Recognizing individuals or groups who have demonstrated a significant commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion at The Ohio State University.
Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Administration, College of Engineering
Jennifer Evans-Cowley has combined commitment and passion with significant administrative skill to create policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion in the College of Engineering.
Her efforts include a renewed focus on diversity recruiting, enriched onboarding of new faculty, new faculty mentoring approaches and professional development programs for faculty leaders.
“I have been impressed with Jennifer and her efforts to bring forward substantive change to the engineering faculty,” a nominator wrote. “It is clear that she is a skilled and passionate leader, an ardent voice for diversity and inclusion who is able to use the tools of administration to create an environment in which faculty can flourish.”
Evans-Cowley played an instrumental role in engineering’s Project CEOS (Comprehensive Equity at Ohio State) Action Learning team, which used university culture survey data to recommend policies and practices that would improve the culture for both underrepresented faculty and the faculty at large.
As associate dean for academic affairs and administration, Evens-Cowley has been able to put the recommendations — including an automatic 50 percent reduction in teaching load for parents who birth, adopt or foster a child; creation of an onboarding process for new faculty; formalization of a mentoring process; creation of a program to increase diversity in the senior faculty ranks; and setting of expectations to include a diversity representative on all faculty search committees — into action.
“Jennifer has done all this work passionately with a firm resolve in her personal commitment to diversity,” another nominator wrote. “Her actions have changed how we view diversity in the College of Engineering and we are all benefiting from the change in culture from these policies.”
Jenna C. Grassbaugh
Third-year Law Student
Moritz College of Law
While Jenna Grassbaugh was in her first year of law school on the East Coast in 2006, her husband Jonathan was killed while on active duty in Iraq. Her response to that tragedy has improved the lives of the diverse veteran population throughout the state of Ohio.
First, she withdrew from her studies and enlisted as a military police officer, eventually deploying to Iraq. She came back to the United States and began her studies again in 2011, this time at Ohio State, and grew more determined to find a way to help other veterans.
In consultation with Moritz College of Law dean Alan Michaels and the Ohio Adjutant General’s office, and using what one nominator described as a “unique combination of will, empathy and resources,” she designed and founded the Jonathan Grassbaugh Veterans Project — using the $250,000 life insurance proceeds she received after Jonathan’s death to fund it.
The project, the first of its kind in the nation, supports law students, under the supervision of volunteer practicing attorneys, in providing legal services for any of the 900,000 veterans in Ohio who may need them.
“Jenna saw a burning need to remove possible barriers so that a crucial segment of our citizenry — veterans — would be systematically included in or reintegrated into the life of their community and nation,” a nominator wrote. “She has ensured that life will be better for so many veterans that she will never meet.”
Christine Ballengee Morris
Professor, Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy
Christine Ballengee Morris was the founding director of The Ohio State University’s Multicultural Center in 2000. Among the initiatives begun during her tenure there was American Indian Studies, and afterward, she became the first coordinator for American Indian Studies.
She served two terms as chair of the Diversity Committee of the University Senate, served on the President’s Diversity Committee and co-chaired the Student Life Diversity Committee for six years. She has served on numerous committees charged with developing plans for increasing the number of both American Indian faculty and students on campus.
“This diversity work has often been difficult and has always been labor-intensive — and the results have at times disappointed her,” a nominator wrote. “But no matter how difficult or frustrating the situation, Professor Morris’s response has always been to look forward to the next task with increased insight and good cheer.”
She also has been a tireless activist on behalf of Ohio’s endangered indigenous earthworks through her work as chair of Friends of the Earthworks and was a key member of the group of dedicated faculty and staff who made the Newark Earthworks Center a reality. She also has been an effective mediator between the university and the Ohio Native community.
Her perspective as a person of both Cherokee and Appalachian white ancestry has informed her efforts, a nominator wrote. “Christine’s initiatives, participation in campus and community life and her publications are characterized by guiding principles that respect diversity and encourage inclusion. She attends to issues of diversity in ways that motivate and encourage both students and colleagues to promote the ideals of justice and equity.”
Professor, Department of English
For more than 30 years, Amy Shuman enthusiastically has served a range of populations across campus and in the wider community — from international students and faculty of color to individuals with disabilities on campus and beyond — and has been a leader in some of Ohio State’s most significant diversity initiatives in that time.
“Amy has been a tireless, passionate and productive proponent of diversity, and her contributions represent the gamut of ‘diversity’ categories: gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality, immigration status and disability,” a nominator wrote.
A professor of English, Shuman is director of Disability Studies and is a nationally recognized scholar in the field who also advises Abilities, a disability-awareness student organization. She is widely praised for her 10-year tenure as director of the Center for Folklore Studies and the attention to intellectual and social diversity, “forcing spheres of comparison beyond the often Eurocentric world of folklore studies,” as one nominator wrote.
Her research and outreach also extend to human rights advocacy and underrepresented populations. She has served as interim director for the Melton Center for Jewish Studies and is co-leader of the Humanities Institute’s Human Rights Working Group.
“In a word, Amy Shuman is a visionary,” another nominator wrote. “She not only had the foresight and creativity to imagine a more inclusive university, but she has also put in the work to make it more of a reality.”
Optometry Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
College of Optometry
As its name might imply, the work of the College of Optometry’s Committee for Inclusion and Diversity is directed toward improving diversity, fostering a welcoming environment and supporting equity and cultural competency within the college.
But the name itself cannot get across just how active the committee stays; its members work to identify critical diversity issues, formulate diversity goals, develop strategies and activities that support those goals and analyze and track progress in achieving its mission.
The committee, chaired by Barbara Fink since 1987, carries out specific strategies to:
- Increase recruitment of underrepresented students — through a series of career camps, middle school outreach, community outreach and on-site workshops.
- Increase retention of underrepresented students — through events such as a new-student dinner, autumn picnic, career conversations and the Farewell Induction (a dinner for graduating underrepresented students where those students are encouraged to help with future recruitment and retention of underrepresented students).
- Increase diversity of faculty and staff — a member of the committee serves on all college search and appointment committees.
- Foster a welcoming environment — the committee both encourages self-reflection through workshops, discussion groups and a diversity speaker series and also serves as an advocate when behaviors are observed that show cultural insensitivity or bias.
- Improve cultural competency — numerous workshops and classroom experiences that address attitudes are included in the optometry program for students, faculty and staff, including anti-bias training, international clinic days, service learning initiative and skits presented through the Inter-Act Diversity Players.
The work has drawn raves, including from a national retailer that has searched for diversity programs to support and concluded that “Ohio State’s College of Optometry has the most active and far-reaching diversity program in the field of optometry.”