OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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Communication among health care facilities key to preventing spread of drug-resistant bacteria

PORTLAND, Ore. – Communication breakdowns between care facilities can pave the way for outbreaks of infection, according to research on the spread of an extensively drug-resistant bacterium.

The OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy teamed with the Oregon Health Authority and other collaborators on a two-year study of Acinetobacter baumannii, an opportunistic pathogen associated primarily with infections among patients who have compromised immune systems and are in health care facilities.

Looking at multiple sites in the Pacific Northwest, the scientists identified 21 cases, including 16 isolates of A. baumannii that contained a rare gene responsible for resistance to the carbapenem class of antibiotics.

The patients’ transfer history among the studied facilities and the isolates’ genetic profiles illustrated how the organism spread from place to place, aided by a lack of interfacility communication that patients who were infected or colonized by A. baummanii were being transferred.

Jon Furuno, co-author on the study and an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy, noted that the findings support a recent Oregon law requiring written notification from the discharging facility to the receiving facility anytime a patient carrying a multridrug-resistant organism, or other infection requiring transmission precautions, is transferred.

Extensively drug-resistant A. baumannii can contain many antibiotic resistance genes that can be transmitted to other organisms, he added.

“It just makes sense that you would want to alert a receiving facility if patients have a specific drug-resistant organism,” Furuno said. “The discharging facility needs to include that information with the discharge summary or somewhere on the chart, and the receiving facility needs to know where to look for it.”

The lead author is Genevieve Buser, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who worked as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service officer based at the Oregon Health Authority when the study was done. Buser said communication can ensure appropriate contact precautions are taken.

“An entire chain of transmission can be prevented if staff at a receiving facility know about a patient’s multidrug-resistant organism status,” Buser said. “This outbreak might not have been identified if not for a new, limited, voluntary surveillance system in Oregon and an astute infection preventionist.”

Reporting of extensively drug-resistant A. baumannii infection is not required by most public health jurisdictions in the United States, and clinical laboratories generally do not test for an organism’s underlying genetic resistance mechanisms.

Other organizations collaborating on this research included the VA Portland Health Care System; the Division of Infectious Diseases at Oregon Health & Science University; the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory; the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center; and Case Western Reserve University.

The CDC and the National Institutes of Health supported the study. Findings were recently published in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Expensive drug driving up Medicare expenditures without evidence of greater efficacy

PORTLAND, Ore. – Medicare spent more than $1 billion over a five-year period on a high-priced drug that has not been proven more effective for a collection of inflammatory conditions than much less expensive corticosteroids, research by the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy shows.

The analysis also indicates that a comparatively small group of “frequent prescribers” combine to write prescriptions that lead to the bulk of Medicare’s expenditures on the drug, repository adrenocorticotropin, or ACTH.

In 2015 alone, Medicare spending topped $500 million on the drug, the cost of which has soared to $36,000 per course of therapy. 

Known by the trade name H.P. Acthar Gel, often shortened to just Acthar, the drug’s primary use is to treat rare epileptic spasms in children under age 2.

“The drug has an interesting back story,” said Dan Hartung, lead author on a research letter that was published today in JAMA Internal Medicine. “It’s a fairly old drug, first approved in 1952, prior to many of the FDA rules about clinical efficacy. The bar for what constitutes approved indications was much different then, much lower; it has many indications that came before the current rules were set in stone in the 1960s.”

The drug, classified as a “biologic,” was initially approved for a broad range of corticosteroid-responsive inflammatory conditions.

“It’s a hormone produced in the human body that signals the release of steroids,” Hartung said. “It does the same job as low-cost corticosteroids. And it really wasn’t much on anyone’s radar until 2007.”

Questcor Pharmaceuticals purchased the rights to the largely forgotten Acthar in 2001 for $100,000 and began steadily raising Acthar’s price. In 2007 Questcor increased the price of the drug, which once sold for $40 for a vial, or course of therapy, from $1,650 to $23,000 overnight.

Questcor, acquired by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in 2017, markets the drug aggressively for relatively common conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and nephrotic syndrome, Hartung said. The Food and Drug Administration approved Acthar for those types of conditions decades ago when requirements were less strict; no clinical trials were required.

“There are a variety of FDA-approved indications that lack a lot of evidence that Acthar is even effective, let alone better than inexpensive corticosteroids,” Hartung said. “And what allows for this kind of pricing is that it’s a fairly complex molecule and no competitors can exactly duplicate it; they have a monopoly on this particular molecule.”

