SOU earns top LGBTQ-friendly ranking for fifth year in a row

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been recognized for the fifth year in a row as one of the nation’s Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities by Campus Pride, a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ people on more than 1,400 U.S. campuses.

SOU earned five out of five stars overall on the Campus Pride Index, which ranks universities in each of eight categories: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. SOU drew five-star rankings in six of the categories and four-and-a-half stars in the other two.

Thomas Arce, coordinator of SOU’s Queer Resource Center, said this week’s Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for prospective and current LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization on the national level.

“Knowing that the campus they attend or plan to attend pays close attention to these efforts of inclusion and identity are key for their academic and social success in college,” Arce said.

SOU was also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice, which released its 2017 rankings in July.

The Campus Pride list of the top 25 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities included three Oregon institutions: SOU, the University of Oregon and Portland State University. It also included two universities in Washington and two in California; New Jersey is the only other state with three colleges or universities on the list.

Arce said that some of the activities and services that make SOU stand out as welcoming to LGBTQ students are the presence of sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy; gender-inclusive housing options; the stand-alone Queer Resource Center; and LGBTQ-related academic offerings through the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program. SOU also participates in LGBTQ-specific college fairs and its counseling and health staff provide queer- and trans-friendly services.

“These are just some of avenues that we’re evaluated on, and (that) provide a culture of care specifically for our LGBTQ students to thrive and persist at SOU,” Arce said.

The Campus Pride list is considered the most trusted and reliable list of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, said Shane Windmeyer, the organization’s executive director and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “These are the campuses leading the way for LGBTQ inclusion and who have come out to support LGBTQ students from the first day of classes through graduation day,” Windmeyer said.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon – and one of the first in the nation – to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

SOU football game moved due to health concerns

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Concerns for the health of participants and fans have resulted in the postponement and relocation of Southern Oregon University’s season-opening football game with Eastern Oregon University, which had been scheduled for Thursday evening in Ashland. The game will instead be played Saturday at a neutral site: Sherwood High School, just southwest of Portland.

Air Quality Index (AQI) readings earlier this week in Ashland consistently registered near the high end of the “unhealthy” level, at which everyone is advised to reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion. For example, the AQI on Wednesday afternoon was 193 – just seven points below the “very unhealthy” level, at which people from all age groups are susceptible to serious health effects.

Ashland’s air quality had improved on Thursday morning, but SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre pointed out that conditions could change rapidly.

“What we know at this point is the fire in Brookings is still raging and there is still a better-than-average chance any game we schedule here could be smoked out,” Sayre said. “We had to make a decision at least two days in advance because of travel for both teams and the immense amount of effort that goes into producing a college football game, and we aren’t in a position to play chicken with the smoke and the health of our student-athletes.”

SOU considered various rescheduling scenarios before settling on the offer to play at 6 p.m. Saturday in Sherwood’s Aaron J. Contreras Memorial Stadium. All previously purchased SOU-EOU tickets will be valid, and tickets will also be sold prior to the game at Sherwood High.

Refunds are available for those who previously purchased single-game tickets online for the SOU home game but cannot attend the contest in Portland. Those wishing to be refunded should contact the SOU athletic office from 8 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, at (541) 552-6772.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

SOU’s Palmer named a “disruptive” journalism fellow

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Erik Palmer, an associate professor and chair of the SOU Communication Program, has been named one of 17 “disruptive” journalism fellows from around the country by the City University of New York’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

The recipients will be awarded fellowships to attend the Online News Association 2017 Conference, Oct. 5-7, in Washington, D.C. Each will be asked to champion a specific aspect of journalism education at the conference, and to engage other educators “in any way that proves effective,” including through the Disruptive Educators Facebook group. The closed Facebook group describes itself as a learning organization “for journalism educators disrupting media, through entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Palmer was recognized in the fellowship announcement for his research on how social photography impacts professional media photography, and for his interest in the emerging connection between strategy and journalism.

The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism was founded in 2010 through grants from The Tow Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from the City University of New York. It is intended to train journalists in media entrepreneurship, explore new business models for news and provide events for both professional journalists and students.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

SOU athletic pavilion, to be completed in January, receives new name Thursday

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott, members of the local DeBoer family and others will gather outside the university’s new athletic pavilion Thursday morning to acknowledge the role of philanthropy in the project and unveil the facility’s new name.

The DeBoers and their signature company, Lithia Motors, will be recognized during the 10 a.m. event for the generosity that has made completion of the athletic pavilion possible. Lithia and the DeBoer family have pledged $1 million to the pavilion project and another $1 million to fund scholarships for many of the student-athletes who will compete in the new facility. Several other donors have pledged an additional $600,000 in gifts for the ongoing construction project, which includes renovations to the Raider grandstand.

“The willing support of all these donors has transformed this project, and will have a lasting effect on our university,” President Schott said. “The fund-raising did more than allow us to make ends meet; it enabled us to add dimension and texture to the project.”

