Congratulations graduates, reflections on the year

Interim President Coltrane sent the following message to campus on Friday, June 12 as part of his end of year newsletter.

Dear students and colleagues,

As finals come to a close and we prepare for the 2015 Commencement, I would like to congratulate the more than 5,100 University of Oregon students who have earned their degrees. I look forward to joining our graduates on the Duck Walk parade, and will be honored to call you alumni. I also would like to reflect on this extraordinary academic year and look ahead to the many opportunities to come.

This was a year like no other.

Our new Board of Trustees assumed full governance of the university and set the UO on a path of more focused and agile leadership to promote excellence in research and teaching and to enhance our financial stability. The board set bold, clear aspirations for the university and selected Michael Schill to help us achieve these goals as the UO’s 18th president.

Our students continue to impress me. Just this month, we recognized students who earned or were finalists for distinguished honors including two Goldwaters, a Boren, two Trumans, 3 Fulbrights, and two Hollings scholarships to continue their academic pursuits. Six UO students also earned Gilman scholarships to study abroad. If you haven’t had a chance to read about some of our graduates, I encourage you to do so. They have big plans and I expect they will make a big impact on the world.

This year we launched our $2 billion fundraising campaign focused on student access and success, academic excellence and faculty hiring, and enhancing the UO experience. One of the first milestones in this public phase of the campaign was a generous $50 million dollar gift that will expand the PathwayOregon scholarship and advising program that covers tuition for every academically qualified Pell Grant eligible Oregonian. That gift is also helping the UO tell its successful academic story to Oregon and the world. Finally, it is funding faculty searches in the area of Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention as part of our new Clusters of Excellence Faculty Hiring program. The Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention program is one of three Clusters of Excellence launched this year. This new targeted hiring program is designed to recruit some of the nation’s top faculty to work with us and collaborate across disciplines in innovative ways. Two more clusters, in Energy and Sustainable Materials and in Genome Function will also receive central funding so that we can begin faculty searches this year. In addition, we will continue to seek funding for the other seven clusters of excellence selected in the first round of competition.

This year we also initiated several projects designed to set the university’s path forward, including revising our mission statement, initiating a strategic planning and goal setting process, beginning a framework vision process to guide campus physical development; and embarking on an equity and inclusion planning process to enhance diversity. Each of these processes engaged faculty, staff, and students to help us imagine our future and activate our full potential.

Many of our faculty members also earned prestigious awards and honors including a Fulbright Scholarships, early career awards, an inaugural Carnegie Fellowship, and many other recognitions. We saw our external research funding rise by double digits in 2014 over the previous year as our faculty members sought and received many sponsored research awards.

We also excelled outside the classroom and laboratory. Our football team went to the inaugural national championship and Marcus Mariota swept the major awards, including UO’s first ever Heisman Trophy; the men won the indoor NCAA track and field championships and both the men and women are well represented at the outdoor championships going on now at Hayward Field; the softball team went to the college world series; the men’s basketball team earned a trip to the NCAA tournament; and many other UO teams achieved great success. We also opened our beautiful new Student Recreation Center, and continued to watch progress on the Erb Memorial Union.

Some of the steps forward this year challenged us like never before, and tested our focus and resolve. The fact is―change is hard―but staying stagnant is even harder. If we don’t evolve, push forward, and look for a better way―we won’t succeed or achieve our mission of education, research, and serving our state and society.

Fortunately, many of our greatest challenges and opportunities are yet to come. In a matter of weeks, we will welcome incoming President Michael Schill to campus. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this excellent choice to lead the University of Oregon. He’s already been to campus several times, getting to know our faculty, staff, and students. I am inspired by his enthusiasm for building on our academic strengths and helping us achieve great things going forward.

I am honored to have led the University of Oregon as interim president through this transformative year, and I am eager to return to my provost position and to work with incoming President Schill. I have learned a great deal about the complexity of our university; the intelligence and curiosity of our students; and the depth of commitment of our faculty, staff, and alumni. I have no doubt that we will be able to maintain the momentum we have built over the past year. I especially want to thank acting Provost Frances Bronet who served as a valued advisor and friend, and all of the dedicated vice provosts, vice presidents, deans, department heads, committee chairs, and other faculty and staff who provided valuable leadership during this time of change.

Again, congratulations Class of 2015! And thank you to all our faculty and staff whose contributions make this one of the best universities in the nation. I wish you all a wonderful summer.

Scott Coltrane
Interim President