Innovative Return on Investment

Otterbein is using an innovative approach to grow enrollment and revenue by “crowd sourcing” ideas from faculty and staff and investing in the best ideas with $1 million approved by the Board of Trustees. Under the Fast Track Innovation Fund initiative, six programs proposed in May have been funded and are already being implemented on campus.

“This investment in Otterbein’s future demonstrates our trustees’ commitment to allowing every member of our community to be heard and to have a role in shaping our University,” said President John Comerford. “Our Board has given us the opportunity and our community has provided solid proposals, so we are able to be nimble in an industry that is typically slow to implement changes.”

The Fast Track Innovation Fund initiative calls for proposals of non-academic programs specifically focused on providing immediate return on investment. It is a condensed version of the Innovation Fund that has run during the academic year since 2021.

The funded proposals are:

Part-Time Equine Team recruiter

Grow the size of Otterbein’s National Champion team through new student recruitment.

STEM Community Liaison

Work with Ohio STEM high schools to increase enrollment in under-enrolled STEM programs.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing recruiter

Increase enrollment in Otterbein’s nursing program

Women’s Wrestling program

Recruit the growing number of high school female wrestlers regionally and nationally.

Recreational Sports/eSports Coach

Grow the intramural and club sports programming and establish e-sports on campus to increase enrollment and expand student life opportunities.

Podcast studio

Use by both on- and off-campus clients to allow non-degree-seeking adult learners to enroll in multimedia workshops for certification.

A helpful, smalllook at how to make a big difference at Otterbein.

Q&A with Kathleen Bonte Executive Director, Development, Institutional Advancement

Why are scholarships so important?
Institutional aid is the largest source of support for our students. Not only does a scholarship recognize a student’s achievement and potential, the added financial relief a scholarship can provide a family is often the deciding factor in choosing to attend Otterbein and the opportunity to go to college.

Can I really afford to fund a scholarship? I thought it was expensive?
There are many exciting ways to give and varied levels of support to fit your interest. Supporting scholarships at Otterbein has never been easier or more important. It is an investment in a student’s education.

For example, you can help support a student with a step up Otterbein Fund Scholarship and provide immediate relief to a student today while supporting them through their four years here. That kind of support requires a minimum commitment of $7,000 but that total can be spread over four years. (If you decide to distribute your giving evenly over four years, that works out to $145 a month).

Or you might choose to give to one of Otterbein’s existing scholarship funds that work to match student talent with the right Otterbein source of support. Other options include endowing a scholarship fund of your own, or setting up a planned gift.

What can I do if I want to learn more?
You can email or call me, and I’ll help you explore all the options available. Want to read more first? Let me know that, too, and I can give you the facts you need to help you decide. When you make a gift at Otterbein, you make a difference. That’s a fact. Reach me by email at or by phone at 614-823-2707.

You can make a difference!

Uniting for the Common Good

On Aug. 15, 2023, a little more than a year after first announcing their intentions, Otterbein President John Comerford, Ph.D., and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves, J.D., stood before an audience of faculty and administrators to reveal the formation of the Coalition for the Common Good, a first-of-its-kind national, private, non-profit system of higher education.

With affiliated universities convened around a shared mission rather than geography, the Coalition for the Common Good focuses on educating students not only to advance their careers, but also to promote our pluralistic democracy, and social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.

At a time when divisive politics drives our nation and higher education is under attack for its work in building diverse, equitable, inclusive communities, the Coalition is standing up for the common good — something its founding institutions have long histories of doing.

“The histories of our institutions are deeply rooted in providing equal access to all learners,” said Comerford, the newly appointed president of the Coalition for the Common Good. “Otterbein and Antioch were among the first colleges in pre-Civil War America to enroll Black students and women to learn side-by-side with White, male students and today Antioch and Otterbein continue that same focus of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Comerford has frequently expressed his disdain for some aspects of American higher education, especially the pursuit of prestige and rankings by a narrow subset of exclusive universities who have an outsized impact on the American public’s view of higher education. “Otterbein University provides opportunity to low-income, first-generation, and Otterbein President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves during the coalition signing. Otterbein University and Antioch University representatives. marginalized students — as we have done from our founding — unlike these universities that chase prestige by denying as many students as possible to create an air of exclusivity. Higher education should be a common good, not a private good.”

