Latest news from the UO

  • C.R. extends funding of the federal government through Dec. 18; UO joins letter urging passage of FY21 appropriations bills

    December 14, 2020 03:31 pm On Dec. 11 the U.S. Senate advanced a U.S. House-passed continuing resolution that would fund the government at current levels through Dec. 18. The President signed the bill. Congress is now in the final hours of negotiating a budget bill to meet the December 18 deadline. The University of Oregon signed on to a letter signed from a dozen other universities and hundreds of organizations representing thousands of people who work in science technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics urging U.S. Senate and House leaders to push through FY 2021 appropriations bills through Congress as quickly as possible. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities ( APLU) also signed the letter. The letter states, “federal investments across more than two dozen defense and nondefense agencies provide the lifeblood for research, discovery, innovation and development in the United States, driving one of the most powerful engines for American prosperity and global leadership. Failing to complete work on the appropriations bills that fuel this engine in a timely manner impedes our ability to not only respond and recover from COVID-19, but also to address persistent and fundamental challenges such as chronic and infectious diseases, food and energy security, national security and natural disasters—all of which require advancements in science and technology fostered through federal investments.” News reports indicate that text of a fourth pandemic relief package and final budget for FY21 could be released as early as Tuesday. Without congressional action by December 18, the federal government must shutdown.

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  • Bonamici requests funding for Institute for Education Sciences to address COVID-related delays in research

    December 14, 2020 03:22 pm On Dec. 4 Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), took the lead in authoring a letter from ten additional members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), to the leadership of the House and U.S. Senate Appropriations Committees. The signers asked for $200 million in emergency relief for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to extend funding of current IES research that has been delayed by school closures and lack of access to data collection caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without cost extensions, researchers lose access to research funds to sustain their scholarship. IES is the home of numerous centers that fund this research, including the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research. The members wrote to appropriations leadership that “the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed ongoing research funded through the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). School closures and limited access to school facilities have prevented data collection and in-person professional development on education interventions for 300 NCER and NCSER grants. IES grantees have worked to adapt their research and data collection to online settings, but without additional funding to extend research projects their results may be jeopardized. Funding to extend current research grants will also allow early career scholars and graduate students the opportunity to continue working on IES-funded projects.” The letter cites IES’ critical role in evaluating the effectiveness of the nation’s education programs, and cites the example of the development of “Operation Reverse the Loss”, which establishes a School Pulse survey that will provide data about the extent of COVID-10 on education and learning loss, ramp up technology platforms, and test effective education programs. The College of Education’s special education graduate program is third in the nation and the College of Education’s graduate school of education is fourth among publication institutions. UO’s College of Education faculty conducting this research depend on IES, NSER, and NCSER funding.

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  • Research awards hit record high of $152 million in 2019-20