In 2015, Acthar generated gross revenue of about $1 billion – more than half of which came from Medicare, and much of the rest coming from Medicaid, Hartung said, meaning public expenditures likely accounted for almost all of the sales.

Hartung and the other collaborators found Medicare spending on the drug increased tenfold and totaled $1.3 billion from 2011 to 2015.

In 2014, a total of 1,621 prescribers were responsible for $391.2 million in Acthar spending; among those, 203 frequent prescribers – 94 rheumatologists, 55 neurologists and 54 nephrologists, each with more than 10 prescriptions – accounted for $165 million of the total.

“And in general these physicians are prescribing about the same number of other drugs compared to their peer specialty groups, so we suspect they are not treating more severely ill patients,” Hartung said. “Mallinckrodt is really aggressively marketing in ways that possibly subject prescribers to conflicts of interest. From the payer side, there’s really little that little justifies this drug and its exorbitant cost over much cheaper alternatives. If Medicare were to take a firm stand on reimbursements, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Joining Hartrung on the study were Kirbee Johnston, Shelby Van Leuven, Atul Deodhar, David Cohen and Dennis Bourdette.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Dan Hartung, 503-494-4720

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

Civil engineering society issues first-ever tsunami-safe building standards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When the next huge tsunami strikes the western United States, people in and around some newly built coastal structures will be more safe thanks to national construction standards announced today that - for the first time ever in the U.S. - will consider the devastating risks posed by tsunamis.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has developed this edition of the standards, known as ASCE 7-16, and it’s the first to include a chapter on tsunami hazards, in addition to chapters on seismic, wind and flood hazards.

The tsunami standards are only for steel-reinforced concrete buildings in “inundation zones,” which in the future may be stronger and safer with only moderate increases in cost, experts say. They will not apply to wood-frame structures.

The standards were based in part on work done at OSU’s O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, according to Dan Cox of Oregon State University, a professor of civil and construction engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and one of about 20 engineers on the ASCE subcommittee that developed them.

The subcommittee was a mix of engineering practitioners and researchers from across the nation, Cox said. Led by a practicing engineer in Hawaii, Gary Chock, the committee began its work in late 2010, a few months before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

“We weren’t reacting,” Cox said. “We were trying to do this in advance. After the 2011 event, interest accelerated regarding how to build things safely in a tsunami zone, and it was important that the subcommittee contained people familiar with how codes work and academic researchers who can bring in the latest advances. Everything was geared toward bringing the best of both into practice.”

The subcommittee used as a starting point a document that had been issued in 2008 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cox’s OSU College of Engineering colleague Harry Yeh had contributed to that document, which was a guideline for designing structures to allow for vertical evacuation, such as climbing to a higher floor.

“We wanted to pull the state of the practice together, and if there were holes in the way we were doing things, we wanted to fill in those holes,” Cox said. “It’s a very rigorous process; there has to be a lot of vetting.”

The large wave flume at OSU’s Hinsdale lab played a major role in producing the data used in developing the tsunami standards, said Cox, formerly the lab’s director and now the head of the Cascadia Lifelines Program.

That program, a research consortium, is working to mitigate infrastructure damage in the Pacific Northwest from a major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

OSU and eight partners from both the public and private sectors have begun five research projects with $1.5 million contributed by the partners: the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Port of Portland, the Portland Water Bureau, the Eugene Water and Electric Board, and the Tualatin Valley Water District.

Cox led some of the studies conducted in the flume, and College of Engineering colleague Solomon Yim was a collaborator on a project led by the University of Hawaii.

“One of the big projects was debris,” Cox said. “What force does debris have, and how can you build a column to keep a building in place if debris were to hit it? Now we have equations to use to size that column to withstand a large piece of debris, like a shipping container.”

Already underway on the new standards, Cox and other subcommittee members went to Japan after the 2011 tragedy to study what had worked and what didn’t.

“We got enough information to estimate hydraulic forces and understand damage patterns, and we used this to validate what we were doing,” Cox said. “It was independent, real-world experience to check on whether our approach was valid. These standards are built on lab work, field observation and engineering practice. We used all of the tools available to come up with these standards.”

The ASCE 7-16 standards are good for six years and will become part of the International Building Code. In the U.S., it’s up to each state to decide whether to adopt new codes in their entirety, partially in a modified format, or not at all. In Oregon, the Building Codes Division is responsible for reviewing the new standards.

“Oregon should look very carefully at it,” Cox said. “A lot of engineering eyes have been looking at this, and the standards are consistent with engineering design practice. If in six years we have better information we can change them.”

