2017 welcome reception
New and returning Voinovich School students mingle with faculty and staff at this year's welcome reception.

Voinovich School welcomes students to new academic year

Daniel Kington
September 19, 2017

Students, faculty, and staff from all areas of the Voinovich School community had the rare opportunity to come together as they celebrated the beginning of a new academic year during a welcome reception held in the Ridges Auditorium on September 8, 2017. This year’s reception also kicked off the School’s 10th anniversary year.

Both before and after the formal portion of the ceremony, students could meet one another, receive free professional headshots, snack on refreshments and learn about the immense variety of ongoing work within the school. Many tables were set up throughout the auditorium, showcasing different aspects of student-led research, ranging from stream reclamation projects to work with regional business assistance program, TechGROWTH Ohio. The watershed restoration table was a particular hit this year, featuring an interactive topographical sandbox used for watershed research and 3D goggles, which allowed users to explore Raccoon Creek, one of the School’s project sites.

In addition to speakers and more informal learning and socializing, the event also featured a scavenger hunt, which encouraged students to learn more about the School’s various projects. Those who completed the scavenger hunt during the event were entered into a drawing for prizes.

Mark Weinberg delivers his opening remarks.In his opening remarks, Mark Weinberg, founding dean of the Voinovich School, encouraged all the students to lead in their community: “Today we charge you to have a great and rewarding career, be guided by core beliefs, and make a difference. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to mentor you and to help you become leaders who will make our world a better place.”

Weinberg said that was important, as the School enters its tenth anniversary year, to consider those who came before us. “Anniversary celebrations inspire us to look around to others who have set the milestones and benchmarks, which we aspire to reach,” Weinberg said.

He discussed the legacy of the School’s namesake, the late Senator George Voinovich. Voinovich amassed 44 years of public service in the Ohio Legislature, as mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and U.S. senator. The senator, also an Ohio University alumnus, was dedicated to advancing the work of the Voinovich School in his later years.

“Senator Voinovich always encouraged the Voinovich School to design and deliver practical solutions to wickedly difficult problems; expand higher education public-private partnerships; and, most importantly, educate, mentor and develop people from every sector and walk of life engaged in public service,” Weinberg said. “The senator was justifiably proud of the long list of graduates from the Voinovich School’s programs who have become great leaders. Today you start or continue your learning so that you can follow these distinguished, accomplished alums. They’re proud of their association with the Voinovich School and you should feel proud to be part of it as well.”

Weinberg also highlighted the accomplishments of various alumni and the School’s work on stream reclamation, regional economic development and education. He also touted the School’s national reputation, quoting Mike Smith, dean of the School of Government at University of North Carolina, the largest university-based local government training, advisory and research organization in the United States.

“The Voinovich School is a treasure,” Smith said. “It is a best-in-class example of engaged scholarship – taking knowledge from research in multiple disciplines and applying it to address the most pressing challenges facing communities in Ohio.  Better than any public affairs program in the country, the Voinovich School works across all sectors and involves students with faculty and professionals in making a real, practical difference in the world.”

Geoffrey Dabelko, professor and director of the environmental studies program, praised the event’s focus on the variety of activities ongoing at the School.

“I think this event reflects the bedrock principle of the Voinovich School, which is the interdisciplinary hands-on approach to learning and doing,” Dabelko said. “The diversity of the exhibitions and the rich set of faculty and staff who are here interacting with students is giving them a taste of what’s to come.”

It isn’t only faculty and staff who are excited for the year, however. Both new and returning students shared their goals and aspirations for the upcoming year.

“I’m looking forward to working with my advisor and gaining new skills through experience in the field,” said first year Master of Public Administration student, Saniya Mujahid Ali. “One of the reasons I got into this program was to gain more practical skills, and it seems like the School is going to help me toward that goal.”

This sentiment was shared by Andrew Fox, a first year Master of Science in Environmental Studies candidate who received a B.S. in environmental and plant biology from OHIO in 2016.

“I’m excited to continue working at OU, and I’m looking forward to starting my research at the Voinovich School,” Fox said. “There are a lot of cool things going on at the School that I’m eager to get involved with.”

Grace Fuchs, a returning Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholar and junior in OHIO’s environmental studies program, said the welcome reception energized her for another year at the School.

“It’s great to see all the different disciplines in the Voinovich School, learn about all of the School’s different projects and meet all the wonderful, intelligent people here,” Fuchs said.

Like its faculty and students, the Voinovich School looks forward to another promising year, one that will feature as many successes as the past ten, as well as exciting research and projects to discuss at next year’s reception.