STEM Students Set Up for Success

An Otterbein faculty member once described the energy and educational experience in the University’s STEM programs as a “sleeping giant ready to be awakened.” Today, that giant is not only awake, but also catching the attention of state and federal agencies.


Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment Video

In the past year, Otterbein has received major grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, NSF S-STEM Program, Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program, and Howard Hughes Medical Institution. These grants mean far more than just dollars, and recognize Otterbein’s academically strong STEM programs, as well as the University’s purposeful work to diversify STEM fields.

From preparing education majors to teach STEM subjects in under-served schools to creating more opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to major in STEM areas of study, Otterbein is strengthening STEM professions as a whole with the support of these grants.

“Otterbein STEM includes a dynamic, dedicated community of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians that provide a rigorous, hands-on curriculum for students interested in a wide variety of fields,” said Sarah Bouchard, professor of biology and earth science.

Otterbein has a long history of experiential learning. Educational techniques incorporating hands-on learning and real-world applications can be found in most disciplines across campus. STEM education at Otterbein is taking experiential learning to a whole new level and STEM professors are leading the charge.

“You’ll typically find our STEM students conducting research in the lab or field, presenting at scientific conferences, interning with one of our many university partners, or shadowing medical professionals in local hospitals and clinics,” said Bouchard. “These opportunities, coupled with our challenging coursework, mean that students graduate with the skills and experience needed for whatever comes next.”

STEM education at Otterbein connects teamwork, analytical thinking, and 21st century jobs, equipping Otterbein graduates with valuable skills to become future leaders and innovators. The grants open these opportunities to students who may not otherwise pursue these careers.

“Otterbein should be on the radar as a STEM school,” said Mike Hudoba, assistant professor of engineering. Hudoba is the team lead on the Choose Ohio First grant.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Brigitte Ramos agrees. She is the team lead for one of the two NSF grants, which supports recruitment and retention of students from under-represented populations in STEM fields through Otterbein’s Cardinal Science Scholars (CSS) program.

“The program is much more than the scholarship money,” she said of the CSS. “We offer programmatic support.”

The programmatic support Ramos cites provides opportunities outside of the classroom that will prepare students to enter the workforce. The program includes a seminar course where students will gain interview, communication, and relationship building skills, as well as professional development.

Equipping Otterbein

graduates with

valuable skills



future leaders



“The seminar is one tool,” Ramos said, “but we will also be setting up what we call a mentorship triad, where our students will be linked with an upper-level student in their program as well as a professional.”

Students will also be placed in an internship or a research experience after completing their first year in order to get a leg up in their field of study.

Some goals of the Otterbein STEM programs include building a community of STEM students, creating diversity in the STEM fields, and building connections with alumni, faculty, and industry professionals.

Kayne Kirby ’02 graduated with a mathematics degree and now works as Grange Insurance’s director of personal lines pricing.

“Reflecting back on the importance of my Otterbein experience, I had some influential people who were able to help shape me,” Kirby said. “They put me in touch with alumni that could help me make that transition from Otterbein into my career.”

Hugh Allen ’62, pediatric cardiology professor at Baylor Texas Children’s Hospital, sees a powerful combination in Otterbein’s liberal arts tradition and STEM education.

“Otterbein allowed me to become a well-rounded individual and educator,” Allen said. “A liberal arts education while studying science is better than just a science education.”

Engineering graduate Abby Zerkle ’21, said “I think the Engineering Department is really something special. Yes, I gained important knowledge in the classroom, but I also learned how to become a confident, thoughtful, and ethical engineer. If it weren’t for Otterbein and the experiences I had there I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I am thankful for my time at Otterbein.”

For more information about Otterbein’s STEM offerings visit Choose Ohio First STEM Scholarship.

Follow @OtterbeinSTEM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see all the latest updates and awesome work from our students and faculty!

Grace Weidenhamer ’23 is a health communication and public relations major from Westerville, Ohio. She plays on the Otterbein women’s soccer team and is on the executive board of Otterbein’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Stay With Us: On Inclusion

“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is how long it takes to learn to love yourself … ”
— Dorothy Allison

Did you know Otterbein publishes a bi-annual Equity and Inclusion Matters campus newsletter? Read all back issues in the Digital Commons @ Otterbein →

Early this summer, I was at a stoplight, distracted with thoughts about work and the grocery list. I missed the light change. The driver behind me laid on the horn. I hit the gas and waved, “I’m sorry.” But my delay ignited fury. The car stayed dangerously close to my rear bumper. The horn blared. I could see the driver shouting at me through the windshield. Another red light. The car pulled up next to me. The driver rolled down the window and raged. I gripped the steering wheel and waited it out. When the car finally sped away, confusion and fear twisted my stomach. We can be so wounded by a stranger’s cruelties.