President John With Chancellor William

Otterbein President John Comerford and Antioch University Chancellor William Groves during the coalition signing.

Comerford’s remarks are echoed by Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities, who said, “The Coalition for the Common Good offers an exciting, innovative model of excellence for revolutionizing and reimagining higher education in ways that position all students for success in work, citizenship, and life in the 21st century.”

Pasquerella was so impressed with the Coalition for the Common Good that she accepted an offer to become the Coalition’s ninth, independent member of its Board of Directors.

Built on the faculty expertise of both institutions, the Coalition combines members’ graduate programs to form a graduate division with a national scope, operated by Antioch University.

“Our universities have moved from being competitors to collaborators for the betterment of our students and communities,” said Comerford.

“We will leverage what each institution does best by bringing Otterbein programs to Antioch’s markets and Antioch’s programs to Otterbein’s central Ohio market. We will also collaborate on building or acquiring new programs that will benefit our students,” added Groves, the newly named vice president of the Coalition for the Common Good.


The Coalition for the Common Good also provides some immediate benefits for Otterbein undergraduate students. Those students now have access to Graduate Early Admission Pathways in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Art Therapy, and Business Administration (MBA), which allow students to apply during their junior year at Otterbein and then take three graduate courses during their senior year that count toward both their undergraduate and graduate degrees, accelerating time to graduation and reducing cost for the graduate degree.

There are immediate benefits for alumni, too. Otterbein alumni are eligible for a 15% tuition discount when enrolling in Antioch University degree programs.

Commission (HLC) and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) came earlier this summer. The Coalition for the Common Good will expand to include other colleges and universities that share the universities’ long-standing commitments to preserving democracy; furthering social, racial, economic, and environmental justice; and providing access to those seeking to advance their lives and communities through education.

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

Jefferson Blackburn Smith

Jefferson Blackburn-Smith is the Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. 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.

Lauren Lichtenauer ’11 rolls out new bikes for kids with life-threatening illnesses

Christopher’s Promise celebrates 12 years of helping kiddos get on bikes and JUST BE KIDS.



Christopher’s Promise celebrates 12 years of helping kiddos get on bikes and JUST BE KIDS.

As an Otterbein junior Life Science and Education major, Lauren Lichtenauer ’11 felt she had her future mapped out: she was going to be a biology teacher. After careful introspection, however, Lichtenauer decided she wanted to change the lives of children, but not in the classroom.

More than a decade later, scores of kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families are glad she did. That’s because Lichtenauer founded the non-profit Christopher’s Promise, with a mission to “allow all kids, despite physical limitations, the ability to experience the same hallmark childhood memories as their peers. Helping kids, Be kids.”

Christopher’s Promise is now celebrating its 12th year of granting children such memories. The organization has facilitated the funding of and matched 157 kids with adaptive bikes in that time.

Malachi Parsons Anderson

Malachi Parsons-Anderson joyfully receives his adaptive bike on campus.

Malachi Parsons Anderson

Lauren Lichtenauer with her inspiration, Christopher Buzinski.

Always humble, Lichtenauer describes herself as “simply a matchmaker for Christopher’s Promise. I find a kid who needs a bike and then identify the best organization to fund it.”

Lichtenauer is a recipient of this year’s Otterbein alumni Rising Star Award, honoring those who have contributed excellence in their post-graduate careers. In addition to running Christopher’s Promise, she is vice president, clinical sales for Curonix. It’s all a great ride for Lichtenauer, who loves cycling.

Christopher’s Promise has its roots in the summer of Lichtenauer’s junior year at Otterbein, when she interned as a summer counselor at Camp Sunshine in Maine for nine weeks. Children facing a multitude of life-threatening illnesses and their families attend Camp Sunshine to connect with other families experiencing similar challenges.