    First published in Around the O on December 10, 2020. In August 2019, a team of UO researchers in the Prevention Science Institute received a $10.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study opioid use among women. The award, which supports an interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers at Oregon Health & Science University to better understand and develop interventions for mothers who have a history of opioid use, was one of 437 grants received by UO investigators during the 2020 fiscal year. It represented one of many successes in a year in which UO researchers brought in a record $152.4 million in grants, contracts and competitive awards. “Our faculty, students and staff continued to conduct groundbreaking research and engage in vital scholarship and creative activity in 2020,” said Cassandra Moseley, interim vice president for research and innovation. “FY 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for researchers. Despite disruption from COVID-19, researchers continued to write proposals and submit them in record numbers.” UO researchers eclipsed the previous year’s mark of $126 million in total awards by more than $26 million, a 20.9 percent increase. The $152.4 million award total for 2019-20 is the UO’s highest-ever total recorded, nearly $17 million more than the previous high of $135.6 million in awards received in the 2010 fiscal year. The overall tally was even higher at $168.5 million, but that included $16 million in federal CARES Act funding for hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. The UO had three research awards with a total commitment of more than $5 million in the 2020 fiscal year, marking a continued emphasis on the pursuit of large-scale research grants. The numbers, which cover the 2020 fiscal year starting July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, were released in the 2020 sponsored projects services report published by the UO’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. The continued uptick in research and innovation metrics was partly due to increases in hiring of faculty members across many different departments and colleges along with the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. All told, UO investigators submitted 1,266 proposals during the 2020 fiscal year, an increase of 207 from the previous year. Examples of new 2020 awards spanning the UO’s many departments and institutes included: A $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to College of Education research assistant professor Fatima Terrazas Arellanes, for the development of a web-based science curriculum for elementary school students Four prestigious grants totaling $339,000 to researchers in the UO’s Department of Religious Studies to pursue research projects examining issues ranging from the religious influence of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the origins of Islamic scripture. A $1.3 million grant to College of Education research associate professor Joe Nese from the Institute of Education Sciences to improve the reliability and validity of reading fluency assessments. Three grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, including a $1.1 million award to biology professor Kelly Sutherland to study the swimming mechanism of gelatinous marine organisms, a $2 million grant to developmental neurobiologist Judith Eisen to probe the relationship between symbiotic bacteria and neural development and a $325,000 grant to a team led by biophysicist Raghuveer Parthasarathy to study zebrafish in controlled ecosystems in an examination of aquatic symbioses A $151,000 grant to UO associate professor of multimedia journalism Ed Madison from the National Science Foundation to examine how to enhance science motivation in high school students during a public health crisis, an extension of a $1.2 million, three-year grant to pursue a creative, interdisciplinary solution to the student achievement gap for underrepresented groups in STEM courses. A $50,000 grant to UO historian Julie Weise from the Whiting Foundation to develop a five-part YouTube series exploring the stories of Latinx people in the southern U.S. A $200,000 award to UO chemist Victoria DeRose from the National Science Foundation to enable 3D modeling of coronavirus RNA structures to provide potential leads for the development of therapeutic interventions against the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards from the National Institutes of Health, one for $1.8 million to Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips  and one for $2.9 million to UO biochemist Brad Nolen For a rundown of all of the awards received in the past year, visit the UO’s monthly award reports page. UO’s innovation metrics also rose during the 2020 fiscal year, according to the UO’s Innovation Partnership Services unit, which works with UO researchers, the public and industry to accelerate the adoption of products derived from UO research and education. Chuck Williams, director of the unit and the UO’s associate vice president for innovation, said UO researchers continued to translate new ideas into products and services, with increases in licensing revenue, patenting, trademarking and inventions from the natural sciences. UO innovation metrics from the past year included: Science-based invention disclosures jumped from 20 to 23. Patent filings increased from 13 to 20. The UO continued to be ranked No. 5 in the Association of American Universities in licensing per research dollar. The UO received a record $10.3 million in licensing income, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year. The UO spun out four companies founded by UO faculty in the 2020 fiscal year, including Perceptivo, a firm launched under UO’s new V Formation program by biology professor Terry Takahashi and research associate Avinash Bala that benefitted from the university’s Innovation Fund. The fund provides translational research grant funding to enhance the probability that research discoveries will be transformed into new products, services and companies that contribute to the Oregon economy and is supported by the UO’s University Venture Development Fund. The V Formation program actually launches the company and helped Perceptivo win an NIH SBIR award as well as a Murdock commercialization initiation grant. The UO’s roster of spinout companies also included three firms, Restor3d, OptiDicer and Penderia Technologies Inc., founded by faculty members in the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. Knight Campus professor Keat Ghee Ong and Robert Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond Executive Director of the Knight Campus, co-founded Penderia to develop orthopedic sensors based on Ong’s research involving radio frequency identification technology. The sensors can be used by doctors to monitor the progress of bone regeneration in patients who have had shoulder surgeries, leading to faster and smoother recoveries. Ong and Penderia received an Innovation Fund award of $75,000 to launch the program. Williams credited the Knight Campus and a continued collaborative spirit with helping to put additional wind in the sails of UO’s growing innovation portfolio. UO’s Innovation Partnership Services unit helped fund the launch of both Restor3d and Penderia. “This was the year the impact of entrepreneurial faculty joining the Knight Campus could really be felt on the ground,” Williams said. “Moving forward, we expect to see additional growth in innovation activity and we look forward to working across the board with faculty, students, industry and other partners to translate new research discoveries into the beneficial tools and technologies of tomorrow.” —By Lewis Taylor, University Communications

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  • Gov. Brown, Wyden and Merkley make joint COVID relief request

