State of the University Address 2019 - Bend

OSU President Ed Ray

Monday, May 6, 2019
Riverhouse on the Deschutes, Bend, Oregon

Tonight, I will share news about OSU and point out challenges that lie ahead.

Across the nation, many are questioning the value of a college degree in life and career.

Meanwhile, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and legislators are being challenged severely to balance the state budget by deciding what they will invest in … and what they will not.

I call upon them to invest in the future of all Oregonians and our state by providing more funds for each element of the Pre-K-20 education continuum.

As Oregon’s statewide university, OSU views its just-completed 150th anniversary as a platform for advancing a legacy of excellence in teaching, innovation and engagement.

Here in Central Oregon, the teaching and research occurring at OSU-Cascades, the long-standing local services of OSU Extension, and the research-based innovations at our agricultural experiment stations in Madras and Burns are evidence of OSU’s commitment to this region.

OSU faculty and students drive our success. They are critical thinkers. Determined. Collaborative. Confident. They explore new frontiers and solve today’s most pressing issues. Many of you are proof that our graduates are our most important contribution to the future.

Yes, Oregon State is 150 years old. And while for some, 150 years may seem like a place to stop and rest, I guarantee you, we are not done. Rest is for others. Not for Oregon State or Beaver Nation.

We already are focused on the future by improving who we are today.

In January, we launched OSU’s roadmap for the next five years – Strategic Plan 4.0 – and Vision 2030, an articulation of strengths and aspirations that OSU will build upon -- and achieve -- over the next decade.

This planning serves as our North Star in fulfilling Oregon State’s land grant mission here at home and globally.  It embodies our commitment to higher education as a public good.

Moreover, our strategic plan affirms that the education OSU provides, as a research-intensive university, is uniquely important and will be accessible to all learners.

At Oregon State, we believe that excellence is achieved through diversity. We realize the more diverse and inclusive we are, the more excellent we will be and we seek excellence to better serve others.

We turn learners into leaders as students enroll here in Bend and in Corvallis; take nationally top-ranked online courses anywhere in the world; participate in hybrid classes in Portland; and benefit from community-based learning programs we offer.

Yet, we know that access to an affordable higher education is not enough. We are convinced that an education in both the sciences and the liberal arts with a focus on critical thinking and writing, understanding other cultures, and service on behalf of others, matters.

At Oregon State, we collaborate with many others:

-- The university’s board of trustees;

-- Our faculty, employees and students;

-- The OSU Foundation, Alumni Association and donors and friends;

-- Industry, education and community partners; and

-- Our governor, legislators and Congressional delegation.

This collaboration is fully evident in Central Oregon among members of Now 4 OSU-Cascades, generous donors, business partners, including EDCO and local chambers of commerce, area school districts, Central Oregon Community College and legislators.

It was this kind of community engagement -- and more than $10 million in donor support -- that led to legislative approval in 2018 for $39 million in state bonding for a second academic building on the OSU-Cascades campus.

And I know that student and community support will convince legislators to approve bonding for a student success center here in Bend.

I sincerely thank each of you for your engagement in Oregon State University and OSU-Cascades and I am grateful for your support.

Yet, such momentum does not happen on its own. I am sure you all will agree with me that the most remarkable leader and contributor to OSU-Cascades’ success is Becky Johnson.

As campus vice president, Becky embodies OSU’s mission to bring higher education to every qualified student and provide prosperity within every community through research innovation and engagement services.

Thank you, Becky. We are most fortunate to have you at the helm of OSU-Cascades and as a colleague and friend.

Let us also recall the significant leadership contributions of former OSU President Paul Risser that led to the creation of OSU-Cascades.

It was my pleasure to meet Paul while he was OSU president and maintain our friendship as he became chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

Paul passed away in 2014. Because of his visionary leadership in bringing a four-year university to Central Oregon, friends and colleagues decided that a most fitting tribute would be to create an outdoor gathering place in his honor at OSU-Cascades.

Please join me at a tribute to Paul on May 17 on our Bend campus.

Oregon State University continues to enjoy many outstanding achievements:

  • In June, we graduated our largest class ever of 7,128 students from our Corvallis campus.
  • And 368 students from OSU-Cascades, our second largest class ever.
  • In fall, OSU’s enrollment totaled a record 32,011 students, making us Oregon’s largest university for the fifth straight year.
  • 1,259 of those students were enrolled in Bend.


