Campus Pride rates SOU at top

SOU rated at the top for eighth year in a row by Campus Pride

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been recognized for the eighth year in a row as one of the nation’s Top 40 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.

The Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for prospective and current LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization and pandemic-related isolation.

“LGBTQ youth and families want to know what campuses are doing when it comes to inclusive policies, programs and practices,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “The ‘Best of the Best’ highlights the Top 40 this year across six regions throughout the country.”

SOU was also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice, which released its 2020 rankings in July.

The Campus Pride list of the top 40 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities in the U.S. included three Oregon institutions – SOU, the University of Oregon and Portland State University. A total of eight in the West region received the organization’s “Premier Campus” designation.

SOU addresses sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy and offers 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.

-SOU-

SOU's cohort of first-year students is diverse and smart

SOU’s first-year cohort: diverse, smart and persistent

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s 2020 cohort of first-year students is fairly evenly split between Oregon and out-of-state residents, much more diverse than either Jackson county or the state as a whole and has a wide variety of scholarly interests, with students in 19 academic majors.

The freshman class of 570 – not including transfer students – is also smart, with an average high school grade point average of 3.34. Another 380 first-year transfer students have enrolled at SOU this fall, along with nearly 3,000 continuing, returning and non-admitted students.

“We have a really good group of first-year students this fall, and great students who are continuing their educational journeys with us,” said Neil Woolf, SOU’s vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “The COVID-19 pandemic, the recent wildfires and other external events have been huge distractions. All of our students this year have persevered. They want to learn and succeed.”

The pandemic and a resulting shift to mostly remote classes at SOU and most other universities resulted in dire predictions of enrollment declines in the 10 to 20 percent range for higher education institutions across the country. Official enrollment figures for Oregon’s public universities won’t be available until about halfway through fall term, but preliminary data suggest that SOU’s losses will be under 10 percent.

“We certainly would have preferred to hold steady on enrollment or even gain some students,” Woolf said. “But given this year’s realities and obstacles, this is far from a worst-case scenario. The dedication of our faculty, staff and the students themselves has been phenomenal.”

SOU’s freshman cohort is 56.6 percent female, 41 percent male and 2.4 percent non-binary. About 56 percent identify as white, just under 16 percent as Hispanic or Latinx and 28 percent as multi-racial, unknown or other people of color. By contrast, the most recent demographic data from the county and state suggest a white population of nearly 89 percent in Jackson County and 85 percent statewide – although Hispanic or Latinx residents are not separated from those figures.

Oregon residents make up 56.6 percent of SOU’s freshman class, with non-residents at 43.4 percent – led by California at 25.9 percent. Students from a total of 16 other states or territories are included in the cohort. More than 73 percent are living in SOU residence halls or other campus housing, and just under 27 percent are living off-campus.

One in five SOU freshmen have not yet declared an academic major. For those who have decided on majors, the top choices are psychology, theatre arts, biology, creative arts, pre-nursing, business, and criminology and criminal justice.

-SOU-

Essential workers from SOU's MBA program

Essential workers in SOU’s MBA Program share their stories

Joan McBee, the department chair of the SOU School of Business, asked essential workers in her graduate program this spring to share their experiences on the department’s Facebook page. Their responses are bittersweet, highlighting the strength of people in crisis and the tragedy of COVID-19.

“I know several students who are struggling to get their homework done, get their kids to do their homework, deal with working at home and all the distractions, and also have the demands of work – especially if they are considered essential workers,” McBee said. “My graduate assistant and I thought it would be good to run some stories on Facebook to honor those essential workers and to motivate others.”

One such essential worker is Sarah Wheeler, an operations specialist for Albertsons supermarket. She mentors and coaches managers, but has been swamped with other duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with working full-time, she’s raising her 2-year-old son and getting her master’s in business administration degree at SOU.