    December 9, 2020 11:58 am On Dec. 1 Oregon Governor Kate Brown sent a letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders urging funding for childcare for working families, elementary and secondary education, and higher education in any COVID-19 relief package. The letter emphasized the costs that have already affected childcare for working families, the additional broadband and technology needs for remote learning for elementary and secondary education, and lost revenues and higher costs affecting higher education.  Negotiations on a fourth relief package are continuing in Congress as the 116th Congress nears the end of its term. The last relief legislation, the CARES Act, was signed into law in March. Many provisions are expiring or have expired. The Governor's letter notes that the pandemic has impacted students. Gov. Brown stated “the effects of the pandemic on higher education institutions has been costly. Many students had to decide on taking the next steps to further their education or take care of their families and health – creating an extra barrier for students who were seeking postsecondary degrees. The letter continues, "the financial stability of these students is of great concern, given the potential for these students to carry debt without the increased earnings power provided by a degree. The likelihood these students return to complete their postsecondary degree decreases over time." The letter from Governor Brown follows a Nov. 23 joint statement issued by the Governor and U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley urging Congress to pass additional COVID-19 aid.

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  • Governor Brown releases 2021-23 proposed budget

    December 2, 2020 01:34 pm On Dec.1 Oregon Gov. Kate Brown released her recommended budget for the 2021-23 biennium. The Governor’s budget is based on the November 2020 revenue forecast, which continued to predict modest revenue growth and shows that state collections had largely recovered from the Covid-19 associated shutdowns that occurred during the spring of 2020. The November forecast however did not capture lost revenue associated with current Covid-19 restrictions. The proposed budget may impact the University of Oregon in the following ways: Public University Support Fund The fund that provides operating funds to Oregon’s seven public universities was held flat at $836,898,583. Because of the way the state splits biennial funding (49% in the first year, and 51% in the second) flat funding constitutes an estimated $3 million cut to UO for FY 22. State Programs The Governor maintained current funding levels for University State Programs. At the UO these programs include Engineering Technology Sustaining Funds (ETSF), the Tall Wood Design Institute, the Oregon Office of Community Dispute Resolution (OOCDR), Signature Research Centers, the Labor Education Research Center (LERC), and Clinical Legal Education. Capital Construction The Governor recommends $309.4 million in funding for university capital construction projects, including $80 million for a Capital Improvement and Renewal (CI&R) a fund that is distributed to campuses by formula. The Governor also included $58.5 million for UO’s Heritage project, a renovation of University of Villard Halls that will provide critical seismic, fire, and life safety upgrades and make the facilities accessible and compatible with modern technology and classroom learning while preserving the architectural and historic significance of the site. Student Aid Funding for Sports lottery scholarships was increased slightly to a total of $15.1M. UO receives $1,030,000 of these funds for scholarships for student athletes and graduate students. The Governor recommended increasing funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s largest state-funded, need-based grant program for college students, by $4.7 million, bringing the total amount to $114.2 million.  The Governor recommended increasing funding for the Oregon Promise, which covers tuition costs at Oregon community colleges for recent high school and GED test graduates, by $1.26 million, bringing total funding for the program to $42.2 million. The Legislature will convene on January 19, 2021 and are constitutionally required to adopt a balanced budget no later than June 28, 2021.The state economists will deliver three revenue forecasts before the legislature must conclude their work this summer.

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  • Researchers look at glacial melting through a different lens