I am most proud of this year’s student body:

  • 88.4 percent of our OSU-Cascades undergraduates and 71 percent of our Corvallis undergraduates are Oregonians;
  • OSU-Cascades’ enrollment grew 4.6 percent and online enrollment in Ecampus grew 7.9 percent.
  • 1,253 students are U.S. veterans and of those, 91 are enrolled at OSU-Cascades;
  • University-wide, students of color make up 25 percent of our student body;
  • 4,947 are graduate students, including 281 graduate students here in Bend – a 12.9 percent increase over last year; and
  • 6,192 students are first-generation OSU undergraduate students, including 306 OSU-Cascades students who make up 31.3 percent of the campus’ undergraduate enrollment.

In keeping with OSU’s mission to provide access to learning for all Oregonians, our student body includes thousands of students who started their education at a community college.

This past year was one of extraordinary achievements at OSU.

Here are a few examples:

  • Generous donors made 2018 another historic year as the OSU Foundation raised $151.93 million.  This total included a $500,000 gift from local hoteliers Curt and Robin Baney to double an endowed fund for faculty in OSU-Cascades’ hospitality management program.

And a contribution by Seven Peaks Ventures to support the work of computer science scholar Yong Bakos.

  • Our baseball team won the NCAA World Series last June by beating Arkansas in a thrilling three-game series. Did you know that only OSU has won three baseball national championships since 2000?
  • Our Ecampus online degree program continues to grow and serve learners with excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. In January, U.S. News & World Report ranked our online undergraduate program as No. 3 in the nation.
  • This year we began offering hybrid academic programs at our new Portland Center. These degree offerings and our new center expand Oregon State’s decades of service and partnerships in Portland.
  • And last June, a unanimous decision by the Bend City Council approved OSU-Cascades’ master plan for a 128-acre campus that will serve 3,000 to 5,000 students. I greatly appreciate the City Council’s support, the work of university staff and the engagement of hundreds of area residents in this significant plan. One of my heroes in this effort is Kelly Sparks, associate vice president of finance and strategic planning for OSU-Cascades. In recognition of her leadership, Kelly received a Beaver Champion Award that I present annually to two to three exemplary university staff.

As you leave tonight, you will receive IMPACT 2019 – a portfolio complete with stories about remarkable OSU people and programs making a difference. Inside this portfolio is an invitation for you to help create a brighter future for our state.

At the heart of Oregon State University are learners … of all ages and walks of life. Some of our OSU-Cascades students are with us today. 

One of those students is Redmond’s Lynnea Fredrickson. Lynnea is OSU-Cascades’ Student Life office manager, as well as a marketing specialist and director of legislative affairs for the Associated Students of Cascades Campus. This winter, she was named the Bend Chamber of Commerce’s Woman of the Year Young Hero.

More than ever, our campuses in Corvallis and Bend are destinations of choice – not just within Oregon, but nationally and globally for students seeking to transform their futures. With us tonight are several prospective students, who are considering attending OSU-Cascades.

Outstanding faculty are Oregon State’s strongest asset and are difference makers by providing outstanding teaching and research.

In 2018, grant-funded research at Oregon State totaled $382 million – our second-best year ever. This included an $88 million National Science Foundation grant to build the second of two new ocean research vessels.

Our College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences manages this massive undertaking. We anticipate the first vessel will be delivered in 2021 to be stationed at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, while the second vessel will be used within Atlantic waters. Two weeks ago, we were notified that we have been awarded another $108 million to build a third vessel for research in the Gulf of Mexico. Our leadership in this effort surely follows from the fact that our Oceans programs are ranked number three in the world.

OSU research is out there, providing for wellness, a better environment and prosperity worldwide.

For example, OSU-Cascades assistant professor Bahman Abbasi has received a $2 million award to create a solar-powered desalination process to provide clean water for countries worldwide.

Abbasi also received a $2.97 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop technology to improve the public health and environmental impact of wastewater associated with fracking.

These are the largest research awards in OSU-Cascades’ history. They not only will make a real difference in the world, but they will inspire our students to engage in other forms of transformational research.

Meanwhile, OSU’s College of Forestry is ranked No. 2 in the world; our graduate robotics’ program, No. 4 in the nation; and as already noted our oceanography program, No. 3 globally.

According to Clarivate Analytics, four OSU professors are among the top 1 percent of the world’s most cited researchers.

In all, our state has 10 such recognized faculty, with four of them being from Oregon State University, and three are from the College of Agricultural Sciences.

OSU research is addressing climate change; food innovation and food quality; veterinary care; public health; business entrepreneurship; public policy; and advancing educational fields, such as STEM learning. And finding ways to utilize lumber from invasive juniper trees, reduce the risk of devastating wildfires and build collaborations to protect Sage Grouse and enhance grazing of livestock on rangeland.