“I heard about Camp Sunshine and resonated with its cause,” Lichtenauer said. “I was a one-on-one counselor with the children at the camp who faced cancer.”

One child she worked with was Christopher Buzinski, an 8-year-old with cerebral palsy, optic glioma, and neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors of the nerves.

“He was a super happy and cute kid. He melted my heart,” Lichtenauer said. “I had a feeling he was going to be my life-changer.”

At the end of the Buzinski family’s week at camp, Lichtenauer returned to Westerville and wrote her senior thesis: The Effects of Therapeutic Camps on Children Facing Life-Threatening Illnesses.

While attending Otterbein, Lichtenauer worked in bike shops and continued to do so throughout her senior year. However, she missed the work she did at Camp Sunshine. She decided to volunteer at Flying Horse Farms — a camp for children with serious illnesses located in central Ohio.

“One day I got a call from my friend while she was at Flying Horse Farms,” Lichtenauer said. “I picked up the phone and heard Christopher’s voice for the first time in several years.”

Lichtenauer’s friend recognized Buzinski from Lichtenauer’s stories and photos. A week after their phone call Lichtenauer and Christopher reconnected at the Buzinski home in Parma, Ohio.

“I still remember that day. Chris, his family and I spent the day at the park,” Lichtenauer said. “After the kids went to bed I caught up with his parents and asked them if there was anything I could do to help out their family.”

The family knew of Lichtenauer’s background in cycling and work in bicycle stores throughout college. The Buzinskis asked for one thing: a bicycle for Christopher. Cerebral palsy restricted him from pedaling on the typical two-wheeled bicycles sold in stores and his disability left him unable to join his siblings as they rode their own bicycles. But the cost was prohibitive.

After conducting research Lichtenauer found an organization, Athletes Helping Athletes (AHA), that would fund an adaptive bicycle for Christopher. The cost was more than $2,000 but Lichtenauer completed the application and was surprised that Christopher and his brother, who also has a neurofibromatosis, would receive new bikes.

With an established relationship with AHA, Lichtenauer realized she could help give other disabled children the quintessential childhood experience of riding a bicycle.

Although Lichtenauer had fine-tuned the process, she had no network to find children who needed bikes. Recalling her Otterbein connections, she asked Shelley Payne, her former Health and Sports Sciences (HSS) professor, to put her in contact with any physical-therapist colleagues who worked with disabled children. Payne referred her to physical therapist Catie Christensen.

Christopher’s Promise was established and began the ride it is still on today.

“It was in 2012 that Catie began referring kids to me,” Lichtenauer said. “We worked together to get the first 20 Christopher’s Promise kids their specialized bikes.”

One of the more recent gifts again reconnected Lichtenauer with her Otterbein past.

Lichtenauer joined another HSS former professor, Joe Wilkins, during a fall HSS professional development day. After speaking with Lichtenauer, Wilkins had the idea that the department would donate money to gift a bicycle instead of buying each other holiday gifts.

“It was a natural fit for our department since we deal with health disparities and access issues,” Payne said. “Our department embodies health in a productive way.”

The HSS bicycle recipient was a miracle boy from Mansfield, Malachi Parsons-Anderson. When he was born, he was given less than a year to live due to his spinal muscular atrophy, but he recently celebrated his eighth birthday.

His mother, Tina Parsons, heard of Christopher’s Promise through a friend whose daughter received a bicycle. Because of his disease, Parsons-Anderson is unable to stand and has little muscle tone, which meant he needed an atypical bicycle with a backed chair and three wheels.

“It makes my heart happy to see him be able to do something that he can participate in with other kids,” Parsons said.

The Parsons-Anderson family was able to visit Otterbein’s campus along with Christopher’s Promise volunteers to meet Wilkins and to celebrate Malachi’s new ride and taste of freedom.

“Bikes really enrich these kids’ lives,” Parsons said. “The bikes give them a sense of independence where they feel they have no limitations.”

In addition to managing Christopher’s Promise, Lichtenauer enjoys a successful career in medical device sales. She takes no money from her countless hours heading Christopher’s Promise. “I believe all the funding given to the organization should go to the bikes so we can get as many kids on bikes as possible.”