University officials say they are committed to meet or exceed all building, engineering and life safety standards, including the new tsunami standards announced today, for the future marine studies facility at Newport.

Cox notes that the tsunami standards will have the most impact on engineers designing and building structures less than about five stories in height. Above five stories, even-stronger building codes will take precedence over codes to protect smaller structures from tsunamis.

While the new standards will add some expense to the cost of a two- or three-story building, the additional amount will be comparatively small.

“The structural cost of a building is less than 10 percent,” Cox said. “It will be more expensive but it doesn’t triple the cost. When you make a building twice as strong, it doesn’t cost twice as much.”

The new tsunami standard can also be used on retrofit projects, he said.

“We can now apply consistent standards across the hazards,” Cox said. “This allows us to use a consistent methodology, a consistent set of standards so you can design for multiple hazards. It gives options if you decide you want to build in that zone or you have to build in that zone.”

Ninety percent of the Oregon town of Seaside, for example, is in an inundation zone.

“Now if you want to build a hotel in Seaside, or an office building, you have standards,” Cox said, while noting standards alone aren’t enough.

“You have 20 minutes to get to safety,” he said. “You still have to have plans and practice them routinely. We put sprinklers in buildings, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing fire drills.”

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

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Dan Cox, 541-737-3631

dan.cox@oregonstate.edu

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Tsunami resistant school
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Simple test may help address $150 billion problem of post-operative delirium

PORTLAND, Ore. – Researchers at VA Portland Health Care System (VAPORHCS), in collaboration with Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University, have identified a simple test that takes about 2-3 minutes and can predict which surgical candidates are most at risk of delirium, a common complication following surgery in older patients.

Delirium, or acute confusion and disorientation, has become a $150 billion national problem.

After surgery, delirium can lead to slower recovery, a long-term worsening of memory and thinking, and even death - while significantly increasing health care costs. Identification of those most at risk could help guide decisions about whether or not to have surgery, and allow prompt, low-cost interventions after surgery to help prevent this problem.

The findings were just published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society by doctors from the Veterans Affairs Research Department in Portland, who led and funded the study, and worked with partnering investigators from OSU and OHSU.

“Before this study, identifying people at risk for delirium following surgery required complicated or time-consuming evaluations,” said Dr. Sarah Goodlin, the lead VAPORHCS investigator for the study.

“We try to avoid delirium whenever possible, but our tools have been limited. Now we believe we can identify people at high risk and help physicians make informed decisions with their patients about the hazards and benefits of pursuing elective surgery.”

Further research will be needed to confirm the findings and broaden them to other groups, Goodlin said. This research, for instance, was done with 76 veterans age 65 or older who were almost exclusively male.

Several tests have been available for some time to test memory and mental function. One test, a brief screening tool called the “Mini-Cog,” was developed by Dr. Soo Borson at the University of Washington to detect dementia.

The current research found that one way of using and scoring the Mini-Cog offered high predictive accuracy of delirium following elective surgery with major anesthesia. Other tests and patient factors did not really improve the predictive risk of delirium.

“We wanted to identify a tool that was simple and accurate, and the Mini-Cog does that,” said Amber An DO, who designed the study with Goodlin during her geriatric medicine fellowship.

The Mini-Cog may help to prevent this problem, said David Lee, an assistant professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy, and co-author on the study.

“This is such a serious issue,” Lee said. “Delirium can cause serious health and cognitive problems, begin a process of decline that can lead to dementia, and can almost double the cost of a hospital stay.”

However, the researchers pointed out in their study that medical care is more effective at preventing delirium, especially in people at moderate risk, than in treating it once it develops. That makes a predictive tool all the more helpful. More research is needed to understand steps that can be taken during or following surgery to decrease post-operative delirium rates.

The Mini-Cog test itself is quick and simple, can be done in any language and has no ethnic, educational or cultural barriers. A person is told three ordinary words and asked to repeat them, such as “apple,” “watch” and “penny.” They are then asked to draw a simple clock face, including the numbers and hands set to a specific time. Finally, they are asked to repeat the three words they were told. That’s all there is to the test.

The authors of the current study scored the Mini-Cog from 0-5. A person gets 2 points for correctly drawing a clock and time; and 1 point each for recalling the three words.

According to this research, a person with a score of 0-1 had a 50 percent or greater probability of post-operative delirium. Those with a score of 3 had a 20 percent probability; a score of 4 a 13 percent probability; and a score of 5 less than 5 percent probability of delirium after surgery.

