Latest news from the UO

  • #DoublePell campaign launched by APLU

    On June 13, higher education organizations launched #DoublePell, a new national campaign to double the maximum Pell Grant award.

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  • Fisher and RAPID-EC colleagues brief congressional staff on impacts of the pandemic on families and children

    On Thursday, July 8, Professor Phil Fisher, Director of the UO Center for Translational Neuroscience, and colleagues with the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development - Early Childhood (RAPID-EC) project provided U.S. Senate staff with a briefing on a nation-wide longitudinal survey about childhood and family well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining Fisher were Joan Lombardi, chair, National Advisory, RAPID-EC, and Sharon Mullings-Neilson, director of the Woodland Academy in Philadelphia, PA and early childhood education consultant. The virtual briefing was attend by more than 20 congressional staff. The RAPID-EC project is an early childhood family well-being survey designed to gather essential information in a continuous manner regarding the needs, health promoting behaviors, and well-being of children and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak and recovery in the United States. The survey focuses on better understanding child development (and parents’ concerns about development over time), caregiver mental health and well-being, and caregiver needs and utilization of resources. The survey collects snapshots of data across time with the ability to assess trends longitudinally. Twice per month, the team posts analyses of survey findings, including policy recommendations and resources for additional reading. The team has completed dozens of surveys which have resulted in multiple findings and reports. One report indicates that federal stimulus payments were essential to families with young children and provided important financial relief. RAPID-EC’s findings have been cited in many national and regional publications reporting on the impact of the pandemic on children and families.

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  • University of Oregon to renovate University and Villard halls with new state funding

    This article first appeared in The Register Guard on July 15. Two founding, historical buildings on the University of Oregon's campus will get a facelift with new money allocated by state lawmakers this legislative session.  University Hall (formerly named Deady Hall) and Villard Hall are UO's two founding buildings and more than 150 years old, according to an announcement on UO's website. Together, these two halls make up one of 17 National Historic Landmarks in Oregon.  Because of their age, UO requested the state fund renovations to the halls to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, improve the heating and cooling systems, and make them seismically safe and more modern.  UO is calling the improvement The Heritage Renovation Project. The bill by the Oregon Legislature also appropriated bond funds to 15 other colleges and universities for capital projects. "The UO requested $58.5 million to renovate University and Villard halls, the university’s two founding buildings. These buildings are designated National Historic Landmarks, and we are thankful the state approved funding for these renovations and funds to cover the issuance of bonds," UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said. "The total projected cost of the project is $64.35 million. The funding model for this project requires the university to provide a minimum match of 10% of the state’s contribution. For the Heritage Renovation Project, the university’s contribution is $5.85 million." These two buildings are notorious among UO students and faculty for being antiquated. University Hall, for instance, has an elevator which is frequently broken or unable to be used. Two faculty members testified to the need for upgrades in letters submitted to lawmakers.  "As a professor who ‘lived’ and taught extensively in University Hall, I’m intimately familiar with the need for renovations to this building," wrote Hal Sadofsky, the divisional dean for Natural Sciences. He mentioned the "huge temperature fluctuations" and lack of energy efficiency that comes from having an outdated heating system and no cooling.  "We teach and work in summer, too, and I’ve seen sensitive students simply have to leave third-floor classrooms in spring and summer when temperatures on that floor went into the 90s," he wrote. "A few years ago, a faculty member walked into their office to discover their whiteboard shattered due to the high temperature."  Other issues Sadofsky identified were the lack of accessibility for all students and needed seismic, fire and safety upgrades.  "Funding for this project would provide these life-saving renovations and ensure that future generations are able to experience the birthplace of public higher education in Oregon," he wrote. Theresa May, associate professor and director of graduate studies for Theatre Arts, also submitted a letter encouraging lawmakers to fund the project. "Our students deserve to learn, grow and hone their acting abilities in an accessible, safe facility," May wrote. "Villard Hall, like University Hall, is not currently accessible for all students. Doorways lack adequate height and necessary width for ADA accessibility. The narrow, tight spaces and ADA inaccessibility is consistent throughout Villard and University halls, in stairways, bathrooms, elevators and lobby spaces." Villard Hall houses the UO's theater arts program, and May noted the program hopes to host in-person performances again in the near future, and without renovations, doing so would be inviting them to "attend performances in a severely seismically deficient building." "As an actress, I am well-versed in creating illusions, but it is difficult to suspend disbelief in a space that is dangerous for our faculty, staff and students," May wrote. Construction is expected to begin in early 2023 with the projects expected to be completed in late 2024, Jarvis said. The plan is to renovate both buildings at the same time, though this has not been planned out in detail yet. "Our current plan is to find temporary homes for all activities in both buildings," she said. "The objective of every project on campus is to minimize disruptions inherent with any construction project."