    First published in Around the O on November 25, 2020.  A Little Bit of Magic STORY BY LAURIE GALBRAITH | PHOTOS BY MARK CAREY Four Researchers Look at Glacial Melt through Different Lenses to See the Whole Picture Kristin Schild eyes the iceberg below her as the helicopter she's riding in makes a first pass, surveying the monolith from high above. Circling around for a second look, the helicopter swoops in much lower, barely skimming the surface of the ice. From this distance, Schild can check for erosion and direction of the water flow; both of these give her information about potential ice collapse or an iceberg overturning. The revolutions of the powerful propellers eliminate any other sound. Grabbing her ice axe tightly when Schild is satisfied that the iceberg is stable, she opens the door of the still-running helicopter that tries to stay in one spot. Secured by ropes and a climbing harness, she lowers herself out of the helicopter and picks around at the ice with the axe, assessing its condition to place a GPS unit. She takes a few more steps while the ropes on her harness are controlled by Casey Shoop, who sits in the helicopter. She does this again and again at various iceberg locations, depending on the data she needs. This action is only part of a larger process to collect the data. It’s called GPS deployment and it’s one of many steps Arctic ice scientists and researchers repeat countless times during data collection on the Greenland ice sheet. Schild, assistant research professor at the University of Maine and a former postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oregon’s Oceans and Ice Lab, is part of a team of four professors that traveled in August 2019 to study the role of ice in climate change. Unique in its approach, the goal of the trip was to gather information through a multidisciplinary lens and a self-imposed obligation to gather data and conduct research ethically. The team leaders were comprised of three UO professors who represent three different disciplines; Mark Carey, professor of history and environmental studies and Director of the Environmental Studies Program; Dave Sutherland, professor of earth sciences and head of the Oceans and Ice Lab; and Casey Shoop, professor of literature. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Oregon’s Williams Fund, the team’s research sought to understand the interplay between ice and society. For Sutherland, an objective was “to directly observe iceberg melt and movement in the Greenland fjords, in order to improve predictions of iceberg melt for global climate models.” According to Carey, Greenland is a research hot spot “due to its vast ice sheet, but millions of people live in the Arctic so we wanted to understand icebergs as well as people living in Greenland, how they live and interact with ice, and how histories of colonialism shape their realities and even the knowledge we have about the Arctic, the size of the ice sheet and it’s increasingly rapid melting. If the whole ice sheet melted, that would be seven meters of sea level rise.” The NSF outlines specific guidelines for those who wish to study, collect data, and conduct research across all disciplines, in and outside of the Arctic. The guidelines focus on establishing effective communication with the community where the research is conducted; respecting indigenous knowledge and cultures; and building and sustaining relationships. This research can include different perspectives that don’t always align with predominant Western media and narratives that hold the environment as most sacred—even above the livelihood of people. Carey heard some of these viewpoints from locals who felt there were benefits of melting sea ice. “Some people are happy that glaciers are melting back and there are new mineral deposits that are now accessible. We also heard people who are very concerned about seeing how it does impact hunting practices, fishing practices, and access to certain areas. It’s a double-edged sword,” says Carey. “Going in with an open mind allowed us to hear many different voices, which is essential.” While these concerns may seem head-scratching for some Western audiences, diverging perspectives aren’t new. Carey says he’s spoken with local folks who are simply fed up with questions. “I’ve talked with people who say, ‘I’m tired of foreigners coming here to ask us about climate change and ice—there are other pressing issues.’” In Greenland, icebergs are ever present, massive and towering, all in unspoiled shades of white, all in different, organic shapes. They melt, overturn, they move. Some grow curtains of icicles, other have colonies of birds resting on chunks of ice as big as buildings. Sutherland’s "hard" science background keeps him on the technical side of things. While Schild oversaw data collection, instruments, gear, and safety—he managed logistics for the ship and helicopter rides, lodging, funding, and arranging meetings with local scientists. Because Sutherland has spent so much time there, he has a routine and a group of people he typically interacts with to accomplish his research goals. He says this trip was different and special. “Having Mark and Casey along, we ended up talking to different people than I normally do. Typically, I talk to people at the shipping and helicopter ports, then I get on a boat and go. Mark and Casey really engaged with people on the ground in Nuuk (Greenland’s capital city). He and Casey didn’t have an agenda. I’m always kind of driving at research questions I want answered. They were more interested in hearing what was on people’s minds,” explains Sutherland. For the team, it was imperative to start the research before they even set foot on an iceberg. “Make contacts in advance and communicate beforehand: What are your concerns? How are you thinking about this issue? Also, look for and utilize available sources there–don’t force your own,” says Carey. That approach means talking to people who represent all corners of local life to get authentic perspectives. “I felt I had to become responsible, as much as possible, to the archive and ask about the Greenlandic texts and writings, what the artists are doing and how are they thinking about ice,” says Shoop. He says thinking deeply about “colonialism, western representations of the adventure of research, and damaging Anglo-European narratives” also figured into shaping his ice research. Pushing up against established tropes and highlighting diverse perspectives means centering on communication with local people and organizations; respecting the indigenous assets of culture and knowledge; and working to form and maintain relationships are part of ethical, multi-disciplinary research and data collection. This is what Carey calls, “focusing on societies.” Sutherland says the benefit of these complementary perspectives—a way of seeing scientific methods and research—opens up a whole new world. 21% OF HONORS COLLEGE STUDENTS PURSUE MORE THAN ONE MAJOR 98% OF HONORS COLLEGE STUDENTS RECEIVE NEED OR MERIT-BASED FINANCIAL AID 30% OF HONORS COLLEGE STUDENTS RECEIVE MORE THAN ONE SCHOLARSHIP  

