University of Oregon
Photo: Glow worm in the grass, with deep indigo sky in background.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Worm
In her late fifties, Evelyn Searle Hess ’66, MS ’86, walked away from the world of modern conveniences to build a new life with her husband on twenty acres of wild land in the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range. She writes of living a simple, Thoreau-like existence for fifteen years in To the Woods—Sinking Roots, Living Lightly, and Finding True Home (Oregon State University Press, 2010), a section of which is excerpted below. Hess managed the UO greenhouses for ten years and was a finalist in Oregon Quarterly’s 2009 Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest.

The moisture and coolness of fall bring other surprises as well. I like to walk at night on our property or up the road, and I prefer not to use a flashlight, whose big glowing circle limits my eyes and my mind to the confines of its halo. I want to see trees and night birds silhouetted against the sky. I want to see clouds and stars and moon. I want to see the night.

I have taken some spectacular spills, walking in the dark. Several times I’ve strayed from the path into brambles or the ditch. Once I slammed my toe into the butt end of a log and crashed down hard on the log pile. That convinced me to carry a flashlight, but I leave it tucked in my pocket, to use only in case of a dire emergency.

Before I began carrying an emergency light, I took a walk to the pond on a moonless fall night. As dark as it was, the gnarly oak branches and shaggy forms of Douglas firs were darker still against the night sky. Beyond them, the stars shone with an intense brilliance. I walked, gazing at the sky, marveling at the spectacle, until I had to drop my eyes to the ground to relax my cramped neck. Much to my astonishment, there on the ground I saw another star. I gasped at its radiance. Initially I thought this glittering object was reflecting light from another source, but there was no light anywhere to be reflected. It couldn’t be, of course, but to me it looked exactly like a tiny fallen star. And then I found another, and another. Surely Tinkerbell had floated through, scattering stardust along my path. As my excitement built, my curiosity swelled along with it. I couldn’t imagine what sort of wonderland I had stumbled into.

I was surrounded by minute dazzling dots, glimmering embers glowing not red, but silver. “White hot,” I remember from childhood, is much hotter than “red hot.” I was sure I would be burned if I touched one, but I had to discover the reality of these twinkling mysteries. Finally I screwed up the courage to pick one up, scooping up a good handful of forest duff beneath it to protect my hand. To my surprise I felt no heat, but the gleam remained constant. Having many times singed my fingers on incandescent light bulbs, I thought our engineers could learn a lot from whatever I was carrying: imagine such brilliance without energy being lost to heat!

Nearly hyperventilating, I rushed my treasure into the trailer. Once under the lantern light, the starlight was extinguished. I was amazed to see, cupped in my hand, a brownish half-inch worm. This had to be a glowworm, but in all the years I’d lived around here, I had never seen one. I always understood glowworms to be the larval form of fireflies (which are actually beetles, not flies), but we don’t have fireflies out here. So the mystery needed further solving.

With the help of an Oregon State University entomologist, I learned that, though we indeed don’t have fireflies in Oregon, we do have glowworms. This is a different species from the winged beetles that light the nights elsewhere. Here the larvae glow, and the female, who retains the larval form even after reaching reproductive maturity, continues to be luminescent. Adult males, not surprisingly, are attracted to light and, in their beetle form, fly to the side of the flashing female. Different species of glowworms send different patterns of light, and sometimes a female, hungering less for sex than for nourishment, will signal a “foreign” male, and when he comes courting he becomes her dinner. (Which may be only a good story. References I’ve read more recently say adults probably don’t eat at all.)

I felt particularly fortunate in finding my path star-strewn. Glowworms are uncommon here and becoming more so as land is developed and pesticides become more prevalent. I was delighted to discover that some glowworms are predators of slugs and snails. Exotic gastropods, particularly the European brown garden snail, which was introduced to California by an enterprising chef dreaming of a fortune in escargot, are the ruin of many of my nursery plants. So now I’ve been introduced to a helper—and to another reason, besides protection of the birds, reptiles, and mammals, for not using toxic slug bait. After all, who would want to snuff out the stardust?

* * *

One fall day while wandering in the woods, I came upon a fir log that David had cut from a wind-damaged tree. It was maybe three feet across, lying near the stump. Its deeply fissured bark showed that it was not young, and counting the rings, I realized it was about the same age as I am, my bark wrinkled as well. The rings held its autobiography. This circle of wood was laid down in a droughty year: rings tight together showed minimal growth. Later circles showed good years, putting on ample wood to separate the rings widely. Here trauma caused off-center growth and, farther out, dark arrow-shaped wood and a distorted ring testified to the loss of an early branch.

I thought how like a tree a person is. The years are all there. That seedling and sapling are still inside, ring upon ring—long-ago events, old influences, all part of today’s being. Here is the ring from the second grade when you ran to school, on the edge of tears, worrying you might be late. You came upon a little girl crying beside her over-turned wagon. When you stopped to right it for her, her big eyes, surprised smile, and dried tears sped you happily on your way to school—your first lesson that helping someone else helps the self at least as much. The fourth-grade ring holds the outcast’s misery when everyone you knew was excitedly planning something to which you were clearly excluded. Weeks of pain culminated in your own surprise birthday party and the discovery that emotional responses have far more to do with perception than with fact.

A few rings later your father told you that you couldn’t assume higher morality in someone just because of their uniform, clerical robes, or profession, and you were awakened to the fact that people are pretty much people however they look, whatever they do. The eighth-grade ring instructed that the terra was not necessarily firma when a magnitude 7 earthquake in western Washington rolled the ground like waves in the sea. Here is the distortion from the loss of your parents. Here is another from the loss of a friend.

All those years, those accumulated rings, give the tree its strength and direct its growth. They comprise what it becomes and record the history of where it has been. As I looked at it lying there, thinking of the story of its life, I wondered if inside its wrinkled skin its heart didn’t still feel like that of a sapling.

The Pink Ink Link
With their permanent body-changing effect, tattoos are a uniquely powerful way to remember and commemorate. Here, Catherine Ryan ’06 writes about an especially meaningful tattoo. A longer version of this essay, titled “Indelible Ink,” first appeared in Etude, the online journal of the literary nonfiction program at the UO School of Journalism and Communication (; a shorter version appeared in the October 2009 issue of Self. Ryan (second from left in photo) is entering the literary nonfiction program this fall.

Photo: Catherine Ryan, her sisters, and her mother

I heard it before I allowed myself to look—a threatening buzzing sound, like a dentist’s drill or an angry hornet. I glanced up and took in Splat, the dreadlocked and heavily inked tattoo artist, and the humming tool he held. I was terrified, but I nodded my head and closed my eyes as the needle broke my skin.

