OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

outreach and engagement

‘Dilbert of academia’ cartoonist Jorge Cham to speak at OSU on Feb. 8

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jorge Cham, creator of the “Piled Higher and Deeper” comic strip, will give a free presentation at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Austin Auditorium at the LaSells Stewart Center on Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus, 875 S.W. 26th St.

The title of his OSU presentation, sponsored by the College of Engineering, is “The Science Gap,” which refers to the disconnect between researchers and the public both in terms of perception and communication. In 2012, Cham gave a TEDx talk at UCLA on the same topic.

“Piled Higher Deeper” – PHD for short – is often described as the “Dilbert of academia” and has an online readership of more than 7 million. The strip has also appeared in university newspapers at Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon and other institutions.

Born and raised in Panama, Cham is a roboticist with a master’s and Ph.D. from Stanford who from 2003 to 2005 was a research associate at Caltech, focusing on smart neural implants.

Cham is also co-author of the book “We Have No Idea” and will do a book signing following his presentation. The book by Cham and Daniel Whiteson, a particle physicist, unfolds along the theme that humanity has yet to figure out what composes 95 percent of the universe.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Jorge Cham

OSU ember research: Smaller branches pack the fastest, biggest fire-spreading punch

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As the West tallies the damages from the 2017 wildfire season, researchers at Oregon State University are trying to learn more about how embers form and about the blaze-starting potential they carry.

Preliminary findings indicate the diameter of the branches that are burning is the biggest single factor behind which ones will form embers the most quickly and how much energy they’ll pack.

“Increased population in the wildland-urban interface means increased risk to life and property from wildland fires,” said Tyler Hudson, a graduate student in the College of Engineering. “Spot fires started by embers lofted ahead of the main fire front are difficult to predict and can jump defensible space around structures.”

Research shows smaller-diameter branches are better at producing embers, also known as firebrands.

“Embers are wildfires’ most challenging mode of causing spread,” said David Blunck, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “By understanding how embers form and travel through the air, scientists can more accurately predict how fire will spread. We have a multiscale approach that involves burning samples in a laboratory setting, larger burns – burning 10-foot-tall trees – and then working with the U.S. Forest Service to participate in prescribed burns.”

In his lab, Blunck’s research group controls multiple parameters which can influence generation rates: fire intensity, crosswind velocity, species of tree, diameter of the sample, fuel condition (natural vs. processed), and moisture content of the fuel.

“Fire intensity had little effect on the time needed for ember generation,” Hudson said. “And natural samples and dowels with similar diameters can have quite different ember generation times.”

Using samples of Douglas fir, western juniper, ponderosa pine and white oak with diameters of 2 and 6 millimeters, the researchers determined that 2-millimeter samples generated embers roughly five times as fast as 6-millimeter samples.

This trend can be explained by the observation that the bending stress is proportional to 1 divided by the cube of the diameter – thus, the larger the diameter, the smaller amount of bending stress and a lesser likelihood of breakage, and ember creation. Moreover, smaller diameters have less fuel that needs to be burned.

In the field, researchers can track embers’ energy “from the time they leave the tree until they get to their destination,” Hudson said, using techniques ranging from infrared videography to measuring scorch marks on squares of fire-resistant fabric placed on the ground at varying distances from the fire. 

Blunck, Hudson and fellow mechanical engineering graduate student Mick Carter presented their preliminary findings in April at the 10th edition of the biennial U.S. National Combustion Meeting in College Park, Maryland.

In August, Blunck was among a group of collaborators receiving a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology “for the development of a computer model that will define patterns for firebrand distribution during wildland-urban interface fires and their likelihood of igniting nearby structures.”

This past fire season in Oregon, roughly 2,000 fires combined to burn more than a half-million acres – that’s about 1,000 square miles, an area the size of Rhode Island.

One of the most devastating of those blazes was the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia River Gorge, which scorched nearly 50,000 acres and threatened the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge – and provided a terrifying illustration of what embers can do.

