UO Board of Directors discusses student re-engagement

Days before UO freshmen moved into dorms, the University of Oregon board reviewed the university’s plans to re-engage thousands of students in campus life after their long absence imposed by COVID-19.

The board’s agenda at its September quarterly meeting also included an update on the OU’s short and long-term finances and approval of two construction projects, as well as briefings. on UO’s institutional diversity, equity and inclusion work and student success initiatives.

The meeting was the first in-person board meeting on campus since March 2020. It also provided an opportunity to formally welcome the seven new directors to the 15-member board, who were appointed by Governor Kate Brown and confirmed by the Oregon Senate earlier this year.

Chairman of the Board, Chuck Lillis, noted at the start of the meeting that “almost half of the directors are new,” which is a first since the creation of the UO Board of Directors in 2013.

“Thank you to all of you for taking the time to step away from your very busy schedules to come and help and assist our very special university,” said Lillis. Service on the board “is the continued pursuit of academic excellence and all of you, I know, are as passionate about it as we all are.”

President Michael Schill said the start of the fall semester marks an “important moment” for the OU with the resumption of mostly face-to-face teaching and the coming together of the campus community.

“It’s going to take a while, I think, for all of us – faculty, students, staff – to get over some of the anxiety we all feel” about going back to campus amid concerns about the variant. delta, he said. “I think it’s important to recognize and understand this feeling.”

“Fortunately,” added Schill, “we are well prepared in our multi-level approach to prevention, response and support. This will allow us to return safely to campus.

This plan includes, more importantly, a vaccination requirement for students and employees, Schill said, as well as a weekly testing requirement for those who claim an exemption from that requirement. More than 95% of students and employees surveyed are fully immunized, according to the latest UO figures, and more than 90% are now saying.

Other strategies implemented by the OU include a requirement to cover the face, an internal testing program, a robust case management strategy, and environmental safety tactics including improved ventilation and deep cleaning.

Schill also highlighted recent news that UO easily surpassed its fundraising goal of $ 3 billion and expressed confidence that UO’s fall registration numbers will be high.

“We very much hope that this will be one of our most important, diverse and academically prepared courses,” he said.

Part of the challenge for the fall semester will be welcoming and successfully integrating two full undergraduate classes who have yet to have in-person college experience at Eugene, said President Patrick Phillips.

“We know that students have suffered more than any other (academic) group during the pandemic,” he said, pointing to data that showed high rates of depression among certain groups of students. “As a public institution, we need to take these numbers seriously and show our commitment to dealing with them.”

Kris Winter, Associate Senior Vice President, Student Life, and Grant Schoonover, Senior Director of Undergraduate Academic Success, presented the university’s initiatives to engage students, including a summer bridging program for ease the transition to college, new academic peer coaching, an expanded academic program and academic co-engagement through freshman interest groups, and greater counseling and mentoring support through pairs.

Isiah Boyd, president of student associates at the University of Oregon, told administrators that the student organization is also focused on the same goal.

“One of our top priorities is to make the campus feel like a campus again,” he said.

In the remaining cases, the Trustees approved without dissent a proposed operating expenditure authorization for fiscal year 2022.

Jamie Moffitt, vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer, said UO’s revenue in the education and general fund remained stable in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020-2021, while the expenses decreased by $ 9 million due to one linked to COVID-19. time savings associated with freezing university hiring and reducing supplies and services.

However, the loss of at least 800 freshmen in the fall of 2020 due to the pandemic has significantly affected the university’s finances for 2020-21, Moffitt said, and will continue to hurt education and to the general fund over the next three years due to the loss of tuition fees. dollars.

The Board of Trustees approved $ 15 million in funding for preliminary expenses related to Phase 2 of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. This work will include schematic design, property studies and assessments, site preparation and other pre-construction costs for a second building.

The directors also gave the green light for a major renovation of Huestis Hall at the Lokey Science Complex. Planned upgrades include increased programmatic square footage, more flexible lab space, modernized public spaces, as well as new mechanical and plumbing systems and network infrastructure. The $ 63.6 million project will largely be funded by state guaranteed bonds, which the Oregon legislature has already approved.

The Board of Directors received an update on the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact from Executive Director Robert Guldberg. Guldberg highlighted the new businesses and ventures that were launched from campus in its first year, as well as new hires of staff and university programs, and the establishment of the COVID-19 MAP testing program. UO.

In July, the Knight Campus was selected to partner with five other institutions to work on understanding peak physical performance, thanks to a $ 220 million grant from the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation.

“It’s remarkable that it’s only been a year since we moved” into the building, said Guldberg.

On the second day of the meeting, the board heard an update on UO’s institutional initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion.

An interdisciplinary team presented information on their data collection work so far, which will help inform the institution’s plans to increase the recruitment and retention of more diverse students and employees.

Directors asked how the OU could use employee diversity data to gain more buy-in from individual departments to adopt tactics to increase diversity in candidate pools and what common barriers exist to doing so. bring people from minority groups to the campus.

“Higher education has a problem with tradition: we tend to do things the way they always have been done,” said Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion. “So when we have a job offer in an academic department, we go through existing professional networks…. The problem is that in America our networks are racially and ethnically limited.

In addition, Kimberly Johnson, Vice-President, Undergraduate Studies and Student Success, briefed administrators on UO’s student success initiatives. One of the big areas of achievement, Johnson said, is the increase in the four-year graduation rate of UO students from 49.9% in 2016 to 61.3% in 2020, achieving a target set by Schill, although she noted that there is “still more progress and work to be done.”

Moving forward, Johnson said his team has identified some key metrics to further improve student success, including measuring student work placements within six months of graduation, learning outcomes base expressed in student experience and debt-upon-graduation surveys.

To improve them, “we cannot operate in silos,” she said. “Students need to navigate and connect with the whole institution. It forces us as departments to fit together and be more student-centered, so that our services are meaningful to all students. “

Administrators asked if it was possible to further increase UO graduation rates, if the administration’s definition of student success fit the students’ perspective and plan to help students catch up. their four-year graduation goal if they fell behind due to COVID -19 disruptions.

Finally, Leah Ladley, the UO’s internal auditor, reviewed her office load with the Trustees and provided a report on the work her staff did during the fiscal year as well as on projects underway. course and to come.

By Saul Hubbard, University Communications


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