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 Homecoming and Family Weekend September 15-16, 2023


& Family WeekendSeptember 15-16, 2023

Save the date to come home to Otterbein for this special weekend and all the experiences you’ve come to love!

  • CLASS OF 1973: It’s time for your 50th Golden Reunion! Learn more at
  • Join us as we dedicate and re-name the 25 West Home Street residence hall in honor of late Otterbein president, Dr. Thomas J. Kerr IV H’71, and his wife, Donna Kerr H’71.
Home Coming Parade

Don’t miss the parade, the big game, and time with friends on our beautiful campus.

Home Coming Gathering

SEPT. 15-16

Learn more at

Home Coming Gathering

Introducing New VPSA William Fox

Vice President for Student Affairs William (Bill) Fox, Ed.D, took a seat in his new office for the first time in January ready to advance Otterbein’s mission by focusing on student well-being and equity. He will oversee student health and wellness, residence life, student engagement, athletics, and student conduct programs — but that’s nothing new for this seasoned professional. Fox has worked in higher education for over 20 years, including a decade as dean of students at Denison University in Granville, OH. He most recently led the student affairs division at Antioch College* in Yellow Springs, OH.

We talked to Bill as he begins his new role:

We talked to Bill as he begins his new role:

What interested you in this role?

Otterbein is a special place. I have lived and worked in central Ohio for most of my career and have always been fond of the sense of community that Otterbein fosters. I am now fortunate to be able to enjoy that feeling of belonging and pride. I have big shoes to fill and cannot wait to continue a legacy of success in building strong relationships, role modeling a strong ethic of care for students, and designing innovative programs to help students have a superb experience that prepares them for life after Otterbein.

What are some of the biggest opportunities you see at Otterbein?

I am inspired by the energy and ideas coming from the students. Part of being a student-centered educator means spending time listening to how students describe their experience here and what they want to see continue, change, or stop. Then it’s important that we work alongside and empower students to be responsible and accountable for co-creating that next step. I am paying attention to spaces students enjoy as they live and learn on our campus and ways to further enhance those over time. I am looking forward to leading and further developing our student affairs team — we have great people who are driven to do good work on behalf of students.

Your research focuses on student wellness. How will you apply that research at Otterbein?

I bring a focus on how mission, well-being, and equity are connected, and I wake up every day thinking about the role of student affairs in advancing our mission through advancing a strategic focus on well-being and equity in our work. This is shared work and I look forward to identifying ways that the Division of Student Affairs can work across the various areas of the University community to create the conditions upon which we can more fully live out our commitments to well-being and equity.

What is your approach for connecting with students?

Over the past 20 years, my approach has evolved with practice and student preferences. I hope our students will come to find that I am visible and accessible; genuinely curious about their experience; honest; direct when we agree/disagree; open in terms of letting them know when I don’t know and asking for help and student input; supportive of their expressions about change that is needed; and that I am in their corner and hoping for the best possible outcome for their experience here and lives after Otterbein.

*Antioch College is not affiliated with Antioch University. Otterbein is currently partnering with Antioch University to create a new system of mission-driven, not-for-profit independent institutions of higher education.

William Fox, Ed.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

New Vice President for Student Affairs William (Bill) Fox, Ed.D., says he is “inspired by the energy and ideas” coming from Otterbein students.

Student Well-Being and Equity are top of mind for new Vice President for Student Affairs Bill Fox.

Inspiring Graduates of 2023

These students from the Class of 2023 represent a small sampling of the excellence heading out into the world. We congratulate our graduates and look forward to news of their future successes.

Jenna McPeek

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Equine Pre-Veterinary

“The fact that Otterbein allows me to complete two unrelated majors and make them related is special. I also value the flexibility of my schedule being at a smaller school.”

Jenna McPeek excelled on horseback and in the classroom. She is a member of Otterbein’s national championship-winning equestrian team and landed a competitive lab internship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. After graduating from Otterbein, she plans to pursue both master’s and doctorate degrees.

Jenna McPeak
Timmy Wotring

Timmy Wotring

Public Relations & Communication Studies

“Otterbein has given each and every one of us an opportunity to make our college experience what we want it to be. I’m thankful for my time at Otterbein and excited to see the growth Otterbein has moving forward!”

