Spring in Our Steps
Anyone who has experienced a rainy (and this year, snowy and icy) Oregon winter knows that the sight of the sun breaking through the clouds and buds on the dogwood trees sends the University of Oregon campus into a perennial flutter of excitement. Our students head to the Memorial Quad for picnics and Frisbee. Faculty and staff members eat lunch outside the Fishbowl at the EMU, and the campus comes alive with even more runners and bicyclists (if that is possible!). This is an essential part of the UO experience—the anticipation of a new season.
This year, we are contemplating far more than just warm weather.
In July, the UO will welcome our new provost and senior vice president Jayanth R. Banavar, a distinguished physicist who comes to us from the University of Maryland, where he has served as the dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. As our chief academic officer, Banavar will be responsible for working with me, our deans, and the faculty to ensure that we maintain the highest possible quality of scholarly activity and educational programs. I am beyond excited for his arrival.
In this edition of OQ, you’ll read about physicist Richard Taylor and the amazing, fascinating quest for “Regenerating Vision.” The great strides by Taylor and his colleagues are only possible through the collaboration of faculty members and graduate students working across disciplines. It’s exactly that kind of teamwork that has attracted several new world-class researchers to the UO. Among them is Professor David McCormick, a brain scientist from Yale University who will head our Institute of Neuroscience. David will be one of only two Presidential Chairs at our university. He will codirect a study on the role the brain plays in biology, psychology, and physiology. One of the questions he will examine is how the brain works when musicians and athletes operate “in the zone.”
Later this year a new residence hall on the east side of campus will open its doors, housing four new academic residential communities. This is one of many ways we are working to support our first-year students, their experience as Ducks, and their on-time graduation. The university is also fundraising for a new cultural center focused on Black and African American experiences, an opportunity to enhance diversity and inclusion at the UO. A similar effort brought renowned author Ta-Nehisi Coates to campus for the Ruhl Lecture in February, captivating thousands with his insights about race in America. In this issue, you can read an excerpt of his powerful book Between the World and Me. In that way, you’ll connect with 4,000 first-year students who participated in the UO’s Common Reading Program. And I‘m so proud of the journalism students who, in the wake of racial incidents on campus last fall, took it upon themselves to rally the campus community to “Reset the Code” of respect. Their story is also told in these pages.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the significant funding challenges the UO, and all public universities in Oregon, face due to the state’s continued fiscal problems. As of this writing, Oregon’s public university presidents and student body presidents are hoping to partner with legislators to increase the state’s investment in higher education. This is essential not only for helping to keep tuition affordable, but also to support the ever-growing need for a college-educated workforce and the many economic and social benefits that come from the knowledge and innovations created by research universities.
Finally, we are eagerly anticipating a fall groundbreaking of the first building of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. This ambitious $1 billion initiative to fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations that improve the quality of life has hit several milestones in its initial planning stages, including the appointment of a leadership team, the hiring of an architect and construction firm, and the creation of an advisory board to help the UO make the most of this transformational effort.
I anticipate a glorious spring. As always, I thank you, our friends, fans, supporters, and alumni, for your support and interest in the University of Oregon. Go, Ducks!
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law