The Elemental Story

How to describe the importance of the College of Arts and Sciences? It's elemental

This issue of Cascade showcases a new design theme for the College of Arts and Sciences: It’s Elemental.

The design concept emphasizes the fundamental role of the arts and sciences at the UO.

With 865 faculty members, forty-six undergraduate major fields of study and twenty-three doctoral programs, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is the academic hub of the university. Virtually all undergraduates take their core (elemental) courses in the college and about two-thirds of them go on to get a degree in CAS; the college also trains 75 percent of all UO doctoral students.

“Part of the challenge with communicating the value of the College of Arts and Sciences is our diversity and our size,” said Acting Dean W. Andrew Marcus, a geography professor (shown above with the Duck, who is modeling the DUKTalks t-shirt.)

“The elemental design concept deliberately embraces the size and complexity of CAS,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to show how all of its elements—namely, our forty departments and programs and those forty-six fields of study—can operate as distinct units while also forming a whole that is more than the sum of the parts.”

A completely redesigned website,, now embodies the “It’s Elemental” concept in a bold, color-coded design. One of its main features is a design system that creates a symbol for each department and program, much like the elements in a periodic table. These are color-coded: Humanities departments and programs are grouped in shades of blue, the social sciences have green accents and the natural sciences, yellow and red.

The design also enables departments—ranging from anthropology to medieval studies to computer and information science—to emphasize the elemental nature of their field, while also placing them within the larger arts and sciences family. At the same time, the design helps convey how dynamic and flexible the arts and sciences “elements” can be, Marcus said.

In the early phases of the rollout, several departments have already adopted the design for their websites: philosophy, geological sciences, folklore, general social sciences, Romance languages and women’s and gender studies, with more to follow.

The public debut of the elemental theme was DUKTalks, an annual College of Arts and Sciences event that features the best and the brightest of the CAS faculty, students and alumni who offer presentations styled on the popular TED Talks. (DUK stands for Discovering University Knowledge.)

The second annual DUKTalks took place on September 27 in the Robinson Theatre. Two hundred guests (alumni, faculty and staff members, students and friends) heard wide-ranging, fast-paced talks by six speakers who shared their individual paths of discovery and their personal connection with the elemental theme.

You can watch the videos at

— Lisa Raleigh

Photo: Mickey Stellavato