Latest news from the UO

  • College of Education faculty offer tips on returning to K-12 classes

    First published in Around the O on May 19, 2021. Returning to the classroom after a year’s worth of pandemic-induced absence is sure to spark a range of challenges and stresses for students, teachers and parents alike. Leaving the safety of Zoom and being among masked-up peers and others, along with the stimuli that accompanies being in public for the first time in a year in a classroom setting, will affect everyone differently. However, College of Education faculty members Jennifer Ruef and Sarah Stapleton have advice for parents and teachers to help address some of those concerns, how to approach the coming summer and what opportunities to do things better may have emerged over the past year. Kids will still learn One of the biggest concerns you hear about is the idea of “learning loss” — that kids will have forgotten much of what they’ve learned over the past year or backtracked during remote learning. Jennifer Ruef said not to worry. “Learning loss is a misleading term, and likely to cause anxiety,” said Ruef, an assistant professor who teaches best practices for learning and making sense of math and was a longtime math teacher before that. “As humans, we are constantly learning,” she said. “The question is what were kids learning in this time of COVID? And then how can we leverage that? Kids are going to come back to schools with really varied experiences having been at home or away from school for about a year. What's worth hanging on to? How can what kids bring into schools be part of where we're picking up?” Reuf said people should plan for flexibility. “Look for every single way that a kid can show you that they are meeting the standards that you require for them to earn credit in your class,” she said. “Find a way to keep those kids moving along.” Social situations Everyone — students, teachers, parents — will have to go through a period of adjustment after being away from classmates and friends and the daily social interactions that come with that. Ruef said patience is the key as everyone reacclimates to being among people in real life again. “I think just as adults are trying to figure out how to do that, we need to have some patience with how kids are going come back and reconnect with their peers and reconnect with teachers,” Ruef said. “I suspect that learning how to sit in classrooms and just be present, just paying attention to something that's not a screen, may be a challenge for some of our teens.” Mental health awareness The pandemic and its myriad effects have taken a toll on educators, students and parents in different ways, and everyone needs to keep that in mind in the coming year. “Parents: Give yourself some grace,” Ruef said. “We have all had a very challenging year. It was not your job to make sure that your kid had a truly excellent educational experience this year. Whatever you did, let it be enough.” Teachers should be mindful of experiences students could be bringing with them into the classroom, such as the loss of a family member, or someone who was out of work or facing food insecurity. “I think it's important to acknowledge the challenges that kids have faced and then not simply define them in terms of that trauma but to consistently see kids as capable of brilliance and full of knowledge and assets that they can bring with them,” Ruef said. Supporting teachers Teachers, administrators, support personnel — they’ve all been working double and triple time since last March, and one key step parents can do is to put their trust in them as in-person instruction resumes. “Every teacher I know is working their heart out,” said Sarah Stapleton, an assistant professor in the UO Department of Education Studies and an affiliate faculty member with the UO Environmental Studies and UO Food Studies programs who taught the sciences to middle and high schoolers before coming to the UO. “They're also frustrated because it's impossible to feel like you're serving everyone's needs given the situation.” After playing a larger role in their children’s education during the pandemic, parents shouldn’t completely step back once their kids return to school, Stapleton said. “Parents and schools should always be in partnership,” she said. Ruef added that parents should see their children’s teachers as allies and resources for help during the transition back to the classroom. “Please find some way to thank your kids' teachers,” Ruef added. “I don't know if it's possible to express enough gratitude for what they're doing.” Taking advantage of opportunities In some cases, some subjects, such as science, were marginalized during the pandemic because of the challenges brought along by remote teaching and the hurdles to hands-on learning opportunities. And if there was ever a time that showed how important understanding science is, it was the past year, the faculty members said. Ruef and Stapleton said there are numerous ways to keep kids engaged in learning without even trying. “We live in a beautiful place, so go hiking and just take them outside,” Stapleton said. She recommended using several available apps, such as Seek and Merlin, that can help users identify plants and birds respectively. Household tasks like cooking, gardening or shopping offer other ways to include math problems into your daily routine, Ruef said. Silver linings Changes implemented during the pandemic also illustrated valuable lessons that can be applied going forward. “Zoom and other digital tools have given us a lot of options to do things online if we need to,” Stapleton said. “As an instructor, I feel like I have an expanded toolbox of instructional strategies I can use when we go back to in-person teaching.” “If it's distance or illness or whatever it is that is keeping you from being physically present, there are now ways to include people in a meaningful way,” Ruef added. After seeing how some kids thrived in an online environment, keeping an online component might be something schools will want to look at more closely, Stapleton said. Stapleton also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to reexamine teaching environments. “If we had better outdoor education infrastructure in our schools, we could have perhaps returned sooner and in safer ways or in ways that make families feel better,” Stapleton said. One major need that came to light during the pandemic was the critical role school food programs play. Stapleton, whose research focuses on food-related issues, said food program employees and volunteers stepped up once schools shut down and found ways to still fill this critical need for many families. As a result, schools redesigned many programs, partnering with nonprofits and others, to get food into the hands of families and students who were no longer gathering in a central location for school. “This whole experience can really help us appreciate the essentialness of school food,” Stapleton said. “Let the food service workers know that they are appreciated. They've all been working ceaselessly throughout impossible situations.” Summer ahead With a year like everyone has had, once the school year is done, people should feel guilt-free in taking some down time and resist the compulsion to play catch-up over the summer. “Turn the computer off for a long period of time — days even weeks,” Stapleton said. “Just take a break.” “Prioritize the break,” Ruef added. “Because teachers and kids will be more resilient if they are more whole. Teachers are going to be more effective if their batteries are recharged. If you come in strong and ready to go, you're just much better off and everybody's going to have a better experience.” —By Jim Murez, University Communications

