Latest news from the UO

  • National Science Foundation: 70 years of funding fundamental research

    On May 10, 1950, Congress established the National Science Foundation (NSF) as an independent federal agency designed to promote the progress of science, advance the country’s health, prosperity, and welfare, and to secure the nation. The University of Oregon joins other research universities across the country in celebrating NSF’s 70th anniversary by featuring a few of the many discoveries UO researchers have made with support from NSF funding. The Science Coalition – a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and private research universities dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in fundamental scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation and drive American competitiveness – has created a fun new infographic featuring UO-related discoveries and research funded by NSF. These are just a few of the many NSF-funded research projects UO faculty have conducted since NSF’s founding. Follow the links to learn more about a few of these discoveries: Lasers: Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry Geri Richmond, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and specializes in understanding the molecular processes that occur in liquid surfaces and the environmental relevance of their chemistry and physics, has used lasers and computational methods to impact acid rain, atmospheric aerosols, and oil spill remediation. Mathematical Modeling: Computational Material Chemistry Professor Christopher Hendon has researched mathematical modeling and used NSF-shared computing resources to help identify key variables required to make consistently tasty coffee. Early Evidence of Humans: Anthropology professors Dennis Jenkins and Loren Davis researched DNA from human coprolites (otherwise known as dried feces) – which shows as some of the earliest evidence of humans in North America. Glacial Melting: Earth Sciences Professor Dave Sutherland discovered that glaciers are potentially melting as much as 100 times faster than predicted.

    Read More
  • House passes $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan

    May 19, 2020 08:50 am On Friday, May 15, the US House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, by a vote of 208-199 along mostly party lines, marking the start of an effort to pass a fourth emergency supplemental spending package in response to COVID-19. The bill includes $100 billion for education, with $27 billion allocated to public institutions of higher education through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Other allocations of these education funds include $1.4 billion to schools with “unmet needs” and up to $10,000 of student loan forgiveness per student loan borrower, which is applicable to all types of student loans. The bill would also enable DACA and international students to be eligible for all education funds, as well as retroactively make these students eligible for relief funds under the CARES Act, the third stimulus. An interactive dashboard created by the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Office of Data and Policy Analysis includes estimates of the amount of funds each eligible public university would receive under this bill as written. The University of Oregon would receive approximately $28 million of the $300 million distributed to Oregon institutions of higher education.  APLU released a statement on the passage of the HEROES Act saying that the bill addresses some of the acute challenges facing public research universities. “While short of APLU’s request, the funding would go a long way to support institutions essential to the public good. We appreciate the flexibility in the use of funds so institutions can adapt the federal support to the unique needs of their campus communities.”

    Read More
  • OR delegation supports more funding for research workforce

    May 7, 2020 10:44 am In a May 4, 2020 letter addressed to United States Senate leadership, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) were joined by 31 other senators in urging Congress to provide additional support for the U.S. research workforce, which includes graduate students, postdocs, principal investigators, and technical support staff. The bipartisan letter requested a total of $26 billion dollars to be included in the fourth coronavirus stimulus package. “In the current environment, researchers face myriad problems. Many are unable to make progress on their grants. Researchers who receive federal-grant funding may continue to receive their salaries even though their research has stopped, but many need supplemental funding to support additional salary and lab supplies as they ramp up work again and for the completion of their initial grant work.” The $26 billion requested would be used to accomplish three goals: Cover supplements for research grants and contracts; Provide emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and base operating costs for core research facilities; and Fund additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships. The Senate letter comes on the heels of a similar April 29 letter to House leadership initiated by U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and joined by 178 other members of the House, also requesting support for the U.S. research community. “Protecting the research workforce is critical to state and local economies as research universities, academic medical centers, independent research institutes, and national labs are major employers in all 50 states. In the long term, these researchers are essential to protecting our nation’s public health, national security, economic growth and international competitiveness. Preserving our scientific infrastructure and protecting our innovation pipeline will help ensure U.S. leadership in the world.” Both of Oregon’s senators signed the Senate letter. Oregon Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and Suzanne Bonamici signed the House letter. Major associations of higher education, including the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of American Universities (AAU), previously recommended $26 billion to support major research agencies in a letter addressed to both House and Senate leadership on April 7. The UO Government and Community Relations blog covered that request to Congress here. Read an article covering the May 4 Senate letter here. Read an article covering the April 29 House letter here.

