SOU program for under-represented and disadvantaged scholars receives funding

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(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s McNair Scholars Program, which has prepared under-represented students for post-graduate education since 2003, has been selected for another five years of funding despite talk at the national level of reducing support for the McNair program.
“The decision to continue to fund the nation’s McNair Scholars programs at this point in time illustrates a continuing commitment from our elected federal officials and the U.S. Department of Education to support undergraduate students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and who have demonstrated strong academic potential,” said Dee Southard, an associate professor and director of SOU’s McNair program.
A letter of notification from the U.S. Department of Education indicated that SOU’s funding proposal received 108 out of 110 possible points from evaluators. The SOU program was approved for a grant of $243,878 per year for the five-year grant cycle – a total of just over $1.2 million.
Ongoing support for the nationwide program – which is offered on more than 200 college and university campuses – has been in doubt because of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Education. The funding notification guarantees the status of SOU’s McNair program through 2022.
“The vast majority of the student scholars who participate in the SOU McNair program graduate with their bachelor’s degrees from SOU and then continue directly on, entering into and successfully completing highly competitive graduate level programs of study,” Southard said.
The McNair program was initiated in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Education to increase doctoral studies by students from underrepresented and disadvantaged segments of society. It honors physicist and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African-American to fly in space. He died in 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after launch.
SOU’s McNair program – formally known as the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program – serves 28 undergraduate scholars each year. The application period for the 2018 cohort is Oct. 2 through Nov. 1 of this year.
The SOU program – which offers one-to-one guidance from faculty mentors – is intended to help promising scholars complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school and prepare for doctoral studies. Six SOU McNair alumni have completed their doctoral programs since the program began 14 years ago.
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

Jesse Molloy Saxophone

Saxophone sensation: On Tour with Panic! At the Disco

Gratitude is a recurring theme for saxophonist Jesse Molloy (’01). Whether the topic is music, bands or his education, Molloy said he wants to take the time to be thankful for the opportunities that have come his way.

“I have been trying to express my gratitude in different ways, whether it is through producing music or performing music,” he said. “Making music in service to others, not just myself, has opened my soul in many ways. The idea of getting out there and sharing what you do, that’s something that I have had with me since SOU.” 

Molloy is a multi-talented musician, producer and composer. He is currently playing saxophone with the rock band, Panic! At the Disco. The band’s manager reached out to Molloy to put together the touring horn section for the group’s “Death of a Bachelor” album cycle. 

The ensuing album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2016. Molloy said that working with the band and touring with them was a childhood dream.

“I always wanted to play saxophone in a project like this,” he said. The band played venues all over the world, including Madison Square Garden in New York, where the concert was sold out. “It was unbelievable,” Molloy said. “I had to take a moment and just soak it in.”

But it’s more than playing to sold-out venues that catches Molloy’s attention. He is working with leading musicians and honing his craft each day.

“Working with this band has been one of the best experiences,” he said. “The guys are some of the most talented and coolest guys I have ever met, and I am so honored to be a part of it for a season.”

While Molloy is humble about his skills, talent and the many hard hours of work he puts into his music, he is reflective about his experience at SOU.

“I was really lucky, both with the people I met and with the teachers I had,” he said. “It seemed like all my classmates were passionate and always doing something. And all my teachers were the same. There’s a lot that shapes us in the environments we choose to stand in.” 

Molloy said what surprised him about SOU was how much his teachers encouraged him to get off campus and perform.

“I was always in a band – ska, punk, jazz, funk, soul – you name it,” he said. “My professors, especially Rhett Bender, cheered me on the whole time. This encouragement was big for me.”

It ultimately would be Bender who was the thread between Molloy’s years at Ashland High School and his college years. Molloy started taking private lessons during his senior year of high school while Bender was on the SOU faculty.

“He was a big reason I went to SOU,” Molloy said. “I still have Rhett Bender’s voice in my head. He had this warm way of offering a critique while being encouraging at the same time.”

Bender’s influence remains with Molloy today, even while he is touring with one of the nation’s most popular bands.

“Rhett influenced just about every aspect of my playing, from the way I hold the saxophone to the way I approach practicing,” he said. “I’ve always been a little impatient with myself, but even now, I think of Rhett telling me to relax.”

