Latest news from the UO

  • University unveils vision for its new Black Cultural Center

    First published in Around the O on May 15, 2018, The University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center is rapidly taking shape as designs are being shared and a groundbreaking date is being identified. The $2.2 million center, slated to open in fall 2019, has been embraced by donors, who have provided approximately $1.7 million in gifts, including a $1 million gift from Nancy and Dave Petrone. “There is clearly widespread support for this project and a strong understanding of the value that providing such a space can have in helping our students be successful,” said Kevin Marbury, the UO’s vice president for student life. “Black students on campus have a strong desire for a place that helps them feel connected and supported by the university. We are  excited to see it coming to fruition.” Plans for the Black Cultural Center were shared with the Campus Planning Committee during a forum May 15. It is being designed by Architecture Building Culture in collaboration with The Maxine Studio. The center is a direct response to a demand made by the Black Student Task Force following a 2016 demonstration. Programming for the center will be funded through an allocation from the Presidential Fund for Excellence. The 3,200-square-foot facility, located at East 15th Avenue and Villard Street, has been designed to maximize flexibility and accommodate an array of activities, including studying, student meetings, academic support and even small classes. The center also will showcase cultural pieces and artwork that celebrate black heritage. “The Black Cultural Center will be open to any and all students,” Marbury said. “This is a place to share and celebrate black culture. We are so proud that the voices of our students are creating a lasting legacy that will have a major impact on this university for decades.”  The university will break ground for the project in the fall.

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  • Time in virtual reality worlds can make real life better

    First published in Around the O on May 11, 2018, Virtual worlds let us do things that are otherwise impossible. On platforms like Second Life, we can take on new identities, defy the laws of biology and physics, and push social boundaries with little to no consequence. But do these virtual experiences have any effect on our real lives? That’s the question Donna Davis and Tom Boellstorff wanted to answer with a National Science Foundation-funded study. Since 2011, Davis, an assistant professor in the UO School of Journalism and Communication and director of its strategic communication master’s program, and Boellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine have been looking at the effects of virtual support groups for people with disabilities. During the course of their recently concluded, three-year study, they discovered that using an avatar in a virtual world can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life. Take, for example, Fran, a 91-year-old woman with Parkinson’s disease. After watching her avatar dance and perform tai chi in Second Life, Fran was able to stand without the assistance of her lift chair. “Balance is a common problem for people with Parkinson’s,” Davis said.  “But as Fran was watching herself do tai chi, she convinced herself she could do what her avatar could do. For example, although previously she could not step off a curb without assistance, she found the confidence to try it with success. We’re still not sure if that was an effect of muscle memory, a neurological effect or purely psychological, but it certainly warrants further study.” Davis told the story of Fran and other members of the Second Life disability community at the inaugural UO Wings Presidential Speaker Series. She admitted it’s been difficult to get people to see the connection between virtual world research and real communication outcomes. But her work has revealed a clear link: Virtual worlds and the avatars people use to inhabit them greatly affect how they interpret and express their own — and others’ — visual identities. In virtual spaces, Davis said, “People don't see how tired you are. They don't see your tremor. For some, that body language may be deceptive and not what they are trying to express. Being embodied in a space where they felt like they looked —healthy and young — and they weren’t passing judgment on each other, it leveled the playing field.” The virtual disability support group has also helped its members develop strong social networks and interpersonal relationships. It has even created employment opportunities. “One example is a woman diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s who was forced to retire from her career in fashion design,” Davis said. “In the virtual world, she learned how to design clothes for roleplaying and themed environments. She now earns an income selling those clothes on the virtual marketplace.” Davis stumbled onto virtual worlds 10 years ago while pursuing her doctorate at the University of Florida. After taking a graduate seminar in the then-cutting-edge technology, she changed the focus of her dissertation to the relationships that form in virtual worlds. How real are they if they're only online? How do they affect the way we think about relationships in the physical world? “That relationship perspective of virtual reality is the piece that has driven my research agenda all the way through,” she said. Although virtual spaces offer advantages in communication and community building, Davis acknowledges that the technology still has a long way to go in granting accessibility to all. Headsets, for example, are often too heavy and can create motion sickness in some people. "Being embodied in a space where they felt like they looked — healthy and young — ... it leveled the playing field." —Donna Davis, School of Journalism and Communication Even tasks as seemingly simple as sending and receiving text or voice communication can be problematic. “Thinking about accessibility from the perspective of ‘how can everybody be included?’ means you're creating really smart technology that's good for everybody,” Davis said, “not just people with a certain ability or disability.” Now that the National Science Foundation-funded study is complete, Davis is pivoting her research to focus on emerging opportunities in virtual reality as well as the ethics of VR technology and experience. “We can't replace physical relationships with virtual-world ones, or we'll fail each other,” she said. “The physical world will die. These are important, long-term, critical issues that affect the way we think about each other and the environments we're in.” Davis will delve deeper into this new area this fall, when the School of Journalism and Communication begins development on a new virtual reality lab at UO Portland. The school has already built two smaller VR and 360-degree video studio spaces in Portland, where students in the multimedia journalism master’s program are learning how to shoot and edit 360-degree video and use photogrammetry to convert physical spaces into virtual representations. Although she’s expanding her research, Davis has no intention of abandoning the communities she formed in Second Life. “If you want to say that these aren’t ‘real worlds,’ I would beg to differ,” Davis said during her Wings talk. “These are real friendships. We are like family now.” —By Jeff Collet, School of Journalism and Communication

