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Higher Ed Board reviews campus, state sustainability efforts, Portland initiatives

Endi Hartigan: Office, 503-725-5702

PORTLAND, November, 2008 – The State Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) met today in Portland at the University of Oregon’s White Stag building to review Oregon University System sustainability efforts and the proposed Life Sciences Complex, among other items discussed by the Board.

Coordinated Sustainability Approach
Susan Weeks, OUS vice chancellor for strategic programs and planning, introduced a discussion of a coordinated approach to sustainability in OUS. The Board has identified sustainability as a key opportunity area since 2004 and, in the April 2008 OUS Sustainability Summit this year, concluded that the System could work together capitalize on Oregon’s strengths in sustainability and position it to be a world leader in education, research, facilities management, and community outreach. Chancellor Pernsteiner spoke of the opportunity for the Board to lead a coordinated and strategic vision in this area. The key areas of OUS’ sustainability strengths include: sustainable business; green building; sustainable agriculture, natural resources, and forestry; clean energy; sustainable communities and planning; sustainable infrastructure; sustainable economics, policy, and management; and environmental education (K-12).

Susan Bragdon, sustainability advisor, moderated a panel related to opportunities in academic programs related to sustainability. OUS faculty panelists described examples of interdisciplinary academic programs related to sustainability, including academic partnership and programs for sustainable agriculture, food access, and community development, and on ecological designs in architectural planning. There are many examples of interdisciplinary collaborative activities across campuses, including: the Summer Sustainability Series, involving Oregon State University (OSU), Portland State University (PSU), Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT), and University of Oregon (UO), that, in 2009, will offer two five-day intensive day programs on the urban built environment and sustainable agriculture and food systems; the Green material guide and curriculum, involving OSU, PSU, and UO, that will provide Oregon’s building professionals and graduate students with information that will help them make more responsible decisions concerning building materials; and the agriculture and natural resources degrees, involving OSU and Eastern Oregon University (EOU). Gail Achterman, director of OSU’s Institute for Natural Resources, highlighted the economic development opportunities in sustainability innovation and research and the importance of seed funding for these efforts; and led a panel presentation on sustainability-related research and collaboration. Panelists presented on commercialization of research, industry partnerships, and successful interdisciplinary research efforts related to sustainability, including efforts on behalf of Oregon BEST, Oregon Nanoscience and Microenterprise Institute (ONAMI), research on green chemistry, sustainability in urban communities, and climate and ecosystem research. Research on sustainability occurs throughout the university system in multi-institutional research centers, signature research centers, and on individual campus in university level and college research centers. Collaborative examples include Oregon’s Signature Research Centers: Oregon BEST, and ONAMI, and multi-institutional research institutes, including the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Institute for Natural Resources, the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium, and the Oregon Water Institute.

Sustainable Facilities
Bob Simonton, assistant vice chancellor for capital programs, reviewed the efforts of the OUS institutions to limit the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. He reviewed total OUS carbon emissions, including direct and indirect scopes such as purchased electricity, vehicle and product use, fuel combustion, waste disposal, and other areas, which are below the national average. Simonton noted that part of the OUS sustainability plan for facilities will include creation of demonstration projects; partnering in research, education, and operations; helping to meet the Governor’s 100% renewable goal; allowing students and faculty researchers to develop and test new technologies; increasing the competitiveness of the System’s renewable energy curriculum; increasing the value of the research, prior to commercialization; and providing a diversity of renewable power. Challenges for the OUS to meet these goals include $700 million in deferred maintenance across the System; $400 million in seismic remediation needs; an average age of facilities of 45 years; and the fact that facility operations are funded at $5/gross square foot (gsf), which is $2/gsf less than the national average. Simonton said that by developing Oregon’s natural resources, geothermal, solar, wind, wave, and bio-fuels, the OUS can greatly improve Oregon’s marketability for attracting and retaining companies and jobs. Campus sustainability directors spoke on the importance of a system climate action plan and the urgency with which students are willing to be involved on these issues.

