michael E. Moritz College of Law
Nikki Trautman Baszynski’s devotion to advocacy, education and diversity started well before she arrived at Moritz College of Law, and her tireless work to enhance diversity within the college, university and Columbus community will have a lasting impact even now that she has graduated.
Trautman Baszynski joined the Teach for America Corps, working with low-income children of color in the Bronx before moving to Columbus to found a charter school in the Weinland Park area that won a national award for achievement in its first year.
She continued her advocacy efforts once she enrolled in Moritz, founding the Education Law Society to raise awareness of education law and policy through programming that many times focused on diversity’s role in education. But her most significant contribution was still to come: She co-founded SPEAK, a student-driven dispute resolution system whose purpose is to foster the difficult conversations that address differences, biases, misunderstandings, discomfort and assumptions within the college and beyond.
“SPEAK has an ambitious mission that matches its ambitious leader,” a nominator wrote. “The conversations it has created ultimately lead to systemic change and increased multicultural awareness.
“Nikki has helped to usher in a new era of acceptance, respect, open-and-honest discussion and diversity at Ohio State in just the few short years she was a student at Moritz,” the nominator wrote. “She has left an enormous mark on the Moritz community and has undoubtedly fulfilled her goal to leave Ohio State a better place than she found it.”
FAES Diversity Catalyst Team
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
In 2007, The Ohio State University’s Council on Diversity cited Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences as having made “no progress” in increasing diversity in the previous several years — words that stung the college’s leadership and spurred creation of the Diversity Catalyst Team.
Now, anyone who walks into any FAES building on campus is greeted with banners declaring “Diversity, Unity, Community,” and thanks to the Diversity Catalyst Team, that’s not merely a slogan but an ingrained part of the culture there.
The team, comprised of more than 20 faculty and staff (including several from Extension offices around the state) and led by Kathy Lechman, provided recommendations that still guide the college’s diversity efforts: A comprehensive learning strategy and branding effort, a Diversity Speaker Series, diversity lunch and learn series, diversity leadership symposium, welcome festivals that highlight diversity, an annual international festival and more.
“The team members are truly ambassadors for inclusion, regardless of their location or job position,” a nominator wrote. “This team embodies collaboration, excellent communication and, above all, commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion.
“While significant progress has been made in overall awareness and embracing diversity in CFAES, there remains much to be done, and the Diversity Catalyst Team continues to explore opportunities. Their efforts demonstrate a growth in their approach and a recognition that there exist many different strategies to raise awareness, educate and gain acceptance. The team has established a firm footing to continue to champion this work.”
Margo Vreeburg Izzo
Professor of Psychiatry
Program Director, Special Education and Transition Services
Margo Izzo has dedicated her entire professional life to disability advocacy as a fundamental cornerstone of diversity. Following that credo, she has had a profound and priceless effect on thousands of children and young adults who otherwise may not have had a voice or a means of accessing their own career or independent-living goals.
When she started her career in 1976, mainstreaming of youth with disabilities had not yet taken hold in special and general education ideologies, so her firm conviction to the principle of inclusion made her unpopular in some circles.
Even so, a nominator wrote, “She always remained steadfast and loyal to the idea of inclusion and was one of the earliest visionaries in the field. Since then, her conviction has only blossomed into a belief that we her staff deeply share: A right of a person with a disability to have access to the same opportunities to which a person without a disability has access.”
Her proposals have resulted in more than $14 million in funding for special education projects — one of which helps individuals with developmental disabilities to gain employment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which inspired a nominator to refer to Izzo as “a visionary thinker who has developed the most forward-thinking, expansive, inclusive and ambitious program in the nation.”
“Diversity might be defined as bringing everyone to the table, and individuals with developmental disabilities are probably the least valued, the most stigmatized, the most easily forgotten when we look around to see who is at the table,” another nominator wrote. “But Dr. Izzo does see their value, and her work has already changed how we all regard them.”