Former UO VPR Kimberly Espy gets provost job at UTSA

4/18/2018: Report here.

3/17/2018: Former UO VPR Kimberly Espy finalist for provost at Ball State, Kansas State, Kentucky

In an ideal world the AAUP or Google Scholar would post metrics on administrators, to warn faculty what’s coming. As a second best, here’s some info on Kimberly Espy. The RIGE report is here.

Full shameful disclosure: Back in 2014 some desperate colleagues convinced me that UO would never fire her, and that my posts about the RIGE report and the negative comments about her were preventing us from passing the trash. So I took them down while she completed her job search. She finally landed a job as VPR at Arizona, to the joy of UO’s PI’s.

Now she wants or needs to move on again, and she’s a finalist for provost jobs at KSU, UK, and BSU:

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Reporter hot on trail of Duck Vegas Bowl junket scandal


Senate President Sinclair broke the first rule of Vegas when he mentioned the Ice Bar escapade at a recent Senate meeting – on video. Now the press is on the trail:

Thanks Chris, next year was my turn, and you’ve gone and ruined it. How is the Senate going to find a new president-elect with this kind of scandal out there?

Fortunately our Public Records Office are experts at delaying and frustrating public records requests. I wonder what their excuse is for denying this one? Some of the long history of Duck junkets and public records is below:

3/31/2015: Hubin’s PR office finally gives Tublitz the BCS championship junket lists

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New VPRI David Conover arrives, wants more communications

The recent history of UO’s Office of Research is a troubled one, as has been true of most of the UO administration. Who can forget Interim Provost Jim Bean’s hire, VPRI Kimberly Espy? It took the threat of a Senate vote of no confidence and an investigation led by Bruce Blonigen to get her to leave.

In contrast, President Schill’s new VPRI David Conover seems to be off to a good start:

A Message to the UO Research Community
David O. Conover

Last week I was honored to begin my new role as the University of Oregon’s Vice President for Research and Innovation. This is an outstanding institution with amazing faculty and committed leaders who are accelerating the trajectory of the institution during a transformational time in its history. The VPRI’s office will play a critical role in fulfilling President Schill’s vision to enhance and expand UO’s research portfolio. I very much look forward to working alongside all of you in fulfilling our mission of discovery, teaching, and service.

I’d like to thank Brad Shelton, who took on the role of Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation for two very critical years. Brad’s service to the university has been exemplary, and I thank him for the advice and support he’s provided to me during the transition.

What most inspires me about this position is the opportunity to be immersed in the exciting research and creative activity taking place across so many disciplines — from the social sciences to the natural sciences to the humanities. I’m excited to learn more about your work, and I’ll be doing so while thinking about how we can leverage our strengths. Given the competitiveness of the research funding environment, it’s important that we work collaboratively to broaden and strengthen our research impact. I aim to create even more partnerships across disciplines, schools, colleges, and other institutions so that we can work together to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and technological innovation.

Communication will be key to our future success. It is crucial that we share the value and impact of our work with the local community, the state, the region, and the world. So it will be a priority of mine to help those faculty and students who wish to share their research and scholarship with a broader public audience. We simply cannot afford to keep our stories of discovery a secret.

I believe in the power of research and innovation to make a difference in people’s lives by improving human health, strengthening the economy, and addressing the grand challenges that society faces. I am thrilled to be leading this effort as your VPRI. Your accomplishments tell the story of research and innovation at the University of Oregon. Together, we can build upon UO’s proud tradition of excellence in research, scholarship, and creative expression.


David Conover
Vice President for Research and Innovation
[email protected]
(541) 346-2090

Sounds good. Here are Conover’s application materials:

Under Espy, every UO press release on research, scholarship, or creative expression had to include her name and title somewhere in the text. It drove the press office nuts. Someone even published a peer reviewed empirical piece about it:

Editor’s note: The research article below was recently received by our editorial office. After careful peer review and several rounds of revisions, I have accepted it for publication, and look forward to a press release about it soon in “Around the O”.

