October 08, 2020

Letter from President Wiewel, Oct. 8

In times of crisis and change, our vision narrows. We focus on what we perceive as the immediate concern or threat.

Dear Lewis & Clark Community,

In times of crisis and change, our vision narrows. We focus on what we perceive as the immediate concern or threat. This is natural, but we often miss a lot in the process.

So, amid very real turmoil, I will leave pontification about the state of the world and the union to your favorite media sources, and instead draw attention to just a small sample of the positive things happening on campus and beyond. These items include long-term efforts as well as novel responses to our current environment.

Commitments to Racial Justice
First I’d like to begin with a brief update on progress made over the summer and early fall on our institutional commitments to racial justice. Dean of Equity and Inclusion Mark Figueroa has recently posted a working plan on where we are and where we’re headed. As Mark notes, “We understand that creating a campus where all community members are seen, heard, and valued will take some time and that personal and institutional energy will be required for us to become the community we want to be.”

One of the more notable points of progress is our new partnership with the Posse Foundation, a leading national organization that will help us recruit and support a cohort of ten traditionally underrepresented students each year from the greater Washington, DC area. We are thankful for the leadership of Trustee Patrick Nielson BA ’71 and his wife, Dorris Nielson, as their philanthropic gift will cover the operational cost of the program for five years. Lewis & Clark is committing to awarding full tuition scholarships to each Posse student, and we hope you will consider supporting this initiative as well.

We are continuing with a number of workshops on antiracism and unconscious bias for faculty, staff, and students. These virtual events are offered regularly and have had capacity attendance. As we continue into the school year, we will expand opportunities for engagement across the community.

We are developing a racial justice partnership program: A series of collaborations and partnerships with local community-based organizations in Portland that in the first year will be supported by grants to students and faculty from the Office of the President. This fall we are developing the criteria for a proposal process and plan to launch the program this spring.

We will share more with you as additional progress is made. I encourage you to read Dean Figueroa’s report and to reach out if you have additional ideas and input to share.

Success of Virtual Programming
In-person education and experiences will remain the heart of what we do. We are very proud of our students’ great compliance with public health safety measures, resulting in an extremely low incidence of COVID-19 infections on campus, and none since the first ones at the end of August. At the same time, we’re finding out what works well for us in the virtual realms. I was confident that our faculty, staff, and students would rise to the educational challenge, and we’re getting better all the time at the technical and pedagogical aspects of online learning. What I’ve been most surprised by is how successful our virtual events and gatherings have been with alumni and wider audiences. A few examples follow below.

College of Arts and Sciences
Virtual events and programming have exceeded our grandest expectations. The rich slate of events that began last spring has only grown. After a successful series of worldwide Black & Orange parties, we’re now into October’s month-long Homecoming @Home, which includes an alumni film festival, lectures, affinity gatherings, spirit Fridays, and more. Speech and Debate will host the virtual Steve Hunt Classic finals tomorrow and Sunday. And here’s the full schedule for the Environmental Studies Program’s ENVX Symposium that I mentioned last time. There has been significant student-led programming about the upcoming elections, and the Career Center is supporting students with virtual job searches and career fairs. College Outdoors is sticking closer to home this semester and making great use of the across-the-street Tryon Creek and Riverview Natural Areas. Perhaps most audacious, Professor Stepan Simek is directing a to-be-live-streamed version of Cabaret that will resonate far beyond the confines of Fir Acres Theatre.

Graduate School
The Center for Community Engagement has moved all continuing education workshops and presentations online, more than meeting pre-COVID attendance projections and reaching new audiences. In September the center began its first cohort-basedleadership institute for women, and the TransActive Gender Project continues to develop and deliver gender diversity-focused services to children, youth, families, businesses, and communities amidst the pandemic. The Art Therapy Program’s annual capstone presentations went virtual, fostering record participation and a global connection.

Law School
The law school has added an online Environmental Law master’s degree to its existing online LLM program and is in the beginning phases of developing an online LLM in Animal Law. The Center for Business Law and Innovation (CBLI) transitioned seamlessly to the virtual environment and is making plans for several events, including a project focusing on diversity in the corporate world. The law school’s recent panel on fairness and accountability for Portland’s Police was well attended and engaging, and the Board of Alumni held a virtual memorial for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her graduation speech at the law school in 1992, which I mentioned previously, was highlighted in the Oregonian.

In all cases, the success of the programming across the three schools is due to the students, staff, faculty, and volunteers who’ve put together the events. I thank everyone who has thought creatively and tackled new challenges during this most unusual time. Only by working together well have we been able to pull this off.

I’m so encouraged that what we’re offering is reaching new and wider audiences. We can’t wait to see all of you in person, of course, but we’re finding that the substitutes have more potential than we might have first thought.

Finally, whether or not you’re already looking toward virtual Halloween, you should listen to a recent Big Biology podcast featuring Professor Greta Binford talking about venoms across the Tree of Life. However, arachnophobes may wish to skip this one.

Stay safe and well.


Wim Wiewel