Thank you, Kate … members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee … and all senators for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I am thrilled to serve as Oregon State University’s 16th president. And to be a member of the faculty of this incredible university.
Faculty and the work within our colleges are the driving force of this university. Faculty are responsible for OSU’s past success … achievements today … and promise for the future. It is faculty who provide excellent and transformative teaching … scholarship and creative endeavors … impactful research … and inspiring community engagement.
Your work is the cornerstone of activity within our campuses, in top-ranked online education through Ecampus, and in our work within OSU Extension, 4-H and community-based programs.
You are the force behind the impact we have on the nation and the world.
And I sincerely thank you for your profound contributions and service.
Please know that as president I will support academic freedom and work to advance teaching, creative work, engagement service and research. I also will collaborate with the Faculty Senate to advance shared governance.
While I serve as OSU’s president, I ask that you see me also as a teacher. Students inspire me, and I will work to advance success for all students. While faculty are the foundation of OSU, students are the heart of the university. I thank each of you for your many contributions in serving students.
Looking ahead, a top priority for me is personal engagement throughout OSU.
This includes engagement with you as faculty … with students on campus and those learning online … with our incredible staff ... academic and administrative leaders … and donors and alumni.
I also will prioritize deepening engagement with community leaders, state and federal elected officials, under-represented communities, Tribal nations, and business and education partners across Oregon and beyond. You will see me throughout our campuses in Corvallis and Bend. You will see me at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and in Portland … and regularly visiting OSU’s experiment stations, research facilities and extension centers statewide. You also will see me working with many others in advancing the essential education we provide for the 21st century.
Please join me in this work. Your collaboration has never been more important.
We live in fraught times nationally and globally … many challenges face our university, our state and our world. Serious societal problems, including a growing mental health crisis, equity issues and racism abound. Many – too many - are facing economic challenges. Violence in schools, churches, shopping centers and playgrounds have people asking, “Am I safe anywhere today?” Then there are the consequences of a changing climate on the environment, wildlife, weather and people globally.
As educators, one of the greatest risks we face – and must reverse – is the growing public opinion that questions the value of a college education. We must address this concern together.
As the president of Oregon’s statewide land grant university, I believe unequivocally that higher education is a public good. As your president, I will work to increase access to public higher education throughout Oregon by working with the governor, federal and state leaders, as well as leaders at other Oregon universities and community colleges, and those in K-12 school districts.
As members of the Faculty Senate and as educators, I ask that you join me in advancing the sacred mission of public higher education.
Working with leaders in Salem, we also must improve college affordability. At OSU, we can make a difference by increasing retention and graduation rates, reducing time to degree and continuing to manage financial resources prudently.
I congratulate senators on adopting today a resolution to update the Baccalaureate Core curriculum. This action and your work is essential. I commit to work with the Senate, faculty members and OSU leaders to support and implement curricula that meet the needs of 21st-century learners.
I will lead by actively listening. And I believe that shared governance means honest conversations and even occasional disagreements.
I ask that we work together and turn our shared commitment for inclusive excellence into action … action that provides for systemic institutional change to truly advance diversity, equity and inclusion. There are examples of important work occurring within the Office of Institutional Diversity … in colleges, student affairs departments … in many units across the university … and by the OSU Foundation and Alumni Association.
This week, I announced the formation of the President’s Commission on Indigenous Affairs to help foster change and build strong relationships with Native and Indigenous communities. This panel joins the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the President’s Commission on the Status of Black Faculty and Staff Affairs, to contribute to inclusive excellence.
Yet, we have much more work to do. Please participate in and help lead efforts in your departments, schools, colleges and units to advance inclusive excellence.
As I look around this phenomenal university, I see evidence everywhere of momentum. While fall enrollment numbers are still preliminary, it appears we will reach a record overall enrollment of just over 35,000 students … with about 1% growth in Corvallis. New student enrollment will set a record. We anticipate that new freshmen in Corvallis will increase by almost 10% from last year and new freshmen at OSU-Cascades by 15%. We also are anticipating the most diverse freshmen enrollment ever at Oregon State, with an expected 38% increase in African-American students and a 2.4% increase in Hispanic students.
Research is another example of the powerful impact and momentum within the university. OSU research funding last fiscal year increased by 22% or $87.6 million to a record of $471 million. In true Beaver spirit, faculty are collaborating within the university and globally to address society’s most important challenges.
In the years ahead, we will work to advance OSU’s research excellence and impact with investments in new initiatives, faculty hires and facilities. The Collaborative Innovation Complex is one such example. This facility will be a central university initiative where faculty and students will engage in transdisciplinary, team-based research and learning. I encourage all of us to learn more about the CIC in the months ahead. As well, other research investments are imagined.
Meanwhile, completing Strategic Plan 4.0 calls for support of scholarship and creative activity among faculty and students, including efforts to integrate the arts, humanities, sciences, technology and engineering. In the next six months, I ask that you join discussions to guide the creation of Strategic Plan 5.0 – a roadmap that will build upon OSU’s excellence and impact. This work will include a strategic plan steering committee, university forums and discussions with the OSU Board of Trustees to examine what we have accomplished to date … and what we will commit to achieve going forward.
I am grateful that the OSU Foundation so passionately supports our mission. As do members of the Alumni Association, inspired donors, stakeholders and many community members. Last fiscal year, the foundation raised a record $216.9 million – nearly a 22% increase from a year ago. This philanthropy supports university initiatives, helps build and renovate facilities, provides scholarship funds, endows faculty positions and much more.
Tomorrow night, we will launch OSU’s second university-wide fundraising and engagement campaign. This effort will inspire essential support for Oregon State’s strategic priorities. I thank Provost Ed Feser for his visionary leadership of the CIC and greatly appreciate our deans, faculty and all those involved in this major initiative.
In closing, let me share a limited update on discussions regarding the PAC-12. Conversations among conference member universities, conference staff and media players continue. I believe in the continuing strength of the Pac-12 Conference … and the importance of a conference made up of Tier 1 research universities. Our participation in intercollegiate athletic competition at the highest level helps to advance OSU’s teaching, research and service mission.
Athletics also provide essential connections for alumni, stakeholders, donors and community members … a great many who support OSU Athletics, while also supporting the teaching and research mission of the university.
Thanks for the opportunity to join you today … for your warm welcome upon my arrival … and for your service and contributions to Oregon State University’s mission and excellence.
I commit to join each of you in advancing the work of OSU faculty and the achievements and growing promise of this incredible university.
President Jayathi Y. Murthy