Special to 1812Blockhouse

The Ohio State University has selected Jason Opal as its next dean and director of The Ohio State University at Mansfield, effective Aug. 15. Opal currently serves as associate dean of graduate studies in the Faculty of Arts at McGill University, one of Canada’s leading public research institutions. A scholar and historian of early America and infectious diseases, he is a professor in McGill’s Department of History and Classics with 20 years of academic experience.  

At Ohio State Mansfield, Opal will lead efforts to extend and amplify the university’s commitment to student success, innovation in teaching and learning, research opportunities and community engagement. 

“Jason is an experienced leader who is passionate about improving the student experience,” said Ryan J. Schmiesing, senior vice provost for external engagement. “I look forward to collaborating with him as our regional campuses continue to engage with stakeholders across the state to identify opportunities, enhance student outcomes and fulfill workforce needs.” 

In addition to his scholarship, Opal will bring extensive administrative experience to the Mansfield campus. In his role as associate dean at McGill, he is responsible for overseeing graduate programs and improving the student experience for McGill’s largest academic unit. Before joining the dean’s office, Opal served as chair of the Department of History and Classics, the largest department in the Faculty of Arts. Before joining McGill in 2009, he was an assistant professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.  

“The Mansfield campus combines all the good things of a small campus with all the benefits and resources of a powerhouse university,” said Opal. “That’s a rare combination, and I wanted to be a part of it.” 

Ohio State Mansfield is a thriving model for sustainability, experiential education, and hands-on research. The campus has a 20-acre sugar bush for maple syrup production; vernal pools, pine plantations, wetlands and stream heads; and an EcoLab in collaboration with the School of Environment and Natural Resources.  

More than 1,500 first-year Ohio State students start their academic journeys on a regional campus. Students can complete the first one to three years of any of Ohio State’s 200-plus majors on the Mansfield campus before transitioning to the Columbus campus to complete their degree. Twelve majors can be completed at Ohio State Mansfield. 

Opal also looks forward to being part of the Mansfield community and serving in Ohio State Mansfield’s smaller-campus environment, known for its strong faculty-student connections and holistic student support. 

“My first teaching job was at such a campus, and I love the creative interactions and supportive feel that those kinds of schools can provide,” said Opal. “The faculty and staff at Mansfield are passionate about their students, their writing and their projects. My goal will be to share that enthusiasm and to enable the faculty, staff and students to flourish.” 

Opal earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Brandeis University. He has published or edited three books, written numerous scholarly articles and chapters, and been tapped by American, Canadian and French radio and TV networks to provide historical clarity to pressing issues.  

“We are grateful for all who supported the search, including the search advisory committee, chaired by David Horn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Karla Zadnik, interim executive vice president and provost. “We are also especially appreciative of Eric Anderman and his dedicated service as interim dean and director of Ohio State Mansfield over the past two years.”  

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