It’s worse, of course, when it’s someone we know. Someone we love. It’s worse when it’s a friend, a co-worker, a teacher, a teammate. It’s worse when the people we call home deny our humanity. We can be so wounded by rejection, disrespect, and discrimination.

After I came out, my sister didn’t speak to me for almost a year. My parents tried to be accepting and supportive, but I felt the discomfort and judgements they circled. And I needed to say I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, to explain that I was afraid of unbearable losses and stayed quiet.

But we got through it. With love, patience, and empathy. We are closer now, our connections more honest and authentic. We didn’t let go. We stayed. Even when it got hard.

You are safe here, you belong here. This community wants you to find understanding, acceptance, your people, and your self here. You are home.

Inclusion is important because in its absence there is exclusion. Disconnection. Unbelonging. Inclusion is important because in its absence there is pain. But we heal in and through relationships. I remember the first time I felt completely safe with another human being. I remember the first time I felt completely known and completely loved. I remember finding place and purpose at Otterbein. From that openness, I learned to love myself.

Inclusion creates relationships of healing. I try to teach – and live – from that truth. Otterbein’s commitment to inclusion is a promise we make to each other. With it, we say, “You are safe here, you belong here. This community wants you to find understanding, acceptance, your people, and your self here. You are home.”

Professor Ashworth was recently named the 2021 Ohio LGBTQ+ Leadership Award recipient from the Ohio Diversity Council. Read more about her award in our website profile story →

Still, how do we do that? How do we do inclusion? How do we make an inclusive world?

There are lots of different answers to those questions. Many focus on simple acts of caring: a sincere “how are you,” asking for someone’s perspective on an issue, reinforcing shared experiences.

For me, the “how” is also more fundamental than that. It goes deeper than that. It works through two interdependent capacities. An ability to stay and to stay with. “With” as in together, attentive to, and in respect to. Stay with a person, stay with a newness, stay with a difference. When we stay, we hold space for each other. We commit to being in a relationship across misapprehensions and difficulty. We know that there is always more to discover, more to learn. We trust that more understanding will come in time.

And true understanding happens only through grace, humility, and compassion.

Suzanne Ashworth, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of English and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She recently was awarded the 2021 Ohio LGBTQ+ Leadership Award by the Ohio Diversity Council.

Come From Away Comes Back to Broadway



Randy Adams ’76

Randy Adams ’76 is an accomplished Broadway producer with two Tony Award-winning productions under his belt, including Come From Away, an acclaimed musical that tells a story of hope during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

Broadway closed its 41 playhouses in March 2020 amid the global pandemic and reopened on Sept. 21, 2021, when Come From Away returned to the stage 20 years to the month after the events that inspired it. Come From Away is now playing in Columbus through Feb. 13, at the Ohio Theatre. Tickets are available on

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, members of the cast performed a free concert staging of the musical at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a filmed version of the staged production that was released on Apple TV+, both on Sept. 10.

Towers spoke with Adams, who says he believes New York will come back better than ever and he hopes Broadway and the arts will be the crown jewel of the city.

Where were you when it was announced that Broadway was closing due to the pandemic?

I was in the air coming back to New York City from London when I received word that Broadway would be shut down for a minimum of four weeks. We had just replaced part of the cast for the second year of the London production and celebrated their opening night performance the prior evening. Within five days, all productions of Come From Away were shuttered around the world. Melbourne, Australia, was the first to return on Jan. 19, 2021.

Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

How has the closure of Broadway during the pandemic impacted the theater industry?

In the blink of an eye, everyone was unemployed. All the people associated with a Broadway show — actors, musicians, crew, stage managers, ushers, maintenance people, theater cleaners, box office personnel, marketing teams, general management and company management teams, dry cleaners, playbill printers, and on and on — went from working non-stop hours to nothing. All touring across America stopped. The number of people who lost jobs overnight was staggering. Broadway is a driver of tourism as well, so hotels, restaurants, and stores were also devastated. It will take time to recover all of it, but hopefully we will.

Do you think Come From Away takes on new relevance today?

I am fortunate that Come From Away is about kindness and goodness and taking care of people when they needed it most. It is an uplifting and energizing story at any time.

I find now that it is even more relevant because of what we have all collectively experienced this past year, during which people did extraordinary things. The people of Newfoundland still don’t think they did anything special. They think, “We just took care of people when they needed help — isn’t that what we are all supposed to do?” Indeed, it is what we all hope we would do in the same situation, and I think many people experienced it this past year in many ways — big and small!

Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

How does the reopening of Broadway provide hope?

Theater people are the most resilient people in the world. The energy that will be in those theaters when they have their first performances will be the most amazing thing people have ever seen. The world is hungry for live performance and connection with people again. I think the reopening of Broadway safely is a giant boon to all arts and the city of New York. I most look forward to what new art, new shows were created during this pandemic or post-pandemic.

Hopefully, Broadway and the tours will come back stronger than ever. Hopefully, all people will return safely with new protocols to make sure people on stage, backstage, and front of house can do their jobs and be safe and healthy.

What message does Come From Away impart to its audience?

Come From Away is based on the true story of when the airspace over the United States was closed due to 9/11 and 37 planes holding around 7,000 people landed in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, a town of about 8,000 people. They welcomed the passengers and took care of them for five days. During this challenging time, people found love, laughter, and new hope in the unlikely and lasting bonds they forged. Kindness and generosity of spirit are great gifts at any time but during times of need are the most important gifts.

Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

Visit Alumni Travel for more details and to make your reservation.

Travel to
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Are you ready to experience live theatre again? Do you support regional theatre? Would you like to experience Broadway through the eyes of an Otterbein alumnus? Join us on April 21-26, 2022, for a very special event.

Meet Come From Away producer Randy Adams ’76 in New York City and explore behind-the-scenes of the Music Theatre of Connecticut with co-founder Jim Schilling ’79.

Space is limited for this theatrical tour.

Homecoming & Family Weekend 2021

It was a beautiful weekend that gave alumni and families the chance to celebrate the friendship, memories, and pride that come with being a part of the Otterbein community. Weekend highlights included the Class of ’70 Golden Reunion, Class of ’56 Reunion, Celebration of Otterbein, President Comerford’s State of the University, Homecoming Parade, Cardy Zone, Otterfest and so much more!

Our Alumni Award winners impressed and inspired us with their achievements and loyalty to Otterbein. You can enjoy their acceptance speeches and look for more Cardinal Homecoming moments below.

2021 Homecoming Livestreams

Celebration of Otterbein
Football vs. John Carroll

2021 Homecoming Photo Galleries


See More Otterbein Galleries →


Thresher Leaves Legacy of Leadership

After serving 21 years as a member of the Otterbein University Board of Trustees, with eight of those as chair, Mark Thresher ’78 has retired. He leaves behind a legacy of impact for generations of students and employees to come.

“My wife, Debbie ’77, and I always had a focus on education. Being on the board of Otterbein provided us the opportunity to extend our interest to a different group of kids,” said Thresher. “Since myself, my wife, our daughter, and son-in-law are all alumni, it was the right place for us to give back.”

Thresher joined the board as a respected leader in the central Ohio business community. His connections and experience helped facilitate the development of The Point, which has transformed the University’s ability to recruit and retain students. This, in turn, helped give space and inspiration to a new Department of Engineering and provide robust on-campus experiential learning opportunities. These new additions to campus are some of his proudest accomplishments.

“Mark was always a champion for new ideas and possibilities,” said President Emerita Kathy Krendl. “He was consistently supportive of the work and innovations Otterbein wanted to accomplish. His expertise was a major factor in securing the future of the institution.”

In addition to The Point, Thresher was also on the steering committee for the Clements Recreation and Fitness Center and supported building and renovation projects for the Art and Communication Building, Shear-McFadden Science Center, Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science, Memorial Stadium, new track and turf, and two residence halls.

Thresher has been a key part in aligning Otterbein’s academic offerings with evolving market demands through the introduction of new programs. During his tenure, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Zoo and Conservation Science, and Engineering programs were all established, giving Otterbein students new avenues towards a successful post-graduation life and career.

See More Photos of Mark Thresher →

“Mark’s best talent is that it isn’t about him,” said President Emeritus Brent DeVore. “He is first and foremost on the side helping our campus community achieve the ultimate goal of student success. He puts his ego in his pocket and provides much needed guidance.”

Current Otterbein President John Comerford has felt fortunate to have Thresher as board chair. “Mark has a remarkable legacy at Otterbein. His time on the Board has been hugely impactful. Everyone has benefited from Mark’s passion for Otterbein and unique ability to lead boldly and collaboratively,” he said.

“My hope is that every graduate leaves Otterbein on the path to make a difference in the world,” Thresher said.

Thresher has no doubt that his successor to board chair, Cheryl Herbert, will continue to grow Otterbein along with the success of Cardinals of the future.