Timmy Wotring is a familiar face on campus as an active student leader and current president of the Otterbein University Student Government. He has worked in the Office of Admission, served as an Orientation Leader, and been active in Greek life. He found the right fit working in higher education and plans to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in higher education.

Gabriela Ahumada Mier y Concha

Theatre Design & Technology

“I love the Otterbein community. Otterbein helps you learn more and leaves you with a network you can rely on. I have honestly had so many great professors who in their own ways have helped me so much, it has truly been a pleasure being in their classes. They have taught me things that have made me a better-rounded artist and person.”

Gabriela Ahumada Mier y Concha is giving a global perspective to her theatre career. While at Otterbein, she interned with the Des Moines Metro Opera and participated in study abroad travels with the Art Department to London, Rome, and Florence. Next up, she will be attending a master’s program in fine arts in England with a focus on stage design and scenic paint.

Gabriela Ahumada Mier Y Concha
Nick Wile

Nick Wile

Mechanical Engineering

“Otterbein helped me pave my path for my career and introduced me to friends that I know I will keep for a lifetime. I learned so much about what I enjoy and what I want to do for a career moving forward from the research positions I held under my engineering professors and an internship that Otterbein helped make happen.”

When he’s not on the lacrosse field earning OAC honors, Nick Wile spends most of his time at The Point, where he has served as a research assistant for Associate Professor of Engineering Mike Hudoba’s research of DNA nanotechnology design, and as a laboratory assistant in the Biomechanics Institute. He was also an engineering intern at Aviation Medical. After graduation, he will pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on biomechanics at The Ohio State University.

Hannah Sturgeon

Environmental Science, Sustainability Studies, and Political Science

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I had from my Otterbein family. From my friends in my classes to my supportive professors and the amazing administration, ‘Only at Otterbein’ truly is the perfect phrase.”

Hannah Sturgeon has been working as a fellow for the Legislative Service Commission with a focus in finance policy for the Ohio House of Representatives since graduating with three majors in December. In addition to serving as a student trustee at Otterbein, she was a CardinalCorps Leader and co-leader of Raise Your Voice, Otterbein’s studentled, non-partisan, voter education and registration organization. She was also involved in student government, Alpha Lambda Delta/Phi Eta Sigma national honor societies, and Women for Economic Leadership Development.

Hannah Sturgeon
Gabe Sharrock

Gabe Sharrock

Allied Health

“The thing that I will miss the most when I graduate is my daily interactions with everyone on campus. That includes classmates, professors, teammates, coaches, food service staff, and everyone else that makes this campus so amazing. There is a sense of community on the Otterbein campus, and I am going to miss being a part of that every day.”

Soccer standout and academic all-star Gabe Sharrock plans to spend the next year working in the medical field before he applies to physician assistant graduate school programs. On the men’s soccer team, he won athletic All-OAC and academic All-OAC honors three-times, as well as all-conference, all-regional, and all-state honors.

Madelyn Nelson

Public Relations

“The individualized opportunities available on campus are amazing. The one-on-one attention with professors and staff and the opportunity to build relationships with students and teachers made Otterbein perfect for me.”

Madelyn Nelson has paved the way for an exciting career by sampling several industries as an intern: higher education with Otterbein’s Office of Marketing and Communications, professional sports with the Columbus Crew, craft brewing with Columbus Brewing Company, and a major national corporation with Southwest Airlines. On campus, she took leadership roles as a student trustee on the Otterbein Board of Trustees and recruitment chair for Sigma Alpha Tau.

Madelyn Nelson
Logan Nelson

Logan Nelson

Psychology & Criminology & Justice Studies

“The individualized opportunities available on campus are amazing. The one-on-one attention with professors and staff and the opportunity to build relationships with students and teachers made Otterbein perfect for me.”

Madelyn Nelson has paved the way for an exciting career by sampling several industries as an intern: higher education with Otterbein’s Office of Marketing and Communications, professional sports with the Columbus Crew, craft brewing with Columbus Brewing Company, and a major national corporation with Southwest Airlines. On campus, she took leadership roles as a student trustee on the Otterbein Board of Trustees and recruitment chair for Sigma Alpha Tau.

