Report chronicles a new era of university governance

UO President Michael H. Schill

The first five years of governance by the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon brought significant investments in academic programs and research and a 10-percentage point jump in four-year graduation rates, among other milestones.

Those additional accomplishments include a record-breaking first-year enrollment, historic philanthropic giving, and increased diversity of students, faculty members and staff on campus. UO President Michael H. Schill outlined the progress in a report to the board during its December meeting.

The 40-page report and slide show summary chronicled the 2014 shift in governance of the UO from the state university system to a board of trustees. Schill said the new governance model has given the university more autonomy to improve administrative and financial oversight, increase faculty hiring, improve student success, increase scholarship fundraising, launch the Knight Campus and adapt to changing student and workforce demands.

“The university has experienced extraordinary improvements over the past five years,” Schill said. “We have made great progress in strengthening the university’s teaching and research excellence, in improving student success, in enhancing the experience for our students, and in promoting diversity and inclusion. I want to emphasize that the progress we have made is not the work of any one individual or one group of individuals. It is shared amongst our entire community.”

The report also highlighted some of the significant challenges the university as faced, even with the new model, such as the steep increases in Public Employees Retirement System payments and benefits costs, as well as changing enrollment trends. Schill said achieving more financial stability is one of the greatest challenges ahead for the university.

“To sustain the university’s transformation and its affordable tuition, it will need to constrain costs and work hard to increase its support from the Oregon Legislature and other sources,” Schill added. “We understand to accomplish this, we have to do a better job of clearly and effectively articulating the types of accomplishments we’ve achieved and the many ways they benefit current and future Oregonians living and working in our state.”

Board Chair Chuck Lillis expressed his appreciation of the president, his leadership team and fellow board members for their support.

“It is incredible to think of all that the university has accomplished in this amount of time,” Lillis said. “Thank you for your leadership.”

The executive summary listed more than 30 initiatives designed to support the university’s mission that were achieved under the new board and university leadership in the last four years. They include:

Academic and research excellence:

  • Established the $1 billion Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, or Knight Campus.
  • Initiated planning for coordinated graduate programs with Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.
  • Completed five cluster hire initiatives, building on existing strengths in areas such as volcanology and energy and sustainable materials, and adding new areas such as obesity prevention and health promotion.
  • Launched new research initiatives within the schools and colleges.
  • Increased the size of the tenure-related faculty by 72 net new positions.
  • Boosted total research and development expenditures almost 20 percent since 2015.
  • Improved focus on quality instruction in the classroom.
  • Established new core education learning outcomes.
  • Invested in and improved operational support for graduate education. 
  • Renovated approximately 75,000 square feet of laboratory and related research space, while planning, design or construction is underway for an additional 200,000 square feet of laboratory and related research space.

Student access and success:

  • Increased institutional and philanthropic support for the PathwayOregon scholarship and advising program, increasing the number of Federal Pell Grant–eligible Oregon residents who pay no tuition or fees by 43 percent in 2018.
  • Improved four-year graduation rates by more than 10 points to 60.7 percent and six-year rates to 74.5 percent.
  • Launched an online education initiative focusing on student success and timely graduation.
  • Opened Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall, staffed by 23 new advisors and six career coaches, and revamped the approach to student success career and academic advising.
  • Invested in additional pipeline programs to recruit underrepresented and first-generation students.

Diversity, equity and inclusion:

  • Created Diversity Action Plans and implemented implicit bias training and active recruitment search processes to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion goals and priorities.
  • Realized an increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of the incoming domestic freshman class, improving to 34 percent in 2019 from 27 percent in 2014.
  • Increased the percentage of faculty members of color and launched a process for conducting a climate survey.
  • Established a new multicultural requirement for the undergraduate core curriculum.
  • Built and staffed the new Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, a hub for social, academic and cultural engagement.
  • Launched an African American Workshop and Lecture Series.
  • Created new academic residential communities with focuses on indigenous, black and Latinx studies.

Student experience:

  • Reduced student-teacher ratios to 17:1 with a median class size of 20. 
  • Enriched student-experience opportunities with the opening of the renovated student union, new recreation center, expanded health center and new and renovated residence halls.
  • Reorganized and invested in Title IX services and improved employee reporting responsibilities and policies in matters involving sexual violence and harassment.

Governance, leadership and finance:

  • Successfully implemented new governance system by migrating and creating new polices and administrative rules, establishing a treasury function and an internal audit office. Set up shared services and took over retirement plan responsibilities for all seven state public universities.
  • Hired a new leadership team, including Schill, Provost Patrick Phillips, four new vice presidents and eight new deans. 
  • Enhanced the university’s administrative and financial infrastructure by investing in automated platforms for transactional and analytic uses, improving standardized public financial reports, implementing an institutional hiring process for all tenure-related hires, and refining the institutional budget process to better align resources with the university’s strategic vision.
  • Increased efforts to define and clarify rules and policies for academic departments and faculty — such as clarifying professional responsibilities, tenure criteria and internal governance — developed university policies to replace Oregon University System policies and modernized the employment relationship with officers of administration.
  • Successfully implemented the first collective bargaining agreement with United Academics, the union representing faculty members.
  • Grew the endowment 27 percent in four years, closing in on a $1 billion milestone. 
  • Launched the public phase of a $2 billion capital campaign and met the goal. Increased the goal to $3 billion with the vast majority of funds to be used for faculty research and student success. As of Nov. 1, the UO has raised $2.19 billion towards the new campaign goal.

By Jennifer Winters, University Communications