State of the University Address 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018, 11:30 a.m.
Oregon Convention Center

My address today highlights examples of how OSU is transforming Oregon, the nation and the world. I also will share important news about OSU’s 150th anniversary, detail our expanded service to the Portland region, and describe challenges that lie ahead.

OSU is Oregon’s statewide university. Our faculty and students are out there exploring new frontiers, working to solve today’s most pressing issues, and enriching the lives of all people.

We transform learners into leaders on our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, through online degree programs that are top-ranked nationally, and through educational programs in Portland and communities across Oregon.

We advance society … by providing equal opportunity and success for all people regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, religion, nation of origin, disability or economic circumstances.

We know that access to higher education is not enough. Affordability is not enough. We are convinced … and so should all Americans … that a college degree matters most. And we know that an OSU education matters.

This is not hyperbole.

Since its founding on October 27, 1868, Oregon State University has had but one mission:

  • Provide Oregonians with access to an affordable high-quality college education;
  • Provide prosperity for all people; and
  • Contribute to the economy of our state and nation.

This remains our mission as we celebrate OSU150 – Oregon State’s 150th anniversary. And this will remain our university’s mission for the next 150 years.

I guarantee it.

We do not do this work alone, but in collaboration with many others:

  • The university’s board of trustees;
  • Our faculty, employees and students;
  • Alumni and donors;
  • Industry, education and community partners;
  • Governor Kate Brown and Oregon legislators; and
  • Oregon’s Congressional delegation;

OSU continues to realize outstanding achievements:

  • In June, we graduated our largest class ever: 6,807 students.
  • In fall, our enrollment totaled 31,904 students, making us Oregon’s largest university for the fourth straight year.

Of OSU’s overall enrollment this year:

  • 73 percent of our Corvallis undergraduates are Oregonians;
  • 142 entering freshmen were ranked No. 1 in their graduating class and 11 were National Merit winners;
  • 1,122 students are U.S. veterans;
  • Just under 25 percent of our enrollment are students of color;
  • 3,665 are international students ; and
  • 6,247 are first-generation students.

Some of our best, brightest and most accomplished students are with us today. Would all OSU students please stand and be recognized?

More than ever, Oregon State has become a destination of choice – not just within Oregon, but also nationally for students wanting to transform their futures.

One of those students is Orman Morton III, who worked for 10 years at a Baltimore, Maryland steel mill before the mill went bankrupt. For the next four years, he was an unemployed father of three children, who decided to reinvent himself by going back to school.

Orman did just that by earning a degree online in environmental science from OSU’s Ecampus program. He now works to restore wetlands and analyze water quality in Maryland.

Quite simply, as Orman and other OSU students graduate, they are our greatest contribution to the future.

Orman is with us today.

OSU faculty are also making a difference, providing excellent teaching and world-class research. In 2017, grant-funded research at Oregon State totaled a record $441 million – a 31 percent increase over 2016.

This included a $122 million National Science Foundation grant to build a regional research vessel that will be stationed at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. We hope to build two other such vessels for the nation.

Research activities involve hundreds of OSU faculty, thousands of graduate students and nearly 10 percent of our undergraduate students.

OSU researchers are “all in” to provide for a better world.

And occasionally for a bit of fun.

Imagine the discovery in 2009 by OSU chemist Mas Subramanian and his team that resulted in a new blue pigment for use in industrial coatings and plastics to help buildings cool and reflect infrared sunlight.

Who could have known that this discovery would spark worldwide interest and prompt Crayola in 2017 to launch a new crayon color. Simply … bluetiful.

Last year, our College of Forestry was ranked No. 2 in the world; our oceanography program, No. 3 in the world; our College of Agricultural Sciences, No. 10 nationally; and our online liberal arts degree offerings, No. 1 nationally. Oh, and by the way, we began building our robotics program 6 years ago and it was recently rated No. 4 in the country.

U.S. News & World Report for the fourth year in a row has judged OSU’s Ecampus online undergraduate programs among the nation’s best – with a No. 6 ranking.

The real story is not about numbers – but the impact and the relevant contributions that OSU is making.

Our colleges of Public Health and Human Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy, along with the Linus Pauling Science Center and its new director Richard van Breemen, are addressing lifelong health matters and diseases, such as cancer. They are taking on chronic societal problems, such as poor nutrition, child readiness for school and mental health issues.

OSU faculty are on the forefront in efforts to understand and address climate change. They are working to enhance the natural environment, feed and shelter the world; and when disaster strikes, to help others by measuring toxins that lurk in the environment following a devastation, such as Hurricane Harvey.

In our Outreach and Engagement programs, we are reaching 2.3 million Oregonians with the help of 13,000 community volunteers, the state and our counties.

These efforts are difference makers. For example, OSU’s Juntos program serves more than 3,000 Latino families in 23 Oregon communities. Of those students participating in Juntos, 100 percent earn their high school degree and 92 percent go on to a community college or four-year university or college.

