Ballmer Institute offers new careers, hope for kids in need

Youth in America are in crisis. United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called youth mental health one of the most pressing issues of our time, and pediatric health groups have declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

But an extraordinary gift of more than $425 million from Steve and Connie Ballmer, a 1984 journalism graduate, has enabled the University of Oregon to respond: The new Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health is poised to address the youth mental health crisis. In the autumn issue of Oregon Quarterly, available now, experts explain the three-pronged approach to help youth in need by expanding the mental health workforce, accelerating research and innovation, and incorporating schools and community organizations in solutions.

Coupled with this feature is another spotlighting the university’s ability to make a difference thanks to generous support from alumni and friends: The Oregon Center for Electrochemistry — made possible with a $5 million gift from Betty and Gordon Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corp. — is developing green energy solutions while creating hands-on opportunities for students to learn by doing.

“People won’t give up energy, so we need new ways to generate, store and distribute it,” said Shannon Boettcher, an alumnus and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the electrochemistry center’s founding director. “Electrochemistry is the key to developing a sustainable economy, reducing carbon in our atmosphere, and mitigating climate change.”

The fall issue of the university magazine introduces the UO community to Chris Poulsen, incoming Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. Poulsen is an expert in climate change scenarios and an energetic leader who prioritizes societal challenges ranging from sustainability to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Readers also meet Leilani Sabzalian, an assistant professor of Indigenous studies in education and co-leader of the UO Sapsikwala Education Program, where Indigenous students are trained to teach in Indigenous communities.

Also in this OQ: Data science underpins a research project serving Latinx people disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; low-income college students pursue industrial research careers thanks to a wide-reaching STEM grant; Lidia Yuknavitch, who earned both bachelor’s and a doctorate in English at the UO and best-selling author of “Thrust,” explores her creative path; and Trip Jennings, a 2006 graduate in Spanish, releases a new film, “Elemental,” that could change the national conversation about wildfire.

Make sure to read to the end or you’ll miss a boot-stompin’ romp of a Duck Tale: Raphe Beck, executive director of the UO Alumni Association, visits the Pendleton Round-Up for what is, simply put, “not his first rodeo.”

—By Matt Cooper, University Communications