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  • Hayward design honors the past while looking to the future

    First published in Around the O on May 8th, 2018. The new design for the university’s iconic Hayward Field will address longstanding infrastructure needs while saving and repurposing as much of the old stadium as possible, campus leaders say. The facilities will serve as a new home for UO men’s and women’s track and field program and world-class meets such as the Prefontaine Classic. It will also include space for updated human physiology department research and academic facilities. The new stadium is fully funded by 50 donors, led by Phil and Penny Knight. The updated Hayward will increase permanent seating by more than 2,000 seats and preserve existing student recreational fields. Designs for the project were unveiled April 17. “No one appreciates the history of Hayward Field more than the University of Oregon,” said Michael H. Schill, UO president and professor of law. “In fact, its legacy of excellence plays a critical role in the university’s identity as a top research institution. We do not take that legacy lightly, and we will look to preserve it as much as possible in the new facility.” A renovation of Hayward Field has long been a priority for the UO. Early designs for the project were introduced in 2016 and included the preservation of the east grandstand. Since then, those plans evolved based on several factors, including cost, timelines and the integrity and safety of the current infrastructure. Facilities designers and venue operators deemed the removal of the east grandstand necessary for several reasons. The current east grandstand was built in 1925, and, like many buildings that age, has critical structural challenges. It is not fully ADA compliant, lacking ramps and cane detection; does not meet modern seismic safety requirements; has many wood components coated in layers of lead-based paint; poses fire hazard risks; and has wood decay in many core areas. “While we have worked hard over the years to ensure the east grandstand is safe for thousands of fans and athletes, it is not equipped for long-term occupancy,” said Mike Harwood, associate vice president for campus planning and facilities management. According to designers and project managers, as many elements of the grandstand as feasible will be preserved, and the new facility will include salvaged and repurposed portions of the grandstand timber and beams for signage and photo opportunities for fans. Additionally, the UO will preserve as much of the structure as is practical and possible for the benefit of the community. The construction project team, led by Portland-based Hoffman Construction, is exploring options and creating a plan that includes storing salvaged materials and facilitating a community process to provide advice and recommendations on what to do with them. The renovation of the project is timed to maximize the number of track and field events that can be hosted at Hayward Field before constructions begins in summer 2018. Construction will conclude in time to host the 2021 IAAF World Track and Field Championships, the first time this event has taken place in the United States. The cities of Eugene, Springfield and communities throughout Oregon are preparing for this event, otherwise known as Oregon21. Organizers estimate the event will bring nearly 2,000 athletes from more than 200 counties and tens of thousands of track and field fans. “The Oregon21 Track and Field World Championships will undoubtedly serve as an important economic stimulus over the several-month training and completion period for many businesses and individuals throughout the region,” Schill said. “It will also serve as a catalyst to support even greater interest in our university and the wonderful energy and momentum that exists within our city, region and state. This incredible community that loves and feels such a strong connection to Hayward is part of what makes it a special place. We are committed to ensuring that the Hayward magic lives on.”