International Student Finds Success on Campus and the Baseball Field

The Journey of a Japanese student who finds his home-away-from-home at Otterbein.

HARUKI TADA ’24 chose Otterbein sight unseen, as barriers during the COVID- 19 pandemic forced the Japanese baseball player to make a college decision without ever stepping foot on campus. Once he was on campus, he found a supportive and welcoming community dedicated to his success.

A native of Tokyo, Tada began forming a unique relationship with head coach George Powell while attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Powell visited Tada three times during Otterbein’s 2020 spring break trip and became intrigued with the dual talent, who could play the infield and pitch.

“Coach Powell was such a big influence for me,” Tada said. “He made me feel really comfortable even though I had never been here. He made sure I met everyone and felt good about this new journey. I’ve never felt like I don’t fit in.”

Questions arose about Tada actually showing up when messages through WhatsApp went unanswered for most of that summer due to internet issues. But Powell received a message in August from the 5-foot-5 recruit, saying he would be in Westerville the following day.

Since that time, Powell has completed Japanese lessons on the Duolingo app and even suggested he would consider sponsoring Tada for dual citizenship down the line.

“It’s been a real pleasure watching him develop,” Powell said. “Seeing a young kid embrace our Otterbein culture and adjust to college is always rewarding for a coach, but especially Haruki’s acclimation. He brings such a positive energy and continues developing across all phases—athletics, academically, and socially.”

Tada spent his first two seasons as a backup/JV option but continues working for more opportunities on the diamond. In the classroom, he has a 3.55 cumulative GPA as a sport management major and finance minor.

“I was more nervous for the academic setting than baseball,” Tada said. “Some classes were overwhelming at first, but it’s taught me not to be shy or afraid of a challenge.”

He has formed quality relationships with many teammates, notably roommates/teammates Jamie Perebzak and Nick Plucinski.

His path recently opened the door for another player from Asia, Minseo Jang (MJ) from South Korea, to join the program at the recent semester break. The two were former teammates at IMG Academy and are now reunited.

Tada also completed an internship at IMG last summer, working as a camp counselor and on the operations side as a translator for other Japanese prospects. His long-term goal is to remain in the United States, obtain a work visa, and own a company helping more international/Asian student-athletes do what he’s done.

Haruki Tada with roommates/teammates Jamie Perebzak and Nick Plucinski

Haruki Tada with roommates/teammates Jamie Perebzak and Nick Plucinski.

Powerful Faculty Collaborations

Faculty Pairings Amplify The Power Of Collaboration

What happens when you make a smart pairing? At Otterbein, faculty collaborations are the norm but the outcomes these partnerships produce are anything but. From Integrative Studies collaborations, which bring seemingly disparate subjects together into one class, to research projects with multidisciplinary applications — faculty partnerships are inspiring knowledge, discovery, social change, and exciting studentlearning experiences. Art secrets unlocked. Global wellness initiatives. Injury prevention for senior citizens. Happiness and the good life. These collaborations highlight the expertise, passion, and purpose that double when Otterbein professors join forces.

For Department of Art and Art History instructor Janice Glowski and Professor and Chair of Chemistry Joan Esson, collaboration is a passion. In their Integrative Studies classes together, and in Otterbein’s museums and galleries, they teach that “an art project is a chemistry experiment in disguise.”

Glowski, as Otterbein’s director of museums and galleries and art historian, brings her degrees in Asian art history, comparative religious studies, and chemistry to the collaboration while Esson’s research and teaching focus includes technical art analysis and applications in environmental and clinical chemistry.

“Soon after I arrived on campus in 2014, I approached the Chemistry Department and talked about collaboration,” Glowski said. “Joan was the quickest to respond and we began a project looking at African masks in the Otterbein collection. My students recorded from where the masks originated, who used them, and the context in which they were used. Joan’s chemistry students took samples and used light fluorescence to discover what substances were found on the masks.”

The early collaboration previewed what the two departments could achieve together.

One such collaboration currently can be found in Otterbein’s Frank Museum, where art and chemistry students are working together on the C.Y. Woo Chinese painting art collection. A $98,000 Henry Luce Foundation grant procured by Glowski helps orchestrate student collaboration.