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  • U.S. Clean Air Act has been a lifesaver for the birds

    First published in Around the O on November 30, 2020. Improved air quality and reduced ozone pollution that followed the 1970 passage of the U.S. Clean Air Act and later amendments have saved the lives of 1.5 billion birds across the continent, according to a team of researchers that includes the University of Oregon’s Eric Zou. The research, Zou said, shows that pollution regulations that are nominally designed to protect human health can provide value for other species as well. The study published online ahead of print Nov. 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Zou, now with the UO Department of Economics and National Bureau of Economic Research, worked with Cornell University colleagues as a postdoctoral researcher in the project. “Our paper takes a first stab at this possibility by looking at the effect of a pollution regulation on birds, one of the only species whose presence and abundance have been measured systematically in the past several decades,” Zou said. “We found evidence that the regulation-induced pollution reduction has provided substantial benefits to birds abundance.” Such benefits of environmental regulation have likely been underestimated, said the study’s lead author, Ivan Rudik, of Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Reducing pollution, such as ozone, can have positive impacts in unexpected places and provide an incentive for conservation efforts, he said. Ozone is a gas that can be good or bad. It occurs in nature and is also produced by power plants and cars. A layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, but ground-level ozone is hazardous and a primary pollutant in smog. To explore connections between bird abundance and air pollution, the research team used models that combined bird observations from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program with ground-level pollution data and existing regulations. Zou, an environmental economist, said he was asked to join the team to help in the study’s design and statistical analyses because of expertise in using economic tools to study environmental topics. The researchers tracked monthly changes in bird abundance, air quality and regulation status for 3,214 U.S. counties over a span of 15 years. They focused on the NOx Budget Trading Program, which was created in 2003 to reduce the regional transport of nitric oxide emissions from power plants and other large combustion sources in the Eastern U.S. The study’s findings suggest that ozone pollution is most detrimental to small migratory land birds such as sparrows, warblers and finches, which make up 86 percent of all North American species. Ozone pollution directly harms birds by damaging their respiratory system and indirectly affects birds by harming their food sources. Last year, a separate study published in Science by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showed that North American bird populations declined by nearly 3 billion birds since 1970. The impacts of the Clean Air Act, as found in the new study, protected bird populations from even greater losses. Zou, who joined the UO last year as an assistant professor, was drawn to the project, he said, by its interdisciplinary approach. “Economists these days study a wide variety of topics, and there is a branch known as environmental economics that looks at the interaction between the environment and human society,” he said. “Economists care about the cost and benefits of policies, and we’ll go extra miles to study the unknowns of these policies.” The data and evidence found in the new study, he said, point to a co-benefit for other species from a policy that had been designed to benefit humans with cleaner air. Earlier this year, Zou and colleagues from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he had earned his doctorate, confirmed that hospital visits, especially by older people with respiratory illnesses, rose on the eve of thunderstorms. That study appeared in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. —By Jim Barlow, University Communications

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  • UO students win voter challenge; Ducks elected from across the beaver state