My mom, older sister Beth, younger sister Amy, and I—along with Splat and another tattoo artist—were crammed into an attic room in Eugene, Oregon’s High Priestess Piercing. We had decided to get matching pink ribbon tattoos to celebrate my mom’s tenth year of remission from stage three breast cancer. Despite my deep fear of needles, I couldn’t deny my excitement. A decade after being given a 5 percent chance to live, my mom was cancer-free and still with us, laughing and cracking jokes and going under the needle with her daughters.

In August 1995, my mom, Jan, mentioned a hardness in her breast to her doctor during a visit to treat a sprained ankle. Her nipple had begun to retract as well. She hadn’t thought much of it because she’d gotten a mammogram the year before, she was only thirty-nine, and breast cancer didn’t run in the family. The doctor was not so unconcerned. A biopsy confirmed the physician’s suspicion: A grapefruit-sized tumor grew in my mom’s right breast, an aggressive and fast-growing cancer that would nearly claim my mother’s life.

The year that followed was, for me, a sixth grader, an amalgamation of the tumult of early adolescence and the jolting changes that accompanied my mom’s battle. I fidgeted next to the wall at my first school dance; unknown neighbors and my parents’ colleagues arrived at our door bearing an endless stream of lasagnas. I read about how to kiss a boy in Seventeen; my grandma, who moved from Illinois for several months to help, comforted me when a neighbor boy made fun of my playing in the school band. I bought my first padded bra; my mother lost her Ds that she claimed had always gotten in her way anyway.

Amid the blur of that year, this moment stands out: One overcast day after her second round of chemotherapy, my mom and I were driving through Eugene’s south hills, returning from our weekly trip to a discount grocery store. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but she ran her fingers through her hair and came up with a handful of strands. She rolled down the window and tossed them outside. I stared at her. “It’s for the mama birds to make nests for the baby birds,” she explained, and continued on with whatever we’d been talking about.

Although she always had a smile for us, the days of grocery shopping and driving herself around were short. My dad shaved my mom’s head at the dining room table that November, shaking the remaining strands and Barbasol from the razor into a stainless steel bowl of warm water. A few weeks later, the day before her fortieth birthday, surgeons removed both of her breasts—even though cancer was found in only one—because the kind of cancer my mom had was notorious for spreading. When 20 of 25 lymph nodes sampled turned out to be cancerous, the doctors prescribed the most radical of treatments, an autologous stem cell transplant. My mom moved into Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, two hours from home, to undergo the month-long treatment.

We visited on the weekends, and that time we spent in the hospital has left me with an automatic and violently physical response to all things medical. This past spring, I attended a class at a Kaiser Permanente hospital for women with a high risk of breast cancer, and I fought off a panic attack while sitting in that Oakland, California, waiting room. I did not want to be in a place where terrible things happened, where women were told that their bodies had betrayed them, where they removed the most obvious signs of their femininity. I willed myself to keep my eyes trained on the tropical fish serenely swimming in their aquarium, but I inadvertently glanced at the women around me. Did she have cancer? I wondered of a middle-aged blond across the room. Was she wearing a wig? Would she survive?

At the tattoo parlor, the vivacious woman by my side barely resembled the emaciated, pale patient I remember from those months. This woman, my healthy mom, maneuvered around the cramped room, taking photos and asking Splat questions like “Where is the most painful place to be tattooed?” and “What’s the weirdest design you’ve ever inked?”

I smiled at my mom’s trademark inquisitiveness and tried to breathe evenly as the hollow needle worked on my chest. I had chosen to place the design Beth, now thirty-two, had drawn, right above my heart—or on my boob, as Beth joked. Both interpretations suited me.

My mom, now fifty-four, had talked of getting a pink ribbon tattoo for years. A colleague had once given her a gift certificate to a local tattoo parlor, but she never made the appointment. So several years ago, I broached the subject.

We were all lucky: Despite a few scares, her cancer never returned. My mom applauded as I graduated from middle school, high school, and college, and she saw me get married two years ago—milestones that, in the most hidden nooks of my twelve-year-old heart, I had feared she wouldn’t see. 

After the four of us had been inked, bandaged, and advised of how to care for our tattoos, we returned home, chatting excitedly. Downstairs in the bathroom with the door locked, I pulled aside the gauze covering my raw skin and stared at my newly altered reflection in the mirror. The ribbon made visible a kind of inheritance from my mom, as indisputable a fact as the hazel eyes and thin wrists we share. It showed on the outside what I knew to be true on the inside: That the grueling year of my mom’s treatment shaped who I am today.

I would never say that my sisters and I were scarred by my mother’s illness—the gouges and radiation burns on my mom’s chest keep me from using that expression so lightly. Yet impressions, both big and small, from that time still hold sway in our lives.

And although my mom’s story has a happy ending, I still fear a more sinister sequel. Every health issue she faces—a lingering stomachache, numbness in her fingers—thrusts me back to my frightened adolescent past, when I felt I could lose her at any moment. And now that I’m older, my mind occasionally plays out worst-case scenarios with me as the breastless protagonist, playing war games against renegade cells.

I can’t say that I’m glad my mom got cancer, or that I wouldn’t change her diagnosis. I would. But I have come to appreciate what the disease—or rather, my mom’s courage—taught me. Although, like my mom, I can be stubbornly independent, I have learned to ask for help and rely on those closest to me when I need support. I have learned to value and fight for that which is most precious to me. The little pink ribbon I see every time I shower, get dressed, or make love to my husband will never let me forget this.

Strange Green Bedfellows
While lots of corporations pursue profits with a Gordon Gekko–like focus, many thriving Northwest companies also include social and environmental responsibility when calculating their bottom line. Such mission-driven companies face special challenges and ethical questions when trying to do both the right thing and the profitable thing. Some of the issues facing growing green enterprises are examined in this excerpt from Companies on a Mission: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Sustainably, Responsibly, and Profitably (Stanford University Press, 2010) by Michael Russo, the Charles H. Lundquist Professor of Sustainable Management and management department head in the UO’s Lundquist College of Business.

Illustration: Confusion over means and ends (or Deng Xiaoping, meet T. J. Rodgers
Confusion over means and ends (or Deng Xiaoping, meet T. J. Rodgers)

Although it can be traced to the popular press, the idea of groupthink was more fully developed by psychologist Irving L. Janis. He defined it as “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.” Groupthink has often been identified with public policy decisions, particularly poor ones. Among its characteristics are a tendency to discredit and stereotype dissenters, an illusion of moral superiority, and pressure for conformity within the group. Disloyalty is met with disdain.