Otterbein University would like to welcome the newest members to the Board:

Rev. April Casperson ’03, director, diversity and inclusion, Connectional Ministries, United Methodist Church West Ohio Conference
Dr. Talisa Dixon, superintendent of Columbus City Schools
Greg Jordan, senior vice president and chief audit executive, Nationwide
Kathryn Stephens ’97, executive vice president, marketing and development, at The Buckeye Ranch (Alumni Council trustee)
Hannah Sturgeon ’23, student trustee
John Tansey, Ph.D., professor, Department of Chemistry (faculty trustee)

Otterbein would like to thank the following Board of Trustees members for their service. We are grateful for the leadership and commitment they shared with the University.

Rev. Larry Brown ’80
Jocelyn Curry ’78
Joan Esson, Ph.D.
Meredith Marshall ’21

Herbert Steps Up as First Female Chair

Succeeding Thresher as chair of the Otterbein Board of Trustees is Cheryl L. Herbert, the first female to hold that role at the University. Herbert served as the vice chair under Thresher.

“I’m honored to be the next chair of the Board of Trustees,” Herbert said. “Chair Thresher has left a big legacy to live up to, but I’m ready to take on that challenge and help position Otterbein for continued and future success.”

Comerford said Herbert is poised for success in her new position. “Cheryl has shown true engagement as a board member, committee chair, and vice chair. She has been, and will continue to be, an excellent leader for Otterbein,” he said.

Herbert has over 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. She is a nurse whose career began at St. Ann’s Hospital before it moved to Westerville. She has held executive administrative positions at multiple hospitals and now serves as a senior vice president at OhioHealth.

Herbert earned her bachelor’s degree from Capital University and master’s degree in business administration from Ashland University. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, has served on numerous community Boards, and works as a volunteer in her community.

“I’m excited to see the directions Cheryl will take the University,” said Thresher.

The Class that Wasn’t Forgotten and the Class that Persisted

Celebrating 2020 and 2021 Graduates in One Weekend

Otterbein held five Commencement ceremonies to honor both the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on May 1 and 2. The weekend was a delayed celebration for the Class of 2020, 96.1% of whom were employed, enrolled in graduate school, or serving in the military within six months of graduation. For the Class of 2021, it marked the end of a difficult year full of obstacles they successfully overcame.

The decision to hold a ceremony for the Class of 2020 was an easy one. “The Class of 2020 was surveyed regarding an in-person or virtual commencement. Overwhelmingly, the class supported an in-person experience. Students wanted this special opportunity for family to see them walk across the stage and be recognized for their individual accomplishments,” said Steve Crawford, executive director of alumni and family engagement.

By Madelyn Nelson ’23
More than 750 graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 crossed the stage in Memorial Stadium on May 1 and 2. President John Comerford (pictured) presided over the five ceremonies.

The celebration kicked off with annual events leading up to the weekend, including Lavender Graduation to honor LGBTQIA+ students and allies, Noble Transitions to celebrate multicultural students, and the Baccalaureate Ceremony, an opportunity for spiritual reflection before commencement. All of these ceremonies are available online at Otterbein Commencement Recap.

The graduate and undergraduate students of the Class of 2020 and the graduate students of the Class of 2021 were celebrated at two ceremonies on May 1. The undergraduates of the Class of 2021 were honored at three ceremonies on May 2.

With Memorial Stadium open at 30% capacity, each graduate received four tickets for immediate family to watch the ceremony in person, seated in pods with social distancing and facial coverings. All friends and family were invited to watch the special day via a livestream.

The weekend closed a chapter for the Class of 2020 and gave them the proper, formal Otterbein farewell that they deserve — a day that was a whole year in the making finally came to life.

After a year of challenges, the Class of 2021 celebrated the culmination of their time at Otterbein. They persisted through guidelines, adjusted to online formats, and took the monumental steps across the graduation stage. Now, diploma in hand, they are ready to take on the world.

The 2021 Undergrad Student Speakers

“The pandemic does not define our college experience; we have spent the last four years joining and leading sports teams, clubs, and other organizations while using our various skills to make a difference. We helped pave the way for future student leaders while also being molded into the ones we are today; we asked questions and we demanded change.”

Angel Banks

Psychology and criminology and justice studies major Angel Banks has been a student leader and strong advocate for issues of social justice and racial equality, serving as vice president of Student Government and president of the African American Student Union. Her ideal work is “building equitable and sustainable environments where people of minoritized backgrounds feel safe and are set up to succeed in life.

“Otterbein has given me such a strong foundation in every aspect of my life that I know I will only continue to grow and be a lifelong learner. It has given me a clear path to my dream career; has made me critically think not only in my classes but in my everyday life; has given me a support system that I will take with me after college; and has given me an opportunity to meet people who are different than myself and challenge my current beliefs.”