    While UO students proved their commitment to engaging the 2020 general election by winning a friendly competition among Pac-12 institutions, a number of new UO alumni joined the group of Ducks elected to serve as federal, state, and local officials. This fall the University of Oregon joined a new initiative to encourage voter registration and turnout. UO students participated in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge by taking a pledge to vote. Ducks took home the Pac-12 Voter Challenge Championship and ranked 10th overall in the country. See the Oct. 9 Around the O article for more on UO's participation in the Pac-12 Voter Challenge  On November 3, 2020, Oregonians across the state chose Ducks to represent them at the federal, state, and locall level. U.S. Congress Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4) (MA ’77) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR 1) (BA ’80 , JD ’83) were reelected to represent Oregon in the U.S. House of Representatives. They join in Congress fellow UO graduate Senator Ron Wyden (JD ’74), who was not up for re-election during the 2020 election cycle. U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (D-OR 2) (BS ’81) did not seek re-election as is retiring from Congress at the end of the year after serving the central, eastern, and parts of southern Oregon for 20 years. State-wide Elected Office Statewide, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (BS ’71, JD ‘75) won reelection to continue serving as Oregon’s 17th attorney general and the first woman to hold the position. Oregon Legislature UO alum Boomer Wright (R-Reedsport) (MA ‘80), former teacher, principal, and Superintendent of the Mapleton School District, is one of the newest Ducks to join the Oregon State Legislature. Wright won the open seat to represent House District 9 and will succeed State Representative Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay). UO alum Jason Kropf (D-Bend) (JD ‘96), a Deschutes County Deputy District Attorney, is another Duck joining the Oregon State Legislature, upsetting incumbent State Representative Cheri Helt (R-Bend) to represent House District 54. State Representative Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) (BS ’89; MA ’92) won the open seat to represent Senate District 25, previously represented by State Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson. A number of University of Oregon graduates were reelected including: State Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) (MA, Journalism, ’73) was reelected to represent Senate District 18 that serves portions of the west side of Portland and Tigard. State Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) (BS ’67) won reelection to the Oregon Senate, representing Senate District 29 covering the northeastern portion of the state. State Representative Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass) (BS ‘05) won reelection representing House District 4. State Representative Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) (Certificate, UO Labor Education and Research Center) won reelection to represent House District 8, which serves parts of Eugene and western Lane County. State Representative Marty Wilde (D-Central Lane, Linn Counties) (JD 97), was reelected to represent House District 11. State Representative John Lively (D-Springfield) (BS ’74) won reelection to represent Springfield-area House District 12. State Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene) (BS ‘75), won reelection to represent northeast Eugene-area House District 13. State Representative Courtney Neron (D-Aloha, Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City, Sherwood, Tigard and Wilsonville) (BA ’01) was reelected to represent House District 26. State Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) (MA ’78) was reelected to serve House District 31. State Representative Tina Kotek (D-Portland) (BS ’90) was reelected to serve as the representative for House District 44. State Representative Diego Hernandez (D-Portland) (BA ‘10), was reelected to represent House District 47 in northeast Portland. They join the following state legislators/UO graduates who are Ducks and were not up for election in 2020: Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) (BS ’74) and Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) (BS ’78). Eugene and Portland City Councils On the local level, UO alum Randy Groves (BA ‘89), will join the Eugene City Council, replacing Ward 8’s retiring councilor, Chris Pryor. Groves was the Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief for 10 years and currently sits on the city’s budget committee. UO alum and former UOAA Board president Carmen Rubio (BA ’99) was elected to the Portland City Council. She joins UO alum Dan Ryan (BA’85), who took office in a special election in August. He is also a former UOAA Board president.