L to R: Professor and Department Chair Joan Esson + Instructor Janice Glowski making seal impressions using C.Y. Woo’s original paste.

L to R: Professor and Department Chair Joan Esson + Instructor Janice Glowski making seal impressions using C.Y. Woo’s original paste.

C.Y. Woo artwork from Otterbein’s collection.

Artwork with light fluorescence.

Top: C.Y. Woo artwork from Otterbein’s collection. Bottom: Artwork with light fluorescence.

Glowski has earned National Endowment for the Arts and Ohio Arts Council grants in support of her efforts. She has managed projects supported by the Mellon and Kress foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has curated more than 20 exhibitions.

Esson actively involves undergraduate students in her work, is the co-principal investigator on the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Cardinal Scholars Program and is the co-lead on the Choose Ohio First Cardinal STEMM Scholars Program. She also enjoys her faculty-led study abroad course to Italy to study preservation and restoration of art.

“In Milan we visit Castello Sforzesco built in the 15th century, where Napoleon’s troops later plastered over art by Da Vinci,” Esson said. “We observe the restoration work, then go see The Last Supper in town. It’s amazing.”

Another collaborative partnership involves extending Otterbein’s community to rural Ugandan communities. Since 2016, professors Diane Ross in Education and Heidi Ballard in Sociology, Criminology, and Social Justice have collaborated in communities and remote rural Ugandan schools to implement Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and Sexual Reproductive Health Education (SRHE).

Ross has been traveling to Uganda since 2009 supported by her non-profit organization — Forum For Youth Advocacy (FOYA) Uganda — to engage more than 75 students and community members to improve literacy, education, health and wellness, gender equity, and community engagement in rural Uganda. This work led to building libraries in multiple communities.

“An exciting feature of this work is that the projects support sustainable development as they align with several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” Ballard said.

Ross also was awarded a three-year Fulbright research grant to work with young adolescent development and teacher preparation. Ballard joined in 2016 to bring a global health perspective to the team. With partial funding from internal Otterbein grant awards, Ballard’s global health and sociological perspective helped to develop tools to measure the efficacy of the MHM/SRHE projects.

Ross and Ballard’s work incorporates participatory action research. In this methodology, community partnerships are developed to empower the local community members to create positive social change.

“We try to facilitate service-learning opportunities to empower American students to become global citizens,” Ross said.

In 2018, Ross and Ballard expanded their work from West Nile and Eastern Uganda to the Rwenzori Mountain region. They developed a partnership with an indigenous Bakonzo community who requested collaboration in establishing a community library, MHM/SRHE in their rural schools, and video recording of tribal elders’ climate change stories. Ballard earned the Otterbein High Impact Grant in 2022 to support the work along with FOYA funding.

“We envision a Uganda where youth are empowered to create and extend their skills and talents to build a strong future. We also hope we can contribute to an America where people value other cultures and ways of being,” Ross writes.

Professor Heidi Ballard (top far left) + Professor Diane Ross (second from top right) in Uganda.

Faculty partnerships are inspiring knowledge, discovery, social change, and exciting student learning experiences.

Assistant Professor of Engineering Elena Caruthers and Assistant Professor of Health and Sport Sciences Ashley Simons are using Otterbein’s Biomechanics Institute, created by the two departments, to study human movement. The lab is equipped with motion capture cameras and specialized software that allows Caruthers and Simons to record and analyze how people move.

Their latest work uses the lab’s camera system to focus on factors related to senior citizens’ risk of falls. Students are identifying best practices in senior citizens’ activities of daily living, including gait, rising from a chair, and stair climbing.

“We’re hoping to gather data to discover how people’s confidence levels affect their normal activities of daily living,” Caruthers said. “We have engineering and health science students working on the study, and we’re collaborating with the Lifelong Learning Community for study participants.”

L to R: Assistant Professor Ashley Simons + Assistant Professor Elena Caruthers.

L to R: Assistant Professor Ashley Simons + Assistant Professor Elena Caruthers.

Caruthers has had a passion for biomechanics ever since she was a dancer growing up but needed expertise on the clinical side. Simons is a doctorate-level physical therapist but realized she needed the biomechanical side. The collaboration was a natural fit.