“The fire jumped the river and started burning in Washington because of embers,” Blunck said. “We estimate that the fire jumped 2 miles across the river.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Ember research

NASA looks for citizen scientists to collect snowpack depth measurements

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking for snowshoers, backcountry skiers and snow-machine users in the Pacific Northwest to gather data to use in computer modeling for snow-water equivalent, or SWE.

SWE refers to how much water a particular amount of snow contains, information that’s important to scientists, engineers, and land and watershed managers.

NASA is funding a four-year project that involves an Oregon State University civil engineering professor, David Hill, and Ph.D. student, Ryan Crumley, as well as researchers at the University of Washington and the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

The project is called Community Snow Observations and is part of NASA’s Citizen Science for Earth Systems program.

“Our initial model runs show that the citizen science measurements are doing an amazing job of improving our simulations,” said David Hill of the OSU College of Engineering. “NASA has an unbelievable number of satellite assets in the sky producing incredible information about what’s going on in the earth’s systems, and they’re leveraging information and expertise from the public to make their product even better.”

Getting involved in Community Snow Observations is easy. A smartphone, the free Mountain Hub application, and an avalanche probe with graduated markings in centimeters are the only tools a recreationist needs.

As citizen scientists make their way through the mountains, they use their avalanche probes to take snow depth readings that they then upload into Mountain Hub, a fully featured app for outdoor users.

That’s all there is to it.

“Traditionally, the types of models we run have relied on ‘point’ measurements, such as snow telemetry stations,” Hill said. “Citizen scientists who are traveling in backcountry snow environments can provide us with much more data than those stations provide.”

Community Snow Observations kicked off in February 2017. Led by Hill, Gabe Wolken of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anthony Arendt of the University of Washington, the project has so far focused primarily on Alaskan snowpacks. Researchers are now looking to recruit citizen scientists in the Pacific Northwest as well, and if possible in the Rocky Mountain region also.

Alaska Fairbanks has spearheaded the public involvement aspect of the project, while the UW’s chief role is managing the data. Hill and Crumley are responsible for the modeling.

Which particular geographic areas get modeled “is kind of up to the public,” Hill said, adding that the more the data are spread out over time and space, the better.

“The models take into account the temporal densification of the snowpack and the spatial variability in snow-water equivalent and how snow properties are always changing, even in a given location,” he said. “If we get a whole bunch of measurements on one day in one spot, that has value, but the more we can get things stretched out, the more coverage we get, the better modeling products we can produce.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Richard van Breemen named director of Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Richard van Breemen as the director of the university’s Linus Pauling Institute.

Van Breemen, professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will succeed Balz Frei as director and endowed chair of the institute, which studies the role of vitamins and other micronutrients in enhancing health and preventing disease.

Van Breemen characterized his new role as director of the Linus Pauling Institute as a “dream job.”

“Richard brings the prestige and accomplishments we were looking for in a new director,” said Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research at OSU. “He runs a National Institutes of Health-funded center for botanical dietary supplement research and is someone who makes things happen. He is very collaborative and people here already know his work. Richard feels a real passion for the work we do here at OSU and at the Linus Pauling Institute in particular.”

Van Breemen has a Ph.D. in pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University and was a post-doctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins in mass spectrometry. His undergraduate degree in chemistry is from Oberlin College.

His research includes clinical trials regarding prostate cancer prevention, and the safety and efficacy of botanical dietary supplements used by women.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he has worked since 1994, van Breemen is the founding academic director of the Mass Spectrometry, Metabolomics and Proteomics Facility for the university’s Research Resources Center. He is also the director of the Botanical Center for Dietary Supplements Research, which has NIH funding through 2020 and has been continually funded since 1999.

From 1986 to 1993, van Breemen was a faculty member at North Carolina State, where he founded and directed the Mass Spectrometry Laboratory for Biotechnology Research.