This work to transform students and the world is advanced by the remarkable generosity of thousands of donors and the leadership of the OSU Foundation.

This year, an anonymous donor contributed $25 million to help build a $60 million arts and education complex on OSU’s Corvallis campus and bring together music, theater, and digital communications as a centerpiece for culture. Dean Larry Rodgers in the College of Liberal Arts and others are leading this effort.

Thanks to a $3.28 million commitment from donors Jon and Stephanie DeVaan, we launched an initiative to address national problems associated with access to clean and sustainable water supplies.

Just two weeks ago, our College of Veterinary Medicine received a $50 million gift … the largest gift in the university’s history.

This commitment by a 1974 OSU alumnus is a game changer. It will dramatically increase the college’s ability to provide life-saving clinical care, expand professional education for more veterinarians, and enable research critical to animal and human health.

As a result, the college is now named the Gary R. Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine – the first named college at Oregon State.

Even before this $50 million gift, donors had contributed more than $383 million to Oregon State over the last three years.

2017 saw advances in the university’s Marine Sciences Initiative; construction in Corvallis on the $79.5 million Oregon Forest Science Complex utilizing innovative cross-laminated timber; work to expand the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend to more than 128 acres; and achievements by student-athletes.

Who can forget the continued success of the OSU women’s basketball team … or the trip to the College World Series by a Beaver baseball team that finished with a record of 56 wins and only 6 losses.

Our student-athletes also are winners in the classroom and everyday champions in the community. Last term, the overall GPA of Beaver student-athletes was 3.08, and 35 student-athletes earned a perfect 4.0.

And oh, by the way, we welcome back Jonathan Smith as our new head football coach. Make no mistake: he is a proven winner.

For all you would-be economists in the room, let me report: OSU’s economic contribution continues to grow.

According to a study just concluded by ECONorthwest,

Oregon State’s gross economic and societal impact in 2017 totaled $2.71 billion – up $343 million from three years ago.

OSU operations were responsible for supporting 30,451 jobs statewide.

In Portland, OSU was responsible for $281.8 million in gross economic activity and 3,884 jobs.

Statewide that number will only grow as we expand our facilities and programs. For example, OSU-Cascades is expected to contribute $134.4 million and 2,083 jobs to the state’s economy in 2025 more than a threefold increase since 2015.

Despite such achievements, we are not done.

In November, I announced Oregon State would build on its long-standing service to the Portland region from a new location – the entire second floor of the historic Meier & Frank Building in downtown Portland.

Serving the region is part of our mission as Oregon’s statewide university and complements the work we do in Corvallis and Bend, as well as major OSU initiatives.

This location across from Pioneer Courthouse Square will serve as the centerpiece for a regional hub-and-spoke system. Led by Mitzi Montoya, dean of our College of Business, and Scott Ashford, dean of our College of Engineering, we will provide innovative programs to serve unmet learner and community needs.

We are developing -- and plan to unveil this fall -- hybrid online graduate and undergraduate offerings in the fields of business, cybersecurity, and human development and family sciences.

These programs are in addition to:

  • Our nationally top-ranked Ecampus degree programs;
  • Product creation and marketing at OSU’s Food Innovation Center in the Pearl District;
  • College of Pharmacy teaching and research in partnership with OHSU;
  • Extension programming throughout Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties;
  • College of Veterinary Medicine collaboration with the Oregon Humane Society; and
  • Partnerships with PSU and community colleges;
  • Engagement with local schools, such as our College of Education masters of teaching program that is embedded within Beaverton classrooms;
  • And expanded industry-research initiatives.

Meanwhile, faculty from OSU’s Engineering for Health Initiative and OHSU’s Early Detection Advanced Research Center are teaming up to take on cancer. It cannot be too soon to stamp out the curse of cancer.

I invite you to join us in August for the opening of our hub, as we paint the color orange in downtown Portland, and expand the spokes of regional OSU programming.

Before then meet with Scott and Mitzi, and see how Oregon State University can be your best partner.

Beyond Portland, I ask each of you to engage with OSU and help foster success.

For our state to progress, all of us must collaborate in rural economic, educational and cultural strategies.

Looking ahead, Oregon State University is taking note of where we have been. When we launched OSU150, we sought to commemorate the transformation that OSU has contributed to Oregon, the nation and the world.

We are doing so in many ways … and with a bit of good fortune along the way. For example, we launched our anniversary on Aug. 21, the day of a total eclipse of the sun. More than 7,000 visitors from across the U.S. and the world joined us in Corvallis and Central Oregon.

On Feb. 10, in partnership with the OSU Foundation -- our anniversary’s presenting sponsor – and the Oregon Historical Society, we will open a seven-month exhibit at the Oregon History Museum.

Charting and changing the future is also part of OSU150.