“I spend most days helping out wherever I am needed in the stores,” Wheeler said. “We have super-sized freight loads with the panic buying, so it has become increasingly difficult for the stores to get it all out on the sales floor before the store opens. It is incredible to see how our associates have come together as a big family, supporting each other through positive encouragement.”

While Wheeler works in retail, many of the responses that McBee received were from medical professionals. MBA students Alicia Preston, Dave Bergland and Ben Gugler all work at Rogue Valley Manor, where they support nearly 1,000 senior residents. Kylie Marshall is a respiratory therapist trained in critical care and cardio-pulmonary medicine.

“We’re the first ones in the room when you come into the ER short of breath and exposed,” Marshall said. “We’re the last ones you see when we’re intubating you. We’re the ones managing your life on the ventilator. We’re the ones who pull the tube when you’re awake or the ones who pull it to let you go.”

However, the most dramatic of McBee’s collected stories comes from Ryan Lilley, a bachelor of applied science student and the operations manager at Mountain Medics. Lilley started by detailing the event that caused him to get into health care in the first place.

“I was 5 years old and there was a car accident up the street from my grandmother’s house,” Lilley said. “My mother was a nurse and my father worked for the Forest Service. We briskly walked up the street to a crowd of 15 to 20 bystanders looking over … a man lying lifeless on the ground. My mother immediately began CPR and my father assisted.

“The gentlemen recovered and immediately vomited and rolled over… I knew from then on, I was going to be like my mother, and not a bystander.”

Lilley has jumped around a number of healthcare professions, from Ski Patrol to wilderness EMT to paramedic to lab assistant, before joining his friend’s company, Mountain Medics.

“Mountain Medics performs essential duties for the state of California, federal government and large corporations in reference to medical response for disasters, wildfires, rescues, along with COVID-19 screening and testing sites,” he said.

“Now more than ever the relevance of our company has become increasingly obvious. These crews need our help, and communities need our help.”

McBee found all of the stories she received emotional and motivational. Everyone who responded to her call for stories is working as hard as they can to keep themselves and their communities safe, and working toward their master’s degrees at the same time.

“This situation will change us forever, from our families to our jobs, from our small towns to our great cities,” Lilley said. “Our response is what will define us and this pandemic.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

The Hawk and The Landing at SOU dining commons

Increased to-go options at The Landing to serve as model for fall term

The Landing – SOU’s convenience store connected to The Hawk Dining Commons – increased its spring term selection of grocery items and hot take-out meals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited operations at The Hawk.

“These changes provide students the option for hot food when The Hawk is closed (and) the availability of grocery items supports their ability to prepare their own meal in their rooms/homes,” said Josh Lanier, the general manager at Aladdin – the subsidiary of Elior North America catering company that serves SOU.

The Hawk is currently closed for the summer and only limited selections of grocery items and hot takeout food to order are available at The Landing. But the spring term shift of services will serve as a model for fall term, when an emphasis will again be placed on to-go food.

The cooked-to-order offerings for spring term at The Landing included breakfast burritos, personal pizzas, salads, chicken strips, french fries, corn dogs, mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers.

“The Landing (also) increased their selections of grocery items such as meat, veggies, baking supplies, etc., for the students who prefer to cook on their own,” Lanier said.

The new additions came as The Hawk faced limitations due to COVID-19 precautions and SOU’s shift to remote operations for spring term. Only two of the eight restaurants housed in The Hawk – Red Plate and Vege’ – were open every day, and only for specified times. All service at The Hawk went to take-out only, with self-service and buffet options eliminated due to virus safeguards.

The Landing’s regular hours – open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, during July – and its relatively flexible food schedule are popular among students, who have been generally understanding about the safety reasons for SOU’s dining restrictions.

“Our students and customers have been so supportive of what we are doing, and they appreciate the strong steps we are taking to keep them and our employees safe,” Lanier said.

Some of those steps include frequent sanitization of all surfaces, required use of face masks at The Hawk and newly installed sneeze guards. Lanier said staff at both The Hawk and The Landing are trained and monitored to ensure they are observing all safety protocols.

