Latest news from the UO

  • Congress is working on the FY20 budget but many obstacles remain

    The process for developing the federal budget for FY20 is in full swing. The Trump Administration submitted its request to Congress last month which included deep cuts to key programs. Members of Congress are circulating “Dear Colleague” letters in support of their funding priorities. A plethora of interests from across all sectors are engaged in fly-ins and advocacy days, typical for this time of year. But the biggest hurdle to an orderly budget process remains. Congress must agree to raise the budget expenditure caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 to avoid across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. A coalition of interests is asking Congress to develop a two-year agreement to raise the caps for FY20 and FY21 and allow for additional resources for discretionary spending. On Tuesday April 9, House Democrats abandoned a floor vote on H.R. 2021, the “Investing for the People Act of 2019,” after progressive Democrats opposed the defense spending figure. The measure would have raised non-defense discretionary spending to $631 billion for FY20, a 5.7 percent increase above FY19, and defense spending to $664 billion for FY20, a 2.6 percent increase over FY19.  The House did pass a resolution establishing an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for defense and non-defense funding, which is nearly the same level as FY19. This opens the door for the House Appropriations Committee to continue crafting FY20 spending bills and begin marking up measures in the weeks ahead.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intend to launch budget negotiations at the staff level. They reportedly intend to negotiate a two-year deal to raise the caps and avoid $126 billion in automatic budget cuts. The administration has stated that they do not support raising the budget caps, but according to the Washington Post McConnell has said Pelosi and President Trump “both support trying to reach an agreement on a new spending pact for both the Pentagon and domestic programs.” Source: AAU and APLU reports  

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  • Dear Colleague round-up: Oregon delegation supports research budgets

    First published on the UO government and community relations website, members of the Oregon delegation routinely support funding for student aid and federal research agencies. Evidence of that support comes in the form of “Dear Colleague” letters, one of many tools used by members of Congress to advance budget and policy priorities. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are again leading advocacy for funding for the Institute of Education Science, a top priority for University of Oregon advocacy given activity by College of Education faculty with this program. Congresswoman Bonamici’s Dear Colleague letter included 40 members of the US House as signers. She and her colleagues called for an appropriation of $670 million for the agency, restoring it to pre-sequestration levels. ShakeAlert, the earthquake early warning system, is a priority for west coast policymakers and stakeholders across all levels of government and sectors of the economy. Members of the Oregon delegation have joined with colleagues to again support funding by the U.S. Geological Survey for ShakeAlert. Earlier this week, UO faculty joined with their counterparts from the University of Washington, UC-Berkeley, and Caltech in a fly-in to share updates about the implementation of ShakeAlert. In March, university staff worked with House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott and Congressman Peter DeFazio to request continued funding for the National Center for Campus Public Safety through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. Largely at the behest of members of the coalition Disaster Resilient Universities, 27 members of Congress joined Reps. Scott and DeFazio to support continuing the center as a clearinghouse and resource for risk managers and other university personnel concerned about continuity of campus operations. The university coordinates its advocacy for student aid and research with the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Top advocacy priorities include federal student aid programs, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, Title VI international programs, and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as other specialized priorities.  

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  • Prison program would get a boost from pending legislation

