SOU’s Latino Youth Leadership Conference addresses equity, racism, barriers

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(Ashland, Ore.) — More than 350 Latino youth from Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lane county high schools will meet on the Southern Oregon University campus on Friday, March 9, for the seventh annual César E. Chávez Leadership Conference.

The event – which this year will feature Hispanic civil rights advocate Luis Avila as keynote speaker – celebrates the heritage of César E. Chávez and teaches young people to carry on Chávez’ legacy of leadership.

This year’s conference will include 22 workshops in the areas of leadership, college and career, culture, identity and arts, and life skills. The workshops are intended to inspire Latino youth to become leaders and work for social justice, and to empower them to pursue higher education.

The event is particularly relevant in a year when immigration and racial issues are at the forefront of national conversations. Students at the conference will learn how to ensure that their voices are heard.

Avila, an advisor with 270 Strategies, most recently served as the national program director at Stand for Children – a nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to improving public school education.

While at Stand for Children, Avila worked with immigrant parents to mobilize thousands of voters and protect funding for their children’s schools. He was awarded the agency’s National Leadership Award for his work supporting, coaching and developing organizers around the country.

Avila serves on the executive board at the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., and is on the board of TNTP – an organization focused on ending educational inequality.

A record number of high schools and participants are expected at this year’s event. Students are nominated to attend by teachers and counselors at their high schools.


SOU professor promotes peace through education in Central African Republic

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(Ashland, Ore.) — A Southern Oregon University faculty member returned last week from the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), where he served as an English language specialist on a project to equip students with the communication skills necessary to promote peace and conflict resolution.

Bryce Smedley, an assistant professor in SOU’s Education Department, visited students at the University of Bangui and elsewhere during his two-week stay in the CAR. He conducted an education needs assessment, offered teacher trainings and promoted the development of English Language Clubs in the country that is rated as the world’s poorest and the lowest in human development.

Most schools in the CAR have no books, teachers have little training and many schools have remained closed due to insecurity in a nation that has been at war off-and-on since 2004. English language learning allows students to better understand American foreign policy and provides skills that can help them gain upward social mobility.

Students in Smedley’s upper-division multiculturalism class at SOU are paired with students from the CAR to share their life stories, dreams and educational challenges.

“We need to encourage our students to be bold, compassionate and excited to explore cultures, languages, teaching and service-learning in a global context,” said Smedley, who served as an international mentor at Kabul Education University and a faculty member at American University of Afghanistan before joining the SOU faculty last summer.

“My work in Africa is continually connected back to my classroom teaching at SOU,” he said. “These types of educational experiences are transformative, and help develop students’ cultural competence in a global world.”

The CAR project is considered a medium for promoting security, peace and conflict resolution while teaching about democracy, gender and human rights, and restorative justice. The program was organized by the U.S. Embassy of Bangui in conjunction with the English Language Specialist program, which sends academics throughout the world to help strengthen education.


Open forums to introduce SOU’s Campus-Community Resilience Assessment

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will hold a pair of open forums to introduce a Campus-Community Resilience Assessment that will be conducted over the next few months to determine the local area’s ability to absorb or adapt to ongoing climate changes.

The forums, which are free and open to the public, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The same information will be shared at both sessions, which will be in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union.

SOU’s Sustainability Office is taking on the resilience assessment as part of the university’s Climate Commitment to the Climate Leadership Network, which is made up of more than 600 U.S. colleges and universities. SOU was one of just six institutions to be recognized at the Climate Leadership Network’s summit last year.

Member institutions in the network each commit to take action on climate issues and prepare students to solve current and future challenges. Members may make a “Carbon Commitment” to work toward carbon neutrality, a “Resilience Commitment” to focus on climate adaptation or – as SOU has done – a “Climate Commitment” to do both.

The Resilience Assessment is a response by SOU to the reality of climate change and the urgent need for action. It will provide a baseline of current efforts on campus and in the community to address changes in the climate, identify vulnerabilities and develop initial indicators of resilience.