Gabby McGeorge

Biochemistry and molecular biology (pre-med) major Gabby McGeorge will be attending medical school to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon. On campus, she was president of the CardinalCorps Leaders, a group of students who excel academically and in service to others.

“I am not here to tell you that with hard work and dedication you can accomplish even the most unimaginable dream you may have. I am here to prove it to you. We have grown a lot and we will continue to grow. We will continue to take opportunities, but now we will also be able to create opportunities.”

Alex Natividad

Spanish and Latin American studies major Alex Natividad will be teaching Spanish in Columbus City Schools after graduation. His career hopes include, “being the best teacher in the world.” He wants to know his students as human beings and help them to find or create their own paths towards their goals.


2020 Undergraduate

2020 Graduate

2021 Undergraduate

2021 Graduate

Inspiring Graduates of 2020 and 2021

“I started the Black Student-Athlete Union for the purpose of bringing support and security of the valuable experience Black student athletes have in this community now and in the future. I wanted to build an allyship in sustaining an inclusive athletic environment that takes contribution from all involved with Otterbein athletics.”

Phanawn Bailey ’21

Finance major Phanawn Bailey played midfield for the men’s lacrosse team for four years. He used his position as a student-athlete to advance equality on campus.

“My most valuable experience has been the time spent with knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated nursing professionals. My graduating peers and the Otterbein faculty have not only supported my education and learning, but have become treasured members of my family.”

Francesca Bryan-Couch DNP’21

Dr. Francesca Bryan-Couch is a care coordination chief for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her Doctor of Nursing Practice project was titled, Evaluating VA Nurse Acceptance of Virtual Healthcare Technology during the Coronavirus Outbreak.

“I’m excited to finally cross that stage, especially as the first woman in my family to do so. I’m thankful to Otterbein for not giving up on seeing graduation through for the class of 2020.”

Kaitlyn Brooks ’20

Despite the upended job market due to the pandemic, Kaitlyn Brooks turned an internship at TMH Solutions, LLC, into a full-time job after graduating in May 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and business administration and management. She served as a student trustee on Otterbein’s Board of Trustees, and she’s already giving back to her alma mater as a member of the Young Alumni Board.

“I chose to continue my education at Otterbein because they offered the 4+1 program for accountants. This allowed me to get my undergraduate degree in four years, then complete
my CPA exams and MBA in the following year. I was able to earn all three of the designations I wanted in my career in just five years because of the opportunities at Otterbein.”

Nick Hassinger ’20, MBA’21

Nick Hassinger is a back-to-back graduate, earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2020 and his master’s degree in 2021.

“Being a nursing major and growing up in a family full of healthcare workers, I wanted to shed light on what they were doing [during the pandemic]. With the virus, it was so much more than ordinary care, and being outside looking in, I didn’t feel that frontline workers had a voice. Writing Frontline was my attempt in giving them that voice.”

Devin Henry ’21

Nursing major Devin Henry wrote an original song to honor frontline workers fighting the pandemic. He aspires to work in a critical care unit with hopes of one day becoming a pediatric nurse anesthetist.

Class of 2020 Student speaker

“Amidst so many unknowns in the past year, I am beyond grateful that the Class of 2020 is being honored this May. While this might not be the graduation we expected, I am so excited that my classmates and I have been given the opportunity to return to Otterbein to celebrate together. I think this is the perfect example of Otterbein’s dedication to students and alumni.”

Katie Exline

Biology alumna Katie Exline is enrolled in The Ohio State University College of Optometry where she serves as the president of her optometry class.

Where are They Now?

Class of 2020 student speaker finalists are making their mark.
Maya Venkataraman

Maya Venkataraman ’20 is currently taking part in the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s degree in teaching with a concentration in K-12 English education. She hopes to teach English education in international high schools, primarily in Southeast Asia and Europe. She graduated with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English creative writing.

Mina Zaky

Mina Zaky ’20 is currently enrolled in The Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law. He graduated from Otterbein with bachelor’s degrees in sociology and criminology and justice studies.

Dakota Brown

Mathematics alumnus Dakota (DJ) Brown ’20 turned an internship into a job at Grange Insurance, where he now works as an actuarial analyst. He is pursuing an Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS) designation.

John Posey

Philosophy alumnus John Posey ’20 is currently on active duty with the National Guard, serving in central Ohio.
Learn more about his story >>

Madelyn Nelson ’23 is a public relations major from Coshocton, OH. She is involved with the Student Alumni Board, Host and Tour Program, and Sigma Alpha Tau. She is an intern in Otterbein’s Office of Marketing and Communications.