    First published in Around the O, a University of Oregon program that brings classrooms into the state’s prisons would be expanded under a bill now before the Oregon Legislature. The Prison Education Program got its start in 2007 when UO professor Steve Shankman taught a course at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Since then, hundreds of UO students and more than 1,000 incarcerated people have taken classes and participated in other UO activities inside five of Oregon’s prisons.   Senate Bill 949 would provide $350,000 of new funding to support the program in such efforts and allow further expansion. In testimony before the Senate Education Committee last week, philosophy and sociology student Julie Williams-Reyes shared how going inside a prison to take a class with 13 campus-based students and 13 incarcerated students inspired her to engage more actively in issues of social justice and was the determining influence in choosing her career path. Many students have gone on to work in organizations such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America and Sustainable City Year. Graduates have spoken of their experiences in a prison class as stepping stones in their careers as lawyers, teachers, doctors and professionals in various nonprofit sectors. Geography professor Shaul Cohen, director of the program, told legislators that it has broad support on campus, with the UO Board of Trustees, the UO Foundation, campus leaders and many deans offering support. He also said the program has support from the Associated Students of the UO, one of only a few student governments in the country that have invested in such educational opportunities.  Cohen also expressed appreciation for the Oregon Department of Correction’s help in making classes, lectures, workshops and common readings inside the prisons possible. At the Senate hearing, program coordinator Katie Dwyer spoke of working with incarcerated students and noted that education allows people to build self-esteem, become involved in positive programming while incarcerated and be more equipped to re-enter the community. “Incarcerated students sometimes come to us with a strong sense that they will be unable to do the work and uncertain as to how the instructors and the University of Oregon students will see them,” Dwyer said. “They speak to this experience as a transformative one, both for their sense of their academic competence, but more broadly for their self-esteem, their sense of potential impact they can have on the community. Many people have spoken of this as a turning point in their lives, in their full lives, and also of their experience as inmates in Oregon.” Last June, state Sen. Lew Frederick attended a UO graduation at the Oregon State Penitentiary and last week told the Education Committee he was deeply moved by what he witnessed. “One graduate was participating in the ceremony two or three days after he was released from prison,” Frederick saod. “It had taken him quite a bit, but he had done the work. It was a palpable joy that you could see on his face and with his family and the people who came to see him.” Sen. Michael Dembrow attended a UO class at the Oregon State Correctional Institution and testified to the power of the teaching model and bringing people together in discussion. “I think we all know that it does us no good to have individuals coming out of incarceration and not be prepared to be fully functioning and contributing members of society, but that doesn’t happen just by itself,” he said. “We need to be working hard to remove barriers that formerly incarcerated people meet as they re-enter and take steps to make sure that they are ready to re-enter, and one of the best ways to do that is through successful prison education programs such as the UO’s program.”\ https://around.uoregon.edu/content/prison-program-would-get-boost-pending-legislation?utm_source=ato04-09-19&utm_campaign=workplace  

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  • Cutting-edge device gives the UO a leg up in technology race

    First published in Around the O on April 24th 2019. A new multi-million-dollar research tool that will let UO scientists and students jump ahead of the technology curve is now being installed in a campus lab. The plasma focused ion beam instrument, known as the Thermo Scientific Helios Hydra DualBeam, is only the fourth instrument of its kind in the world and the first to be housed at a university or service center in North America. It is similar to a scanning electron microscope but also uses beams of ions rather than electrons to image, etch and analyze materials at nanometer scales. The acquisition was made possible through a new strategic collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific. The relationship promises to further position the UO as a key research and testing site, both for UO researchers and industrial clients who will lease time on the instrument. “It’s a real win-win-win that will greatly benefit the university, our faculty doing cutting-edge research and our students training for high-tech careers using the world’s most advanced tools and technologies available,” said David Conover, vice president for research and innovation. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Thermo Fisher Scientific to ensure that our research facilities stay ahead of the technology curve.” As part of the collaboration with Thermo Fisher, the UO will pilot a new instrument acquisition model that could help keep its research facilities at the forefront of science for years to come. The UO will work with Thermo Fisher’s Material Science division to ensure the Helios Hydra DualBeam stays cutting-edge throughout its time on campus. As new product features are developed, they will be added to the instrument. In turn, UO researchers will provide early feedback on featured applications to help shape future capabilities and functions for use within academic and industry labs. Even as workers were still unpacking 7-foot-tall wooden crates that housed the instrument during shipping and using a heavy-duty ceiling crane to lower pieces of the tool down a flight of stairs to the Center for Advanced Materials Characterization in Oregon, where the Helios Hydra will be located, Kurt Langworthy, director of the center, had already received inquiries from UO researchers and industrial clients interested in renting time on the machine. The instrument should be operational by the end of the month. “This will strengthen our position as a top-tier research facility, enabling internal researchers and external partners to investigate materials at scales that are more than 10 times our current limit,” Langworthy said. “Once word gets out that we have this instrument, we will be pretty busy.” The Helios Hydra will offer new efficiencies for materials science researchers seeking to discover and design new materials and analyze their properties and structure. But it will also serve other kinds of researchers, including biologists who could use the tool for so-called “connectomics” projects that involve mapping neural connections in the brain. The advanced materials center, one of the UO’s core research facilities, offers high-tech services to researchers, companies and universities. The collaboration builds on a long history and growing relationship between the UO and Thermo Fisher Scientific, which includes research collaborations, instrument acquisitions, in-kind gifts and opportunities for students. “DualBeam technology is widely used for sample preparation and 3D materials characterization, and the collaboration with the University of Oregon focuses on bringing this technology to a new level of performance,” said Trisha Rice, vice president and general manager, materials science, at Thermo Fisher. “In addition to finding the best ion beam match for a variety of samples and materials, it could lead to the ability to characterize previously difficult samples, such as those that contain carbon,” she said. “In addition, we plan to gain new insights and create best practices to optimize sample throughput and quality in the various DualBeam applications, helping researchers publish potentially groundbreaking results.” The strategic collaboration with Thermo Fisher and addition of the Helios Hydra will also benefit UO students training for high-tech careers in programs like the advanced materials analysis and characterization master’s degree program, a chemistry program facilitated through the center’s labs, and the Master’s Industrial Internship Program, housed in the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. Thermo Fisher has been a prominent partner in the internship program for nearly 20 years, with 89 students starting their careers at the company. In 2017, Thermo Fisher provided funding to the internship program in support of its diversity and inclusion efforts. The master’s program trains students for careers in industry and government labs. It couples industry relevant hands-on coursework with nine-month paid internships in industry, giving students practical experience to springboard their careers. “Many of our students intern with Thermo Fisher Scientific and go on to have careers there,” said Stacey York, director of the Master’s Industrial Internship Program. “Some even return to the UO to earn doctorates, bringing their learning and experience from internships back to the university.” Ultimately, Langworthy said, the new partnership will streamline ways to align UO research and industry with the resources offered by Thermo Fisher’s business network. As the new collaboration progresses, the UO will look for more opportunities for large-scale collaborations with Thermo Fisher. “There is a lot of potential for ongoing partnerships, new discoveries and new ways to attract outside investment for research and sponsorships,” Langworthy said. “We are excited to see what the future holds.”   https://around.uoregon.edu/content/cutting-edge-device-gives-uo-leg-technology-race