On occasion, mission-driven companies and even groups of those companies have fallen into these tendencies. This is sometimes manifested in difficulty with criticism. For example, groupthink may have retarded efforts within the community of mission-driven companies to be self-critical when confronted with evidence that some companies were saying one thing and doing another. But groupthink is also manifested in how the movement chooses to identify, celebrate, and reward some of its heroes.

The Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing was established in 1996 to recognize quantitative academic research on socially responsible investing. During its first several years, the studies that won the award demonstrated positive associations between responsible practices and financial performance. But in 1999, the award went to three finance scholars who demonstrated that legislative and shareholder pressure for voluntary disinvestments in South Africa during the apartheid years had little effect on banks and corporations doing business there. Although the winners heard no criticism when they received the award, behind the scenes a number of practitioners were angered by the choice. For them, the study challenged “beliefs that were central to their identities,” according to Lloyd Kurtz, one of the leading figures in the social investment movement and the longtime administrator of the award. Apparently, there are still some lingering misgivings about some of the award winners for this research. The website of investment advisors, Invested Interests, lists all the Moskowitz Prize winners along with links to each paper. All the winners appear—except for the 1999 winner, which is conspicuously missing. . . .

Groupthink blocks therapeutic dialogue that pushes mission-driven companies to question their assumptions in ways that are necessary and healthy. Short of mass layoffs, to confront the pernicious effects of groupthink, managers can institute a number of policies, some of them counterintuitive and risky.

Managers can hire people with whom they agree about values but sometimes disagree when it comes to social and environmental decision-making. According to Stanford’s Robert I. Sutton, these hiring practices actually enhance creativity. Having people who genuinely feel differently about prevalent notions can dislodge the status quo in ways that promote new thinking. For example, in today’s food marketplace some companies are adamant about organic ingredients. Yet, if the only source for those ingredients is distant, it could be helpful to have an internal voice arguing for the value of local sourcing. This type of voice can at least generate some creative tension that will permit self-examination, which is essential to preventing groupthink. Naturally, it’s hard to guarantee that these interactions will happen in a context as free of anger and recrimination as possible. But, if done skillfully, these dialogues can provide a platform for introducing positive modes of disagreement and stimulating active listening.

The problem for mission-driven companies, however, is not just that their values are so deeply tied into their culture but that these values are a key part of the selling proposition in the marketplace. Asking difficult questions that unsettle these values can be seen as an attack on the basis of their own authenticity. Therefore, mission-driven companies are uniquely challenged in trying to confront groupthink and encourage—even honor—dissent. As the movement continues to develop, an open question is how they will do so.

Confusion over means and ends (or Deng Xiaoping, meet T. J. Rodgers)

In 1962, during a congress of the Communist Youth League, Deng Xiaoping delivered a line that has become a mantra: “Whether white or black, a cat is a good cat so long as it catches the rat.” The idea behind repeating this Sichuan proverb was to urge delegates to focus on the goal of economic development for China as a route to jobs and wealth creation rather than on the choice of political pathways to that end. Reviewing Deng’s oft-repeated statement suggests a second provocative issue for mission-driven firms: If the movement’s true north is to reduce social and environmental impacts of business, why not be enthusiastic about a business that contributes to social and environmental advancement, even if that isn’t mission driven?

Cypress Semiconductor CEO T. J. Rodgers certainly would qualify as a black hat to many in the mission-driven movement. No friend of environmentalists and others who confine his libertarian reflexes, Rodgers is as outspoken as he is blunt. For example, Rodgers was seated between representatives from Environmental Defense and the Competitive Enterprise Institute at a 2008 panel discussion on climate change. Likening their remarks to “two loudspeakers screaming political slogans,” he said in his typical manner that he “almost would rather have been waterboarded.”

In 1996, Rodgers first gained a degree of notoriety with the socially and environmentally oriented community when he replied to a letter from Sister Doris Gormley of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Sister Doris expressed disappointment in the makeup of Cypress’s board of directors, which included no women or minority members. “Get down from your high horse,” Rodgers urged in his blistering 2,800-word letter of refutation, labeling Sister Doris’s requirements “immoral.” He argued that he’d be happy to add a woman or minority to his board—so long as they brought the requisite talent for the job. Lost in the biting tone of the letter were the great many positives at Cypress identified by Rodgers, from premium salaries to excellent benefits to an award-winning charity program. The letter was quickly publicized, leading to charges that Rodgers had stooped to “nun-bashing.”

Given the ill will that this episode left behind, it is ironic that Rodgers’s SunPower, a company largely owned by Cypress Semiconductor until its spinoff in 2008, is now busy manufacturing solar cells that reduce carbon emissions and support energy independence. In the days of cheap oil, SunPower was down to its last watt when Rodgers met with its founder, Dick Swanson, a former classmate at Stanford. Rodgers’s initial personal investment, combined with later support from Cypress, sustained the company through thin years to the point where SunPower’s improving solar cell performance met rapidly growing demand for its product. SunPower’s 2008 revenues of $1.4 billion make it one of the largest solar energy players in a market bustling with high flyers. Although it depends on what electricity sources the company’s cells displace, it’s safe to say that the reduction in carbon emissions from SunPower’s cells has been considerable.

So, should we celebrate T. J. Rodgers’s solar energy success story or second-guess his business methods?

Pop Quiz
Aveda Coca-Cola
Boca Foods Clorox
The Body Shop Colgate-Palmolive
Burt’s Bees Estée Lauder
Cascadian Farms General Mills
Kashi Group Danone
Odwalla Kraft
Seeds of Change Kellogg
Stonyfield Farm L'Oreal
Tom's of Maine Mars

From Companies on a Mission. For answers, click here.

Excerpted in this issue

To the Woods: Sinking Roots, Living Lightly, and Finding True Home by Evelyn Searle Hess. Copyright 2010 OSU Press.

Companies on a Mission, Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Sustainably, Responsibly, and Profitably by Michael Russo. Copyright 2010 Reprinted by permission from the publisher, Stanford University Press.

News, Notables, Innovations

Giving a Hand, Gaining Experience

Photo: Ann Bettman and a volunteer crew.
Student volunteers lend a hand at Alternative Spring Break 2009 in San Diego.

The Holden Leadership Center builds participants’ skills while fostering community service.

It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and talk about AIDS and homelessness; it’s quite another to spend a week in San Francisco’s rough-edged Tenderloin District having face time with drug addicts and homeless people.