Linus Pauling, who died in 1994 at age 93, was an Oregon State alumnus and is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes – for chemistry in 1954 and for peace in 1962. A chemistry professor at California Institute of Technology, he founded what would become the Linus Pauling Institute in 1973.

Pauling bequeathed his vast scientific archives to OSU, and in 1996 the institute moved from Palo Alto, Calif., to Oregon State. The following year, Frei became director and endowed chair, a position he held until his retirement in June 2016.

Van Breemen met Pauling shortly before his death when the Nobel laureate spoke at a symposium at North Carolina State.

“Of course I had followed his work with dietary supplements for years, and I also got to know Balz upon visits to Oregon State,” van Breemen said. “I have visited several times and gotten to know the investigators and other faculty and have always known it to be a wonderful place to live and work. OSU and the Linus Pauling Institute offer a wealth of infrastructure and support that is unparalleled. The institute can help the work I have been doing be even more productive and make a bigger imprint and footprint on society.”

Van Breemen will start Jan. 1, 2018. Fred Stevens, professor of medicinal chemistry in the Oregon State College of Pharmacy, will continue as the interim director until then.

Van Breemen’s appointment at OSU will also be in the College of Pharmacy. 

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Richard van Breemen

OSU researcher studies cross-laminated timber as seismic retrofit tool

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Safer historic buildings and more jobs for the timber industry are the goals of a partnership between an Oregon State University structural engineering researcher and a newly formed nonprofit group in Corvallis, Oregon.

Andre Barbosa of the OSU College of Engineering is collaborating with Cascadia Seismic Strategies on a $150,000 project to study the use of cross-laminated timber panels for seismic retrofits on unreinforced masonry buildings. 

A grant coordinated through the Downtown Corvallis Association and Oregon Main Street is covering roughly two-thirds of the cost of the project, which will result in mockups of CLT retrofit systems at the 107-year-old Harding Building at Third Street and Madison Street in Corvallis.

“We’ll build prototypes that will provide details that will let engineers and construction folks see how things go together,” said Barbosa, a volunteer with Cascadia Seismic Strategies.

Barbosa is one of the original members of the group, named after the subduction zone that lies off the coast of Oregon. The major Cascadia earthquake that experts say is on the horizon would be particularly damaging to vintage masonry structures like the Harding Building, the cornerstone of the original Third Street business district.

“The DCA is concerned about the potential devastation that a Cascadia Subduction Zone mega-quake would wreak,” said Cascadia Seismic Strategies spokeswoman Roz Keeney. “Members of the DCA’s design committee recruited structural engineers, historic architects and other building professionals to join in a conversation about earthquake preparedness and historic building preservation. This group went on to form Cascadia Seismic Strategies, which is now focused on this cutting-edge project to develop a low-cost reinforcement method using local wood products and off-the-shelf steel connectors.”

Engineering work is scheduled to start in August. The grant for the 34-month project underwrites multiple design and construction strategies for dealing with weaknesses in unreinforced masonry buildings, as well as production of a video demonstrating how to implement upgrades that can serve as a guide for other communities wanting to use similar strategies in preservation and retrofitting efforts.

“This project identifies seismic retrofits for historic buildings that improve their safety performance without compromising their historic integrity,” said project manager and historic preservation architect Sue Licht. “It also demonstrates that historic rehabilitation can create local, site-specific jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Barbosa notes that OSU is a leader in developing new wood products such as cross-laminated timber and in growing forest-products jobs amid reduced harvest levels.

“It’s important to bring jobs back to the timber industry in Oregon and to find new applications for mass timber,” he said. “This could potentially be one of them, while improving the resiliency of downtowns and the older buildings that give us liveliness and history.”

Portland firm KPFF Consulting Engineers will handle most of the structural engineering, led by Reid Zimmerman, with Barbosa lending his expertise in cross-laminated timber and seismic retrofits.

