Building a Foundation for Healing

“Pick up the baton and LEAD this community with courage”
— Shawn Harper

Racial Healing Circles Serve as the Foundational Work to Build Upon Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

When Otterbein was selected by the American Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in 2020 as the first university in Ohio to host a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, it challenged its community to begin the difficult work ahead.
Shawn Harper

Since then, the TRHT program has trained facilitators, hosted Racial Healing Circles and other programs, and completed an oral history project. Four student fellows, working with faculty mentors, recorded interviews with alumni of color about their Otterbein experiences. The Otterbein University Alumni of Color Oral History Project embodies the “Truth” component of TRHT in seeking to look honestly at the ways educational institutions have embodied racial hierarchy. The goal of the project was to assemble the fullest, most honest account of Otterbein’s history, because understanding its history is necessary in order to dismantle racial hierarchy and transform the culture of its campus and community.

Last summer, Otterbein’s co-founding partner in the Coalition for the Common Good, Antioch University, was named a TRHT Campus Center. With that addition, Otterbein’s TRHT team saw an opportunity to serve even more people through collaboration. On Jan. 16, 2024, the joint team held a day of coordinated conversations online, reaching 100 participants in Ohio and at Antioch’s campuses in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle, and Keene, New Hampshire.

“We held an all-day TRHT event in honor of the seventh National Day of Racial Healing that incorporated a number of faculty, staff and students participating in Racial Healing Circles from both Otterbein and Antioch,” said Otterbein’s Chief Diversity Officer Frank Dobson Jr., Ph.D. “That was a great 2024 starting point for more TRHT-related programming in collaboration with Antioch.”

Racial Healing Circles are discussions that allow participants to work toward equity and inclusion. The Coalition held Racial Healing Circles from morning to evening, scheduled to accommodate everyone who wished to participate regardless of their location.

“This experience allows community members to listen for understanding. In addition, healing circles­ — a form of restorative practice­ — serve as a safe space where individuals can freely express their emotions, fostering connection, empathy, and understanding among participants,” said Dobson.

“Racial Healing Circles serve as the foundational work to build upon Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging,” added Lemuel Watson, Ed.D., Antioch’s senior associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and vice provost for community engagement.

Selethia Benn, Ed.S.

Selethia Benn, Ed.S., director of Otterbein’s Office of Social Justice and Activism, has worked extensively to plan programming around issues of TRHT,  including Otterbein’s annual Martin Luther King  Jr. Convocation.

This year’s convocation featured Shawn Harper, a former NFL offensive lineman and motivational speaker. Harper invites individuals to find their own purpose as they fulfill a calling to serve others.

“My encouragement for you today is to pick up the baton … and lead this community with courage,” Harper told the campus community, holding up a baton to emphasize the importance of his sentiment. “I will not go with the flow. I will fight injustices and be a superhero. The darker the night, the brighter the light.”

Harper’s passion for helping others is a reflection of King’s legacy.

The 2024 Pack Scholar-in-Residence, Brian Smedley, also has connections to upcoming TRHT programming. April is National Minority Health Month, which coincides with the visit of Smedley, an equity scholar and senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. He has studied unconscious bias and stereotyping among healthcare providers in the U.S., which lead to lower quality of care for patients of color.

Otterbein is continuing to explore these and  other issues of social injustice independently and collaboratively with Antioch University through Otterbein’s TRHT programs and initiatives, continuing the University’s rich history of confronting issues of equity dating back to its earliest days.

Watson said he is encouraged by Otterbein and Antioch University’s shared commitment to education for a more just society — including building and preserving democracy. “College campuses serve as the ideal setting for students to develop skills and connect with others from diverse backgrounds. Through active listening and understanding, students can create meaningful relationships and foster a sense of community that promotes healing and growth.”

Signature Series Scholars Engage Audiences

Otterbein’s Signature Series packed the seats this spring, engaging audiences in discussions on some of the most relevant topics of the day.