“It changed me,” says Abdul Araga ’10, who graduated in June with a double major in biology and economics. “I see things differently now.”

Araga went to the Tenderloin last spring through the Alternative Spring Break program, offered by the Ambassador Glen and Mrs. Gloria Holden Leadership Center’s Service Learning Program at the University of Oregon. The students volunteered at several nonprofit agencies, including Tenderloin Health and the Coalition on Homelessness. “I realized that no one chooses to be homeless, or says, ‘I want to start using drugs,’” Araga says. “They have problems, but that’s because they’ve been through trauma or they’re really poor. I learned to appreciate the fact that everyone is a human being, and I’m much more compassionate.”

The Holden Leadership Center, which supports the growth of leadership skills and community service, began in 2005 as the Leadership Resource Center. The organization got a name change in 2007 after receiving a generous endowment from Glen ’51, who was United States ambassador to Jamaica from 1989 to 1993, and Gloria Holden ’50. “Without the Holdens, we wouldn’t be here,” says HLC director John Duncan. “They have energized this and elevated the presence of leadership education at the UO.”

With fifteen major programs, more than twelve academic courses, and support for more than 250 organizations on campus, the HLC makes a huge difference in the lives of students. “It helps them make meaning of their experiences here,” Duncan says, “and connect with the community.”

The center has three main components: academic, experiential education, and leadership programming. The HLC also oversees many aspects of student government, including the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) and the fraternity and sorority community. Offerings include the Alternative Breaks programs, the LeaderShape Institute, the Community Service Grant Program, the Duck Corps, and individual counseling to help students learn about and choose among volunteer opportunities.

Besides the San Francisco Alternative Spring Break trip in 2010, another ASB group (also led entirely by students) went to San Diego, where students learned about immigration issues while working with the Border Angels, a nonprofit organization that sets up life-saving stations of food, water, and clothing in the Imperial Valley desert. This year the center plans to offer an ASB trip to New Orleans as well as at least one international trip, either to Haiti or Jamaica. A winter break trip will also eventually go to India. “All students should have experience abroad,” Duncan says, “but not everyone can do a whole semester. This way, they don’t have to miss school, but they still get an immersion-based experience with a service focus. It’s very powerful.”

Holden and his wife, Gloria, who graduated from the College of Education, endowed the center because they felt that leadership and civic engagement were underemphasized at the UO. “Our universities and schools must teach leadership,” he says. “It is important to every institution there is, but even more important to people. You get the psychic reward of having accomplished something good, of helping others to accomplish certain goals.”

To this end, the Holdens’ gift supports the LeaderShape Institute, a six-day immersion program that builds leadership skills among students. “It’s such a powerful experience, and it gives you energy you didn’t know you had,” says Audrey Abbott ’10, who graduated with a triple major in international studies, Latin American studies, and Spanish. “It’s powerful to see sixty-plus undergrads with huge, huge goals. Everyone is so excited, and no one is telling you that you can’t do it.”

Abbott worked at the HLC as a peer leadership consultant, meaning that she counseled students who want to get involved in volunteer activities but are overwhelmed by the multitude of choices. Now that she’s graduated, she hopes to go abroad and study how various cultures view leadership. “It fascinates me,” she says. “What does it mean to be part of a group? How can I participate positively? You gain more self-awareness, get to know yourself better.”

The HLC is also home base for the Interfraternity and Panhellenic councils, providing office space and an advisor. “The HLC has helped me understand the maturity and responsibility needed to be a leader,” says senior Cody Catherall, last year’s president of the Interfraternity Council, “and the huge reward one gets for leading peers in a positive way.” He also notes that the leadership training offered by the HLC has helped change the negative aspects associated with Greek life in the 1980s and ’90s. “The HLC has encouraged us to take on change and we have grown vastly in a positive direction,” he says. “They have given us the tools to be a truly helpful organization.”

It’s fitting that the councils are headquartered at the center. Holden joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity just after World War II, and says that Greek life was instrumental in developing his leadership skills. He served first as rush chairman, then as fraternity president, and eventually as president of the Interfraternity Council. In return, he has been instrumental—for more than fifty years—in maintaining his fraternity’s physical home.

He shares a funny story about moving into the building after the war. “It had been rented to nurses,” he says, “and all the urinals had been planted with flowers.” To redo the dirt-clogged plumbing, they had to start by getting bids. “I got the boys to agree—and it took a fight—to give $1 each so I could hire an architect,” he recalls.

Twenty-five years later, the house was restored again—this time with a large but not particularly useful or aesthetically pleasing addition. “I hated it,” Holden says. So ten years ago, he put up $100,000 to kick off a campaign to raise money for improvements. The changes were made, but the work cost more than expected. “The boys didn’t do well financially,” he says. “They got into debt, with a huge mortgage on the house.” Eventually, Holden took matters into his own hands and bought the beloved building outright, paying off its debts and donating it to the UO Alumni Association.

Former Duck athletic director Pat Kilkenny ’74 and his wife, Stephanie, have also been major donors to the HLC. Their Kilkenny Service and Leadership Fund aims to encourage students to engage in community service and offers a series of $1,000 grants, called student service grants, that allow students to creatively respond to needs in the community. “Any kids that have an idea and want to do something can apply,” Stephanie Kilkenny says. “I wanted it to be really comfortable. It starts out with an easy application form and then the people at the Holden Center will help you all the way through.”

A recent project carried out by students was Bikes and Burritos, where students got together to make bean burritos and then went out on bicycles to offer them to people who are homeless. “The younger people start doing community service, the better,” Kilkenny says. “It broadens their horizons.”

A new offering through the Service Learning Program is the Duck Corps, which links students as well as faculty and staff members to volunteer opportunities. Potential volunteers sign up online, indicating their interests and how much time they have, and then they receive a personal e-mail within two weeks that offers service opportunities that fit their interests and schedules.

Within the next five years, Duncan hopes to establish the Emerging Leadership Initiative, a yearlong residential and academic program focused on the study and practice of leadership, service learning, and civic engagement. Students will live in a “leadership hall,” take a short leadership course, participate in workshops, and do community service projects. He’s also contemplating the idea of creating a minor in leadership studies.

Glen Holden is adamant about the importance of building leadership skills. “Hardly ever can you go through life without being part of a team,” he says, “and every team needs good direction. It doesn’t come out of the sky, and it doesn’t come out of the earth like grass. It comes from a human leader.”

“It’s a perspective you take,” Catherall says about leadership, “not a set of characteristics you have. Anyone can be a leader; you just have to take on the mindset.”

