Community amplifies the culture of engagement and service that is part of the university's mission by demonstrating the transformative power of critical and creative practices. Participants co-design collaborations with communities — including those local to Columbus — that embrace diverse perspectives including cross-disciplinary methods and practices to advance public-facing, partner-engaged work.  If you're interested in the area, please contact area Faculty Fellow, Professor Susan Melsop.


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Current Projects

Be the Street Poster

In an era marked by global migration, war refugees, and terrorism, it is more important than ever to understand both how the uprooted, displaced, and re-located find ways to constitute community and how receiving communities constructively incorporate new residents. What are the tensions that human mobility generates? How do constructions of place affect the well-being of uprooted and host communities? How do our policies, institutions, and physical environment as well as our everyday performative strategies impact the lived reality of long-term residents and new arrivals? Who is included and excluded from the process of community formation, and why? What performative phenomena impede community formation? Where in our existing social structure do we find opportunities for performative interactions across difference? How does placemaking at the grassroots level interact with city or state-level initiatives to engineer attractive and welcoming environments?

Be the Street seeks to respond to these urgent questions by developing performance work in partnership with local communities in order to reflect upon the making and re-making of place.

More information can be found on the Be the Street website.


This project will create an interdisciplinary intervention into enigmatic astronomical phenomena known as black holes. The collaboration combines astronomy, orchestral music and elements of theatrical design in a performance that will be educational and artistically compelling.

Core facilitators: Tom Dugdale (Department of Theatre) with Paul Sutter (Department of Astronomy) and Jacob Reed (local composer)


This project will create cross-disciplinary community dialogue of the interconnectedness of mental illness and dance utilizing American-Jewish choreographer Anna Sokolow’s masterwork Rooms as a platform for campus-wide discussion about mental health. 

Dancers striking various poses on wooden chairs

Core facilitators: Nena Couch, (Thompson Library Special Collections), Valarie Williams (Department of Dance)


This project offers an opportunity for students, faculty, staff and the Columbus community to engage with one of the most critical issues of our time — women’s voices and the refugee crisis — through witnessing arrange of performance events grounded in Afghan experience. It will create a unique learning opportunity that will be maximized by faculty in a number of departments. 

Street scene of Afghani market at night

Core facilitators: Lesley Ferris (Department of Theatre), Kevin McClatchy (Department of Theatre), Janet Parrott (Department of Theatre), Alam Payind (Middle East Studies Center)

More information can be found on the Performing Afghanistan website.


The work of the Public Narrative Collaborative is grounded in the cultural pervasiveness and widely-acknowledged power of stories and storytelling. Once thought to reside safely in the domains of literature, history, and folklore, narrative is now recognized as significant in just about every sphere of human activity: in politics, medicine, religion, education, law, business, sports, the art world, and on and on.  In addition, narratives appear in a range of media: print, radio, film, television, comics, theater, the digital, painting, sculpture, and curated art exhibitions.  Furthermore, narratives have countless purposes, some of which frequently overlap: reporting, explaining, interpreting, evaluating, entertaining, socializing, persuading, and more.  Narrative, in short, is a way of knowing and of doing.

The project is called a "Collaborative" because it brings together a range of high-performing OSU scholars and artists around their shared interest in promoting innovative teaching, research, and creative projects that explore the nature, functions, and effects of stories and storytelling.

audience in black and white


For more information, please contact the project's principal investigators: Professor Lisa Florman, Professor Sarah Iles Johnston, Professor Jim Phelan, or Professor George Rush.

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Guide to Community Engagement Across the University


The following centers and initiatives directly engage a community and/or facilitate the work of OSU constituents who wish to do so:

See list of public or cross-disciplinary connectors


The following entities have community-oriented documentary and artifactual holdings on campus:

See list of archives


The following publishing entities have a community-based focus:

See publishing list


Many community-engaged projects have teaching and student-centered work at their core. This may look like service-learning or field school. It may also take the form of working with youth or training teachers. And sometimes, it looks like an interdisciplinary plan of study or incubator space that makes room for student-led creative experiment.

See list of teaching and student-centered work


The following entities either support community-engaged work that integrates artistic practice in some way or are experts in working with community partners and could (or do) provide critical research or skill sets in doing this work ethically, thoroughly, and humanely.

See list of community-engaged projects and partners with Ohio State