Classes begin for increasingly diverse student body at UC

Eager students return to in-person classes on campus amid COVID-19 precautions

The first day of classes for the fall semester at the University of Cincinnati starts Monday, Aug. 23, and more than 46,700 students are expected to begin instruction with a more traditional fall term, focusing on in-person instruction and activities. 

“We expect our enrollment to be similar to last year and are waiting to see how enrollment settles in the next few days,” says Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management at UC. “We may still break last year’s record, but there are some highlights in this year’s enrollment numbers that are worth celebrating even at this point.”

Students smile for a selfie with the Bearcat mascot

Students smile for a selfie with the Bearcat. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

We are excited that our new freshmen, and all of our students, get a chance to create new memories and experiences.

Jack Miner Vice provost for enrollment management

Last year, the university set an all-time record for the most diverse student body in its history. This fall, UC broke that record.

  • UC is more diverse with racial and ethnic minorities making up 24.1% of this year’s student body, a slight increase over last year’s 23.2%.
  • Nearly one in four first-year students are minorities.
  • Largest Uptown student enrollment in history: UC’s largest campus is located in  Uptown, boasting more than 40,000 students.
  • The quality of UC students has remained solid as well. The average GPA for incoming students at the Uptown campus is 3.7, the same as last year’s. 

“Our continued strong enrollment numbers at UC really reflect the commitment we have had to support our students during COVID, including additional financial aid, increased academic support, policies that are supportive of students and continuing to provide high quality learning experiences in the classroom and out of the classroom,” says Miner.

Students enjoyed the Twenty Sixth Annual University of Cincinnati College of Medicine White Coat ceremony class of 2025 Friday August 6, 2021 at Music Hall in downtown Cincinnati. Photos by Joseph Fuqua II

Medical students marked entry to the medical profession with a White Coat ceremony held Aug. 6 in Music Hall. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II

“We are seeing students who had planned to attend UC last year but couldn’t because of COVID limitations now enjoy becoming Bearcats. This has been especially inspiring to see the number of international students who weren’t able to attend last year but have remained committed to UC and are here with us in Cincinnati this fall.”

Some students are already enjoying a return to campus. The journey for medical school students began with an Aug. 6 White Coat ceremony at Music Hall while orientation for law school students started Aug. 16.

A unique experience for first-year students at UC is that some of them have gone without in-person instruction for more than a year, including their senior year of high school.  

“Our focus for this fall will be to ensure that our new freshmen are successful as they both transition to college and back into the classroom,” says Miner. “We are excited that our new freshmen, and all of our students, get a chance to create new memories and experiences. From football games to pizza with friends, activities that we took for granted in college will be cherished by these students as they come back to campus.”

About 70% of classes at UC are in-person this year, similar to the university’s in-person offerings pre-COVID. “It's a huge transition from last year, where the majority of classes were online,” says Miner.

2021 student orientation

Students explore UC's MainStreet. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

As a public university, we have an obligation to be sure that we are truly inclusive.

Neville G. Pinto UC president

2021 — 46,700+ (projected, final tally due by mid-September)

Homecoming 2019, football team defeats UConn

UC's strategic direction, Next Lives Here, focuses on academic excellence, urban impact and innovation. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

2020 — 46,798

2019 — 46,388

2018 — 45,949

2017 — 44,783

2016 — 44,338

2015 — 44,251

2014 — 43,691

2013 — 42,656

UC President Neville G. Pinto says education should be accessible to all citizens.

“As a public university, we have an obligation to be sure that we are truly inclusive,” says Pinto. “And so that means opening our doors wide and allowing more people to be educated at a higher level. 

“It is with that ambition that we are very deliberately targeting increases in enrollment every year. But we also want to ensure that the quality of the educational programming is not compromised. In fact, it is strengthened because increasing the diversity of students strengthens the quality of the experience on campus.”

2021 student orientation

Jasmine Walker, a UC student orientation coordinator, shows her fellow Bearcats and their parents how to correctly perform "Down the Drive." Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

The university continues to follow safety protocols in keeping with new guidance from the CDC and requires all individuals both fully vaccinated and those not fully vaccinated to wear a facial covering indoors. Students and parents are directed to visit the updated UC public health page to stay current with COVID-19 guidelines. 

To further encourage vaccination against COVID-19, the university will conduct drawings for weekly awards in varying amounts of $2,500 or $5,000, depending on the week. In all, the university will award nearly $50,000. Weekly drawings take place Aug. 23-Oct. 4.