The Holden Leadership Center is bent on helping UO students do just that.

—Rosemary Camozzi ’96

Bass Ducks Cast for Big Bucks
Fishing enthusiasts take to new college sport hook, line, and sinker.

Photo: Reel Pride Members of the UO bass fishing team at Fern Ridge Lake showing off the catch.
Reel Pride Members of the UO bass fishing team at Fern Ridge Lake showing off the catch that secured their victory in a May competition against OSU.

Upon reading the words “Oregon Bass Team,” one person might envision a fleet of sporty yellow-and-green hatchbacks equipped with dishwasher-sized subwoofers ready to WHUMP, WHUMP, WHUMP challengers into submission or a tuxedo-clad ensemble striking up a deep-toned “Mighty Oregon” on towering stringed instruments.

Wrong bass.

Think freshwater fish [rhymes with “mass”].

“Some people think we’re the bass [“base”] team. I get that on campus,” says member Ross Richards, a senior business administration major, describing a common reaction to the Oregon Bass Team T-shirts. “Even when you tell them, ‘No, fishing,’ you get responses like, ‘We have a bass club? What?!!’”

When asked to explain themselves, the twenty-some members of the UO Club Sports bass team can rattle off some hefty bragging points reeled in during the 2009–10 season. No other UO team—varsity, club, or otherwise—can boast that it competed this year for a national title; snagged television exposure on Fox Sports Net, Versus, and the Outdoor Channel; and actually earned money. What’s more, the UO bass club, formed in 2006, is helping to drive a surge of interest in this new collegiate-level sport.

“Some people are surprised that we even have a bass club and may not see it fitting into a traditional sports program,” says Sandy Vaughn, who recently retired after thirty-six years as director of UO Club Sports. “But bass fishing has quickly become a successful part of our program, in terms of the success they’ve had in competition, the excitement and commitment of the members, and the positive attention they’ve brought to the University.”

College bass fishing is managed at the club level, although in 2010 one school—Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee—became the nation’s first to establish a coached, scholarship-supported team. The sport is not governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, so independent competitive circuits and national titles have emerged; the primary programs are FLW College Fishing and the Boat U.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Series, both of which offer prize money and scholarships to competitors.

UO anglers have hooked a share of the fat purses available on the circuit conducted by FLW Outdoors. At the catch-and-release tournaments, success is measured by the combined weight of fish caught. With several top-five finishes in 2009 FLW Western regional qualifying events, UO participants earned $18,000 to defray the cost of team trips to competitions in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Along the way, Richards and fishing partner Reed Frazier, a senior Spanish major, qualified for the first-ever FLW College Fishing National Championship in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Oregon pair finished sixteenth in the April 2010 title round featuring the nation’s top twenty-five two-angler teams. The winning team from the University of Florida netted a prize package worth more than $100,000, including $50,000 for their school’s scholarship fund, $25,000 for their bass club, and a new boat and SUV trimmed in school colors.

In Florida and other parts of the South and Southeast, warm-water pro bass fishing is a big-money sport where top anglers earn sponsorships in the NASCAR mold from companies like Yamaha, Cabela’s, Chevrolet, and Wal-Mart.

Collegiate teams in those areas may benefit from proximity to big bass culture. “The powerhouse programs get a little bit more support from their school,” says UO fisherman Cody Herman ’04, who is studying sports business at the graduate level. “The team from Florida got permission to take time off from school, stayed in Tennessee in a hotel for three weeks, prefished the water so they knew it well, and guess what . . . they won the national championship.”

Still, the fact that states known for cold-water fisheries, like salmon, are producing collegiate bass fishing teams—including the UO, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington—hints that the sport is gaining a wider foothold.

“The sport is really taking off at the college level,” says Julie Huber, a spokeswoman for FLW Outdoors, which established its nationwide collegiate program in 2008 with ninety-one registered bass clubs. As of April 2010, the number had grown to 380 clubs with 2,260 members.

“We know that they are the future of bass fishing,” Huber says of the college casters. “For those who make it to the national championship, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

FLW Outdoors also conducts professional bass and walleye fishing tournaments that illustrate what big business the sport has become. Its 231 pro tournaments in 2009 distributed total purses of $33 million—in 2007, the winner of one tournament took home a $1 million prize.

Money isn’t the only motivator, however. Some students, many who grew up catching bass in home states from Washington to Arkansas, say they have latched onto competitive fishing as a life-enriching adventure.

“Fishing is a passion for all of us and it’s really fortunate to experience it as a collegiate sport,” says Carter Troughton ’10, club coordinator during the 2009–10 academic year.

Troughton, who has a business administration degree with a marketing concentration, says he hopes for a career that involves sports marketing or, ideally, fishing—which accounts for $45.3 billion in retail sales, one million jobs, and a $125 billion annual impact on the U.S. economy, according to a 2008 American Sportfishing Association report.

Whether or not they pursue fishing-oriented careers, the UO anglers have honed valuable networking, marketing, and other skills, says Troughton. They forged an essential partnership with the Emerald Bass Club, a fishing group that provides boats and drivers for the UO team during local tournaments. They also secured team sponsorships and gear donations from Snag Proof, Wave Fishing, 2 Brothers Tackle, and other supporters.

Additionally, members maintain a website (, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel and cultivate relationships with potential UO students. Troughton says several high-schoolers have contacted him by e-mail for information about the bass team; he even shipped a T-shirt to a twelve-year-old in Brazil who saw the Ducks in a televised tournament.

Troughton reassures prospective members that the bass team is open to any full-time student, regardless of experience, without demanding time commitments. Members practice by fishing local lakes and rivers when they can, between classes and jobs.

Yet being a member of this club is not exactly all fun and games.

“Fishing, in general, you can just kick back with a six-pack and throw a worm on the bottom and call it a day,” says Herman, who is currently the only graduate student on the roster. “But competitive fishing is nine hours of hardcore fishing where every cast counts.”

The competitive and playful sides of the sport both are on display one day in May, as the Ducks splash down at Fern Ridge Lake for the third bass-fishing Civil War. Seven anglers each from the UO and OSU set out from the boat ramp at 6:00 a.m., fish through the bright and breezy day without a break, and reconvene for a 3:00 p.m. weigh-in. One by one, team members tote fish in plastic bags from their boats and place them on a digital scale. The glistening green largemouth bass range from about 3 pounds to a tournament-best 6.35 pounds. Final tally: 46.20 pounds for the UO; 31.45 pounds for OSU.

“Ducks win! Ducks win! Ducks win!” shouts Troughton.

