Virginia Beavert has been honored for her efforts to preserve and breathe new life into the Native languages of the Northwest. (more…)
Sandra Dorning, ’17, one of only 43 Marshall Scholars selected nationwide, will study international marine policy in the UK. (more…)
The New Yorker profiles UO alumna Heidi Schreck and her new play on the Constitution. (more…)
Cherry Poppin’ Daddies singer Steve Perry discusses his rise to fame and his biology degree from the UO.
This year’s recipients of the annual UOAA Outstanding Young Alumni Award both received their degrees from CAS. (more…)
The UO remembers a victim of the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College, who earned two English degrees here. (more…)
Poli Sci alum (’02) and former Portland mayor focuses on addressing climate change. (more…)
Political science alums Bret Jacobson, ’03, and Ian Spencer, ’07, are on the leading edge of digital advocacy for conservative political causes.
Political science alum Darin Stringer is helping bring forests back to the rocky soils of Lebanon as a forestry expert.
When Susan Ross, an alumna in exercise and movement science, arrived in Track Town, USA, for her undergraduate experience, she took to running as most ducks take to water.
Track start AK Ikwuakor ’07 (sociology) teaches life skills—and football skills—to at-risk children in the Philippines.
Don Corson attended the UO in the late 1970s to work on his PhD in urban geography. He’s spent more than 30 years turning his winemaking hobby into a label with nationwide acclaim.
They are activists and economists, teachers, volunteers, athletes, musicians and peacemakers.
In short, they plan to do nothing less than change the world.
Over recent years, Emerald Media Group has asked the UO community to nominate outstanding students—in Emerald’s words, “rock stars in their department or [who] have been producing amazing work in different projects and organizations.”
This list is called “25 Ducks.” They’re students and recent graduates who are out to make a difference, and it should come as no surprise that their ranks are filled with representatives from departments throughout the College of Arts and Sciences. To read profiles of that group, click on the following:
Matthew Thill, cinema studies, is chasing big dreams in the arts.
Lauren Haefling, general social science, wants to work in marketing for a nonprofit.
Hannah Picknell, political science and anthropology, got involved in activism through OSPIRG.
Brett Cahill, economics, wants to be an adviser to the U.S. president.
Salliebeth Finnegan, general social science, found giving back to be the best part of her college experience.
Chase Salazar, chemistry, uses volunteering to change the world.
Myka Bitterman, Spanish, hopes to join Teach for America.
Talia Davis, political science, wants to work for peace in the Middle East.
Caitlin Gibson, human physiology, wants to be a surgeon and pilot.
Doug Beick, mathematics and computer science, defined himself through the Oregon Marching Band.
Jesse Schwarz, ethnic studies, wants to empower communities through sports.
Haley Wilson, general social science, wants to make education more accessible to the world.
Audrey Graser, English, excels in academics and leadership.
Katherine Holste, human physiology and psychology, is studying concussions.
Morgan Nelson, Chinese international studies and political science, helps student parents receive quality childcare.
Liz Brenner, psychology, aspires to compete in the Olympics.
Jason Irrgang, English, helps youth get a second chance.
Katie Lightfoot, general science, won the National Youth Community Service Award.
Lyndsey Goforth, religious studies and general social science, hopes one day to work for the United Nations.
Garrett Dunlavey, environmental studies, wants to save the environment.
Josef Khalifeh, human physiology, is pushing himself to heal the impoverished.
Diana Salazar, ethnic studies, is fighting for social justice.
Jeremy Hedlund, women’s and gender studies, is fighting against student debt.
Brandi Freeman, psychology, helps people overcome addiction.
Lena Macomson, general social science, empowers people through athletics.
Gurdeep Singh Pall takes the reins of Microsoft’s Skype division
Following success on the New York Times bestseller list, alumna takes home an Oregon Book Award. (more…)
When Diego Hernandez was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a prosecutor – a good way to work for social justice, he figured.
The career path for Hernandez (pictured) didn’t lead to a courtroom, but his focus on social justice was straight and true: Today he is co-executive director of Portland-based Momentum Alliance, which inspires youth – many of them from marginalized communities – to become future social justice leaders.