“This comes from what we’ve been learning by visiting different earthquake sites, like Napa (California) and Nepal,” Barbosa said. “We keep learning and try to bring back that knowledge and share it with communities, including by creating a model for affordable seismic retrofits for historic buildings. This is a grass-roots, community-driven solution for a big problem, a huge Cascadia quake.” 

The primary funding organization, Oregon Main Street, is a Main Street America coordinating program administered by the State Historic Preservation Office. It works with Oregon communities to “develop comprehensive, incremental revitalization strategies based on a community’s unique assets, character and heritage.”

Its goal is to build “high-quality, livable and sustainable communities that will grow Oregon’s economy while maintaining a sense of place.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Special Olympians will help OSU researchers gain further health insights

CORVALLIS, Ore. – More than 2,000 athletes will descend on Corvallis on July 8 and 9, competing in the Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games while also helping to further research into the health of people with intellectual disabilities.

“There still is this misconception that if you have a disability, then you cannot be healthy,” said Gloria Krahn, the Barbara Emily Knudson Endowed Chair in Family Policy Studies at Oregon State University. “I would’ve thought that after 25 years, we would be past some of that. Special Olympics is helping bring about that change.”

Oregon State is hosting the Summer State Games, which feature track and field, bocce, golf and softball, with events split between Corvallis High School and the OSU campus.

Special Olympics Oregon’s Healthy Athletes program will also be part of the Summer State Games, providing free health screenings for the athletes. The screenings involve six areas called Fit Feet, FUNfitness, health promotion, Healthy Hearing, Opening Eyes and Special Smiles. Strength, flexibility, balance and endurance will be tested, and athletes will be given a take-home program based on their results that aims to improve and encourage their participation in sports and recreational activities.

Special Olympics Oregon regularly hosts Healthy Athletes programs around the state.

Special Olympics Oregon also provides a program called Oregon Team Wellness for those with intellectual disabilities. The program incorporates incentives and rewards to reach benchmarks, with the ultimate goal of lifelong healthy choices and habits.

The program, which started in Oregon, has spread to other states in the Northwest. Researchers at OSU, including Alicia Dixon-Ibarra, a post-doctoral scholar in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and Krahn, are working with Special Olympics to evaluate the program.

Dixon-Ibarra is working on the research and practical side of the games.

She will gather information used in research designed to further improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities. All the information from the weekend will go into one of the largest data sets for people with intellectual disabilities in the world, and can show discrepancies between different countries and their health issues. One area of the world could have issues relating to tooth decay, for example, while another may have higher rates of obesity.    

“I find this job really rewarding,” Dixon-Ibarra said. “I know there’s a huge need for health care and health promotion for this population based on my own research and the research of others in my area, and that this is a big need that we’re fulfilling with these programs.”

Dixon-Ibarra said a common misconception is that people with intellectual disabilities can’t be as healthy as those without. Also, Krahn notes that until relatively recently, trying to keep a person with a disability active and healthy fell solely on the family, without much help from school districts or other groups that organize sports and other recreational activities.

Helping to change attitudes, the researchers say, are programs like the Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968. From a small beginning – just 1,000 athletes competed in the first Special Olympics World Games – the Special Olympics are now in 169 nations and encourage more than 4 million people with developmental disabilities to be active and healthy. Shriver will be posthumously honored for her work on July 12 at the 25th annual ESPYS on ABC. 

Athletes and coaches will stay in OSU residence halls during the Summer State Games. Parking is free around Reser Stadium, and admission is free to all events. The public is invited to watch the athletes compete, and a complete schedule of the events can be found here.

People interested in volunteering with the Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games should contact LouAnne Tabada, senior director of volunteer services for Special Olympics Oregon, at Itabada@soor.org or volunteer@soor.org.    

Media Contact: 

Lanesha Reagan, 425-359-3054

Oregon State University announces plans for arts and education complex

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Building on a decade of investment in the arts, Oregon State University leaders announced plans today for a new arts and education complex on the Corvallis campus. The initiative will expand and enhance the existing LaSells Stewart Center, bringing together music, theater, digital communications programs and the visual arts to form a center of creativity infused with science and technology.

