Provost announces the transition of NILI to CAS

On May 24, 2021, Provost and Senior Vice President Patrick Phillips sent the following message to members of the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) task force. The message is about the transition of NILI to the School of Global Studies and Languages within the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. If you would like more information, please send an email to

Dear NILI Task Force Members,

Thank you for your ongoing patience. As you all know well, nothing seems to fit in an anticipated timeline these days. Rest assured, the delay was not due to any issues or problems; it was simply about wanting to ensure a thoughtful approach.

With that, I am pleased to share with you an update regarding NILI, informed by your good work and many of the lessons learned.

Administrative Home and Transition

Since you finalized the task force’s report, as some of you know, we have a new piece of relevant information. The School of Global Studies and Languages (SGSL) within the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is indeed moving forward, and will be up and running during the next academic year. This is exciting news and will create many opportunities for synergy. With this positive development, I have decided to transition NILI into SGSL effective July 1. This will situate NILI within an academic home where a number of existing relationships and partnerships exist and can be leveraged. 

A few details about what a transition includes are articulated below, hopefully addressing the questions and issues I have received from you and others: 

  • NILI’s general fund allocation will transition with the program, as will any existing carry-forward funds, which should remain for use by the director for at least three years.
  • For now, administrative support will continue to be provided by the team in the English/OCIAS office. This may change over time as SGSL administrative services are fully formed, but there is no need to disrupt this support right now. 
  • No changes will be made to the appointments of Joana Jansen or Judith Fernandes for the upcoming academic year, and a discussion is underway with Janne Underriner regarding a part-time appointment for the upcoming year that is similar to that of the others. 
  • All space currently assigned to NILI will remain so, and it is OTP’s expectation that it will remain with NILI so long as the need exists. 
  • NILI will continue working with the development team it has recently been working with, building upon good working relationships and mitigating disruption due to a transition. 
  • The NILI Advisory Board would remain intact, and I believe this transition is a good opportunity to strengthen this relationship even further. 
  • There will be no changes to the Elder-in-Residence program. 

NILI Directorship

I am pleased to share that Robert Elliott has agreed to serve as acting director of NILI for three years, beginning July 1 at a one-third FTE. Robert will bring a knowledgeable and steady hand to the role during this period of transition. In this role, Robert will report to the head of the SGSL and will work closely with many partners.  

Robert’s work will begin with a needs analysis, identifying how different areas of focus relate to one another and, ultimately, how they should be prioritized. Connected to this is a staffing model for NILI. As acting director, Robert will have the authority to make staffing decisions that fit within available resources, including the general fund allocation, as well as any Summer Institute revenue, philanthropic support, grant funding, or other revenue. This will take time, and we all must give Robert some grace as he analyzes NILI’s needs, seeks guidance, and ultimately moves things forward.

I’ll echo the sentiments shared by many for the dedication of Dr. Underriner since NILI’s inception. So many—here at the UO and throughout the northwest Tribal communities—are in her debt for all that she accomplished.

I look forward to this new chapter in NILI’s story. As so many have pointed out, NILI represents more than just a program dedicated to language instruction, preservation, and revitalization. It is a place of community and connectivity.

As noted before, when circumstances allow us, I would be honored to host a gathering at the Many Nations Long House. We can celebrate Dr. Underriner’s many years of gracious service, recognize your work, and continue the conversation about this next chapter. 

Thank you.


Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President