Hernandez is part of a group of dedicated young professionals who have graduated with a degree in ethnic studies from the University of Oregon. Their ranks include community organizers, caseworkers, educators and others who use that degree toward a common goal: changing the world through jobs in public service, education and more.
The ethnic studies program analyzes social, political, economic, cultural and intellectual manifestations of power and inequality as they relate to whiteness and white privilege. It examines the ways that race, as a system of domination, is intimately tied to issues of gender, class and sexuality. The program recently introduced a minor in Native American studies.
The goal, according to faculty members from a wide array of disciplines, is teaching students to look at issues from multiple perspectives – a skill that translates to any occupation.
“Trying to connect one community with another isn’t easy,” said graduate Jessica Rojas. “But after what I’ve learned from ethnic studies classes and my experiences with student groups, I’ve learned what it means to be a bridge between communities.”
From its origins in the late 1960s, ethnic studies scholars across the nation have been committed to issues of social justice and highlighting the histories, experiences and movements of people of color within and outside the United States.
Here at the UO, a panel of ethnic studies alumni recently discussed how they’re putting the principles of the program into practice in social justice organizations, government and education. The panel included organizers, educators, trainers, researchers and advocates who shared advice with current students about pursuing opportunities in this emerging field.
Iton Udosenata, for example, is principal for Cottage Grove High School. He credits the program for inspiring him to work with underprivileged youth in Los Angeles and low-income communities in Oregon.
Udosenata said he works extensively to promote equity, social justice and college-and-career readiness among all high school students.
“Ethnic studies elevated my level of social consciousness,” Udosenata said. “It helped me to develop a thorough understanding of how institutional constructs impact the quality of life for disenfranchised communities.”
Reyes-Santos said it’s not enough to celebrate the differences of diverse communities – society must work, she added, “to create equal communities, where everybody’s perspective is heard the same way.”
The professor said that at the outset of classroom discussions, she has occasionally struggled to get students to open up, noting there is a lot of “fear and anxiety” about issues such as race. But the more she encourages students to describe their feelings about these difficult topics, the more progress her students make.
“My students opened up so beautifully,” Reyes-Santos said. “They began to feel like a community creating a new world, a different world. If we don’t have these conversations, that’s never going to happen.”
— By Matt Cooper
Making a movie typically takes time, money, and a small army of professionals who can keep a complicated production running smoothly.
Footage that flashes by in an instant on the silver screen often takes hours to film and hours more to edit. Budgets need to cover the salaries of the cast and crew, equipment, food, accommodations, transportation, shooting location fees, and more. A director ensures that the cinematographer, editors, art directors, set decorators, costume department, makeup department, second unit directors, sound editors, special effects artists, camera operators, and casting agents (among others) are all working together to execute his or her creative vision.
It is an intense process that has no blueprint for success: for every expensive failure like The Lone Ranger, there is a low-budget blockbuster like The Blair Witch Project.
Now imagine diving headfirst into the movie industry at 24, just two years after earning your undergraduate degree.
Kyle Steinbach ’11 (pictured) was a Clark Honors College graduate in the Lundquist College of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences, who found himself in Los Angeles working as a production assistant on the Emmy Award-winning TV show The Office.
Everybody involved with Bad Exorcists held
multiple jobs, including director Kyle Steinbach,
seen here moving equipment during filming.
During the rare hours Steinbach wasn’t on set working with cast members, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fisher, and co., he was working on a script of his own.
“I wrote three TV scripts and really did not like it much at all,” Steinbach says. “I thought I should write a feature—that should restore my enthusiasm for writing, and would also be something that I could get behind and want to write, because the TV scripts felt like a job. It’s supposed to be a job, but the reason you work four hours after you’ve finished your normal work is because you love doing it.”
Not long after starting his “normal work,” though, The Office came to an end, leaving Steinbach without a regular paycheck—but with the time he would need to turn his feature script into a fully-realized film.
“When the show ended, I moved back to Oregon a week later,” he said.
Steinbach attended the University of Oregon over USC in part because he felt the quality of education he would receive at the UO would be equal to that offered at the famed film school 850 miles to the south. While studying in Eugene, the Portland native met a number of like-minded people who would all prove to be assets when Steinbach needed a cast and crew for his film.