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  • Fantastic Plastic: Algotek Aims for Environmental Solution

    First published in Around the O on April 3rd. All those plastic straws, forks, spoons, bags, and water bottles add up to one big environmental problem. By many estimates, nearly half the plastic produced worldwide becomes a single-use product. Much of that ends up in landfills, the ocean, and as microscopic particles in the fish we eat. But a trio of recent UO graduates is working to solve the growing problem of single-use plastics—by making plastic that’s not a problem. David Crinnion and Tanner Stickling, both material and product studies majors, and Justin Lebuhn, an environmental studies major, launched Portland-based Algotek in 2018. They’re marketing the company’s biodegradable plastic as an alternative material for packaging and other items that are used only once. The bioplastic dissolves in water, and you can eat it (kind of). “It’s as edible as cardboard,” says Crinnion. “We can’t market it as food. But I have eaten small amounts to demonstrate that our product, which is made from brown algae, is totally benign.” Like many great ideas, it all started on a whim. Unlike most great ideas, it’s going somewhere—in part because it was hatched on the UO campus, where an interdisciplinary ecosystem of faculty members and resources helps students transform innovative concepts into viable businesses. As undergraduates, the group participated in the university’s 2017 Sustainable Invention Immersion Week, an annual entrepreneurial boot camp and competition for green business ideas. Inspired by Ooho—an edible water orb that’s an alternative to plastic water bottles—they explored the possibilities of its seaweed-based membrane as a greener packaging solution. “Initially, we thought about taking the water out of the spheres, replacing it with air, and creating an alternative to Styrofoam,” recalls Crinnion. “As it turned out, the membrane was not strong enough. But that was our inspiration.” Their idea was inspiring enough to earn them second place in the competition—and kick-start an entrepreneurial journey. Crinnion and Stickling immediately approached Kiersten Muenchinger, head of the Department of Product Design and the Tim and Mary Boyle Chair in Material Studies and Product Design, about working on their idea as an independent study project. The group continued improving the material, traveling to business pitch competitions, and learning from mentors outside their majors. “The faculty members were so motivating,” says Crinnion. “And super helpful. We met with Kiersten once a week, developed assignments, and learned the basics of starting a company.” Julie Haack, a faculty member in chemistry and biochemistry specializing in green chemistry, helped them refine their plastic recipe. And Kate Harmon, a faculty member in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, provided substantial support: Harmon flew with the entrepreneurs to Texas to help with a pitch competition and she and colleagues in the center worked continuously with the team on developing their business model, connecting them to grant and accelerator opportunities, and helping them grow their professional network. The center also invested more than $4,000 in the team through grants and paying for their travel to business competitions. Meanwhile, the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network offered work space, so the team could move their lab out of an apartment. Today, the Algotek team is working with an Oregon manufacturer to make the final tweaks to their new ecoplastic. They hope to start producing and licensing it this year. Businesses from across Oregon, the US, and even India have contacted them. The possibilities for specific products are so diverse, they’re keeping their options open to whatever the market demands. But their ultimate mission is laser-sharp. “Ultimately, we want to combat waste generated from traditional plastics,” says Crinnion. “Even if we fail, we’re hoping this will motivate others to pursue their ideas for a solution. We need to disrupt this market.” —By Ed Dorsch, BA ’94 (English, sociology), MA ’99 (journalism), University Communications Photos courtesy of Algotek (top) and Sarah Northrop/Daily Emerald