“Thanks for kicking our asses,” jokes OSU club president Justin Blackmore as he hands over the Civil War trophy. “We’ll get you,” Blackmore promises as the Beavers walk toward their cars.

With a 2–1 Civil War record in hand, the fishing Ducks make plans for a celebration at one member’s apartment—a place where, at least, everyone will know the difference between “base” and “bas.”

—Joel Gorthy ’96

To see video of the UO Bass Team in action, click here.

2020 Vision
Preparing the campus to meet the changing needs of students

Photo: Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new East Campus Residence Hall, which is set to open fall 2012
Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new East Campus Residence Hall, which is set to open fall 2012

Sociologists who study human behavior patterns are calling them the Millennials—the Americans born between 1980 and 1995. They are a generation of technically savvy, multicultural multitaskers who can field an e-mail, talk on the phone, and listen to music all at the same time. Collectively, they have a strong sense of purpose and display high levels of trust and optimism. They are team-oriented and used to group learning and interacting with peers using social networks. This new type of student studies hard, avoids risk, and feels the pressure to excel. And these students aren’t just connected to their friends—they are calling their parents after their tests and to check-in between classes.

University administrators are keenly interested in how technological ubiquity and changing ways of social interaction have altered how this new generation of students live and learn best. Now, as the University becomes more market-driven and sees itself competing with other schools in the West for top students, it has to look at updating its facilities and shaping campus life to reflect the needs and desires of this Millennial generation.

“We can sit around and lament all we want about how students have changed, or we can have an understanding of how these students thrive and program our spaces to them,” said Robin Holmes, vice president for student affairs.

A consortium of groups spearheaded by the student affairs office has banded together to propose a vital reenvisioning of University facilities that shape the student experience. The group is calling the proposal “Oregon 2020,” a plan for reshaping student spaces to reflect how these new students learn, socialize, and prosper.

For the past year, Holmes has been presenting the rough details of this visionary proposal—one that should transform the UO campus into a space tailored to the twenty-first-century student—to University audiences, to the Eugene community, and at other U.S. universities. In the many times that she has laid out the proposal’s framework, her audiences always react the same. First, there is a moment of silence as smiles spread wide across faces. Then, a sheer electrical rush of a murmuring crowd floods the room—the real human energy that turns messages into buzz, buzz into support, and support into real change. Then, her audiences do something even more exciting: They ask how they can help.

Holmes, who has been instrumental in putting together “Oregon 2020,” is convinced the University is on the far end of a Goldilocks equation—it is in a sweet spot, just the right size to be classified as a Research I university and to provide the kind of small-community atmosphere many students thrive in.

“If you ask an eighteen-year-old why they choose a certain college over another, it’s all about the student experience,” Holmes says. “We already have a great student experience at this University. What we want now is to offer the best student experience possible,” she adds.

The time has never been better for the UO to embark on such an ambitious project. California’s recent budget crisis, which sent shockwaves through its higher education system, has created a great opportunity for the University of Oregon to attract many of the best students on the West Coast. Just in the past few years, the UO’s out-of-state population has grown from 38 percent to 42 percent, and projections show that figure increasing to 45 percent over the next ten years.

“Out-of-state students help pay to educate Oregonians,” explains Jim Bean, UO senior vice president and provost.

Renovation and reconstruction of the Erb Memorial Union is the centerpiece of the Oregon 2020 proposal. The EMU has always been what outgoing EMU director Charles “Dusty” Miller calls a “working union”—not just an iconic gathering spot or a retail space, but a building where students can run student groups and clubs and feel they are an active part of a community.

“Every group of students has its own way of using the building,” says Miller. “Students today need round-the-clock access, spaces where they can meet to study, and inviting spaces.”

The last EMU renovation took place in 1974 and was planned to accommodate 14,000 students, far fewer than the current student population of almost 22,000.

Form will follow function for the new EMU renovation efforts, which will likely focus on construction of

• a large-scale performance hall, which could host the Oregon Bach Festival and other major concerts

• spaces tailor-made to suit the needs of student groups and clubs

• a sustainability center, where students will learn about green living and steer sustainable projects for the community

• a conference facility that can accommodate sizeable academic and professional meetings

Millennials know more about how to stay healthy than any previous generation and see exercise as a natural part of the college experience. Plans for the new Rec Center call for a standalone swimming facility, additional gym and workout spaces, and improved locker facilities.

“We really need these buildings to have a sense of Wow,” Holmes says. “We want to add attractions and amenities that will invite students and faculty and staff members back to campus after 5:00 p.m.”

“Oregon 2020” also calls for the renovation of every one of the University’s residence halls and the creation of new ones to accommodate even more students on campus.

A start on this initiative is already well on its way. The University recently secured $75 million in bonds to build its newest residence hall, a living-learning center conceived to create an immersion learning experience something like students have when they study abroad. Situated in east campus where the Bean parking lot is now, the proposed hall will have 450 beds, five state-of-the-art, high-tech classrooms, and a resident scholar apartment where a tenured faculty member will live and teach. Students will also have access to a library commons with a full-time media librarian on the premises. The project is slated for completion in 2012.

“Much of Oregon 2020 is just a proposal, but something along these lines is very important to this University,” Bean says.

If the University does change these visions into real spaces, the next decade could see the UO emerge as a first-choice school more often among a generation of active, engaged, talented, and optimistic students—and this space race will be one that the University of Oregon has won.

—Emily Grosvenor

The Measure of Success

Photo: school desks set up in empty auditorium.

Frustrated by poor student performance in introductory courses they were teaching, University of Oregon physics professors James Schombert and Stephen Hsu wondered if they were missing something in the acronym-driven numbers game—GPA, SAT, GMAT, GRE, ACT—that dominates the college admissions process.

Freshman students with high entrance-exam scores weren’t performing as well as expected, and “we were unable to determine if there was a deficiency in our teaching or in student cognitive abilities,” Schombert explains. “Being good scientists, we began looking for answers.”

Better known for their work studying interstellar phenomena, the researchers ventured into psychometrics—the study of GPA, IQ, and other quantifiable measures of intellect—to analyze the academic records of all undergraduates entering the UO from 2000 to 2004.

They discovered that students with high SAT scores are more likely to perform well in upper-division courses. But to their surprise, they also found that a low SAT score does not necessarily preclude strong performance.

The highest possible SAT score is 1,600—800 for a mathematics section and 800 for a reading section. But “we found that some students with combined SAT scores well below 1,000 achieved in-major, upper-division GPAs in excess of 3.5 [A-minus] and even 4.0,” Schombert explains, terming this group “overachievers.”