“I found film people at Oregon who aren’t the prototypical climbers; they’re creative and have different perspectives and they’re really, really funny people,” he says.
On June 20, 2013, Steinbach called “action” on his debut feature film, Bad Exorcists. It’s a comedy about high school students trying to win a horror film festival who manage to get their lead actress possessed by an actual demon. With a $40,000 budget, every dollar spent and hour of the day used had to be maximized, which meant Steinbach’s friends and associates—many of whom are Ducks themselves—wore a number of different hats.
“I have a cameo only because we didn’t have enough people,” Steinbach says. “Everybody in the movie acted also, because it was just that type of film. There were scenarios where we were supposed to have a scene with three high school girls, and people we auditioned couldn’t come, and so, okay, the production designer and makeup lady, you’re both in the scene now. They did great. I was a producer with Zack Shivers ’13 and Louie Sloss, and I wrote the film as well. Pretty much everybody had multiple jobs.”
The cast and crew of Bad Exorcists (right) worked 14 hours a day, six days a week, for 21 days to finish the film. The fact that everyone was still on friendly terms at the end of the shoot is testament to Steinbach’s desire to fill his cast and crew with Ducks who already got along
“One of our main supporting actors was an older gentleman; I think he came on the set day 17 of a 21-day shoot,” Steinbach said. “He was amazed at how happy everybody was. He said, “You’ve been working on an independent film for 17 days and nobody’s depressed?”
“This actor is, as far as I can tell, one of the most prolific Portland-based actors that I know of. He’s been on so many different sets, he’s worked on nearly every single show that Portland has: Grimm, Leverage. He was amazed. I didn’t have that much perspective, having only worked on some commercials and The Office, and everyone seemed happier to be here than those other shows. This guy said it was very unusual. It was a really good group of people.”
Bad Exorcists, which locked in January, is currently in the hands of the colorist, sound designer, and special effects expert, who are finishing the movie and preparing it for release. The next step for Steinbach is to get the film entered in a film festival.
See the trailer for Bad Exorcists here.
Katie Dwyer ’10, MA ’12 (pictured), was just a freshman when she walked into Oregon State Penitentiary for the first time, her stomach clenched with nerves and anxiety. As one of the youngest in a mixed class of UO students and prison inmates, Dwyer desperately wanted to be liked by her “inside” classmates and feared saying anything that might offend them. Moving through the stark halls toward the prison’s education wing, she didn’t know whether to make or avoid eye contact with the passing inmates. She felt intimidated by the physical space, confined by the barred gates slamming shut behind her.
While the prison environment seemed foreign, Dwyer’s experience in the classroom proved surprisingly familiar. When she and an inside classmate paired up to discuss passages from Dostoevsky’s The House of the Dead, her anxiety and self-consciousness evaporated in the conversation.
“We were just trying to read this book and talk about it,” says Dwyer, who as an undergraduate double-majored in comparative literature and sociology, with a minor in Spanish. “In a way, it’s the most normal thing. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life as a student.”
Founded at Temple University in 1997, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program brings university students together with prison inmates for discussion-based courses in subjects ranging from criminology to literature (see sidebar for details). While some 15,000 “inside” and “outside” students nationally have completed an Inside-Out course, few have made more of the experience than Dwyer. In 2011, while a graduate student at the UO, she earned a George J. Mitchell Scholarship to study international human rights law in Northern Ireland, making her the first Duck to win the prestigious national award (think Rhodes Scholarship, but for the Emerald Isle).
Her collegiate dedication to championing education in prisons was, she says, an unexpected step following a middle-class upbringing in suburban Colorado. During a childhood she describes as quintessentially American, Dwyer’s views on criminal justice were as traditional as the community around her. “If you’d asked me at 16 who was in prison, I would have said the ‘bad people,'” she says. “I had a very simplistic understanding of what prisons were for, what they meant, and who went there.”
Her experience seeing the world from inside a prison not only transformed Dwyer’s understanding of the criminal justice system, but also of herself—and of her need to take action.
