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.”

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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.

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.”

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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 OregonLearns.org – 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.

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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.

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SOU’s Christianson honored as AAAS Fellow

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(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.

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SOU student joins university’s Board of Trustees

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University student Shanztyn Nihipali has been appointed by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Nihipali’s two-year appointment is effective immediately. He succeeds Jeremy Nootenboom as the board’s student trustee – a voting position and full member of the panel. Nootenboom’s term ended when he graduated in June.

“It is an honor to have been recommended by the students and ultimately appointed to serve my university as a member of the SOU Board of Trustees,” Nihipali said. “These are exciting times for SOU, and I look forward to continuing to support the university’s advancements as an institution for the future.”

He expects to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a certificate in nonprofit administration in 2019.

“The Board of Trustees enthusiastically welcomes Shanztyn to his new role,” said Bill Thorndike, SOU’s board chair. “We value the student trustee’s full participation on the board and look forward to working together.”

Nihipali serves as a student representative to the University Planning Board and SOU’s Strategic Planning Committee. He is the founder and chair of the university’s Polynesian Education Conference and has served as chair of SOU’s Hoʻopaʻa Hawaiʻi Club. He received a Building Bridges Award for 2015-16 academic year and an Outstanding Community Building Award for 2016-17.

He has served as a Raider Ambassador since January 2015, leading as many as 35 campus tours for prospective students and their families. He also worked for one year as a front desk assistant in SOU’s Office of Business Services.

Nihipali’s family has been involved in the real estate and construction industry of Hawai’i for almost 40 years, which provided the foundation for his interest in business. He is focusing his studies on hospitality and tourism management.

In addition to his campus leadership roles, he enjoys participating in autism awareness and cultural revitalization activities in his spare time.

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SOU bucks national trend by increasing 2017 enrollment

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Official fall term enrollment figures released by the state this week paint Southern Oregon University as an institution on the rise and an exception among universities nationwide.

SOU posted gains in both the number of full-time equivalent students and actual headcount of students this fall, compared to fall term of 2016. Figures on full-time equivalent students are considered the most critical, because they indicate enrollment in terms of the credit hours and tuition revenue generated by students.

SOU’s full-time equivalent enrollment increased by just over 2 percent this fall, to 4,383 students – 90 more than a year ago. The university’s actual headcount – the total number of full- and part-time students enrolled – rose by just under 1 percent, to 6,139. That represents an increase of 51 students.

“These enrollment figures are a reflection of the upward trajectory SOU is experiencing,” said Linda Schott, the university’s president. “The trend across the country is for declining college enrollment. We are focused on preparing our students for a changing future, and on providing the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed.

“We are seeing increases this fall in the number of new, first-year students, retention of last year’s first-year students and overall retention of returning students. That indicates our efforts to attract students and provide the services they need are producing results.”

SOU has increased its institutional aid budget – financial aid for students who are the least able to afford higher education costs – to $4 million, from the $3.5 million that was budgeted previously. The university has also focused on its student success programs and expanded efforts to steer eligible students toward cost-saving options such as those that enable students to attain a college degree in three years.

“Our enrollment increase is due in large part to the strategic directions we put into place a couple years ago, regarding recruitment and retention,” SOU Provost Susan Walsh said. “We created several programs and initiatives that are intended to appeal to resident and nontraditional students. I really credit our enrollment and admissions team for the good work they’ve done.”

Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that college enrollment across the U.S. fell by 1.4 percent in 2016, continuing a slide that began four years earlier. The nonprofit research center projected earlier this year that the nationwide enrollment decline would continue in 2017.

Total enrollment at Oregon’s seven public universities declined this year by six-tenths of 1 percent in full-time equivalent students and increased by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in total headcount of full- and part-time students. (Enrollment figures for the individual universities are available online.)

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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 International Education Week includes U.S. Passport Application Day

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will observe International Education Week beginning next Monday with a variety of events to celebrate international student diversity and promote study-away opportunities. The week will culminate with an extra day with extended hours of U.S. passport services on Friday for SOU and local community members.

SOU’s officially designated Passport Acceptance Facility, operated by the Office of International Programs in Room 322 of the Stevenson Union, will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, for the special passport application day. Normal weekly hours of operation for the facility – which is open to the public – are 9 to 11:30 a.m., Monday through Thursday.

International Education Week activities will kick off with representatives of the university’s Study Abroad Program answering questions and offering information from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday in the Stevenson Union lobby, near the bookstore.

