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Twenty years of progress: nutrition emerging as a “hard science” in human health

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A much better understanding of the role of diet and supplements in maintaining optimum health well into old age has emerged over the past 20 years, according to one expert, and today is helping to address chronic diseases that kill most people in the developed world - heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

As he retires this month after leading the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University since 1997, Balz Frei, director and distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the College of Science, has outlined some of the key advances of that period, and the steps still needed for nutrition researchers to work more closely and successfully with the medical community.

In the recent past, Frei said, nutritional research was rife with inconclusive studies that showed  associations but no firm cause-effect relationships of disease prevention. Long-term trials with humans to study disease prevention are difficult and often cost prohibitive, and laboratory animal tests that showed effects – such as the effect of a certain food on cancer incidence - often lacked an explanation of “why.”

In the past two decades, a period of extraordinary growth for the Linus Pauling Institute, researchers have worked to answer that question of “why” with considerable success.

“What I wanted to achieve with the institute was to put science behind nutrition,” Frei said. “We’re helping to lead the field of nutrition into more science and mechanism-based research that can have a real impact on promoting human health and preventing disease.”

In this research, an underlying cause of aging and chronic disease has now emerged – chronic inflammation. Inflammation and its accompanying surge of “free radicals” are tied to several major killers, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.  Scientists are honing in on the mechanisms of inflammation and the antioxidants that can prevent free radical damage.

Important discoveries have been made with vitamin E, in particular, in understanding why this nutrient is required by the body and the role it plays in protecting critical fats, especially during brain development and in the aging brain. Research on vitamin C showed that it helps arteries relax and lowers high blood pressure, a chief cause of stroke.

The institute has also helped change the world view of vitamins and other nutrients. Instead of seeing them simply as a way to correct or prevent a deficiency condition like scurvy, they are increasingly recognized as a way to help prevent chronic disease, counter toxins and contribute to healthier aging.

One molecule in particular, lipoic acid, has shown promise in its ability to “bring cells back to a youthful state,” Frei said. This compound triggers a reaction in cells that makes them more capable of fending off free radicals and other toxic insults that cause inflammation and disease.

Other findings of importance during Frei’s tenure at the institute include:

  • The discovery and mechanisms of action of several phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Compounds of particular interest range from catechins in tea to quercetin in onions, sulforaphane in broccoli and xanthohumol in hops.
  • Chlorophyll, a phytochemical that gives plants their green color, can bind to a toxic mold compound called aflatoxin that causes liver cancer, and render it inactive.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or fish oil have been shown to have important health effects, including their role in halting progression of fatty liver disease.
  • The role of vitamin D in boosting the body’s immune system is being viewed with significant future importance, with the advent of multi-drug resistant bacteria, including one recently confirmed strain that resists medicine’s last-ditch antibiotic.

“Vitamin D plays a crucial role in many functions of the body, not just bone health, and it’s now a public health challenge to raise the levels of it in the population worldwide, so that everyone has the best shot at fighting infections,” Frei said. “LPI works beyond the ivory tower to help people make the right decisions regarding the use of diet and dietary supplements.”

An important future goal, Frei said, would be a full outreach to the medical community.

“Communication between the nutrition science and medical communities is not happening at the scale it needs to right now,” he said. “We need a bridge, and LPI, its Micronutrient Information Center and other public outreach services are well-suited to be that bridge. If we could bring about a change in how medical doctors are educated, I think that would be a major contribution to public health.”

There’s an urgency to change perceptions on diet and supplements among the medical community as well as the general public, Frei said, as rates of chronic, preventable diseases continue to increase.

“There’s so much misleading information out there, so many false promises when it comes to dietary supplements,” Frei said. “We’re trying to counter these claims with evidence-based health information about vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. It has been, and to some extent continues to be an uphill battle for nutrition science to establish itself as a ‘hard’ science. But there’s also a realization now of how critical the field is to human health.”

During Frei’s tenure as director, LPI has grown from one principal investigator to 12, focused on the study of healthy aging, cardiometabolic disease prevention, and cancer prevention and intervention.

More than 650 published research papers and review articles have been cited by peers over 26,000 times, and more than $55 million in funding came from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.