Our faculty’s commitment to collaboration and inquiry has provided a legacy of research distinction.

Consider Linus Pauling. After graduating from Oregon Agricultural College in 1922, his work changed healthcare worldwide. Pauling is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes: for chemistry in 1954 and peace in 1962.

It was in 1968, that Doug Engelbart – an engineering graduate from OSU -- introduced his invention of the computer mouse – a block of wood on wheels. That day, he shared computer systems concepts that would influence creations by Apple and Microsoft Windows.

Recently, Oregon State’s Jane Lubchenco was granted the National Science Board’s annual Vannevar Bush Award for her distinguished contributions as one of the world’s most highly cited marine ecologists.

Students are part of our research mission and success. Last year, 2,000 undergraduates engaged in research.

Meanwhile, OSU provided more than $1 million for undergraduate research and funds to engage students from diverse backgrounds. In Bend, the Layman Fellowship has funded experiential learning and research engagement for more than 30 students.

OSU partnerships with business and industry are making an impact. For example, one year from being launched, the OSU-Cascades Innovation Co-Lab has helped 18 start-up companies raise more than $1.5 million and create more than 30 new jobs.

To the business and industry colleagues among us, I ask that you reach out to me and Becky Johnson … and let us know how together we can build a better future for Central Oregon, the state and the nation.

Learners statewide engage with OSU early on.

OSU’s Juntos Program, which was launched in nearby Jefferson County, now serves 3,500 Latino 6th to 12th graders in more than 33 Oregon school districts. With support from community partners, 100 percent of the students who have completed the Juntos program have graduated from high school and 92 percent have gone on to college.

Meanwhile, Oregon voters directed OSU Extension to launch a statewide collaboration with school districts to coordinate outdoor school programs for more than 40,000 5th and 6th graders. Thirty-five of these partner schools are in Central Oregon benefitting 3,000 students.

Over the past year, we launched a gateway program to assist community college students who seek to transfer to a four-year university without losing credits.

Recently, OSU-Cascades and COCC established a Degree Partnership Program that allows students seeking a bachelor’s degree to be jointly admitted and enrolled at both schools. From the very outset, colleagues at COCC have been enthusiastic partners with OSU-Cascades.

Throughout OSU, we are committed to:

  • Raise the first-year retention rate of all undergraduate students to 90 percent; and
  • Raise the six-year graduation rate for all undergraduate students to 70 percent.


OSU faculty are engaged on the front lines by:

  • Fostering stronger student relationships and mentoring outside of class;
  • Improving and streamlining curriculum; and
  • Expanding access to student experiential learning, such as internships and study abroad programs.

OSU Foundation donors are all in. In just two years, donors have contributed more than $105 million toward a goal of $150 million for student success scholarships, fellowships, experiential learning and other initiatives.

Our Honors College is committed to inclusive excellence and student success, including 22 students enrolled at OSU-Cascades.

The College of Liberal Arts is planning a new path for student success: a $70 million arts and education complex on our Corvallis campus.

An anonymous donor has pledged $25 million to this complex and other donors have made significant gifts. We will seek $35 million in state bonding to construct this complex to make the liberal arts an even stronger contributor to student success.

These many efforts are paying dividends:

  • Our first-year retention rate is up nearly 2 percent;
  • We hit our goal for the 2017 academic year with a 67 percent six-year graduation rate;
  • Our profile of graduates is more diverse.
  • And last June, we graduated 400 more students who came to us with financial need than just four years ago.

Yet, we recognize there is much more to do. One area that I am most troubled by is student mental health.

Nationally, the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s. Within Deschutes County alone, the suicide rate within the past two years has jumped more than 60 percent and in 2017 totaled 29 deaths per 100,000 population.

Among college students nationally, suicide is the 2nd most common cause of death.

We know suicide is a problem at Oregon State in Corvallis and at OSU-Cascades.

Twenty-five percent of the respondents to an OSU student survey in 2016 shared they experienced moderate to severe anxiety and 32 percent, varying levels of depression.

Sadly, 11 percent of respondents admitted they experienced suicidal thoughts; 4 percent said they had a suicide plan and 1 percent said they had attempted suicide.

The scourge of suicide on our college campuses is a national health crisis.

In response, we are working to enhance a culture of caring. Improving student wellness is among the university’s priorities because we know that student success is founded in student wellness.

OSU counseling and psychological support programs at both of our campuses seek to address this crisis. So do programs in our residence halls, colleges and athletics.