The Columbus Firefighters Association and other community groups are involved now too. Two Otterbein alumnae, Catherine Mueller Eisenbrown ’10 and Ashley Gregg Taylor ’10, have also funded bikes. There’s an infinite need.

“Even in 2023 there are access difficulties for kids with disparities,” Payne said. “The adaptive bikes give the kids something to do with their families after dinner. They can be life-changing.”

That’s something Lichtenauer hopes to roll with for years to come.

Watch a news story about Malachi receiving his bicycle >

Find out more at

New Faces in Athletics

New Faces in Athletics

There are plenty of new faces on campus this fall — including three notable individuals taking over primary roles in the Athletics Department.

Greg Lott, Ph.D.

New Director of Athletics

Lott was an All-American sprinter at the NCAA Division III level for Dickinson College before competing professionally on the European Circuit and with Team USA. He then obtained a plethora of coaching experience through stops at West Point, the National Training Center, Valparaiso University, Buffalo State, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The scholar-practitioner hopes to continue blending (and relaying) that knowledge along with many other administrative skill sets, including his most recent six-year stint as associate athletic director and a professor of health, exercise, and sport studies at nearby Denison University.

“The tradition in this department is special,” Lott said. “I noticed so much passion in our exceptional group of coaches and administrators — pride for where they have been and excitement about where we can go. I’m humbled to join the team as we strive to enhance the culture, student-athlete experience, and competitive results.”

Tommy Zagorski

Football Head Coach

Coach Zagorski began generating buzz simply with the announcement of his hire back in January. The wellrespected coach launched his career with a stellar rise at fellow Ohio Athletic Conference school John Carroll, helping elevate the Blue Streaks to national prominence as a coordinator.

A former standout offensive lineman at Case Western Reserve, he then dabbled in the Division I ranks before returning to Ohio and starting a family. His journey has now led him back into the Division III landscape with his first college head coaching job, tasked with rebuilding the Cardinals.

“I’ve seen a gritty group of guys. many that have been counted out before,” Zagorski said. “But we are just focused on who we are — between the lines, in the classroom, in meetings, and across campus. Challenges always emerge, but this is a growth-oriented team that is going to make the University proud.”

Matt Sutton

Cross Country Coach

Matt Sutton also arrived over winter and began learning the ropes as a first-time head coach. He previously spent three years as a cross country distance specialist at Adrian College, growing the roster from 12 to 32. Under his guidance, the Bulldogs recorded their highest finish at the MIAA Championships in over a decade. A graduate of Georgia College, Sutton was a four-year runner and two-time member of the Peach Belt Conference All-Sportsmanship Team.

“The goals have been to make an immediate impact on recruiting and just add natural energy,” Sutton said. “We want to keep providing an environment where student-athletes grow and ultimately thrive.”

When you are on campus this school year, stop by to say hello or drop a note to these new faces as they begin putting their stamp on Otterbein Athletics.

Otterbein’s Top Fundraising Priorities

Each year, University leaders identify the key programs and initiatives for which we seek philanthropic support from our Cardinal community. This year, these include:

Otterbein Fund
Benefits all areas of campus via unrestricted funds that can be used for our greatest needs. Giving options include annual donations, as well as our Otterbein Fund Scholarship, which allows you to spread an impactful pledge over four years that directly benefits a student each year.

Learn more at

Campus Center Renovation – Phase Two
With phase one complete, we are ready to continue the transformation of this beloved space for our students and community. Plans for phase two include renovation of the dining hall (Nest) and kitchen from a 1960s style “hot line” into a modern food court, allowing for greater customization including special dietary needs. The decorative stairs on the north side of the building will be removed, allowing seating up to the windows and the first floor to become more flexible. A new stairwell will be added to the northwest corner, offering a glass-enclosed modern look to the building.

Endowed Scholarships
Endowed and annual scholarships help to make an Otterbein education affordable. Named endowed funds begin at $25,000 and provide impact in perpetuity and can be pledged over five years. Annual support for scholarships help today’s students and provide immediate assistance.