The incidence of delirium ranges from 7-10 percent in older adults after simple elective surgery, rising to at least half of older adults undergoing emergency, cardiac or orthopedic surgery. Individuals who develop delirium are more likely to be debilitated, require skilled nursing care, and die in the year after surgery.

Factors that have been significantly associated with delirium risk include existing dementia, depression, use of multiple medications, sensory impairment, and the use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs.

 

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Daniel Herrigstad, 503-402-2975

daniel.herrigstad@va.gov

New OSU College of Business program will aid aspiring entrepreneurs

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new program designed to increase entrepreneurial activity and stimulate job creation in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest is now being offered in Portland by Oregon State University’s College of Business. 

The goal of Launch Corps is to provide additional startup support services for select students who are enrolled in the college’s Innovation Management MBA program and are also developing a business idea. Innovation Management is a new track in the college’s MBA program that prepares students to start new companies and advance ideas within existing ones.

“Research shows rates of entrepreneurship are in a state of decline in the U.S.,” said Mitzi Montoya, dean of OSU’s College of Business. “That’s concerning news, especially given reports that indicate entrepreneurs are responsible for nearly all net new job creation. Oregon has unprecedented potential to address our regional and national need for entrepreneurial activity if we can effectively recruit entrepreneurs from the full pool of available talent and accelerate their success.”

As they progress through the Innovation Management MBA, students in Launch Corps will be connected to resources that can help move their startup ideas forward. Those resources include mentors in areas such as marketing, accounting and finance; office space at the college’s new Portland headquarters at WeWork, a co-working community for multiple ventures and startups; services, equipment and related amenities; and access to workshops and entrepreneurial training programs.

Launch Corps is open to all founders, co-founders or teams at the startup stage who have a passion for addressing a problem and an idea that offers market potential. Women, people of color, and others who have historically been underrepresented among entrepreneurs are particularly encouraged to apply for Launch Corps.

“Research shows that women lead about one-third of entrepreneurial activity, even though they make up slightly more than half of the population,” said Audrey Iffert-Saleem, executive director of strategic initiatives for the College of Business. “Our vision is that the population of entrepreneurs will grow to reflect the changing demographics of the United States.”

Supporting these entrepreneurs in their startup journey is about more than getting them in the pipeline, said Iffert-Saleem, who has led the development of several entrepreneurship programs for women and people of color.

“A recent report shows that only a tiny fraction of one percent of venture funding went to black women founders in 2014,” she said. “We need a culture shift, and we need support from the community.”

The fee for the two-year program is $5,000, and fellowships are available for selected students. The J.D. Power Launch Corps fellowships cover the costs of the program as well as a $2,000 business start-up grant and an $8,000 tuition scholarship.

All Launch Corps applicants will be considered for the fellowship, and priority will be given to women applicants. The program will begin in the fall term, and the deadline to apply for the fall MBA program is Aug. 22.

The college also is seeking mentors and startup coaches to support Launch Corps members, especially women and people of color who are entrepreneurs, investors and business professionals.

For more information about Launch Corps or to apply to the program, visit business.oregonstate.edu/launchcorps.

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Jessi Hibsman, 541-737-1059

jesse.hibsman@oregonstate.edu

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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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

New analysis puts OSU’s economic impact at more than $2.37 billion

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An analysis of Oregon State University’s economic impact released today estimates that Oregon’s largest university contributed $2.371 billion to the global economy last year – an economic footprint that has grown by $311 million, or 15 percent, since 2011.

The greatest impact is in Oregon, where OSU was responsible for adding an estimated $2.232 billion to the state’s economy in 2014 – a figure that accounts for 31,660 jobs.

The analysis was conducted by the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, based on OSU expenditure data, visitor data, student enrollment and a 2013 Oregon Travel Impacts study.

The ECONorthwest analysis looked for the first time at OSU’s contribution in Portland, where OSU contributed $401.9 million to the economy in 2014, along with 2,350 jobs.

The economic impact of OSU in Benton and Linn counties was $1.334 billion, along with 25,110 jobs.

Oregon State’s impacts come in three ways, direct impacts ($973 million), indirect impacts ($424.2 million) and induced impacts ($834.8 million). Direct impacts include spending on operations, goods and services, and capital construction; indirect impacts result from companies purchasing additional supplies or hiring additional employees to support spending by OSU; and induced impacts result from the purchasing power of the university’s employees.

The total does not include other significant OSU influences to the state, regional and national economies, including the contributions by university graduates or the benefits of OSU research, such as improved varieties of wheat and other crops used by Oregon farmers; spinoff companies that have major economic impacts; and scholarship that has improved public health and environmental stewardship.