An open house at the Office of International Programs will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 322 of Stevenson Union. A “Study Away” information session with past participants in the Study Abroad Program will be offered at 6 p.m. Wednesday on the third floor of McLoughlin Hall in the North Campus Village student housing complex. SOU’s French Club will present its French Film Night at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 313 of the Stevenson Union.

More information is available from the Office of International Programs, at (541) 552-6336.

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SOU soccer players get more than a win out of conference tournament

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(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University men’s soccer team, in just its third year of existence, had a weekend its members won’t soon forget at the Cascade Conference Championship in Eugene.

They’ll remember winning the tournament, too.

But it wasn’t their overtime win in tournament’s final game on Monday that provided the biggest buzz for SOU’s team members. It was the gesture by three SOU players, who met a Special Olympics goalie – Trevor “T-Bone” Novak – at a soccer clinic the previous day and fulfilled his lifelong dream by arranging for him to be “in goal” at the start of Monday’s championship game.

A player for SOU’s opponent, Salem’s Corban University, dribbled the ball toward SOU’s goal and kicked the ball toward Trevor – who successfully blocked the shot.

“The awesome part of this event was what Trevor said as he was leaving: ‘I now have 25 new brothers and this has been the best day of my life,’” SOU Coach Biniam Afenegus said. “What an experience for Trevor, but more so for my players. They were talking about Trevor on the bus all the way home.”

A few of SOU’s players began talking with Trevor during Sunday’s Special Olympics soccer clinic – an annual event organized by tournament host Northwest Christian University and the four teams scheduled to play in Monday’s men’s and women’s final games. Trevor mentioned that his lifelong wish was to play goalie in a college game.

SOU players Michael Miller, Sean McManamon and Junior Rivas later talked with NCU’s athletic director about getting Trevor into the start of the following day’s championship game and making the necessary arrangements with the referees.

The plan went off without a hitch, and Trevor sat with the team for the rest of the game and even participate in its halftime huddle.

As a volunteer coordinator for Eugene-area Special Olympics pointed out later, that good karma may have come back around for the SOU team. “The best part of the story is that the SOU Raiders won the championship – maybe their good deed was paid back,” she said.

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SOU announces new Vice President for Finance and Administration

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Greg Perkinson, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who currently manages a nationwide program for The Boeing Company with a $100 million annual budget, has accepted an offer to become Southern Oregon University’s new vice president for finance and administration.

He will start with the university on Dec. 18.

“I really look forward to serving the faculty, students and staff at SOU,” Perkinson said. “Customer service is ‘job one’ and I was really impressed by the team’s customer-focus and values-based approach to student success.”

Perkinson currently leads Boeing’s Consolidated Facilities Operations and Maintenance (CFOAM) program, which is based in Chantilly, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. He leads a team of more than 600, responsible for management of finances, facilities, supply chain and environmental health and safety at three government sites. He has worked at Boeing since 2009 and as the CFOAM program manager since 2015.

Perkinson served as a civil engineering officer in the Air Force from 1984 until his retirement from active duty in 2009. He was based at the Pentagon as manager of the Air Force’s Joint Basing Program from 2007-09, and from 2006-07 was commander of the 286th Mission Support Group – a position equivalent to city manager – at the Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait. He was also a public works director at two Air Force bases, and served as a faculty member at the Air Force Academy.

“We had an exceptional field of finalists for this position, from inside and outside our organization,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “We are excited to bring Greg on board. His career experiences – from Lean business practices to sustainable building – create a great match for SOU. I look forward to seeing how his expertise will help us become more effective and efficient in serving our students and our region.”

SOU’s vice president for finance and administration oversees a broad range of campus operations, including the university’s Business Services, Budget Office, Human Resources, Facilities Management and Planning, Campus Public Safety, Information Technology and Service Center departments. It is a key leadership position that works closely with the university president on policy and operational issues.

Perkinson and his wife Christine are excited to “head west” and transition to Ashland, where they can enjoy the culture and diversity of the region, and be closer to family.

Perkinson received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Kent State University and his master’s degree in architectural engineering from Penn State University. He is a registered architect in California.

He will succeed Craig Morris as SOU’s vice president for finance and administration. Morris will retire at the end of this year after serving the last 20 years of his career with SOU. Morris began as business manager for the university’s physical plant and held various other positions before becoming the vice president for finance and administration in July 2009.

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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.