honors college

New classroom building at Oregon State features cutting edge technology, design

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is celebrating the grand opening of a new state-of-the-art academic building that will showcase classrooms unlike any found elsewhere on university campuses.

A celebration of the new space will be held at the building on Tuesday, Sept. 22, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Arena Classroom (Room 100), 165 S.W. Sackett Place. Open house tours will follow the program.

Built to serve every department on campus, the new Learning Innovation Center (known as LInC) was designed by Portland-based Boora Architects and includes 2,300 seats of formal teaching space and 640 seats of student-directed informal learning space.

The 134,000-square-foot academic building will showcase large-scale, active learning classroom formats never seen before.

“Considerable thought and work went into designing the learning spaces in LinC to enhance student learning broadly, accommodate various learning styles, and promote collaborative learning," said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. "In addition to providing much needed classroom capacity for our expanding student body, LinC provides a technology-rich and supportive learning environment for faculty and students.”

Based upon principles of ideal physical proximity and visibility between student and instructor, the design includes two “in the round” arena style classrooms of 600 and 300 seats.  The larger classroom collapses the distances separating student and instructor to just eight rows or 30 feet. Four aisles extend from the center of the room, enabling faculty to come within 15 feet of every student in the space.

Lois Brooks, OSU vice provost for Information Services, participated in the design of the building. She said she’s excited to be a part of an endeavor that focuses on utilizing space to enhance classroom experiences. “It emphasizes collaboration, active learning and excellent teaching.”

The Parliament Room, inspired by the layout of the British House of Commons, is a curved, double-loaded classroom that accommodates 175 students and will encourage discourse and debate among students and faculty.  In this classroom, students are no further than five rows from their professor at any one time. 

Brooks said the designs, even for the larger classroom, create a more intimate space where the professor can roam rather than remaining static, and can engage students directly, even in large courses.

“These rooms put the instructor as close to the student as possible so students don’t drift away during lectures,” Brooks said. The classrooms are equipped with wireless technology so no one is tethered to one place, and each has at least two screens so faculty or students can project multiple images, ideas or presentations at once.

Classrooms are located in the center of the building with hallways on either side, allowing more flow between classes, crucial given the numbers of students expected to utilize the building each day. There are many informal learning spaces as well, providing opportunities for both students and faculty to collaborate, study and teach in a more relaxed setting, and green room areas for faculty to prepare before class, or spend time after class talking to students without interfering with the next class arriving.

The design of these spaces is so cutting-edge it's inspired a long-term partnership between Boora and Oregon State that involves a research project with the College of Education, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Technology Across the Curriculum, which will study the effects of alternative large-scale classroom configurations on student learning outcomes and engagement.  

"This is state of the art in every sense,” Brooks said. “While people are the centerpiece of the learning experience, the new spaces will allow faculty and students to use technology to further enhance their learning experience.”

Initial research will first create a baseline of student outcomes and engagements by studying large-scale classrooms in existing OSU facilities in which instructors are attempting to use active learning techniques.  Data will then be gathered on the same courses/instructors in the Learning Innovation Center’s new classrooms. Learning outcomes and behaviors studied will include test scores, attendance, participation, and engagement, and comparative analysis will continue after the building is opened between new and existing classrooms.

More than 2,500 students have signed up to participate in the study.  Clicker technology is used to track student attendance and seating location in the room. The data collected and analyzed will inform future classrooms and teaching methods both on the campus and for other higher education institutions.

The University Honors College has relocated to LInC and Dean Toni Doolen said she is thrilled to have four smaller classrooms dedicated to the college, which limits class sizes to 25 students or less for lower division undergraduates and 12-15 for upper division undergraduates. She said the new classrooms will be perfect for accommodating the unique teaching styles and learning approaches of Honors College courses.

“Our faculty members use many different strategies to create an interactive classroom,” Doolen said. “Our students are fully engaged in the learning and due to the high level of interaction between students and faculty, are also engaged in learning from each other.”

