Latest news from the UO

  • COVID-19 emergency spending bill provides funds for higher ed.

    On Friday, March 27, the House of Representatives passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an approximately $2 trillion emergency spending bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate first passed the legislation on Thursday, March 26. The third COVID-19 package includes $13.9 billion that will be available in a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for students and institutions of higher education. The nearly $14 billion for higher education is part of the $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, which also has designated funding for local education agencies ($13.2 billion) and discretionary state governor spending to be used for higher education and/or K-12 ($2.95 billion). Of the $13.9 available in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, 90 percent (just over $12.5 billion) will be available to all institutions of higher education based on the proportion of Pell and non-Pell full-time-equivalent students who were not enrolled exclusively in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency. The emergency assistance is to be split between direct assistance to students and institutions. Students will be eligible for emergency grants that may be available through their institutions or traditional financial aid channels to meet unexpected and urgent needs related to the coronavirus, such as expenses related to food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care. Students who are currently participating in the Federal Work Study program can continue to receive work-study payments from their institution if they are unable to work due to workplace closures. Relief also exists for students who must drop out of school due to COVID-19. Students will have the portion of their student loan taken out for the semester (or equivalent) canceled. Further, students who received a Pell Grant or subsidized student loan for spring term will not have those types of financial aid counted toward their lifetime limits.

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  • Student group continues census education amid COVID-19 pandemic

    First published in the Daily Emerald on March 30th, 2020.Eugene Counts, which works to promote the 2020 Census in Eugene, continues to encourage University of Oregon students to reply to the Census even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  Eugene Counts is a group of five public relations students from the UO School of Journalism and Communication who are chosen each year to design a full public relations campaign for the Public Relations Student Society of America’s national Bateman Case Study Competition, said Carrissa Pahl, a senior at UO and a member of Eugene Counts.  For the 2020 Bateman Competition, PRSSA partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to help encourage under-counted communities and on-and-off campus students to participate in the 2020 Census, said Chase Ford, another UO senior who is a member of Eugene Counts.  “We hope that [the students] understand the importance of the role they play in government and government activities,” Ford said. “Like with the Census, it’s really important that they respond and they respond in the right place: their college address.”  Ford said that the Census helps inform the distribution of billions in federal funding that support community services like public works projects and programs such as the Pell Grant.  “The most important thing is that students understand they matter, that this is more than just a population count,” Ford said. “Even if they don’t see Eugene as their long-term home, the Census is only taken every 10 years. So the students that are here are going to count for the next students to come and the funding for the community over the next ten years.”  Eugene Counts has taken to promoting its campaign on social media after the university announced that spring term classes would be taught remotely.

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  • Merkley leads request for COVID-19-related emergency relief funding for students and universities

    On Friday, March 20, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) quickly took a lead role in authoring a letter to Senate leaders urging support for college students and the universities and colleges they attend be included the third version of the coronavirus emergency relief bill. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined Senator Merkley in making the request. The letter, co-signed by an additional 23 senators and addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and ranking members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, summarizes the unprecedented and rapid steps colleges and universities across the country are taking to respond to the pandemic, including modifying instruction methods and restricting access to facilities to protect the health and safety of students and employees. Merkley and colleagues opined in the letter “as a result, colleges and universities face significant losses in revenue and face new, unexpected costs. These institutions rely on tuition, and anticipated declines in international and domestic enrollment would be devastating. It is highly doubtful that our higher education systems can continue operations, employment, and teaching without timely stop-gap funding from Congress.” Merkley and his colleagues asked Congress to 1) prioritize protecting students from student aid disruptions and 2) provide emergency stop-gap funding for colleges and universities. As of 8 am on March 25, the bill is pending passage by the full Senate, is expected to move to the House for approval and be signed by the President.

