Latest news from the UO

  • A year later, Black Cultural Center is a place of bonding and pride

    First published in Around the O on October 16, 2020. Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center's One Year Anniversary CONGRATULATIONS! Adapting to a mostly virtual world, the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center has built strong bonds and provided support and pride for Black students, faculty, and staff. On October 12, 2019, the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center opened its doors after literally generations of demands. In 1968, members of the Black Student Union protested and asked for programs dedicated to their distinct needs. In 2015, members of the Black Student Task Force’s list of demands included a cultural center. In 2017, a formal proposal and fundraising were initiated, following a lead gift from Nancy and Dave Petrone. At the opening of the center, Shaniece Curry, a 2016 alumna and president of the Black Women of Achievement a group  that helped spark the 2015 effort, honored those who turned the center into a reality. “To be clear,” she said,  “black students on this campus willed us to this day” It has been a year since “that day,” which Curry spoke of though surely not the year expected. In an interview with Aris Hall, coordinator of the center, she spoke of the changes over the year for the center and the vision for this year and beyond. What has this year been like for the center? “The Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center (LRP BCC)  was just starting to gain traction with students when the pandemic hit and we were forced to close the center. The LRP BCC pre-COVID was a place where students would come to do homework and student organizations held their weekly meetings. The first large-scale event we hosted was Soul2Soul: Black History Kick-Off and Networking with more than 80 students, faculty members, and staff in attendance. We also partnered with the University Counseling Center to host Let’s Talk during winter term. After COVID-19 we had to change course. We continued to offer Super Soul Tuesdays virtually, providing holistic academic and cultural support and created an Instagram Live show entitled Nuanced Griot: Community Conversations. This allowed Stella-Marie Akindayomi, Multicultural Academic Counselor and Black/African American Student Retention Specialist, and myself to speak with a variety of campus partners about identity, academics, and professional and personal development for Black students. This fall, we have continued to offer these initiatives as well as our first BCC Welcome, A Family Affair, an in-person, physically distanced event. My staff and I are finding creative ways to connect with students remotely when we are not able to do in-person events.” How is the BCC providing support for Black students, faculty, and staff given our current environment with Black Lives Matter and calls for racial and social justice systemically and individually? “I don’t like to consider Black Lives Matter a movement, civil/human rights is the movement. Black Lives Matter is a call to action for non-Black folks to see, hear, and understand the multitude of systemic injustices Black people encounter on a daily basis. Systemic racism exists not only at your local grocery store but also in corporate America as well as institutions of higher education. The University of Oregon is not exempt of this, and Black students, faculty, and staff have experienced this at different times.  When news and social media popularized the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor—just to name a few—the LRP BCC  worked with the Black Strategies Group leadership and Black Academic Excellence Team to develop a statement to stand in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, and staff. Notwithstanding, a statement and social media post are not enough. We also held two town halls and continue to empower and remind the UO community the importance of why Black Lives Matter, and what resources non-Black folks can use to better educate themselves to go beyond being an ally. We continue to want Black individuals at the UO to know that they are not alone. The LRP BCC has a strong desire to bring attention to the disparities within the Black community and wants to continue to move the needle and contribute to the recruitment and retention of Black students, faculty, and staff, as well as matriculation of Black students, in spite of the systemic racism and injustice not only on this campus but within the US. To do this the center will continue to offer programming and initiatives that will emphasize academic development, social connectedness, and cultural pride. Whether we are remote or in-person, Black lives and their success, no matter their status, at the UO is the priority.”  How can the university, institutionally and as a community member, support the center? “To grow, progress, and evolve, UO must not only put out statements but do the work through organizational infrastructure, intentional recruitment and retention of Black students, faculty, and staff, and financial support through scholarships and equitable pay. I am in the midst of conversations about some of these things; however, it cannot only be the LRP BCC and/or Black Strategies Group leading the charge for these efforts. The way to make this sustainable and viable once the hashtags stop trending is to develop practical action plans that are not Band-Aids for surgical cuts, but rather with methodical precision foster an environment where change is not temporary. This evolution of change can only begin when leadership acknowledges the wrong, communicates with those who have been hurt, which then can begin healing and developing trust among those who have been wronged.” What are some of your overarching reflections on year one of the BCC and thoughts for the future? “The LRP BCC has experienced a lot of firsts over the last year. But the most rewarding things that have come out of this is connecting Black students to one another as well as connecting them to Black faculty and staff to whom they may have not been connected. It has been a joy opening the LRP BCC in spite of us not being physically open for the latter half of the year. But we have made it work. I am encouraged by the relationships and community that has been created over the last year, and we will continue to curate an environment to engage academic success, social development, and cultural enrichment and pride for Black students, faculty, and staff at the University of Oregon.    As the LRP BCC continues to grow and evolve in its offerings, I hope we are able to increase our staff to ensure that we have the capacity and bandwidth to do the many things we desire, including building out our programming and initiatives to meet the myriad needs, wants, and desires that our students have. It is important to me that we get buy-in from a multitude of individuals and offer an array of opportunities that gauge multiple interests. As this year progresses, I will be working on a strategic plan that will highlight my student staff and my ideas. Lastly, I hope that Black students, faculty, and staff continue to know that the LRP Black Cultural Center is an available resource no matter if our physical doors are open or not.”  In a year’s time, Hall, the LGP BCC team and the campus community have built what Maria Mbodji, a business major who was part of the center’s planning committee, spoke of at the groundbreaking. “When I started out here, I wanted to find my community and find my people,” she said. “When the center is complete, people won’t have to look that hard anymore to find community, because we’ll have the Black Cultural Center, and it will be a safe haven for them.” Happy anniversary, Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center. Happy anniversary, Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center. Sadé AmherdClass of 2022​​Marketing The Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center represents a place that's welcoming to Black students and Black people in Oregon, a place where they weren't always welcome. And it's a safe place. It's a sense of community and a place for Black people to gather and escape the outside world and outside relationships that take place at Oregon.   Isaiah AllenClass of 2022Sociology and Ethnic Studies It can be hard to meet new people sometimes. I'm from Detroit, Michigan, so I'm coming from a long ways away and I'm used to seeing a lot more familiar faces like me. And it's a really nice way to feel more comfortable, more at home. And I feel like that's one of the things that the LRP BCC is really good at doing. Miranda MenardThird-Year Graduate StudentMBA/MCRP The LRP BCC is a place where we can all come together and celebrate things that are important to us and where we can grow professionally. There's a ton of resources, anything from specific scholarships, celebrations around the community, professional development. Alayna GrierClass of 2022Human Physiology Just yesterday, it was my first day being here, my first day seeing the building. I was able to meet so many Black people just in one night. And I automatically just felt included…I was finally, you know, with a community that I felt comfortable with on campus. So, yeah, it meant a lot.   Ellis MimmsClass of 2022Physics I think the LRP BCC represents progress. It represents a step in the right direction, a step in the right direction of allowing Black students to feel more included and feel more at home, on campus, not only academically, but socially, artistically, culturally.   Bailee WalkerClass of 2021Public Relations The LRP BCC means the space to have community. And just to have a space where we can study and hang out and just get to know each other a lot more. Because I feel like on this campus, we don't see a lot of Black people unless you're in class or actually going to other club meetings. But here it's the space to have like a home almost. Lola MoeakiClass of 2023Human Physiology When I think of the community that I hang out with, I think of diversity. And I definitely think that this is what University of Oregon needs here. We need to spread out diversity, especially with people who experience different experiences in the past.