The institute’s endowment has quadrupled since its inception at OSU, and during the university’s recent capital campaign LPI raised $48 million, $15 million of which went toward the construction of the Linus Pauling Science Center, a state-of-the-art research and education facility.

Media Contact: 

Anne Glausser, 541-737-5881

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Balz Frei, 541-737-5078

balz.frei@oregonstate.edu

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Balz Frei

Student Health Services, Intercollegiate Athletics partner to reduce high-risk drinking

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Student Health Services is launching a new program called “OSU Choices” to reduce high-risk drinking among students, using student athletes as peer educators and communicators.

The project, which will span three years, is funded by a $30,000 NCAA Choices grant. It aims to reduce the number of students who engage in high-risk drinking (five or more alcoholic drinks at one sitting) via peer-led education.

Rather than being an abstinence-based program, OSU Choices will focus on harm reduction – teaching students how to reduce their risks if they choose to drink – by providing strategies to encourage safe choices, and highlighting social norms around drinking. The program will also focus on providing socially-engaging educational events.

“Student athletes are well positioned to be leaders on OSU’s campus,” said Sara Caldwell-Kan with Student Health Services, who helped write the grant proposal. “Being well-known and credible members of the OSU community, they have the ability to spread positive messages regarding student behavior and health.”

Rob Reff, director of the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center at SHS, said studies show that when educational messages come from someone students identify as being in their group, the message resonates more strongly. Choosing student athletes as peer educators makes it easier to spread those messages to other athletes, Reff said.

Additionally, student athletes are also team-oriented and leadership-driven and typically have a shared set of values that make them good choices to speak to the broader student community. Because much of the messaging will take place in student recreation buildings, having student athletes represented also makes sense.

The staff at SHS is excited to partner with OSU’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics for the project, which is the first time the two groups have worked together on an alcohol education campaign.

“Student athletes and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics play a critical role in creating the environment at OSU,” said John Ruyak, another faculty member at Student Health Services and a contributor to the grant proposal. “This partnership signifies their commitment to ensuring that our community has the tools it needs to remain safe and healthy.”

Kimya Massey is senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development at Oregon State. He said athletics is excited to work with Student Health Services on the project.

“It gives student athletes the opportunity to demonstrate leadership both within athletics, but also on a wider scale on campus,” Massey said. “Because student athletes often have a very respected voice, this is a win-win situation for all parties involved.”

Massey said athletes are a good choice for the project.

“They're a great fit because of their ability to understand the impact of making healthy choices and decisions and being able to think within a team mindset and holistically,” he said. “I think it's very positive to combine those attributes with our campus partners to create a strong partnership that will strengthen the education and awareness campus-wide.”

The goals of the Choices program are to increase the number of OSU students who have the knowledge and resources to make positive and safe decisions around alcohol, to decrease the prevalence of negative behaviors including high-risk and underage drinking, and to provide students with better information about alcohol use on campus.

That last piece, providing accurate social norms, is a key part of the project, and is the focus of marketing and messaging by student athletes. Social norming is the practice of clarifying the beliefs among a population regarding the behavior of their peers. In the case of the OSU campaign, students will be made aware that a majority of students do not engage in high-risk drinking.

Athletes will have multiple roles in the program, first by participating in an “up2u” alcohol harm-reduction workshop. By 2019, 90 percent of new student athletes will have participated in the workshop.

Selected athletes will be trained to lead “up2u” workshops for non-athlete populations. Finally, selected athletes will help review and improve the campaign for the OSU Choices program, and athletes also will be chosen to serve as the face for the social norming campaign aimed at those who utilize recreation sports facilities on campus.

In the past, staff members from the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center have been primarily responsible for delivering alcohol harm-reduction programs on campus. The OSU Choices approach shifts some of that work to peers.

“Partnering with student athletes in this work is new and will bring new energy to creating a community defined by positive health behaviors related to alcohol consumption,” Ruyak said.

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Rob Reff, 541-737-7564; robert.reff@oregonstate.edu

Kimya Massey, 541-737-2501; kimya.massey@oregonstate.edu

U.S. Attorney General honors Oregon advocate for victims of sexual assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today honored Oregonian Brenda Tracy, a survivor of a sexual assault and one of 10 individuals or groups to receive a National Crime Victims’ Service Award.