    Read More
  • Three Ducks earn prestigious Boren awards

    First published in  Around the O on April 27th, 2020. Amid a term of remote learning, three University of Oregon students earned the opportunity to travel far from their homes in the next academic year after being selected for a prestigious Boren scholarship. Senior Samara Schuman is a double major in Chinese and business administration, and first-year students Rebecca Vance and Elizabeth Chandler are majoring in international studies. The three recipients will apply $20,000 of Boren funding to study abroad programs in the 2020-21 academic year. “We are thrilled to see UO students receive the Boren Scholarship,” said Luis Ruiz, assistant director for student success at Global Education Oregon. “This scholarship in particular provides a path for students to learn a critical language through long-term immersive study abroad experiences, and it connects them to future professional development opportunities in public service.” The award is named for David L. Boren, a U.S. senator who authored legislation that created the National Security Education Program. The program and the Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on the program’s behalf, share the goal of fostering goodwill and cultural exchange with nations of interest to the United States. Earning a Boren scholarship is a goal Schuman has been preparing for since she began attending the UO. That’s when she joined the Chinese Flagship Program and set her sights on foreign service. “Boren is the gateway to federal service opportunities and supports my goal of becoming fluent in Mandarin,” Schuman said. Boren awardees are required to serve a year with the federal government after completing their studies abroad. For students such as Schuman, the scholarship and the opportunity it offers is a way to further that service long-term. Her goal is to use her passion for cultural exchange and global experiences to become a foreign service public diplomacy officer. This will be the fifth time Schuman has studied abroad through the UO, having completed a previous program in Taiwan and two in China, as well as a program in Jordan that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. This fall's program in Taiwan will be her fifth. Schuman is from Eugene and never thought she’d stay in her hometown for school. But the Chinese Flagship Program has helped her chase the horizon. “Once I found out about the opportunities and funding Flagship provided, the UO opened doors to the world for me,” Schuman said.

    Read More
  • Eight UO students receive NSF grad fellowships

    First published in Around the O on April 27th, 2020. Eight current Ducks have received 2020 graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation.  The award recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. An additional 10 UO students received honorable mentions in chemistry, computer science, neuroscience, physics and psychology.  “This is the NSF’s most prestigious student award,” said David Conover, vice president for research and innovation. “We are tremendously proud of this year’s recipients and of the talent they bring to their fields.” Graduate research fellowships support students for three years of graduate study. Students receive a living stipend, tuition waivers and travel funds. The fellowship is highly competitive, with only 2,000 being awarded each year to graduate students across the U.S. Recipients Alison Chang, Marc Foster, Khoa Le and James May are all current, second-year graduate students in chemistry; Makenna Pennel and Madi Scott are undergraduate chemistry students. Pennel will be attending Stanford University to pursue her doctorate in chemistry next fall, and Scott plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. Kayla Evens, a graduate student in Institute of Ecology and Evolution, and Cecelia Staggs, a graduate student in linguistics, also received awards. Six of this year’s awardees are from the UO’s chemistry program, where associate professors Shannon Boettcher and Mike Pluth collaborate to run the program and develop students’ skills so they are competitive for NSF fellowships. When Boettcher arrived at the UO as an assistant professor in 2010, a chemistry doctoral student at the UO had not won an NSF fellowship for nearly a decade. He knew that the issue wasn’t a lack of talented students, but he noticed that few were applying. He and Pluth, along with other dedicated faculty members, focused on mentoring students so they were prepared for the rigorous application process. “We empower and support our students in developing, implementing and disseminating the results of broader impacts activities that creatively leverage their unique personal background, scientific interests, and career goals,” Boettcher said. “These activities are valuable to the graduate students who lead them and the communities they serve.” Students also write an independent research proposal and receive feedback on writing clarity while participating in monthly peer review workshops during the summer. He said a lot of mentorship comes down to building students’ confidence.

