Friday, February 12, 2016
Oregon Convention Center

Edward J. Ray
President, Oregon State University

Today’s State of the University address will highlight examples of the incredible momentum, excellence, innovation and leadership occurring at Oregon State and some of the challenges facing the university. We are realizing transformative teaching, research and service to advance environmental progress, health and economic prosperity for all Oregonians – as well as our nation and the world.

Today’s address is also a call to action.

Quite frankly, none of us should ever be satisfied with what we have achieved to date.

As Oregon State University’s president, I have pledged that “good” will never be good enough. We will be excellent in all that we do.

OSU was created in 1868 to bring higher education and economic opportunity to the great people of this state.

148 years later … we remain intently focused on excelling in how we serve as Oregon’s statewide university.

We do this through many efforts and the support of many people, including:

  • Oregon State faculty, staff, students and administrators;
  • alumni and donors;
  • industry and community partners;
  • Governor Kate Brown and Oregon legislators;
  • Oregon’s Congressional delegation; and
  • higher education colleagues.

Two such partners and incredible leaders are with us today: Bob Moore, the founder of Bob’s Red Mill, a globally recognized natural foods company, and Tammy Bray, the dean of OSU’s nationally accredited College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Bob is a prominent global leader for healthy nutrition. Thanks to his generosity -- and Tammy’s leadership -- Oregon State is home to the Moore Family Center for Whole Grains, Nutrition and Preventive Health and is engaged in cutting-edge research on nutrition, childhood obesity and healthy eating.

Bob is with us today, and he will recognize Tammy for her tireless and inspired leadership for more than a decade as dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. At the end of this academic year, Tammy will step down as dean but continue to engage in other life and public health leadership opportunities.

According to Bob, and I quote, “Thanks to Dean Bray, we’re going to have a whole new generation of wiser, healthier Oregonians and people throughout the world.”

Please join me in recognizing Bob Moore and Tammy Bray.

Thanks to the leadership and commitment of many, Oregon State has become an internationally recognized public research university and is addressing many of the world’s most pressing problems.

2015 was a year of notable achievements at Oregon State.

  • For the second year in a row, our enrollment exceeded 30,000 students, and the university awarded more than 6,300 degrees to 6,038 graduates – OSU’s largest graduating class ever.
  • At OSU-Cascades in Bend, we welcomed our first class of freshmen and began construction on the state’s first new college campus in more than a half century. This campus will open in September.
  • Oregon State’s eCampus online undergraduate education program – which last year educated 4,536 distance learners throughout Oregon and the world – was ranked No. 7 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. And No. 4 in the nation for veterans.
  • Our College of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School launched the nation’s first graduate degree program in Environmental Humanities to prepare students for careers in environmental policy, social justice and the arts.
  • OSU seismic experts, including Chris Goldfinger in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and Scott Ashford, dean of the College of Engineering, have been central in work to understand the prospects, and reduce the impact of natural disasters globally, including the threat of a Cascadia earthquake here in the Pacific Northwest.
  • This past year, Oregon State faculty generated a record $309 million in research funding – nearly totaling the combined research of Oregon’s six other public universities. But it isn’t that number that is impressive but rather the benefit of this work, including ground-breaking discoveries in the Linus Pauling Institute and the colleges of Science and Pharmacy to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease and cancer and within the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry to feed and shelter a fast-growing world population while protecting the environment.
  • Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon legislators, OSU and other public universities saw the first increase in state funding in nearly a decade. This investment will enable improved access to college for more students.
  • I also am very pleased to report that the momentum associated with philanthropic engagement at Oregon State continues. You may recall that The Campaign for OSU concluded at the end of 2014, having raised $1.14 billion to renovate or build 28 buildings; endow 79 faculty positions; support new research and teaching programs; and provide $189 million for donor-funded scholarships and fellowships.

In 2015, that momentum continued with donor gifts totaling $130.8 million – the OSU Foundation’s best fundraising year ever.

To each of you involved in these and many more achievements and investments at Oregon State University, I say:

  • Thank you for a job well done, and congratulations.
  • You are all difference makers.

Looking ahead, allow me to share what I believe must define Oregon State University’s future.

We know that Oregon State University’s mission of service is founded in:

  • Excellence,
  • Leadership and
  • Innovation.

These qualities are at the center of OSU’s commitment to help society to address the most significant challenges facing our future.

