Today's Update: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

November 1, 2023

Dear Student Life team,

If you recall, at our September Scarlet and Great Gathering, I asked each of you to write on a piece of paper how you think we are doing and how we could better meet our culture commitments of appreciation, connection, support and care. I have read each of those comments and appreciate all of the feedback. Today, I wanted to share a summary of the feedback I received, as well as data that was recently shared with me on Student Life’s health trends.

Many of you shared that you feel like Student Life has made significant process on our culture commitments through things like the High Five Fridays, the summer celebration, meeting-free Fridays, flexible work schedules and showing general appreciation and care for each other. However, there is certainly still work to do. Several staff wanted to see more action at the department and unit levels to uphold and promote our culture commitments. Specifically, it was mentioned that leaders throughout the organization need to model them more. This is also my expectation, and I reiterated this to directors at a recent meeting and am reminding our entire team with this message today.

Staff also desire more opportunities to connect with others outside their departments, either through new staff on-boarding or events throughout the year. My hope is that some of our Scarlet and Great Gatherings can facilitate some of these connections and I am open to other suggestions on how we do this.

Staff also appreciated hearing that one of Student Life’s strategic priorities for the year is to conduct a comprehensive study to outline a proposal and plan to address salary and equity compression issues. Many of you mentioned pay and challenges with inflation in your comments, and I want you to know that I hear you. These efforts will certainly take some time and I will share updates as we make progress.

A few weeks ago, Dr. Bern Melnyk, the university’s Chief Wellness Officer, shared some really important data with me on trends in Student Life employees’ health and well-being. These data are shared in aggregate from the Personal Health Assessment and biometric health screenings that many of us participate in as part of the Ohio State health insurance plan.

Several data points that were shared are concerning to me and reinforce my belief that we need to invest in our team’s health and well-being. Student Life staff have, on average, higher body mass index, hemoglobin A1C levels (a measure of blood sugar), cholesterol levels and blood pressure compared to all employees at Ohio State. Student Life employees also have slightly higher rates of anxiety and depression. We are not alone in these results, as several of my colleagues are having similar conversations with their teams. Throughout employee wellness efforts, we are working improve our overall health and well-being. If you have additional ideas for how to support each other in these efforts, please share them with me or Morgan Hammonds.19, our employee wellness program manager.

There were also some bright spots in our data. In measures of how the university is supporting health and wellness, Student Life staff members’ responses have been trending up in recent years. This means that Student Life employees feel more strongly than other areas that Ohio State supports and promotes a healthy lifestyle and contributes to their well-being. Student Life staff are also significantly happier at work than the average staff member at the university. These numbers reinforce the comments from the Scarlet and Great Gathering that we are making progress on our culture commitments and supporting staff, and we need to keep this focus central to what we do.

As always, I am Scarlet and Grateful to work with all of you.


Melissa S. Shivers, PhD

Senior Vice President for Student Life 
The Ohio State University