    Read More
  • UO biologist named to national academy

    First published in Around the O on April 24th, 2020. UO biologist Karen Guillemin, an internationally renowned pioneer who developed a zebrafish model to examine how animals coexist with their microbial residents and the role bacteria play in development and disease, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Guillemin was elected along with 275 other artists, scholars, scientists and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. She joins the ranks of 250 Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winners and a range of others recognized for their excellence and expertise. Those include actor Tom Hanks, former President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and physicist David J. Pine of New York University. The list also includes her father, Victor William Guillemin, who was elected in 1983 in the area of mathematics and physical sciences, and her great-uncle Ernst Guillemin, who was a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Being elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a wonderful honor,” said Guillemin, Philip H. Knight Chair and professor of biology. “It’s also very meaningful one to me because I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from the academy, and sometimes attended events there with my father, who was elected as a fellow when I was in high school.” Guillemin is a professor in the UO’s Department of Biology and the Institute of Molecular Biology. She established the interdisciplinary Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals, an National Institutes of Health-funded Center of Excellence in Systems Biology, to better understand the bacteria and other microorganisms that reside in the animal gut and influence many biological functions. She has helped further the evolution of zebrafish research, which the UO pioneered as a model organism to ultimately better understand human biology and disease, by developing a special kind of sterile zebrafish that allows scientists to better determine the role those microbes play as animals grow. Guillemin, who was elected in the area of biological sciences, has published more than 85 scientific papers and made numerous groundbreaking discoveries in her field, including a novel bacterial protein called BefA , which she recently patented and which shows promise to someday become a component of a new treatment for Type-1 diabetes. "Karen Guillemin is renowned for developing zebrafish as a model organism to study the effects of microbes on animal development and health,” said UO President Michael H. Schill.  “In addition to leading the national agenda for research in this area, she leads teams of brilliant young scientists, including undergraduates, in the pursuit of potential therapeutics and cures for diseases caused by excessive inflammation. She represents everything that is innovative, collaborative and exceptional about the University of Oregon's scientific research enterprise, and we are delighted to see her receive this recognition so early in her career." The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals engaged in advancing the public good. This year’s list of new members includes singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez, immunologist Yasmine Belkaidis, lawyer and former Attorney General Eric Holder and independent filmmaker Richard Linklater. UO biologist Judith Eisen, a fellow zebrafish researcher who was inducted into the academy in 2018 for her pioneering work developing zebrafish as a model to study the nervous system, credited Guillemin for her discovery of the BefA bacterial protein, among many other accomplishments. She also pointed to the development of new tools from the Guillemin lab that have become an important community resource for the genetic manipulation of newly discovered host-associated bacterial species.

    Read More
  • UO offers parents resources for remote learning

    First published in Around the O on April 21st, 2020. As more parents turn to online educational resources for their kids’ remote learning needs, here’s a look at a few of the UO-developed applications that are available to parents. The UO’s College of Education has a reputation for conducting cutting-edge work in many areas. Much of this evidence-based research has given rise to online learning applications, some of which are now available for free or at a reduced rate. Math resources for preschoolers/kindergarteners Researchers in the college have lowered the price on a tablet-based math program for kindergarten students to make it more readily available for students and families. KinderTEK, an app that grew out of research in the UO’s Center on Teaching and Learning, is now available to families for 99 cents. Teachers can set up free, cloud-synced class accounts for students to use at home by visiting the KinderTEK website. The application is only available for iPads and helps students age 3-8 learn important preschool/kindergarten-level math skills. “This is a resource that kids like, that works well and that they can use independently,” said Mari Strand Cary, senior researh associate in the Center on Teaching and Learning and project director of KinderTEK. What differentiates KinderTEK from other apps, Strand Cary says, is that it teaches math through thoughtful sequencing and resarch-based instructional practices. KinderTEK individualizes instruction and feedback to teach students what they need to know and rewards them for perseverance and mastery. KinderTEK was co-developed with a private partner, Concentric Sky, with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education and is available in the Apple App Store. For more information, visit the KinderTEK website Math education gaming for students in kindergarten through second grade Numbershire, math education game for students in early elementary school, is now available at a reduced rate. Developed at the UO Center on Teaching and Learning and funded with grants from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Office of Special Education Programs, Numbershire teaches students in grades kindergarten through second grade concepts that are critical for math proficiency, especially students who are struggling. The program uses an engaging storyline set in a Renaissance-themed village with unique characters, narrative goals and visual rewards. “There’s an overall storyline that kids begin with and navigate through and to which math concepts are intimately connected,” said Nancy Nelson, a research assistant professor and director of clinic and outreach at the Center on Teaching and Learning. “Kids are taught and shown how to do something, and they get feedback about whether they are doing it correctly or incorrectly before they practice it on their own.” Numbershire is focused on critical whole number concepts and aligned with Common Core State Standards. Its initial effectiveness in improving math learning was demonstrated in an 8-week pilot study involving 250 students in 26 classrooms, and has since been tested in 60 classrooms involving thousands of children with similar results. The home version of the Numbershire app for the iPad is now available for 99 cents in the Apple App Store. Parents can also access a web-based version of the classroom edition for free by contacting developers at ns1its@uoregon.edu and requesting an account. For more information, visit the Numbershire website. Online science activities for middle schoolers All middle school students, including those with learning disabilities, can boost their science learning with the online ESCOLAR curriculum. ESCOLAR, which stands for Effective Scholastic Curriculum for Online Learning and Academic Results,was developed and evaluated within the College of Education’s Center for Equity Promotion.  ESCOLAR is different from other online science modules because it was created for a digital environment and it is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. Also, unlike other programs, it has been proven effective in research with middle schoolers, according to UO research assistant professor Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes, who leads the ESCOLAR effort. “Schools are spending thousands of dollars on some popular online science programs that are not evidence-based,” Terrazas-Arellanes said. The complete ESCOLAR middle school science curriculum, originally designed with a National Science Foundation grant, was intended for teachers to use in their classrooms, but parents can easily access the units after setting up free accounts. Units last 12-20 weeks and are divided into the areas of life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and foundational skills. Developers will soon begin releasing ESCOLAR units in Spanish.  Learn more on the ESCOLAR website