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  • Guidance for $36 billion to Higher ed institutions announced

    May 18, 2021 02:27 pm On May 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced more than $36 billion in emergency grants provided under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act for postsecondary education and released guidance about use of the funds. These grants will help over 5,000 institutions of higher education, including the University of Oregon, provide emergency financial aid to millions of students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 national emergency. This funding is provided by the ARP’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF III), with a new formula requiring at least half of the funding to be used by each institution to provide direct relief to students. Most importantly, ED released a final rule on student eligibility and clarified that all students including citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, DACA recipients, other DREAMers, and similar undocumented students are eligible to receive these funds. The rule also clarified that international students may receive emergency grants but notes that "institutions must ensure that funds go to students who have exceptional need.” ED’s HEERF III webpage includes the allocation tables, including the student and institutional fund allocation tables, along with new guidance for the use of funds. The University of Oregon will receive a total of $42.8 million with at least half to be paid directly to students in the form of financial aid grants. Up to half of the funds can be spent on institutional costs and losses related to the pandemic.

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  • Geri Richmond nominated for a top post in US Energy Department

    First published in Around the O on April 29, 2021. Geraldine Richmond, the UO’s Presidential Chair in Science and a much-honored professor of chemistry, has been nominated to serve in the Biden administration as undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy. Richmond is one of 16 people recently nominated by President Joe Biden for positions in his administration. Her nomination requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate. “From solving environmental challenges through the power of the basic sciences, to guiding some of America’s most critical international climate negotiations, to helping the federal government navigate the clean energy transition, each of these nominees brings a wealth of experience that will be instrumental as we work towards achieving the president’s ambitious climate goals,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. The undersecretary for science oversees the Energy Department’s Office of Science, advises the secretary of energy on energy and technology issues, monitors the department’s research and development programs, and advises the secretary on management of the DOE’s national laboratories, among other duties. A professor at the UO since 1985, Richmond has carved out a groundbreaking career studying the molecular characteristics of water surfaces, studies that have relevance to environmental issues such as oil remediation, atmospheric chemistry and alternative energy sources. She has designed state-of-the-art laser systems, optics equipment and computers that work in tandem to understand molecular processes at liquid surfaces that have environmental importance. Richmond also has been a pioneer in advocating for the advancement of women in science. In 1998, Richmond and Jeanne Pemberton of the University of Arizona co-founded COACh, the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists. The organization has delivered a series of successful workshops on negotiation, leadership and conflict resolution to more than 15,000 women in all fields of science and engineering around the U.S. Since 2010 Richmond has taken COACh to developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The international workshops, which include guidance on publishing and proposal writing, have been conducted in more than 20 countries. In addition, Richmond has served on the National Science Board and was a U.S. science envoy to Southeast Asia. She also served a term as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2016, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from President Clinton in 1997 and the American Chemical Society’s highest honor, the Priestley Medal, in 2018.   Richmond is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society and the Association for Women in Science. A native of Kansas, Richmond received her bachelor’s in chemistry from Kansas State University in 1975 and her doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. 