Three generations of the DeBoer family have been among the most generous supporters of SOU. Lithia Motors – which was founded in 1946 by Walt DeBoer and incorporated in 1968 by his son, Sid – is one of Oregon’s three current Fortune 500 companies.

“We enthusiastically support the students, academic programs and athletics of Southern Oregon University,” said Bryan DeBoer, Lithia’s president and CEO.

“Much like SOU, Lithia Motors promotes an environment of excellence and continuous improvement for our people,” DeBoer said. “We join with all members of this community in recognizing Southern Oregon University as the educational provider of choice for learners throughout our region and celebrate this significant development to the Ashland campus.”

The new athletic pavilion received $22 million in bond funding from the state, but the need to demolish rather than salvage some portions of the previous athletic facility added $2 million to the project cost. The adjacent Student Recreation Center is separately funded by fees that SOU students levied upon themselves.

The new pavilion’s competition gym will seat more than 1,400 fans for men’s and women’s basketball games and wrestling matches, and women’s volleyball games. The building will also have locker rooms, three classrooms, academic offices, an academic conference room, SOU’s athletic offices, an athletic conference room, a ticket booth, an athletic training and sports medicine room, wrestling practice room, equipment room and storage areas. The Student Recreation Center will include a recreational gym, indoor running track, fitness center, climbing wall, multipurpose rooms, an outdoor programs area, staff offices, locker rooms and storage areas.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

“Chief Science Officers” from regional schools to visit SOU

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(Ashland, Ore.) — A group of 22 “Chief Science Officers” from 11 middle and high schools throughout Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties will converge at Southern Oregon University on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 15-16, to gain leadership skills and learn to be ambassadors for STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Chief Science Officer Leadership Institute is organized by the Southern Oregon STEM Hub, one of 11 regional STEM Hubs that operate under Oregon’s Chief Education Office to tap local resources and promote STEM educational opportunities. This week’s institute is co-sponsored by SOU, the Southern Oregon Education Service District, Talent Maker City, Rogue Workforce Partnership, Rogue Valley Microdevices, Pacific Power, the Ausland Group, MV Pro Audio, Valley Immediate Care and ScienceWorks.

The event is intended to help the participating students become effective STEM ambassadors in their schools. They will explore STEM activities and potential careers, and receive professionalism and leadership training.

Activities will take place primarily in SOU’s Cox Hall classrooms. A “STEM-Onstration” showcase will also be held at SOU’s Stevenson Union.

The Chief Science Officer program, which is being offered through various STEM Hubs around the state, is a unique approach for aligning education with industry. It is intended to give students a voice in community conversations about outreach and economic development, and introduce them to some of the potential pathways to STEM careers.

The Southern Oregon STEM Hub is part of Southern Oregon Success, a grant-funded program that weaves together community talent, expertise and resources to promote the health, academics and life successes of the region’s youths and families.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

Healthcare Administration Program approved for SOU

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved a new bachelor’s degree program on Thursday that will prepare students at Southern Oregon University for a variety of careers in health care – the region’s largest and fastest-growing job sector.

SOU’s new Healthcare Administration Program will be offered to students beginning in winter term of the coming academic year. Program coordinator Craig Switzler said he expects an initial cohort of about 10 students, and for the program to eventually grow to between 30 and 50 students.

“I’ve already been approached by about a half-dozen students,” he said.

The program will prepare students for management, rather than patient-care positions, in the health care industry. The Oregon Employment Department projects that over the next five years, there will be nearly 1,500 openings in southern Oregon for health care management positions that require bachelor’s or advanced degrees.

The SOU program will be available to incoming freshmen, current undergraduates who haven’t settled on a major and working professionals looking for additional skillsets.

Those who enter the program may focus on any of three health care-related concentrations. A personnel management track will emphasize human resources in the health care industry; a community health concentration will explore how group or community health care is provided, maintained and improved; and a data analytics path will prepare students to analyze and interpret data for improving health care systems.

The overall program will provide students a foundation in health care, including knowledge of the industry’s terminology, ethics and safety, data management standards and communication skills.

The interdisciplinary program will include courses from SOU’s Health and Physical Education, Business, Communications, Psychology, Sociology and Biology departments. A new philosophy course will be part of the curriculum, and each student will also complete a capstone project and practicum class prior to graduation.

“The classes are already here on campus,” said Switzler, who developed a proposal for the program after he was hired at SOU three years ago as an athletic trainer.

The proposal has gained traction over the past year, and has been endorsed by various SOU committees, the university’s Board of Trustees and the state universities’ Provosts Council. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved the program unanimously on Thursday.

There is a handful of similar undergraduate and graduate programs in health care administration or management at other public and private universities in Oregon.

More information about the SOU program is available on its website, at sou.edu/hca.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.