Sustainability Initiatives
Committee Board director David Yaden presented the charge of the proposed Board’s Sustainability Initiatives Committee, to lead a collaborative effort that sets the System and its institutions on a course to become a recognized international leader in sustainability. Director Yaden will lead this committee and commented that today’s presentations show promise for OUS’ ability to achieve this comparative advantage and leadership in sustainability, while balancing this goal with other campus goals and endeavors. The Board approved the charge of the new committee.

Portland Higher Education Update Jim Francesconi, vice president of the Board, reviewed the charge of the Portland Higher Education committee to serve the educational needs of the growing population and economic engine in the Portland metropolitan area, which also impacts other parts of the state. He reported on two key efforts of the Committee, including the vision for a Sustainability Center and a Life Sciences Complex. Mayor-elect Sam Adams appeared at the Board meeting to provide his support for the Portland higher education initiatives, with the City to be a partner in ensuring its success. Jay Kenton, vice chancellor for finance and administration, reported on the Sustainability Center as Portland’s “front door” to sustainability, including multiple OUS Institutions, the City of Portland, Living Building Initiative (LBI) Entities, the State of Oregon, and Oregon BEST, among other entities. Kenton and partners in the enterprise spoke of the construction of a living building, a “net zero” facility to house these collaborating entities near to PSU’s campus where institutional partners can connect with opportunities and house a green incubator to spawn new clean technology solutions, technologies and eco-practices that can be adopted nationally and globally, and involve students directly in this work with the public and private sectors collaborating in the Sustainability Center.

Kenton also reported on another piece of the Portland Higher Education Committee agenda, which is the proposed Life Sciences Complex to be developed on the city’s South Waterfront area. This sophisticated collaborative complex would include medical, life sciences, engineering and pharmacy facilities where students would learn and explore, and faculty would perform cutting edge research and discover the next evolution of medicines, cures, and medical devices that positively affect lives in Oregon and worldwide. It would also include bio/life science, medical device and diagnostic entrepreneurs and start-up companies and incubation labs, with the resources and support to achieve success; and incubator, accelerator and established companies come to solve current problems through collaboration in a multitude of mutually beneficial arrangements. Collaborators and potential partners include OSU, PSU, UO, OIT, and OHSU; the Oregon Biosciences Association (OBA), the Oregon Translational Research and Drug Institute, and Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (OCTRI); incubator operators, clinical trial assistance contractors, venture capitalists, retail purveyors, and others. Kenton noted that growth in bio-Sciences since 2002 in Oregon has been significant, according to an EcoNorthwest study to be finalized soon. Bioscience research at OUS, OHSU, and private hospitals has grown 35-40% since 2002, and bioscience company growth is also assumed to have grown by at least 40% since 2002. All of this adds up to Oregon jobs and a higher state payroll and sales for Oregon companies, higher Oregon payroll, and sales for Oregon companies.

In other action and discussion at the meetings, the Board:

  • Adopted the plan document for the Tax-Deferred Investment 403(b) Plan, effective January 1, 2009.
  • Adopted the restated plan document for the Optional Retirement 401(a) Plan, for an operational effective date of January 1, 2008.
  • Approved the revised OUS Financial Irregularities Reporting Policy, which includes providing OUS employees with a new way of reporting suspected financial irregularities through an anonymous hotline.
  • Accepted the OUS Investment Report as of September 30, 2008.
  • Accepted the Quarterly Management Report as of September 30, 2008.
  • Approved the new Academic Program Review Policy, including revisions since the October board discussion.
  • Heard a report from Oregon Treasurer Randall Edwards on the Oregon College Savings Plan. Edwards discussed opportunities for partnership and alignment between the work of the Higher Education Board and the Oregon 529 College Savings Programs Board in helping families to save for and afford higher education for a global economy.
  • Heard reports from the Board Committees and Task Groups; OUS Interinstitutional Faculty Senate; and the Oregon Student Association.

Oregon University System comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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