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  • Oregon gains additional seat in U.S. House of Representatives

    April 28, 2021 09:49 am On Monday, April 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released figures indicating that the state of Oregon’s population has expanded over the last decade enough to give it an additional congressional district for the first time in 40 years, increasing Oregon’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from five to six. Ron Jarmin, acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau, led the news conference. He earned his doctorate in economics from the University of Oregon. In Oregon lawmakers redraw the state House, state Senate and federal congressional districts. State legislators have the biggest say over redistricting in many states, but other states use different methods for drawing lines, including independent commissions. This year’s redistricting effort will be hampered by a major delay in the availability of data. The number of state legislative districts is set by the Oregon constitution. Lawmakers can only move the boundary lines and they must be equal in population. Congressional districts are added and subtracted to states based on population. These districts must also be equal in population. Oregon was close to adding a new district in 2011 but fell short compared to other states, making its five districts among the most populous in the nation. The U.S. Census Bureau announced that the state of Texas will gain two seats, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will gain one seat, and the following states will lose one seat; California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The U.S. Census Bureau’s original plan was to deliver redistricting data to states by March 31, 2021, but like most things during the pandemic and also due to the Trump administration’s efforts to disrupt and shorten the census process, it was delayed. The bureau predicts that data will not be distributed to Oregon until August. Under the Oregon Constitution and state laws, the deadline to redraw districts is July 1, well before census data is released. This deadline prompted Oregon’s Senate and House leaders to file a petition with the state Supreme Court to ask for an extension, which was approved this month. The Oregon Legislature now has until Sept. 27 to complete the redistricting process. Patricia Southwell, UO political science professor, is quoted in multiple news articles regarding the political picture in Oregon regarding redistricting. “The real quandary for Democrats is that Oregon is much more of a competitive state than you would think,” said Southwell. “In the 2020 election 42% of Oregonian voters cast their ballot for a republican us house candidate, but they still only have one representative.” Southwell continued, “I think (Democrats are going to come under a lot of pressure, probably from Republicans more than anyone else, to recognize that there are a lot of Republicans in the state of Oregon and have been underrepresented in the U.S. House.” Democrats agreed to give up their advantage in redrawing the state’s political boundaries in exchange for a commitment from Republicans to stop blocking bills in the Legislature with delay tactics. With the agreement, Democrats and Republicans each have three members on the state’s redistricting committee.  Should lawmakers fail to reach an agreement on U.S. boundaries, the matter would be settled by a panel of five judges, one from reach of the state’s current congressional districts. If the lawmakers are unable to complete the state legislative maps by their deadline, the task would fall to Oregon Secretary of state Shemia Fagan. Follow this process on the Oregon Redistricting website.

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  • College biology course goes outside for pandemic learning

    First published in The World Link on April 27, 2021. Most college students don’t take their classes on the beach. But most college students aren’t in Aaron Galloway’s marine ecology class. In some ways, last week’s lecture felt like a standard class, with a professor telling stories about his research on lingcod to a few dozen students scribbling onto their notepads and stealing glances at their cell phones. But look any closer and the scene was anything but standard: Driftwood, rocks and camping chairs took the place of lecture hall seats, and a small whiteboard — attached to a step stool with bungee cords in case of wind gusts — stood in for slide decks and projector screens. Off to one side of the group, the South Coast’s springtime sunshine dried out a set of dripping wetsuits some students had just stepped out of. “Are you ready for me to wipe that off?” Galloway would ask before changing what was on the white board and moving on to the next topic. Galloway, a professor at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology — a University of Oregon campus tucked away in Charleston — has reinvented his course for the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, coupling field study with outdoor lectures. “This is a hands-on program. That’s what we’re selling, that’s what we’re all about,” Galloway said. Aside from being a marine biology research center and the home of the Charleston Marine Life Center, the campus is the experiential learning arm of the university’s marine biology programs. After taking introductory courses in Eugene, students spend one or three terms taking classes in Charleston. Galloway’s day-long class sessions have always included time on the beach for field study. But in past years, he’d take students back to OIMB classrooms for indoor PowerPoint lessons on research skills. That changed in early 2020: By spring break, the university had warned professors and instructors about the possibility of online classes. A few weeks later, students hunkered down to finish the school year in Zoom lectures. Professors at the OIMB, however, had a big online learning hurdle to overcome: How do you study the tide pools if you can’t visit them in person? “We couldn’t figure out how to get people out here at all, so we just cancelled it,” Galloway said of last spring’s Marine Ecology class. Hannah Hartwell, who came to the university from Alaska for its marine biology program, was one of the students who’d hoped to be a part of that class and decided to wait out the pandemic. “A couple of us are in year five now, because we wanted to wait to get out here,” Hartwell said, standing on the rocks at Cape Arago’s South Cove last week. As the world began to learn to live with the virus, the university slowly began to open up. In-person classes began at lower capacity in the winter. And at the Charleston campus, Galloway began planning for his next courses.  