The George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series

What happens when the pharmaceutical drugs we take end up in wastewater? How do “forever chemicals” from consumer products end up in surface water? And what will we do about the emergence of “superbugs” that are resistant to treatment? Renowned environmental chemist Diana Aga answered those questions and more when she visited campus for the George W. and Mildred K. White Science Lecture Series.

Aga is the Henry Woodburn Professor of Chemistry and a State University of New York (SUNY) Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo (UB). She also serves as the director of RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute at UB.

On Feb. 21, Aga packed the seats at two special talks for STEM students before presenting her public lecture, “Free Drugs,” “Superbugs,” and “Forever Chemicals” in the Environment: Occurrence and Implications, that evening.

Watch the lecture at

Diana Aga

Donja Thomas

Lynn Pasquerella

The Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series

On March 19, the Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series welcomed Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), for a lecture about Educating for Democracy. Pasquerella is one of the country’s most prominent public voices and forceful advocates for the value of liberal education, the importance of access to resources and pathways, and the need for career training for jobs and citizen education for justice.

Her most recent book, What We Value: Public Health, Social Justice, and Educating for Democracy, examines urgent issues — moral distress, access to resources, and the conflict over whose voices and lives are privileged — and argues that liberal education is the best preparation for work, citizenship, and life. Pasquerella is a member of the board of directors for the Coalition for the Common Good and a past-president of Mount Holyoke College.

Vernon L. Pack Lectures

April is Minority Health Month, and to address the important issue of equity in the American healthcare system, Otterbein hosted Brian D. Smedley for the Vernon L. Pack ’50 Distinguished Lecture on April 4.

In addition to his public lecture, Place, Race, and Health: Addressing the Root Causes of Health Inequities, Smedley met with Otterbein students in public health, allied health, nursing, and other health-related majors to discuss what they can do as healthcare professionals to ensure equitable care for their patients.

Smedley is an equity scholar and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, where he conducts research and policy analysis to address structural and institutional forms of racism that impact the health and well-being of people of color.

Learn more at

Brian D. Smedley

Portrait Project Illustrates Immigrants’ Stories

Mary B. Thomas Award Honorees 2022

Westerville Central High School students with Otterbein student portrait artists at reception held at Otterbein on Jan. 16, 2024.

Otterbein students mingled with immigrant high school students and their families, talking, laughing, and admiring paintings at a reception at the Taylor Lounge in the Campus Center. One high school student introduced her entourage to her teacher, stating, “This is my father, my mother, and my artist,” with a huge smile on her face.

Pablo Chignolli (left) with Louise Captein (right)

When Pablo Chignolli, a Spanish teacher at Westerville Central High School, approached the Otterbein Department of Art and Art History with an idea to recognize cultural diversity at his school, Associate Professor Louise Captein answered the call. Chignolli, a native of Peru, wanted to create a way for WCHS students from across the world to tell their stories in a creative and supportive way.

Captein, a native of the Netherlands, organized a group of 10 Otterbein students who volunteered to paint portraits of these “New American” high school students during their free time. Each Otterbein student was paired with a high schooler to work through a weeks-long process that included multiple sketches, photos, and finally, paintings. While the Otterbein students were painting, the WCHS students were writing their memoirs.

On Jan. 16, the portraits debuted with a month-long interactive exhibition that included QR codes linked to the memoirs and a video about the project. Chignolli compiled the memoirs and art into a book available online, THE ONES AMONG US: Memoirs of Culturally Diverse High School Students in America.

Reflecting on the project, the Otterbein students said they gained more than new art skills from the experience, they gained new insights and perspectives.

“It just reminds you how everyone has a story. Everyone is unique and has their own experiences and they may be completely different from your own. But at heart, we are all still alike — we are all still human and want our voices to be heard.”

— Alina Baer ’25, Art and Journalism and Media Communication double major

“There is not a lot of representation in the media of immigrant people. Being able to see yourself in art is a way to boost self-esteem and confidence. When you see beautiful photographs or paintings of people you want to look for yourself in them.”