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  • GI Bill benefits will continue during remote instruction period

    March 24, 2020 03:33 pm Within a week of introduction, the Emergency GI Fix for Coronavirus School Closures was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Trump on Saturday, March 21. The law gives states temporary authority to continue GI Bill education benefit payments, including housing stipends, at normal levels, uninterrupted, in the event of national emergencies.  The legislation includes the provision that payments continue even when an approved and accredited education program, such as the University of Oregon, switches from in-person to remote instruction. It also addresses monthly housing stipends and applies through December 21, 2020. The Oregon delegation tracked this issue closely as both the US House and US Senate moved to consider bills to enact a fix. Ultimately, Senate Bill 3503 became law. The University of Oregon joined a coalition of universities to support the bills including signing onto a  letter of support as it was pending before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

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  • Education, law again among best in grad school rankings

    First published in  Around the O on March 20th, 2020. Several University of Oregon graduate programs are highlighted in the 2021 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report this week. Offerings from both the UO’s College of Education and School of Law continue to be ranked among the best in the nation. The rankings this year focus on six disciplines with the greatest enrollment: education, law, medicine, nursing, engineering and business. The College of Education climbed to the rank of No. 4 public institution on the list and ranks 11th among all schools nationwide. The college’s special education program is, once again, among the top three in the country. For the 21st year in a row, the program ranks No. 3 overall, second among public institutions and best in the Northwest. The College of Education also ranks well for total research funds, with $46.1 million awarded to faculty members last year, placing it in the top 10 nationwide and No. 7 for public institutions.

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  • Patents & licensing deals, provost's big ideas

    First published in Around the O on March 11th, 2020.Innovation Beat is a quarterly roundup of small stories about UO discoveries with big results. This edition of Innovation Beat highlights researchers who’ve earned patents and licensing deals. There’s also calls for entry and updates on entrepreneurship competitions. UO researchers earn patent for promising diabetes treatment Jennifer Hill made national headlines in 2016 with her discovery of a bacterial protein called BefA that shows promise to someday become a component of a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes.  On Feb. 18 the U.S. Patent Office confirmed her discovery. Earning a patent is an important step toward translating medical discoveries into solutions that can improve peoples’ lives. “When I learned that our patent had been issued, the first thing I felt was actually relief, followed by excitement, because the patent allows us to continue to push BefA in a direction that might help people someday,” Hill said. “The process of vetting and developing a new drug is extremely expensive and the patent makes the investment in that process worthwhile.” At the time she made her discovery, Hill was studying the microbiome, the community of microorganisms that reside within the bodies of humans and most other animals, in biology professor Karen Guillemin’s lab. She was curious how the microorganisms that live in the gut of zebrafish interact with the pancreas.  The pancreas produces beta cells. Beta cells make insulin, a chemical necessary to digest sugars. Type 1 diabetes causes an immune reaction that kills beta cells, making it difficult to process sugars. Hill methodically examined hundreds of samples from bacteria species that live inside zebrafish, a common proxy species for studying human biology. She found a few bacteria that influence beta cell production in the zebrafish pancreas, and then narrowed it down to a single bacterial protein — a huge discovery.  She named it Beta Cell Expansion Factor A, or BefA, and now she’s studying it in mammals as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah. “It is important to understand how mammals respond to BefA or similar microbial cues because it gives us a clue into how humans might respond, which is important for a potential therapeutic,” Hill said. “I'm learning that, similarly to fish, mice are also ‘listening in’ on resident microbes to shape their pancreas development.” Having the patent protects Hill and Guillemin’s claim to have discovered the BefA protein, as well as the methodologies they developed to use BefA to stimulate beta cell production in the pancreas as a treatment for diabetes. “We are actively studying BefA’s mechanism of action from many avenues,” Guillemin said. “Having this patent allows us to explore different routes to developing BefA as a therapeutic, one of which could be through establishing our own company.” UO research supports literacy evaluation program University research to improve reading fluency assessments will soon be helping teachers across the nation, thanks to a licensing agreement with the education technology company Analytical Measures Inc. College of Education research associate professor Joe Nese developed the Computerized Oral Reading Evaluation to reduce the workload for teachers who must frequently test their students’ reading levels. Evaluation combines an innovative psychometric model and a custom set of reading passages with speech recognition software to better evaluate student reading ability. The automated evaluation allows teachers to simultaneously administer brief reading assessments to multiple students with fewer errors, providing a more accurate understanding of students’ reading development. Analytical Measures will incorporate the tool into its Moby.Read application. The new tool and Moby.Read both received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences.

