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The Year In Review 2020

year in review image

(You may click on individual months or scroll down to see the full year in chronological order.)

The year in review

This was a year like no other in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic altered life around the globe by impacting how we live, work, and socialize. It upended higher education in ways that would have seemed unimaginable a year ago. Working from home and remote virtual learning became the norm almost overnight. Through it all, Columbus State faculty, staff, and administrators navigated a new way to keep the front door to higher education open for all. And it unfolded amid a divisive presidential election season and social unrest.

At the College, President Harrison expanded his Cabinet by adding Desiree Polk-Bland, vice president of Student Affairs, and Charles Noble, his newly appointed chief of staff. 

Governor Mike DeWine appointed three new members to the Board of Trustees. Stephanie Green is the senior vice president and managing director of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Private Bank. Jerome Revish is the senior vice president of Customer Support at Cardinal Health. And Terri Meldrum is the senior vice president and general counsel at OhioHealth. Green and Revish began their terms in 2020. Meldrum’s term began on January 1, 2021. 


photo of ribbon cutting

Pictured: President Harrison (second from right holding the ribbon) and Cameron Mitchell (third from right) were among the VIPS who helped cut the ribbon on January 22, 2020 for Degrees restaurant on the first floor of Mitchell Hall.

The long-awaited opening of Degrees in Mitchell Hall attracted a crowd to witness the official ribbon cutting. The event was held on January 22.

Ahead of the ceremonial opening, President Harrison spoke just outside the restaurant. “The catalytic nature of Mitchell Hall for this College and this community is something that will be measured in decades,” he said. “And it happened because Cameron Mitchell said, ‘How do we do this? How do we do it together?’”

Mitchell reflected on a building with his name attached. “Think about this building, not even the transformation of the culinary program but of Columbus State in general,” he said. “This College will continue to rise and shine here in the Columbus community and continue to fill a great need to many tens of thousands of students who will come here in the future.”

The opening helps complete Mitchell Hall and the ambitious $34.5 million public-private project, which broke ground in mid-2018.

A video recap is at this link.

Photo gallery of ribbon-cutting (Use arrows in the middle left or middle right to view photos.)

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Acheiving the Dream logo

Columbus State Community College earned the Achieving the Dream (ATD) Leader College of Distinction status for closing performance gaps among African-American and Hispanic students. The recognition follows Columbus State’s recognition by ATD in 2019 as its Leah Meyer Austin Award winner for student performance improvement. Read more.

Higher Learning Commission accreditation

The good news continued in February as The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) reaffirmed the accreditation of Columbus State Community College. The Institutional Actions Council (IAC) voted to approve Columbus State’s entrance into the “Open” pathway for the College’s next reaffirmation of accreditation cycle scheduled for 2029-2030. Read more.

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Coronavirus upends education across Ohio

Columbus State suspends classes as it converts courses online

photo of president's address

Above, President Harrison prepares for a livestream statement to the College on March 11 in place of the monthly First Wednesday meeting in WD. Kyle Strohecker, a technician in the building, assisted with the setup.

College personnel from every division and College location worked long hours planning and preparing to deliver instruction in alternate formats and to continue operations under highly challenging circumstances. While some labs and clinical settings were still held on-campus locations, nearly all courses transitioned to online delivery. The move came amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. A week earlier, Gov. Mike DeWine closed K-12 schools across the state for three weeks and recommended higher education use online capabilities to deliver classes.

While classes had initially been scheduled to be back in session following Spring Break, they were canceled all week to allow administrators, faculty, and staff to recalibrate for the expanding online environment.

Allen Kraus, Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Enrollment Services, said this unprecedented situation is one of the most challenging he faced in his long career in higher education. However, he said the teamwork and collaboration exhibited by colleagues across the institution have been inspiring and energizing, despite the difficult circumstances.

College leaders met daily as a group at 11 a.m. to focus on Columbus State logistics, at 2 p.m. to view Governor DeWine’s daily news briefings, and at other times throughout the day and evening as needed.

Multiple departments donated amid coronavirus-related shortages

On March 24, the College donated more than 15,000 gloves and hundreds of medical gowns and safety glasses. Read more.

The donation was mentioned very briefly as part of a coronavirus update in Columbus Underground in the Giving Back section. Read it here.

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Chromebooks for students makes headlines

photo of student receving Chromebook

Bola Ayodele (on the left) is a student receiving a Chromebook at the Mid-Ohio Market at Columbus State from Lisa Phillips, Student Financial Stability administrator.

When Columbus State Community College transitioned the Spring Semester to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, a key concern upon students’ return on March 23 was the ability for all to access the technology needed to continue their college education. With concern about an equity gap for low-income students, the College purchased 600 Chromebooks specifically for students who do not have access to personal computers. The story was covered by WCMH-TV (NBC 4), the Columbus Dispatch, and Columbus Business First.

The story in Columbus Business First is here.

The Columbus Dispatch story is here. (The Chromebook donation is at the bottom of the story.)

The College news release is at this link.

Issue 21 overwhelmingly approved by Franklin County voters

After months of planning and campaigning, Citzens for Columbus State declared victory in April after the primary election results were released. The coronavirus pandemic forced the March 17 primary to be delayed. Lawmakers decided to transition the election to a mail-in primary. The Franklin County Board of Elections says the Issue 21 bond issue passed with about 60% of the initial vote total.

In a statement, President Harrison said, in part, “During this very difficult and unsettling time, we are very grateful to Franklin County voters for their generous vote of confidence in Columbus State and our role in a stronger future for Central Ohio. In addition to voters, I also want to thank the many students, alumni, faculty, and staff, as well as the wide range of citizens and community leaders who volunteered and supported our campaign for Issue 21 with their time, energy, and contributions. We could not have passed this ballot issue without their help.”