Students enrolled for fall 2021 who have received their COVID-19 vaccinations and voluntarily report those to the university are eligible to enter and win. See full details.

Push Forward commercial filming. DAAP Scene, filmed at 1819.

DAAP student Vidushi Shrivastava works in the 1819 Makerspace. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

UC’s attraction isn’t a surprise to students like Austin Wood, a fourth-year business economics major from Indianapolis, Indiana, or Nachiket Dighe, a second-year student from Mumbai, India, studying computer science.

“There are so many good programs here and all of them just keep getting better as time goes on and are becoming more known around the country and world,” says Wood. “Each year, I think we have more residents on campus and it just shows students want to be here.”

Dighe agrees, noting it was UC’s co-op program that attracted him to Cincinnati. Cooperative education was founded at UC in 1906, and it continues to expand as an opportunity for all students building on UC’s signature programs in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Information Technology and the Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

UC students shown here during their co-op at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. UC/ Joseph Fuqua II

“UC has always been a good school and was ranked fifth in terms of co-op in the country,” says Dighe. “It’s a hot spot for people to come. Getting co-op experience before graduation is one of the best things about the university.”

Wood and Dighe are both student orientation leaders tasked with welcoming incoming students to the university. This year they introduced students to UC through a mix of virtual and in-person orientation activities.  

Wood says he thinks students will enjoy attending sporting events and activities that have been planned as part of Welcome Week that signal a return to campus. 

“Welcome Week will have a lot of events outside,” says Wood. “Our students have not been able to experience these types of activities on campus. Nippert Stadium will be open for students to come and watch our highly ranked football team and that will be something awesome to see. We have really been missing out on that during this past year-and-a-half or two because of the pandemic.”

I am really glad I chose to come to UC.

Aaliyah Dodson Nursing student

Student poses by UC sign

Aaliyah Dodson | Provided

Nippert Stadium closed earlier in the year for turf replacement, though the stairways were still available for exercise. Now fully reopened, the stadium’s field plays host to impromptu games of Frisbee football, kickball and soccer.

“I think everyone should go out and enjoy that field; it is open to all of us so go ahead and utilize it,” says Aaliyah Dodson, a second-year nursing student from Cincinnati who is also a student orientation leader.

Dodson says Nippert is just one of many destinations for her on UC’s campus. Much of her first year was a hybrid of online and some in-person classes, but she found time to study in her favorite spot, Lindner Hall — home of the Lindner College of Business — and was impressed with its building features and technology. Lindner Hall is a Gold LEED certified green building constructed using sustainable building strategies and practices.

“It is absolutely gorgeous in there,” says Dodson, a graduate of Cincinnati’s Roger Bacon High School. “I love going into Procter Hall — home of the College of Nursing — because it puts me in that sense that I am about to start nursing. And I finally got my scrubs, and I am just so excited about that.”

“My first year, even during COVID, I really loved this school,” she says. “I am really glad I chose to come to UC.”

Many students come to UC for the chance to work on original research with leading experts in their chosen fields.

UC is a leading public research university, ranking in the top 3% in annual research expenditures among institutions of higher education that invest more than $50 million per year. UC spends an average of $432 million each year on research and development across all its colleges.

Students can get hands-on experience in research as undergraduates, even publishing their work and presenting it at conferences. This often sparks an interest that leads to more student-driven research in graduate school.

“We offer a diversity of opportunities,” said Patrick Limbach, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and UC’s vice president for research. “Whether you’re in the creative or performing arts, humanities, engineering, sciences or medicine, that is one of our strengths.”

Brittany Duncan, graduate student, working in Dr. Sadayappan's lab.

Brittany Duncan, a doctoral student in molecular, cellular and biochemical pharmacology, works in the UC College of Medicine. Photo by Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

UC launched its Research 2030 strategic initiative last year to support its important role in the Midwest as a top urban research university based on the nonprofit Carnegie Foundation’s rankings. UC’s research has a measurable impact, whether it’s supervising clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine or unearthing archaeological mysteries around the world.

“We try to tell the story of how that work makes a difference: How does it improve the lives of people around us?” Limbach said.

UC also helps students and faculty turn good ideas into business opportunities through its Venture Lab and 1819 Innovation Hub, both which support budding entrepreneurship. 

“We have the scale and the commitment as a leading research institution to provide that experience to our students,” Limbach said. “At UC, a big emphasis is on maintaining our cutting-edge facilities. We’re always looking for what’s next to stay ahead of the curve.”