    Read More
  • Research studies COVID-19 impact on families

    First published in Around the O on April 22nd, 2020. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds across the U.S., many families with young children are facing big challenges, and UO researchers are gearing up to help them. Buoyed by three recent grants totaling roughly $500,000 from the Heising-Simons Foundation, the JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation and the Valhalla Charitable Foundation, researchers in UO’s Center for Translational Neuroscience are working to identify the most critical needs of this vulnerable population. The inspiration for the project grew out of a desire to help and the realization that there was a lack of scientific data to inform the federal government’s multi-trillion-dollar stimulus packages and other policies designed to help communities, said Philip Fisher, Philip H. Knight Chair and a professor in the Department of Psychology leading the project. For families with young children, the potential problems include concerns about health and well-being, changes in employment for parents, mental health challenges, and changes in child care, as well as interrelated challenges with overburdened safety net programs. “There is very limited actionable science-based, data-driven information to inform federal and state policy about the best ways to manage the situation in order to buffer children from long-term toxic stress effects,” Fisher said. “The situation is extremely fluid, with new information about the state of the pandemic and local, state, and policy decisions being made on a daily basis.” For Fisher, a child development expert who studies how stressful experiences in early childhood affect the architecture of the brain, the project was a natural fit. It also aligned with the Center for Translational Neuroscience’s mission of translating discoveries in basic neuroscience, psychology, and related disciplines into meaningful and useful information for practitioners, policy makers, and the general public. Dubbed the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development, or RAPID, the project draws upon the collective resources of faculty members, postdoctoral trainees, graduate students and professional staff with experience in recruitment, data collection and analysis, and generation of manuscripts.