Commencement Albums

Class of 2020
Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement

Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 2

Class of 2021
Graduate Commencement

Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 3

Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 1

Theatre and Dance Adapts Fall Season

Like all of our programs, the Department of Theatre and Dance had to adapt how they teach, rehearse, and perform due to the pandemic. With the eyes of the public on their performances, the students adapted techniques, technology, and even costumes, to produce successful performances this fall. You can read about their three productions — The Theory of Relativity, An Enemy of the People, and Dance 2020: The Wild Within — at the links below.

Dance 2020: The Wild Within

An Enemy of the People

The Theory of Relativity

Dance 2020: The Wild Within

The Theory of Relativity

Adapting to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything — how we learn, work and play. The Otterbein community has met the challenges of this pandemic with a variety of responses that are defined by grace, humility, humor, and ultimately, resilience and hope. In checking in with our community, we found shared truths that remind us we are not alone in what we feel, how we are coping and what we are learning about ourselves in adapting to this temporary but challenging COVID-19 world.

Sarah Bouchard


Sarah Bouchard, a professor in biology and earth science, describes adapting to the pandemic in phases. “At first, it was all crisis management: Who needs a computer? Who needs help with their wi-fi connection? Does everyone have a safe place to live?,” Bouchard said.

Then, after the dust settled and it was time to “get down to the business of teaching and learning,” Bouchard said it felt a bit like staring into an abyss. “I knew my students were all out there, but I wasn’t sure what was going on with them.”

Now, she says she’s discovered that with careful planning, creativity and flexibility, she can still capture much of what it means to be teaching and learning despite the challenges.

“Although it has been hard, my classes are all benefitting from the revisions and adaptations that I have had to make,” Bouchard said. “The pandemic has really highlighted how much I value the close, personal relationships that I’m able to have with my students.”

Bouchard, named Otterbein’s 2020 Master Teacher, is a physiological ecologist, active researcher and active part of the Zoo and Conservation Science program.

Fernando Jose-Chairez ’23

The biggest challenge I’ve faced during this pandemic has been trying to stay financially afloat while trying to grow as a person. Financially, I am on my own more than ever. Growing as a person is another challenge — it’s hard to know who one is if all you can do is mostly stay indoors, online.

Adeline Almendinger ’19

Adeline Almendinger ’19 turned an internship into a full-time job as an assistant merchant at Express when she graduated. Until March 2020, she reviewed and planned timelines and sales from week to week, arranged store “looks” and worked with multiple teams to decide which styles will sell. But how has the fashion retail industry dealt with a pandemic when people aren’t shopping in stores, dressing for work or going out to eat? Almendinger said it requires a different approach to decision making. “COVID has made things a lot harder from a retail perspective because we are not able to physically see the product,” she said, adding that making connections with her teams also has been challenging.

Theory of Relativity:

“Otterbein University’s deft first streaming production brims with ardent singing and honest emotions.”  Those are the words of theatre critic Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch, about Otterbein’s first socially distanced production, The Theory of Relativity. The departments of Theatre and Dance and Music partnered to safely produce the musical, filming fully staged performances in advance — complete with lights, sound, scenery and costumes — and streaming to audiences online from Oct. 8-11.

Paul Wendel

So how are the teachers who are preparing the future teachers adapting? “We’ve learned to hold good classes in configurations ranging from entirely online
to half in-person and half online. We’ve learned to conduct socially distanced in-person experiments with online lab partners, sometimes conducting the
experiments outdoors.”  The adaptations go beyond Wendel’s classes into his students’ K-12 field placements. “Our students are teaching classes in person
and online, learning a wide range of online tools in the process,” he said. 

This award-winning educator offers the perfect lesson to this situation. “With a good deal of humor we’re all adapting, learning and growing together as educators — and we’re finding we can handle just about anything,” Wendel said.
Wendel was named the 2020 Exemplary Teacher and proudly describes his students as his future colleagues.

Lisa Minken ’03


Promoting CAPA’s Broadway in Columbus Series changed dramatically for Lisa Minken ’03 in March when she learned during a Columbus run of My Fair Lady that the State of Ohio was restricting theatre performances. “The show opened on a Wednesday and by Thursday gatherings were no more.” Since then, her work has focused on keeping fans engaged until theatre makes a comeback. “Normally we would be in our current season and we would have already had a show,” she said. Predicting the future during the pandemic is difficult, but Minken is hopeful Broadway in Columbus can return by spring 2021. “Every day is a day closer to having our theatre doors open.”

