SOU in the News – August 22

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SOU student affairs administration gets extreme makeover
Mail Tribune August 22, 2012

Construction continues on newest SOU residential complex

Mail Tribune August 22, 2012

SOU grad’s research foiled by Lassen fire

Mail Tribune August 22, 2012

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SOU student affairs administration gets extreme makeover
By Sam Wheeler
for the Mail Tribune
August 22, 2012 2:00 AM
A reorganization effort in the student affairs department at Southern Oregon University will bring sweeping staff changes when the academic year begins.
The university hopes to increase student retention and graduation rates by hiring additional staff to enhance its student support services. But redefining roles in the department means a handful of management-level positions will be replaced by lower-level, student support personnel, SOU officials said.
SOU hopes the changes will increase students’ access to one-on-one advising time and mentoring and counseling focused on post-graduation success, SOU Vice President of Student Affairs Jon Eldridge said.
Four management-level positions will be eliminated, Eldridge said, including dean of students. Those responsibilities will be split among six new positions, including a director of retention or student success, which will be an administrative position, he said.
Current Dean of Students Laura O’Bryon will not fill that position, he said.
O’Bryon, who has worked for SOU for more than 15 years, was unavailable for comment Monday, according to the student affairs department. She did not return multiple emails sent to her address.
“We never confirm or deny that somebody is involved in a personnel issue … I can say it included a handful of management-level administrators,” SOU spokesman Jim Beaver said of the changes. “These staffing changes are not budget-related. We’re always evaluating the effectiveness of the organization and making changes as needed for improvement.”
The university is accepting applications for some of the new positions, among them a career preparation coordinator, an additional adviser for the university’s student support program called Success at Southern, and a councilor in the student health center.
“All of the things we’re putting into place are things that have been shown to be successful at other institutions … academic goal-setting and planning, career preparation, early intervention when a student is not attending class or needs supplemental instruction,” Eldridge said. “It enables students to stay on track not just for their degrees, but for when they get out and try to get their jobs.”
Eldridge said increasing interaction between students and academic advising outlets across campus should help push the university’s retention rate to 75 percent within the next two years. In 2005, the school retained 62 percent of its previous year’s non-graduating student population. The school’s retention rate is currently floating around 70 percent, Eldridge said.
“It goes without saying that staff reductions due to state disinvestment, coupled with student demographics that require significant levels of support, have hampered our retention efforts. This is why the following reorganization is being launched,” Eldridge wrote in an email to the entire SOU staff in June.
“Unfortunately, this also means that some existing positions have given way to this new structure. It is important to state that those individuals who have received notice that their positions have been eliminated or restructured deserve our thanks for their hard work and dedication,” his email continued.
Eldridge said there is a possibility of two part-time counseling positions emerging after the department settles into the reorganization.
“We just haven’t had enough of them to meet student demand,” Eldridge said. “The reorganization allows us to better align our resources and better serve students.”
Reach Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

Halls of higher learning
Construction continues on newest SOU residential complex
By John Darling
for the Mail Tribune
August 22, 2012 2:00 AM
The new dormitories at Southern Oregon University are rising rapidly — showing two or three stories, in most places — and are coming in under budget and on time so far, says the school’s housing director, Tim Robitz.
Being built by Adroit Construction of Ashland, the 702-bed, suite-style North Campus Village will cost between $40 million and $50 million and should be ready for fall term 2013, Robitz said.
The two residence halls and a dining complex are being built on SOU-owned land and financed by American Campus Communities, a builder-manager of campus properties valued at $2.8 billion, according to its website.
“They develop, build and manage them and we lease out the ground,” said Robitz, adding that the estimated bottom line includes final financing costs.
Adroit crews have been building concrete footings, framing rooms and hanging fiberboard sheeting for walls on the two residence halls, which will total 200,000 square feet, said project manager Steve Lawrence.
“The residence halls will be four stories and we’ve framed walls up through the third story on the south hall and are framing walls on the second story of the north hall,” said Lawrence.
The halls are 35 percent to 40 percent complete, he added, while the 27,500-square-foot dining hall is about 20 percent done, with the concrete slab slated for pouring in early September. The east parking lot is done and the south parking lot is under construction.
The dorms will consist of four-room suites with two bathrooms and a common living space, some with kitchenettes. It will be a step below Madrone Hall, completed in 2005, which has groups of four-person apartments in which students have their own bedrooms and share a living room, full kitchen and two bathrooms.
The new halls will replace the aging Cascade dorm, built in the 1970s east of Indiana Street. Cascade will be “re-purposed” for faculty from the Science Building, which must undergo a seismic retrofit, said Robitz. When that’s done, Cascade will be razed, with the site eventually being used for classrooms.
The new halls are as yet unnamed, but cost-conscious SOU is open to “putting a donor’s name on any of the three buildings,” he said. If that doesn’t happen, students may be asked to name them after something or someone that “speaks of the region,” Robitz added.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

Lassen ecosystem study foiled by California fire
By Chris Conrad
Mail Tribune
August 22, 2012 2:00 AM
Forest fires burning in Northern California have hampered the efforts of environmental scientists, including a recent Southern Oregon University graduate, to study the area’s ecosystems.
Scientists with the Klamath Network were forced to leave Lassen Volcanic National Park when fire burned a 43-square-mile area of the park.
The Klamath Network planned to send scientists into the park to measure trees and take an inventory of the park’s vegetation.
This information would be used to gauge the overall health of the park. The Klamath Network also notes fuel levels on the ground, which can help in forest fire suppression efforts.
However, the Reading fire, which started on July 23, shut down its work, most likely for the rest of the summer, said Daniel Sarr, lead ecologist with the Klamath Network.
“We might get back into the park by the end of the summer, but now all we can do is wait and see what happens with the fire weather,” Sarr said.
Sarr said his agency had two crews of three people in the park when the fire began.
The environment deteriorated quickly as the fire burned through thousands of acres in a short time.
Among those who planned to monitor the various plots of land in the park was Katie Bergbauer, a recent SOU graduate in environmental science.
She said the monitoring crews were able to perform several studies before the fire started, but there was much more work to do.
She said the plan was to take an inventory of the vegetation and fuel in several randomly selected plots and then return in three years to see if there were any changes in the area.
“We go in and take an inventory of every single plant in the plot and we identify and take measurements of every tree,” Bergbauer said.
They also planned to take note of all invasive species in the plots and report their findings to the U.S. National Park Service.
But the monitoring crews found the smoke from the fires was too much to handle.
“It was like having smoke from a campfire blowing in your face,” she said.
According to the fire incident monitoring website, the Reading Fire was 79 percent contained Tuesday and The Associated Press reported that firefighters hoped to have the blaze fully contained soon.
That will be too late for the Klamath Network scientists, who hoped to record valuable information that the U.S. National Park Service could use to better manage and maintain public wildlands.
Sarr said some good could come from the fires. He said aspen trees have been struggling in the park for some time.
“We are waiting to see if the fires will benefit the aspen in the park,” Sarr said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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