The lead gift of $25 million comes from an anonymous donor and launches an effort to raise an additional $5 million in gifts for the project. With $30 million in private support, the university will seek future approvals for $30 million in state bonds, providing a total of $60 million for the arts and education complex. 

“This is a watershed investment in our university,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “The arts drive the culture of creativity, innovation and diversity that is essential to a thriving research environment. I believe with all my heart that a relationship with the arts is integral to the human experience. In addition to enhancing our strengths in the sciences, this initiative will enrich the education and life preparation of all our students. We owe a boundless debt of gratitude to this generous donor.”

Expected to open in 2022, the OSU arts and education complex will feature performance spaces including a new concert hall and a revitalized auditorium as well as a smaller black box theater that can be configured in multiple ways for performing and teaching. The facility also will contain classrooms designed for a media-rich environment; practice rooms and spaces for choir, symphony and band rehearsal; shop space equipped for work with sound, lights, animation and video; faculty offices and seminar rooms. 

“The arts and education complex is the next major step for OSU’s development as one of America’s great land grant universities,” said Larry Rodgers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “At OSU we are especially interested in how art intersects with science, humanities and technology. This facility will build on these connections, transforming the way our students and our community learn, perform, innovate and communicate.”

“I am certain this new complex will join other iconic facilities that stand as testaments to the lasting impact of philanthropy on our campus – Valley Library, Austin Hall, Reser Stadium,” said Mike Goodwin, president and CEO of the OSU Foundation. 

Goodwin noted that a turning point took place in early 2013 when a donor made a $5 million challenge gift to advance OSU’s performing arts programs. By the end of the year, 26 individuals, families and organizations had made gifts of at least $25,000 each. These philanthropic commitments and others resulted in more than $8 million to support scholarships, faculty, facilities, equipment and other programs in OSU’s School of Arts & Communication. This momentum in support of OSU arts programs continues to grow. In fact, over the last two years, donors have nearly doubled the amount of scholarships available for vocal music students.

Opened in 1981, the current LaSells Stewart Center has over 1,660 event bookings annually, attracting more than 150,000 attendees for academic and research conferences and cultural offerings. The Stewart Center’s 1,200-seat Austin Auditorium is often sold out for campus and community musical performances and presentations.

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Larry Rodgers, 541-737-4581, Larry.Rodgers@oregonstate.edu; Molly Brown, 541-737-3602, molly.brown@osufoundation.org

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Student Maria Rivera

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Soloists Logan Stewart, Megan Sand, Nicholas Larson and Kevin Helppie

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Art Professor Yuji Hiratsuka and students

Art

OSU president calls on Oregon Legislature to prioritize state funding for higher education

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray today called on the Oregon Legislature to change course and make state funding for higher education a priority.

“We are at a crossroads, and the path we take will determine the state’s future and the future of all Oregonians,” Ray said during his annual State of the University Address that drew 750 people to the Oregon Convention Center today.

“Oregon’s disinvestment in higher education must not continue. After being adjusted for inflation, our state’s support for higher education has declined 21.7 percent since 2008 – 20 percent more than the national average rate of decline.”

Ray called on Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon legislators to “make college students and their future a priority for this state.”

In his speech, Ray also announced that the OSU Foundation had committed to raise $150 million to support Oregon State’s Student Success Initiative that aims to grow student access to Oregon State and increase substantially student retention and graduation rates by 2020.

Ray reported that the OSU Foundation has already raised more than one-third of its goal, money that will bolster the Student Success Initiative by supporting scholarships, student experiential learning “and other programs that will help all students reach their full potential.”

Without increased state funding, Ray said, student tuition may likely be increased by as much as 9 percent or more at some of Oregon’s universities; educational quality will suffer; and student programs will be cut.