    Read More
  • The Secret Life of the Duck

    First published in Around the O. The University of Oregon’s beloved mascot never speaks. But those who have been the famous fowl have tales to tell. Story By Sarah Lorge ButlerPhoto Illustrations by Kelly Alexander Over the years, the University of Oregon Duck has lounged in a lawn chair on the sideline of the Civil War game, coloring in a coloring book. The Duck has found himself (or is that “herself”? “Itself”?) in an impromptu dance-off against a cheerleader from the University of Southern California—and won, with a showstopping version of “the Worm.” The Duck has done countless pushups after touchdowns and served one very well-publicized suspension after the Houston Cougar ruffled those lily-white feathers. The Duck has gone to hospitals and made sick kids laugh, mastered social media with an unforgettable performance of “Gangnam Style,” and walked the entire six-mile route of the Rose Bowl parade. The Duck has turned up at countless university receptions, sometimes posing as a statue. When an unsuspecting guest walks by with a plate of food, the Duck suddenly moves—and the food goes flying. Authority figures—head coaches, security guards, dignitaries—can’t govern the Duck. The Duck is going to do what the Duck wants to do. In fact, there’s only one thing the Duck won’t do: speak. But that’s about to change. For the first time ever, the Duck—or should we say, those who have been the Duck—is opening that big orange bill to share stories, memories, and laughs from over the years. What’s life like as the beloved bird? How hot is it in there? Has the Duck ever gotten into scrapes that might be almost impossible to get out of? What does it feel like when the crowd goes wild? The alumni who follow were only too happy to share their tales as one of the nation’s most iconic collegiate mascots. We’re keeping them anonymous to protect the innocent—and also the mystique of the UO’s web-footed wonder. But one thing can’t be concealed: it’s a heckuva lot of fun being the Duck. When Ducks Attack We were playing the Houston Cougars [2007]. The first time Houston scored, their Cougar went out to the 10-yard line and started doing pushups on our field. The guy in the suit—a number of us would be the Duck at any given time—was not having it. He starts yelling at the Cougar—the Cougar reaches up and pushes the bill of the Duck, and they start getting into a shoving match. Both student sections are going nuts. At halftime, we’re up in the cheer room talking to the Cougar. And we’re like, “Look, that got a huge reaction out of the crowd, let’s plan something for the second half. The next time you score a touchdown, we’ll roll around a bit, you get a couple of blows in, we’ll get a couple blows in.”   Sure enough, they score, the Cougar comes out for pushups. But the Duck, instead of a couple of punches, he just kept going. He shoves the guy over, and the crowd is going insane.  The university wanted to suspend the mascot but didn’t know who the mascot was. It’s anonymous. And the cheer coach said, “Well, it’s all of them. You have to suspend the Duck.” —Duck no. 1 Yeah, my first football game, I fought the Cougar. I’d had a few energy drinks called Whoop Ass. I’m pretty sure they’re not sold anymore. I don’t hurt him, he doesn’t hurt me. He took me down and tackled me. I fake-punched him. There were some inappropriate gestures. The team gave me the game ball. —Duck no. 2 We were suspended for two games. The second game of the suspension was the next home game. [Athletics] had me bring the suit up to the press box and they put me on the Jumbotron. I stuck my head out the window and as I looked down at the crowd in Autzen, I put my arms up, and everyone turned around to look up at me. I had a standing ovation from the crowd. I felt heroic. I felt like the greatest Duck on earth. —Duck no. 3 The Days of Daisy Duck It was the spring of 1983 and I was part of an ambassador group welcoming people who would come to visit—alumni and prospective students. We were there to help with school spirit.  Someone had stolen the male Duck costume. So I was wearing the girl Duck costume, Daisy Duck. It was a funny outfit—it came just to the top of my legs. I had yellow tights, some sort of duck feet, a feather carpet from the top of my legs to top of chest and arms. And I had a head with long eyelashes and green makeup on the eyes.  There were no tryouts; I had no training, no guidelines. It bore no resemblance to the current Duck, but there was a reaction: laughter and silliness. It brought joy and smiles to people, even then. Love from the Little Ones It’s 2002, and basketball and volleyball are still in Mac Court. The Duck goes in and out of the games, sits in the stands, walks the hallways. This tiny girl with a little blond ponytail stopped me in the hall and motioned for me to lean over. So I did, and she whispered in my ear, “You’re my most favorite duck in the world.” She was saying all these sweet little things that a kid tells someone or something that they believe in. The way she was looking at me, it was like the way you see a kid going up to Santa. She was in awe. I can’t say anything, because the Duck doesn’t talk. But I was getting misty-eyed in the suit. I just patted her on the head and let her have a moment. A Sprint for Survival In 2015, our football team gets to the national championship. I’m standing near the entrance to the tunnel. Someone activates the fog machines right in front of the cheerleaders, and I see the entire cheer team take off out of the tunnel. What is going on? I look over and see this guy yelling, “GO!” So I step to the side. And he’s like, “No, GO!” The last guy on the cheer team had just passed me and some were already at the 50-yard line. I look back in the tunnel and I see the football team coming. And I go, “Oh, s***.” They want me to run. The football team was in cleats sprinting out of the tunnel and I’m in a big floppy suit. They’re going to truck me. I just took off as fast as I could, trying to catch up with the cheer team. It was a fight or flight instinct. We looked at the clip later, it was the perfect timing of all of these things that happened. Fireworks going off while this awkward Duck comes sprinting out. One of the headlines the next day: “Oregon’s Mascot Was Ducks’ Lone Highlight in National Championship Loss.” Top 40 Fame Photo credit: @ericevansphoto The hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was coming to Eugene for a concert at Matthew Knight Arena in 2013, and their song “Thrift Shop” was really popular.  