Learn more at

Innovation Fund
This fund is a catalyst for developing new and dynamic academic and extra-curricular programs. Supporting the Innovation Fund helps Otterbein drive our strategic priorities and mission, vision, and values while giving the University the flexibility to explore new and exciting paths.

Otterbein READY
Support for this innovative new Otterbein program helps fund career and professional preparation programs that guide our students through a four-year plan with advisors and mentors along the way. All students will graduate with at least one immersive, experiential learning experience.

Learn more at

Interested in supporting our top fundraising priorities? You can support online now at or contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 614-823-1400.

Grants, Corporate, and Foundation Support

Grants help to provide essential funding for new programs, research, and other areas that directly impact our students at Otterbein. Our faculty and staff have recently been awarded grants from several organizations, including those listed below.

Henry Luce Foundation

National Endowment for the Humanities

PROGRAM: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections

AMOUNT: $50,000 (Planning Grant)

The University Archives has been awarded a NEH grant to facilitate the development of a compact shelving installation plan. Schorr Architects and preservation consultants LYRASIS will be instrumental in preparing the detailed plan needed to install compact shelving, which would drastically increase the amount of usable storage space and increase the preservation of collections.

Choose Ohio First

Ohio Arts Council

PROGRAM: Sustainability

AMOUNT: $35,104 (Year One)

The Department of Music has been awarded a four-year OAC Sustainability grant. Funds will support public programming, including a visiting artist, public performances, and external community engagement events.

Opening the doors to Ukraine

Opening the doors to

Growing Culture & Community
At The Garden

The Ukrainian Cultural Association of Ohio (UCAO) is cultivating tradition and culture at the Otterbein Community Garden. “The garden has become a space where different generations and backgrounds converge, where our shared Ukrainian heritage becomes a bridge that connects us. Together, we remember and honor our cultural roots, sharing traditions and recipes that have been passed down through the years,” said UCAO garden leader Michael Litvinovich. “Our plot and gardeners inspire reflection and conversation on the current war in Ukraine,” said Associate Professor Megan Chawansky, a UCAO member.

Otterbein & The Arts: Opening Doors to the World invites you to explore Ukraine next spring, as The Frank Museum of Art and Fisher Gallery in Roush Hall feature work by Ukrainian artists Zaryana Bezu and Oleksii Koval, respectively. Both shows explore possibilities of diverse and expansive worlds grounded in and inspired by nature, as well as beauty and balance. The shows will run from Jan. 10-April 19, 2024.

Zaryana Bezu, a fiber and sculpture artist who was born in Kyiv, was 17 years old when the Soviet Union broke apart, and her country was thrown into economic and social chaos. Amid the hardship, Bezu turned for solace to the ancient Ukrainian folktales she found deeply embedded in the country’s history — stories, images, and realities that lived just beneath the surface of communist and orthodox narratives. Her environmental installation in The Frank Museum will introduce visitors to some of the realms and beings she has encountered over three decades.

Also born in Kyiv, Oleksii Koval has worked with hot enamel according to the tradition of Leonardo da Vinci for more than 16 years. Also a mixed-media printmaker, Koval’s art amplifies natural and human-made beauty and harmony, as well as the joy of communication through exploration. The exhibition in the Fisher Gallery will invite viewers into a joyful experience of diversity and call for the care of all living things around us. Koval has had more than 50 solo exhibitions in leading art museums in Ukraine and galleries in Europe and the United States

Koval’s Art

Learn more about Otterbein’s art exhibits at

Meet Otterbein’s Newest Cardinals!

Meet Otterbein’s Newest Cardinals!

Here’s a look at the

Class of 2027

Otterbein welcomed
519 first-year students
from 18 states
to campus this fall!