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  • The City is the House

    First published in Around the O on November 9, 2020. A year ago, Menna Agha would peer out her downtown Eugene apartment window and watch the scene below. In rain or shine, unhoused and disenfranchised citizens of Eugene would gather in the parking lot below, looking for food, shelter, and community. According to 2018 data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Eugene has the highest per capita rate of homelessness of any U.S. city. “For this community, which is disenfranchised, they don’t have the right to have an experience of housing in the city they live in,” said Agha, an architect and Design for Spatial Justice Fellow teaching architecture in the School of Architecture & Environment. “Isn’t it justice that this city would be everybody’s house?” The parking lot belongs to The Dining Room, a restaurant run by Food for Lane County, a nonprofit food bank. Before COVID-19, community members would wait in the parking lot for a seat to open up in the restaurant with a capacity of 30. Now, because of COVID-19 restrictions on indoor gatherings, people must wait in line to pick up meals to go in the parking lot. During the past year, through architecture studios, the “City is a House” design-build project, and much volunteer work by students, The Dining Room parking lot is now home to three “hoppers,” or movable shelter structures on wheels, upcycled adaptable seating, a freshly painted mural, greenery, and a newly planted tree. An outdoor sink and sanitation station will be completed in the coming months. The three wood 'hoppers' that provide shelter “This project has been a gift from heaven,” said Josie McCarthy, the program manager for The Dining Room who partnered with the design build team. “The parking lot was always a problem, but I didn’t have the money.” In fall 2019, Agha taught a studio exploring alternative housing prototypes and the psychology around the idea of the house. Two of her students (now alumni), Hayley Stacy, MIArch, ’20, and Alex Balog, MArch, ’20, wanted to look at the city as a house, examining how it provides options for eating, sleeping, and hygiene, especially among the most vulnerable populations. “How do you design a house outside of the normative structure of society, and outside centers of power and economics?” Agha posed to her students. Agha wondered how her studio could produce a cultural installation that also transforms into a shelter—an installation of compassion. During winter term, Stacy and Balog began researching the habits of the unhoused and transient communities in Eugene. “We were investigating squatting in our group,” Stacy explained. With a team of graduate and undergraduate students in the School of Architecture & Environment, they looked at how the city of Eugene activated the resources available to the unhoused population; where and when unhoused folks are sleeping; shelter capacity; and food banks. Interior architecture graduate student Amicia Nametka became the project manager, and undergraduate architecture student Joshua Fox, who was a certified welder for several years, became site manager. The group developed design interventions for The Dining Room site, and the project was slated to be completed in July 2020. When COVID-19 caused shutdowns in March, the project slowed, but never stopped. In the spring, Agha had to return to Belgium and Stacy and Balog graduated in June and passed the project forward. Design for Spatial Justice Fellow Menna Agha (center) led the design-build team, including now alumna Hayley Stacy (left) and current interior architecture graduate student Amicia Nametka (right) “We developed a strategy where even though we have to stay home [due to COVID-19], we’re still able to pass these drawings along to the younger students,” Balog said. With continued guidance from Agha from afar, as well as another Design for Spatial Justice Fellow Cory Parker, Nametka and Fox moved the project forward with the help of a handful of student volunteers, working out a budget, specs, site limitations, safety protocols and labor laws, all under the Center for Disease Control’s new rules for interaction during a pandemic. They received a grant from Holden Center and partnered with Freedom by Design, a nonprofit design-build program within the American Institute of Architecture Students, which brought in undergraduate architecture student Adam Abusukheila, who is co-director of Freedom of Design with Fox. Nametka coordinated volunteers and communication with Food for Lane County, and Abusukheila helped with logistics and picking up and delivering materials. 'It’s the goodness in the hearts of all these architecture students of what they can do during COVID, and everyone wanted to pitch in.'—Menna Agha “After a few days of being out there on site, it was one of the first times I felt this way, like I needed to contribute something to the city,” said Abusukheila. “It was a rare opportunity to be that close to the unhoused community and feel safe. You have the pleasure of hearing their stories and witnessing their lives." He added, "The exposure was a reality check as a design student. It made me consider a whole new group of people to design for.” Fox oversaw fabrication and construction, which was mostly done at Brooklyn Street Studios, a Springfield business that donated the space. Pasquarelli Construction, a local contracting company Fox works for, provided power tools and insight. Due to time limitations, the group contracted Unique Metal Products in Eugene to fabricate the sink frame and enclosure. The design build included the creation of the three fully mobile hoppers, which are 10 feet tall, nine feet wide, and eight feet deep, and can be set up by two people. Attaching an extra sheet of canvas between the hoppers creates an even larger shelter area, especially useful when there are long lines of people waiting to pick up meals. The group upcycled a long bench that had been attached to an exterior wall of The Dining Room to create more seating attached to two new planters, as well as creating benches designed to set within the longstanding large concrete planters with wooden seats. They also cleaned and painted the exterior of the building, including a mural of a city skyline with flowers. “With the social unrest and the pandemic, we had to find the willpower in a way to continue such a large project through this adversity,” said Fox of working through the summer. Fox says they were driven by the question: What can we do to provide a nice, dignified place for members of the community? At first, the community that uses the site were skeptical of the project says Fox. Modular seating and greenery created by the design-build team “As the project developed, the acceptance and the thankfulness that the people showed us just fueled us on.” McCarthy said the students showed incredible devotion and tenacity, and earned the respect of the diners, as well as The Dining Room’s neighbors, who also benefited from the beautification of the space. “The diners didn’t think they were good enough, but they are,” McCarthy said. Agha wanted her students to learn that the unhoused population has the right to have an experience of dignity in the city they live in. And that to make a difference as a designer and an architect, one doesn’t need to confine themselves to large buildings or traditional single-family housing. Small design interventions—respite from the rain, beautiful greenery, a dry place to sit—can have instant and lasting impacts. “It’s the goodness in the hearts of all these architecture students of what they can do during COVID, and everyone wanted to pitch in,” Agha said. “These students are jewels.” Agha is currently building a “The City is a House” website slated to go live in November.

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