Alcy Barakat portrait

Alcy Barakat | Provided

When your last name is pronounced “bearcat,” it would seem logical that UC would be a perfect place to work. That’s the case for Alcy Barakat, senior admissions counselor for the interdisciplinary public health undergraduate program at the UC College of Medicine. Barakat says her last name is of Lebanese origin and on a visit to Cincinnati a few years ago, she was surprised to learn of the UC Bearcat mascot.

“I picked up a Bearcat shirt at a bookstore and wore it in the classroom in my previous role and many students found it fun to make that connection to my name,” she says. “My last name is spelled a little different, but I am indeed a Barakat/Bearcat in name, profession and spirit!"

Barakat is from Toledo, Ohio, where she got her master’s degree in public health, making the move to Cincinnati to take the UC College of Medicine job in July. She worked as a health educator and youth advocate for the YWCA of Northwest Ohio delivering pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention programming in Toledo Public Schools as well as after-school programming.

“I am having so much fun introducing myself to folks who wonder if my name and our UC mascot are indeed pronounced the same,” Barakat says. “I tell everyone it’s a good day to be a Bearcat because I already am one!”

Alcy Barakat poses with the Bearcat at Convocation. Alcy is the Sr Admissions Counselor for the interdisciplinary public health undergraduate program through the College of Medicine.

Alcy Barakat poses with the Bearcat at Convocation. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Selfie of girl in mask in front of UC sign

Grayson snaps a selfie during a visit to campus.

First-year student Grayson Mentzel just moved onto campus, but six months ago, it was the University of Cincinnati that showed up at her door.

Grayson was one of the lucky area high school students to be part of UC’s first-ever Decision Day surprise, when a shuttle with UC VIPs and members of the media surprised newly accepted Bearcats at their school or home.

A then-senior at Walnut Hills High School, Grayson was the very first UC applicant to get an official admission letter from UC on Feb. 4, when Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Jack Miner; Marianne Lewis, dean of UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business; and the Bearcat mascot paid a surprise visit to her family’s Cincinnati home.

Read more about Grayson's journey to becoming a Bearcat.

As new and returning students traverse campus it will be hard to miss some of the on-going construction projects.

College of Law

Most notably, construction crews began work on the new home for the College of Law in the middle of the Uptown campus.

The UC Board of Trustees approved the use of more than $29 million in state funds as part of the $45.6 million plan to renovate the former College of Business building. It is scheduled for completion in August 2022.

College of Law building rendering

By reinventing and building onto the existing facility, the university will create a state-of-the-art law school designed with the technological and spatial needs of today’s law students in mind. 

The former Lindner Hall was built in 1986 to accommodate 1,800 students. The 84,000-square-foot existing facility, plus additions, will offer more than ample space for the College of Law’s close-knit community of 385 students.

"The new College of Law building perfectly reflects our mission to educate and inspire the next generation of changemakers,” explains Verna Williams, dean of the College of Law. “It’s where students will launch their futures — be it working in the corporate arena, public service or the international human rights field.”

“A 21st century design — open, modern, light-filled space — puts learning on display, encouraging collaboration and connection among students, faculty and the community. It’s at this intersection where great ideas will be born,” says Williams. “Our new location in the heart of UC’s campus connects us to the Innovation Corridor, as well as university partners, the local community and jobs.” 

“We’re excited about this next step in our almost 200-year-journey, one that will position us as the law school of the future,” says Williams.

Calhoun Hall

Visitors to the Uptown campus may also notice crews working on Calhoun Hall, a 16-story high-rise with 13 floors used for residential, dining and related support space. Located on Calhoun Street, the dormitory has housing capacity for more than 800 students and closed when significant renovations began in June. It is scheduled to reopen in summer 2023.

UC will invest $80.4 million into renovating the 173,000-square-foot building, which opened in 1967. Improvements will include a new exterior, elevator upgrades, updated rooms and private restrooms along with complete replacement of the residence hall’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing, telephone and data systems. 

Calhoun Hall rendering

The newly renovated residence hall will give students access to social collaboration nodes on each floor, in addition to a number of private team huddle rooms and collaborative community space in the residence hall’s lobby.

“Calhoun Hall is undergoing a full renovation,” explains Todd Duncan, senior associate vice president of campus services. “Anyone coming back to campus is going to see that huge residence hall and that southern facade has all been removed. Crews are working on removing the northern facade now and that’s visible to the campus from Memorial Hall and CCM plaza. People will watch that building be transformed over the next year and a half.”