Doolen also hopes that having the University Honors College located in a heavily trafficked student building will raise the visibility of the college. This fall, nearly 1,200 OSU students will be enrolled in the rapidly growing college. Doolen pointed out that in total over the 20-year history of the college there are only 1,200 alumni total.

“Being in the new space really highlights the importance of the Honors College and its students to all of campus,” Doolen said. “And our faculty like to pioneer curriculum and learning technology in their honors courses, which makes this new space a perfect fit for us.”

LInC will be the new home for the Information Services division of Academic Technology comprised of Classroom Technology Services, Media Services and Technology Across the Curriculum; the Center for Teaching and Learning; and the University Honors College offices and conference rooms.

Media Contact: 

Lois Brooks, 541-737-8810; lois.brooks@oregonstate.edu

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LInC building

Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads.  During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

Media Contact: 

George Poinar, 541-752-0917

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Ancient flowers

Ancient flower

Pollen tubes

Pollen tubes

Oregon State Honors College Rated Among the Best

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Honors College was rated among the top 22 honors colleges in the nation in 2014 by Public University Press, a private organization.

The rating confirms the distinctive opportunities that Oregon State provides for high-achieving students, said Toni Doolen, dean of the OSU University Honors College. It complements Oregon State’s 2014 rating as a Best Buy School by the “Fiske Guide to Colleges.”

In recent years, Oregon State and the University Honors College have made it a priority to inform high-achieving students about the benefits of the honors experience at Oregon State. As a result, honors college applications, student enrollment and degrees awarded have increased significantly.

“These recent rankings indicate that Oregon State and the University Honors College are providing an affordable and valuable option for high-achieving students,” said Doolen.

Among 50 honors colleges rated by Public University Press, Oregon State received a 4.5 on a scale from 3 to 5, with 5 being the best. Also receiving 4.5 ratings were honors colleges at the University of Washington, Purdue, Clemson and the University of Oregon.

Among the criteria used to evaluate colleges were class size, course diversity, graduation requirements and actual graduation rate.

Rather than being taught by a select group of faculty, honors courses can be offered by any Oregon State professor. “That means we offer an immensely diverse range of courses and experiences in small classes,” said Doolen. “A lot of our courses are taught in a graduate format where there’s more discussion.”

All honors college graduates must complete honors course work and produce a thesis that they defend before a faculty committee, similar to the process for a graduate program. Access to all theses is provided by OSU’s Scholar’s Archive.

“We look for students who want to think deeply and engage in the scholarship of the university. In return we offer transformative academic and experiential opportunities,” Doolen added.

About 1,100 students are enrolled in Oregon State’s University Honors College, which was established in 1995.

Media Contact: 

Toni Doolen, 541-737-5974

Four Oregon State University students honored by Barry M. Goldwater Foundation

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Three Oregon State University students have been awarded the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, an annual award given to the nation’s top undergraduate student research scholars in science, math and engineering by the federally endowed Goldwater Foundation.

A fourth student has received an honorable mention, making this OSU’s most successful year ever in the annual competition.

“Each campus is allowed to nominate four students for the award and for the first time, all four students nominated by OSU were recognized by the national Goldwater selection committee,” said Kevin Ahern, director of undergraduate research at Oregon State.

The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to $7,500 per year.

The four awardees are all students in the University Honors College and the College of Science.

Helen Hobbs, a junior from Butte, Mont., is majoring in biochemistry/biophysics. She is a two-time participant in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute program and is researching the molecular basis of aging with professor Tory Hagen. She aspires to a research career.

Thomas Pitts, a junior from Ontario, Ore., is a math major conducting research in mathematics education and theoretical mathematics, with an emphasis on algebra and number theory. He has worked in OSU’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program and studies under professor Tevian Dray. His goal is research and teaching at the university level.

Justin Zhang, a junior from Beaverton, is majoring in biochemistry/biophysics. He has worked with associate professor Jeffrey Greenwood since his freshman year studying glioblastoma, a type of malignant brain cancer. Zhang has done internships at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Sloan-Kettering. He is looking forward to a research career in human health.

