The Power of Big Ideas
The University of Oregon is once again bustling with students and the excitement of a new academic year. Every year holds promise, but this year there is a renewed sense of purpose and determination among members of our student body, faculty, and staff to take full advantage of our opportunity—as a public research university—to make a lasting impact on the world.
The social and political tensions of the last year stirred strong feelings throughout our campus community. People are concerned about the important issues that make headlines daily: immigration, racism, economic prosperity, climate change, health care, and world affairs. University campuses have long been the centers of debate over the society’s thorniest issues and the places where solutions emerge. This is as it should be. I greatly value the UO’s role in fostering vigorous discussion and solving pressing social issues through innovation and knowledge creation.
My job as president is to support, nourish, and invest in the most promising intellectual opportunities at the University of Oregon. That starts with ensuring every member of our campus and alumni community understands they belong and have a place at the UO. Second, we have an unequivocal commitment to free expression—peaceful, nonviolent speech—that does not shut other speakers down. Robust discussion and debate is at the heart of higher education. Without the ability to say what we believe, even if those beliefs are upsetting or disagreeable to others, we might as well not have a university. Finally, my commitment is to ensure we pursue excellence in academics, research, and student experiences. This is how we will prepare our students to be problem solvers and leaders. This is how we will create innovations, discoveries, and solutions that make the world better.
Generous giving is helping us expand our impact. I recently announced that we have received a $50 million gift from anonymous donors who have challenged me to use this funding to support excellence in our students, faculty, and researchers. I have identified for investment several interdisciplinary areas in which we have great potential for strength. This includes data science, a field that is essential to making sense of the vast amounts of information that can help us address challenges ranging from climate change to disease prevention. Also, the School of Journalism and Communication will be creating a media center for science and technology, with interdisciplinary faculty that will explore how scientific and technological solutions can be understood by broad audiences. We will also create endowed faculty positions, support programming for the future Black Cultural Center, and invest in an effort to embed faculty members from the College of Education into Oregon high schools to improve statewide educational outcomes.
If I am sure of one thing at this extraordinary time, it is that innovation and the power of big ideas can create new opportunities and turn seemingly intractable problems into lasting solutions. To that end, this edition of Oregon Quarterly celebrates faculty, alumni, and students who are blazing trails in research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. You’ll meet five faculty leaders who share thought-provoking ideas for the future of autism research, obesity prevention, autonomous cars, the psychology of marketing, and the value of the liberal arts as preparation for the jobs of tomorrow.
We explore how the UO’s earth sciences department is rising to leadership in the field, thanks in part to a $10 million gift from Gwen and Chuck Lillis. You’ll learn what new football coach Willie Taggart brings to the game and what motivated alumna Nancie Fadeley to fight political battles for women’s equality in our state. After you read about computational chemist Chris Hendon’s fascination with coffee, you may change the way you brew your morning joe. And we meet six Ducks from diverse backgrounds who demonstrate courage.
It is a wonderful time to be a Duck. I am ever-grateful to our alumni, supporters, friends, and campus community for their love of the University of Oregon. We are poised to make a significant impact together—leveraging to the maximum effect every gift, federal grant, tax dollar and tuition dollar—to make our campus, community, and world a better place.
Thank you, and Go, Ducks!
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law