The ceremony was hosted at the National Archives by the Office for Victims of Crime, to recognize individuals and organizations who are leading efforts to advance victim services and rights.

This national honor is a culmination of a trauma for Tracy that began almost 18 years ago in Corvallis, Oregon.

In June, 1998, Tracy reported to police that she was gang raped by two players on the Oregon State University football team, and two other men not enrolled at the university. However, the district attorney never prosecuted the case, advised Tracy of her victim’s rights, or informed her when officials destroyed evidence of the case prior to the statute of limitations, federal officials said in a statement Tuesday.

After news media reports in 2014 of the incident, OSU officials re-investigated the case, publicly apologized to Tracy, and began an extensive effort to expand and improve the university’s programs to prevent sexual violence and serve survivors of sexual assault. OSU’s ambitious initiative was recently recognized by national media as one of the most progressive in the nation.

In the past two years, Tracy has also become a public advocate who worked for legislative changes to expand victims’ rights, extend the Oregon statute of limitations to prosecute rapists, and create other laws that provide protection and resources for campus sexual assault victims, federal officials said. During that time, OSU has hired her as a part-time consultant for numerous outreach efforts.

“Her story and her work are changing the landscape of sexual assault prevention and response in Oregon and nationally,” federal officials wrote in a citation. “Despite the tragedy and injustice of her experience, she dedicates her life to advocating for victims and survivors.”

Tracy said she was grateful for the recognition and that she will “continue for the rest of my life” her efforts to prevent sexual violence.

“This award feels amazing,” Tracy said. “I have worked very hard over the past year and a half, and this award means that people are listening.

“I am so proud of Oregon and the steps we have taken. I cannot do this alone and I needed everyone around me to help. We are a good example for the rest of the nation to take a lead from and follow.”

OSU President Edward J. Ray said that “this is a very well deserved recognition.”

“Brenda has turned her personal tragedy into leadership and a call for action,” Ray said.

“I have been personally honored to come to know Brenda over the past few years. She is a woman of courage, honor and truly extraordinary resilience. She is a tireless state and national leader of resolve and action who champions an end to sexual violence in our society, and support for the survivors  of assault.

In the past two years, OSU has become a national leader working to address this issue.

The university extended the OSU Student Conduct Code to behavior that occurs off-campus. It joined the national “It’s On US” campaign, and launched the Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Center. OSU now requires online courses to combat alcohol abuse and sexual assault, requires all incoming students to take a sexual violence prevention course, and has opened the OSU Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center.

Tracy spoke at the opening of that center, which will provide confidential services for sexual assault survivors, help them navigate campus and community programs, and provide access as needed to sexual assault nurses.

Last year, the university instituted a nationally-acclaimed policy to prohibit the admission of any student who is not able to re-enroll, for student conduct reasons, at any educational institution they attended in the past seven years.

Tracy noted that the changes that have taken place, in Oregon and at OSU in the past two years, have made a large personal impact.

“They could not have come in a better way for me,” she said. “There is a depth of healing that has occurred within me that is profound.”

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Steve Clark, 541-737-4875

steve.clark@oreognstate.edu

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Randhawa to become president at Western Washington University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sabah Randhawa, provost and executive vice president at Oregon State University, has accepted an appointment as the 14th president of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

Randhawa has more than 30 years of service at OSU. Since 2005, he has served as the university’s chief academic officer and second-ranking administrator, providing overall leadership for Oregon State’s academic affairs, faculty and student services, information technology, research and graduate programs, international programs, OSU-Cascades, the OSU Extension Service,  Ecampus, OSU’s top-ranked online education program, and a new Division of Undergraduate Studies.

Western Washington University has an enrollment of 15,332 students and was rated by U.S. News and World Report as the top public university of its type in the West. WWU has seven academic colleges that offer more than 160 programs of study, and the university has 110,000 graduates.

Randhawa first came to OSU from Pakistan as a graduate student in the 1970s. He later joined the faculty in the College of Engineering, and has served in a range of academic, teaching and administrative roles during his time at Oregon State. His doctoral degree is in industrial engineering. He served as both a department head and associate dean in the OSU College of Engineering before taking on broader roles and larger university responsibilities.