The lab’s 10-camera Vicon Nexus system gives Caruthers and Simons the ability to study movement in three dimensions with great accuracy and precision. Once reflective markers are placed on various anatomical landmarks of the subject, the cameras track and recreate the subject’s three-dimensional movement. This data can then be further analyzed on a biomechanical level by examining variables like joint angles, velocities, and accelerations throughout the entire motion.

In other applications, Otterbein athletes use the lab to study, for example, their baseball pitching motions, and pinpoint specific biomechanical patterns that could be worked on to improve their delivery. But Caruthers and Simons are taking the technology to a different generation.

“By allowing us to evaluate body movement in senior citizens — to see how their joints are moving, how they use space, their velocity of movement,” Simons said, “we can correlate what we see in the physical world with the biomechanical measures in the data and perhaps help improve their movement during daily living activities to reduce the risk of falls.”

Caruthers and Simons hope to present their findings at conferences and in research journals.

Students are identifying best practices in senior citizens’ activities of daily living, including gait, rising from a chair, and stair climbing.

English Professor Jeremy Smith realized a few years ago his teaching and research interest in comparative literature would pair well with Associate Professor of History Richard Yntema’s focus on European economic and social histor y. Smith approached Yntema to teach an Integrative Studies course together, and that’s how INST 2204: Happiness and the Good Life was born.

In their course, Smith and Yntema lead students to discover how Western societies have defined “the good life” and the critical social challenges each society faced. They examine beliefs, culture, and conflicts over four eras: classical Athens, the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, and post-World War II Europe.

Jeremy Smith Richard Yntema

L to R: Associate Professor Richard Yntema + Professor Jeremy Smith.

“ Raising questions with students about concepts such as virtue and justice provides them with more of an openness to the past by looking at it in a multidimensional way.”

– Richard Yntema

“We have a lot of common interests,” Smith said. “I always thought it would be a true integrative course to teach the great works of Western literature in tandem with Western civilization concepts. That’s what we do.”

Smith and Yntema use the texts of classic literature and history to examine ancient concepts and compare them to contemporary topics. The class integrates the study of social, political, and economic history with the close reading of works by Sophocles, Dante, Mars, and Camus.

“Raising questions with students about concepts such as virtue and justice provides them with more of an openness to the past by looking at it in a multidimensional way,” Yntema said. “Examining the past and relating it to the present highlights juxtapositions and inequalities students may not have realized before or allows them to see current issues in new ways.”

Smith has pursued his research interests in religion, philosophy, and literature throughout his career. He is the author of The Staircase of a Patron, a book chronicling the United Brethren in Christ’s presence in Sierra Leone, with a special focus on the missionary work of Otterbein graduate Lloyd Mignerey ’1917.

Yntema’s research focuses on European economic and social history. He explores the development of capitalism in Holland before 1800 in a global framework. In 2010, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Utrecht. In his courses he explores the Renaissance and Reformation, revolutions in early modern Europe, and global capitalism, among other eras.

The collaboration contributes a humanistic capstone to Otterbein’s Integrative Studies program and is a prime example of how Otterbein’s faculty community maintains Otterbein’s commitment to the contemporary significance of a liberal arts education.

Letter from President Comerford, Spring 2023

​Dear Friends,

We all have our little favorite memories, moments, and places at Otterbein. One of mine is at the back of Towers Hall, on the southwest corner of the building. In the mulch by the building are daylilies and I have noticed these particular daylilies are Otterbein’s first sign of spring. Their green shoots are the first to appear in February and their flowers the first to bloom in March. Seeing those green shoots appear is a better predictor than any groundhog that spring is coming.

And now it is here! Spring on campus is a frantic schedule of celebrations, performances, honorary inductions, and countless other events designed to mark the end of another school year, and for the Class of 2023 the culmination of their Otterbein education. It is exhilarating and all builds up to graduation day.

You will find some of that same energy in the pages of this magazine. Otterbein has so much going on, it can seem a little dizzying at times. But, it is all an expansion and celebration of what has always made this place so special. You can read more about the remarkable Class of 2023 — those whose first year on campus was cut short by a pandemic.

Antioch University And Otterbein Faculty And Staff
Antioch University and Otterbein faculty and staff gathered at Antioch’s Seattle Campus (in-person and virtually) for a Q&A panel discussion featuring Chet Haskell and Ben Pryor from Antioch and Wendy Sherman Heckler and Bridget Newell from Otterbein.