Title: VP Kimberly Espy is the driving force behind UO’s scientific research output

Author: No way I’m telling, she controls their budget and their future.* (*The author would like to thank VPRI Espy for her invaluable role in this study.)

Abstract: UO VP for Research and Innovation Kimberly Espy has a key role in almost all of UO’s scientific research output.

Data: We obtained data by searching uo press releases for “espy”. In keeping with NSF data disclosure rules, primary data is below, and a complete data set is available at

Methods: We analyzed the most recent 12 months of UO’s press releases about research using standard textual analysis procedures.

Results: 98.6% of UO releases included references to or quotes from VP Espy. In a comparison group randomly drawn from other AAU public research universities, an average of 0.7% of press releases mentioned their VP for Research.

Conclusion: VP Espy has a key role in the vast majority of UO’s research. If President Gottfredson fires her, scientific research at UO, or at least self-promoting press releases funded by money that should have gone to scientific research, would quickly grind to a halt.

UO neuroscience at the crossroads. Cluster of excellence, or rebuild effort?

UO’s overpaid VP for Research Brad Shelton is going to have an interesting time rationalizing these low retention offers.

Diane Dietz has the story in the RG, here:

At least one UO brain researcher has already been poached.

Clifford Kentros, a neuroscientist in the psychology department, who designed and produced a new species of mouse, left for Norway in spring 2013 — although he’s maintaining his laboratory at the UO for a while yet.

Kentros went to work at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience after getting an employment contract that’s the envy of his peers, who live in a constant state of grant-seeking to pay their salaries.

“They offered him a fantastic salary and research support package,” Awh said. “One back-of-the-napkin way to describe his package was that he doesn’t have to write any more grants and he will have (research) funding until he’s 70.”

Kentros — and others scientists — left behind a state-of-the-art animal vivarium in the new Lewis Integrative Science Building. It has room for 4,000 cages but only about 1,000 are in use, according to the cluster proposal.

More departures in neurosciences “could very well spark a chain reaction,” Awh said, that would put the UO on the defensive. In that event, “neuroscience at Oregon will have to focus on rebuilding rather than on expanding.”

Oregon State University has shown cluster hires can work, he said. “I was impressed that there were actual hires — it happened,” Awh said. “We all hope there will be a similar way to describe this (at the UO) some day, but it’s not today.”

For more on how UO got to this point, check out the Espy posts.

Instead of paying faculty competitive wages, we’re paying failed former provost Jim Bean $245,000 a year to work on “experiential learning”. Apparently that doesn’t involve actually teaching a class.

Shelton reports that Espy brought in a 13% increase in UO research grants

9/21/2014 update: That may even have been more than the latest increase in the athletics budget. The report from UO’s astonishingly well paid new VP for research Brad Shelton is here. Oregon State has a real-time dashboard showing their data, here. If anyone knows where the full UO report is please put the link in the comments, thanks.

5/20/2013 updated Updated: Beavers crush Ducks in Civil War for research money, with athletic spending number chart, and at the bottom, some salary and consulting payment info from Espy’s office.

Diane Dietz has the story and data on UO here. I got the OSU data from their very complete Research Office data page, here. Both are “Federal Flow Through” totals, which are the easiest to find directly comparable data. They include spending on outreach and instruction, but it’s mostly research money and the trends look similar no matter how you cut it. That’s the table on the left. The table on the right shows athletic department spending, from USAToday. (Official UO and OSU numbers for 2012.)

More VP for Research administrative bloat

Oregon is paying VP for Research Brad Shelton (a former UO math prof) $304K to manage UO’s $97M research budget. Four years ago we paid Rich Linton $185K.

For comparison, Michigan State is paying Steve Hsu (a former UO physics prof) $277K to manage MSU’s $330M research budget.

(Last year’s salary data, 2012 federal grant revenue from IPEDS).