“Oregon State University is dear to my heart,” Randhawa said. “I am proud of the campus community that we have worked hard to become. OSU is a place that is continuously guided by our core values. We are committed to being a great place to work, learn and flourish.

“I look forward to my new role with the Western Washington University community, but I will always be a part of Beaver Nation. I know that Oregon State has a very bright future, and I am so pleased to have been a part of its journey.”

OSU President Edward J. Ray praised Randhawa for his contributions to the university.

“Sabah has been my closest partner in so much of what we’ve been able to accomplish at OSU, and he is a dear friend,” Ray said. “There are only a few leaders who have a global vision and can still see the big picture while taking care of the extraordinary daily challenges that a provost deals with. Sabah blends skill and efficiency with fairness and personal compassion, and he’s left a lasting mark on OSU.

“I am sure that Western Washington University has selected him for some of the very same values – his vision, commitment and personal character - that Oregon State University has greatly benefitted from.”

During Randhawa’s tenure OSU experienced a period of extraordinary growth.

Student enrollment surged, the campus and educational programs expanded, and many new facilities were built, such as the Lois Bates Acheson Veterinary Hospital, the Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families, the Linus Pauling Science Center, and the International Living Learning Center. The OSU-Cascades Campus was developed, and the university’s first comprehensive fund raising initiative, the Campaign for OSU, raised $1.14 billion.

Randhawa said he is proudest of some key accomplishments while serving as OSU’s provost:

  • Overall enrollment growth, especially targeted toward high-achieving, underrepresented minorities, international and Ecampus students;
  • Significant faculty hiring, and partnering with the OSU Foundation to establish endowed faculty positions;
  • Strategic academic innovation, including academic divisions, reorganizations, and business centers;
  • Establishing an accredited public health program; and
  • Hiring, building and sustaining a talented leadership team of dedicated and gifted people.

Officials at Western Washington have said that Randhawa impressed the trustees with his commitment to diversity and inclusion, shared governance, strengthening the student academic experience and closing the achievement gap. They described him as “a person of character” who can bring a global perspective to higher education, which has been a goal of that university and OSU as well. He was chosen for the WWU presidency from among a pool of 75 applicants.

The current president of WWU, Bruce Shepard, is retiring at the close of the 2015-16 academic year after eight years in that position.

Randhawa will assume his position at Western Washington University in August, 2016, and an internal search for an interim provost will begin soon.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-4875

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OSU Board of Trustees finalizes proposals on tuition, capital funding

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Board of Trustees yesterday approved tuition and mandatory fees for the 2016-17 academic year and summer term 2017, along with several other actions.

The board also approved operational and capital funding requests to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for the 2017-19 biennium; two new academic degrees; and an educator equity plan. Additionally, the trustees heard a report from a panel on siting of the Marine Studies Initiative building in Newport, as the university reviews multiple building site locations, as well as earthquake and tsunami considerations.

The trustees voted on a tuition and fees proposal that had been advanced by a budget committee, made up of OSU faculty, students and administrators and student fee committees at the Corvallis and Cascades campuses. The vote was preceded by testimony from six students, two faculty members, and a Corvallis community member, who expressed concern about tuition increases.

The board voted 11-1 to:

  • Increase Corvallis campus resident undergraduate tuition by 2.1 percent for students taking 15 credit hours per term;
  • Increase OSU-Cascades resident undergraduate tuition by 3.3 percent for students taking 15 credit hours per term;
  • Maintain current non-resident undergraduate tuition rates;
  • Maintain current resident graduate student tuition rates;
  • Increase non-resident graduate student tuition by 4 percent for students taking 12 credit hours;
  • Adopt several 2016-17 tuition and fee changes for specific programs, such as the university’s Honor College, the colleges of pharmacy and veterinary medicine, OSU-Cascades, and summer term; and
  • Increase mandatory fees for students attending OSU’s Corvallis campus by 5 percent, and at OSU-Cascades by 9.5 percent.

“This is the smallest increase that we have had in 10 years,” said Oregon State President Ed Ray. “We understand that any increase is hard on students.”

Ray said the university has worked hard to increase student financial aid and to lobby state leaders to take steps – as was done in recent legislative sessions – to reverse a decade of disinvestment in public higher education.

Ray noted that the recently completed Campaign for OSU raised $189 million for student scholarships.

