Phillips: UO Is Better Together

Editor’s Note: On August 11, Michael Schill announced his departure from the University of Oregon to become president of Northwestern University. The UO Board of Trustees subsequently appointed Patrick Phillips interim president.

Fall means the University of Oregon campus is again bustling with activity, and we begin this academic year with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose.

We welcomed our largest, most diverse, and most academically qualified class of first-year students. They are benefiting from more academic offerings, state-of the art academic and recreational spaces, outstanding professors, new life-improving initiatives, and unique experiences—all to prepare them for fulfilling careers and making a difference. It is energizing to be together again.

For me, personally, it’s also exciting, and a great honor, to serve in my new role as interim president.

When I came to the University of Oregon twenty-two years ago, I was impressed by the sense of shared purpose and community. This is a university that seeks to expand the bounds of human awareness through cutting-edge research and creative practice while supporting a faculty of caring, transformative teachers who mentor our students. Over the last few years, this feeling has only grown. It’s a spirit we will continue to celebrate: we are the University of Oregon, for Oregon. 

Phillips helped assemble care packages for houseless youth at a UO Migration event in September, during which incoming students connected with other new Ducks from their area (Brian Davies) In my many roles at the UO—provost, biology professor, and acting director of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, to name a few—I have traveled extensively throughout Oregon and the country. Meeting with people in government, business, research centers, and other universities has made it clear to me that the UO plays a critical role that transcends the classroom, research lab, library, or concert hall. We are in a moment of intensifying change, in higher education and society as a whole. It is abundantly clear that the world needs what the UO has to offer: knowledge, innovation, solutions, and progress. In short, impact. It is my mission to better demonstrate this value and redefine our role as a great public research university in service to the greater good.

Two shining new examples of our impact are featured in this issue of Oregon Quarterly. The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health will boldly address the heartbreaking mental health crisis affecting our youth, through the creation of child behavioral health specialists. The Oregon Center for Electrochemistry is developing green energy solutions while creating unprecedented hands-on opportunities for students. Both hold great promise for society. And both have been made possible by the amazing generosity of our alumni and friends.

Our position of strength is a testament to the heroic work of our faculty and staff over the last few years, the generosity and advocacy of our alumni and friends, and the flexibility and resilience of our students. It’s true—we are better together.

I feel very fortunate to lead the university at this time of great promise and opportunity. We will continue to build momentum behind our academic and research impact; our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and our relentless focus on student success. It is an exciting time to be part of the University of Oregon.

Thank you, and Go Ducks!

Patrick Phillips
Interim President and Professor of Biology

—Photos by Charlie Litchfield, University Communications (portrait), and Brian Davies (UO Migration)