“Options are more limited, but we still strive to have a good variety of delicious selections for our guests,” he said. 

The reduced food selections still accommodate those with food allergies or dietary restrictions.

It remains uncertain how long the dining changes at SOU will remain in place.

“Much of what we do moving forward will be determined/impacted by the future course of the virus and subsequent guidelines and guidance recommended by the CDC and other health authorities,” Lanier said.

Elior North America is itself a subsection of the Elior Group, which has grown into one of the world’s leading operators in contract catering, concession catering, and support services since being founded in 1991. It operates in 15 countries, has 132,000 employees, serves 6 million people on a daily basis, and has 25,600 restaurants and points of sale.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Hackathon participants coded games in eight hours

SOU coders create Mt. Shasta-themed games in Hackathon event

Shasta Networks, an Ashland-based leader in healthcare technology, teamed up this month with the SOU Computer Science Club and the Alan and Priscilla Oppenheimer Foundation to host SOU’s 2nd annual Hackathon.

Students came together via Zoom for the April 4 event in which they created small coding projects in only eight hours using either Java or Python.

The Hackathon was judged by Shasta Networks software engineers on originality and creativity, technical difficulty, completeness and clean structure of the code, elegance of the code, and functionality of the developed software.

“We used GitHub, which allows people to publish their code in a shared repository,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, an assistant professor in SOU’s Computer Science Program. “That way, the judges could see the contestants’ code, once they pushed the final version to GitHub.”

After a difficult deliberation, the judges announced this year’s winners.

In first place, and the recipient of $300, was Richard Coleman and his game, “Shasta Battle.” Players of the game must throw snowballs at the top of Mt. Shasta to keep it snowy and intact, and prevent the volcanic mountain from erupting.

“Complex game that used PyGame library. Good graphics,” said judges, “Professionally done, especially considering the eight-hour time limit for working on it.”

Denis Roman finished in second place for his interactive skiing game. Going above and beyond in a short time, the game includes sprites, collisions, a collision sound, and increasing difficulty as time passes.

“Nice graphics and good sound effects,” judges wrote. “(We) were especially impressed by the well-structured and clean code.”

Taking third place was Samuel James, for his text-based adventure game with great ASCII art. The game – which dives into Mt. Shasta and myths about creatures said to live in the mountain – left the judges impressed.

“Good story, good coding, good art,” they said.

Hackathon participants were able to overcome the obstacle of social distancing and form a collaborative environment during a time when community is difficult to achieve.

“I think we were able to emulate a ‘real’ hackathon,” Priscilla Oppenheimer said. “We weren’t really hampered by the need for physical distancing.

“Technology is really saving the day with the coronavirus,” she said. “Meetings, exercise classes, hackathons, book clubs and even scientific collaboration can all be done with Internet-based tools. Whether it’s Zoom, Google docs, GitHub or other tools that allow for collaboration, technology is helping us maintain our ties with colleagues, friends and family.”

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications assistant and student writer

SRC promotes virtual well-being

SOU Student Rec Center makes well-being a virtual exercise

With SOU’s Student Recreation Center closed and many students at home settling into a term of online classes, Campus Recreation has provided a list of 41 virtual resources to maintain physical and mental well-being.

The list – split into 6 sections – makes it easy for students to maintain routines and build new ones during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The variety of links come from Campus Recreation’s 8-dimensional view of wellness, funneled into three categories: occupational, intellectual and financial wellness.

“We wanted to make sure to include resources for those areas alongside physical wellness,” said Heather Brock, the business and marketing coordinator for Campus Recreation. “Another guideline we set was to keep the majority of the resources and apps free and/or choose ones that had an extended free trial period.”

Keeping non-traditional students, faculty and staff in mind, the Campus Recreation team also included sites with activities for children and parents.

The guiding philosophy was that now more than ever, it is important for students and others to maintain their health. Mental and physical well-being are a major part of stress management and many students are looking for ways to prioritize their health while having to stay home. Students whose daily routines have been disrupted are relying on technology for classes, fitness, social activities and more.

