Oregon State University President's Report 2000
  Excellence  |  Partnerships  | Creativity  |  Frontiers  | Communities  |  Momentum 

Creative Fires
I remember a Kalapuya legend of a time before people had fire. Some animals traveled all the way to the sun, stole a burning brand, and ran away, closely pursued. When one animal tired of carrying the brand, he passed the fire to another, who passed the fire to yet another -- deer, bobcat, cougar -- until they came to the edge of a river. There a frog put the fire in his mouth, swam across the river, and spat the fire into the forest. The pursuers searched but never found the fire, not understanding that the fire had gone into the sticks, where it remains to this day. Now, when you rub sticks together, fire comes out, and warmth.

Creative ideas don't come out of thin air, like lightning. The fires of creativity burn inside each one of us, fueled by ideas that are passed from mind to mind -- between professors and students, east and west, south and north, past and present, poetry and science. It takes the friction of debate, the warmth of informed conversation, the bright oxygen of different point of view, to create the spark. I believe that this is what makes a university a creative place, and our students so ready to catch fire.
Photo of Moore
Kathleen Dean Moore
OSU professor of philosophy and author of "Riverwalking" and "Holdfast"  


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OSU faculty conjure up innovative ways to teach and communicate

back to top Mixing Politics with Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is one of the largest and most prestigious organizations of scientists in the world. When the group met for its annual conference early in 1999, it was an Oregon State University professor who delivered a key invited lecture, and an OSU history professor at that.

Mary Jo Nye's lecture explored how scientists increasingly are under pressure to use their research data and status to influence public policy. The decision to mix politics with science is, however, "fraught with peril," she said.

The AAAS conference was a major forum, and Nye's talk was another indication of OSU's growing prominence. She and her husband, Robert Nye, hold endowed chairs in the history department at Oregon State.

back to top Bridging the Gap
Natalie Dollar is a different sort of scholar. An assistant professor of speech communication, she specializes in studying the marginalized segments of society, focusing most recently on homeless children.

Dollar has discovered that homeless children and mainstream society are miles apart philosophically. Most studies of the homeless are rooted in psychology, sociology and other fields relating to social services. So Dollar is using her skill in speech communication as a creative new approach to bridging the gap between disenfranchised youths and society.

"It's a cross-cultural communication problem," she said. "We've been trying to approach the problem as one big American culture and getting these youths to live 'our way,' and they've been trying to convince us to live in their world. Neither is going to work. What we need to do is develop a model somewhere between Beaver Cleaver idealism and rebel radicalism," she added. "Homelessness is a problem that took years to create, and it will take years to correct it. But it can be done."
Photo of boy painting

back to top Summer Art for Gifted Teens
For more than a decade, public school districts throughout the Pacific Northwest have been paring their budgets, while at the same time trying to accommodate a growing enrollment. One of the first casualties of the budget axe is usually instruction and resources for the arts.

Five years ago, Oregon State University recognized the growing void for the arts in K-12 and created a program called Jumpstart to motivate students who had a real interest in art.

Jumpstart director John Maul wanted a program that went beyond an art camp concept. He brought in professional artists as instructors, and created an exciting collection of classes, from digital photography and Web design to the more traditional art forms of painting and sculpture. He also based acceptance into the program on interest and creativity -- not just grade point averages. Talented art students from all over the western U.S. have flocked to the program.

Now the Coca-Cola Foundation has signed on to help provide scholarships to the summer program for talented teens, and the program annually offers two full scholarships to OSU for Jumpstart participants. "It's been gratifying to watch the growth of the program, " Maul said, "but even more rewarding to watch students get exposure to arts on an entirely different level. All that we really did was to identify a need and create a solution."

back to top Personalizing Web-Based Instruction for K12 Teachers
Identifying needs and creating solutions. Oregon State University faculty and staff are involved in those scenarios every day.

Take Mark Merickel, for instance. An assistant professor in OSU's School of Education, Merickel specializes in Web-based education. He also has worked with K-12 teachers who agonize over how they will continue their professional development while working as a classroom teacher.

Merickel developed a Web-based software program for continuing education that teachers can personalize -- and still meet the standards set by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

The system learns from each of the students what they like best and how they learn more effectively, then tailors the interaction to suit their preferences.

"We're using this system to provide Oregon's K-12 teachers some of the highest quality, most personalized educational offerings anywhere in the world," Merickel said. What excites Merickel, however, is the potential of his system. He says it can be adapted for professional development in almost any field.

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John Gardner, professor of physics with "Dots Plus," a new Braille system he designed to help blind science scholars.

back to top Graphics for Blind Scholars
The creativity of John Gardner also is helping people learn and improve their career opportunities.

An internationally recognized professor of physics at OSU, Gardner lost his eyesight in mid-career as a complication of glaucoma. He soon found that his familiar world of advanced math and science -- with its array of symbols, diagrams and equations -- was off-limits to people who were blind.

At the same time, he discovered that a number of students, disabled or otherwise, simply didn't learn at the same speed or in the same manner as others.

So Gardner went to work. He created "Dots Plus," a new type of Braille to convey math symbols and equations. He developed new systems to display graphic images via the Web. He designed new and improved programs to synthesize computerized speech. And, this past year, he invented a new graphics embosser computer printer called "Tiger Advantage" that can produce a combination of Braille and tactile graphics.

"Graphs, charts and diagrams are a critical part of understanding math and science," Gardner said, "and before this, they were rarely available to blind scholars in any useful form. The Tiger Advantage should change that forever."

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Marcus Borg, OSU Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture

back to top God at 2000
In February of 2000, Oregon State University will host a major conference about God that will be televised nationally. Onr of the featured speakers at the "God at 2000" conference will be Nobel Prize winner, Bishop Desmond Tutu. During the summer of 1999, an OSU faculty member was invited to meet with the Dalai Lama. A few months earlier, a book about the images of God was featured prominently in several national publications.

The common denominator in these events is Marcus Borg.

The Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture at OSU, Borg is one of the nation's most visible and recognized scholars in the historical study of Jesus. He has written several books that were on best-selling lists for books about religion. He also was a spokesperson the The Jesus Seminar, an international group of scholars trying to determine the authenticity of sayings attributed to Jesus.
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