Spirit of collaboration an inspiration

August 3rd, 2009

Just the other night, Jan and I were walking to the ice cream shop when we ran into a group of network engineers from at least seven countries and three continents. They were on campus to work with the Network Startup Resource Center, which collaborates with engineers all over the world as part of a grass-roots skill-building program. The brief but invigorating conversation we shared was a great example of how a community dedicated to multicultural and global perspectives provides fascinating opportunities even in the most unexpected places.

The heart of every public university’s mission is the pursuit of knowledge and the investigation of ideas. An environment of such intellectual rigor demands consideration of the broadest array of perspectives possible, from as many places and cultures as possible. That’s precisely why the University of Oregon continues to make considerable efforts to ensure that the institution embraces all students, families, and communities.

Succeeding at such an undertaking – especially one so critical to our mission – demands dedication from all corners of campus. I am inspired by efforts I have seen and heard about this summer alone. They include the twelfth-annual Northwest Indian Language Institute, a two-week affair that drew teachers, speakers, elders and learners from the Yakama Nation, the Colville Tribe, the Chinook Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Suquamish Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, the Sauk Suiattle, and the Cherokee Nation.

This week, the Oregon Young Scholars Program is in high gear, with our residence halls hosting young students from under-represented communities in a rich and challenging scholarly program that is part of a sustained effort to increase interest in and awareness of higher education.

I’ve learned more this summer about PathwayOregon, a program to help out with the financial demands of higher education. Its success is a source of pride as we strive to engage as many students as possible in the quest for a college degree. Reaching out to parents and families of all students is key to creating and maintaining a campus community, particularly one that is continually enriched by multicultural perspectives. A highlight of my time on campus thus far has been visiting some of the many sessions of IntroDUCKtion, a program designed to orient incoming students and their families to the University of Oregon.

In early July I visited a session for parents and families whose first language is Spanish. Families who speak Spanish as a primary language represent a quickly growing demographic both in the U.S. and particularly in Oregon. Receiving information in your primary language about your student’s university experience is key to supporting your child’s success.

On a related note, I have added a Spanish-language welcome letter to the president’s website mainly for parents and families of prospective students. These steps mark the start of a focused effort to provide additional Spanish-language resources on the University of Oregon’s website. I am proud to be a part of a campus so committed to continually building on its wealth of perspectives. It’s an effort we all must sustain.

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