“This impact is landing on the backs of students and their families as tuition now pays 66.9 percent of the cost of Oregon State’s Corvallis campus educational operations and the state only 21.4 percent. This represents more than a 50 percent decline in the state’s contribution from 15 years ago. And a 43 percent increase in the share that student tuition pays.”

Ray said Oregon’s seven public university presidents are seeking a $100 million increase in state operating funds for the 2017-19 biennium and that Oregon State is asking for $69.5 million in state bonding to continue expanding the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend – $49.5 million more than proposed by the governor.

Ray rolled out the Student Success Initiative one year ago, calling on the university within four years to make an OSU degree an affordable reality for every qualified Oregonian.

The initiative included by 2020 raising first-year retention rates for all undergraduate students to 90 percent; raising six-year graduation rates for all undergraduate students to 70 percent; achieving higher completion rates for all groups of graduate and doctoral students; and ensuring that every OSU student has at least one experiential learning opportunity such as an internship or study-abroad experience.

“I am all in for the Student Success Initiative,” Ray said. “As a first-generation college student myself, this is personal, and I am committed to double down and deliver. There is nothing worse for any student than to leave college without a degree – and for the only piece of paper they can show to be a bank statement from their student loan debt.

“While all of our graduates represent the future of Oregon, the nation and the world, it is simply not acceptable that some students have opportunities and others do not.”

Ray said that without requested state bonding, OSU-Cascades’ second classroom building will not open until 2023 at the earliest.

“That the Oregon Legislature would delay serving the demand for higher education in the fastest-growing region in the state is not credible,” he said.

“In 2025 OSU-Cascades will contribute $197.8 million in total annual economic output throughout Oregon,” Ray said. “Campus operations and construction activities will support $72.7 million in annual employee compensation and be responsible for 2,083 jobs across the state. This will result in an additional $3.43 million in annual state income taxes.”

Ray said in 2034, with 5,000 students, OSU-Cascades’ operations and construction activities will contribute $273.7 million in total annual economic output; $98.6 million in annual wages; 3,662 jobs across the state; and $4.83 million paid in annual state taxes.

“I know that Central Oregon residents would say they have waited long enough for a four-year university,” he said. “I hope that all Oregonians will agree that this university campus and its statewide benefits are long overdue.”

In his address, Ray said that 2016 had been another year of notable achievements for Oregon State. Among these:

  • The university in the fall opened the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend, Oregon’s first completely new college campus in a half-century, by dedicating Tykeson Hall;
  • Also in the fall, OSU opened Johnson Hall, the new, $40 million home of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, and broke ground on the $65 million Oregon Forest Science Complex;
  • Grant-funded research at Oregon State totaled a record $336 million, a 9 percent increase from 2015, which had also been a record year;
  • The U.S. Department of Energy awarded OSU up to $40 million to create the nation’s premier test facility for wave energy;
  • Enrollment exceeded 30,000 students for the third year in a row, and more than 6,700 degrees were awarded to OSU’s largest-ever graduating class;
  • For the third year in a row, U.S. News and World Report ranked OSU’s online Ecampus undergraduate programs among the nation’s best – this year with a No. 8 ranking.

Ray also noted that Oregon State’s robotics program, ranked best in the western U.S. and fourth in the nation, has 11 of the country’s top robotics faculty who work with 100 graduate and undergraduate students in “demonstrating how robots and artificial intelligence can operate in the real world.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Ed Ray

OSU President Edward J. Ray

OSU’s online bachelor’s, engineering programs top-ranked nationally by U.S. News

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University upheld its status as a leader in online education today when it was ranked in the top 10 nationally by U.S. News & World Report for the third consecutive year.

Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s online education division, is ranked eighth out of more than 300 higher education institutions in the category of Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. OSU is tied for first among land grant universities on the list.

The full rankings are available online at http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education

Oregon State scored 89 points out of 100 in the rankings. Schools were assessed based on student engagement; faculty credentials and training; student services and technology; and peer reputation.