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  • History is clear: University research translates into economic prosperity

    Guest Opinion by Cassandra Moseley and Matt Beaudet, first published in the Statesman Journal on July 2, 2021. It is hard to imagine how we would have made it through the COVID-19 crisis without the internet. With virtual schooling, online grocery shopping, nonstop video conferencing and even endless doom scrolling, the internet kept us tethered together throughout the pandemic. Today, when we think of the internet, we think of firms such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. But these global giants might not exist without the collaboration between research universities and the federal government that created the internet. The internet is not the only great discovery to emerge from partnerships between the federal government and research universities. GPS satellite technology, the iPhone, self-driving cars and mRNA vaccines are all products of a U.S. system for supporting research and fueling innovation at universities dating back to World War II. Congress is currently considering an expansion of the National Science Foundation and an increase in funding for research in emerging technologies at NSF and other science agencies. These investments are vital, now more than ever. Federally funded researchers are addressing pressing challenges such as climate change, social equity, mental health and many more. Investments in research sustain our country’s global competitiveness and are one reason the U.S. continues to lead in global research and development, even as China and other nations invest heavily to boost their own innovation capabilities. To remain competitive and maintain the health of a prosperous economy, it is critical that the U.S. build on innovation fueled by university-led research.  These federal research investments result in new businesses, create jobs and boost the economy. These investments can be seen in contributions to our state and local economy and in our state’s tax base.   InVivo Biosystems is one Oregon company that traces its roots to university research. What began as federally funded experiments in labs at the University of Oregon has evolved into a growing scientific research and development services firm with 46 employees. The company pays above state median wages and attracts a range of employees, including entry-level workers, scientists with doctorates and all types in between. InVivo isn’t just good for the Oregon economy, but benefits society as well. The company is committed to making vital improvements to human health and does so by powering research exploring aging, development and disease, by contributing to countless new discoveries by top genomics researchers and by expanding our understanding of life sciences. Scientists work in conjunction with large pharmaceutical companies using zebrafish to model rare diseases and leveraging other breakthrough technologies such as CRISPR gene-editing. There is no telling what the next internet or mRNA vaccine will be, but the path to the next great innovation is paved with federal investment in fundamental research, the commitment of universities to discovery and the entrepreneurial energy of private industry. It is time to redouble our efforts to ensure the American scientific enterprise and its workforce remain a strong backbone of society and the economy.

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  • Merkley, Bonamici lead efforts in support of IES appropriations

    June 30, 2021 04:35 pm   As Congress considers appropriations for FY22, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) have led efforts to secure funding for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). On June 4, Sen. Merkley, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and fifteen additional senators sent a letter to the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the committee to appropriate $700 million for the IES. The letter states, “IES received an increase in funds in FY2021, but some programs are still operating at funding levels lower than in years past. IES research has produced great results, but it has been highly constrained by limited investment. For example, for every ten applications that IES receives, including those received by National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), only one is funded...This means many pressing questions, including questions regarding school safety, serving non-traditional student populations, and creating affordable pathways for good paying jobs, remain unanswered.” The Senate letter follows an April 28 letter sent to leaders of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee also requesting $700 million for IES. Congresswoman Bonamici and Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) were lead signers, and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) joined 28 others as additional signatories. The letter states, “IES has an important role to play in hastening the educational recovery necessary from the COVID-19 pandemic…Even with the increases to programs within the IES budget over the past few years, the investment in IES has not caught up to account for lost purchasing power during the past decade. With these funding constraints, the ability of IES to foster new and innovative ideas to drive success in our schools and better instructional practices for our teachers has been severely reduced. This especially harms disadvantaged students by limiting the use of evidence necessary for them to learn and succeed.” UO’s College of Education is one of the top recipients of IES funding among public universities. The college’s Special Education program, which includes faculty who receive NCSER funding, is the third highest ranked graduate program of it’s kind in the nation. Friends of IES also sent a letter, which the UO signed, to House and Senate Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee leaders on March 23 requesting at least $700 million for the IES in FY22.

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  • Lawmakers fund renovations of University and Villard halls

    This article first appeared in Around the O on June 30. The Oregon Legislature approved funding for the University of Oregon’s capital construction request before closing out the 2021 legislative session. The Heritage Project will receive $58.5 million in bond funding to renovate University and Villard Halls, the UO’s two founding buildings that together make up one of only 17 National Historic Landmarks in Oregon. The buildings are more than 150 years old, and the funding will cover updated accessibility to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, improved and more efficient heating and cooling systems, modern classrooms, and essential seismic upgrades. Current and former UO students and faculty members who have taken classes or taught in the buildings shared concerns about interior conditions with legislators as they considered the capital construction funding request. Advocates shared phrases like “miserable places to be in cold or hot weather” and “upgrades are needed to match other facilities on campus.” “We are thrilled that this funding has been secured and we can update these two historical buildings to better serve our students, faculty and staff,” said Christine Thompson, UO’s director of campus planning. “We will take the next few months to work out the logistics and prepare for project initiation in the fall.” As part of the renovation, the university will consider ways to contextualize the building’s history of University Hall, which was renamed last year as part of the effort to remove names associated with racist beliefs or history. The Heritage Project is anticipated to be completed by 2025.