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  • Landmark climate lawsuit will proceed

    First published in Around the O on May 8, 2018. A lawsuit filed by 21 young people, including two University of Oregon students, will move forward to trial after a federal appeals court rejected a government motion for dismissal. The suit seeks to compel the government to take more aggressive steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, arguing that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights have been violated because federal agencies have failed to protect “essential public trust resources.” It claims the government created a national energy system that is doing long-term damage to the environment, imperiling their futures. An Oct. 29 trial date has been set. The suit was filed by 21 plaintiffs who were between 8 and 19 years old when it was filed. Two of them, Kelsey Juliana and Tia Hatton, are now students at the UO. The plaintiffs are represented by Our Children’s Trust. The Trump administration sought to stop the suit with an appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But a three-judge panel unanimously rejected the request, saying the issues raised by the government could be better dealt with at the trial level. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken is scheduled to hear the case at the federal courthouse in Eugene. The appelate decision was covered by numerous media outlets. For a sample, see "Trump administration just failed to stop a climate lawsuit brought by 21 kids" in The Washington Post. Information also is available on the Our Children's Trust website.

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  • Merkley, Bonamici lead advocacy efforts for Institute of Education Sciences funding

    Congress has begun considering appropriations for FY19. Of particular concern to the University of Oregon is the President’s Proposed Budget Request for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The Trump Administration’s proposed budget for FY 2019 requests $522 million, which would represent a decrease of $84 million – or 14 percent - compared to the FY 2017 enacted level. Efforts are underway to push back against that proposal. Congressional champions are requesting House and Senate appropriators to more fully fund IES. On April 11, US Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have joined with sixteen colleagues to send a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking the agency to be funded at $670 million. The letter states “With IES support and leadership, the field of education continues to evolve with increased engagement and dissemination of knowledge to state and local decisions makers. Yet the budget has remained flat – and some programs are functioning at funding levels lower than in years past. This means many pressing questions about education are left unanswered, including school safety, serving non-traditional student populations, and creating affordable pathways for good-paying technical jobs that do not require a four year degree.” On the House side, 32 members signed Rep.Suzanne Bonamici (pictured, right) (D-OR)’s letter, dated March 19, requesting $670 million for IES. Friends of IES, a coalition led by the American Educational Research Association, also weighed in with a letter to appropriators. The University of Oregon is among the institutions that signed on. On April 18, Randy Kamphaus (pictured, left), the Dean of the College of Education, visited Washington D.C.to meet with members of the Oregon delegation about the IES budget allocation, among other topics. U.S. News & World Report ranks the college’s special education program as third in the nation, with the college itself ranking 13th overall and fifth among public institutions.

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  • UO science museum is awarded highest national honor