“OSU fundraising efforts continue to focus on scholarships for attracting high achieving Oregon students to the university, and to provide support to students with financial need,” he said. “We don’t want to put the burden of achieving the educational excellence and service aspirations of this university on the backs of students and their families.”

OSU officials told the board that, in the 2015-16 academic year, OSU’s resident undergraduate tuition and fees were lower than all five of the peer universities in the West that are used for comparison, including the University of Oregon.

OSU’s 2016-17 resident undergraduate tuition and fee rate will be approximately $400 less than the University of Oregon, and its nonresident undergraduate tuition $4,600 less. The University of Oregon recently raised its undergraduate resident tuition 4.8 percent.

In other business, the trustees approved a $208.5 million capital funding request to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for the 2017-19 biennium.

Included in the proposal are plans to renovate Cordley Hall, Fairbanks Hall and Gilkey Hall on the OSU campus; an expansion of Magruder Hall Teaching Hospital; building and infrastructure improvements, including for the university’s numerous Experiment Stations; and construction of a new Oregon Quality Food and Beverage Center. The proposal includes $84.5 million for the new OSU-Cascades campus, including site reclamation, infrastructure, an academic building and a student success center. As part of its overall capital proposal, OSU is seeking $164.5 million in state paid bonds.

Following trustees’ approval, the proposed capital funding request and a request for operational budget funding will now be advanced to the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission for consideration.   

Two new graduate-level academic programs were approved, including master’s and doctoral degrees in bioengineering, and a master’s degree and graduate certificate in data analytics.

“The nation faces a critical shortage of people with ‘deep analytic’ skills that the new degree will help address,” said Sastry Pantula, dean of the OSU College of Science.

Educators say that the bioengineering degrees will also help respond to a major level of anticipated growth in Oregon’s booming bioscience industry. The proposed programs will be sent to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission for final approval.

The board approved the issuance of general revenue bonds for up to $52.5 million, to finance construction of a residence hall and a dining/academic center at OSU-Cascades, and $10 million for information technology systems infrastructure improvement projects.

The board also approved the OSU Educator Equity Plan for 2016-18, which follows adoption of a mandate passed in 2015 by the Oregon Legislature to create a more diverse educator work force. As part of the OSU plan, the university is working to increase the number and completion rates of underrepresented minority students in its professional teacher education programs. This initiative has already benefited from the Provost’s Hiring Initiative to increase the diversity of OSU faculty.

 

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Steve Clark, 541-737-4875

OSU Press to publish book by Floyd McKay on Oregon activists, visionaries

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon has long been recognized throughout the nation as a progressive, “maverick” state, although a generation of citizens growing up in Oregon may not understand the origins of that reputation.

A new book by former journalist Floyd J. McKay, which will be published this April by the Oregon State University Press, helps illuminate why.

“Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State” recalls a rollicking political atmosphere from 1964 to 1986, when Oregon crafted and passed its landmark beach bill to ensure the protection of ocean beaches for public use. The state also introduced the nation’s first bottle bill after a heated battle, resulting in a deposit on certain beverage containers to encourage recycling.

The development of the Vietnam War also provided volatile material for public discourse and shaped the political views for U.S. Senators Wayne Morse and Mark Hatfield. The 1970s brought forth a new generation of activists in the Portland metro area.

Key figures in “Reporting the Oregon Story” are Tom McCall, elected Secretary of State in 1964, and Bob Straub, elected State Treasurer. Their political rivalry formed the backdrop for two of Oregon’s most transformative decades as they both fought for and lost – and eventually won – the governorship.

McKay had a front row seat, initially as a political reporter for The Oregon Statesman newspaper in Salem, and later as a news analyst for KGW-TV in Portland. For his work as a reporter and producer of documentaries, McKay won the DuPont-Columbia Broadcast Award, which is known informally as the Pulitzer Prize of broadcasting.

The veteran journalist chronicled numerous political battles and emerging issues, including the successful efforts of activists to halt a highway that would be built on sand in Pacific City, and the panic-inducing frenzy of “Vortex,” the nation’s only state-sponsored rock festival. The out-of-town festival was designed to draw anti-war and anti-President Nixon protesters from disrupting the national American Legion Convention being held in Portland.

In his book, McKay recounts the issues, the players and the results of these events in a compelling, personal account.