Incoming Class Overview

Men 37% Women 63%

36% Students of Color

48% Already have college credit

38% Pell-eligible students

Significant Retention Gains

82.4% Entering Fall Students +3.9%
82.8% Men +8.5%
80.8% Students of Color +11%
78.7% Pell-Eligible Students +7.1%
86.7% Columbus City Schools +24.2%
78.8% First-Generation Students +2.5%

Academic majors: 24% STEM • 13% Health and Sport Sciences • 12% Business, Accounting, and Economics • 12% Nursing

Otterbein Homecoming and Family Weekend 2023

This year’s Homecoming and Family Weekend, held Sept. 15-16, was a wonderful weekend of festivities for our alumni, students, and their families. The 50th Golden Reunion class of 1973 came to campus to reconnect and walk down memory lane. The annual Alumni Awards and State of the University Address were held in Riley Auditorium as part of the Celebration of Otterbein. Eta Phi Mu (Jonda) fraternity celebrated its 100th anniversary and Lambda Gamma Epsilon (Kings) fraternity celebrated 75 years. Kerr Hall was officially dedicated in honor of late President Emeritus Thomas Kerr and his wife, Donna. During OtterFest on Friday and Saturday, we welcomed local band The Moonbats, alumna performer Allison Asarch ’18, and emcee Johnny Steiner ’96 to help keep the festive vibes flowing all weekend.

2023 Homecoming Livestreams

Homecoming Recap
Celebration of Otterbein

2023 Homecoming Photos

Photo Credit: Chaz O’Neil ’06

Eta Phi Mu (Jonda) Fraternity Celebrate their 100th Anniversary

Lambda Gamma Epsilon “Kings” Celebrate their 75th Anniversary

Otterbein Football

OtterFest Fun

Students Gather Together

Class of 1973 Golden Reunion Class Photo

Class of 1963 60th Reunion Class Photo

Family Weekend Photo Op

FreeZone and Cardinal Pride

Homecoming Parade

Three Generations of Cardinals in the Freshour and Halterman Family

The Black Student Union welcomes Distinguished Alumni Award honoree Eunice Fanning Foster ’70 to its annual Homecoming cookout

View more photos and videos visit

Sharing Culture, Finding Community At Otterbein

Sharing Culture, Finding Community At Otterbein

This year’s Common Book is the story of a Somali immigrant and his experience of becoming and being an American. In Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin, the author chronicles his love for all things American, his life in Somalia laid waste by war, the perils of leaving Africa and his immigration to the United States.

Otterbein has a thriving and growing immigrant population on campus taking leadership positions within the student community. Here, in their own words, are their experiences.

Hanan Hussein

Junior, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Public Health majors (Pre-Med), Psychology minor

Hanan Hussein, second from right, with friends.

Why did you choose to come to Otterbein and major in your chosen field?
I am pre-med track and that is why I major in BMB. Otterbein was a perfect choice because of the small, focused education environment compared to public school setting.

What do you like best about Otterbein?
The class sizes are small which means focused education. The campus feels like a family because everyone knows everyone.

What leadership positions do you hold on campus? Why did you seek leadership positions?
I am the president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA). When I came to Otterbein, MSA, was not an active organization because there were not many Muslim students on campus. It was hard for the people that were on campus to find each other and connect to renew MSA.

I took it upon myself that I would work hard to find a way and work with other Muslim students to work and make MSA an organization. I managed to get a proposal and pitched what MSA was for and about and after years, MSA was once again an active organization.
I loved the sense of bringing the Muslim community back together and giving them as well as myself a sense of belonging on Otterbein’s campus because I am also a Muslim student that needed that faith-centered organization. So while I did it for everyone I also did it for me. And that is what we stand for, speaking for the minority and those that don’t speak up, because not everyone knows how to speak to or when to speak up.

What is your favorite place on campus?
My favorite space on campus is without a doubt the Masjid (a Muslim place of worship), despite that physical location and the space. We are currently working on getting a new space in the Science Center so that is exciting. But regardless where the Masjid is located it will always be my favorite place on campus.

Describe briefly your Otterbein experience so far.
For the past two years, Otterbein has been the best experience that I have had. Dr. Masterson’s FYS class was the best. And many other professors make my education experience rich. I am also so excited to be working with Dr. Bennett and in her research lab and grateful for the opportunity.

