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Student Sustainability Center Director Luis Berrios-Hayden wins scholastic award

Student Sustainability Center director, McNair Scholar wins Scholastic Achievement Award

Luis Berrios-Hayden – an SOU Environmental Science & Policy major, director of the Student Sustainability Center and McNair Scholar – has received the Northwest Association of Educational Opportunity Program’s Scholastic Achievement Award.

The NAEOP Scholastic Achievement Award is a $1,500 scholarship given annually to students in the federal TRIO programs who exhibit outstanding scholastic achievement while overcoming barriers to educational success. TRIO is a collection of federal programs that serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including low-income, first-generation and those who are otherwise disenfranchised.

Coming from a low-income background as a first-generation college student and a second-generation U.S. citizen, Berrios-Hayden ticks many of TRIO’s boxes.

“I grew up speaking Spanish at home and English everywhere else, and so I’ve had a lot of barriers in terms of just not having college be normalized in my world, in my upbringing,” Berrios-Hayden said. “I didn’t have anyone to tell me this is what to expect, this is what you should do.”

He first went to school at the University of Buffalo in New York, but had to stop his studies part-way through to deal with personal matters. Berrios-Hayden then went to a cooking school and got a degree in culinary arts. After working as a chef for several years, he realized he wanted to go back to college and get a bachelor’s degree, eventually landing at SOU.

He started his SOU journey as an interdisciplinary major – incorporating sociology, outdoor adventure leadership and communication – but transitioned fully into the Environmental Science and Policy degree program after a particularly noteworthy Raider Alternative Break.

“We went to Cascade Head (in Tillamook County) to help with trail maintenance in order to help establish and regenerate the habitat for the silver-spotted butterfly,” Berrios-Hayden said. “While I was on that trip I realized that everyone I was there with I had no connection to in terms of identity and background – we were all super different, from race to sexuality to actual ability to neural diversity – they were all very different.

“It was on that trip that I realized it wasn’t necessary for us to talk about our differences for us to feel like a unit, to feel like a team, to feel like a cohesion. All we needed was a common goal.”

The social justice aspect of SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy program curriculum wasn’t initially apparent to  Berrios-Hayden, but he was able to satisfy his passions for both sustainability and social justice by expanding his reach. He joined the Student Sustainability Center – then called ECOS – as a civic engagement coordinator, connecting students with community service opportunities in Ashland and the Rogue Valley. He put on workshops that focused on social justice issues relevant to the Rogue Valley, including an experiential sleep-out event designed to teach students about homelessness. Now the Sustainability Center’s student director, he runs equity round-tables, creating opportunities for the community to come together and discuss sustainability and social justice issues.

Berrios-Hayden threw himself into his work both with the Sustainability Center and in the classroom. Vincent Smith, an associate professor and chair of the Environmental Science and Policy program, is particularly impressed with Berrios-Hayden’s work.

“Luis is one of the most active class participants I have ever met,” Smith said. “He refuses to leave a topic or discussion without a stronger understanding of the topic. His questions demonstrate a remarkable capacity for critical thinking and a complete unwillingness to settle for no answer.

“Luis is going to find a way to contribute to a better future, regardless of how much effort will be required to accomplish that task,” Smith said. “Like so many of our students at SOU, Luis does not yet know his potential.”

The Environmental Science and Policy program teaches students about the complexity of natural systems, natural resource use and sustainability, enabling them to appreciate and solve dynamic environmental issues. Students research and address issues such as climate change, water resource management, energy use, sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity.

Berrios-Hayden was accepted into the McNair Achievement Program, a TRIO program that helps students from underrepresented communities prepare for graduate school. Through McNair, he was able to do two summer internships. The first was an experiment with mycoremediation – the process by which fungi-based technology can decontaminate an environment. Berrios-Hayden’s interest was sparked when he learned that mycorrhizal fungi can aid in the growth of plants, pushing him to do a literature review on fungi remediation for his second internship.