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  • Legislature considers funding for new OIMB research vessel

    First published in Around the O, a bill now before the Oregon Legislature would allocate $500,000 in state funds to build and outfit a new ocean-going research vessel for the UO’s Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. The vessel would help the institute continue its research on marine organisms and ecosystems and provide transformative educational experiences to university and K-12 students as well as community members. It would replace an aging boat that is near the end of its useful life and is too small for current needs. Students and faculty members from the Charleston-based institute traveled to Salem earlier this week to testify in support of the bill. The hearing was held before the Senate Education Committee Institute Director Craig Young joined undergraduate marine biology major Fiona Curliss and doctoral student Caitlin Plowman to explain why a new boat is critical to coastal research and teaching capacity at the facility. “I grew up in Oregon, and when I got to go on a boat from which we could see offshore marine biology communities, I saw things I had never seen in my life closer to shore,” Curliss said. “Those of us who want to pursue marine biology need hands-on knowledge as much as we need book knowledge. We need the equipment like this boat to see these communities.” The 90-year-old institute in Charleston is a destination for students, scholars and visitors, who can take advantage of the distinctive marine environment. The UO’s undergraduate marine biology major is the only one in Oregon. “The Charleston Center is a gem in Oregon that most people don’t realize,” said state Sen. Lew Frederick, a Portland Democrat who testified at the hearing. “It sparks a curiosity in a range of issues, not just in marine biology. It has the potential to become a premier center for biological research.” Coos County Commissioner Bob Main agreed and said the boat, which would be built locally, would also boost the coastal economy. “This project is so important to the economic impact of the community that Coos County commissioners have pledged $50,000 in lottery funds to this project, which is much more than we usually pledge to one project,” he said. The marine biology institute offers experiential learning in several forms, including through boat trips on the RV Pluteus, the existing research vessel built in 1973. On the boat, students learn about oceanographic sampling methods using dredges and trawls and experience close-up encounters with deeper-dwelling sea life that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to see. The electrical and engine systems on the Pluteus are reaching the end of their lives as safe and reliable components for sailing on open waters and in challenging sea conditions. The vessel also is too small to carry most of the UO’s classes for trips outside the bay.  A new vessel would be designed and fabricated in Oregon, and if SB 255 passes, the state investment will be matched by philanthropic support. The bill is sponsored by coastal legislators, including Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg; Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay; Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford; and Rep. David Gomberg, D-Central Coast. The measure moves next to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means for consideration.

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  • Bill would expand the UO's Oregon Research Schools Network

    First published in Around the O, a bill that would expand a UO College of Education pilot program focused on improving high school graduation rates is currently moving through the Oregon Legislature. Senate Bill 739 would provide funding to extend to additional high schools the Oregon Research Schools Network, a College of Education program that strives to improve high school graduation rates through collaborative partnerships between UO faculty members and teachers in the high schools. The bill is sponsored by Coos Bay Democratic Sen. Arnie Roblan, a UO graduate and former high school principal . On March 27 the bill moved out of the Senate Education Committee and on to the Joint Committee on Student Success. Roblan first learned about the network when College of Education Dean Randy Kamphaus spoke at the Oregon Coastal Caucus last August. Since then the senator and his colleagues on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Student Success visited Coquille High School to learn more about the benefits of the program for students at one of the pilot sites. The schools network is based on the agricultural extension model, which extends service, instruction and research statewide by placing experts in the field to help improve the academic and career outcomes for Oregon’s youth. Its current five-year pilot project includes placing faculty members in North Eugene High School, Roosevelt High School in Portland, Pendleton High School and Coquille High School.  Senate Bill 739 seeks $2.5 million to grow the model and extend it to six additional districts across Oregon, serving additional high schools identified as high-need, highly impacted and geographically diverse. The college hopes the model can be sued to increase K-12 performance statewide. The pilot program will be expanded and evaluated to assess its effects on diverse high school graduation rates and better participation in and completion of post-secondary education. In addition, the funding will allow it to develop affordable scale-up strategies, including training materials on how to successfully launch an improvement model — which can be delivered online or in person — the development of a “train the trainers” approach, and a framework for how to increase university partnership opportunities. For more information, see “New COE program will help state boost high school grad rates.”

