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New UO president says the job is 'the opportunity of a lifetime'

UO President John Karl Scholz met with faculty, researchers and community members July 12.
Nathan Wilk
UO President John Karl Scholz met with faculty, researchers and community members July 12.

The University of Oregon’s new president, John Karl Scholz, took office this month. He replaces Michael Schill, who resigned last summer to take a position at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Scholz is a former economist, professor and researcher on poverty. He was previously the provost at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also the father of a UO graduate student.

Scholz told KLCC's Nathan Wilk that he sees this position as the opportunity of a lifetime.

Nathan Wilk: Why is this “the opportunity of a lifetime?”

John Karl Scholz: I get to be president of a great, great university that has really outstanding students, wonderfully committed staff and faculty, and that has been on the rise. Whether one talks about the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, the Ballmer Institute for Children's Behavioral Health, the success and innovation of our athletic program, [or] the wonderful strength of the Oregon Bach Festival, [this is] just a fantastic university.

And it's an opportunity, working with others and people who believe and care about the university and care about higher education, to help take the institution to even further heights. And that's an opportunity of a lifetime.

NW: You're coming from one esteemed research institution (the University of Wisconsin-Madison) to another here at the University of Oregon. What are the lessons that you've learned in research? And how will those apply to your role here now?

JKS: My job in the coming weeks and months is to listen and learn from those who know the university so well. And the challenge will be to share my talents and my insights that I [bring with] the wonderful insights and commitment and accomplishments of those who are already at the university.

NW: With the existence of professional, commercial and government research agencies, what role does university research serve?

JKS: Universities are truly special in that there's really no other entity in society that is organized in part around creating new knowledge and curiosity driven knowledge, and enhancing understanding of what it means to be human. And so that role for society of discovery, and gaining a greater appreciation for who we are, as humans, is precious, and is something that we will just zealously protect, and promote and preserve.

And then what comes out of that, there's no way of knowing. That's what curiosity driven research is about. But it may deliver greater joy to human beings, it may discover cures for cancer, it may solve environmental crises. We don't know. But universities are organized around trying to help that process of discovery. And it's a precious thing for society.

NW: As a parent of a University of Oregon student, what are the concerns that you're bringing into your professional role here at the university?

JKS: There are three guiding principles or guiding aspirations for the university. One is to expand the boundaries of knowledge and enhance understanding of what it means to be human, what I talked about earlier. The second is to create these world class experiences for the students that we serve. And so the third then, for what it's worth, is to contribute to the region, to the state and the world.

And so bring the magnificence of our university beyond the boundaries of the campus. And so creating a fabulous first rate student experience is one of the core values that we do, and we're going to continue to focus on ways of making that experience even better.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.
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