August 24, 2019 at 2:00 pm

Dean’s Message | Engaging with Scholars and Students

Geoff Morgan, Plassmann and students

Geoff Morgan of Quidel and Dr. Florenz Plassmann (fifth and sixth from left) talk about careers with STEMstart students.

By Dr. Florenz Plassmann
Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

During my first five weeks as Dean of Arts & Sciences, I spent a good part of my time learning as much as possible about the college, Ohio University, and the City of Athens. I am blown away by the fantastic welcome that I have received from all sides—the faculty, staff, students, and my new neighbors on the Far Eastside. I am beginning to understand why so many have stayed in Athens and with the university for several decades or have come back to Athens after testing the life elsewhere.

Just during the past several weeks, I had the opportunity to take part in several events that highlight the range of scholarly and educational activities that are the hallmark of a vibrant College of Arts & Sciences. The Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE) invited me to the conclusion of their four-week pre-academic orientation program for more than 40 international Fulbright scholars from 25 different countries. This program provides the scholars with an opportunity to become familiar with American culture and academia before beginning their graduate degrees at a wide range of institutions throughout the United States. OPIE has been hosting this Fulbright-sponsored program for the past five consecutive years, thus indicating the continuing success that this program enjoys at Ohio University. It was heartwarming to learn from the participants how much this program facilitated the transitions from their home countries to their new lives in the United States.

I also had the opportunity to participate in an exciting symposium, “Critical Approaches to Science and Religion,” that was organized—through a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation—by Dr. Myrna Sheldon, Assistant Professor in Classics and World Religion and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. During this three-day conference, scholars from the fields of religious studies, the biological sciences, and the history of science discussed whether science and religion scholarship can become more public-facing and speak directly to the social and political issues that shape our everyday lives.

Group photo of STEMstart students

STEMstart 2019 students pose for a photo after an evening of career networking with alumni and friends.

Another great event was the networking event of the college’s one-week STEMstart summer program, which allows students a get a sneak peak of what they should expect during their first semester and to get a jumpstart on success in the sciences.  Students attended introductory courses in chemistry, biology, and mathematics, received special training on study skills, engaged in early conversations with faculty, and participated in hands-on sessions on forensics, the DNA lab, and aquatic biology. The career and leadership night offered an opportunity to the students to hone their networking skills by engaging with several Arts & Sciences alums, who shared their experiences about how their STEM education at Ohio University had prepared them for careers at biotech companies, the Wayne National Forest, and more.

At the Board of Trustees meeting in mid-August, President M. Duane Nellis presented a bold and dynamic vision for the future of Ohio University during a time of transition for higher education. The president outlined four guiding themes that focus on access and inclusion, student success and transformation, research and knowledge discovery in support of vibrant communities, and sustainable academic enterprise. We will concentrate many of the college’s efforts in the upcoming months and years on implementing this vision, with the goal of continuing to provide an outstanding education to the people of Ohio, the nation, and the world.

I encourage you to stay connected with the college and to share your knowledge and experiences. If you are able to join us for Homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 12, please stop by the Arts & Sciences tent at Howard Square before and immediately following the Homecoming parade.

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