“Our mission is to provide adult learners with access to engaging programs that help them finish their degrees online and advance their careers,” said Ecampus Executive Director Lisa L. Templeton. “We view this recognition as a sign that the collaboration between Ecampus and our 600 Oregon State faculty partners is providing students everywhere with high-quality learning experiences.”

U.S. News also recognized Oregon State’s online master of engineering in industrial engineering program as being among the best of its kind in the nation. The fully online program, which has a focus on engineering management, is ranked number 28 nationally.

OSU Ecampus delivers 21 bachelor’s degrees online including business administration and a post-baccalaureate program in computer science. An additional 28 OSU graduate degree and certificate programs are offered online and in a hybrid (online/face-to-face) format.

In the 2015-16 academic year, more than 19,000 Oregon State students – over 60 percent of the university’s student body – took at least one Ecampus class. OSU’s distance learners are located in all 50 states and more than 40 countries.

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Tyler Hansen, 520-312-1276

tyler.hansen@oregonstate.edu

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Lisa L. Templeton, 541-737-1279

lisa.l.templeton@oregonstate.edu

Parenting classes benefit all, especially lower-income families

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Parenting education can improve the skills of every mom and dad and the behavior of all children, and it particularly benefits families from low-income or otherwise underserved populations, a new study from Oregon State University suggests.

Researchers examined a sample of more than 2,300 mothers and fathers who participated in parenting education series in the Pacific Northwest between 2010 and 2012. The series, designed to support parents of children up to 6 years old, typically lasted nine to 12 weeks and consisted of one one-hour session per week led by a parent education facilitator. There was no fee for participants. 

The study, part of a growing partnership between the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative to increase access to parenting education for all families, may remove some of the stigma attached to parenting education, which has historically been associated with court orders for parents who’ve run afoul of child-protective laws.

“Parenting education works across the board,” said John Geldhof, an OSU assistant professor of behavioral and health sciences. “All parents can benefit. The way people typically learn parenting is from their parents and from books, and often times what they’ve learned is out of date and not the best practices for today. All parents – high income, low income, mandated, not mandated – can benefit from evidence-based parenting education.”

Neglectful or otherwise ineffective parenting strategies, which can be heightened by economic strain, can put children in jeopardy. While many parenting practices can lead to favorable outcomes in children, research indicates that the optimal combination usually features high levels of support and monitoring and the avoidance of harsh punishment. Those positive outcomes include higher grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health and greater social competence.

Findings of the OSU research, recently published in Children and Youth Services Review, indicate that parent education series serving predominantly lower-income parents resulted in greater improvements in their skills and their children’s behaviors compared to series serving higher-income parents.

“The results provide preliminary evidence that parenting education may be most effective when it targets underserved populations,” said lead author Jennifer Finders, a graduate student in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Another thing that’s exciting - the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative classes that are offered are general in content, and we’re seeing evidence that they’re being adapted for diverse families. This suggests that the local parenting educators are implementing the programs with fidelity and also with flexibility.”

Finders called the results “really great preliminary findings.”

“Now we need to better understand the mechanisms that underlie the findings so we can tailor programs to specific families in exciting ways for research and for practice,” she said. “This highlights the need for future research that continues to involve the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and other researchers at OSU and elsewhere. We think parents are gaining knowledge of child development, tools for dealing with the stresses of parenting, and social networks.”

The collaborative includes among its leadership Shauna Tominey, assistant professor of practice and parenting education specialist at OSU’s Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children & Families, part of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. The parenting education series the collaborative offers are delivered at no cost to the parents.

“Given that the gap is widening between the white, middle-class population of children and children belonging to the growing low-income and Latino populations, examining the relative impact of parenting education programs across these diverse populations is essential,” Finders said. “We think parenting education can have the greatest impact by adapting existing curricula to be culturally relevant and sensitive to diverse children and families’ needs.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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John Geldhof, Ph.D.

John Geldhof