Sara Anloague Bogan ’18

Since March, Sara Anloague Bogan ’18 has been supporting the incident command center at OhioHealth’s flagship hospital, Riverside Methodist Hospital, from home. Her goal is to keep OhioHealth associates and leaders informed and resilient through these hard times and support OhioHealth’s back-to-business efforts. “COVID-19 intensifies the need for clear, engaging communication. Because of the change of pace, there is always something that makes my job challenging,” she said.

Randy Mobley ’80


Each spring, Randy Mobley ’80 would complete final planning and oversight tasks and gear up for the regular season to start. This season was different.  “We shut down in March and began reworking our schedule, thinking we could start as early as late May. You look back now and think how silly we were,” Mobley said. Now, Mobley is unsure about the future. Minor League Baseball teams continue to lose revenue while Major League Baseball is seeking to alter its relationship with the minor leagues. “We’re going to do what we can do,” he said, “but for now we’re along for the ride.”

Evan Brandao ’22


I have been using this time to think about what my passions are, how I want to pursue them and how Otterbein can help me. I’ve been reaching out to local professionals to get advice, and it is amazing how much insight people are willing to provide if you take the initiative to reach out.

Jeremy Llorence


Jeremy Llorence, an assistant professor in English, has encouraged his students to find activities or hobbies that they find fulfilling to balance their worries. “You can use things you enjoy doing to recharge after all of the video calls you’re going through,” Llorence said. “Whether for socialization, for classes or for work, video calls can be really draining. I think it’s important for your mental health to take that time for yourself to do things that you find fulfilling — whether that’s creative work or just reading a book that you really love.” Llorence acknowledges that these are difficult times — but he’s taking heart. “If I’ve learned anything at Otterbein over my career here, it’s that we are a strong community, we are capable and we will get through this together,” he said. Llorence was named the 2020 Best New Teacher and is the faculty advisor for Otterbein’s Quiz and Quill literary magazine.

Lily Burnside ’23


I found a hobby of gardening. Working at the Otterbein Community garden was perfect because it was easy to social distance with my coworkers and because of the mental health benefits of being outdoors.

Anna Egensperger ’23


The biggest challenge I have faced during the pandemic is the inability to focus during online classes. I was frustrated with my lack of concentration, so I decided to take action to combat it.

Conversation and Connecting about Social Justice

James Prysock ’09, MBA’19, director of Otterbein’s Office of Social Justice and Activism, connected with Otterbein graduate, Tony Bishop ’15, MSAH’18, the new executive director of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, and Desmond Fernandez ’21, a senior BFA acting major who organized several Westerville-based Black Lives Matter protests this summer. During their conversation, Bishop and Fernandez shared their insights and hopes for how working together can enable change.

PRYSOCK: Part of advocacy is doing some things you don’t necessarily have to do, but it’s something that you really want to do. Why did you feel it was so important to be a part of the leadership of the Westerville protest, Desmond?

Desmond Fernandez ’21 said this is his time to be a part of bettering his community.

FERNANDEZ: I’ve been a part of this community for so long — it’s my lifeline for success and happiness. This is my time to be a part of this mission to better our community and make it even more diverse and more inclusive.

What I thought was going to be maybe 50 people was almost 1,000 people. It was inspiring. Not only was I protesting with my classmates, I was protesting with my teachers. Teachers who exposed me to morals and lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird; who helped mold my belief that black people do have a purpose in theatre; who were there photographing everything to make sure it leaves an imprint on our history — and one professor even brought her son. What this is about is deeply ingrained in my community … Westerville is going to be an example by the time we get done with this.

PRYSOCK: What specific changes would you like to see to be an inclusive community?

BISHOP: Community is the way through all of this. These protests are everybody — young, old, black, white and everybody in between. That’s the beautiful thing about it. This is our opportunity right now to redefine what it means to be an American and say that is an inclusive thing. The reason we are so strong as a country, historically, is because of our diversity. The only substantive pillar of American exceptionalism is the fact that we’re all in it together. We have the best minds from all over the world under one roof. I’d like to see people rally around that.

FERNANDEZ: For me, it’s unity. If we get stuck in these debates of each side saying, “I’m not going to budge,” we’re going to remain stagnant. We’ve got to be able to find that middle ground. We’ve got to come together. Then, as we begin to understand one another, what is the next action going to be? We’ve got to hold those that are in a higher position than us accountable. We’ve got to know who to contact — whether that’s in Congress or local legislators. Voting is a powerful thing. Voting is not the cure — it is simply a tool. We’ve got to do other things as well.

PRYSOCK: Tony, you passed on one opportunity in order to work for the Black Caucus. What compelled you? (Bishop was invited as the United States’ representative to the Foreign Service program at the University of Oxford, England.)