    First published in Around the O on May 1. The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced May 1 that the Museum of Natural and Cultural History has won a 2018 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries. Nominated for the medal by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats, the museum is among 10 2018 medalists nationwide and is the sole West Coast recipient. The honor recognizes the ways that the UO museum serves Oregon communities, with special focus on its statewide educational outreach program. The museum's program, which travels to K-8 classrooms and public libraries, brings fossils, artifacts, and lively science lessons to communities around Oregon. The lessons emphasize inquiry-based learning, investigation of objects from the museum’s teaching collections and new perspectives stemming from research at the museum and the wider UO. “This award is a well-deserved honor, not only for the museum’s incredible exhibits but also its cutting-edge research, quality education programming and its standing as a valuable community resource,” DeFazio said. “I applaud the museum for their recognition and will continue to push for federal resources to help further their exceptional work.” The award will be presented at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. May 24. Jon Erlandson, the museum’s executive director, and Jami Young, a school librarian with the Central Point School District, will accept the award on behalf of the museum. Central Point is among the Oregon school districts that have used the museum’s outreach program since its inception in 2015. During the award ceremony, Young will provide a personal account of the effect the programs have had in her community. “The museum’s impacts on our students have been nothing short of amazing,” Young said. “I’ve seen the programs ignite a passion for science among struggling readers and other children who are going through the motions at school, helping them transform into inquisitive, motivated students.” Since its inception, the program has reached schools and libraries in nearly every county of Oregon, serving almost 20,000 individuals. The majority of these learning experiences — 73 percent — have been delivered in rural communities with limited access to museums and informal science learning opportunities. “This well-deserved award is truly a testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment to public service by the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History,” Sen. Wyden said. “As a proud Duck, as an Oregonian and as the son of a librarian, I know firsthand just how valuable these institutions are to our state. These public resources continue to enrich our communities and encourage a commitment to higher learning for people of all ages.” Erlandson called it “a great honor” to be nominated by Rep. DeFazio and Sen. Wyden and recognized by the institute. "Whether we're digging through the dirt and rocks to glimpse the deep past or inspiring tomorrow's scientists through exhibits and outreach, the MNCH is committed to learning, sharing, and stewarding stories of Earth's environments and cultures,” he said. “We’re delighted to celebrate this work with the communities we serve.” U.S. Sen Jeff Merkley, also an Oregon Democrat, recently congratulated the museum on the honor. “The museum has earned this prestigious award for its work showing not just who we are as Oregonians, but who we have been,” he said. “As we face challenging times, the museum’s work illuminating the past is more important than ever in guiding our future.” Following the ceremony, StoryCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing the stories of Americans, will visit Eugene to gather community members’ stories of how the museum has affected their lives. The stories will be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. For a complete list of 2018 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, visit the institute website. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for U.S. libraries and museums and advances such organizations through grant making, research, and policy development. —By Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History 

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  • Spring Housing Affordability Symposium Planned

    Spring Housing Affordability Symposium Planned First published in Around the O, on April 30th, 2018. To address the growing crisis in affordable housing in Oregon and beyond, the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM) is hosting a symposium on May 23. The one-day event at the UO’s White Stag Building in Portland will provide the opportunity for statewide housing experts, public officials, university housing researchers, and students to gather and discuss the problems of affordable housing and work together to find viable solutions. According to PPPM Associate Professor Gerardo Sandoval, who serves on the State of Oregon’s housing stability council, the goal of the symposium is three-fold to: Paint a picture of what’s happening in terms of housing affordability Provide examples of people and organizations working to address housing affordability issues Discuss what can be done in terms of public policy “The symposium will not only create a space for stakeholders from around the state to come together and discuss work that’s being done to address the issue and look for solutions, but also to learn more about how the university can provide guidance,” Sandoval says. “The UO is a great resource for research, advice, and support on these topics directly impacting peoples’ lives.” Professor Sandoval and Assistant Professor Rebecca Lewis are hosting and coordinating the symposium. UO President Michael Schill, who is one of the sponsors of the event, will speak at the symposium on changing trends in affordable housing. Schill is a nationally recognized expert in property, real estate, and housing law and policy. Before he became UO president, he co-authored several books on the topic of affordable housing, and in 2004, he founded the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, one of the nation’s leading research centers on housing and the built environment. “Affordable housing is a critical issue in Oregon. It impacts our state’s economic development and prosperity. It is also tied to UO’s ability to recruit an excellent workforce and maintain affordability for our students,” said President Schill. “I am looking forward to hearing from affordable housing experts, legislators, developers, and others as we examine these issues and seek solutions.” Bienestar Housing Project in Hillsboro, OR. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Sandoval. Michael Lens, associate faculty director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and associate professor of urban planning and public policy, will deliver the keynote speech on national housing policy research; and Margaret Salazar, director of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Agency will discuss Oregon’s approach to housing affordability. Three panel discussions will focus on the status of housing affordability in Oregon, promising affordable housing practices throughout the state, and ideas for moving forward on affordable housing. Panelists include representatives from the Oregon Housing and Community Services Agency, Community and Shelter Assistance Corp., the City of Scappoose and the City of Beaverton, a House Representative of the State of Oregon, a Multnomah County Commissioner, the Oregon Department of Land and Conservation and Development, Make Room, and the University of Oregon. The event is sponsored by the University of Oregon Office of the President, the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management, the Sustainable Cities Initiative, and the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement. Students are encouraged to participate. For further information on how to get involved, contact: Rebecca Lewis at rlewis9@uoregon.edu or Gerardo Sandoval at gsando@uoregon.edu.   April 30, 2018

