Letter From the Vice President – April/May 2014

As many of you know, I will be leaving the University of Oregon next month to become the Senior Vice President for Research at the University of Arizona.

During my time here, the University has faced a number of significant challenges — the tight federal climate, reductions in state budgets, a shrinking office resource base, previously unaddressed unit debts, federal grant payroll violations, and a series of leadership changes to name a few. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with many great colleagues and thank those who have worked so hard to build a better office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education that serves our campus community.

I’ve been fortunate to have the strong support and collaboration of President Gottfredson and our Senior Vice President and Provost Scott Coltrane, as well as that of the vice presidents and deans. Research excellence is a central driver of their efforts to move the university forward under the new independent board governance structure. Together, we’ve advocated for the UO across the state and nation, and around the world. Programs like the Presidential Research Lecture, the Research Excellence Awards and the Research Faculty Breakfast are much-anticipated events that celebrate all varieties of outstanding research that occur on our campus every day. There is new support for research activities through the establishment of RIGE Research Core Facilities – Aquatic Animal Care Services, Center for Statistics, Assessment & Evaluation, and the Bowerman Sports Science Clinic – and new programs to stimulate cross-cutting faculty research, such as the Incubating Interdisciplinary Initiative. Working closely with colleagues in Government and Community Relations, we have advocated for education and research funding in Salem and in Washington, D.C.  We have advanced the UO Research agenda on the local level in op-eds and by collaborating with communications teams across campus. We’ve spoken out for research at every opportunity – including being quoted in high-profile venues and participating in the invitation-only AAU Media Roundtable advocacy event in our nation’s capital.

Creating and expanding opportunities for graduate students has been a prime focus for the office. The Graduate School programs to prepare students for the full variety of workforce needs of the future have been developed and expanded. We’ve grown tuition support for all doctoral training grants across campus and reformulated the Promising Scholar Award to increase support for underrepresented graduate students. Graduate Specializations – a new method for recognizing signature training, have been established, resulting in new approved training opportunities in Neuroscience, Prevention Science, Food Studies and Sustainable Business Practice. We’ve expanded our funded partnerships with the private sector to provide our graduate students with training and give local and regional companies better access to talented graduates. These efforts were evident in the growth of this year’s Graduate Research Forum, which included cash prizes for poster session winners and involvement of local sponsors. We’ve also worked closely with donors to create new experiential learning opportunities for graduate students, implementing programs such as the Dixon Innovation Awards, and developed a partnership with our colleagues in Enrollment Management to enhance our graduate student recruitment efforts even further. In all Graduate School matters, it has been my distinct pleasure to have worked with such a great team of professionals, currently led by Andy Berglund and Kassy Fisher.

Assistant Vice President for Innovation Chuck Williams and Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation Pat Jones have helped sharpen our influence in the realm of innovation, working to secure new partnerships with outside firms and making our interests in economic development known. Seeking and securing the support of the Oregon Legislature for the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) has been another major accomplishment for our community. A collaboration between the UO, OSU, Eugene-Springfield, Corvallis-Albany, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and the regional business community that seeks to advance the formation and growth of tech-based startups in the South Willamette Valley, the program would not have been possible without the partnership of staff in the President’s Office and State Relations. RAIN is now ramping up with the forthcoming launch of the RAIN Eugene accelerator and the announcement of our first cohort of startups who will receive programmatic assistance from our Business and Law School colleagues.

RIGE Development Director Matt Hutter secured the UO’s first major gift to support RAIN and provide seed grants for UO entrepreneurs, the $200,000 RAINMaker Fund. Matt also made the Ed Colligan User Interface Design Challenge a successful reality and the program will return for a second round of competition in the fall.

Our research service divisions have continued to sharpen their performance on a number of fronts. Innovation Partnership Services launched its RAIN-related O-Corps program in partnership with the Graduate School and has continued to shepherd research innovation in numerous ways, helping to launch new startups, transferring technology into the marketplace, and building mutually beneficial relationships with industry. UO affiliated startup companies generated more than 275 jobs and over $27 million in company income in 2013.

Research Development Services (RDS) under the leadership of Lynn Stearney has continued to find new ways to help UO faculty members do their best work, whether by assisting with competitions, helping to polish award submissions or by finding new funding opportunities with its weekly Funding Opportunities newsletter. Last fall RDS hosted a very successful two-day faculty orientation and training session that provided valuable information on accessing research services, finding funding opportunities, and developing effective proposals. The event featured presentations from Scott Fisher, former Program Director at the NSF, and guest speaker Barbara Walker from University of California, Santa Barbara who offered a session on “Finding Funding and Grantwriting in the Arts and Humanities.” Coupled with our  partnership with the specialty consulting and government relations firm Lewis-Burke, our faculty members are accessing grant information and competing successfully for federal awards in this cutthroat federal fiscal environment.

Research Compliance Services (RCS) has continued to earn high marks from faculty constituents as it conducts the necessary work of ensuring responsible and ethical conduct of research, under the direction of Sheryl Johnson. RCS and Sponsored Project Services (SPS) have streamlined their processes and performance, improving their service to the UO research community. Analinda Camacho and the entire SPS team continues to refine the ways it serves DGAs and PIs as well as UO administrative officials, business managers and affiliated organizations such as the UO Foundation, providing Proposal Preparation and Clearance and Grant and Contract Administration. SPS maintains an ever-expanding calendar of continuing education offerings with training sessions happening multiple times a month on subjects such as basic budgeting, grants administration 101 and other subjects for department grant administrators.  A special commendation is warranted for Bob Lawson for stepping in to provide steady, expert research administration at a particular time of acute unit need.

Of particular note is the work that’s been accomplished by the faculty, particularly members of the Research Advisory Board who have provided sage advice and sound recommendations on matters pertaining to the development of the University of Oregon as the place for research and innovation excellence. Among other things, the board successfully completed its charge by the President to develop guidance that defines university research centers and institutes, and continues its work as tasked by the Provost to review and make recommendations regarding our office’s resource distribution model. The University of Oregon also has gained much from the tireless service of faculty members Patrick Phillips and Beth Stormshak in their roles as Associate Vice President for Research.

As I reflect on my past few years here, I’m grateful to have worked with such outstanding professionals in the office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education, particularly Moira Kiltie, Naomi Crow, Stacy Williams-Wright and Susan Brown who made every day in the office a positive one. Through both difficult challenges and exciting opportunities, I appreciate the collaboration with so many of you across our campus. I thank you for your efforts to collectively advance transformative excellence in research, innovation and graduate education at the University of Oregon.

Best wishes for continued success for the University of Oregon.

Kimberly Andrews Espy