In A Nutshell: January 22, 2021

January 22, 2021

Dear Partners in Student Success: 

I hope spring semester has started off well for you and that your winter break was happy and healthy. As we enter the new year, and particularly as we continue the fight against COVID-19, I thought it would be helpful to provide regular updates about Student Life initiatives, highlights, topical support programs and other information that may be helpful to you as you refer and assist students. We are calling it “In a Nutshell” because we hope to keep the updates concise, while also continually reminding ourselves that sometimes the best outcomes and partnerships start with just a seed of an idea. Thank you for your ongoing partnership in advancing the extraordinary student experience at Ohio State.

COVID-19 updates

Testing incentive program 

One of the most important tools in fighting the spread of COVID-19 on a college campus is an effective testing strategy and, as you know, Ohio State has one of the most comprehensive in the country. As we have expanded our weekly testing requirement to include all students on the Columbus campus, we have also expanded our incentive strategy in order to drive testing compliance. Students who schedule and complete their weekly, required COVID-19 test will be eligible to be randomly selected for a variety of incentives, like gift cards, special tours and opportunities on campus, tech products and more. Incentives will change each week and those who test consistently each week will be entered to win larger prizes. If you have an idea of an incentive we can add or if your college or unit would like to consider special messaging to students in your area to encourage testing, please contact Kellie Uhrig ( for assistance and support.

Daily Health Report

Ohio State’s Daily Health Report feature helps all campus community members stop, think and check their personal health status each day before coming to campus, which is meant to result in those who are sick staying home. For spring semester, we have made some important changes that we hope will make the feature even more effective. We are requiring a “green” status be shown to gain access to all applicable recreation facilities across all campuses – this is for students, faculty and staff. Starting January 31, students’ Daily Health Report will include a testing compliance component, so even if they report no symptoms and no fever, their health status will show “red.” (This feature will take into account those who have a qualified exemption or are otherwise not required to test.) If you have questions, contact

Quarantine and Isolation support 

When a student tests positive for COVID-19 or is identified as a close contact of someone who has, the university works closely with them to make sure they have the appropriate support they need while they must quarantine or isolate for their assigned length of time. For students who live in the residence halls, this includes being provided with alternative housing. This semester, we are again using Lawrence Tower, Barrett House and Houck House for quarantine housing and The Blackwell and the Marriott (on Olentangy River Road) for isolation housing. In addition to a room, students are provided with comprehensive support from food delivery and activities, to special fitness programming, a delivery service, facilitated outdoor visits and more. We also have a team of Student Life staff members who regularly call, text and email all students in quarantine and isolation (not just the ones in university housing) to make sure they have the support and resources they need. If you are interested in getting involved in our support efforts, please contact

Administrative updates


As you may know, Student Life has had a number of senior leaders move on over the past couple of years, and I am pleased to share that we are working hard to fill these important vacancies. Following are three recent additions to our team who will be joining us in the coming weeks:

Dr. Shawnte’ Elbert will join the Student Life Team as our Associate Vice President for Well-being and Health on Monday, January 25. Dr. Elbert, currently the Associate Dean for Health and Wellness for Central Washington University, is an accomplished leader and student affairs administrator with a depth and breadth of experience in college student health and wellness, including harm reduction, prevention and risk management. For more information, visit the Student Life website.

Carla Smith Jones will join the Student Life Team as our Senior Director of Development starting Monday, January 25. Carla currently serves as the senior advancement director for Wilberforce University and has more than 20 years of non-profit fundraising experience. She has a career-long track record of priority-directed success, cultivation of community partnerships and advancement of engagement opportunities for both current and prospective supporters. For more information, visit the Student Life website.

Dr. Tanisha L. Jenkins will be joining the Student Life Team as our Associate Vice President of Belonging and Inclusion on Monday, March 1. Dr. Jenkins, currently the Director of the University of Tennessee’s Office of Multicultural Student Life and Frieson Black Cultural Center, has a strong track record of administrative success in advancing organizations’ inclusion and equity cultures and initiatives. For more information, visit the Student Life website.

Student engagement

Buckeye Connections Cohorts

Without a lot of the traditional ways of meeting people available on campus last semester, many students found it difficult to make new friends. Because interaction with peers, both formal and informal, can be a contributing factor to student success, Student Life has created a new opportunity to assist students in creating these relationships. Buckeye Connections Cohorts will facilitate informal conversations among small groups of students who want to meet virtually for about one hour per week for four weeks. These fun, relaxed conversations will be facilitated by trained student leaders with the simple goal of helping students build their network of friends on campus. Meetings will start in February. If you would like to refer a student to this program, more information can be found at

Kindness Calls 2.0

You may be familiar with the Kindness Calls program Student Life facilitated last spring that helped the university connect with about 18,000 incoming first-year and graduating students. Because the program was so successful and garnered such robust feedback that helped us better serve our students, we launched another round over the first two weeks of January to connect with more than 10,000 first-year students. Those who we didn’t reach on the phone received a voicemail and follow-up email message highlighting various university resources. Special thanks to the following areas who joined the Student Life team in reaching out: Admissions; Advancement; Athletics; Business Advancement; The Blackwell; Crane Center; Facilities Operation and Development; Office of Administration and Planning; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; Office of Human Resources; Office of International Affairs; Office of Research; Office of Student Academic Success; Planning, Architecture and Real Estate; and University Libraries.

Student support


We are finishing up week two of the semester, rounding out students’ second week of a fully virtual experience. Simultaneously, students began returning to the residence halls on Sunday, January 17, and will finish up this coming Sunday, January 24. By the end of today, about 7,700 will be back in our university housing facilities across all campuses. We continue to facilitate a physically distanced move-in process, with students scheduling move-in times and all other appropriate COVID-19 precautions to provide a safe experience. 

We Are Here For You resources

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the Office of Student Life remains committed to creating the extraordinary student experience for all Buckeyes, in-person and online. Many of our student support resources have pivoted to an online format to allow students access no matter where they are. For information about these resources, please visit

Meeting students where they are

In a normal year, at this point I would share something like: “Our first-year students are beginning to feel more settled into their college experience and building community and connections – inside and outside the classroom…” Unfortunately, this is not a normal year. Our first-year students don’t fully understand what “normal” may mean on a college campus, and they are certainly eager to move on to that next normal – whatever that may bring for us. As we welcome relatively new Buckeyes to campus, those who have been around a while or our Buckeyes who are celebrating their “last first days” of their college career, I would encourage us to all exercise the old adage “pack our patience.” And remember a smile – even a virtual one or in an email – goes a long way. 

I’m grateful for each of you and the many ways you support our students and each other during this challenging time. Ohio State is a place of possibilities and, for many, a dream come true. Let us all continue doing good for this extraordinary institution.

Melissa S. Shivers, PhD 
Senior Vice President for Student Life