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Coltrane gives Espy jobs to Shelton, Berglund

As announced on April 15, Dr. Kimberly Andrews Espy will be leaving the University of Oregon on May 23 to take a new position at the University of Arizona. After consulting with a number of faculty and administration colleagues over the last few weeks, the President and I have made some decisions about how best to transfer the responsibilities of the office for Research, Innovation, and Graduate Education. Beginning Tuesday, May 27, we will separate the responsibilities of Graduate Education from Research and Innovation. Today, we are pleased to be naming two interim positions, both of which will report directly to me.

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University develops 5 point plan to boost AAU rank!

4/26/2014: That would be the University of Missouri, story here. Meanwhile here at UO, our administration is still trying to write a two paragraph mission statement.

Interestingly, the UM plan is focused on increasing incentives to create intellectual property, by making it easier for faculty to own patents and start businesses. Just the sort of thing that President Gottfredson and Sharon Rudnick tried to crush here at UO during the faculty union negotiations. Remember when Randy Geller wanted the right to vet all faculty consulting?

4/24/2014: With UO research in disarray, Gottfredson jets off for AAU meeting.

President Gottfredson’s official schedule is here:


Traveling to Washington D.C. for Association of American Universities (AAU) meeting

This trip is not going to be as much fun as January’s Alamo Bowl junket.

Last year President Gottfredson told our academic accreditors that UO’s aspiration was to rise to the top half of the AAU publics. The truth is that we’ll be very lucky if we can even stay in the AAU. Their “membership indicators” are posted here, and it’s all about federal research money. Sports gets zero weight.

But UO’s priorities are a little different than the AAU’s. For the 2012-2013 FY UO spent $95M on Duck athletics:

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UO research spending beat that by only $2.7M:

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Yes, while the UO Foundation funneled $25M in tax-free donations to Duck athletics, and spent another ~$6M on their own offices and salaries, only $2.7M went to fund UO research. (Note: the athletic and research numbers are for current expenditures, and exclude buildings like LISB and the Football Palace.)

Last spring the UO Senate handed President Gottfredson a golden opportunity to finally end some of the athletic subsidies and send the money back to the academic side:

2.1 BE IT HEREBY MOVED that the UO Senate requests that the UO President requires the UO Athletic Department to pay from its budget the full cost of providing tutoring and academic support for student-athletes, beginning in FY 2013-14;

2.2 BE IT FURTHER MOVED that the UO Senate requests that the UO President requires the UO Athletic Department to pay from its budget the full cost of the bonds used to purchase the Knight Arena land, beginning in FY 2013-14;

But Gottfredson blew this faculty plea off. The athletic subsidies – about $5M a year – continue.

Then there’s the leadership problem. The faculty just chased off the disastrous VP for Research Kimberly Espy. It took a year and a half – two formal reviews, research institutes gutted, PI’s have left, or are on their way out. While Gottfredson defended Espy every step of the way, he must have seen this coming for at least a year. Nope, he still hasn’t even found an interim replacement.

In a nutshell, staying in the AAU is all about academic research. But President Gottfredson is taking money from the academic side and spending it on sports. We currently don’t even have a VP for Research. But he says he wants UO to be a top tier AAU research university. Sure. Have a good time explaining this all to your peers at the AAU meeting, President Gottfredson.

VP for Research Kimberly Andrews Espy to leave UO for Arizona

4/22/2014: The UA student paper has a bit on Espy’s hiring, here:

The criteria for candidates was that they be leaders with the vision and capability to meet the priorities established by the “Never Settle” strategic plan, according to Nikolich-Žugich. The plan’s goal regarding research and development is to double research expenditures at UA in the next 10 years. … Espy added that she was impressed by Hart’s Never Settle strategic plan. She said it is exciting to join the leadership team in an environment with such a bold vision, and that the goals in the plan are well-articulated.