— Sarah Farmer ’24, BFA major with a Painting concentration and Art History minor

Esports and Women’s Wrestling Gearing Up for Fall

Two programs announced last summer have been hard at work recruiting students and preparing for competition starting fall 2024. 

Nevin Horne, the inaugural director of Esports, said interest has been strong among current and prospective students. “I have had students who have recently been admitted into Otterbein already reach out to me to find out how they can be involved in the program and tell me what they want to do,” he said.

Additionally, more than two dozen current students expressed interest on the social media platform Discord, the first week it was available. Horne’s goal is to have 30 students signed up by the fall.

Chris Kline, Otterbein’s first head women’s wrestling coach, has seen a lot of interest for the first collegiate program in central Ohio and expects a strong team of recruits next fall. “We have been able to bring in over 25% of the high school senior women wrestlers in the state of Ohio for campus visits,” he said. “Otterbein hosted our first women’s wrestling prospect camp on campus in January and had 37 wrestlers attend.”

Learn more at:

Provost Named to Columbus Women’s Commission 

Wendy Sherman Heckler, provost and senior vice president

Provost and Senior Vice President Wendy Sherman Heckler has been named to the Columbus Women’s Commission by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and First Lady Shannon Ginther. The Commission, first seated in January 2017, works to dismantle barriers and reduce gender- and race-based inequities to improve the economic position of women in our community.

“The Columbus Women’s Commission plays a vital role in advancing the strength and well-being of women across the city, from promoting pay equity to advocating for fair and just housing protections,” said First Lady Ginther. “Each of our new commissioners brings diverse experiences and expertise to the table, enabling us to continue serving the women of Columbus in 2024 and beyond.”

The Columbus Women’s Commission focuses on three areas that are key to women’s economic security in our community: gender equity in the workplace, affordable housing and evictions, and financial empowerment.

Global Scholars Continue Studies at Otterbein 

Beginning in the fall of 2024, high school students who complete the Global Scholars Diploma program through the Columbus Council on World Affairs are eligible for a renewable $19,000 scholarship from Otterbein.

Approximately 2,000 students from more than 20 school districts and private academies participate in the program, which develops globally competent students by building the awareness and skills needed to take action on global issues and to become responsible citizens of the world. Throughout the three-year program, high school students communicate and collaborate face-to-face with global community partners, businesses, civic leaders, and people of varying cultural backgrounds.

The Global Scholars Diploma is a not-for-profit, experiential learning-based program provided by the Columbus Council on World Affairs with the help of community partners, members, and sponsors. With the Global Scholars Diploma Scholarship, Otterbein not only recognizes the educational promise of students who participate in the program, but also makes it possible for students to attend a university and become part of a community that shares the values of the program.

Mrs. Cochran is going on an adventure! 

Otterbein’s portrait of our early 20th century benefactress Sarah B. Cochran left the Courtright Memorial Library on Feb. 12, 2024, to go on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. It is on loan for an exhibition celebrating women’s history in western Pennsylvania.

Sarah was the wife of Philip G. Cochran, the Pennsylvania coke and coal magnet who attended Otterbein for two years, from 1869-71. After his passing in 1899, she ran his businesses and became a major philanthropist whose good works include the endowment of the Cochran Memorial Hall at Otterbein, dedicated in 1906. The exhibit, A Woman’s Place: How Women Shaped Pittsburgh, runs through Oct. 6.

Learn more about this exhibit here.

Photo of the painting in its packing crate courtesy of Stephen Grinch ’98, archivist, Otterbein University.

Tony Bishop III ’15, MSAH ’18 Goes to Washington, D.C.

When Tony Bishop III ’15, MSAH ’18 earned his bachelor’s degree in communication and master’s degree in allied health at Otterbein, he never intended to work in politics. But he used his liberal arts background to adapt and apply his critical thinking skills to places outside of his major — including the White House.

“Otterbein teaches you how to think — not what to think. What I learned as a Cardinal meant I could jump into any career and be prepared from the beginning to make an impact,” Bishop said.

