The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Hero image

Jo McCulty

More than scarlet and gray

Eight students tell stories about how they found home at Ohio State.

We come from everywhere in our nation, from all around the globe. We bring our own hopes, plans and needs. We are quiet, loud, loners and social peacocks. We have fears and foibles. We dream, we strive. We are threads woven into one fabric at Ohio State, where comfort and meaning are reflected in each of our unique visions. This is our shared home at a time when it seems many in the world around us are tempted to retreat onto their own islands, drifting further and further from one another. On the Columbus campus, across acres of public spaces and in private nooks and crannies, we’re united in purpose: We’re here to find ourselves, to broaden our minds, to make a difference in an increasingly fractured world.

We are many, and we are Buckeyes. Here are small slices of our personal journeys.


Dasha Hardisky

Senior, Biochemistry and Russian

Dasha Hardisky

Jo McCulty

Tested by travel

“Once I set out to do something, I have to make it work no matter what. I’m stubborn, determined. Look at my passport. I was born and raised in Russia, and I lived in Scotland for seven years before moving to America in 2014. I commute from Dayton, Ohio, where I live with my husband and two children. It’s a 75-mile drive each way, but it’s worth it because I feel Ohio State will give me the future I want for my family. Thompson Library has become my home. I’ve spent countless hours here. Everyone comes in here to do their course work, so they have something in common. That makes it easy to strike up a conversation with anyone. To me, the library is the heart of the university. It’s precious.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Sophia Enriquez

Doctoral student, Musicology

Sophia Enriquez

Jo McCulty

Sound connoisseur

“Stop and listen. Hear that? Music is everywhere. There’s music in the people walking by, in the wind, in the sounds of birds and dogs. Graduate school at Ohio State has challenged how I think about music. It doesn’t just exist on a page or in a performance; it’s in the world as a whole. Both sides of my family were musical when I grew up in Batavia, Ohio, and music has been a huge part of how I’ve come into myself as an adult. It’s how I’ve realized my values and virtues. I absolutely love Appalachian music, love playing and singing in local bluegrass jams. And if I feel overwhelmed, in need of peace and quiet, I still turn to music. It’s there even in silence.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Melanie Russell ’15

Medical school student

Melanie Russell

Jo McCulty

Daring to dream

“I like to look out at the Oval from the seventh floor of Thompson Library and make up peoples’ stories. You see all these different paths. In a way, you’re looking at everybody going on their specific career paths. Being at Ohio State, you meet and interact with a variety of people. That makes you think differently. You become more open and respectful of others’ ideas even if they’re different from your own. I’m going to carry that with me when I’m an anesthesiologist, hopefully in the underserved community where I grew up in Cleveland. Illness doesn’t care about gender, sex or race. It affects anybody and everybody. In order to provide competent and compassionate care, you need to be able to interact with whomever, wherever.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Sahil Sharma

Senior, Psychology and Leadership Studies

Sahil Sharma

Jo McCulty

Energy booster

“I don’t do handshakes — I give hugs. My parents came from India in 1988 and taught me to love people, to always care about them more than myself. Be kind. I have the power to do that through interactions at the RPAC (Recreation and Physical Activity Center), where I’m an ambassador and supervisor. Oh, the scream of joy that I let out when called and offered this job. Everything in my life at Ohio State comes back to the RPAC. It’s a place where people accept diversity, different mindsets and perspectives, and where they come to feel happy and focus on growth and change. Here, there is motion, energy. I try to put out good energy, foster it and spread it like wildfire.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Rolando Muniz

Junior, English

Rolando Muniz

Jo McCulty

Team player

“I like to keep to myself. I’m an English major, and when I’m reading, I’m alone with the author’s thoughts. As an introvert, playing basketball on campus provides me with an outlet, a connection to the outside world. The game sparks conversation. To be successful, you have to garner team chemistry, so you start to talk to people. There’s a lot of diversity on the court because a lot of people like to play basketball. There are teams of white men, black men, Latinos. I play with Asian students a lot. Basketball brings me together with different groups and cultures. It’s fun to play, and it’s a big release from school, life, relationships — whatever is bothering me or stressing me out. I can’t overestimate basketball’s value.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Solonas Karoullas

Senior, Strategic Communications

Solonas Karoullas

Jo McCulty

True to self

“I came out when I was about 17. All of my family was very accepting, but the community in Cyprus was not so open-minded. I was looking for a more accepting place, and I found it at Ohio State, especially at the Multicultural Center, where friends and mentors value each other and want to help each other grow and thrive. I loved myself before I came to Ohio State, but I think the university and city of Columbus have lifted me up from being just a boy with aspirations to do more. It goes beyond just sexual identity. As a person, I’ve learned to be more comfortable in my own skin and just be me to the fullest and live my best life.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Zaid Hightower

Senior, Psychology

Zaid Hightower

Jo McCulty

Care and comfort

“At first, Ohio State was a little overwhelming for me because I came from a small, all-male high school and a minority background. I had been surrounded by family and a support system in Cleveland. I wasn’t comfortable early in my freshman year, but an advisor at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion told me to start building my own community. That really helped and stuck with me. I found a community at the Hale Black Cultural Center — a home away from home for me. There’s a lot of love in that building. There are so many resources and opportunities like that here. Now through my growth and development, I feel like I’ve become a resource to help other minority men make a smoother transition onto campus.”

PLAY AUDIO |


Sophie Chang ’18

Sustainable Business and Economics

Sophie Chang

Jo McCulty

Change agent

“I’ve always been a fan of to-do lists. Having a busy schedule keeps me on track most of the time. A lot of what I do is driven by people and service. I like interacting with people, doing things for them and making a positive impact. That’s why I was student body vice president at Ohio State. I like being around people who are passionate about change. Although I’m definitely a social person, I do need time away to recharge. Otherwise it’s sensory overload. Some weekends I move the email app off my phone’s interface and hide it in a folder. I used to rotate between three daily planners. Now I have one with many colors on the calendar. You can see, I’m really into strategic thinking.”

PLAY AUDIO |