First academic quarter extremely rewarding

November 24th, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

I write as the fall term comes to a close to express my sincere appreciation for making my first full academic quarter as president a thrilling and extremely rewarding experience. Jan and I have spent these first four months meeting many of you and traveling throughout the state. We've had a grand tour that has taken us from Ashland to Ontario. After traveling some 9,000 miles, I am amazed at Oregon's diverse geography, culture, and beauty. This is truly a remarkable state and I am honored to lead its flagship institution.

Here at home, we've enjoyed the communities of Eugene and Springfield-places with qualities that match the unique character of our university. As I said in my Oct. 25 letter to the Register-Guard, anywhere that can claim Wayne Morse and Bill Bowerman among its heroes, that has a statue of Ken Kesey in its civic square, and crowns a Slug Queen each year, is a place that exudes innovation, originality, and extraordinary qualities for the future of all its citizens.

Reflecting on the last 21 weeks, I find this campus and the students, faculty, and staff that work here deeply committed to making this one of the best institutions in the world. I draw continual encouragement from the members of this community who make the University of Oregon what it is. The passion, excellence, and commitment to our core mission of education and research make up the very lifeblood of this campus. Here are some recent examples of excellence at the UO -- a list we all should be proud of:

Enrollment: This fall we have a record enrollment of 22,386, with an average incoming GPA of 3.55. We continue to serve an increasing number of students who demand the high quality education we offer. While this undoubtedly puts pressure on all of us, we continue to meet the challenges brought by educating an increasing and energetic student body. After all, that is our fundamental mission.

Fundraising Success: We continue to build on the momentum from Campaign Oregon. We raised $129 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, and in the first quarter of this fiscal year we raised $26.2 million. Recently, we received a new $5 million anonymous gift to the School of Journalism and Communication, which will allow us to remain at the forefront of training journalism and communications professionals for this dynamic changing industry.

Research: We continue to be among the most productive universities on a per capita basis in research expenditures. We received more than $100 million in grants and contracts last year. Through the first quarter of this year we have secured $69 million in competitively awarded grants-that's more than we will receive from the state for the entire year.

Big Ideas: I'm excited about how the Big Ideas are taking shape. This is another example of how the UO culture of interdisciplinary collaboration keeps us on the cutting edge of academic innovation.

Faculty Excellence: This year we have an excellent cohort of new faculty. I must also mention psychology professor emeritus Mike Posner who received the prestigious National Medal of Science this year -- the first UO recipient of this distinguished honor.

There are many noteworthy endeavors occurring on this campus every day. Programs such as PathwayOregon and our scholarship initiatives continue to provide greater access to higher education for many of our students. This year eight UO students earned Fulbrights, and we learned this week that one of our seniors received the prestigious Marshall Award, just the third UO student to earn this honor. We are deeply engaged in developing our Climate Action Plan. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art continues its tradition of enhancing our cultural mission with the latest and wonderful Superheroes exhibit. We opened a new wing and collections vault at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. We are moving ahead with implementation of the strategic housing plan and a new Alumni Center. And of course we are enjoying a football season that's showing signs of a thrilling finish. Together we form an engaged, growing, nimble, fun and leading public university that continues to draw the best students, faculty, and staff from around the world.

Despite our recent successes, we must look to the future to ensure continued achievement. In light of the fiscal challenges facing our state, we must address how we fund and govern public higher education in Oregon and rethink how we can continue to fulfill our critical public mission.

Recently, President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer issued a report outlining one way of approaching these issues. Dave offers a compelling case for change and a starting point for addressing these critical issues. This is a conversation in which we will actively engage, over the next few months, with the entire campus community, our peer public four-year institutions, the state board and Chancellor, and our elected leaders. The University of Oregon and the six other institutions in the Oregon University System have been wrestling directly with these problems for years. This is an important campus conversation that we must continue if we want to effect change that will enhance our capacity to serve our students and the state. We look forward to working closely with all of you in the coming months to craft a solution that best meets the needs of our students and allows public higher education to fulfill its critical economic, societal, and community mission. Under any model, the University of Oregon remains focused on meeting the needs of Oregonians and delivering high quality education and conducting cutting edge research.

We will enter new territory on this front, as we have in so many areas in the past. Once again, it is time for us to lead -- not to follow -- the nation and world. With the excellence, dedication, and passion we have at this university, I am thrilled to join you in looking to the future.

My sincerest regards,

Richard W. Lariviere


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