2017 in review: Top Campus News and Workplace stories

As 2017 comes to a close, we're taking a look back at the top stories on Around the O. For the Campus News and Workplace sections, it was a year of people — from new hires and special guests to recognizing our colleagues on campus.

1. UO lands top-flight brain scientist for two key roles

As part of a goal to hire more tenure-track faculty, the UO hired David A. McCormick of Yale University to head the university’s Institute of Neuroscience and serve as co-director of the Neurons to Minds Cluster of Excellence alongside UO psychology professor Ulrich Mayr. The story of his beloved canine companion was also among the most-read workplace news stories in 2017.

Quote: "In the next 10 years, we are going to need ‘team science’ to answer big questions about how the brain works… I see a lot of potential toward achieving that at the UO.” —David McCormick

2. University of Houston associate dean to lead UO law school

An expert in property law, land use law and federal natural resources who served in President Barack Obama’s administration was tapped to lead the UO School of Law. Marcilynn Burke was previously an associate dean and associate professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Quote: “Being able to join the school in this role is exhilarating for many reasons, with working alongside such great peers topping that list. With highly ranked programs in environmental law, legal writing and dispute resolution, UO feels like a natural fit for me.” —Marcilynn Burke

3. Jayanth R. Banavar named provost and senior vice president

Jayanth R. Banavar, a distinguished physicist and dean at the University of Maryland, joined the University of Oregon as provost and senior vice president over the summer. As the chief academic officer, Banavar pledged to use his experience in interdisciplinary collaboration to advance the university’s scholarly and research mission.

Quote: “I look forward to sharing my passion for academic excellence with the talented and diverse students, staff and faculty who have helped position the University of Oregon among the best public research universities in the nation.” —Jayanth Banavar

4. UO’s new College of Design will put the focus on creativity

With an eye to the future, the UO renamed and reorganized the school formerly known as “triple A” into the new College of Design. The change, vetted by the design school community, university leadership and the University Senate, includes a new structure round four disciplines.

Quote: “As the home of creativity at the UO, the new College of Design will unlock our ability to achieve new levels of success, building on a tradition of innovation dating back over 100 years. Our new name signals a shared commitment to creative problem-solving, original thinking and real-world engagement.” —Christoph Lindner

5. Knight Campus will begin to take shape with selection of architects

News of the Knight Campus taking shape was the top Around the O story of 2017. Each story about new developments — such as the selection of the architects, hire of the Oregon-based construction firm, selection of Robert Guldberg as executive director and the release of the designs — were among the most read Campus News stories of 2017.

Quote: “One of the many things we are excited about with this selection is Bora and Ennead’s focus on sustainable practices, as well as their emphasis on a collaborative design process that centers on ‘place’ and environmental context.” Patrick Phillips

6. Presidential Fund for Excellence

President Michael Schill started the academic year with major news of a $50 million anonymous gift dedicated to investing in academic excellence. Schill identified five initiatives to fund, including data science , Black Cultural Center programing, the Oregon Research Schools Network, matching funds for faculty chair positions, and the Media Center for Science and Technology.

Quote: ”Through this extraordinary gift, these donors have provided the means to foster innovation and maximize our ability to create lasting and important benefits for the people of Oregon and our world, and to inspire other donors to do the same.” —President Michael Schill

7. Ta-Nehisi Coates gets real about racism at sold-out Knight Arena

The outspoken activist and celebrated author of “Between the World and Me,” the 2016-17 UO Common Reading selection spoke to a sold-out Matthew Knight Arena in early 2017 as part of the UO’s African American Speaker Series. Coates touched on a number of issues that surfaced in the year prior about racism, social justice and the African-American experience.

Quote: “When people talk about slavery, they speak like it was a mistake somebody made while everything else was going great, … a bump on the road. Slavery isn’t a bump. Slavery is the road. There is no America without the enslavement of African-Americans.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

8. President announces Deady Hall decision, new cultural center

In 2017, the UO continued to work on meeting the demands of the Black Student Task Force, including creating a new academic residential community and fundraising for a Black Cultural Center. At the start of the year, President Michael Schill announced the new center and his decision not to rename Deady Hall. Later in the year, former Dunn Hall was renamed for celebrated black alumni DeNorval Unthank Junior.

Quote: “Bigotry and racism have no place in our society or in our university. It is vital that all students at the University of Oregon feel valued and included as part of this institution.” —President Michael Schill

9. UOPD warns that scammers are making fake kidnapping calls

The families of at least two local college students received fake but frightening kidnapping ransom calls at the start of 2017. The phone scams had been reported around the country, but this was the first report involving local students. The UO Police Department warned campus community members and families not to fall for the extortion attempts and offered advice on what to do if a person receives such a call.

10. Black History Month

A story about the UO’s first African-American student and her involvement in the civil rights movement anchored a multimedia story about Black History Month at the UO. The story featured several current students, an advisor and a professor of ethnic studies who reflected on the significance of celebrating and recognizing the blacks and black culture in American history.

Quote: “Black history gives us examples of incredible ingenuity and creativity and the ability to imagine a future that is greater than the sum of our past.” Brandon Parry, 2014 graduate, freshman interest group advisor