Being prepared for any career is one thing; finding the right career is another. For Bishop, public policy turned out to be the perfect fit.

“What’s truly unique and special about Otterbein is how you come to campus with one passion in mind and then through the guidance of professors, mentors and the entire community, you begin to discover another passion and then another. Ultimately through these extraordinary relationships that push you forward, you discover what it is you really want to pursue as a career, he said.

Photo, taken by Bishop, includes President Joe Biden, President Macron, the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and the French President’s wife, Brigitte Macron.

His passion for public policy turned into jobs as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives and as a fellow with then-Chairman Hakeem Jeffries in the Congressional Black Caucus for the U.S. House of Representatives.

With the Emerging Leaders delegation for the Congressional Black Caucus, Bishop traveled to Japan to establish bridges of diplomacy. Later, he was stationed in Brussels, Belgium, with the U.S. Liaison Office for the European Parliament for seven months. He then served as the executive director of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

His latest position lands Bishop in the White House as an advisor to the White House Office of the National Cyber Director.

He credits Otterbein with helping to prepare him for his new position. “To change things for the better in our country, I had to learn how to influence people, and communications seemed to be the perfect skill set to get that job done. I do this every day at work as I try to have positive impact on one of our highest institutions in the U.S.,” Bishop said.

At the heart of everything he does is Bishop’s compassion for others. “It’s all about helping someone else. If you have wisdom that you can share with someone to make their time easier, you should do it. That’s how we advance as a country.”

These photos were supplied by Tony Bishop and show an event that was part of the first state visit by a foreign allied leader during the Biden administration — French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron. Bishop attended and helped execute the event.

Above: Bishop at the White House before the event’s start.

Spring Semester Sees Outstanding Lineup of Speakers

Otterbein planned a lineup of signature events this spring featuring speakers on social justice, servant leadership, and the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Donja Thomas

Donja Thomas, Ph.D.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation

The Otterbein community celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the annual MLK Convocation on Jan. 18 with a keynote address by Donja Thomas, Ph.D., an educator, writer, scholar, and Black studies activist. She shared how King’s dream is not just about the attainment of an ideal aspiration, it is also about the determined ambition behind our collective intentions towards economic and social justice. She encouraged each person to use their “superpower” to work together.

You can watch a recording of the convocation at

The Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series

The Kathy A. Krendl Distinguished Lecture Series welcomed U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty to campus on Feb. 15. She discussed the types of leaders we need to create unity and overcome the unique challenges our society faces. Beatty represents Ohio’s Third Congressional District. In the 118th Congress, she serves on the exclusive House Committee on Financial Services as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, Illicit Finance, and International Financial Institutions.

U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Heather McGhee

Vernon L. Pack Lectures

Finally, the community is invited to attend the Vernon L. Pack ’50 Distinguished Lecture Series featuring author and activist Heather McGhee at 7 p.m. on April 4.

Go to for additional information, including the location and livestream

Over her career in public policy, McGhee has crafted legislation, testified before Congress and helped shape presidential campaign platforms. Her book The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together spent 10 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and was longlisted for the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The New York Times called it, “the book that should change how progressives talk about race.”

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy visited Otterbein on Oct. 18 to have a discussion with students, faculty, staff, and the community about America’s mental health crisis as part of Nationwide Children’s On Our Sleeves campaign. The nation’s top doctor, Surgeon General Murthy, is a national advocate in the youth mental health movement.

Watch his discussion here:

Otterbein Receives Fourth Choose Ohio First Grant

Otterbein has received a Choose Ohio First (COF) grant of $462,621.60 over five years from the State of Ohio and the Department of Higher Education (ODHE) for scholarship support for students from Ohio majoring in allied health, equine pre-veterinary, and veterinary technology. Otterbein currently has three additional Choose Ohio First scholarship awards, including support for scholarships for Ohio students in nursing and mathematics, computer science, and STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) and STEMM education.

Choose Ohio First