Consider the extraordinary leadership and passion of two of our student-athletes. This past year, Taylor Ricci, who was a member of the Oregon State women’s gymnastics team, and Nathan Braaten, a soccer player, co-founded the Dam Worth It campaign. After each lost a teammate to suicide, they hoped to destigmatize mental health on our campus by spreading awareness of this crisis and services available.

Taylor and Nathan’s efforts to support others in need has spread throughout Oregon State and nationally. National media have portrayed their efforts, including Sports Illustrated in its annual coverage of athletes of the year.

Meanwhile, we know that Oregon’s overall population has among the nation’s highest rates of suicide. In response, OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences will collaborate with communities statewide to consider localized mental health services.

And thanks to research conducted by OSU-Cascades professors Beth Marino and Chris Wolsko, and retired OSU-Cascades professor, Susan Keys, our state now has suicide prevention messages that physicians can use to assist at-risk patients.

As we work to support student mental health, we also will better serve students with other insecurities, such as when they can afford and obtain their next meal. Nationally, 9 to 50 percent of college students cite problems with food insecurity. OSU is investing resources and will expand assistance to those students who otherwise might go to class hungry.

As Oregon State begins its next 150 years, we are well- positioned for opportunities, challenges and priorities thanks to the commitment of our administrators, deans, excellent faculty and new leaders, many of whom are here tonight:

  • Interim Vice President for Research Irem Tumer;
  • College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Alan Sams;
  • Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Alix Gitelman;
  • Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Phil Mote;
  • Director of Human Resources Cathy Hasenpflug;
  •  Senior Adviser to the Provost for International Affairs Kendra Sharp; and
  • Vice President of Alumni Relations John Valva.


Our strategic plan calls upon the university to achieve four goals:

  • Achieve preeminence in research, scholarship and innovation;
  • Provide a transformative education that is accessible for all learners;
  • Provide significant and visible impact in Oregon and beyond; and
  • Offer a university culture of belonging, collaboration and innovation.

Yet, serving these outcomes is challenged greatly in an era of declining state support for higher education.

Student tuition now pays more than 65 percent of the cost of our Corvallis campus educational operations and the state only 22 percent. This represents more than a 50 percent decline in the state’s relative contribution from 15 years ago. And nearly a 43 percent increase in the share students and their families pay.

Unfortunately, this era of decline may worsen as Governor Brown’s recommended budget provides no additional funds to our universities.  Fortunately, the three co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee have proposed some relief -- a $40.5 million biennial increase to the Public University Support Fund.

Without additional state support, Oregon’s universities will be forced to shunt even more costs onto the shoulders of students, and cut staffing and programs.

In Corvallis, we are taking steps to reduce our educational general expenditures by 2.5 percent next year following cuts ranging this year from 1.7 to 2.7 percent. These reductions will occur even as OSU’s Board of Trustees voted to increase resident undergraduate tuition for full-time students next year by 4.29 percent in Corvallis and 4.44 percent in Bend.

Quite simply, I must plan our operations on what I know about next year’s budget, not what I hope legislators might approve at some future date.

For our state to progress, our elected leaders must invest in higher education and student success to serve urban and rural economic, educational, health, environmental and cultural needs and strategies.

Going forward, I ask our state’s leaders to listen to students. They will say that Oregon’s universities no longer can be funded on their backs and the backs of their families.

Meanwhile, we woefully underinvest as a state in research and graduate programs, at a time when major employers, such as Intel and emerging technology firms, tell us we need to produce more Ph.D. graduates.

This mandate for education is not just about the economy of our state or our nation, but also about advancing the culture and wellness of Oregon and America. Instead, since 1970, we have literally doubled the educational attainment gap in our colleges and universities between wealthy and poor Americans. We are at risk of creating a permanent underclass of people who have no stake in the future of our society.

I ask each of you to join me in addressing this crisis of inequity. This resolve must start with a debate in Salem about how Oregon funds its universities:

  • Have conversations with the governor and your legislators.
  • Ask them to govern as if the future of our state … and the lives of our children and their children… depend on them to get things as right as possible.
  • Ask them to consider the legacy that they will provide your children; your grandchildren and your grandchildren’s children.


Nevertheless, let me be clear here: you can whine about the state of the world or you can lead. It is okay to feel woeful, but if that is the best you can do, you need to step aside and let someone else lead.

I know that, like me, each of you is an Oregonian who acknowledges what is wrong and then gets to work to make a difference.

We have so much work to do as we begin Oregon State University’s next 150 years. I know that by working together we can help transform rural and urban communities.

As president of Oregon’s statewide university, I look forward to collaborating with each of you, the governor, our legislators and others to provide for a bright future of equal opportunity for all Oregonians.

In closing, I guarantee you that working together the best is yet to come.