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  • The Year of Water opens the spigot on university research

    First published in Around the O on March 11th, 2020. Editor's note: Events mentioned in this story have been canceled. Please check the Year of Water website for rescheduled and future events.  This month marks the official kickoff of a yearlong initiative to draw attention to one of Oregon’s most important resources: water. The Year of Water is a joint effort by the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Portland State University to highlight the role Oregon’s research universities play as leaders and partners trying to address water-related challenges in Oregon, the region and the world. The initiative, which runs through February 2021, provides the public a chance to learn more about research that takes place across Oregon and for UO researchers and scholars to discover what their colleagues at other universities are up to. Organizers say it could inspire new interdisciplinary collaborations that cut across institutional lines. “So many of us are doing important work around water without being fully aware of what our colleagues in other departments and at other Oregon universities are up to,” said Alaí Reyes-Santos, a professor in the Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies and an organizer of the event. “The Year of Water opens the door for all Oregonians to see the critical research and scholarship that goes on throughout the state in labs, libraries and in the field.” While some UO faculty members have clear ties to water — earth scientists who study glaciers, for example or biologists who study fish — other connections are less obvious. In Reyes-Santos’ case, the study of water is more cultural than literal. Her manuscript-in-progress, “Oceanic Whispers, Secrets She Never Told,” examines restorative justice and community healing through a black Caribbean lens. Reyes-Santos points to the UO’s depth of environmental humanities researchers who are exploring water-related subjects, including those at the UO’s Center for Environmental Futures, not to mention researchers and scholars in English, theater, art and design, earth sciences, chemistry, biology, and more. A few of the UO faculty members involved in the initiative include:

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  • 2020 Oregon Legislative Session: The Recap

    On Sunday, March 8, Oregon’s 2020 legislative session officially came to a close. What began on February 3 as a 35-day session effectively ended abruptly on March 5 when a sufficient number of House and Senate Republicans walked out to prevent a quorum, which requires two-thirds of lawmakers to be present in order to hold a vote in both chambers of the Legislature. The “walkout” was motivated by a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over SB 1530, a measure that would implement a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon. As a result, all remaining policy and budget proposals have effectively died, barring a special session. Only three bills passed and made it to the Governor’s desk of the 250 or so that were introduced. Unfortunately, none of the budget or policy bills that the UO and higher education stakeholders were actively advocating for were among them. These include: Capital Construction and Bonding Authorization (HB 5202): The UO sought state-backed bonds for the renovation of Huestis Hall, a biological sciences building located in the Lokey Science Complex. The bill authorized $56.75 million in bonds for the renovation of Huestis Hall. It passed out of the Joint Committee in Ways & Means and was awaiting a floor vote. ShakeAlert (HB 5204): The UO sought $7.5 million for the earthquake early warning system operated by the UO and other universities on the West Coast to improve Oregon’s resiliency in the face of earthquakes. The bill authorized the funding from the General Fund for the buildout of this seismic network. It passed out of the Joint Committee in Ways & Means and was awaiting a floor vote. UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (HB 5204): The UO sought $500,000 to match university and private investment for a new ship at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB), the UO’s campus on the southern Oregon coast. The bill authorized the funding to build the new ship, which will better serve students, the community, and faculty. It passed out of the Joint Committee in Ways & Means and was awaiting a floor vote. Food & Housing Security for Students (HB 4055): The UO sought passage of a bill that would conduct a study of food and housing insecurity rates and trends on college campuses and make recommendations to solve them. The bill died in the Joint Committee on Ways & Means. Better outcomes for a new generation of Oregon university students (HB 4160): Increases in diversity are transforming university campuses and creating opportunities for a new generation of Oregon students. Yet outcomes and graduation rates for these traditionally underrepresented students are not keeping pace. UO joined other universities to support establishing a task force on student success for underrepresented students in higher education. The bill died in the Joint Committee on Ways & Means.

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  • Students will be an important part of the decennial census

    First published in Around the O on March 2, 2020. Census Day is fast approaching and accurate student counts are critical to the future and prosperity of the UO and the greater community. Beginning in mid-March, households and off-campus residences across Oregon will receive a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau asking them to take the census online or by phone. Each household will be asked to provide basic information about the people who reside in that household “most of the time” as of April 1, the official Census Day. Students should fill out the form based on where they are living on April 1. For most, that means entering their residence as Eugene. For college students, census data affects funding for things like safety, the federal Pell Grant program, student wellness programs, community mental health services and medical assistance programs. The census form asks 12 questions, which should be completed by each household. The list of questions is available on the United State Census 2020 website. In 2016 alone, Oregon received more than $13.4 billion in federal assistance, based on data collected during the 2010 census. The census also determines Oregon’s political representation through the number of representatives the state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the number of electoral votes.

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