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Otterbein cultivating relationships with Columbus State, Columbus students

Otterbein cultivating relationships with Columbus State, Columbus students

By Corey Libow

When current Otterbein senior Jenese Wallace was attending Beavercreek High School she knew that she wanted a career that used her strong communication skills. Her college research uncovered the public relations major at Otterbein University.

“I was always interested in it, I just didn’t know it was called PR,” said Wallace. “I loved talking, I loved writing and I loved problem solving.”

Wallace began her academic path by first enrolling at Columbus State Community College before transferring to Otterbein.

“It was better for me financially to get my pre-requisites out of the way and just come to Otterbein to do my last two years,” she said.

Now Wallace has flourished in her public relations major. She’s putting her skills to good use with a Nationwide Insurance corporate internship.

Wallace’s success story as a transfer student is a model that Otterbein hopes to replicate for other students. Otterbein is engaged in a series of targeted initiatives for Columbus State and Columbus City Schools. The university’s mission includes making itself accessible to all students.

“It’s really a multi-pronged effort. We’re trying to create broad relationships,” said Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, Otterbein’s vice president of enrollment. “We’ve done a lot to attract and support diverse students and it’s paying off and really helping drive enrollment.”

Over the past three academic years, the number of students of color has nearly doubled, increasing from 247 students in 2014 to 423 students in 2017. Students of color now make up 17 percent of the total undergraduate body; three years ago that figure was 11 percent. The current freshman class is 21 percent students of color.

By easing the transition into Otterbein, the enrollment programs not only work to increase admission totals but they also help create an active and diverse student body population the university desires.

“It’s not just about having diverse kids on campus,” Blackburn-Smith said. “You have to be able to put students into communities where they engage with each other and actually have the opportunity to allow their experiential differences influence the way they approach academic material and other things.”

Otterbein’s partnership with Columbus State creates a smooth transition for students’ future Otterbein status.

“The idea is to abolish the cultural and campus-based roadblocks to success,” said Blackburn-Smith. “We want students to be treated as Otterbein students even while they’re taking courses at Columbus State.”

The goal is for future transfer students to find their niche the way Wallace has with public relations and hone her PR skills at her Nationwide internship. 

“I plan a lot of events at Nationwide and help with crisis communication planning,” said Wallace. “I’m currently writing a speech for the CEO. I do a little bit of everything. PR for me hits every single point that I want to do.”


Learn more about Otterbein and Columbus State’s partnership on the Dual Admission Program website.