The finding suggests poor teaching or a student’s fundamental lack of smarts aren’t necessarily to blame for poor learning. In fact, statistic after statistic indicated that, even with iffy test scores or a so-so high school GPA, “almost any student admitted to a college or university can achieve academic success if they work hard enough,” says Hsu, noting the conventional wisdom has long suggested otherwise.

“Some leading educational researchers have claimed that only the top 10–20 percent of the population are intellectually capable of college-level work,” he explains. “But our data show that, in most subjects, hard work can compensate for below-average cognitive ability.”

Though it may contradict conventional thinking, college admissions experts say the conclusion is both plausible and logical.

“Most definitely, students with lower American College Test (ACT) or SAT scores can compensate through hard work,” says Marna Atkin, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting into Top Colleges.

“I agree with Hsu and Schombert,” explains Christopher Hooker-Haring, dean of admission and financial aid at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Students can indeed achieve academic success if they work hard enough.”

The physicists present their findings in a paper titled “Data Mining the University: College GPA Predictions from SAT Scores,” currently under review at the psychometric journal, Intelligence.

Although psychometrics is a branch of psychology, physicists have been “poking their noses into other disciplines for a long time,” Hsu quips.

When the space shuttle Challenger exploded, for instance, it wasn’t an aeronautical engineer who discovered what cost seven astronauts their lives, but Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize–winning physicist. “Physicists are good at dealing with data and mathematical models, a skill that has broad applicability to other areas,” Hsu says.

Compared to what Schombert normally studies, examining student admissions data is a cinch. Before he came to the UO in 1996, Schombert was a NASA astronomer who discovered a rare class of galaxies—massive collections of stars in deep space—called “dwarf spirals.” An expert in galactic evolution, he characterized the new intergalactic species through precision observation of billions of stars billions of miles away.

His colleague Hsu could be termed a techno-entrepreneur. After guarding physics department computers against hackers and attackers, Hsu started SafeWeb, a technology company he sold just five years later to cyber security giant Symantec—for $26 million.

With help from venture capitalists in 2005, Hsu founded Robot Genius, a California-based company that fights sophisticated computer threats. Neatly combining company leadership with research and teaching, Hsu has found time to author or coauthor more than 100 papers on cosmology and astrophysics, with such eye-catching titles as “Grand Unification through Gravitational Effects,” and “Black Hole Entropy, Curved Space, and Monsters.”

Physicists not only love to poke their noses into other disciplines, but turn a grand phrase as well.

For every parent wondering where to get the best education without a six-figure pocketbook, or every student worried that hard work isn’t enough without an Ivy League diploma, Hsu—a former Yale professor educated at UC Berkeley and Cal Tech—and the Yale-educated Schombert compared the UO’s publicly funded Clark Honors College (CHC) to far costlier private schools such as Cornell and Yale as part of their study. They found that top students at public universities—Clark Honors College material—are not much different from their Ivy League peers.

Students enter CHC—the oldest four-year honors college at a public university—with a 1,340 average SAT score and 3.9 average high school GPA, making the college’s entrance selectivity “roughly comparable to Cornell or UC Berkeley,” Schombert explains.

The majority of CHC students achieve 3.5 to 4.3 upper division GPAs, while also fulfilling rigorous course requirements beyond their major. “In terms of drive and ambition, Clark students are similar to students at elite universities,” Hsu notes.

Finally, the study shows that CHC students master their subjects as well as graduates of any elite university. That’s no surprise to Clark Honors College dean David Frank. “The Schombert-Hsu study corroborates my experience,” he says. “Students from Harvard, Yale, and Cornell would find the Clark Honors College curriculum rigorous and challenging; likewise, Clark Honors College students would flourish if they attended other elite colleges.”

A frustrating student achievement gap motivating their quest, Schombert and Hsu ironically encountered an almost equally frustrating research achievement gap. “We found standard social science analysis could not answer our questions,” Schombert says. “In psychology, psychometrics, or other fields that would most want the answers we sought, there simply does not exist the ability to do the type of analysis we required,” he explains. “It’s a disconnect between the necessary levels of network, computer, and advanced mathematics skills needed to handle large datasets.”

As physicists often do, “we attacked the problem with our own tools,” Schombert says. Those tools included advanced statistical analysis, high-performance computing, and one especially innovative approach: most colleges and universities try to correlate test scores with incoming freshman GPA—the UO duo instead looked at upper-level (junior and senior) GPA.

“Freshman GPA is not a satisfactory metric of academic success,” Hsu explains. “There is simply too much variation in the difficulty of courses taken by freshmen.” More able freshmen typically take more difficult courses, whereas less able freshmen take introductory courses “not very different from high school classes,” he says. Under these circumstances, academic success—an “A” in an introductory course versus a “B” in an advanced course—becomes too relative to accurately measure. Course variation decreases in later years, as students settle into their respective majors, working hard in required classes.

The new approach bore fruit: SAT and ACT scores, their analysis showed, predict upper-level much better than lower-level college grades, “a significant and entirely new result,” Schombert says. It also helped identify hard-working students who were besting expectations based on their test scores. “We found many ‘overachievers’ with modest SAT scores who nevertheless achieved high upper-division GPAs across a broad variety of majors,” Schombert states.

So what do these discoveries about hard work and academic success mean for students in those introductory courses? Will they be working harder than ever, in light of the physicists’ findings?

“I wish to invoke my Fifth Amendment right,” Schombert answers, tactfully changing the subject. “Lakers over Celtics in game seven.”

—Mike Martin



Illustration: Proposed rendering of the Lewis Integrative Science Building
Building for the Future Construction has begun on the five-story, 100,000-square-foot Lewis Integrative Science Building, located in the UO science complex near Franklin Boulevard. The structure will house a powerful fMRI scanner as well as research in cancer, stem cells, green materials, nanoscience, and solar energy. The $65 million project, primarily funded by private gifts and state bonds, is slated for completion by fall 2012.

Reaching Out to Salem

The UO’s Sustainable Cities Initiative program has selected Salem as this year’s focus city, a designation involving more than twenty-five courses, twenty-five faculty members, and approximately 600 students. Following a successful inaugural year in Gresham (nearly 100,000 hours of student work on projects throughout that city east of Portland), UO faculty members and students will work collaboratively with the City of Salem to tackle important development, planning, and civic engagement issues. For more information, visit

International Affairs Head Named

Denis Fred Simon, an international affairs professor and administrator with extensive experience in Chinese business practices, has been chosen to be the UO’s new vice provost for international affairs. Programs overseen by the office include international student and scholar services, study abroad, the Mills International Center, AHA International, and International Advancement and Alumni Relations. Simon was one of the founding senior faculty members for Penn State’s School of International Affairs.