“We are updating all the systems of the building and the renovation will add a beautiful facade,” says Duncan. “We will reconfigure the bathrooms to allow for co-ed assignments. Community bathrooms only allowed for single gender assignments before.”

Digital Futures

A short distance from the Uptown and medical campuses, a new structure, the UC’s Digital Futures complex, is taking shape. It is adjacent to the 1819 Innovation Hub and located in the Cincinnati Innovation District along the southeast corridor of Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road.

Digital Futures Building – on target for completion in summer 2022 in the Cincinnati Innovation District

The six-story building will offer 180,000 square feet of space for interdisciplinary research when it opens in summer 2022. Research topics will include artificial intelligence, sensors, analytics, education, simulations, policy, informatics, creative arts and the humanities.

The Digital Futures complex will allow UC to generate new concepts, test significant ideas and create original technologies to uncover new approaches to digital challenges facing our region and world. 

“Digital Futures is really going to shake things up with a focus towards applied research designed to solve problems that matter,” says Jennifer Krivickas, associate vice president for research. “This is the change-up culture UC President Neville Pinto and the world wants to see.”

Clifton Court Hall

Construction of Clifton Court Hall, the new College of Arts and Sciences social sciences classroom building, started in May on the northwest corner of campus near the DAAP building. It is a $93-million project and is expected to be completed in summer 2023. 

Clifton Court Hall will become home to psychology, philosophy, political science, romance and Arabic languages and literatures, German studies, communication, journalism and digital media. 

While many were off campus, UC took the opportunity to rebrand the Food Court in Tangeman University Center (TUC), explains Todd Duncan, senior associate vice president of campus services.

Visitors can still enjoy Chick-fil-A, but they also have the option of Panda Express, Qdoba Mexican Eats and Switch’n Kitchen, a partnership between the university and a group of local restaurants. Different Cincinnati-area restaurants offer their cuisine, rotating or “switch’n” on a monthly basis, during the semester at this location. The first brand that will be in Switch’n Kitchen this fall is Eli's BBQ, a local favorite.

Panda Express counter in the University of Cincinnati food court

Operations have changed at two longtime dining options. Mick & Mack’s Cafe located in TUC is now a residential meal service site. It no longer offers table service, but like all dining halls, non-meal plan holders can purchase items. Catskeller, located on the first level of TUC, no longer offers alcoholic beverages, and the meal exchange service was relocated to Mick & Mack's Cafe.

“We left the televisions up and it’s still a great place to go in and enjoy sports,” says Duncan. “It’s just part of the student union now. The space is still available for students wanting to enjoy a carry-out meal from another location and relax.”

Food services has also introduced mobile ordering for dining. Students can download the Transact app through the Apple app store or Google Play, and search for Cincy to Go. Chick-fil-A is active now. Both Qdoba and Panda Express will be added soon. Also coming soon will be mobile ordering for campus Starbucks locations through the Starbucks app. There is also a new social media account — @UofCincyDining on Instagram and Twitter. Follow along for the latest dining news, limited-time offers, and special promotions.

At the UC Bookstore, students can now enjoy the same 15% discount that faculty and staff have used to purchase general merchandise, says Duncan. The discount does not apply to academic course material, Apple products or other hardware and software purchases.

Vending machines across the university are now accepting credit cards in addition to Bearcat cards. “This provides a chance to open up sales to more people,” says Duncan. “This is especially the case for visitors at UC who often don’t carry cash when they come for special events,” he says. “Someone wants to buy a soda or bottled water they can now with a credit card.”

At the Campus Recreation Center, a new 30-minute full body workout area, adjacent to the entry, is now available making it easier and quicker for members to get both a weight and cardio workout, says Duncan. “We have converted some of our underutilized racquetball courts to support the higher demands for strength training and other cardio activities.”

Parking services is offering a new parking option for faculty and staff, who utilize daily parking in place of having a permit for Uptown campus garages. The parking value pass offers two options: value passes that allow for 15 days or 30 days of parking within a 4-month period. The rates are discounted over the normal daily rate. The pass will be good for any parking garage that has daily visitor parking available.  

In addition, for faculty and staff at UC Clermont, UC Blue Ash, Victory Parkway and Reading campuses, a new mobile pay option is being offered to allow for daily parking in place of a permit. 


Featured image at top of students: Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

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