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  • The UO again lands in the top 20 for Peace Corps volunteers

    First published in Around the O on March 21st, 2019. Ducks are flying further than just south for the winter this year: The University of Oregon ranked No. 17 on the Peace Corps’ annual list of top colleges and universities, with more than 44 Ducks serving internationally. The UO has made the list for more than 10 years, with 1,326 alumni serving since the program's conception in 1961. With more than 6,000 past volunteers, Oregon was the fourth-highest volunteer producing state per capita, according to Peace Corps spokesperson Carla Koop. The Peace Corps has various volunteer positions in more than 60 countries worldwide. Volunteers are sent to communities who request help on specific projects, which can include education, business, agriculture and more. UO family and human services alumna Jessica Gudgell is currently serving as a health volunteer in Peru and feels her time at the UO helped her decide to get involved and serve in the corps. “There is a big emphasis on service among the alumni and in the curriculum at the UO, and the Eugene community has so many amazing service organizations and opportunities to serve,” Gudgell said. “The family and human services program gave me an opportunity to get involved in the community and work in public health while I was studying.” According to Peace Corps director Jody Olson, the work that volunteers from universities and colleges around the country do is invaluable. “We have seen time and again that the colleges and universities that produce the most Peace Corps volunteers focus on cultivating global citizens in addition to promoting scholarship,” Olson said. “I am proud that so many graduates of these esteemed institutions leverage their educations to make the world a better place. They bring critical skills to communities around the world and gain hands-on, life-changing experience along the way.” The Peace Corps top colleges and universities ranking is divided into five categories assessing total current volunteers at small, medium, large and graduate schools. A fifth category is awarded to top volunteer-producing universities since the start of the organization in 1961. The UO is in the large colleges category with more than 15,000 undergraduates. This year’s ranking placed the UO in a three-way tie with University of Arizona and Virginia Tech, all with 44 current corps volunteers. To see the full list of top-producing colleges and universities, visit the Peace Corps website. Students can learn more about the Peace Corps by connecting with UO campus representative Denise Silfee. Her office is in Hendricks Hall, Room 220. She can also be reached by email at pcorps@uoregon.edu. Silfee is a returned volunteer who can share insights about her Peace Corps experience in Thailand. —By Bryan Dorn, University Communications

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  • UO professor emeritus receives Congressional Gold Medal

    First published in Around the O, George Wickes, a UO Professor Emeritus in English, was recently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his role as a cryptographer and intelligence officer in the Office of Strategic Services. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio presented the medal to the 96-year-old Wickes at a ceremony in the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse this week. Wickes served at the end of World War II and in Vietnam from 1945 to 1946. “It’s terrific to be honored today,” Wickes said. “It was an honor to serve in the Army and as a professor at the university.” DeFazio lauded Wickes for his bravery and contributions to the nation. “I wish that I would have taken a course in the English department during George’s time at the UO,” said DeFazio, who received a master’s from the university in 1977. “It’s an extraordinary honor for me, on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress and the American people, to give George the Congressional Gold Medal for his service.” The ceremony was attended by five dozen former colleagues and students of Wickes, who lives in Eugene. They applauded as DeFazio rewarded Wickes with the bright gold medal. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest awards presented to civilians in the United States. Paul Peppis, a UO English professor and director of the Oregon Humanities Center, spoke about Wickes’ “generosity of spirit” and “willingness to share wisdom, experience, hospitality and friendship.” “George represents the ideal scholar who guides you to succeed,” Peppis said after the ceremony. “His literary knowledge is immense and he’s incredibly humble. He taught me the value of mentorship and respecting those who came before you.” The OSS was the first organized effort by the U.S. to implement a centralized system of strategic intelligence and was the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency. After his service with the OSS, Wickes went to graduate school on the G.I. Bill, earning a master’s degree at Columbia University and a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. While writing his dissertation, Wickes directed Fulbright programs in Belgium and Luxembourg. He taught at Duke University for three years, then moved to Claremont, California, to become one of the seven founding faculty members of Harvey Mudd College. After 12 years teaching humanities at Harvey Mudd, he came to the UO as a visiting professor of English in 1970. In his 2006 memoir, Wickes said he immediately knew Eugene was where he “wanted to spend the rest of my life. Except for travelling, of course.” Wickes officially retired from the UO in 1993 but continued to teach until 2015. After his retirement, he taught at French universities as a Fulbright lecturer, inaugurated the UO English department’s faculty exchange program with the University of Tubingen in Germany, and taught in several European cities through the UO’s overseas program. He is the author of numerous books, including “Americans in Paris,” “The Amazon of Letters,” “The Memoirs of Frederic Mistral” and three collections of Henry Miller letters, all of which he donated to the Knight Library, where they are available to view through Special Collections and University Archives. —By Jess Brown, University Communications

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