President's Report to UO Board of Trustees, September 2018

September 7, 2018

President Michael H. Schill delivered the following remarks at the UO Board of Trustees full board meeting in Portland:

Thank you, Chair Lillis. Let me first thank ASUO President Maria Gallegos and Vice President Ivan Chen for being here to represent student government. Ensuring that we have open lines of communications with our students is a high priority for me and my entire administration. I am very much looking forward to working with Maria, Ivan, and the rest of ASUO on making sure that student voices are heard and well represented. I believe we have a good foundation for a fruitful and productive working relationship. I look forward to working together with you and all students, faculty, staff, and alumni to advocate for the University of Oregon, especially in Salem, so that we get a good budget, which is essential to our collective success.

I also want to recognize Senate President Bill Harbaugh, who is starting his second tour of duty as president of the University Senate. What is he thinking? I sometimes wonder when Bill has time to eat or sleep, given that he is always teaching, in meetings to discuss Senate business, or posting to his blog. His energy really is amazing. I will always view myself first and foremost as a member of the faculty, and I steadfastly believe in the principle of shared governance. I remain deeply committed to working with Bill and the rest of Senate leadership in a consultative and collaborative manner on vital academic matters. We have much to do in the coming year as we continue our march toward enhancing academic excellence at the UO. I am confident that, though we may not always agree and sometimes engage in fairly heated debate, we have the underpinnings necessary for a respectful and constructive relationship. And I think you are seeing some of the fruits of that in terms of what Chris (Sinclair, former Senate president and vice president) talked about yesterday to the board in terms of core education. Thank you for your service Bill and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

Before I make some comments about the start of the term, I want to take a brief point of personal privilege to thank the University of Oregon Board of Trustees for the faith and trust they have placed in me as president of this remarkable institution. The last three years have literally flown by, and I am incredibly proud of the progress that we have made and the momentum that the UO currently enjoys. I am surrounded by talented, smart, and capable administrators, faculty, and staff, and it is only with their support and skill that we’ve been able to achieve so much in such a short time.

It is my great honor to work with these people and to lead the UO at this pivotal point in the university’s history, a moment in time when we are re-imagining and reshaping what it means to be a flagship public research institution both in Oregon and in this nation. I am humbled by the Board’s generosity to me in the form of a new contract. As I have discussed with a couple of you, I plan to donate the entire performance-based bonus that you have given me to a scholarship fund in memory of my mother, Ruth Schill, who passed away almost two years ago. I am proud to be a first-generation college graduate like many of our current students. I was fortunate to have my mother’s support, encouragement, confidence, and love which convinced me that I could go toe-to-toe with anyone at Princeton. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than to establish a need-based scholarship that will be awarded annually to support a deserving first-generation student at the University of Oregon.

The start of the academic year is just a few weeks away. I can already see more faculty members buzzing around Eugene and most will be back by September 15. Incoming first-year students will begin moving into their residence halls shortly thereafter, with classes officially starting on September 24. The beginning of the academic year is always a time of hope, renewal, and excitement on the UO campus. You can feel the campus starting to wake up and come alive with energy and excitement as we prepare for the start of the 2018-19 academic year.

We have already kicked-off the new term celebrating something that has been absolutely transformational for so many Oregonians—the 10-year anniversary of PathwayOregon. When Pathway launched in 2008, this innovative program was the first of its kind in the state—covering 100 percent of the cost of tuition and fees for academically qualified Pell-eligible Oregonians. More than that, we provide wraparound advising and academic support services to help these students succeed and thrive during their time at the UO.

Over the years, parts of it have been copied by some of our peers across the state, and we consider that the highest form of flattery. I always like it when we can be first, but that really is not the point. What matters here is the amazing impact that PathwayOregon has had over the years, including:

  • More than 5,000 Oregonians have enrolled in PathwayOregon and graduated from the UO over the last decade. That’s an amazing statistic when you stop to think about it—the number is bigger than our entire freshman class this year.
  • 56 percent of the students who have benefited from Pathway over the last decade were the first in their families to attend college.
  • 42 percent of the Pathway students over the last decade have been students of color.
  • The retention rate for PathwayOregon exceed the national average for first-year students by 18 percent.
  • Today, more than 20 percent of the resident students who attend the UO are enrolled in the PathwayOregon program. They pay no tuition, no fees, and many graduate with no debt.

I could talk for days about the impact of PathwayOregon, but rather than listen to me, I’d prefer to have you hear from our students in this video.

PathwayOregon, and the opportunities it provides our students, would not have been possible without the generous support of our alumni who have contributed generously to create an endowment fund and those who donate annually to the program. At present, an endowment for the program funds about 20 percent of the annual cost of PathwayOregon. I wouldn’t be surprised if you all heard an announcement in the next month or two of a major initiative to raise an additional $100 million in gifts to significantly bolster that endowment for the long term.