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  • Universities seek funding from state during legislative session

    First published in Around the O on April 23, 2021. As the 2021 session of the Oregon Legislature passes the halfway mark, a handful of bills supported by the UO are in play, including proposals that will connect students with various benefits and expanding financial aid. A current focus of the Legislature is building the state budget for the next two years and determining how to invest funding provided to Oregon through the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. The Joint Committee on Ways and Means is currently holding virtual budget hearings in each congressional district in Oregon to gather community feedback about the 2021-23 budget, particularly seeking information on how the Legislature should balance the state budget and use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. The UO and Oregon’s other public universities are asking for investments in public higher education, including funding the Public University Support Fund at $900 million and the Oregon Opportunity Grant at $200 million.  The UO also is seeking $58.5 million for the Heritage Project. The project would renovate and modernize UO’s oldest buildings, University and Villard halls, including making them accessible to all students. UO Day at the Capitol is scheduled for Tuesday, May 25, as a virtual event. Faculty members, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to participate by advocating for higher education funding and support for UO initiatives being proposed during the session. A video explains the role of advocates at UO Day at the Capitol. Registration is required and can be completed online. A virtual orientation on Tuesday, May 24, will include special guest UO President Michael H. Schill. “UO Day at the Capital being a completely virtual event makes it easier than ever for UO students, faculty, staff and alumni to participate,” said Kimberly Koops, UO associate director of advocacy. “Unlike previous in-person lobby day events that are a full-day commitment, this year advocates will participate in a short training the night before and then a couple of 15-minute meetings with legislators on May 25.” Hans Bernard, associate vice president for state affairs, explained the value of UO Day at the Capitol. “Legislators respond when they hear from those who are impacted by the decisions they make,” he said. “Having current students, faculty, staff and alumni participate in UO Day at the Capitol will help us make the case regarding UO’s needs this legislative session.”

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  • Next election is May 18, deadline to register is April 27

    April 23, 2021 01:15 pm The deadline to register to vote in the May 18, 2021 Special Election in Oregon is Tuesday, April 27 at 11:59 pm. The ballot will include candidates for local school board races, community college board races, park, fire, and water district boards, and county-wide ballot initiatives. UO Government & Community Relations asks you to check your registration and make a plan to vote. There are multiple ways to register as an Oregon voter or update your voter registration. Options include: Online at www.oregonvotes.gov no later than 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, April 27. The online option is available to those with a valid Oregon driver’s license, DMV-issued identification card or learner’s permit. Mail a voter registration card to the Elections Office with a postmark no later than Tuesday, April 27. Voter registration cards are available at the ASUO Office in the EMU and at local elections offices. In-person registration at a county elections office - A list of offices can be found here; due to COVID protocols you may need to schedule an appointment. Elections offices will start mailing ballots to registered voters on Wednesday, April 28. In Lane County, no voter’s pamphlet will be mailed for this election. The League of Women Voters’ VOTE411 website provides nonpartisan information on candidates and initiatives, and Lane County voters can see candidate and measure filings here. Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, May 18. In Oregon, ballots can be mailed postage free, or returned to an official ballot drop box. A ballot that has been postmarked by election day but does not arrive at the elections office by May 18 will not be counted. Ballots placed in official ballot drop boxes up to 8 p.m. on Election Day will be counted, and your vote will still count if you are in line at the drop box at 8 p.m. Find your nearest drop box here.