“‘Reporting the Oregon Story’ will be relished by those who lived the history, and it will serve as a worthy introduction to Oregonians young and old who want a first-hand account of Oregon’s mid-20th-century political and legislative history,” said OSU Press marketing manager Marty Brown.

McKay has a Ph.D. in media history from the University of Washington and was a Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University. He taught journalism at Western Washington University and lives in Bellingham, Washington.

Copies of “Reporting the Oregon Story” are available in bookstores, by calling 1-800-621-2736, or through ordering online at: http://osupress.oregonstate.edu

Floyd McKay will read from his work and sign books at the following appearances:

  • April 14, 7 p.m. – Powell’s Books in Portland (Hawthorne store);
  • April 16, 7 p.m. – Village Books, Bellingham, Washington;
  • May 18, 7:30 p.m. – Linfield College Library (Austin Reading room), McMinnville;
  • June 7, 7 p.m. – Oregon Historical Society, downtown Portland.
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Marty Brown, 541-737-3866, marty.brown@oregonstate.edu

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Floyd McKay

Funding increases for innovative program to improve college success, retention

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Initiatives that are under way at Oregon State University and among other members of the University Innovation Alliance to produce more college graduates from low-income and first-generation families will be bolstered by an additional $3.85 million in funding.

The new support comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and USA Funds.

The University Innovation Alliance was founded in 2014 by OSU and 10 other top-tier research institutions, with the intent of sharing data and educational innovations to enhance college student success. Member universities have set a goal to graduate 68,000 more students over the next decade and so far are on track to graduate nearly 100,000 more during that time.

“These recent grant awards provide continued momentum to this important work, and will help strengthen the efforts of all of the partners involved in the University Innovation Alliance,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “At Oregon State University, we are committed to graduating more students of color and who come from low-income and first-generation families.”

With the latest investment, this alliance has received $18.45 million in funds, including support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the Markle Foundation, USA Funds, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Participants in this national program include OSU, Arizona State University, The Ohio State University, Georgia State University, the University of California/ Riverside, Iowa State University, the University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, the University of Kansas, University of Texas/ Austin, and Purdue University.

On a national level, college enrollment numbers are declining even though it’s estimated that the nation will face a shortage of 5 million college graduates by 2020.

A perceived need is not only to increase the overall number of graduates but to help ensure greater enrollment and academic success among those in lower socioeconomic levels. OSU is one of six participating universities in this initiative that have each increased the number of low-income graduates by at least 19 percent in the past two years.

Ray cited this issue as a critical concern in his recent State of the University Address in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 12.

“Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was among the upper quartile of the income distribution in this country was 44 percent,” Ray said in that address. “Today, that figure is 82 percent. Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was in the lowest quartile of the income distribution in America was 6 percent. Today that figure is only 9 percent.

“This is shameful. Higher education in America is deepening the divide in our nation between haves and have nots, and this chasm is tearing at the fabric of society and undermining our democracy.”

Initiatives made through the University Innovation Alliance will help address these concerns, officials said.

The University of California, Riverside, has redesigned its summer bridge program based on lessons learned from the University of Texas at Austin. A “retention grant” program started at Georgia State is expanding, which provides funds to students who are close to graduating but might otherwise be deterred by outstanding fees. All 11 universities participating in the program are now using predictive analytics, with positive student success and retention results.

OSU is working to share information about some of its more successful programs, such as the College Assistance Migrant Program for children of migrant families; the Educational Opportunities Program, a resource for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, veterans and others; and TRiO Student Support Services, a program aimed at boosting student retention.

“OSU expects that the learning from the partner institutions will also help us in our Student Success Initiative,” said Sabah Randhawa, provost and executive vice president. “This is focused on expanding strategies to recruit and retain diverse and high-achieving students, raise and equalize retention and success for all learners, and make high-impact learning the hallmark of OSU undergraduate education."

Oregon State’s Ecampus online education program is also an enormous success, and one key to providing higher education to students who need to control costs, cannot leave home to attend college, or have other constraints on conventional college attendance.

OSU Ecampus now delivers more than 40 degree and certificate programs to students in all 50 states and more than 40 countries, and in January 2016 its online bachelor’s degree programs were ranked in the top 10 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for the second straight year. Its growth has been extraordinary. Just in the academic year 2014-15, the number of true distance students at OSU increased by 39 percent to 6,913.

