Oregon State University President Ed Ray
2017 State of the University Address
Wednesday, February 8

Thank you for your interest in Oregon State University, and for your interest in the vital role that higher education plays in Oregon’s future.

My address today will highlight examples of the excellence and innovation occurring at Oregon State.

OSU students, alumni, faculty and researchers are achieving inclusive excellence through teaching, discovery, service to others, and collaboration.

We are realizing far-reaching results in the university’s signature areas:

  • To advance the science of sustainable earth ecosystems;
  • To improve human health and wellness; and
  • To promote economic growth and social progress.

Since 1868, Oregon State has had one mission: to enrich the lives of all people.

As we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary as Oregon’s statewide university – you can count on this: Oregon State will continue to serve others while having a meaningful impact throughout Oregon … the nation … and the world.

Looking ahead, OSU will continue to provide access to an excellent education for all qualified Oregonians.

In Corvallis. At our new four-year campus in Bend. Within a new $50 million global marine research and education center that will open in Newport in 2018. With expanded educational offerings in Portland. And through top-ranked online degree programs.

We will provide opportunities for all learners – regardless of where they live – to advance their lives, careers and communities through the work of the university’s Extension Service.

Oregon State University will provide economic opportunity; explore new frontiers; and deliver innovative research solutions.

We will grow our collaboration in community diversity initiatives, and advance our non-profit, educational and industry partnerships in every corner of Oregon.

Moreover, we will be unwavering, accountable leaders.

Many people support and engage in this work, including:

  • Oregon State faculty, staff, students and administrators;
  • The university’s board of trustees … many of whom are with us today;
  • Alumni and donors;
  • Industry and community partners;
  • Governor Kate Brown and Oregon legislators;
  • Oregon’s Congressional delegation;
  • Higher education colleagues and other partners.

2016 was a year of far-reaching achievements at OSU.

In June, we graduated our largest class ever: 6,406 students who earned 6,723 degrees.

In fall, OSU’s enrollment totaled 31,476 students, making us Oregon’s largest university for the third straight year.

We welcomed 8,006 new students in fall term and of those:

  • 6,505 were undergraduates;
  • 1,501 were graduate students;
  • 78 were Presidential Scholars – an increase of 34 percent from a year ago;
  • 47 percent of entering freshmen had a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher
  • 220 were U.S. veterans;
  • 26 percent were U.S. minorities – an increase of 9 percent from a year earlier;
  • 822 were international students; and
  • 23 percent were first-generation students.

Some of our best, brightest and most accomplished students are with us today. These are the leaders of tomorrow. They give us such great hope and promise for the future. A number of high school seniors, who are considering becoming part of Beaver Nation, are here today with members of their families.

In fall 2016, we opened the new OSU-Cascades campus in Bend by dedicating Tykeson Hall. The expansion of OSU-Cascades is fulfilling a 30-year community dream to bring a four-year university to Central Oregon. OSU-Cascades is providing valued education, cultural opportunities, research and innovation to Oregon’s fastest-growing region.

Grant-funded research at Oregon State last year totaled a record $336 million – a nine percent increase over 2015, which also was a record year. As a result, the economic and societal impact of OSU research in Oregon and globally exceeded three quarters of a billion dollars last year.

Research activities resulted in 70 invention commercialization disclosures; launched 11 companies; and engaged hundreds of faculty across the world; involved thousands of graduate students and nearly 10 percent of our undergraduate students.

Oregon State’s robotics program was ranked No. 4 in the U.S. last year.

This program has 11 of the nation’s leading robotics faculty, and involves 100 graduate and undergraduate students, who are demonstrating how robots and artificial intelligence can operate in the real world.

OSU also was ranked among the nation’s top 10 universities for providing a positive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

Just last month, US News and World Report for the third year in a row judged OSU’s Ecampus online undergraduate programs among the nation’s best – this year with a No. 8 ranking.

Such numbers only tell part of the Oregon State story.

Consider the work led by Mechanical Engineering Professor Belinda Batten and her colleagues at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the OSU center up to $40 million to create the world’s premier test facility for wave energy.

This center will be located in Newport and along with OSU’s work with NuScale in the design and testing of small-scale nuclear reactors demonstrates that Oregon State is a global leader in alternative energy research and implementation.

In our colleges of Public Health and Human Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Science, Pharmacy and the Linus Pauling Science Center, we are dedicated to lifelong health.

Faculty in the colleges of Science, Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Forestry are on the forefront of addressing climate change and working to enhance the natural environment, and to feed and shelter a growing world population.