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Steve Clark, 503-502-8217; steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

OSU President challenges state to improve access to higher education

PORTLAND, Ore. – In his annual State of the University address in Portland on Friday, Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray challenged politicians, education and business leaders to help address the growing issue of Oregonians’ access to higher education.

He also said OSU is committed to helping the state meet Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s goal of bringing economic prosperity to more Oregonians, particularly in rural communities still suffering effects of the recession.

Ray told the more than 700 people in attendance that inequality in higher education is creating a society of haves and have-nots, which “tears at the fabric of our society and undermines our democracy.” Nationally, a student from an annual household income of $90,000 or more has a one-in-two chance of graduating from college, Ray pointed out. Conversely, a student from a family with a household income of $30,000 a year has only a 1-in-17 chance to earn a college degree.

“As a first-generation college graduate myself, I know firsthand how important a college education is to one’s future as well as the collective future of our society,” Ray said. “One solution is to take a fresh look at attracting and retaining students” by having colleges and universities partner with others, including national foundations.

Late last year, Oregon State and 10 other major research universities formed the University Innovation Alliance, which seeks to raise admission numbers, retention rates and graduation rates for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students. Some of the nation’s most prominent foundations have committed millions of dollars to match the investments made by member universities in the alliance, which will create and share new strategies to meet its goals of access and student success.

“We are doubling down,” Ray said. “I intend that Oregon State will be a showcase of access to higher education and programs that significantly improve retention and graduation rates. There is much to learn from other universities and I’m happy to say that the work is under way, as we collaborate with high school and community college partners.”

OSU is addressing the rural economy challenge in different ways, Ray said. In 2017, Oregon State will open a $60 million forest science complex in Corvallis to study and help implement the use of advanced wood products in construction of high-rise buildings in Portland – and around the world.

“This very exciting initiative will help restore high-paying jobs to rural Oregon; it will increase the value of Oregon’s natural resources across the nation; it will showcase how engineered wood products can improve the sustainability of urban cities; and it will connect the quality of Oregon wood products and pioneering know-how to fast-growing nations in Asia,” Ray said.

Also helping the state economy will be the launch of OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, which will result in 500 students studying at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport by 2025. An anonymous donor already has pledged $20 million for a new building there. Coastal communities will benefit from the research, education and outreach efforts of the initiative, Ray noted.

The OSU president called 2014 a year of “landmark achievement” for his university. Oregon State’s enrollment exceeded 30,000 students for the first time, making OSU the state’s largest university. And in December, the university concluded The Campaign for OSU, which raised $1.14 billion – the most in Oregon history.

“As an economist who likes numbers, I can tell you that the .14 figure makes me chuckle since it represents $140 million,” Ray said.

More than 106,000 donors contributed to the campaign, which achieved many highlights, including:

  • Building or renovating 28 OSU buildings;
  • Endowing 79 new faculty positions;
  • Creating more than 600 new scholarships and fellowships serving 3,200 students.

Ray said OSU continues to lead the state in addressing research needs, garnering $285 million in total grants and contracts, including a record $37 million from industry. Over the past 18 months, the OSU Advantage Accelerator accepted and supported development of 21 business concepts into companies, and 12 grew into viable businesses, which have generated $5 million in revenues and government grants.

U.S. News and World Report ranked OSU’s online Ecampus program as the fifth best undergraduate program in the nation. At the same time, the quality of students entering OSU remains high as more Portland metro area high school valedictorians chose OSU over any other college or university. Last fall, 44 percent of the freshmen entering OSU had high school grade point averages of 3.75 or higher.

And this fall, the first freshmen class will enroll at OSU-Cascades in Bend, the state’s first branch campus.

Ray told the Portland audience that Oregon State engineering graduates have helped to build the city through working at firms including Hoffman Construction, Andersen Construction, PacificCorp, Portland General Electric and Kiewit Construction. OSU is also working to improve the metro region’s community health through the state’s first accredited public health school, as well as partnership programs in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. OSU has also established programs in the region in apparel design, business, forestry and agriculture.

“We don’t do this work alone,” Ray emphasized, “but with partners such as Intel, Nike, IBM and Boeing; with non-profit organizations and education colleagues like OHSU and Portland State.”

“The best,” Ray said, “is yet to come.”

The full text of Ray’s speech is available at: http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/speeches-and-statements/state-u-pdx-2015.

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Steve Clark, 503-502-8217; steve.clark@oregonstate.edu