“Many of our distance learners are first-generation college students who can’t attend classes on campus because of work or family obligations,” said Ecampus Executive Director Lisa L. Templeton. “We’re proud to give students worldwide a path forward by providing access to an Oregon State education at a sustainable cost.”

Officials of the University Innovation Alliance say it’s the first time a group of large, public research universities have proactively organized to identify solutions that could increase retention and graduation rates. Almost 400,000 students attend the 11 universities involved in this program.

“This level of collaboration among universities is unprecedented,” said Susana Rivera-Mills, OSU vice provost and dean for undergraduate studies.

“It is the way of the future. If we are to significantly increase the number of students who achieve a quality college education, and meet the demands of a growing global society, then our future as an institution of higher education will depend on the extent to which we can collaborate, innovate, and quickly move our goals forward in partnership with other institutions.”

 

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Susana Rivera-Mills, 541-737-4586

United States Poet Laureate to speak at OSU commencement

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Juan Felipe Herrera, a social activist and the first Mexican American to hold the position of United States Poet Laureate, will be the featured speaker on Saturday, June 11, at the 147th commencement ceremony of Oregon State University.

The son of migrant farmers in California, Herrera is the author of 30 books, including collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and children’s books, and in 2015 was named as the nation’s 21st poet laureate.

Herrera has said he learned to love poetry by singing about the Mexican Revolution with his mother, a migrant farm worker. He later became a leader in the Chicano civil rights movement and a passionate writer about social issues. Herrera, an activist for migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth, is also a performance artist whose work has crossed genres into opera and dance theatre.

When announcing Herrera as poet laureate, Librarian of Congress James H. Billinton said that his poems “contain Whitman-esque multitudes that champion voice, traditions and histories, as well as cultural perspective” to help illuminate the larger American identity.

“We’re honored to have an inspirational writer, artist and social leader of the stature of Juan Felipe Herrera to speak to our 2016 graduates,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray.

“His life’s work is one of recognizing social problems, breaking down boundaries and bridging cultural divides, both through art and actions. He reminds us of the challenges we face as a society, of the richness and diversity of our history, and inspires us to confront habits and impediments to fundamental human decency that are found in higher education and throughout our society.”

Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has spoken of the significance Herrera had in connecting poetry with a younger generation.

“Herrera is the first U.S. laureate whose work has emerged from the new oral traditions that have been transforming American poetry over the past ­quarter-century,” Gioia said. “He can write traditional poems for the page, but many of his poems are designed primarily for spoken delivery. His work is performative and communal. In this sense, Herrera speaks powerfully to younger poets and audiences.”

Herrera has written extensively about topics related to children, such as the tragedy of 9/11 through the eyes of a young Puerto Rican girl. He also developed an anti-bullying poetry project in California while serving as the poet laureate of that state from 2012-14. In 2014, he released the nonfiction work “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes,” which showcases 20 Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics.

Herrera was educated at UCLA, Stanford University and the University of Iowa. He has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the University of California at Berkeley, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Stanford Chicano Fellows Program, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

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Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-0733

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Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera

New “Student Success Initiative” to lower costs, increase graduation rates

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray today announced a new “Student Success Initiative” in his annual State of the University address in Portland, calling on the university within four years to make an OSU degree an affordable reality for every qualified Oregonian.

Ray also pledged that by 2020 OSU must better serve students of diverse backgrounds and ensure that all students attending Oregon State achieve success “regardless of their economic status, color of their skin or family background.”

In his presentation, made at the Oregon Convention Center to more than 700 community, business, educational and state leaders, Ray asked attendees, OSU alumni, donors and political leaders to join in this initiative to “help achieve by 2020 this new horizon of inclusive student success and excellence.”

Ray called upon Oregon State by 2020 to raise its first-year retention rate for all students from 83.8 percent to 90 percent, and its six-year graduation rate from 63.1 percent to 70 percent for all students.

Ray said the university must tackle the “near impossible” financial burdens and levels of debt that students and their families now face. The average Oregon resident undergraduate has an unmet annual need at OSU of $7,256, creating a legacy of debt and a serious obstacle to higher education.