Nearly two years into President Gottfredson’s presidency, and UO still has no research plan – though the Duck athletic department sure as hell does:

4/15/2014: This is a big win for President Gottfredson, for the UO Senate which has been pushing for this for more than a year at the urging of much of UO’s research community, and for the review committee that the Senate established and which Associate Dean Bruce Blonigen chaired. UA President’s announcement here, UO’s below:

From: “President’s Office” <[email protected]>
Subject: Vice President Espy to take research position at University of Arizona
Date: April 15, 2014 at 3:07:39 PM EDT
Reply-To: [email protected]

Dear Colleagues,

Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the Graduate School, has accepted the position of vice president for research at the University of Arizona. She begins May 27.

I wish Dr. Espy the very best in her new appointment, and thank her for her outstanding service to the University of Oregon. During her nearly three-year tenure at the UO, she has provided valuable leadership and guidance that has greatly benefited our research mission. Dr. Espy led efforts to significantly expand the university’s research infrastructure and began the University’s Research Development Services, which assists faculty in proposal development. She also built strong partnerships in Oregon to accelerate research application through start-up businesses.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Espy as she takes her new position.


Michael Gottfredson, President

Coltrane says response to Espy’s cluster hire plan “uniformly positive”

Update: Coltrane has posted a new (March 14) draft of the cluster hire proposal (archive here) – removing some of the sillier language.

That’s the word from “Around the O”:

Cluster hire proposals are due May 1, and may come from small groups of faculty, organized research or curricular programs, departments, schools and colleges, or cross-college collaborations.

The criteria for selecting cluster hire proposals include the ability to achieve national or international pre-eminence, enhancement of cross-disciplinary collaboration, and potential to build on and connect existing strengths.

Campus research, academic leadership and faculty advisory committees will review the proposals and make recommendations to the provost’s office, which will launch the search process by June 1. The first new faculty clusters are expected to be on campus as early as January 2014, but no later than fall of 2014, Coltrane said.

The provost’s office has set aside $2 million for initial hiring. The university will likely repeat the process every two years, he said.

After the session, Coltrane said faculty response to the initiative has been “uniformly positive.”

3/10/2014: Good news and bad news on UO and the AAU

The good news? UO finally has a plan for academic excellence.

The bad news? President Gottfredson has checked out and left RIGE VP Kimberly Andrews Espy in charge.

Here’s a screenshot, in case your Department head didn’t pass it on, out of a completely understandable desire to protect you from thinking about how absurd Johnson Hall has become. Link to pdf here.

Grand challenges! Power our future! Sustain treasured environmental resources! Advance the human condition!

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Espy surveys faculty, hoping to get OK for more admin bloat

I went through the survey in the email below. It reads like an insulting push-poll, designed to collect responses that will justify hiring more RIGE administrators to coordinate research aimed at local businesses, and work with local government development offices. This is not a bad idea, but for the fact that there’s not much trust left in Espy’s ability to administer such an effort, or in Gottfredson’s ability to administer Espy.

A message from University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson & Vice President for Research and Innovation and Dean of the Graduate School Kimberly Andrews Espy: 

At the University of Oregon, we view promoting Oregon’s long-term economic well-being as a key component of our mission.

To help serve this mission, we are writing to ask you, our faculty and staff, to take a few minutes to complete a survey [link deleted, check your email] that will help us focus on our economic engagement in the community, region, and state.

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Gottfredson glosses over the criticism of Espy in Blonigen’s report

2/28/2014 update: The word down at the faculty club breakfast buffet is increasing dismay over President Gottfredson’s dismissive response to the Blonigen report, particularly that word “endorsing”.

2/21/2014 update: President Gottfredson and Provost Coltrane have now posted their response to the Blonigen report, here. While they now acknowledge the need to address UO’s dysfunctional research policies and practices, they give only the slightest nod to the serious problems regarding VP Espy’s leadership that are raised in the report. They’ll acknowledge “areas of discontent”, but they will not acknowledge that failures of leadership created the discontent. Gottfredson thinks the faculty will believe him when he says “the report endorses the overall approach and efforts of Vice President for Research”? This is not the message of the Blonigen report, and this is not the “truth and reconciliation” we need from Gottfredson and Coltrane in order to move forward:

… We appreciate that the report endorses the overall approach and efforts of Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Kimberly Espy and the RIGE staff. When Dr. Espy arrived on campus in 2011, she faced an array of challenges affecting research office operations and our research mission. The report and the appendices cite the notable accomplishments of the office since 2011, and endorse RIGE’s current direction. The report also identifies areas of discontent and opportunities for improvement in research oversight. We recognize the value in highlighting these concerns and we are committed to addressing them to strengthen research at the UO. In this regard, the report provides us with a valuable framework to consider as we move forward. …

Michael Gottfredson, President
Scott Coltrane, Provost

2/19/2014: This originally came up in the Senate last year as a motion for a vote of no confidence in VP for Research Kimberly Espy. The Senate decided we needed more information and proposed a review of Espy. Under pressure from the administration this morphed into a less pointed review of Research, Innovation and Graduate Education in general. I explicitly asked if the review committee could return with a recommendation that UO needed a new VP for Research, and was told yes, that would be a potential outcome. Senate minutes here. President Gottfredson’s charge to interim Dean for Social Science Bruce Blonigen was more general, calling for a review of UO Research and RIGE. The committee had some trouble getting started, and ended up noticeably light on science PIs.

The report is now out, here, supplemental material here (page to bottom for Espy’s powerpoints), the motion is here, and for history Geri Richmond’s 2013 “Research Advisory Report” is here, and a link to the 2011 Huron report is here. I don’t have time to dig through this just now, informed comments from those who do would be very welcome.

5PM today is the deadline to file a motion for a vote of no confidence at the 3/12 Senate meeting (but they typically give a day or two grace period, and of course the Senate Exec can add a motion up to a week before the meeting.)

Update: From the report (emphasis added). While the report apparently hasn’t yet been posted on the RIGE or President’s website, or made it to “Around the O”, Senate President Margie Paris sent it to senators this morning. My view is that this is a balanced report that explains the tough situation Espy inherited, but then pulls only a few punches when explaining point by point how she has failed to deal with UO’s existing research problems, while adding many new problems of her own creation. There is more than enough here for people to make an informed vote on a motion of no confidence in VP Espy:

RECOMMENDATION 4: The communication and collaboration issues between RIGE and a number of important research communities at the UO need immediate attention. As discussed in the report, there is a wide spectrum of communication and collaboration experiences between RIGE and various groups on campus. This ranges from good working relationships to some that are clearly broken. There were enough concerns and issues that our committee recommends they be addressed in ways that go well beyond simply a call for renewed efforts for improved communication and collaboration; indeed, these issues appear to be the main impetus for this report. This is an urgent matter and will need direct attention and substantial leadership from the Provost and President in determining the best course of action.

RECOMMENDATION 6: Inform UO community of responses to this report. Many of the major themes in this report can be found in the prior reports by the Huron Consulting Group in 2011 and the Research Advisory Panel, a special committee that was organized by and reported to Provost Jim Bean, in 2013. Although there are indications that the administration has taken some actions to respond to the findings and recommendations of these reports, they have not been publicly communicated. In order to avoid another review by a special committee in the future, we strongly advise a plan to publicly communicate responses to this report.

… The repeated statements of consternation and confusion among almost all groups we interviewed about the internal policies, procedures, and practices of RIGE show an ongoing problem with transparency, which has generated a widespread lack of trust in RIGE’s dealings with the campus community. RIGE has made a number of substantial decisions regarding research activity in the research areas of the RIGE leaders, particularly the formation of the Prevention Sciences Institute, without any formal processes for oversight, except for ultimate oversight by the Provost. In order to reestablish confidence, there should be systematic and regular reviews of RIGE at the administrative level, both for the VP of RIGE and for the members of the RIGE leadership team. There should also be clear and explicit processes for oversight, particularly for issues where there may be conflicts of interest.

This is a kick-ass report. The simplest interpretation of “In order to reestablish confidence …” is that there currently is none. This will make for an easy Senate vote, and the rest of the report is full of sensible and constructive proposals for moving forward.

