President Schill On The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health

Michael Schill, photo by Charlie Litchfield

It is a rare and special thing to conceive of something that will transform lives. And rarer still to bring such a concept to life. 

That’s what the University of Oregon has done with the creation of The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health. Thanks to a gift of more than $425 million from Connie and Steve Ballmer, the UO will establish a new approach to addressing the behavioral and mental health crisis facing youth today. 

The Portland-based Ballmer Institute will train a new workforce of behavioral health practitioners and will create and deliver prevention and intervention strategies directly to children and families. By joining forces with public schools, the state of Oregon, and community organizations, we will create a national model for delivering care directly to K-12 youth.

The idea for the Ballmer Institute emerged from an urgent need to address the children’s behavioral wellness crisis, the UO’s ability and desire to find solutions, and the visionary generosity of the Ballmers.

Last December, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared the state of our children’s mental health a public health crisis, beyond even the damaging effects of the pandemic. Given the UO’s world-renowned expertise in psychology and education, our faculty members knew they could help in an immediate and lasting way. We just needed the means. Fortunately, our alumna and former trustee Connie Ballmer, BS ’84 (journalism), and Steve Ballmer, well-known for their generous support of children’s causes, stepped up with a gift that allows us to get right to work. 

Since the announcement of the Ballmer Institute in March, the Board of Trustees has approved our purchase of the former Concordia University campus in northeast Portland, which will be home to the program. The institute has already begun signing on faculty members. A certificate program for midcareer professionals will be offered this summer. And the institute is taking steps to develop and seek approval of a new undergraduate degree program. To help ensure our ability to build a new workforce, $100 million of the gift is an endowment that will provide scholarships for students entering the behavioral and mental health care field. 

In short: help is on the way. This undertaking will begin providing solutions and relief in months, not decades, and will create lasting impact, helping generations of young people and families. 

While the Ballmer Institute concept is new, our faculty and students have been creating this kind of meaningful impact through education, research, and service since the university’s inception almost 150 years ago. It is our mission, as a public research university, to improve the world. 

As you read this, our university is stepping forward to fulfill its mission for the greater public good. Our students, faculty, and public partners are applying their brilliant, curious minds to solutions. And our generous friends, like the Ballmers, are providing precious resources to make action possible. Together, through The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, we are creating a brighter, healthier future for our state—and ultimately, society as a whole. 

Success is imperative. Nothing less than the well-being of our children and families is at stake.

—By Michael H. Schill, President and Professor of Law

—Photo By Charlie Litchfield, University Communications