Nationally, the pace of progress on this issue has been unacceptably slow and must no longer be tolerated, Ray said.

“Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was in the lowest quartile of the income distribution in America was 6 percent,” Ray said. “Today that figure is 9 percent.

“This is shameful. Higher education in America is deepening the divide in our nation between the haves and have nots, and this chasm is tearing at the fabric of society and undermining our democracy.”

In his address, Ray said that 2015 had been another year of notable achievements for Oregon State. Among these were:

  • Enrollment exceeded 30,000 students for the second year in a row, and 6,300 degrees were presented to OSU’s largest-ever graduating class;
  • The first freshman class started at OSU-Cascades in Bend, and construction began on Oregon’s first completely new college campus in the past half century;
  • OSU’s Ecampus online educational program continued to grow and was ranked seventh nationally by U.S. News and World Report, and fourth in the nation for veterans;
  • OSU faculty conducted $309 million in research, nearly double the combined total of the state’s six other public universities;
  • Donor gifts to the university continued with a total of $130.8 million, the OSU Foundation’s best fund-raising year ever, and built on the success of the hugely successful Campaign for OSU that raised $1.14 billion; and
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and state legislators helped provide the first increase in state funding to higher education in nearly a decade.

During the past year, Ray said OSU launched the nation’s first graduate degree program in “environmental humanities,” to prepare students for careers in environmental policy, social justice and the arts. The university helped lead work to prepare the state for a massive subduction zone earthquake that lurks in its future. Additionally, significant biomedical advances were announced on Lou Gehrig’s disease, cancer and other health problems.

Oregon State’s Marine Studies Initiative also continues to move forward to help address some of the world’s most pressing issues such as climate change, ocean acidification, rising sea levels and degraded marine habitat. Ray indicated that over the next decade, the statewide cumulative impact of this initiative should exceed $280 million, helping to produce hundreds of needed graduates in these fields while boosting the economy of struggling coastal communities.

The College of Forestry at OSU is close to launching a new $60-70 million forest science complex that will accelerate the use of sophisticated new wood products in high-rise buildings.

Ray repeatedly praised the accomplishments and caliber of OSU students, many of whom attended the event. Last fall, more than 41 percent of entering freshmen had high school grade point averages of 3.75 or greater. By 2020, Ray said, OSU should become the school of choice for Oregon’s high-achieving and most accomplished students.

Ray also insisted that as part of each student’s future success, they have at least one “experiential” learning opportunity such as an internship, study abroad program, participation in original research or other club and leadership activities.

 “Let me assure you that while we know that we are not done, we can be confident that working together, the best is yet to come,” Ray said in closing.

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Steve Clark, 541-737-3808

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OSU President Ed Ray
Ed Ray

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center to hold Fossil Fest on Feb. 13

NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will hold its annual Fossil Fest event on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Newport from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fossils are top-of-mind for many Oregonians, following the discovery in late January of mammoth bones during a construction project at Reser Stadium on the OSU campus. Loren Davis of OSU and Dave Ellingson of Woodburn High School will be available during the day to talk about the find, share photos, and discuss other important fossil discoveries in the Northwest. They will give a talk on “Reser Fossils” at 3 p.m. in Hennings Auditorium.

Special guest lecturer William Orr, an emeritus anthropologist from the University of Oregon, will speak at 1:30 p.m. on “Lagerstatten: World Class Fossil Sites,” in the auditorium. The lecture will focus on what makes certain fossil sites so valuable, both in the United States and abroad. He also will sign copies of his books, “Oregon Fossils” and “Geology of Oregon.”

A lecture by Guy DiTorrice will focus on “Douglas Emlong – Fossil Pioneer, Fossil Dreamer.” It begins at 11:30 a.m. in the auditorium. DiTorrice will highlight Emlong’s contributions to the Smithsonian and other topics.

Fossil Fest also will include fossil displays and hands-on activities by the North American Research Group, fossil displays from Lincoln County presented by Kent Gibson, and information for participants on where to find fossils.

“We’d also encourage any visitors to bring in their own fossil specimens for identification help,” said Bill Hanshumaker, an OSU marine educator and outreach specialist with the Hatfield center.

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Bill Hanshumaker, 541-867-0167, bill.hanshumaker@oregonstate.edu