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  • UO faculty meet with Bonamici, Bentz to advocate for NSF funding

    July 1, 2021 10:27 am   In late June, a number of UO faculty, led by Interim VP for Research Cass Moseley, met virtually with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-OR) and encouraged them to support at least $10 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) during the FY22 appropriations cycle. The meetings were part of the Coalition for National Science Funding advocacy effort to stress the importance of NSF funding as Congress considers the NSF for the Future Act. Faculty whose NSF-funded research that has an impact on constituents in the districts each member represents in Congress joined the meetings. Laura Pulido, professor, Department of Indigenous Race, and Ethnic Studies and Department of Geography, Diego Melgar, assistant professor, Department and Earth Sciences, and Lucas Silva, associate professor, Department of Environmental Studies and Department of Geography, met with Congresswoman Bonamici. Joining Moseley, Melgar, and Silva in the meeting with Congressman Bentz was Ben Clarke, associate professor, School of Psychology Program, College of Education. As part of the visits, UO leaders shared a fact sheet about the impact of NSF funding at the UO and around the state of Oregon. In FY2020, UO researchers received $20.5 million in NSF awards. Current faculty research is being funded by 184 active NSF grants, including four early career awards. The fact sheet also shares some examples of how NSF funding supports faculty and prepares future science teachers. On June 28, the House passed the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) by a bipartisan vote of 345-67. The bill provides strong five-year funding authorization levels for NSF and creates a new directorate to support use-inspired research and commercialization efforts. Both Congresswoman Bonamici and Congressman Bentz voted in support of the legislation. The House and Senate will now need to work together to negotiate differences between this bill and the U.S. innovation and Competition Act (S.1260) recently passed by the Senate.

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  • Legislature ends session with gains for higher education

    The Oregon Legislature has wrapped up its 2021 session after making some important investments in higher education. Lawmakers approved a requested $900 million for the Public University Support Fund, $703 million for the Community College Support Fund, and an increase for the Oregon Opportunity Grant. “The increased funding for public universities will provide much-needed financial stability for the university,” said Hans Bernard, associate vice president for state affairs. “The UO still faces significant financial uncertainty associated with enrollment, and the state funding provided by the Legislature is critical to the university moving forward post-pandemic.” In addition to increasing operating funds for public universities and community colleges, lawmakers also boosted funding and passed legislation to address access and affordability for students at the UO. Highlights include: $200 million for the Oregon Opportunity Grant — the state’s main need-based aid program for college and university students — a $28.8 million increase. Approval of a basic needs navigator bill, which requires and funds a benefits navigator position on every university and college campus to help students determine eligibility and apply for federal, state and local benefits programs, such as food and housing assistance grants. Approval of a course material/textbook transparency bill, which requires each public university and community college to display the total cost of all required course materials and fees for no less than 75 percent of total courses offered beginning in 2022-23. “When we began planning for this session the state faced significant financial uncertainty, and we were preparing for cuts,” UO President Michael H. Schill said. “Improving revenues, and lawmakers’ commitment to the UO and our students, resulted in investments in higher education that will be crucial as we return to in-person instruction this fall. We are grateful that Oregon lawmakers continue to protect and improve funding for the University of Oregon.” The work of the Legislature focused on responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, addressing issues of systemic racial and wealth inequity, wildfire recovery and mitigation, and balancing a budget. The session was conducted in a Capitol building closed to the public, with hearings occurring remotely and all participation by members of the public and lobbyists taking place virtually. Stronger than expected state revenue collections and a large influx of funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act also allowed the Legislature to make significant investments in housing, behavioral health, wildfire policy and recovery. Lawmakers are scheduled to convene again for one week in September to consider a legislative redistricting plan that was delayed because of the effect COVID-19 had on the national census. The next regular session of the Oregon Legislature will begin in February 2022.

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  • Readers respond: Financial aid crucial to Oregon students

    First published in The Oregonian on June 15, 2021. By Thomas Stewart, Eugene As a veteran, corporate investor, proud graduate and former trustee of the University of Oregon, I hope the Oregon Legislature will secure our state’s present and future well-being by expanding the Oregon Opportunity Grant. Investing in student financial aid is the key to our state’s recovery and long-term prosperity. I speak from experience. I participated in ROTC at UO in the early ’70s and received my bachelor’s degree in 1974. I benefited from small scholarships and grants, work-study programs and loans. Without Oregon financial aid, I would never have graduated. This assistance was invaluable to my future success. I would go on to become a Navy commander, an executive director at Morgan Stanley, and a trustee and currently chairman of the investment committee for the largest charitable organization in the U.S. I’m proof of the dividends the Opportunity Grant Program can produce. As an alumnus, I care deeply about ensuring that all Oregon students have these same advantages. But it’s not just about our students; it’s about the future of our state and our nation. World-class corporations need workers with a world-class education, and we’ll never be able to cultivate them in Oregon if we don’t invest in the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s main need-based financial aid program. When I was a struggling undergraduate, financial aid was the wind beneath my wings. It must be made available to students today. Send this message to legislators: Invest in our world-class future by investing in financial aid.  

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