2/22/2014 update: According to the comments, VP Espy put her $1.25M house on the market yesterday, 2 days after the Senate report went public.

VP Kimberly Espy finalist for UGA Provost

10/14/13: UGA announcement here. Her job talk is Nov 4. They are running an open search with 4 finalists coming in – an impressive looking group. I wonder how many finalists UO’s Provost search committee will bring to campus?While this blog typically accentuates the negative when it comes to UO administrators, it’s important to remember that VP Espy has an excellent academic record and significant administrative experience at progressively higher levels. She got off to a rocky start at UO, coming into a difficult situation where the previous VP had over-promised to PI’s and departments, and where a new budget model had inexplicably failed to budget for science start up packages. These difficulties were aggravated when the Governor decided to fire the president who had hired her, and the interim president turned out to be a carpet-bagger. A fresh start would be good for all concerned.

Faculty Research Awards v. UMRP

10/8/2013: There was a bit of a kerfuffle over these last year – Espy tried to prevent people from using these for summer support, then backed down. The announcement for this year’s program is here. Can be used for summer stipends, but you’ve got to pay the OPE rate too. Up to 20 awards at up to $5,500 each. That works out to a total of $110,000, tops. A rather astonishingly small amount of money.

Last year our comparison was to the $200K or so we paid Provost Jim Bean for his sabbatical. Latest word on Bean is that he still isn’t teaching, but is on the LCB dole as the Associate Dean of Integrated Programs. Sounds important – so important that he’s not even mentioned on the LCB website.

So for this year, lets compare that $5,500 to the $90,000 per hire that UO’s Under-represented Minority Recruitment program is willing to give departments, if they hire a minority:

Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program 

The Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program (UMRP) encourages departments to hire underrepresented minority faculty in tenure-related faculty appointments by providing supplemental funds to the department through its school or college following the successful tenure-related appointment of a new colleague from an under-represented group. Funds, in the amount of up to $90,000 total will be provided to the school or college in support of the hiring department or program and its faculty. …

Easy money, and you’ve got up to a year to declare that you’re in a “protected class”:

Self identification as a member of one of the following federally defined underrepresented protected classes: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic or Latino. While a department may not presume of a candidate his or her possible membership in one of the federally defined classes, a newly hired faculty member who has not otherwise done so may self-declare his/her status at any time and, as a result, the department may prepare and submit a plan up to one year after initial appointment. …

10/16/2012: And see the comments for reactions to the RIGE office’s plans to celebrate their “Wall to  University Research”.

10/15/2012: I wonder if her office was going to explain this to the potential applicants for these grants? The email I got certainly didn’t make it clear – but then that would have involved admitting to a mistake. And UO administrators never make mistakes. But at least Espy fixed one. 

The new policy is here. It again allows summer pay, as had been done for many years prior (though apparently not last year). It also removes the phrase that prioritized GTF-included projects, and the bit about prioritizing proposals with matching funds, apparently added this year.


Funds may be used as budgeted for allowable costs necessary to conduct the stated research project, consistent with all rules and policies, for travel, equipment, supplies, contractual services, core/shared user facility use, graduate or undergraduate student effort, or as a summer award (i.e., paid as a stipend in the summer term).  Funds may NOT be requested or used 1) to replace or fund faculty salary, 2) as stipend during the academic year, 3) for instructional release/course buyouts, or 4) for construction or facility renovation.


Funds may be used as budgeted for allowable costs necessary to conduct the stated research project, consistent with university and state rules, for travel, equipment, supplies, contractual services, core/shared user facility use, and graduate or undergraduate student effort.  Funds may NOT be requested 1) to replace or fund faculty salary or stipend, 2) for instructional release/course buyouts, or 3) for construction or facility renovation.

Note that the rules for research support are very different if you are an administrator. Interim Provost Jim Bean’s sabbatical contract promised him 9 months of regular pay and 3+ months of summer salary, at 60% of his $322,140 administrative pay. But my understanding is that he actually completed his research early, enabling him to collect the full rate plus beamer stipend over the summer.