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  • Schill renews commitment to inclusion under new federal policy

    First published in Around the O on October 16, 2020. UO President Michael H. Schill sent the following message to the campus community Oct. 16: Dear University of Oregon community, The University of Oregon is deeply committed to creating a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to fostering a campus environment that is welcoming to all. I am writing to let you know, unequivocally, that the recent executive order that seeks to ban federal contractors from discussing certain concepts during diversity training will not deter us from this important work. The Office of General Counsel and the Division of Equity and Inclusion are assessing the potential impact of the executive order on the university as well as exploring a variety of actions in response. In the meantime, the UO will continue to exercise our rights under the First Amendment and the protections of academic freedom to offer relevant education about equity and inclusion in the classroom, trainings, workshops, and other activities. Over the past five years, we have, together, made real progress in combating systemic racism at the UO. For instance, we are working closely with the University Senate to review our curriculum around issues of equity and inclusion and have established the IDEAL framework, implemented Diversity Action Plans in each unit, responded to many of the changes demanded by the Black Student Task Force, and we continue to identify areas of opportunity to recognize and reconcile our diverse history. More recently, I appointed Nicole Commissiong to serve as our chief civil rights officer and Title IX Coordinator and her office will play an important role in this work as well. Just last week, Provost Patrick Phillips announced a series of initiatives to combat racism and enhance inclusion on campus, including a faculty hiring initiative connected to the creation of a new research and policy center focused on racial disparities and resilience. Despite all of that, we have much more work to do. To paraphrase Patrick, the UO must be a leader in the effort to combat racism and promote inclusion, not an observer. That work will continue even in the face of challenges like the recent executive order. Thank you. Michael H. SchillPresident and Professor of Law

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  • New study uses mice to unlock the secrets of language learning