Remarkable philanthropic efforts led by the OSU Foundation continue to invest in student scholarships, fellowships, endowed faculty positions and strategic university initiatives, such as the Marine Studies Initiative, the $65 million Oregon Forest Science Complex, the Valley Football Center and others.

In the last two years alone, donors have contributed more than $253 million to Oregon State.

An example of the transformative power of philanthropy is the generosity of alumnus Peter Johnson and his wife, Rosalie, who provided the lead gift for Johnson Hall, the new $40 million home for the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. Johnson Hall includes a 125-seat lecture hall, state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories, and a center focused on the retention of all engineering students.

2016 served to launch SPARK -- a celebration of the arts and sciences that showcases the creative power of discovery within the arts and sciences. SPARK is a collaboration of the colleges of Education, Science and Liberal Arts, the Honors College and Oregon State Libraries.

And who can forget the 2016 Oregon State Women’s Basketball team … and their trip to the NCAA Final Four. The team success continues this year with a No. 9 national ranking and a 22-2 record.

Oregon State’s mission of teaching, research and engagement also powerfully serves the Portland region.

Pharmacy researchers are working in the Collaborative Life Sciences Center in the South Waterfront to develop treatments for cancer. Furthermore, our work with OHSU is expanding within bioengineering. Increasingly, the Portland region is a center of Oregon State activity through efforts including:

  • Extension programming, which features a young rangers program in Multnomah County and more than 2,500 Clackamas County K-12 students participating in STEM enrichment programs.
  • And the College of Business’ new hybrid MBA degree now offered in The Pearl and online.

Soon you will see high-rise buildings constructed in Portland using advanced, cross-laminated wood products conceived and tested by OSU forestry faculty.

I assure you that when it comes to Oregon State’s involvement in Portland, we will always follow the Oregon way, and collaborate with other educational institutions, business and community partners to do what is best for this region.

Yet, I ask each of you to engage with OSU beyond Portland and help foster success throughout this state. Oregon’s rural communities have been neglected far too long. Each of us has a stake in all Oregon communities being as vibrant, self-sustaining and as successful as possible.

Looking ahead, Oregon State is doubling down on another essential commitment: student success.

It isn’t enough for students simply to attend college. They must succeed while in school and graduate in a timely manner. At OSU, we are committed to provide more transformative experiences for all students. We recognize that we are not graduating enough of the students who come to us.

And we know that given the burdens that students face today, there is nothing worse for any student than to leave college without a degree … and for the only piece of paper they can show to be a bank statement from their student loan debt.

A year ago, I announced the launch of Oregon State’s Student Success Initiative.

I committed that by 2020, OSU intends to:

  • Raise first-year retention rates for all undergraduate students to 90 percent;
  • Raise six-year graduation rates for all undergraduate students to 70 percent.
  • Achieve higher completion rates for all groups of graduate and doctoral students.
  • Ensure that every OSU student has at least one experiential learning opportunity such as an internship or study abroad experience.

While all of our graduates represent the future of Oregon, the nation and the world, it is simply not acceptable that some students have opportunities and others do not.

Today, I am pleased to announce that OSU Foundation’s Board of Trustees has committed to raise $150 million to support the student success initiative. As of today, I can report that the Foundation has raised more than $50 million toward this goal.

This effort will increase by 50 percent the annual fund-raising for supporting scholarships, student experiential learning and other programs that will help all students reach their full potential in the classroom, in the community … and in life after graduation.

As a result, we will see the lives of all Oregon State students changed by the philanthropy of thousands of OSU donors.

I am all in for the Student Success Initiative. As a first-generation college student myself, this is personal, and I am committed to double down and deliver.

Let’s meet two students who demonstrate why focusing on student success matters.

Communications major Johnathon Hoover, who has cerebral palsy, never thought he would be able to go to college. In addition to being a successful student, Johnathon serves as a manager of the OSU men’s basketball team. This past fall, he traveled with sociology Professor Dwaine Plaza and six other students to visit the White House and hear former First Lady Michelle Obama and several artists talk about their dreams. Afterward, the group visited landmarks around the nation’s capital, including the new African American museum.

Johnathon says these opportunities have aided his success at OSU, and he hopes others have such chances, too.

Auna Godinez is a student in the College of Forestry. At Oregon State, she has been part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation – a program that works to increase the number of underrepresented students in science and engineering programs.

In her studies, as well as in her engagement in research projects and extensive volunteer work, Auna is thriving as a person and in her major – renewable materials with an option in art and design. Following an academic program trip to Peru in the summer of 2015 Auna is considering joining the Peace Corps or undertaking graduate studies.

