Women Take Center Stage During Greater Columbus Graduation Ceremonies This Year

Influential female leaders will dominate Central Ohio commencement ceremonies this spring.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly

The choice of a commencement speaker can offer inspiration, bring star power to a rite of passage or signal a college or university’s values. Ohio State’s choice of speaker notwithstanding (we learned just as we went to press that Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, the man most responsible for a seismic shift that’s heading for Central Ohio, will address the OSU grads), area colleges and universities are sending out a clear message with their selections to address the 2022 grads: Women’s voices must be heard. Here’s a sampling.

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon

Talisa Dixon

Superintendent and CEO, Columbus City Schools

Otterbein (graduate programs)

Dixon was recruited three years ago to serve as a change agent for Columbus City Schools. While the jury’s still out, she is credited with initiating numerous innovative programs and has embarked on an ambitious campaign to build new schools and refurbish old ones. She not only has a doctorate in education, she has three master’s degrees.

More:Superintendent and CEO Talisa Dixon is making change at Columbus City Schools

Connie Schultz is an Opinion columnist for USA TODAY.

Connie Schultz

Columnist, USA Today, and Professional in Residence, Kent State University


The Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist (disclaimer: her employer is owned by Gannett, which also owns Columbus Monthly) and author of the bestselling novel “The Daughters of Erietown” is known for liberal straight talk and for sharing heartwarming photos of her spouse, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, to her vast community of friends and followers on social media.

Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State University, talks about her time as an inventor leading up to her current role.

Kristina M. Johnson

President, Ohio State University

Columbus State

The prolific inventor whose innovations paved the way for a new era of 3D movies served as the undersecretary of energy from 2009–10. Oh, she’s also the president of one of the best public universities in the world (and the first openly gay person to hold the position, to boot).

More:How Ohio State President Kristina Johnson has led During COVID-19

Barb Smoot

Barb Smoot

President and CEO, Women for Economic and Leadership Development

Ohio Dominican

Smoot is a leader of leaders who has dramatically expanded WELD’s reach during her tenure. Locally, she’s walked the walk by serving on a plethora of boards, committees and community endeavors.

Sheila Coronel

Sheila Coronel

Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Columbia University


Founder of a center for investigative journalism in the Philippines whose reporting contributed to the impeachment and ouster of President Joseph Estrada, Coronel has trained journalists around the world and says we are “living in a golden age of global muckraking.”

Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, reflects on the early days of the COVID pandemic, Wednesday, February 16, 2022.

Amy Acton

Former director, Ohio Department of Health

Ohio Wesleyan

The woman who calmly talked us through the early days of the pandemic at the governor’s daily press conferences was both praised and pilloried for her efforts to contain the spread. She remains a role model for many.

Paula Scher

Paula Scher

Partner, Pentagram

Columbus College of Art & Design

Referred to by an interviewee in a recent Netflix documentary series as “the goddess of graphic design,” Paula Scher is one of the nation’s most influential designers, with work that extends from typography to brand identities to architecture to maps.

This story is from the May 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.