    First published in Around the O on October 16, 2020. A pair of UO researchers have questions about how humans learn second languages, and they believe they will find some answers in the brains of mice. Linguistics professor Melissa Baese-Berk and neurobiologist Santiago Jaramillo are teaming up on a new research project that will combine their two areas of expertise to probe how humans learn languages and to better understand the neural mechanisms underlying that learning. They were awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to pursue the work. “This project will investigate how we can improve the efficiency of learning a second language,” Jaramillo explained. “If we can better understand the learning mechanisms in the brain, we can translate that to better learning strategies.” The idea for the project stemmed from an experiment that Baese-Berk conducted during graduate school at Northwestern University, where she examined how humans learn to differentiate similar sounds in language learning, like a trilled “r” in “perro," the Spanish word for dog, and the tapped “r” in “pero,” which is translated as the conjunction “but.” Through that experiment, Baese-Berk looked at the interplay between passive learning, which can happen through an activity like playing Spanish music in the background, and actual practice, where learners are actively trying to train their brain to acquire and retain the information. “We found that when learners incorporated both passive learning and practice, they could learn the new language in a way that rivaled pure practice and study,” said Baese-Berk, a David M. and Nancy L. Petrone Faculty Scholar who specializes in speech perception and production, especially in nonnative listeners and speakers. “But I wanted to know more about why humans are able to learn that way.” Baese-Berk’s study provided important insights into how humans learn through listening, but it left her wondering why this was the case. She had uncovered a behavioral pattern and wanted to better understand what was happening in the brain to enable that reality.  Enter mice brains and Jaramillo, who specializes in the neural basis of auditory cognitive processes, essentially exactly what Baese-Berk was hoping to understand: how the brain is learning sounds. The collaboration between the two researchers started with casual conversations about their mutual research interests, and after they realized how much some of their work overlapped, they got excited about combining forces on a research project. So they applied for seed funding through the Incubating Interdisciplinary Initiatives award program, an initiative designed and funded by the UO’s Office for Research and Innovation. The initial funding allowed them to start working together and assembling preliminary findings that demonstrate the project’s viability to the National Science Foundation. They both credit the UO’s early support for helping them launch the project and get critical outside funding to continue pursuing research.

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  • Researchers help Latinx students make post-high school plans

    First published in Around the O on October 15, 2020. Researchers from the College of Education are designing ways to boost Latinx student enrollment and success in college by engaging families, teachers and counselors. Latinx Education After Public School, also known as LEAPS,  works with Latinx students beginning in middle school to provide meaningful information about the paths available to them after graduating from high school. Between eighth and ninth grade and then between ninth and 10th grade, students and their families attend a summer academy with college counselors to open discussions about college and career trajectories for students. Each session takes place over two days and will likely be held at the University of Texas at Austin. “The goal is to introduce prospective first-generation college students to a university campus and to familiarize them with how it feels and where things are,” said principal investigator Heather McLure, assistant research professor in the College of Education and director of the UO’s Center for Equity and Promotion. Establishing personal connections between families and counselors opens an avenue to discuss practical steps and family-based choices that will give students wide-ranging, post-graduation opportunities. Connecting with students and families will also give counselors a more comprehensive understanding of the Latinx community. “We hope that counselors and teachers learn through LEAPS about Latinx family and cultural assets that can be built upon in school settings for the greater academic and socioemotional success of Latinx students,” McLure said. LEAPS is a four-year project with $1.5 million in funding going to the  Center for Equity and Promotion and the University of Texas at Austin.

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  • Knight Campus and PeaceHealth partner to support diversity

    First published in Around the O on October 12, 2020. The University of Oregon’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and PeaceHealth announced today a joint center for biomedical research, initially focused on facilitating clinical need-based research collaborations and supporting careers of underrepresented scientists and engineers. The Center for Translational Biomedical Research will forge biomedical research collaborations that produce increased research grant funding, journal publications and translation of new medical technologies. Postdoctoral fellowships for candidates from underrepresented communities in science and engineering mark the center’s first effort. “The Knight Campus and PeaceHealth are forming a powerful partnership that can have a tremendously positive impact on the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast,” said Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus. “This initial joint effort demonstrates our deep commitment to improving diversity and inclusion in science and engineering through targeted recruitment and mentorship of underrepresented scientists and engineers at pivotal points in their career paths.” This is the first collaboration of its kind between the Knight Campus and PeaceHealth, which operates four medical centers and more than 15 primary/specialty care clinics in Lane County, as well as facilities in Washington and Alaska. “This is an extraordinary partnership that provides much-needed opportunities for underrepresented populations in the fields of science and medicine,” said Todd Salnas, chief operating officer of PeaceHealth’s Oregon network. “This initial effort represents our shared vision of not only promoting diversity and inclusion within our community but also enhancing the quality of life of our community members through the development of advanced treatments. We look forward to many more collaborative efforts with the Knight Campus.”

