It’s been a pretty good one. Andrew Theen’s story in the Oregonian captures some of it, starting with the Roundup:
Two months into his tenure as University of Oregon president, Michael Schill was far from home in just about every way possible, in a pair of borrowed boots and head swimming underneath a broad cowboy hat in the Umatilla County sun.
The 57-year-old bookish Jew from Upstate New York wasn’t a natural fit at the Pendleton Roundup, despite his oversized belt buckle engraved with the school’s signature “O.” There were no rodeos near Princeton, Yale, Penn, UCLA, NYU or the University of Chicago, Schill’s previous academic stops.
Theen reminds us of where we were just a year ago:
Mike Schill arrived at the state’s most prominent public university in 2015 as the sixth different leader in seven years. Much was at stake. The school faced possible expulsion from the prominent Association of American Universities, a new appointed Board of Trustees was trying to find its way, a high profile sexual assault case had the university in the news for months, and the school lacked confidence in much that took place in Eugene outside of Autzen Stadium.
And explains why the faculty are optimistic:
One year into a five-year arrangement, he axed a marketing deal that would’ve cost $15 million over the next four years. He shifted money around to bring in more graduate students. He said that 78 non-tenured track humanities professors would not have their contracts renewed, and pledged to hire up to 100 more tenured track faculty during the next five years. He told administrators to cut their budgets by 2 percent, and to plunge $3 million in savings back into academics.
“We’re pouring all of the money that we save back into the academic mission of the school, and people resonate with that and they like that,” Schill said.
The rest of the story is well worth reading, particularly the sidebar:
Michael Schill and Ben Cannon
… “He cares deeply and genuinely not only about the future of the university,” Cannon said of Schill, “but the future of its students and the state.”
Cannon said he checks in every month or so with each president, but Schill’s interest in nitty-gritty policy is different. He said Schill has quickly learned the importance of public funding in Oregon, and asks pointed questions about what the state could do.
“Not every president has an equal level of interest in and engagement in policy issues,” Cannon said. “In Mike’s case, I think he’s really interested, he cares. He gets it.”
The UO has the highest six-year graduation rate of any Oregon public university, at roughly 72 percent. But Schill has repeatedly said that’s not good enough. He believes too much public and student attention is spent on annual tuition increases rather than this issue.
“The amount of blood that is shed over a $400 tuition increase compared to the crickets around tens of thousands of dollars being wasted by these kids not graduating on time is astonishing to me,” he said.
But what we really want to see is Mike Schill in a hat. And, after the usual delays and exorbitant fees UO’s public records office has finally provided the video of Schill – in full cowboy regalia – in Pendleton at his first meeting with Oregon’s politicians. Looks like he’s off to a great start. I’ve posted the video here.