BISHOP: If something happens to this place and I was somewhere else and I wasn’t doing my part — protesting, helping out legislatively — I don’t think I could live with myself. This country is everything to me despite its flaws and warts … we believe so much in this place that we’re honestly willing to die for it. 

Also, when you do the right thing, good things normally come back to you. I got invited to speak in the U.K. about what I’m doing now. It all comes full circle when you do what you’re supposed to do. 

Otterbein instilled that in us — making those values basically a part of the core curriculum. Otterbein has a history of doing what’s right before it’s popular and not being afraid to stand out there as the first one. That level of sacrifice is necessary to change something.

PRYSOCK: What advice would you give to people who want to be advocates and are trying to figure out the way to best support their community?

FERNANDEZ: Alice Walker. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X. Maya Angelou. John Lewis. Colin Kaepernick. These are absolutely profound people, and they made a huge impact on our American culture. But they’re just humans. You don’t need to give speeches in front of thousands of people or have all the press there to be an advocate. These people were advocates but they’re also activists. Like the first part of that word, you simply need to act. You’ve got to do it and you’ve got to act now.

BISHOP: The best way to formulate changes to a system is to learn how it works in the first place so you know you can rebuild it better. I’ll give you a quote from the movement: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Everybody has a part to play. There’s a way to raise awareness about what’s happening and show where you stand. Whatever your strengths are — volunteering your time or baking cookies or whatever — there’s a place in this for everybody.

Marginalized Voices

Artwork descriptions by Janice Glowski, Ph.D. and Magda Parasidis

Otterbein Art Exhibitions Put Social Justice Issues on Display

The Otterbein Department of Art and Art History has opened the University’s museum and gallery spaces this year to the issues of labor justice, the poor working-class, immigration and systemic racism with three exhibitions, two during fall semester and one during spring semester. 

According to Museum and Galleries Director Janice Glowski, the Department wants those who see the exhibits to ask where they see themselves in the art, the stories and the exhibition themes. She hopes they will allow themselves to be open to change and being uncomfortable because that, Glowski said, is when the greatest learning occurs. 

“Part of Otterbein’s educational mission is to train students to think critically, clearly and in an informed way about the narratives that dominate our social discourse,” said Glowski. “Importantly, we are asking the viewer to question, to look deeper into their understandings and to ask themselves difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions.”

The three exhibitions — Magda Parasidis: Ghosts in Sunlight, On(c)es Forgotten and Valentino Dixon: Journey to Freedom — are challenging longheld assumptions about poverty, race and our country’s history. These exhibitions are meant to question the single narrative by directly addressing social issues through an aesthetic lens, present new voices and share often untold narratives.

“We are demonstrating that the Otterbein community is willing to commit to doing the hard work of listening, learning, being honest and moving toward shared truths. We are willing to engage in the difficult work of healing, so we can create the possibility of jettisoning the notion that there is a hierarchy of human value,” she said.

All exhibits are free and open to the public. Visit for more information on hours and location.

Kelly & Kyle Phelps
28 x 22 x 10 inches
ceramic mixed media

Kelly and Kyle Phelps’ large-scale, wall-mounted art is arresting and relatable. Naturalistic depictions of miners, machinists and welders show poignant moments when weary laborers are on break, at shift’s end or nearly collapsed under the weight of plant closings and layoffs. Grace, like Phelps’ other work, is built of found objects (e.g. metal, bandana, lipstick tube) from abandoned factories across the rural Midwest.

Valentino Dixon
color pencil on paper
20 x 16 inches

Vibrant drawings of golf courses brought Valentino Dixon’s twenty-seven years of wrongful incarceration, and artistic talents, to the national stage. Since gaining his freedom, the artist has expanded his repertoire to include bucolic landscapes, wild animals in fantastical surroundings and imagery touched by the surreal. In Hummingbird, Dixon depicts a golf ball-headed bird in mid-flight and holding a fencing sword, disarming the viewer with whimsy.

Magda Parasidis
Chasm / The Distance
C-print, ink marker
24 x 36 inches
1993 – 2018

The Distance, inspired by Ta-nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, reads, “this chasm makes itself known to us in all kinds of ways,” referring to the socioeconomic distance between the urban youth of the projects and their more affluent counterparts over the bridge. Parasidis explores what it might look like to use this awareness as a nutrient for the making of art and social consciousness.

Janice Glowski, Ph.D, is the museum and galleries director and teaches art history and museum studies at Otterbein. She is co-founder of the Otterbein and the “Arts: Opening Doors to the World” program.