The assessment will draw input from five small working groups that will each focus on a specific topic: social equity and governance, health and wellness, ecosystem services, infrastructure and the economy. Nominations are still being accepted from those who would like to serve on the groups. Anyone who is interested may contact the university’s Sustainability Office at (541) 552-8139 or, or by attending one of the upcoming forums.


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 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.”


SOU president leads in protection of immigrant and international students

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott continues to take a leadership role in support of immigrant and international students, serving as an early member of the new Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.

The alliance – which was formed earlier this month and has quickly grown to more than 150 members – is a collective effort by college and university leaders across the U.S. to address immigration issues that may affect their students. Members will work together to support federal and state policies that create welcoming environments for immigrant, undocumented and international students.

Higher education presidents and chancellors formed the organization as members of Congress began their lead-up to a likely vote on extending some form of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The White House decreed in September that Congress must act within six months to prevent the program’s cancellation and the deportation of its participants, and several members of Congress have suggested that a proposal is likely in January.

President Schott has been vocal in her support for the program, which offers immigrants who grew up in the U.S. without legal documentation an opportunity to remain as they pursue school or work goals.

“We do not have a large number of DACA students at SOU, but our institution recognizes that it is critically important for all people to have the opportunity to learn and grow,” President Schott said. “We value the rights of all students – regardless of their immigration status, nationality, gender, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious affiliation or political persuasion – and are unconditionally committed to preserving them.”

While DACA is the most urgent priority of the new alliance of higher education leaders, the organization will also seek to modernize other portions of U.S. immigration law that was originally drafted in the 1950s. Alliance members will urge lawmakers to recognize today’s global interconnectedness and the importance of maintaining U.S. universities and colleges as premier academic destinations for students worldwide

In addition to her membership in the new Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, President Schott is one of more than 700 college and university presidents in the U.S. to sign a statement in support of DACA. She communicated directly with SOU’s DACA students more than a year ago to assure them of the university’s unequivocal support, and has consistently told all segments of the campus community that the institution’s core values begin with the protection of students’ academic rights.

“I am a historian by trade, and understand how important it is to heed the lessons of the past,” President Schott said. “If we don’t protect the vulnerable among us, how long will we be safe from those same risks?”


SOU’s new Hornets to Raiders program prepares Hispanic students for college

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s collaborative program to introduce Hispanic students to the promise of higher education – offered first in the Phoenix-Talent School District and then at Medford’s McLoughlin Middle School – has added a third venue.

A “Hornets to Raiders” program began this fall at Hedrick Middle School in Medford, with an initial cohort of 16 students. A Pirates to Raiders program began in 2011 at Talent Middle School, and a Bulldogs to Raiders program started two years ago at McLoughlin – like Hedrick, in the Medford School District.

“Parents were the main reason I reached out to the Medford School District regarding Hedrick,” said Jonathan Chavez Baez, SOU’s coordinator for minority outreach programs. “They were aware of the program and wanted to have support. We knew the need was there, but needed to get Bulldogs to Raiders off the ground. Once the Hedrick staff got on board, we were able to get this going.”

The Pirates program currently involves a total of 98 students in grades 8 through 12, and the Bulldogs program has 136 students in grades 8 through 10.

Those who began the Pirates program in 2011 and 2012 are now of college age and 37 of the 42 who graduated high school – 88 percent – have gone on to two- or four-year colleges, including 10 at SOU. A statewide average of 38.5 percent of Latino high school graduates go on to attend college, according to data at – a project of the Oregon Business Council.

The Bulldogs program at Medford’s McLoughlin Middle School and has not yet sent its first group to college.

The Hedrick program and its two predecessors all are intended to open doors to Hispanic students by forming partnerships between students, their families, their school districts and SOU to ensure that the students remain on track for college.

“Something very unique and special this program has is the family focus,” Chavez Baez said. “It is essential to include the family in this entire process. I truly believe the success of the student is the success of the whole family. These families face so many barriers in various areas, that we want to be able to tear those down.”