You will learn about how our great faculty are working across departments and disciplines to create dynamic student learning experiences. And, of course, there are always campus leaders to highlight — past and present — who have transformed Otterbein and all the lives we touch.

Leadership has always mattered. Otterbein is leading again in higher education. We are meeting the full cost of tuition for lower income students — without loans. While other schools talk about affordability, we are walking the walk.

Our formation of an independent university system is also garnering a great deal of attention. I have been asked to speak at several higher education conferences and find colleagues across the country that know of Otterbein, know of our innovative spirit, and want to learn more. We have a growing list of other institutions interested in joining the effort to expand access for adult learners and so far, the Higher Learning Commission and other regulatory bodies have been supportive.

There is a lot going on and it can feel a little overwhelming at times. But, we can each do our part — starting with my favorite daylily telling me spring is coming. And nothing can stop Otterbein when we are all pulling together.


John L. Comerford, Ph.D.

Collaborating for Opportunity and Justice for All

There are not many university leaders who are willing to talk about the problems in American higher education, and even fewer willing to do something about it. On July 14, two leaders took the first step in doing the work of fixing a broken system, with a focus on contributing to society as a whole.

Otterbein University President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor Bill Groves, at an event livestreamed to both campuses, announced that the two universities were partnering with the intention to form a first-of-its-kind system of affiliated, independent, not-for-profit universities focused on shared graduate and adult learner programs.

The foundation of the system, and the calling card for future member universities, is the universities’ shared missions of providing access to an affordable, world-class education, while educating students to become engaged citizens advancing democracy; social, racial, and environmental justice; and the common good.

One advantage of the new system is that members will keep their distinctive undergraduate programs, branding, athletics, and student organizations. “Otterbein will always remain a residential undergraduate university built around meaningful faculty-student engagement and relationships,” Comerford said. “But given ongoing demographic trends, with decreasing numbers of high school graduates nationally for the next 15 years at a minimum, focusing only on undergraduates is not a sustainable path.”

Comerford noted that in Ohio alone more than two million adults have some college credit, but no degree.

“The system will additionally offer tailored workforce education programs with badges, certificates and other credentials to learners and business partners nationwide,” stated Comerford. “These workforce education programs not only help to keep and generate jobs in our local communities, they are important on-ramps for adult learners to pursue higher education and advanced credentials. Moreover, because the programs will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the employer, those businesses will ordinarily share in the cost of that education, improving access and affordability of higher education.”

Comerford laments the growing competition within higher education, driven by universities striving for prestige and rankings. “One of the most terrible aspects of our current model is that rather than judging universities by how they change the lives of the students they enroll, most rankings value how difficult it is for students to be admitted,” said Comerford. “The ‘most prestigious’ universities in the nation tend to admit a tiny percentage of the students who apply. Really? That’s how we share this incredible, life-changing resource, by closing the door on deserving students?”

Collaboration Over Competition

The new system prioritizes collaboration over competition. This innovative system allows the universities to expand adult learner and graduate degree offerings, to offer programs in more locations nationwide, to provide innovative learning modalities including online, low-residency, and hybrid settings, to create new opportunities for student engagement across institutions, and to enhance capacities and contain costs through shared services and improved technologies.

The system also gives Otterbein programs a national footprint. Antioch University currently has locations in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Yellow Springs, OH, and Keene, NH.

Faculty and staff teams are working to identify which Antioch University programs will be offered in central Ohio. They are also exploring which of Otterbein’s well-respected graduate nursing and health and sport sciences programs will be offered in these out-of- state locations.

The benefits of the new system will not be limited to adult learners and graduate students. Several exciting undergraduate opportunities are under consideration, including guaranteed early admission pathways between Otterbein undergraduate programs and Antioch University’s graduate programs. Possibilities include pathways from Otterbein psychology and sociology degrees to Antioch University’s many community mental health counseling master’s programs, as well as a connection between Otterbein’s bachelor of fine arts in creative writing with Antioch University’s master of fine arts program.