On Feb. 15, at OMSI’s I-MAX theater in Portland – and later in theaters in Corvallis and Newport – we will unveil “Saving Atlantis.” Narrated by Emmy award winning star Peter Coyote, this OSU-produced documentary tells the story of how Associate Professor Rebecca Vega-Thurber and other OSU researchers are working to save the world’s coral reefs and our oceans from the destruction of climate change and other human impacts.

Next fall, OSU will bring together scientists and national thought leaders to consider how our 21st century economy and society will forever be shaped by artificial intelligence and robotics.

Oregon State also will double down on another essential commitment: student success.

Trust me, it is not enough for students simply to attend college. They must succeed while in school and more students must graduate in a timely manner.

Two years ago, we launched OSU’s Student Success Initiative to:

  • Raise first-year retention rates for all undergraduate students to 90 percent; and
  • Raise six-year graduation rates for all undergraduate students to 70 percent.

A year ago, the OSU Foundation’s Board of Trustees committed to raise $150 million to support the student success initiative. Today, I am pleased to announce that total has reached $79 million and continues to grow.

Along with university investments, this philanthropy has doubled Oregon State’s resources for supporting scholarships and programs to help all students succeed.

Progress is being made. Last June, for example, we graduated 400 more students with financial need than we did four years ago. And 43 percent of our graduates had no debt when they earned their degrees. The national average is 32%. Meanwhile, students who graduated with debt averaged just under $25,000 in debt compared to the national average of $30,100.

Last year, university trustees demonstrated their commitment to our students by dedicating 25% of a 4% tuition increase to student financial aid.

Two weeks ago, we provided $500,000 in assistance to students who owed the university money from fall term, and as a result, could not register for winter term despite being in good academic standing. This assistance helped students in need ... without their even asking.

Meanwhile, our Provost Ed Feser has asked College of Science Dean Roy Haggerty and interim Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dan Larson to co-chair a Student Success Initiative Steering Committee. With the engagement of other deans and university leaders, such as Susana Rivera-Mills, our vice provost for academic programs and learning innovation, we will redouble OSU’s student success efforts.

This mandate for students will help address a matter of national disgrace.

Since 1970, the likelihood of graduating from college for those who come from families in the highest income bracket, increased from 44 percent to 85 percent. Yet, for students from families in the lowest income bracket, the likelihood of graduating increased from six percent to only 9 percent. The achievement gap has doubled.

This is shameful.

We have literally doubled the educational attainment gap, and higher educational institutions are complicit in worsening income inequality across America.

Oregon should care about this achievement gap. I ask each of you to join me – and Oregon State University – in addressing this crisis of inequity.

OSU is well-positioned for this effort, thanks to the commitment of deans, faculty and new leaders including:

  • Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Charlene Alexander.
  • Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Green.
  • Honors College Dean Toni Doolen, who now also leads our College of Education.
  • College of Science Dean Roy Haggerty; and
  • College of Forestry Acting Dean Anthony Davis.

We have much more to do as we begin Oregon State’s next 150 years and together we must join with others to address how higher education will better contribute to society.

Nationally, we must consider public opinion where only 55 percent say that higher education is having a positive effect in America. People without a degree are far less positive.

While some may say this is a partisan issue, I say we have not done enough to establish trust and sufficient understanding of the relevance and value of a college degree.

Issues driving this public debate nationally include:

  • The cost of attending college.
  • Student access to financial aid.
  • Graduates’ debt upon leaving college.
  • How universities manage their expenses; and
  • Universities’ policies regarding free speech and civil rights.

Let us all agree on a few things: a college degree is the surest factor for substantially increasing a person’s career earnings in a globally competitive economy compared to those without a degree.

People must have an education to succeed in a future that will be different from ever before. It is up to those of us who work in – and support – higher education to contribute to this discourse by restoring confidence in the value of a college degree.

At the same time, our nation – and until recently our state’s – declining investment in higher education must not continue.

Its impact is landing on the backs of students as tuition now pays 67.3 percent of the cost of Oregon State’s Corvallis campus educational operations and the state only 21.6 percent. This represents more than a 50 percent decline in the state’s relative contribution from 15 years ago. And nearly a 43 percent increase in the share students pay.

We must work with state leaders to make college students and their future a priority.

Such an opportunity occurs this month in Salem as the Legislature considers state bonding for a second classroom building at OSU-Cascades and projects at the University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University.

We will advocate strongly for the state to make good on its commitment to provide Central Oregon a four-year university. To do so, we are seeking $39.5 million in state bonding to continue the expansion of the OSU-Cascades campus. We have raised almost $10 million in private funds to support this project.

Without such state support, the Legislature will ignore the demand for higher education in the fastest growing region in Oregon.

As we look to the future, we must be unwavering in our commitment to success for all students – wherever they may be.

As president of Oregon’s statewide university, I look forward to celebrating OSU150 with each you and all Oregonians. And to help provide a future for our state that is much brighter than our past.

We must make this a future of equal opportunity.

In closing, let me assure you: we are not done.

I guarantee you that the best is yet to come at Oregon State University … and for all Oregonians.

Thank you.