OSU Takes RAs on a Secret Tour of Columbus
On Friday night, 400 Ohio State University Resident Assistants boarded buses at North Market with no idea where they were going.
“We have been told we’re going to 20 locations and we’re stopping at a couple of them,” said Alexa Norris, an RA from Coshocton. “Everything has been very secretive.”
The secret bus tour was part of OSU’s new initiative to make RAs into student ambassadors for the city of Columbus. The program exposes RAs to features of the city that most students rarely encounter with the hope that they will encourage their residents to engage more with the community.
“We want students to get involved and be connected with the city,” said Dolan Evanovich, the Vice President of Enrollment Services at OSU. “That’s really the goal of this event.”
Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, Senior Vice President of Student Life at OSU, was at North Market Friday overseeing the event and emphasized that the university wants to inform students of all the experiences available to them in Columbus.
“One of the things that they become aware of as they come to the city is that this is the 15th largest city in America,” said Adams-Gaston. “Unlike many other places, even in the Big Ten…this offers an array of opportunities that we want our students to take advantage of.”
To represent that array of opportunities, the Friday night bus tour included stops in Downtown Westerville, Germain Lexus of Easton, The Columbus Dispatch, Tim Richens Academy of Irish Dance, Downtown Dublin, Nordstrom’s, Northstar Café, Thurber House, Easton Town Center, Franklin Park Conservatory, WBNS-TV, Glass Axis, Lincoln Theatre and the Long Street Bridge, the White Castle Test Kitchen, the Longaberger Home Office, the Community Shelter Board, the Pizzuti Collection, the Idea Foundry, 400 West Rich, and a tour of Short North coffee shops.
Jordan Davis, manager of membership activities and community affairs at the Columbus Partnership, said the stops on the tour were chosen to represent some of the internship, entertainment and community service opportunities available to OSU students. Locations were also chosen based on focus group studies that showed which places students usually go to and which they don’t.
“North Market was one not a lot of students get down to,” said Davis. “The Franklin Park Conservatory was one that not many students had said they’d gone to before.”
As an OSU alumna, Davis said she understands the benefits that being a student in Columbus can bring. She was able to network with downtown business leaders, make connections, get internships and jobs because of her proximity to the city, and according to her, the city has a lot to gain from the students as well.
“We need the best talent we can get in Columbus and we’re training it here,” said Davis. “They just need to know the right doors to open, the right levers to pull and the right places to invest.”
Adams-Gaston noted that experiencing things off campus and in the city is helpful to a student’s growth.
“A big part of what we’re doing with our students is ensuring that they’re developing to the fullest of their potential,” said Adams-Gaston, “and when you have the arts, the sciences, the opportunities for festivals, the best food in the country, it changes your perception of who you are and who you are in the world.”
Adams-Gaston also mentioned that while Columbus gives students the feel of living in a large city, it’s a manageable city. As the capital of a politically important state, Adams-Gaston noted that Columbus gives students a chance to meet presidents and governors and intern at the statehouse.
The city also presents opportunities for community service. Adams-Gaston said OSU students participate in about 1.2 million hours of service a year, mostly in the Columbus area.
“The places where you engage in service are the places where your heart is,” said Adams-Gaston.
Community service is something that Norris and fellow RA Ryan Calvin of Chicago are familiar with. Norris helps adults with disabilities while Calvin does community work in Linden and the East Side. Calvin said community service is definitely one of the things he will encourage his residents to pursue.
“We have a lot of influence on our residents,” said Calvin. “So therefore we can get our residents and more of Ohio State to explore greater Columbus.”
Adams-Gaston said the program is going to continue to grow in the next few years. Next year, OSU recreational sports employees will be added to the tour, followed by dining services employees.
“Our goal is to have all of our student leaders who are employed with us become ambassadors,” said Adams-Gaston.