Where are you and your family originally from? What nationality are you?
I lived in the US for about six years. I lived my whole life in Saudi Arabia, so did my mother and coming here was merely for educational purposes. Both my parents are Somali but raised in Saudi as well.

Did you experience hardship(s) growing up and in coming to the U.S.? If so can describe your journey and some of the hardships?
I had a wonderful life growing up in Saudi Arabia. The hardship was when my mother left to the US so she can file for me and my siblings to also travel to the US. The process alone took three years and I was only ten. Nonetheless I had to look after my siblings and support them as the process was taking a while.
Traveling here was also a hurdle. My mother had to meet us in the airport so we took a plane with my siblings (the youngest was 4 at the time). My sister was sick my brothers were also tired and the flight was 18 hours. I was the soldier looking after them. We traveled with a relative but I never depended on anyone else to look after my siblings. Settling in the US was not a hardship, it is easy to be foreign in another country when you have always been a foreigner. But jokes aside, I always felt I shared so much with everyone I met no matter the background or religion.

What do you like best about being in the United States?
I love the people that became part of my life: my friends, campus community, the opportunity to help others in every way I can. Whether I am an EMT and dealing with patients, or MSA president and helping new students to feel they belong in a private university, or just being a student and helping my friends.

What do you miss most about your original homeland?
I miss publicly hearing the adhan (the call to worship that is recited by muezzin prescribed times of the day). I also miss speaking Arabic all the time.

Kunkaron Adawe

Senior, Public Health Education and Global Studies majors, Psychology minor

Kunkaron Adawe

Why did you choose to come to Otterbein?
I chose to come to Otterbein University because along with all the amazing opportunities, it has the best Public Health Education major with an amazing advisor (Dr. Braun).

Can you tell us your nationality, a little about your birthplace and journey to the United States?
I am Somali American. I was born in capital of Somalia (Mogadishu).

My journey to the United States was a significant turning point in my life. Arriving at the age of 12, I faced numerous challenges as I adapted to a new culture and language. Learning English was particularly tough, and I struggled to fit in at first. However, compared to my father, who had experienced even greater hardships, I recognized that I was relatively fortunate.

Can you tell us about your father’s hardships?
My father, a true survivor, had experienced the hardships of war-torn Somalia as a child. His stories of resilience and sacrifice served as a constant reminder of how far we had come. It was his unwavering support and hard work that paved the way for our family’s journey to the U.S.. I highly recognize and respect him for it.

Despite having vivid memories of Somalia due to leaving as a baby (4 yrs old), I still held onto the dream of a peaceful homeland. The ongoing prayers for Somalia’s recovery were not just from myself but also for my father, who had seen the worst of it.

Although my memories of Somalia are limited, what I miss most about my original homeland is the idea of a peaceful and stable Somalia. My father’s stories of a harmonious past, before the turmoil, painted a picture of a place with a rich cultural heritage and close-knit communities.

I hold onto the hope that, one day, Somalia will see peace and prosperity return. It’s a hope not just for myself but for all those who have endured this hardship. Many immigrants, like us, carry a heavy burden of trauma from their past experiences, and the dream of a peaceful homeland is a common thread that unites us in our new lives in the United States.

What do you appreciate about living in the United States?
What I appreciate most about being in the United States is the abundance of opportunities it offers. Despite the initial challenges, this country provided me with access to education and a chance to build a better future. It’s a place where hard work and dedication can lead to success, and I’ve seen my father embody that spirit.

I also value the diversity and freedom in the U.S. I’ve had the privilege to learn from people of various backgrounds, and this exposure has broadened my horizons. While there are undoubtedly challenges here, the sense of possibility and the chance to create a brighter future are what I cherish the most.

What do you appreciate most about Otterbein?
There are many aspects of Otterbein that I deeply appreciate, and some of these stand out, such as its vibrant and diverse community. This diversity not only enriches the overall experience but also opens up new horizons, including the exciting prospect of studying abroad: in which I had the opportunity to participate in. Additionally, Otterbein offers an extensive range of majors and minors, which allows students to explore their interests thoroughly. What I find particularly admirable is how Otterbein actively supports students in discovering their true passions.