“Luckily, with technology and this new explosion of online resources, there are ways that students can maintain those routines while also following stay-at-home guidelines,” Brock said.

Along with the list of resources, Campus Recreation is hosting a 4-week Virtual Rec Challenge on Instagram that began April 13 and will continue through May 8. Each week of the challenge – which is open to SOU students and employees – focuses on a new theme of wellness.

A winner is randomly selected each week to receive a Campus Recreation swag bag (with prizes held for pickup at the SRC). NOTE: Make sure you’re following all current personal and public safety guidelines outlined by the CDC, state and local authorities. Posts that are obviously breaking those guidelines will be disqualified.

“What’s pretty neat about this list is that these resources won’t just become irrelevant when the pandemic is over.” Brock said. “Online students and long-distance commuters who might not be able to visit the SRC as much as on-campus students will likely find these resources helpful, regardless.”

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's virtual connections will help prospective students

SOU offers virtual opportunities for prospective students

(Ashland, Ore.) — Buildings at Southern Oregon University are currently closed to the public, all courses are being held remotely and most students are visible only during Zoom meetings and other online forums.

But next year’s class of incoming freshmen and transfer students have decisions to make, and SOU has created a comprehensive lineup of virtual opportunities to help them through the process.

“Prospective students need to find the right collegiate fit to prepare themselves for a productive, meaningful future,” said Kelly Moutsatson, SOU’s director of admissions “We need to make sure they have all the tools they may need to make good decisions about where to go for college.

“We’ve done a pretty amazing job of duplicating our on-campus admissions features and events, in a virtual environment.”

Spring is typically the busiest time of year for college admissions offices, with a variety of campus visits, registration get-togethers and orientation sessions for prospective students on the schedule. Those in-person events have been suspended at SOU in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been replaced by “virtual connections” to help would-be students get a feel for campus, talk one-on-one with admissions counselors and negotiate the registration process.

The university’s new virtual connections website puts the remote resources for students who are considering applying to SOU in a single online location. Features include a half-dozen virtual information sessions that will be held each Friday through May 22 for prospective students and their families. Those who sign up for the group sessions can ask an admission counselor about programs, scholarships, financial aid, housing or other aspects of life on campus – and the university’s $60 application fee will be waived for the day of the session.

The website also includes a portal to SOU’s 360-degree Virtual Campus Tour – the next-best thing to actually being on campus. There are opportunities to schedule video chats with admissions counselors and to learn more about events such as Preview Days for prospective students and Raider Receptions, Raider Registration and New Student Orientation for admitted students.

-SOU-

SOU's Navigate app will help students track obligations

SOU adopts new Navigate app to enhance student connections

Southern Oregon University has subscribed to and tested a new, online system that will help students to “navigate” their college careers – from registration through meeting with advisors, scheduling classes, applying for financial aid, accessing campus resources and graduation.

Navigate – a new system from the higher education strategy firm EAB – will link faculty, advisors, staff and students in a coordinated network that will help students organize their time and keep track of their obligations.

The Navigate Student app was introduced at SOU on a limited basis last fall, and will be rolled out for use by all students – with participation by faculty and staff – during spring term. It is considered an effective platform for initiating and maintaining important connections even as all classes at the university are delivered remotely.

Students are encouraged to download Navigate Student in the App Store or Google Play and begin exploring its features – from forming study groups to interacting with professors or advisors.

Faculty and staff are asked to participate in the campus-wide introduction of the app by taking part in an abbreviated, online EAB Navigate training session of 30 minutes or less. They are also asked to incorporate downloading the Navigate Student app into course assignments, as appropriate, and to take other opportunities to encourage students to get and use the app.

Students will be able to use the app to explore careers that fit their goals, find events, make appointments with advisors and get alerts about registration issues and other important information. Students who begin using the app will be asked to take part in an intake survey that will enable them to receive customized notifications related to their interests.