James Rekow, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry/biophysics from Portland, works with associate professor Andrew Buermeyer on mechanisms of DNA repair and mutation relating to colon cancer. He has been involved in undergraduate research since his freshman year, including an internship at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. After attaining his Ph.D. in Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Rekow plans to conduct research in genetic toxicology and teach at the university level.

The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering, according to Peggy Goldwater Clay, who chairs the foundation’s board of trustees.

Media Contact: 

Kevin Ahern, 541-737-2305

University Honors College

About the University Honors College: The University Honors College awards OSU's most prestigious undergraduate degree, the Honors Baccalaureate – one of only a dozen such degrees in the nation. Honors students are drawn from all majors across the campus, holding dual citizenship in their academic department and in Honors. Honors graduates complete a thesis and leave OSU leadership-ready.

OSU names Toni Doolen dean of the University Honors College

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Toni Doolen, an Oregon State University engineering professor who has been associate dean of the University Honors College since September 2010, was named by OSU to head the nationally recognized honors program.

Doolen succeeds Dan Arp, who recently was named dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The University Honors College has become a national model for honors programs. It has been a magnet for high-achieving students, particularly from Oregon high schools. The OSU program also draws some of the university’s top faculty to teach the small, interactive classes, and to mentor students one-on-one during their thesis experience.

“The University Honors College has enjoyed great success and applications are at an all-time high,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “Toni Doolen has played a role in that recent success and she will help us continue the momentum as we seek to increase our enrollment of high-achieving students in the college and at OSU, and continue to improve the impact of the program on our teaching and learning environment.”

Doolen has been on the faculty at Oregon State since 2001, and is a professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering, where she also has been associate head for undergraduate programs.

Prior to joining the OSU faculty, she had a successful career in private industry, working as a process engineer, a manufacturing systems engineer, and a manager with Hewlett-Packard – with the Optical Communications Division in San Jose, Calif.,  and the Inkjet Supplies Business Unit in Corvallis.

She earned her Ph.D. in industrial and manufacturing engineering at OSU in 2001, just before joining the faculty. Doolen has two bachelor’s degrees from Cornell University, and a master’s degree from Stanford.

The University Honors College was established at Oregon State in 1995 by the Oregon State Board of Education. It enrolls about 800 students, many of whom were valedictorians or salutatorians at their high schools.

Media Contact: 

Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111

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Toni Doolen

Ferngren, Moore honored by OSU’s University Honors College

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University professors Kathleen Dean Moore and Gary Ferngren have been selected by OSU’s University Honors College for its Eminent Professor Awards for 2011. These awards recognize outstanding OSU faculty for their academic achievements and service to the honors college and its students.

Moore, who holds the university’s “Distinguished Professor” title, is a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and the founding director of the Spring Creek Project. She is a leading writer and scholar on environmental ethics and the author of several books and essay collections on the natural world. Moore has brought environmental philosophy to popular audiences and professionals, and engaged students on the topic.

During this past winter term, she taught a University Honors College course in “Practical Reasoning for the Environmental Professional,” that culminated in a March weekend spent in the snowy forests of the McKenzie River headwaters, where students discussed the moral issues ingrained in the daily work of natural resource professionals.

Ferngren was recognized as a 2011 Sandy and Elva Sanders Eminent Professor for his years of service to the University Honors College. He is a professor in the Department of History with research interests in the histories of religion, ancient medicine, and the relationship between science and religion. Like Moore, he is recognized as one of OSU’s top teachers, and has shown special commitment to the University Honors College.

For more than 30 years, Ferngren has offered a colloquium in the works of C.S. Lewis, first for the OSU Honors Program and, since its founding in 1995, for the University Honors College. The course has become a favorite institution in the UHC curriculum, and it has consistently received superlative reviews from students.

The Eminent Professor awards are made possible through the support of donors, particularly Ruth Beyer and Joseph (Sandy) and Cheryl Sanders.


Kathleen Dean Moore, 541-737-5652; Gary Ferngren, 541-737-1262

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Gary Ferngren

Gary Ferngren

Kathleen Dean Moore

Kathleen Dean Moore