Have you held any leadership positions here?
During my time on campus, I had the privilege of holding several significant leadership positions. These roles not only enriched my college experience but also allowed me to contribute to the community. Two years ago, a group of dedicated Muslim students and I sought to revive the Muslim Student Association. I served as the President of the Muslim Student Association. We took on the responsibility of providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for Muslim students on campus. We organized various cultural and educational events, which not only helped in promoting understanding and tolerance but also created a strong sense of unity among our members. I am also the current Vice President of Etta Sigma Gamma; which is a Public Health Honorary organization.

Ikra Koriyow

Junior, Political Science and Communication majors, Legal Studies minor

Ikra Koriyow, left, with friends.

Why did you choose to attend Otterbein?
I visited Otterbein twice during high school, but did not really consider going there for college until my senior year. Otterbein is close to home which I have always loved as well as the scholarships offered to me has helped my family and I from financial burdens.

I also chose Otterbein because I always saw myself going to a small campus and Otterbein is just its own little community.

What do you like best about Otterbein?
What I like the best about Otterbein is the courses I have taken. I believe they have molded me into being a well rounded person and student. As well as the connections I have made here, I have made lifelong friendships and relationships here at Otterbein.

What leadership opportunities do you avail yourself of?
I am the Vice President of The Black Student Union.

Can you tell us about your background and nationality?
My mother grew up in a small village in Jijiga, Ethiopia. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. My family’s Nationality is Somali, going down generations. I will say I had a culturally diverse upbringing, adhering to my family’s customs while still being able to learn and grow through experiences beyond Somali culture.

Letter from President Comerford, Fall 2023

​Dear Alumni and Friends,
Not a day goes by at Otterbein that I’m not reminded we are all learning together. The public may think that college is a one way street for learning. Faculty and staff, loaded with graduate credentials, teach the undergraduates like a “sage on a stage.”

Of course, you know that is not how Otterbein works. In small classes, on athletic teams, and through fraternities and sororities, we are all learning from one another. Yes, our faculty, and staff, and alumni have great expertise to share. But our students have wisdom and life experiences too.

This was illustrated for me recently. Our office has an intern, Olivia, who majors in Public Relations. Among other things, she is assigned to help me manage social media. Communicating and being accessible, especially to students, requires being on the platforms they use.

Olivia advised I needed to get on Instagram. Apparently, students rarely use Twitter (or X or whatever it’s called) anymore. I agreed and we set a time to create the account. The meeting appeared on my calendar as “Olivia teaches John Instagram.”

Luckily, she was a patient teacher. I repeatedly got confused about why stories are temporary, while posts are permanent unless, that is, you create files for your stories. And while people will follow me, unlike Facebook or Twitter, I should not follow them. New platform, new rules, apparently.

At one point in my lesson, Olivia mentioned something about boomerangs and reels (this is all real, by the way). I asked about why you would use a reel instead of a story. Olivia cocked her head to the side and said kindly, “Why don’t we save that question for next time.” I was in Instagram 101 and that was an Instagram 102 question apparently!

The point of this is not to demonstrate my Instagram naivete. That should be evident to anyone who understands the words above.

I learned a lot from Olivia — not just about social media, but how to teach, be patient, and be kind. And hopefully she will learn something from me during her internship.

This is just like anytime I attend a class, a meeting of the Black Student Union, or a volleyball game. There is always something to learn, something to impress me, something to remind me what a remarkable group of people Otterbein manages to attract for our community. You’ll enjoy a few stories that demonstrate this quality throughout this Towers. Whether it’s an alumna who, in her personal time, matches custom fitted bicycles to kids with special needs or a group of students creating new ways to instill sensitivity and awareness on important topics.

These are hallmarks of those who call themselves a part of Otterbein. And I am grateful to be a learner here.


John L. Comerford, Ph.D.

P.S. Follow me on Instagram @otterbeinpres. It’s not that bad, I promise!

Olivia teaches John Instagram
Thank-you donuts
Selfie with the Class of 2027