Those who have any suggestions regarding the Navigate Student app, or who have issues downloading or using the app, are asked to email navigateadmin@sou.edu. An SOU team that is implementing the use of Navigate Student on campus will send text messages to students about the app.

SOU's Stevenson Union, which will host a Pub Night

Upcoming “Pub Night” a test run for potential campus pub

SOU’s Stevenson Union will host a “Pub Night” in the Diversions Room from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb 25) – and depending on the outcome, it could be a precursor to an ongoing event.

The Stevenson Union, Campus Dining, and EPIC Events are collaborating to create a fun night of sipping, eating and community building for all members of the SOU community who are 21 and over.

Food options such as fries, pulled pork nachos and burgers will be made-to-order alongside a selection of beer, wine and soda. All menu items can be purchased with cash, debit or credit cards, or the university’s own Raider Cash.

“Student programmers in the past have asked why we can’t have a pub in the Union,” said Danielle Mancuso, the associate director of student life and organizer of the Pub Nights.

“Last year during the Stevenson Union surveys, many students mentioned a desire for a pub,” she said. “These Pub Nights will demonstrate if there really is a desire from students to have a pub on campus.”

This week’s initial Pub Night will include a performance by Antics Improv, along with Disney trivia hosted by EPIC Events. A second Pub Night will be held March 3, also from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Diversions Room.

“It is my hope that Pub Nights create community on campus,” Mancuso said. “The partnership between the Stevenson Union, Campus Dining and EPIC creates more opportunities for students, staff and faculty to have opportunities for informal gatherings and connections.

“Maybe class ends early and the conversation continues at The Pub? This is a great outlet for student clubs and organizations that perform to do so in a laid back environment.”

The idea for an SOU pub was first floated in 2013 by then-Chief Information Officer Brad Christ, and it received general support from students and faculty. Christ advocated for a permanent pub on campus, but the current iteration of Pub Night was built off of his survey.

“Come support Pub Night,” Mancuso said. “Bring a friend and be sure to have your ID.”

A full menu can be found on Inside SOU.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU is designated as military friendly

SOU added to Military Friendly School list by VIQTORY

SOU has been designated a Military Friendly School by Viqtory, a veteran-ownd marketing company that connects the military community to civilian employers, and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Viqtory’s Military Friendly awards are given to schools, nonprofits and companies that meet their data-driven assessments and take their proprietary survey. The difficulty of the survey increases each year due to improved methodology, criteria and weightings. This year’s list includes 695 colleges, universities and trade schools that exhibit leading practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience or spouses.

“This designation places SOU on the lists that our transitioning service members will see as they leave service,” said Kevin Stevens, director of the university’s Veterans Resource Center. “It reflects positively on the university community as well as our greater community, as places that veterans, military and their families can achieve academic and personal success.”

More than 200 SOU students each year are considered military-affiliated. Most of them are veterans or dependents, while many others serve as cadets in the Army ROTC program. SOU also offers a Military Science Program that serves nearly 150 students per term, and various campus organizations are dedicated to helping veterans – including the Veteran’s Resource Center, the Student Veterans Association and the Veterans’ Student Union.

SOU was also the first Oregon university to adopt the Military Order of the Purple Heart proclamation on Nov. 27, 2019. President Linda Schott pledged the university’s support to military veterans and placed SOU on the Purple Heart Trail, a symbolic system of roads, highways, monuments and cities that give tribute to those awarded the Purple Heart.

“(The military-friendly designation) is a great step forward for the university,” Stevens said. “This shows that we meet the minimum standards for the military-friendly designation, however, my plan is for SOU to continue to rise in the rankings as one of the top military-friendly universities for students in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and the country.” 

Higher ranking designations include Bronze, Silver, Gold and the coveted Top Ten awards.

SOU’s Military Friendly Rating breakdown rates the university in six areas: academic policies and compliance, admissions and orientation, culture and commitment, financial aid and assistance, graduation and career, and military student support and retention.

The 2020-­2021 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer