June 13, 2018
Dear University of Oregon community members,
As we close out the 2017-18 academic year, I offer my warm congratulations to all of our graduates. I also want to thank everyone—faculty, advisors, graduate instructors and researchers, and staff—who helped our graduates reach the finish line. I look forward to standing in Matthew Knight Arena and watching those caps fly, as the class of 2018 prepares to take flight.
Together, we accomplished quite a bit this year. We took big leaps forward in advancing our academic enterprise: we broke ground on the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and hired a permanent executive director to lead this extraordinary effort to further the mission of science in the service of society; we invested in promising new academic programs—from data science and science media to embedding education researchers in high schools—and we continued to hire and invest in world-class scholars in fields such as obesity prevention, Black studies, anthropology, and volcanology to name a few.
It is fitting that the year was bookended at the start by the groundbreaking for Tykeson Hall and at the end by the announcement that we will hire two dozen new advisors to work in that same building when it opens in 2019 as part of our new expansion and integration of academic and career counseling. I am incredibly excited to join with the College of Arts and Sciences, Undergraduate Studies, and Student Life in an initiative that will support student success from the moment they step foot on campus to the time students leave and beyond. There is nothing more important.
As someone who will probably go down in history as the least athletic University of Oregon president, I joined with many of you in cheering on the achievements of our scholar-athletes, both on the field and off. In particular, I was thrilled and inspired by our Pac-12 champion softball and women’s basketball teams who demonstrated the very best in intercollegiate athletics time and time again. I also enjoyed watching our students excel in activities as varied as producing art, making music, and acting.
For our university to soar we need to become more diverse and inclusive. Toward that end, over the course of the past year every school, college, and administrative unit created Diversity Action Plans in their corner of campus. We opened a new Native American academic residential community, announced that we would build a Black Cultural Center, and redoubled efforts to recruit and support underrepresented students, all of which was on display during last week’s Showcase Oregon.
Like most universities across the United States, we experienced tension between the rights and values of free expression and the need to create a safe and inclusive environment on an increasingly diverse campus. With few exceptions, these tensions were resolved in a way that should make us proud. We also held robust discussions from a variety of perspectives and disciplines during our Freedom of Expression Event series that explored our differences and commonalities.
As I wrap up my third year as president, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned about our students and this paragraph is specifically addressed to them. You are impressive, brilliant, passionate, and entrepreneurial. While the vast majority of you love being part of our UO community, some of you feel marginalized and unsafe on our campus. Some of you do not feel heard or supported, or fear speaking up for what you need or believe. I am reminded that we, as an institution, and I, personally, need to listen more, engage with you in a more supportive way, and strive to better understand all perspectives and needs. This will be a priority for me and everyone on our campus going forward.
I want all of you—every student and every member of our campus community—to benefit from the amazing wave of success our university is riding. We have some of the greatest minds solving big problems—from protecting our earth and making our bodies work better to creating new products and advocating for justice. We are making a difference, making the world more beautiful and interesting, and preparing a generation of leaders. We are, in short, part of something really special here at the University of Oregon. I am proud to be your president.
Thank you for a wonderful academic year. Enjoy the summer.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law