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  • UO joins Pac-12 Voter Challenge to help spur election turnout

    First publish in Around the O on October 9, 2020. UO students, faculty members and staff can up their voter engagement game through Pac-12 Voter Challenge. The deadline for registering to vote in Oregon is Oct. 13, and ballots will begin hitting mail boxes a few days afterwards. To encourage more people to register and turn out to vote, the University of Oregon has joined the All IN Campus Democracy challenge to encourage greater student participation in voting and civic life. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, in 2016 78.8 percent of UO students eligible to vote registered and 73.2 percent followed through and voted. In 2016 the national voting rate for students at all institutions in the study was 50.4 percent. The national group’s most recent report on UO students is available online. UO leaders are finding new ways to encourage UO students to engage in the voting process. This past summer President Michael H. Schill and his Pac-12 university president peers signed on to the Pac-12 Voting Challenge. The Associated Students of the University of Oregon is a partner in the initiative. Coordinated by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, the Pac-12 Voting Challenge is a fun way to encourage a new generation of civic-minded individuals through increasing voter registration and turnout of students at universities that regularly compete in the Division 1 conference. Participation is accomplished by a pledge that students, faculty members and staff can take to register and make a plan to vote. In addition, results from 2020 participation is analyzed and published in future reports from the national voting study. Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, said initiatives like the Pac-12 Voting Challenge and the other ALL IN athletic conference voting challenges encourage students to become lifelong voters.

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  • The deadline to register to vote, update address is Oct. 13

    First published in Around the O on October 1, 2020. Oregon’s deadline to register to vote in the next general election is Oct. 13. As part of a national, nonpartisan voter registration effort, the University of Oregon has joined the PAC-12 Voter Challenge in collaboration with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. Through the program, colleges and universities are encouraged to help students become active, informed and engaged citizens who participate in a healthy democracy by voting. Students, faculty members and staff are asked to take a pledge to vote in the Nov. 3 general election. Taking the pledge is how the challenge is measured and how the Ducks can get to the top of the conference. It also connects people with voting resources. The election will determine the next president of the United States, among numerous other federal, state and local races. Register to vote online at the Oregon secretary of state’s website or at a local elections office. You must update voter registration every time you move in order for ballots to be mailed to the correct address. You can update a voter registration online.

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  • In a NIH-supported project, fertility research in underway at the UO

    First published in Around the O on October 8, 2020. A University of Oregon-initiated project using tiny roundworms has identified defects tied to infertility that result when too much DNA is exchanged in the formation of sperm and eggs. The fundamental research, detailed in a paper placed online in PLOS Genetics, probed what happens when too many DNA exchanges, called crossover events, between chromosomes get past the normal controls of the molecular machinery that help assure fertility. “Over the past century, research has focused on making sure enough crossovers are made during sperm and egg development,” said Diana Libuda, a professor in the UO’s Department of Biology and Institute of Molecular Biology. “It was known that developing sperm and eggs had ways to make sure that not too many crossovers are made, but it was unclear why.” When too many of these exchanges occur, the segregation of chromosomes into eggs is flawed. That can lead to a range of defects. Inaccurate chromosome segregation in humans is associated with Down syndrome and miscarriages. The defects seen in the new research can lead to increased infertility, Libuda said. She was the principal investigator of the new study, which was done across three labs in a National Institutes of Health-supported project: her own, that of UO colleague Bruce Bowerman and Sadie Wignall at Northwestern University. The researchers identified two mechanisms that help counteract defects triggered by excess crossover activity in developing eggs and, thus, assist the coordination of the process that helps assure genomic integrity in new generations. Libuda had reported in the Oct. 9, 2013, issue of Nature the discovery of a mechanism that inhibits the overproduction of crossovers in roundworms. However, she said, at that time it was not possible to study the downstream effects in cases where too many crossovers did occur.

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  • Latest continuing resolution averts federal government shutdown

    October 7, 2020 07:45 pm On Thursday, October 1 the President signed a continuing resolution to fund the government at current levels by extending about $1.4 trillion in government funding until December 11, thus averting a shutdown at the start of the federal fiscal year. The measure includes $30 billion in farm aid and $8 billion in nutrition assistance for children who normally receive free or reduced school lunches. The bill also extends the availability of funding for NIH multiyear research grants, prevents the Defense Department from beginning new multiyear activities for the duration of the continuing resolution, and includes additional funding for the 2020 Census. Additionally, the bill includes a provision to ensure that seniors aren’t hit with a $50 per month Medicare Part B premium hike and a one-year surface transportation authorization extension. It also allows FEMA to access FY2021 funding in order to deal with the Atlantic hurricane season and raging wildfires on the West Coast. The stopgap spending measure now gives congressional leaders just over two months to either negotiate a massive spending deal by mid-December – which could increase agency budgets for the remainder of FY21 – or pass yet another stopgap bill to stretch current levels of government cash into next year.  Failure to pass a budget or a continuing resolution will result in another federal government shutdown.

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