Welcome back to campus. I hope you had an enjoyable and restful holiday break.
The year 2013 was a remarkable one for our university. It was a year bracketed by the celebration of two bowl-game victories; a year of historic changes in our governance structure accompanied by steadfast continuity of our mission. As we begin a new year and a new academic term, I am impressed by the challenges we have overcome and the opportunities that lie ahead—remarkable opportunities to invigorate key programs, focus our goals and priorities, and refinance the university to make our aspirations a reality.
Several years ago, the university created an academic plan—an important tool to guide the development of priorities and a crucial step in the formation of fundraising campaign goals and strategies. The plan provides a solid foundation from which to move the university forward—it includes benchmarks, measurable goals, and a strategy to achieve them. I have asked the deans to review that plan as it pertains to their areas, and the provost has scheduled a series of discussions to further refine our academic priorities and planning as an institution. (The next one, on benchmarks and metrics, is January 14.) I hope you will participate in this dialog—as faculty and staff, you are the intellectual and innovative heart of the university, and your input is critically important to the future of our campus.
Our new Board of Trustees will also be key to helping the UO realize our future. Last fall, our board members participated in two orientation sessions designed to build their knowledge of the breadth and complexity of the university. Later this month, the trustees will convene their first board meeting on campus to create bylaws, elect officers, and continue learning what they’ll need to know to assume authority on July 1. Agendas and information will be posted on the trustees website next week. I remain impressed and humbled by the extraordinary wealth of talent and experience this group embodies, and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead and the years to come.
Looking back on the fall term, the accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff give us much to be proud of. UO faculty members have garnered many significant honors recently, including Alec Murphy, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Geographers, and J. Josh Snodgrass and Tom H. Stevens, who were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It was a spectacular season for Duck athletics, with a victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl providing a terrific finish to the Ducks’ first season under Mark Helfrich. We also saw freshman Edward Cheserek win the NCAA individual cross country championship, a third straight 20-win season for volleyball, and our men’s basketball team is among the top-ranked in the country. Go Ducks!
The UO is receiving recognition for a culture of innovation that runs through many aspects of the university. Our PathwayOregon scholarship program, which covers tuition and fees for academically qualified, Pell-eligible Oregonians, was singled out by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a model for others to follow when he spoke at a national student-aid conference recently.
The UO also received recognition at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) annual conference in November. The Association of American Universities’ president cited our creation of an institutional board structure as one of several positive recent developments for higher education. We participated in a panel on the topic of evolving funding models for public research universities.
Research funding is threatened by cuts in federal as well as state funding, a point addressed in an Oregonian op-ed I coauthored with the presidents of OSU, PSU, and OHSU warning of the long-term costs of funding cuts associated with sequestration.
As I reflect back on 2013 I’m proud of what this university has accomplished. I’m excited and optimistic for the year ahead, as we continue to define our priorities, implement our new governance structure, and fill key leadership roles that will help guide our future. This fall, we welcomed Terry Hunt as dean of the Clark Honors College, and dean searches are in progress for the College of Education and the UO Libraries, and will be relaunched this spring for the School of Journalism and Communication. The four finalists for the position of Provost and Senior Vice President will be interviewing on campus between January 13 and February 4, and information will be posted on my website before each presentation.
In the coming year, we will build on the strong momentum we have established as we work together to support our students, advance scholarship and research on our campus, and fulfill our promise to serve Oregonians. I look forward to receiving your input and sharing our progress with you.
Michael Gottfredson, President