New Athletic Director

Rob Mullens is the UO’s new director of intercollegiate athletics. Before accepting the Oregon offer, he served for the past four years as deputy director of athletics at the University of Kentucky, where he managed day-to-day operations for a twenty-two-sport athletic department with an annual operating budget of $79 million.

Ultimate Victory

The UO women’s team has won the national title in ultimate (aka ultimate Frisbee), their first such honor in two decades of club sport competition. A senior on the UO men’s team, Eli Friedman, won the Callahan trophy, ultimate’s Heisman, which is named for the UO team’s founder in the late 1970s.

Catalog Goes Digital

The UO course catalog that rolled off the press in early July will be the last printed version of the annual course listing. Currently, both print and online versions are available, but beginning with the 2011–12 edition, the complete general catalog will be published only online at

Ken Calhoon
Professor of German and Comparative Literature

Photo: Ken Calhoon, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Undergraduate

In more than twenty years at the University, Ken Calhoon’s career has spanned the spectrum of academia from pedagogy to administration: He has taught and mentored hundreds of students in several disciplines, presented scholarly papers and lectures to national and international audiences, directed dissertations and academic programs. But when prepping for his lower-division comparative literature courses, Calhoon still writes out five to seven pages of notes for each fifty-minute lecture. “This helps me develop the connections that I want my students to get,” he says. “It also focuses my attention on my own writing and research. In many respects, these courses represent some of the most fruitful teaching I’ve done.”

His enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed: A 2010 winner of the UO’s Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching, Calhoon displays dedication that is lauded by colleagues and students alike. During the award nomination process, one student noted, “He had an incredible ability to make connections between texts, and to guide us to the main points for even the most difficult and complicated readings.”

Comparative literature is a place where students with different majors find ways to talk about common topics from various traditions—literary theory, philosophy, language, and culture—and to pursue projects that tie those perspectives together. It’s a difficult concept, and Calhoon knows that students are challenged—yes, sometimes even intimidated—by his courses. “The material we deal with in the humanities is intrinsically hard; it’s Nietzsche, it’s Freud, it’s abstract art, it’s musical theory,” he says. “I don’t ‘dumb-down’ the material. On the contrary, I give them something to reach for a bit. My philosophy is that if it’s clear to students that it’s hard for you, they’re not so bothered by the fact that it’s also hard for them.”

Name: Ken Calhoon

Education: BA, 1979, University of Louisville; MA, 1981, University of California at Irvine; PhD, 1984, UC Irvine.

Teaching Experience: Joined the UO’s German faculty in 1987; has served several stints as acting director of Comparative Literature and Creative Writing programs. Currently undergraduate director of the Comparative Literature Program, he still teaches courses in German and the humanities.

Awards: 2010 Thomas F. Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching; Rippey Innovative Teaching Award, 2002–4; Reinhold Foundation Faculty Support Fellowship in Arts and Sciences, 2000.

Off-Campus: Calhoon enjoys gardening, listening to music, and spending lots of time with his grandson.

Last Word: “Nothing makes me happier than when my students don’t sell their books at the end of the term!”

—Katherine Gries ’05, MA ’09

Image: Around the block, the UO in Portland

A Better Mousse Cup


“Choose the alarm sound to be the duck quacking,” Adjunct Professor Bob Lucas says to his colleague, Wilson Smith ’80, as they lean over Smith’s smartphone. “Totally appropriate.” High above the Burnside Bridge, in the White Stag Block’s architecture loft, Lucas, Smith, and their small but enthusiastic band of summer-term product design students are busy inventing the Next Great Kitchen Thing. Giant cardboard panels lean against the walls, covered with sketches, diagrams, computer renderings, and scribbled notes (“Kettle corn attachment,” “Clench your fist to engage spatula”).

Lucas and Smith are Portland-based design professionals (they’ve spent years with Adidas and Nike, respectively), and their course syllabus is peppered with guest lecturers from some of the city’s top design and marketing firms. Product design requires an impressively broad skill set, combining artistry, cultural fluency, and technological inventiveness. Successful designers must be adept at selling their creations, too, which is where the quacking phone comes in. The students each have ten minutes today to pitch an eco-friendly kitchen product, to be entered in the International Home and Housewares Show competition held annually in Chicago.

Many of the ideas on parade add some nonkitchen innovation to a kitchen staple. A portable hand-cranked blender, for instance, is touted for its use of “weed-whacker technology.” Others focus on marrying function, beauty, and renewable materials—redesigning double boilers and overhauling dish-soap dispensers. There are mockups made from foam and cardboard: a beautifully architectural compost bin, an ergonomic whisk grip, picnic plates to be made from grass fibers. Material selection runs the gamut from deeply traditional to oh-so-twenty-first century, with beaten copper here and NASA-developed insulation there.

At the end of each presentation, classmates and professors ask questions and suggest marketing hooks. After an automatic dish-scrubber pitch (think Roomba meets electric toothbrush), there’s a brief debate over whether to give the gadget some character. “What if it was a hedgehog?” someone asks. Then the phone quacks, and the class turns its attention to the next student and the next new idea, which just might be coming soon to a kitchen near you.

—Mindy Moreland, MS ’08


In the White Box Visual Laboratory: Song of the Willamette
September 14 to October 7, noon to 6:00 p.m

(closed Sunday and Monday). Free. Artists Isami Ching and Garrick Imatani present mixed-media reflections on their voyage down the Willamette River in a hand-built canoe.

Get Connected! • September 16, 6:00 p.m.

The Portland Career Center presents an event for young alumni, featuring a panel discussion on what employers look for in job candidates in today’s economy and provides time for UO alumni and employers to connect. Free to current students and 2010 graduates; $15 for 2005–9 alumni.

An Evening with Paulann Petersen • October 19, 6:00 p.m.

Poet, literary activist, and Oregon’s newly appointed poet laureate Paulann Petersen will make a special appearance at the White Stag Block. Free. For more information, call 800-824-2714.

For all the latest, visit, and click on “Events Calendar.”


Pop Quiz Answers*

Aveda–Estée Lauder; Boca Foods–Kraft; The Body Shop–L’Oréal; Burt’s Bees–Clorox; Cascadian Farm–General Mills; Kashi–Kellogg; Odwalla–Coca-Cola; Seeds of Change–Mars; Stoneyfield Farm Group–Danone; Tom’s of Maine–Colgate-Palmolive.

(*As of mid-2009)

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