During an icebreaker activity with one of her inside classmates, Dwyer remembers struggling to answer what should have been a softball question: What are you most proud of? “I realized I had no answer for that as a 19-year-old,” she says. “I had excelled at everything that was expected of me, but I had never done anything particularly out of the ordinary.”
Ask a 25-year-old Dwyer the same question today and her biggest challenge might be choosing just one answer. En route to winning the Mitchell Scholarship, she became the first undergraduate student in the country to complete Inside-Out’s instructor training program and the first student member of its national steering committee.
On campus, Dwyer’s senior honors thesis about the pedagogy of Inside-Out earned the Robert D. Clark Honors College’s President’s Award—its highest distinction. She also spearheaded an effort that resulted in the publication Turned Inside-Out, a creative arts journal that highlights poetry, essays, illustrations, and photos from the first three years of classes at the penitentiary.
During three years as a national-level intern with Inside-Out, she worked to perpetuate and extend the program by involving others. In 2010, she helped found the country’s first “outside” alumni group, creating an opportunity for UO students to continue the Inside-Out experience in a new setting. The group kicked off by starting a book club with juvenile offenders enrolled in the drug and alcohol treatment program at Eugene’s John Serbu Youth Campus. For 90 minutes every Friday, an unlikely assemblage of university students and troubled teens sat together in a circle of 15 chairs, eagerly discussing the latest chapter of their Spider-Man graphic novel.
The world of literature found a welcome home at Serbu, and successive book clubs invited the likes of Boo Radley and comic-strip duo Calvin and Hobbes to enter the discussion. The club’s focus has since shifted toward discussion topics and collaborative projects, including a recent effort to develop policy recommendations for some of society’s toughest and most pressing issues, from gang violence to drug use. The project gave the youth a voice, but also an audience: Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy attended an end-of-term presentation to hear the group’s proposals.
Since the book club’s first meeting in 2010, close to 50 UO students have followed in Dwyer’s footsteps, including seven who have been trained as Inside-Out instructors. Among them are senior Mika Weinstein, a 2013 finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, and Jordan Wilkie ’13, alumni programming director for Inside-Out’s national organization, as well as graduates who now work at Teach for America and the Prison Law Office, a prisoners’ rights law firm in Berkeley, California.
UO associate professor of geography Shaul Cohen, who mentored Dwyer during the Mitchell Scholarship process, says opening doors for others is at the heart of Dwyer’s leadership style.
“Katie commits herself, but she also creates opportunities for others,” he says. “She encourages them to act on their values.”
As the alumni group flourishes stateside, Dwyer is setting her sights on a new target in Northern Ireland: kickstarting the country’s first Inside-Out program. Her early efforts have led to conversations with university and prison officials in Belfast, as well as a chance to present her ideas to members of Northern Ireland’s Parliament. Encouraged by the positive response, Dwyer is confident Inside-Out will have a place in the country’s future—and hers, too.
“University life has been the most important thing that’s happened to me,” she says. “I plan to always be a part of something like Inside-Out.”
—Ben DeJarnette ’13. This story is reprinted with permission of Oregon Quarterly, where the article first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue.
Web Extra: View Inside Looking Out.
Two alumni of the UO’s acclaimed master’s program in creative writing were selected as winners of the National Poetry Foundation’s 2013 National Poetry Series open competition.
Jeffrey Schultz (left) and Sara Eliza Johnson (below) graduated from the UO Creative Writing Master’s of Fine Arts Program and are among the five winners who will be published and receive a $1,000 cash award.
“Bone Map,” a manuscript from Johnson, a 2009 UO graduate, was selected by Martha Collins for publication by Milkweed Editors. Her poetry has appeared in various places including New England Review, Verse Daily and Iron Horse Literary Review. She received her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Schultz graduated from UO in 2003, and his manuscript, “What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other,” was selected by Kevin Young for publication by the University of Georgia Press. A 2009 recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the National Poetry Foundation, he currently teaches at Pepperdine University and resides in Los Angeles.
The National Poetry Series was established in 1978 to ensure the publication of five poetry books each year. Winning manuscripts are selected through an annual open competition judged by five established poets.