Students such as these -- and the students that we will enroll in the future -- will determine our future. However, they need our engagement.

I ask each of you to join me in helping advance the Student Success Initiative so that we may get it right for every student.

Oregon State is well positioned for this effort, thanks to the commitment of our faculty, staff, deans, other colleagues, and new leaders including:

  • New Provost and Executive Vice President Edward Feser from the University of Illinois.
  • Roberta Marinelli, our new dean of the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Southern California;
  • Javier Nieto, the new dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences; from the University of Wisconsin; and
  • Incoming Vice President and Athletics Director Scott Barnes from the University of Pittsburgh.

In closing, I must share my belief that we are at a crossroads. The path we take will determine this state’s future and the future of all Oregonians.

Nationally, state funding for higher education has dropped 18 percent from 2008 after being adjusted for inflation. Since that time … according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities … only four states have increased funding for higher education: Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

Even with an unprecedented increase in funding provided by the 2015 Oregon Legislature, our state’s support for higher education has declined 21.7 percent since 2008 – 20 percent more than the national average rate of decline.

Oregon’s disinvestment in higher education must not continue.

Its impact is landing on the backs of students and their families as tuition now pays 66.9 percent of the cost of Oregon State’s Corvallis campus educational operations and the state only 21.4 percent. This represents more than a 50 percent decline in the state’s contribution from 15 years ago. And a 43 percent increase in the share that student tuition pays.

Yet, in 2017 – and in the face of the state’s having to deal with challenges that far outpace revenues – the Governor’s budget essentially flat-funds our universities at 2015-17 levels. Undaunted, Oregon’s seven public university presidents are seeking a $100 million increase in state operating funds for the 2017-19 biennium to maintain educational quality, student programming and to contend with the cost of state-mandated employee benefits.

If we are unsuccessful in receiving sufficient state support:

  • The quality of what we do will certainly be threatened;
  • We will be forced to cut academic and student support programs; and
  • Raise tuition by 6 percent, 9 percent or even more.

If this happens, there will be fewer students attending Oregon State who will have the opportunities enjoyed by Auna and Jonathan. Going forward, their lives – and the lives of other Oregon students -- will bear the burden of reduced opportunities.

We should persist for what is right and what is needed. We must work with the governor and Oregon legislators to make college students and their future a priority for this state.

Oregon State also will lobby the Legislature to support fully OSU’s statewide public services – the Extension Service, experiment stations and forest research labs – that serve each of Oregon’s 36 counties with boots-on-the-ground essential community-based services, economic development and research.

We will advocate for the Legislature to fulfill its long-stated commitment to provide Central Oregon a four-year university. To do so, we are seeking $69.5 million in state bonding to continue the expansion of the OSU-Cascades campus. To be clear, our Governor has proposed only $20 million in bonding for OSU-Cascades this session.

Without approval of the $69.5 million, a second Cascades classroom building will not open until 2023 at the earliest. That the Oregon Legislature would delay serving the demand for higher education in the fastest growing region in the state is not good public policy.

Delay also does not make business sense.

According to an analysis just completed by the economics-consulting firm, ECONorthwest, if work on the Bend campus occurs as planned, in 2025 OSU-Cascades will contribute $197.8 million in total annual economic output throughout Oregon. That year, campus operations and construction activities will support $72.7 million in annual employee compensation and be responsible for 2,083 jobs across the state. This will result in an additional $3.43 million in annual state income taxes.

In 2034, with 5,000 students, OSU-Cascades’ operations and construction activities will contribute an additional $273.7 million in total annual economic output. This includes $98.6 million in annual wages; 3,662 jobs across the state; and $4.83 million paid in annual state taxes.

I know that Central Oregon residents would say they have waited long enough for a four-year university.

I hope that all Oregonians will agree that this university campus and its statewide benefits are long overdue.

As we look to our future, none of us should ever be satisfied with what we have achieved to date. As OSU’s President, I have pledged that “good” will never be good enough … and that we will be excellent in all that we do.

Please join me beginning today to define -- and work to ensure -- OSU’s future, Oregon’s future and the future of our students. Make this a future of excellence and equal opportunity. By investing in the Student Success Initiative.

By helping us to provide access to a high quality, affordable college education throughout this state to all learners. And by investing in Oregon State’s research enterprise, the OSU Extension Service and other outreach and engagement programs.

Together, we will see urban and rural Oregon thrive.

Let me assure you that while OSU has served our state well for nearly 150 years, we are not done. Working together, I guarantee you that the best is yet to come.