UO Board of Trustees March Meeting Remarks

Provost Jayanth Banavar delivered these remarks to the University of Oregon Board of Trustees meeting on March 4, 2019.

Good morning. We are back from a week of snow and are rejuvenated.

There have been a few significant changes in our academic leadership structure.

In February, I appointed Doneka Scott as the UO’s new vice provost for undergraduate education and student success. She is leading a newly named division of the same name, which is a change from the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Doneka will align and strengthen our efforts at improving student success.

Doneka is one of the most committed people I know when it comes to student success. She is a collaborator, a teacher, and a guide. This work is familiar territory for her, as she spent the last three years serving as the associate vice provost for student success and associate dean of undergraduate studies. During that time, she embarked on implementing and improving our strategies to increase four-year graduation rates. She helped eliminate institutional barriers that impeded student progress. And most important, she did the heavy lifting to change our approach to advising, coaching, and retaining all students, particularly those from underrepresented groups.

She will continue leading the university’s student success initiatives, one of Mike Schill’s top priorities, and she is now in charge of all functions under the former Division of Undergraduate Studies.

At the same time, I named Dennis Galvan as dean and vice provost for the Division of Global Engagement, formerly known as the Office of International Affairs. For nearly a year and a half, Dennis served as interim vice provost and dean for undergraduate studies, while continuing in his role as vice provost for international affairs.

He took on these roles at a time of transition, and was tireless in his efforts to reorganize undergraduate studies. He aligned the division’s student success programs with the student success goals that he and Doneka developed.

The Division of Global Engagement also reflects a name change. And Dennis has big plans. His work will focus on expanding international grants, contracts, and other philanthropic gifts to support global engagement. Their work is integral to and essential for academic excellence, the student experience, and student success. With Dennis leading these efforts, the university is committed to leveraging our already robust international profile to advance our institutional goals.

From my window, I see Tykeson Hall–the new home of the College of Arts and Sciences, and what will be the hub for academic and career advising at the university. This new building was made possible by a generous donation from Willie and the late Don Tykeson. Don was an alumnus, an Emeritus trustee of the Foundation Board, and a true friend of the UO community.

Construction of the building is both on time and on budget–always a good thing. The move-in date is slated for August 1, and Tykeson will be open to students beginning with the fall 2019 term. We are targeting a grand opening celebration in October, so everyone will get a chance to see the building in operation.

Tykeson will house counselors and advisors who will work closely with students – both on their academics and their career goals. There will be classroom space, advising offices, a commons area, and other amenities to help ensure student success, including the all-important café.

We have also welcomed Gene Sandan to campus. He is the new director of college and career advising for Tykeson. He previously worked as the student success and advising director for the College of Natural and Social Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles.

Gene will help direct programs that prepare undergraduate students for success, both in the classroom and in post-graduate careers. He will oversee more than 23 professional advisors who will be working in Tykeson Hall. These advisors were funded by Mike Schill from an extraordinarily generous anonymous gift.

Gene will work collaboratively with advising leaders from the College of Arts and Sciences, the division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success, the Career Center, and others across campus to launch and assess a new framework for integrated academic and career advising. We are about to start the hiring process to bring on the new advisors, who will provide wraparound advising to our students beginning in the fall. Likewise, the math and writing composition tutoring staff will be headquartered on the third floor of Tykeson, and ready to start fall term.

Last year, Mike Schill and I created a task force to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits of making structural changes to the College of Arts and Sciences.

The task force–made up of faculty, administrators, deans, and others–is being chaired by Karen Ford, the CAS senior divisional dean of the humanities. Task force members have met four times already and have more meetings scheduled through March. In the fall, the group will meet with faculty and the Senate to provide updates on the work.

On January 18, our College of Education held a memorial service for Tasia Smith, an assistant professor who died unexpectedly in December. Tasia was part of the UO’s Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative, and she was an Evergreen Assistant Professor.

It was a terrible tragedy to lose Tasia, who was starting a very prominent academic career here. Her death marked a big loss for our community. We did celebrate her life with a moving service.

I wanted you to know about our university’s inclusion, announced last month, in a National Science Foundation-funded project called the Aspire Alliance, which is part of the agency’s National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty.

The NSF selected 15 public research universities as part of a three-year institutional change effort aimed at increasing diversity in hiring, recruitment, and retention of both faculty and students in STEM disciplines.

Our efforts on campus will be led by Vickie DeRose, director of the Center on Diversity and Community in the Division of Equity and Inclusion. Vickie is an associate vice president and also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. She will team with administrative and STEM-related units here to conduct a self-assessment of current practices, and then she will help us develop and implement an action plan to move forward.

Recruiting and retaining diverse faculty is critical to our success as a major research university and it remains one of our most important priorities. Being chosen for this inaugural NSF project speaks to our commitment and how the UO is seen by peer universities as a leader in trying to effect change.

Finally, I want to tell you how excited I am about who you are about to hear from next. Last fall, I appointed biology professor Bill Cresko as the founding director of the UO’s data science program. Bill is at the helm of our Presidential Initiative in Data Science and he will update you on recent developments. Please welcome Bill Cresko.