To support that effort and to thank our donors, Kyle Henley and his communications team will launch a campaign next week marking the 10-year anniversary of this amazing program. It includes a website that tells the story of PathwayOregon and some of its graduates with words, data, video, photos, and much more. In addition, the team will share that broadly with internal and external stakeholders and is working on public relations placements in media outlets throughout the state.

Starting my substantive comments with a focus on PathwayOregon is a perfect segue into another topic that I will increasingly focus on this year—achieving significant milestones in the student success initiatives we launched about three years ago. You’ll recall that it was in November 2015 that we set a goal to improve the UO’s graduation rates and systematically look at how we can help our students graduate in four years. The UO already has the best graduation rate in the state, but we obviously are not content with that and recognize that we owe it to our students, their parents, and Oregon’s taxpayers to do all we can to improve our graduation rate.

I want to recognize the great work that Associate Vice Provost for Student Success Doneka Scott has done over the last few years to bring us to a point where some of the things we have been working on are now starting to come online and bear fruit. Some of these achievements include:

  • This fall, we will launch a “one-stop” website——to help our students tap into the huge swath of support services that are available to them—academic and career advising, financial aid and scholarships, housing, class registration, safety, clubs, and so much more. In the past, due to the UO’s often decentralized structure, finding some of these things on the UO’s website was like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can go from one site to another and another. But now all a student has to do is click the “Student One Stop” link at the top of almost every UO webpage and those resources will be at their fingertips.
  • I like looking at things on a big computer screen or even on paper—some refer to it as analogue; perhaps the better word is old. I am told that our students do everything on their phones these days. This fall we have also launched a new mobile phone app called “Guide” that will connect UO students with a host of campus resources that are individually tailored to them—reminders on when it is time to apply for scholarships and financial aid within a college, information about how to get a tutor or advisor for specific school or college, how to prepare for an advising session, or how to connect with some student life resources. They will also be able to schedule appointments with advisors through the new app and eventually will also be able to schedule appointments with tutors. We are not the first in this area, but we are pleased to be state-of-the-art.
  • These two new tools will complement each other and work in tandem with other student success investments that the board is well aware of—our effort to hire more than 20 new academic advisors and the construction of Tykeson Hall, which will open in 2019 as a one-stop center for our career and academic advising programs and the home to the College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Equity and Inclusion, and more. We have searches underway for a Tykeson Hall director as well as a director of tutoring services.

There is much more work to be done, but there is also much to celebrate at the beginning of the term in our efforts to advance the UO’s ambitious student success efforts.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that one of our greatest campus partners in these endeavors—College of Arts and Sciences Dean Andrew Marcus—has decided to step down at the end of the calendar year after more than five years as the leader of the University of Oregon’s largest and most expansive college. I am deeply grateful to Andrew for his exceptional leadership of CAS. He has been a principled leader, a voice of reason, a source of institutional memory, and a tireless advocate for the faculty and students of CAS.

The most enduring symbol of Andrew’s legacy is Tykeson Hall, which is under construction in the heart of campus. Every day, I literally watch it rise from the ground outside of my office. They are making great progress. Andrew’s vision is to create an innovative place where students can tap into academic advising, career guidance, and portfolio-building resources in one location. It will be a place where generations of UO students will set themselves on a path to a more meaningful future, and it could not have happened without Andrew’s leadership.

During his time as dean, Andrew has realigned the college’s budget with transparency, fairness, and wisdom. He has helped recruit and hire wonderful divisional deans and dazzling new faculty members as well as retain standout professors and researchers, efforts that have helped the UO solidify and strengthen its academic foundation in a wide range of disciplines. Andrew also launched new degrees and programs to serve the evolving demands and needs of students, including the Center for Environmental Futures and the new Black Studies initiative.

I know firsthand how difficult the job of dean can be and I was a dean of a school with one department compared to Andrew’s, which is more than 40! I want to personally thank Andrew for the tremendous impact he has had on the college and the broader University of Oregon. He leaves a deep and lasting legacy that will not be soon forgotten.

Thank you, Andrew.

Provost Banavar and I have already started consulting with the college’s leadership team and members of the CAS faculty about how best to move forward when Andrew steps down at the end of the year. Having strong, capable leadership within the College of Arts and Sciences is a top priority, and we intend to develop and share a search plan in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition in CAS. We are proud that the University of Oregon is the great liberal arts university in the state of Oregon. And CAS is the heart and soul of liberal arts at the UO.

With that, I will conclude my remarks. I am happy to answer questions.

Thank you.