I wanted to get on stage and perform with Macklemore to that song. I got in contact with his management. They were down for it as long as I could get a fur coat that would fit the Duck, because Macklemore wears one in the music video and he’d be wearing it on stage. I ended up going somewhere super sketchy and getting a giant $300 fur jacket that fit the Duck.  As soon as the chorus dropped on “Thrift Shop,” I came out. I stayed on for the rest of the song, and I ended up giving Macklemore a piggyback ride. Everyone was going crazy. There aren’t too many opportunities in your life you can be with a guy with a song in the Top 40 and give him a piggyback on stage.  “I ended up going somewhere super sketchy and getting a giant $300 fur jacket that fit the Duck.” A Marcus Mariota Moment I’m at an away game in California. It’s brutally hot, and it’s always 20 degrees hotter in the suit.  Fourth quarter, I go into one of the tunnels and take off my head and try to rehydrate. I look like a hot mess. I’m sweating profusely, red in the face, I’m trying to catch my breath. We are doing well in the game, and they pull Marcus Mariota and the second-string quarterback comes in for him.  So I’m there sitting up against the wall, having multiple Gatorades, and Mariota comes running down the tunnel. He looks at me and says, “Hey, you’re doing a great job, man.” I was like, what? Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy candidate, is complimenting the mascot right now? He’s the nicest guy ever.  Rubbing Feathers with Jimmy Fallon Photo credit: Lloyd Bishop The year of the national championship in 2015, there’s so much demand for the Duck. I get a call to go do a bit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It’s my first time in New York, so I go to Central Park, I eat a hotdog in Times Square, and then I bring my suit to Rockefeller Center. I’m thinking, “This is not normal. I am 22 years old. I’m living this rock star life. This is all so crazy to me.”  I have my own dressing room, and I’m waiting while they film the regular show. I get suited up without the head. They’re setting up the stage so we can do the bit, which is a music video, a power ballad about Oregon. And it takes them about two hours to fix up the set.  Jimmy Fallon comes out and he is dressed head-to-toe with legit Oregon football gear, except for the helmet. He tells me to sit with him on the stage, where he usually interviews guests for Late Night. I’m a big Saturday Night Live fan, he tells me how he got to SNL, his career roadmap and how hard he worked to get to where he is. We talk for the whole two hours. He could have been doing anything else, but he talked to me. It was such a fun time. Blocking Bellotti I knew the basics of how football was played, but I didn’t know the intricacies of it. I was a theater kid in high school. My first job is at the spring game for football in 2006. And Mike Bellotti, he’s the head coach at the time, and I don’t even know who he is. He’s sitting in a golf cart, and I walk up and cross my arms and lean on his golf cart, blocking his view of the field. Everyone around me thinks it’s hilarious. I had no idea who the guy was. It turned out to be perfect. It’s exactly what the Duck would be doing, blocking the view of the most important person on the sideline. Walk a Mile in Webbed Feet The first event I had to do was a fitness walk for university employees. I think they were walking a mile. My coach had told me, “You don’t need to walk the whole thing. Be there at the beginning and the end and pose for photos.” But being a new Duck, I really want to be there with those people doing the walk. It’s only a mile? I can do that. Well, I walked the whole route, and along the way, I got really hot and lightheaded. I made it back to the EMU. I had to run into the bathroom, into one of the stalls, and take the head off, which is the only way to cool off. If you walked into the bathroom, you would have just seen the Duck feet from under the stall. You’d have to wonder what was going on in there. Capitol Crimes We had to go to Salem a lot, to make appearances at the Capitol. And the stairs going in are very grand. But on the side of them there’s this groove, a marble slide. It’s not a slide, but to the Duck? It’s a slide.  Security guards hated it when we did this. We’d slide down on our butt. We’d hear a “Hey!” And then we’d bolt to wherever we could go, lie low for 10 minutes. Then be back. And do it again. We were always trying to make ourselves laugh. That’s the goal. If we’re having fun, it should make other people laugh. Photo credit: Oregon Athletics Taking a Dive It was November 2012 and we thought it’d be a good idea for the Duck to skydive into College GameDay. But the university was not going to let a student skydive. No way. ESPN wanted it to happen, though. They wanted the Duck to arrive to GameDay that way. So they decided to put a skydiver in the suit.  They did a test skydive on a Friday. I had an appearance in Portland, so I wasn’t around as they were conducting the trial skydive. Suddenly I get a text: the mascot’s head fell off during the trial skydive. The head is lost. I call the woman in charge of operations. “What happened? Where’s the head?” She tells me, “We don’t know where it is. We have a search team looking for it right now.”  Turns out, the head fell down on a branch, through the mouth. It was pretty beat up. We didn’t end up doing that bit. But I was running the Duck’s social media at that time and sent out a tweet about it. I wrote, “Literally had an out-of-body experience today. All is well #migraines.”  Sarah Lorge Butler is a freelance writer in Eugene.    

    Read More