Donna Hight wears many hats in her role as chief student life and retention officer at The Ohio State University at Mansfield. She’s involved with student engagement, diversity and inclusion, career development, academic success services and more, all driven by one goal: to help students succeed.
“It’s really nice to spend time with students and know you’re helping them along their journey,” Donna shared.
Donna grew up and worked in the southern U.S. before becoming a Buckeye. Her impact during her 13 years on the Mansfield campus is evident through her many significant accomplishments. Most notably, under her leadership, Ohio State Mansfield converted to a combined residential and commuter campus, leading to the residential population doubling in three years.
“It’s important to provide access for students, and this meant creating residential options so students could attend events outside of the classroom,” said Donna. “It created a lot of opportunity for people across the state, particularly northeast Ohio.”
She leads a team that has successfully implemented educational programming, support systems for students and diversity and inclusion training, all in support of student success – her number one priority.
“The students here are very diverse, and I’m always amazed at everything they’ve had to overcome in order to be successful,” Donna explained. “They haven’t always had opportunity and access, and it’s important to me to help provide that.”
Another way Donna and her team have helped to address students’ needs with education and living costs was by creating a campus food pantry and a student emergency fund, which is supported through donations.
“If a student needs textbooks or assistance to stay in school, we have resources available to help with that,” said Donna. “We will do whatever needs to be done to help students be academically, personally and socially successful. I want to see people graduate.”
Donna believes every student has a unique background and story; therefore, her team works with a local psychologist to develop trauma-informed care resources and inclusion initiatives. For her, it is crucial that everyone at Ohio State Mansfield is understanding and supportive of each other.
“We’re including everybody, and we want everyone to know they’re welcome here,” Donna said, explaining that it is necessary for each student to be woven into the university fabric. “We’re creating a diverse family and giving everyone a voice.”
She is immensely proud of her team and everything they have accomplished. Donna’s colleagues are clearly inspired by her as well, and they demonstrated this by nominating her for a 2017 Distinguished Staff Award.
“I’m blessed to work with a great group of people,” said Donna. “And it’s nice when they notice that you’re going above and beyond.”