“I learned a lot about (mycoremediation) and it augmented my interest in the science component of sustainability and environmental science,” he said. “So I’m hoping that’s the direction that my career goes in. I’m interested in regenerative ecology and restorative ecology.”

Despite his academic and extracurricular success, Berrios-Hayden still deals with the consequences of how the world treats him.

“Probably the biggest struggle that I have is self-doubt,” he said. “The images that I’ve grown up with of people that look like me are of thieves and thugs and rapists, and so a lot of that unfortunately really penetrates into our psyche.

“I think it’s pretty normal for individuals from marginalized populations to struggle with self-doubt and self-deprecation and not know their worth. Having faculty and friends reflect back the potential that they saw in me was really supportive and helpful.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

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SOU summer field course to include Mayan Riviera trip

SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy program will mix academics with vacation-type fun in a field course next summer that will focus on marine biology, sustainable development and tourism.

The course, Ecoadventure: Mayan Riviera (ES 408), is worth six credits and will take place beginning in June on SOU’s campus, online and during an 11-day trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Vincent Smith, an associate professor and chair of Environmental Science and Policy, will teach the course.

“The course will focus on the impacts of tourism and development on the culture and environment of Mexico’s Mayan Riveira,” Smith said.

The total cost is expected to be about $4,000, including six credits of tuition for $990 and a trip fee of approximately $3,000 that will include airfare, lodging, food and ground transportation. The course is open to all students, regardless of their major.

The exact dates will be set during Winter Term, but the trip to Mexico is expected to leave the Medford airport around June 24.

The flight will land in Cancun, and several locations will be visited during the 11-day stay. Students will visit the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins and take a walking tour of the historic city of Vallodolid. There will be plenty of time water play, including snorkeling at Cozumel and Tulum, and among cenotes (aquatic caverns). There will also be ziplining, Jeep tours, underground rafting, a hike through a spider monkey preserve and other activities.

Those who are interested in learning more about the field course are asked to fill out an online form to receive emails regarding trip updates, registration deadlines, exact costs and other details.

Smith has taught a number of classes at SOU and his research explores the coupled human-environment systems that shape the world. Smith’s work spans from human ecology to agroecology.

He enjoys working with students from a variety of backgrounds and is currently working with two undergraduate students on collaborative research.

For more information, view the course website or contact Smith at smithv3@sou.edu.

Story by Bryn Mosier, SOU Marketing and Communications intern

Well-known environmental scholar to discuss the future of water in SOU visit


NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/pTPjoW)
(Ashland, Ore.) — Nationally recognized environmental law scholar and author James Salzman will visit Southern Oregon University on Monday, April 10, to address a topic of relevance to everyone on Earth: “The History (and Future) of Drinking Water.”
Salzman points out that people have fought over water sources since before biblical times, and water continues to make headlines – including crises over the past few years in Charleston, West Virginia; Toledo, Ohio; and Flint, Michigan. He will discuss issues with tap water safety, concerns about future water supplies and fears about contamination by terrorists.
Salzman is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and the Bren School of the Environment at University of California-Santa Barbara. His visit to SOU is sponsored by the university’s Environmental Science and Policy Department.
The lecture is at 7 p.m. in Room 151 of the SOU Science Building. Admission is free and the public is welcome to attend.
Salzman frequently serves as a media commentator and has offered environmental policy lectures on every continent except Antarctica. He previously served on the faculty of Duke University and as a visiting law professor at Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale and at universities in Australia, Sweden, Portugal, China and Italy.
Prior to his work in academia, Salzman served in Paris in the Environment Directorate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and in London as the European environmental manager for Johnson Wax.
The honors graduate of Yale College and Harvard University has published eight books and more than 80 articles and book chapters on topics ranging from drinking water to policy instrument design. His most recent book, “Drinking Water: A History,” is in its third printing.
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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.