SOU trustees endorse national initiative to boost higher ed perception

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SOU trustees endorse national initiative to boost higher ed perception

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to pass a resolution to support and participate in a project with college and university trustees nationwide to revive the public’s trust in higher education.

The Guardians Initiative – developed by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) – is intended to increase support for higher education. It aims to strengthen financial backing from state legislatures across the country, prompt a rebound in college and university attendance and improve the public perception of higher education.

The SOU board is among the first in the country to endorse the Guardians Initiative.

“The enduring personal and societal value of higher education is well-supported,” said Bill Thorndike, chairman of the SOU Board of Trustees. “The lifetime earnings gap between those with college educations and those without has never been greater. Moreover, the economic and cultural benefits that colleges and universities bring to their communities are invaluable.

“We need to restore the luster to higher education. As public perception improves, we want higher education to become a greater legislative priority and for universities such as SOU to be recognized as keys to the growth and sustainability for individuals and communities.”

The traditional role of trustees might focus narrowly on the issues of the colleges and universities they serve. The Guardians Initiative encourages trustees to also advocate for higher education in general, to lobby at the state and federal levels for improved support, and to help improve the public’s perception of the value of higher education.

The initiative is meant to galvanize the support of about 50,000 college and university trustees nationwide.

“SOU’s trustees are recognized leaders and creative thinkers from the public and private sectors,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “I am tremendously excited to see how they will influence our national conversation about higher education.”


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

Oregon’s HECC praises SOU strategic planning work

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission unanimously approved Southern Oregon University’s new mission statement on Thursday, and its members described the university’s strategic planning work as “exemplary” and “energizing.”

A delegation from SOU including President Linda Schott was in Salem to present the university’s new vision, mission, values and strategic directions at the HECC meeting. SOU’s entire strategic planning effort won support, but commission members were required by state law only to evaluate and approve the mission statement (included below in its entirety).

“Our strategic plan is the roadmap that will guide SOU into a future filled with equal portions of uncertainty and opportunity,” President Schott said. “It defines not only who we are as members of a dynamic academic community, but who we strive to be and how we intend to achieve our goals.”

HECC member Sandy Rowe, who was editor of The Oregonian from 1993 to 2010, described SOU’s work as “outward facing – that is rare.”

“SOU has broken out of the pack,” she said.

Commission member Terry Cross, former executive director and current senior advisor to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, called the university’s mission statement “exemplary work.”

“I like the alignment with HECC,” he said. “You are helping us lead, helping us to be a better commission.”

HECC Chairman Neil Bryant, a Bend lawyer, acknowledged that he has been critical of SOU in the past but said the university “achieved focus” with its new mission statement.

President Schott, in a message to SOU students and employees on Thursday afternoon, thanked each person who has weighed in with feedback during the year-long strategic planning process, and especially those who have done the heavy lifting on the project.

“I am immensely grateful to all of you who have worked so many hours over the past year to visualize the future of our institution and craft the strategic plan that will help us realize our potential,” she said.

SOU’s new mission statement:
Southern Oregon University is a regionally-engaged learning community committed to being the educational provider of choice for learners throughout their lives.

We inspire curiosity and creativity, compel critical thinking, foster discovery, and cultivate bold ideas and actions.

We achieve student success, professional preparation, and civic engagement through service excellence, evolving technologies, and innovative curriculum.

We foster access, equity, inclusion and diversity in thought and practice.

We prepare our learners to be responsible, engaged citizens in our democracy.

We promote economic vitality, sustainability, cultural enrichment, and social well-being in our region, the state, the nation, and the world.”


Lithia Motors founders support athletics and academics at SOU

Ashland Oregon’s DeBoer family and their signature company, Lithia Motors, have been recognized for their generosity, which has made possible the completion of a new athletic pavilion at Southern Oregon University.

Lithia and the DeBoers pledged $1 million to the project – named Lithia Motors Pavilion – and another $1 million to fund scholarships for many of the student-athletes who will compete in the facility that is scheduled to open by the end of February. Several other donors are expected to give a total of $1 million in gifts for the construction project.

“The willing support of all these donors has transformed this project, and will have a lasting effect on our university,” SOU President Linda Schott said when the pavilion naming was announced last year. “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 two current Fortune 500 companies.

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

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 $17.7 million in 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, along with various other athletic facilities. The Student Recreation Center will include a recreational gym, indoor running track, fitness center and climbing wall.

The combined 100,000-square-foot project is expected to receive a LEED Gold rating for sustainability.