CORVALLIS, Ore. --- Oregon State University has taken a major step toward creating one of the top 25 colleges of engineering in the nation with the announcement Thursday of a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor - the largest gift to engineering in OSU history.
Combined with a series of other donations, the university has in the last 20 months raised nearly $45 million in gifts from individuals and technology companies toward the OSU College of Engineering Technology Campaign, which has a goal of $120 million.
"There has been a groundswell of support for creating a nationally ranked College of Engineering that will address Oregon's critical needs in technology education and research," said OSU President Paul Risser. "These donors share a vision about Oregon's economic and technological future and the leadership role that Oregon State University will play in that future."
The anonymous $20 million gift, from an OSU alumnus, is the lead gift toward the planned construction of a $45 million research and education building on the Oregon State main campus. The building will be a focal point for interdisciplinary research initiatives, student research and instruction, and an "incubation center" for new technologies.
OSU's goal of creating a Top 25 College of Engineering is in response to state political, industry and education leaders, who say a top college would help attract and retain technology-based companies, keep Oregon's top students in-state, and provide the research and training expertise that Oregon's high tech industry needs to remain competitive.
"Oregon has made great strides in developing its technology sector, but to maintain what we have and to progress to the next level, the state needs more high-tech graduates, better university-industry research ties, and ongoing continuing education for all levels of workers in the technology industry," said Ron Adams, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU.
Adams, a former vice-president for Tektronix, Inc., said Oregon State, as part of its top 25 initiative, will create the "OSU Technology Center" to facilitate relations between the OSU College of Engineering and technology companies. Headquartered in the Capital Center in Beaverton, the OSU Technology Center will augment what the college already is doing in the Portland metropolitan area, where faculty work with a variety of companies.
OSU also is a leader in several technology-related collaborations within the Oregon University System, including the Oregon Center for the Advancement of Technology Education (OCATE), and the Oregon Master of Software Engineering Program.
The OSU Technology Center, which will be funded by a combination of public and private gifts, will encourage start-up companies, facilitate research and development partnerships between the university and industry, and provide certificate and degree training.
"Oregon State University has a presence in Portland, in Washington County, and around the state with some of the world's most prestigious technology companies, as well as with companies that literally were started within the last year," Adams said. "The OSU Technology Center will significantly expand those efforts and pave the way for a variety of research, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities."
OSU leaders are convinced that Oregon State will achieve top tier status among the nation's engineering programs through a combination of state funding, private giving, and industry investment. By far the state's largest and most comprehensive engineering program, the university's College of Engineering already ranks among the top 75 programs in the country and has the infrastructure, academic programs, and alumni support to reach the next level, Risser said.
Reaching that next level is critical, they say.
"If you look at the high tech economic success of other states, they have been triggered by the growth and development of a top-notch college of engineering," Risser said. "There is a synergy created that leverages additional resources and breathes life into the states' economies. A consortium of programs does not create that same synergy.
"Some would argue that such an enterprise in Oregon must be located in Portland," Risser added. "To that, I would respond that Oregon State is, to a growing degree, well-represented in Portland and with our new technology center, we will be more active in the metropolitan area than ever. Top tier engineering schools including the University of Illinois, Penn State and even Stanford and the University of California are located further from their respective 'industry technology centers' than is OSU.
"Technology is not, however, an issue confined by geographic boundaries," he said. "Much of what we are seeking to do - and, in fact, have already begun - will be in the research laboratories and training centers of the companies themselves. And increasingly those companies are springing up around the state, not just in Portland. Because of our mission, our Extension Service and our statewide ties, that makes Oregon State University uniquely suited to meet the state's technology needs."
OSU hopes to increase the number of faculty, endowed chairs, and student scholarships through its $120 million fund-raising goal. Among its goals in seeking top 25 status:
- Increase the number of engineering students from 3,100 to 4,000, and double the number of freshmen students on scholarship from 300 to 600.
- Increase the number of endowed faculty chairs from 6.5 to 20.
- Increase the formal partnerships with industry from 20 to 50, and raise the amount of industry investment from $1.5 million annually to $10 million to $15 million.
- Increase funded research from $12.9 million annually to $50 million to $70 million annually.
- Improve the college's infrastructure through the construction of a $45 million building, $11 million in renovations, and $10 million in new equipment.
Note to Reporters: A sidebar on the $45 million in donations received by the OSU Foundation for engineering accompanies this release.