– by Katherine Cook, UO Office of Strategic Communications intern
While their luggage never left LAX, Kaitlin Olson ’97 and Rob McElhenney of the hit show, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” recently returned to Olson’s alma mater for a question and answer session with UO students. “It’s Always Sunny in Eugene” brought the famous alumna back to campus with her husband, the creator and co-star of FX’s raunchy comedy.
Backstage before the Q&A session, Olson recalled her days as a UO student. Olson’s father Donald ’71, who graduated from the UO School of Journalism and Communication and went on to publish the Portland Tribune, was influential in Olson’s decision to come to the UO.
“I also was a very shy kid,” said Olson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in theater arts. “I didn’t really want to leave home but I kind of wanted to, so this was only two hours away. And they had a good theater program so I went with it, and it was a beautiful campus and is a great college.”
While Olson travelled home often to visit her parents, Donald and Melinda, she still had plenty of stories from her student days, including getting her fake ID taken away at Rennie’s Landing and sliding through mud after a first-time rollerblading incident by Villard Hall.
“We were rollerblading and I was going way too fast, just way too fast,” Olson recalled. “And down at the bottom was a building and I was like, ‘I’m going to crash into that so I gotta go over into the grass,’ thinking that the grass would stop me. The grass was mud and I just Supermanned for probably the entire rest of the way down to the building. I’m telling you, when I say covered in mud, like mud, mud everywhere.”
Olson also reminisced about weekends spent at Autzen Stadium—despite the football program not being as successful as it is today—as always a fun time.
After graduation, Olson moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting professionally and spent time at The Groundlings Theatre in Hollywood. She landed recurring roles on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show.” She also had stints on “Punk’d,” “The Jamie Kennedy Experience” and “Out of Practice” before she was cast as Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” in 2005.
Olson and McElhenney – actor, creator, producer, writer and director of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” – got engaged in September 2007 and married a year later. They have two sons, Axel and Leo, who are 3 and 1, respectively. The show, which co-stars Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day and Danny DeVito, just finished its ninth season on FXX, celebrating its 100th episode Oct. 9.
“We’ve been working together for nine years now, which is crazy, and I think they are some of the smartest, most talented people I’ve ever met in my life, and that’s true,” Olson said. “And I just feel really lucky to have found them because they’re wonderful people. We’re really fortunate that we like each other and that we’re doing something that’s funny and makes us laugh because it’s entertaining and it keeps us going.”
The show has been picked up for a 10th season but is likely to end in 2014. In the meantime, the two stars remain busy as parents and actors and supporters of the university.
— By Chelsea Fullmer, UO Alumni Association
Kristen started out majoring in French, but switched to Japanese. Her love of languages is further demonstrated by her career as a language instructor at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Where are you from originally? What brought you to the University of Oregon?
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Once, when I was 12, I was in my junior high French club, and I was able to visit the UO on “Language Day.” It used to be this cool day where all the languages the UO offered were showcased for up and coming students. That was my first exposure to college life, and I knew right then that I wanted to be a Duck. I can remember it like it was yesterday, and it has been about 27 years.
What was your major, and why did you choose said major?
When I first started attending, my major was French, but I was also studying Japanese as well. I needed to make up my mind and I was excelling at Japanese so I just changed my major to Japanese and went with it.
What were you involved in while attending school?
I was the Recruitment and Retention officer for people of color in Associated Students of the University of Oregon
- I was very involved with the Native American Student Union
- I was on the Leadership Team for two years for the Office of Multicultural Affairs (my age is showing)
- I was a United States Student Association member
- I was on the Board of Directors for the Multi-Cultural Center
- Numerous hiring committees
- I was one of the people that created Weaving New Beginnings, but it was called People of Color in Academia first.
What are some of your favorite memories at the UO?
My favorite memories at the UO are things like going to Max’s for a big mug; being around all the student unions and their activities; the nightlife atmosphere; being in the WUSHU Kung Fu club; representing my tribe, the Cayuse people; and 13th Street before and after the huge renovations. I absolutely loved going to the campus art museum on a regular basis, I loved going to basketball games, I loved hanging out at NASU or MECHA or BSU or ASU (anything to do with students of color), storming Johnson Hall with our political demands, being able to live in Japan, walking all over campus during the different seasons to experience the scenery, and the street fairs.