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  • CHC's Mikala Capage wins Goldwater Scholarship

    CHC's Mikala Capage, junior, won the highly prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.  April 22, 2021 Story by Sammy DiMinno, CHC CommunicationsPhoto by Maddie Knight, CHC Communications When junior Mikala Capage opened an email about the Goldwater Scholarship she applied for, she was prepared. And then she was ecstatic. It was the second time she had applied for the Goldwater; the first email resulting in disappointment. Now, after the second email, she can say she is the 2021 Goldwater Scholarship recipient. “It feels very satisfying, I think to do all of the work for the application, but also do all of the work for research over the last couple years and classes,” Capage, a biology major, said.  “It definitely is very satisfying, I think to kind of have that recognized at the national level.” The Goldwater Foundation provides up to a maximum of $7,500 to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The scholarship is used to help cover the amount equal to the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board. Along with the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, Capage is also the Vice President for Research and Innovation (VPRI) Undergraduate Fellowship recipient of 2020 and the Knight Campus Undergraduate Scholar of 2021. Since her first year of high school, Capage has always had a passion for research and biology and her love for research has only continued to grow. She learned about epigenetics during high school from one of her favorite biology professors and knew that she wanted to know more. Her passion for research and epigenetics led her to join Professor David Garcia’s lab her freshman year at the University of Oregon. Capage has been part of Garcia’s research team since 2019. She explains that at the lab, she researches prion proteins as a potential beneficial epigenetic mechanism that would allow cells to respond to special conditions in their environment. Her research is focused on identifying novel yeast prions, which are prions that have not been characterized before. “Mikala excels in her studies, but it's her aptitude for research that won her the Goldwater,” Garcia said. “Not only does she work incredibly hard, but she is never afraid to question an idea or approach.” Melissa Graboyes, one of Capage’s mentors and an Assistant Professor of African & Medical History at the CHC, encouraged her to apply for the award again and helped Capage with the application process.  “There's a lot of great support in the research side of things and then also within the honors college,” she said of Graboyes. “So that's definitely two sides of how it was possible to apply and win this award. She's a really, really great mentor.” Capage’s mentors have helped shape her future and has helped her explore what she wants to pursue in the future. She hopes to advise future graduate and undergraduate students by leading a research lab at a R1 research institution and providing the same guidance that her mentors, like Garcia and Graboyes, have done for her.  “That's definitely the goal to kind of be the advisors that I have now and like be the mentors that I have now,” she added. “That means so much to me.” After graduating from the UO, Capage intends to apply to PhD programs to research and head towards a dissertation. The Goldwater award is just another step along that path to continue the work of her mentors at UO.

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  • Biden skinny budget proposal includes increases for Pell Grant

    April 14, 2021 12:07 pm On April 9, President Joe Biden sent a letter to congressional leadership outlining his request for FY22 discretionary spending. The “skinny budget” includes investments in public health, the economy, the climate crisis, advancing equity, restoring America’s global standing and confronting 21st century security challenges. A formal budget request is expected in May. The 58 page request can be found here. The $1.5 trillion budget includes a 40 percent increase in education spending and an increase for health but provides little detail about allocations to specific higher education programs, apart from a recommendation for an increase to the Pell Grant. Overall, the budget represents an 8.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year. The proposed budget also requests significant increases for federal research investments, including increases for: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy Office of Science, NASA, and climate research across several federal agencies. It also proposes funding for the creation of two new federal research agencies -- ARPA-H on health research and ARPA-C on climate-related science -- modeled on the Department of Defense’s DARPA. Financial Aid: The budget would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $400 to approximately $7,000 in FY22. It also proposes making Pell Grants available to DACA recipients. The proposal notes that the investment in the Pell Grant program “is one piece of a more comprehensive proposal to double the maximum Pell Grant.” Research and development: The request includes:  $15 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 17 percent increase from the FY21 enacted level;  $10.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a 20 percent increase above FY21 ($8.5 billion). This level of funding would support $1.2 billion for climate and clean energy related research, increase by $100 million funding for programs that aim to increase participation of groups traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering, and establish a new Directorate for technology, innovation, and partnerships within NSF to help translate research into practical applications (no funding level is specified for the new directorate); $46.1 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE), a $4.3 billion or 10.2 percent increase from FY 21 enacted level. The President’s request prioritizes and increases investments in climate-related research across several federal agencies. The discretionary request proposes over $4 billion to fund a broad portfolio of research across multiple agencies including the Department of the Interior, NASA, the National Science Foundation and others to improve understanding of the changing climate and inform adaptation and resilience measures. The President's request is silent on other student aid and student success programs such as the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Federal Work Study (FWS), TRIO, Title VI (International Education Programs), and the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN). The request is also silent on the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). The Association of American Universities (AAU)’s overview of the proposal can be found here.

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