Issue 21 news coverage:

The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus Business First


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Preparing for limited return to campus

photo of man installing markers

Above left, Juan Chamochumbi installs an advisory on the floor of a Davidson Hall elevator last Thursday, which suggests that people should remain six feet apart as the coronavirus pandemic continues to make social distancing a regular part of our lives. On the right, his father, Jose Chamochumbi, places additional advisory signs around the building.

Graduation proceeds without spring commencement ceremony

A diverse group of Columbus State Community College students earned degrees as Spring Semester 2020 concluded. While the traditional commencement ceremony was canceled, more than 1,100 students applied to graduate.

Virtual tours for prospective students

With on-campus tours suspended during the pandemic, virtual tours were designed so that prospective students could take a look at the campus. Read more and see the videos.

Seven presidents unite to promote Central Ohio higher education

With so much uncertainty for students and families, seven presidents of Central Ohio colleges and universities joined to promote local learning. The concept was to remind anxious students that our region has a broad mix of highly rated educational institutions. The mission was dubbed “Live Local: Learn Local.” Each president signed a joint statement, which was unveiled to the media last Wednesday. That was followed by a joint news conference on Microsoft Teams featuring President Harrison and the six other presidents.

See the letter at this link.

Read the news release at this link.

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Black lives matter graphic

College holds series of online forums following nationwide protests

During the week of June 1, Royce Carpenter and Michelle Baker, co-chairs of the African-American Employee Resource Group, hosted discussion forums for the Columbus State Community. The forums were organized in response to a series of deaths at the hands of police including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. The goal was to open conversations about the racial experiences of not only Black and African Americans in the United States, but all ethnic minorities at Columbus State. Read more.

Success Bridge collaboration begins

At the end of June, leaders in higher education and housing announced they would launch an initiative in the fall to provide short-term rental assistance to help low-income students at Columbus State stay enrolled and complete their degrees.

The initiative, called Success Bridge, is a collaboration among Columbus State, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, Community Shelter Board, and the Homeless Families Foundation. Read more.

Several local news outlets provided coverage:

The Columbus Dispatch story is at this link.

The Columbus Business First story is at this link. (Note: non-subscribers are only able to view three online stories per month free of charge.)

See WCMH-TV (NBC4) coverage at this link.

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NCTN graphic

Columbus State partners in College Success for Single Mothers 

Columbus State became one of eight community colleges selected through a competitive application process to participate in College Success for Single Mothers. Funded by ECMC Foundation and led by the National College Transition Network (NCTN), the goal of the three-year project is to identify the needs of single mother students on campus and then develop a plan to expand key practices and services to enhance their college and career success.

Read more.

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Photo of welcome team member

Pandemic keeps most faculty, staff, and students working remotely

Pictured: Welcome Team member Shaneece Green, a specialist in Student Central, assisted students arriving on the Columbus Campus for the first day of classes on August 31. With more than 90% of classes being delivered virtually, few students were on campuses and regional learning centers during Autumn Semester.

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Day of care graphic

Day of Service becomes Day of Care

Pictured: The annual Day of Service in 2019 saw faculty, staff, and students fan out across Central Ohio to volunteer for the day. With the pandemic continuing to alter life, President Harrison modified the event to a much-needed Day of Care. For this year, they used the day to care for themselves during this stressful time.

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Taste the Future Reimagined

photo from prize raffle event

Pictured above, Chef Josh Wickham, left, senior director of the School of Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts, and Executive Chef L. Fernando Mojica, were among those taking part in the live elements for this year’s Taste the Future virtual event in the WD on October 13.

A pandemic may have delayed Taste the Future by a couple of months, and it may have prevented the community from gathering on the Columbus Campus, but it was still held. This year it was hosted virtually with just a few chefs and technical support staff. And the event raised more than $165,000. You can watch the fun and creative presentation at this link.

A slideshow is available at this link.

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PBS NewsHour visits Columbus Campus as part of news series

Photo from video shoot

A producer and videographer from the nightly PBS program NewsHour visited the Columbus Campus last Wednesday, November 18. They interviewed Cheryl Hay, above left, and Desiree Polk-Bland, above right, inside Mitchell Hall. Their reporting also included an interview with a student, and they stopped by a Patient Care Assistance lab and a Surgical Technology lab.

NewsHour is preparing a multi-part series for early 2021 that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. Hay, executive director of the Office of Talent Strategy at Columbus State, spoke about the implications for short-term certificate programs. Polk-Bland, vice president of Advising & Student Support, discussed the challenges faced by minority students. For their reporting, NewsHour also stopped by the now-closed Urbana University west of Columbus and Ohio State and Michigan State universities.

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200th commencement ceremony held virtually

photo of graduates hugging

Above, a graduate receives a hug and congratulations following the December 2019 Autumn Semester commencement ceremony at the Celeste Center. (We hope to use a screen shot from the video of the 2020 virtual graduation instead.)

In a year when large in-person celebrations are discouraged, Columbus State held a virtual ceremony for its 200th commencement for all 2020 graduates on December 20.

The event honored 874 students who applied to graduate that semester. In addition, it honored the 1,290 spring graduates and the 638 summer graduates. That’s a total of 2,802 graduates who received associate degrees in 2020.

The commencement speaker was Kirt Walker, Chief Executive Officer at Nationwide. Walker served as a member of the Columbus State Board of Trustees from 2013-2019.

You can view the commencement ceremony at this link.

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