Other ideas under consideration would allow Otterbein undergraduates to spend a semester or term studying at an Antioch University location, for instance, allowing an environmental studies major to spend a semester in Keene, New Hampshire, home of the environmental studies graduate program.

Otterbein faculty, staff, and administrators have been in discussions about the new system for many months. “Otterbein University and Antioch University saw a huge opportunity to be ahead of the curve, proactive, and forward thinking in what is often an antiquated, slow-to-change higher education system. They both also saw a need to do something different at a time when change is sorely needed in higher education,” said Otterbein Professor Joan Rocks, Department of Health and Sport Sciences.

For more information about plans for this new national university system, visit

Jefferson Blackburn Smith

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith is the vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing. He has developed and implemented new partnerships with Central Ohio school districts and community colleges to create new opportunities to underserved populations to earn a higher education degree.

Ensuring Every Student will be READY

A new career and professional development program at Otterbein University will prepare students for their futures by promoting academic and career exploration; immersive, hands-on experiences; and professional development skills like networking and goal mapping.

Understanding how critical it is for students to make these connections between their academic studies and their career aspirations, Otterbein is making the commitment that every student will go through four years of exploration, advising, and planning.

“We want our students to be ready for life after graduation,” said Jennifer Bechtold, assistant provost and executive director of Student Success and Career Development. “This four-year plan will give them the confidence and the skills they’ll need after Otterbein.”

Keeping that commitment front and center is the reason behind its name: Every Student Will be READY.

Bechtold explained that Otterbein’s signature First Year Experience (FYE) seminar courses have been reimagined with a team approach. FYE faculty will continue to help students transition to college-level learning, and now an Otterbein staff coach will join the first-year team to help students navigate time management and explore personal interests, goals, and career paths.

But the big ideas don’t end there. In addition to classroom speakers, whether in person or virtual, Bechtold said that alumni and Otterbein friends can support this initiative by offering internships and opportunities to collaborate on projects. “This will add to the program and help serve the entire Class of 2026, the first class to be part of the new Otterbein Every Student Will be READY program,” Bechtold said.

Robin Grote, associate professor of chemistry and director of undergraduate research and creative work, taught an FYE pilot course last year with the new model. She said having a staff partner enhanced the classroom experience. Grote said the students saw a team in action and began to understand that Otterbein is a network with many people across its community who want to help. “It was very representative of what it is like to be at Otterbein,” she said.

Grote believes students will be more engaged earlier in their college experiences. “Some of the best classroom experiences are when students interact with speakers. Anytime we can have visitors share their experiences related to the subject or to life – and do that in real-time – it’s much more interesting than just listening to a lecture from their professor.”

Otterbein leaders have seen first-hand how valuable immersive, hands-on experiences are to a student’s career preparation. While some academic programs like nursing and education already include those opportunities, Otterbein wants all students to have at least one signature immersive experience before they graduate.

Those experiences will vary greatly and will include everything from leadership experience to internships and study abroad. There are some funds currently in place to offset the costs of studying abroad, working a summer internship, or volunteering for community service, but program organizers say more support will be needed as the program expands to the entire student body.

Alumni Jon ’79 and Gretchen Freeman Hargis ’77 understood the importance of the Every Student Will be READY program. The couple runs the Hargis Family Foundation and were early supporters. “We believe a very important part of a college education is to prepare students on how to maximize their ability to gain employment in the field of their studies post-graduation. This initiative will provide all students the opportunity to work on these skills throughout their time as an Otterbein University student.”

According to Leah Schuh ’11, assistant director for experiential learning, the goal is to prepare students for post-graduation by increasing their access and creative focus.

“We want students to find meaning in what they did and how they can utilize that to be more prepared for employers and graduate schools,” she said. A dedicated team will help students to maximize their time at Otterbein and show them how to communicate the experience outcomes.

Schuh explained that Otterbein has a long history of combining hands-on experiences with classroom learning. Getting students READY for their futures will formalize what Otterbein has already focused on: hands-on experiences, mentorship, and guidance.

Alumni and friends can help support this exciting program by supporting the READY Fund to assist with costs for students’ immersive experiences. For more information on ways you or your company or organization could support this program or contribute to student success, please reach out to Kathleen Bonte, executive director of development, Institutional Advancement at 614-823-2707.