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  • University presidents write on college's value

    First published on Around the O on April 30th, 2018. Social mobility, greater life expectancy and freedom are the underlying values that the presidents of three U.S. institution, including the UO’s Michael Schill, said are needed to measure the good of a college education. Schill, also a UO professor of law, joined presidents Michael Drake of Ohio State University and Mark Schlissel of the University of Michigan to address the issue in an essay for The Conversation. Schill argued that a key indicator would reflect the admission and success of first-generation students, such as was the case for him. “I may be somewhat biased, but I believe that our generation will be judged by how well we enhance the opportunities for social mobility among our citizens,” Schill wrote. Ohio State’s Drake pointed to “correlation between a college education and greater life expectancy,” noting that graduates live, on average, seven years longer than those who don’t attend college. Michigan’s Schlissel said that a college degree enhances freedom. “At its best, higher education gives us the freedom to make decisions based on our values, desires, human talents and willingness to work hard. We are free to choose our own path,” Schlissel wrote. Read their essay “3 vital ways to measure how much a university education is worth.” The Conversation article has been picked up widely by national media, including the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, Raw Story and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Newspapers across Texas, including the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Midland Daily News, Beaumont Enterprise, Laredo Morning Times, also have published the piece.

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  • UO undergraduate advocates for science funding in D.C.

    First published in Around the O on April 26. It’s a good thing Rachael Cleveland had early exams last term. That’s because the environmental science major spent her finals week in Washington, D.C. learning about science policy and speaking with the staff of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio about the importance of funding scientific research. The UO sponsored Cleveland to attend the 2018 Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering workshop, also known as CASE, from March 18-21. The workshop, which is put on by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, educates science, technology, engineering and math students about science policy and advocacy. The CASE program is funded largely by the UO vice president of research and innovation with support also provided by Government and Community Relations.  “We’re proud to support this outstanding program, which empowers students like Rachael to become strong advocates for basic research,” said David Conover, the UO’s vice president for research and innovation. “There’s never been a more important time for us to make the case for robust funding for federal R&D, and it’s critical that we include the researchers of tomorrow in our advocacy efforts.” Out of nearly 200 workshop participants, Cleveland was the only one from Oregon. Because the event is geared towards graduate students, she also was also one of the few undergraduates in attendance. For the first few days of the program, Cleveland learned about government processes, science policy and science communication at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. On the last day, Betsy Boyd, the UO’s associate vice president for federal affairs, arranged for Cleveland to tour the Capitol building and meet with members of Wyden’s and DeFazio’s staff. “It’s important for the university to have money to give to students to do their research,” Cleveland said. “One of the main talking points when I went to talk with my representatives was to give examples as to why their funding matters. It’s more impactful when you can tell a story about why I’ve benefited and why other students will benefit from how they choose to fund science policy.” Cleveland, who is minoring in biology, plans to graduate with honors this spring. For her thesis, she is studying how mercury changes in concentration and form as it goes from an abandoned mine near Cottage Grove, through some tributaries and into a watershed. “I think because I’m directly affected by their choices, I have a greater impact talking about why funding science is important, rather than if the university sent one of their own representatives,” Cleveland said. “Being able to talk to the students themselves and see how they’re directly impacted I think makes a more lasting impression than if the university would just go out and say, ‘I want more money.’” Cleveland is originally from Folsom, California. Her family now lives in Kaneohe, Hawaii, but she has only ever registered to vote in Oregon. After graduating, she will temporarily work at the Springfield office of the U.S. Forest Service. “I’ve known for a while that I want to work for the government in some capacity, but now rather than looking at it from just a government agency standpoint, I’m also considering more of a science policy standpoint,” she said. “Public policy is a pretty important topic, but I don’t think a lot of people get any education in it,” she said. “So even if I wasn’t planning on pursuing public policy, it’s still important to know how to communicate with your representatives to be able to get your voice heard and to be involved with the political process.” —By Sarah Eddy, University Communications

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