Issues such as:

  • The health of our planet,
  • Human health and wellness
  • Sufficient food and shelter for a growing population and
  • Prosperity, social justice and inclusivity for all.

As you visit Oregon State, you will witness excellence in the quality of students who attend the university. This fall, more than 41 percent of the freshmen entering OSU had high school grade point averages (GPAs) of 3.75 or greater.

We are pleased to have many accomplished OSU students here today. Would all Oregon State students, please stand and be recognized?

And also, please join me in recognizing a number of the Portland region’s top high school students who are with us today. Please stand and be recognized.

Thank you for joining us.

I look forward to your becoming part of Beaver Nation.

Why does such excellence and service matter?

  • It’s about our students.
  • It’s about their success while in school.
  • And it’s about their impact on the future.

Consider the story of Jeannie Sullivan.

Jeannie is majoring in agricultural sciences with additional majors in speech communications and leadership.

As a student, Jeannie works with Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State’s Marine Mammal Institute. Recently, when a blue whale washed up on the southern Oregon coast, Jeannie and other students spent nearly a week to learn more about this animal, its life and the cause of its death.

Jeannie is dauntless. On campus, she is a mentor for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, which introduces minority students to STEM fields. And she works as a student ambassador, conducting campus tours for prospective students and their families.

Jeannie believes that a person should never say they can’t do something. She says, “You can always do something.”

Jeannie cannot be with us today because she is out learning the cultures of 15 other nations by participating in an Oregon State University Semester at Sea program. Please join me in recognizing Jeannie.

Oregon State University is also defined by innovation.

In Newport and Corvallis, we continue to advance OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative and address multiple challenges facing the world, including degradation of marine habitats, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, climate change and natural disasters.

This research and teaching effort involves collaborators in each of the university’s colleges to provide problem-solving research and transformative learning experiences for hundreds of students.

We continue to raise funds for this effort. An anonymous donor has pledged $20 million to help build a world-class research and academic building in Newport, and the Legislature has provided $24.8 million in state bonds.

By 2025, 400 to 500 students in Newport and another 700 or more students in Corvallis will engage in marine studies and research. The economics consulting firm ECONorthwest has determined that by 2025, the Marine Studies Initiative will provide $71 million in vital annual economic stimulus to coastal communities whose economies have struggled for many decades. Over the next decade, the statewide cumulative economic impact of this initiative will exceed $280 million.

Meanwhile, Oregon State’s College of Forestry will open the $60-70 million Oregon Forest Science Complex in Corvallis to accelerate the use of advanced, cross-laminated wood products in the construction of high-rise buildings … here in Portland and around the world.

This effort is supported by more than $60 million in donor support and state bonding approved by the Legislature.

The wood science initiative will help restore high-paying jobs to rural Oregon and increase the use -- and value -- of Oregon’s natural resources. Doing so will improve the sustainability of urban areas worldwide.

Looking toward the future and our leadership role in Oregon and beyond, let me focus on actions to strengthen the inclusivity of OSU and advance the academic success of each of our students.

A year ago, I shared with many of you that Oregon State University is part of an effort to change the face and capabilities of higher education in America.

OSU and 10 other major public research universities have formed the University Innovation Alliance to significantly raise undergraduate enrollment for Pell-eligible students, raise retention and graduation rates for all student groups and eliminate achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color and first-generation students, while advancing the quality of our academic programs.

Alliance members include Arizona State University, Michigan State University, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Kansas, Purdue University and Ohio State University among others.

Why is diversity so important? When I came to Oregon State in 2003, many people asked me why I cared so much about helping OSU become more inclusive. “Oregon, as a state, is not very diverse,” they would say.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Oregon’s diversity as a state is not the issue. If we create a community dedicated to equity, inclusion and social justice, Oregon State University will become a destination of choice throughout the nation and around the world.

I am committed to doing what’s right to address the inequality in higher education and to better ensure the success of all people now … and in the future.

Serving all people, regardless of their personal economic or family circumstances, gender or race has been central to Oregon State’s mission since 1868.

But it is well past the time for OSU – and frankly, other universities – to improve how we serve all students of diverse backgrounds.

Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was among the upper quartile of the income distribution in this country was 44 percent. Today, that figure is 82 percent. Forty years ago, the likelihood of getting a college degree if your family was in the lowest quartile of the income distribution in America was 6 percent. Today that figure is only 9 percent.