The family members of program participants make sure their students attend school, manage their studies and participate in events related to the program. The university and school district offer mentoring, financial aid information, transportation to program events and opportunities to learn about SOU. The students take appropriate college preparatory courses, attend two program-related events each year and sign contracts, promising to maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average through high school.


SOU athletic and recreation facility headed toward completion

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Construction crews have entered the home stretch toward completion of Southern Oregon University’s new Lithia Motors Pavilion and the adjacent Student Recreation Center, with the facilities’ opening date expected to be near the end of February.

Andersen Construction of Portland began work on the 100,000-square-foot combined project in August 2016, and has remained slightly under-budget and largely on-schedule. The buildings will open about a month later than originally planned, because an excess of construction projects in southern Oregon has left subcontractors in short supply.

The state-of-the-art facilities – expected to receive a LEED Gold rating for sustainability – will serve as the home of several SOU athletic teams and as an exercise venue for students. The Lithia Motors Pavilion and Student Recreation Center replace 60-year-old McNeal Pavilion, which was demolished after an engineering study found it was too obsolete for any of its parts to be salvaged.

The Lithia Motors Pavilion will feature a competition gym that can seat more than 1,400 fans for men’s and women’s basketball games and wrestling matches, and women’s volleyball games. The pavilion will also have locker rooms, classrooms, offices and a conference room for academics, offices and a conference room for SOU athletic staff, an athletic training and sports medicine room, a wrestling practice room, an equipment room, a ticket booth and storage areas.

The pavilion received $22 million in bond funding from the state and pledges for about $2 million more from several donors – including $1 million from the local DeBoer family and their company, Lithia Motors. The DeBoers and Lithia pledged another $1 million to fund athletic scholarships.

The Student Recreation Center will feature a two-court recreational gym, suspended indoor running track, fitness center, climbing wall, multipurpose rooms, an outdoor programs area, staff offices, locker rooms and storage areas. The $17.7 million recreation center was funded by fees that SOU students levied upon themselves.


SOU’s Christianson honored as AAAS Fellow


(Ashland, Ore.) — Roger Christianson, an emeritus professor of biology at Southern Oregon University, has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – a prestigious honor that is bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

He was recognized for his “exemplary service as the AAAS Pacific Division leader since 2002.” Christianson was originally elected to a three-year term as the Pacific Division’s executive director and has served in that role for the past 15 years.

“It has been an honor to represent SOU to AAAS members in the Western United States while serving as executive director of the Pacific Division,” he said. “I was truly humbled upon finding out that my name had been put forward for election to AAAS Fellow.

“I share this honor with all of my colleagues at SOU and trust that this reflects well on the quality of faculty, staff and programs at SOU.”

Christianson is one of 396 AAAS members nationwide who were honored this year as Fellows. He is one of just nine 2017 AAAS Fellows in Oregon, and the only one outside of the University of Oregon (with six) and Oregon State University (with two).

Christianson coordinated and taught in SOU’s General Biology Program for non-majors from 1980 until he took emeritus status (retirement from active teaching) in 2014. He served as chair of the Biology Department from 1996 to 2003.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in cellular and organismal biology, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in biology, all from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, which has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science publication. The AAAS was founded in 1848 and currently has more than 120,000 members.

Those who were named as Fellows this year will be presented official certificates and gold-and-blue rosette pins during the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting on Feb. 17 in Austin, Texas. They will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Science.


SOU’s Friday Science Seminar features fun fall experiments

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Friday Science Seminar for this week will feature “various marvels of chemistry,” as SOU Chemistry Club members demonstrate experiments that will light up pumpkins, freeze-dry marshmallows and wow the audience with interactive displays of scientific wonder.

The seminars – community-oriented events held on most Fridays during the academic year – are free and open to the public. This week’s “Fall into Chemistry” installment will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 151 of the SOU Science Building.

Refreshments will be provided by the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Division.

The SOU Chemistry Club is certified by the American Chemical Society and made up of students who are passionate about science.