As the academic year comes to a close, I am pleased to share an update on a few of the areas highlighted in President Schill’s recently updated University Priorities: data science, environment, sport and wellness, the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, diversity, and innovation. These are initiatives that leverage the university’s current and potential strengths to directly address real-world challenges in our state and region, and, indeed, nationally, and globally.
One of the exciting themes that has emerged from dozens of conversations with hundreds of faculty and staff is the synergies between these efforts: from social justice and the environment to data driven approaches to sports and wellness. Chief among these is the opportunity and need to integrate diversity and innovation across all efforts. Other discussions have advanced far enough that faculty have recommended the development of entities to facilitate new opportunities for education, research, and broader university impacts across the state and world. Below, please find a brief update on each.
The Presidential Initiative in Data Science, launched in 2018, utilized expertise from faculty in many schools and colleges to map out a plan for faculty hires, an undergraduate major, graduate degrees, research foci, and an institutional home for the university’s burgeoning data science endeavors. This spring a faculty strategic planning committee began envisioning the creation of a potential School of Computer and Data Science that would be a home for many of the research and educational activities that have been launched over the last few years. The committee will share its recommendations with university leadership by the end of fall term.
Environment, Sport and Wellness
Over the last few years, faculty have gathered, consulted, and brainstormed around these two areas of historical strength at the UO, with particular focus on their potential contribution to society, research excellence and student career readiness. There has been robust discussion and analysis of the potential for the UO to harness its strengths, expand its programming, and claim national and global leadership in each of these focused areas.
Faculty steering and advisory committees for both the Environment and the Sport and Wellness Initiatives have recommended that we explore the development of new institutes in these areas. We are already seeing a powerful model for how these efforts can work with the creation of the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health.
Faculty committees will further consider the development of new institutes, which would include educational, research, and outreach functions, and the potential for new degree programs on offer as soon as Fall 2024. The faculty will then bring their recommendations forward for a broader campus conversation, including presentations to the UO Senate in the fall.
The Ballmer Institute for Children's Behavioral Health
Announced in February and building on the UO’s legacy of excellence in psychology and prevention science, an interdisciplinary team of faculty is already fast at work designing a new, transformative undergraduate degree program that will prepare our students for meaningful careers as behavioral health practitioners. Its first cohort of students is expected to enroll in fall 2023 and a search for the permanent executive director is underway.
Faculty with expertise in diversity and inclusion have suggested we reinforce existing efforts and avoid the creation of new, potentially competing poles of investment and focus. Thus, we will concentrate resources to support various academic and research programs, such as Latinx and Black Studies; Native American Studies and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies. We are exploring how the UO might become a Hispanic Serving Institution, recruiting a new associate vice provost to focus on bolstering our ability to recruit and retain faculty of color, and expanding inclusive pedagogies and equitable student outcomes. Each of the programmatic efforts listed above has diversity as core pillar of their educational and research activities.
Faculty and staff associated with this initiative have already created new campus-wide programs, from the entrepreneurship undergraduate minor and graduate specialization to a catalyst fund to support innovators seeking to develop ventures using university-based research, and launched new community activities, such as the Women’s Innovation Network in partnership with Onward Eugene and a new mentor network. As the initiative proceeds, they are working on plans to accelerate start-ups and commercialization by UO faculty and students.
In closing, let me thank the countless numbers of faculty, staff, and students who have contributed to these efforts, as well as the initiative leaders who have facilitated and guided these efforts. It is truly remarkable in the midst of a global pandemic. The excitement and energy around the next steps as we pivot toward the future is among the most gratifying engagements of my two decades at the UO. This is how we partner to build the university of the future. We strengthen our foundational values. We empower our faculty to take the lead in designing innovative, transdisciplinary programs, and offer the next generation of students the chance to study, build careers, and make a difference on topics of great interest to them and to the communities we serve.
Please enjoy the coming summer, which I hope provides an opportunity for you to rest and recharge a bit after an especially challenging year.
Provost and Senior Vice President