How has life been post-graduation? Jobs?
Life has been fun. A lot of challenges and a lot of rewards. I tried moving to Seattle after graduation to pursue a career in Japanese, but ended up getting my Pharmacy Technician License, and worked in that industry for a while. I realized that Japanese was really not in the cards for me, and I was always missing my Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon, and my family. I travelled to New Mexico and learned that almost every Native I met spoke their own language. That was a turning point for me. I kind of woke up and realized that my heart just was not in anything I was doing so I decided to apply for Grad school in Linguistics at UO, and to my surprise I was accepted. I journeyed back to Eugene and tried getting my master’s but I left early so I could come work for my Tribe’s Language Program.
Tell us what it is like to be the language instructor at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
This is the job I was truly meant to have. I am not just an instructor, but a true advocate of language revitalization. I love my career and I feel blessed every day that I am able to give back to my own community. Since starting this journey, I have learned that I really do not know as much as I thought I did. I have been really humbled during my eight years here, and have come to see my true identity as a Native American woman. I have received a state teaching license from TSPC (Teacher Standards and Practices Commission) and I am the only person in Oregon with the license to teach CAYUSE/NEZ PERCE. I am so proud and now I am able to help children realize their full potential through teaching.
What kind of duties do you perform on a regular basis on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation?
I have a high school class, two elementary level classes, and I teach at our Tribe’s General Council meetings. I started a customer service program and am trying to implement it and I am trying to create policy for our languages to be used in every part of our government. I create all Cayuse/Nez Perce curricula, I sit with my Elders and practice speaking, and I collaborate with other tribes and entities of our tribe to get language out there. I have translated words for a major motion picture, I have been featured on a couple documentaries, and I practice a lot of my Tribe’s traditions and culture. I am also on our tribal Housing Commission, so I still like being involved in my community.
You’re on the UOAA Board of Directors, why did you choose to be on the Board? Why is membership important?
I chose this position for many reasons, including being a voice for Native alumni and students, and a chance to represent equality and fairness. Membership is important to me because I believe in my alma mater, and I know that I can represent a huge demographic by doing this work.
Any suggestions for young Native American students looking to pursue a degree in higher education?
Native students should know what tribe they are from and know who their families are. One should not go to college thinking you will find out who you are as a Native. You go to college to strengthen who you already are in your heart, and you take your knowledge back to your people to help the struggling future generations.
I received some advice when I was first starting school, and I believe it was the only thing that got me through the tough times, because there are always tough times. I was told the best thing to do is to get involved. If it was not for the networking and the friendships that I made during my time at the UO, I really believe that I might not have made it. The relationships you build are the secret to your success as a student. Those relationships carry on after graduation and even help you maybe 15 years after you graduate. You just never know who is going to be the next great leader, and it is beneficial to have good relations with others that maybe can help you succeed in the future, and you may be able to help someone as well.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I guess I would just like to say that being a student at the UO were some of the greatest years of my life, and I would not change them for anything. Any type of higher education is medicine for your spirit. What you learn today can help you and others tomorrow.
Q&A by UO student Chelsea Fullmer. Originally published in the November, 2013 UOAA newsletter.
Fredrik Logevall spent 11 years working on Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. Fittingly, the Pulitzer Prize for History Logevall received this year for his book was also the eleventh Pulitzer won by a member of the UO family.
The Pulitzer committee awarded Logevall (MA, History, ’89) its prestigious literary prize for “A distinguished and appropriately documented book on the history of the United States.” Logevall began working on the book, his fourth about the Vietnam War, while teaching at UC Santa Barbara. The work then continued as he moved east to Cornell University, where he is currently the John S. Knight Professor of International Studies, Vice Provost for International Affairs, and the Director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
“This was an eleven-year-project, from the signing of the contract to publication, and although I did not work on the book continuously during that time it was my main research project throughout,” said Logevall. “I spent a lot of time early on just reading in the existing literature, much of it in French, and the book in the end is in part a synthesis of the existing scholarship, even though it’s also based on my work in the archives. More than my previous books I also tried to write it for a broader, non-specialist audience, even as I also wanted it to have enough of an analytical thrust to be taken seriously by fellow scholars.”