Less well recognized is the fact that the highest levels of student debt, ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, are associated with students seeking graduate and doctoral degrees, where the achievement gaps are even greater.

This is shameful.

Higher education in America is deepening the divide in our nation between haves and have nots, and this chasm is tearing at the fabric of society and undermining our democracy.

At Oregon State, we continue to underperform with respect to providing diverse students with a transformative educational experience. While our first-year retention rate for under-represented minorities is at its highest level in the past decade, it is still 8.3 percent lower than it is for all students. And OSU’s six-year graduation rate for underrepresented minority students – while much improved – is still 10.8 percent lower than for the general student body.

As a result, we are failing to demonstrate the inclusive excellence we are committed to as a university.

We must provide for the future success of each and every student -- undergraduate, graduate and doctoral.

Our graduates are our most important contribution to the future and, quite simply, we are not graduating enough of the students who come to us.

We must eliminate the gaps in graduation rates among students, and we must raise the six-year graduation rate of all of our undergraduate students well above the current level.

Last year, the OSU Board of Trustees offered me a five-year contract extension as university president.

I was honored by this statement of such strong support, and I made it clear that I would accept the board’s offer because of my passion for the work we do at OSU.

And last month when the Board of Trustees announced that I would receive a raise, I made it clear that any raise I would get this year – and for as long as I am honored to serve this university -- will go for student scholarships and student-support programs. I do not care about the money. This is personal.

I am 100 percent committed to get these student success issues right. And the time to do that is now.

I will not walk away from this job without one more all-out effort to significantly – and successfully – increase student success at every level.

I call upon you to join me in getting this right for every student at Oregon State University.

I make this pledge: that with our great university leadership team; with the right organization and plans; with a reallocation of current university resources; and with additional financial support from the state Legislature and friends and alumni like you, we will move immediately to make the kind of progress on student achievement that has eluded us for too many years.

This must be an all-hands-on-deck student success initiative.

We intend by the end of this decade to raise Oregon State’s first-year retention rate for all undergraduate students from 83.8 percent to 90 percent and OSU’s six-year graduation rate for all undergraduate students from 63.1 percent to 70 percent -- without any achievement gaps for underrepresented, first-generation or Pell-eligible students. We intend to achieve higher completion rates for all groups of graduate and doctoral students.

Through our residential campuses and distance online learning, we will provide meaningful paths to college success for every qualified Oregonian.

In turn, every Oregon State University student will have at least one experiential learning opportunity. These internships, undergraduate research appointments, service learning courses, study abroad programs, club and leadership activities will help prepare every student for success in school and in a highly competitive global economy.

We will provide every member of our university community a culture of equity, inclusion and social justice … within which everyone can flourish. And I mean everyone.

We will do this not because it is easy, but because we dare not fail.

We will do this not because we care about rankings but because it is the right thing to do.

We will do this because Beaver Nation is an authentic and remarkable community devoted to inclusive excellence and service to others.

Following a decade or more of declining state support for higher education, we know that on average, each Oregon resident undergraduate attending OSU has an unmet need each year of $7,256. And for students who are Pell Grant-eligible, that unmet need is $9,601 annually. These are near-impossible financial burdens for students and their families. Opportunities for success at the graduate and doctoral levels are even further out of reach for those who are economically disadvantaged.

Instead, we must ensure that by 2020 we:

  • Find ways to make an OSU degree an affordable reality for all qualified Oregonians;
  • Make sure that Oregon State is the school of choice for Oregon’s high-achieving and highly accomplished students; and
  • Ensure that Oregon State is a university where all students achieve success, regardless of their economic status, color of their skin or family background.

That’s what the state of Oregon and this nation needs.

But we cannot do this alone. I need your engagement.

We need the leadership and support of the business community, alumni, donors, the Governor and the Oregon Legislature as part of a new Student Success Initiative at Oregon State University.

You can join me in this Student Success Initiative by reaching out to me personally today or in the near future. You can call Susie Brubaker-Cole, OSU’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs, who with other Oregon State colleagues will mobilize this effort. Susie is with us today and her direct line at work is 541-737-3626. Again: 541-737-3626.

Join me … and help achieve by 2020 this new horizon of inclusive student success and excellence.

In closing, let me assure you that while we know that we are not done, we can be confident that working together, the best is yet to come.


Thank you.