It’s safe to say he succeeded on both fronts. The New York Times called Embers of War a “powerful portrait of the terrible and futile French war,” while the Wall Street Journal called it “a widely researched and eloquently written account.” Three fellow Pulitzer Prize winners who have written about Vietnam also heaped praise on Embers of War, with Neil Sheehan calling it “a splendid account,” Frances FitzGerald calling Logevall “a wonderful writer and historian,” and Robert Olen Butler saying Logevall “has the eye of a novelist, the cadence of a splendid prose stylist, and a filmmaker’s instinct for story.”
Born in Sweden, Logevall moved with his family to Canada when he was 12. A TIME magazine subscription and a BBC documentary about World War II piqued Logevall’s curiosity about Canada’s neighbor to the south, and after graduating from Simon Fraser University with a bachelor of arts degree, he enrolled in the University of Oregon’s master of arts program—for reasons pertaining both to the head and the heart.
“First, I had heard very good things about the MA program at UO—a rigorous two-year MA that prepares students exceptionally well for doctoral studies—and in particular about professor Glenn May, who given my research interest in US foreign relations would likely be my main adviser,” Logevall said. “Second, my wife Danyel and I had just gotten married and she had a year left to go in her BA studies at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. I knew I wanted to pursue graduate studies, and to be near her; UO was the obvious place.”
Logevall flourished at the UO, and found it more than adequately prepared him for his next stop—the Ivy League.
“It was demanding and intense, but in a supportive and nurturing way,” he said. “I had received a solid undergraduate education at Simon Fraser University in Canada, but only at UO did I learn how to be a historian. Only at UO did I get a thorough grounding in historical methods, in historiography, in how to frame research topics and ask the right questions.
“From the start I also had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, which mattered greatly, and which l loved from the first day. About the best thing I can say about the “groundwork” is that when I arrived at Yale for my PhD studies I was extremely well prepared, more so than most others in the Yale program.”
Logevall’s research and writing process for Embers of War, was not easy. In addition to juggling researching and writing with his teaching duties at UC Santa Barbara and later Cornell, Logevall also had to work around co-authoring two books, including the US history textbook A People and a Nation. Logevall’s publisher, Random House, nominated him for the Pulitzer without his knowledge—he did not even know when the award was announced, which made April 15—also known as Tax Day—a decidedly pleasant surprise this year.
“I was in a meeting with the provost on April 15 when my assistant got a call from a reporter with the Associated Press, seeking a comment from me,” Logevall said. “When I came out of the meeting at 3:30, I had dozens of emails in my inbox. I was utterly floored, needless to say, and for the rest of the day was in a kind of disbelieving fog. But it was immensely gratifying to get so many emails and calls during those first hours, including from childhood friends and Swedish relatives.
“The following morning, April 16, the phone rang at 5 a.m. My wife picked up. It was Swedish national radio, calling to ask for a live interview, in Swedish, right then and there. I obliged.”
Requests for speaking appearances have increased dramatically since winning the Pulitzer, but due to the time constraints that are an unavoidable part of being a vice provost, Logevall has to be selective about which requests he accepts. One request he was happy to accept, though, was one that came from the University of Oregon. On May 14, 2014, Logevall will return to the UO to speak about Vietnam in the Knight Law Center as part of the Wayne Morse Legacy Series.
Tucker Bounds, one of six speakers featured at the recent DUKTalks event, shared his experience in both presidential politics and high-tech.
DUKTalks, which took place on Sept. 27, showcased the best of the College of Arts and Sciences, with faculty, alumni and student speakers sharing their individual paths of discovery.
Many thanks to our enthusiastic audience of 200 guests! Alumni, donors, students, faculty and staff turned up at the beautiful Robinson Theatre for an afternoon of brain candy and a special guest appearance by the Duck.
Bounds (02, Political Science) is now director of corporate communications at Facebook and was spokesperson for presidential candidate John MCain in 2008. In his DUKTalk, he reflects on a Freshman Seminar at the UO that set him on course for his diverse career: it’s all about community and communication. Watch the video!
Intel Corporation announced recently that the board of directors elected UO alum Renée James as its new president. (more…)