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Chris Briscoe Photographer

Constant motion: Photographer Christopher Briscoe tells story through adventure

Photographer Chris Briscoe (’75) will flat-out tell you he did not enjoy most of his time at college. Not because of SOU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification, but because of his love for adventure.

“I’m just wired that way,” Briscoe said. “When I went back for my teaching certificate, I think I enrolled and re-enrolled about four or five times. I just didn’t want to sit in a classroom.”

Photo by Chris Briscoe

Briscoe once sailed a small boat to Tahiti, where he lived for a year, and he has cycled across America four times. He has traveled the world, engaging with and photographing everyone from homeless children in Cambodia to offbeat artists in New Orleans. His work includes intimate portraits of celebrities and politicians such as Rob Lowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan. He has been published in everything from The London Times to People magazine.

But Briscoe didn’t start out wanting to be a photographer. In his memoir, “Shifting Gears: Riding the Roads through America’s Heartland,” Briscoe describes how a bike trip with a friend in 1976 helped him settle into school and earn a teaching certificate. When Briscoe started student teaching, he found a passion.

“Student teaching lit me on fire,” he said. He worked with elementary school kids as lively as he was, and he used his energy and creativity to engage them. He once arranged for his third-grade students to fly over Ashland as part of a unit on mapmaking.

Photography wa

s a hobby, not something Briscoe expected to earn a living doing. Because he often photographed his students and their adventures, Briscoe’s work began getting noticed. When his work caught the attention of a photographer from the Ashland Daily Tidings, Briscoe’s career path changed. “I had always taken photographs, but that job made me a better photographer,” he said.

Briscoe left teaching after four years to pursue a full-time career in photography. “It wasn’t an easy decision. I loved teaching and I loved the kids, but my passion was photography.”

Briscoe’s award-winning photos are a mirror of humanity, showing simultaneously how interconnected we are as humans and how unique we are as individuals. His work, including his writing, is engaging, humorous and honest.

Photo by Chris Briscoe

Perhaps Briscoe is best known for photographing hands and faces. He has described the human face as the “greatest landscape,” and his portraits of Sheryl Crow are as intensely personal as those of New Orleans resident Little Freddie King.


The hands, however, hold special power and allure for Briscoe.

“Hands tell about not only what a person does; they are a roadmap of where a person has been. And maybe where they want to go. Hands are an extension of our souls. They make tools that can change the world, end the world, hold a pen to sign a peace treaty to save the world,” Brisco said.

With over three decades of work and adventure behind him, Briscoe isn’t slowing down. He is wrapping up a book about his three-month, across-America cycling adventure with his son and continuing to focus on the three things that drive him: vision, passion and courage.

“We can all have creative ideas, but having the vision to follow through makes a big difference,” he said.

As for courage, he takes a deep breath. “We all struggle with courage,” he said. “Whether you’re a teenager wanting to ask a girl on a date or trying to decide if you should quit your day job and pursue your passion. The trick is to constantly challenge yourself, let yourself take a risk and live your life.”

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Abbi Rosewood

Burning Bright: Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood’s commitment to creativity

The encouraging creative-writing community at SOU was an ideal fit for 27-year old writing dynamo Abbigail Nguyen- Rosewood (’13). Since graduating, she has written numerous essays, reviews, articles and creative works for online and print publications. And now, after recently finishing graduate school at Columbia University, Nguyen-Rosewood anxiously awaits the U.S. release of her first novel, “If I Had Two Lives,” published by Europa Editions.

“If I Had Two Lives” follows the journey of a young girl from her childhood in a military camp in Vietnam to her adulthood as a lonely and disillusioned immigrant in New York. The novel chronicles how the young woman learns what it means to love and be loved as she escapes her past and creates a new life in the U.S. 

Nguyen-Rosewood’s other works have been published in literary journals online and in print, including The Adirondack Review, Columbia Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern and The Missing Slate. An excerpt from “If I Had Two Lives” was awarded first place in the Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Literary Fiction contest.

Nguyen-Rosewood, who transferred to SOU from another state school, was relieved to get practical support navigating graduation requirements. She found SOU to be a caring and authentic place, with small classes and intimate relationships between professors and students.

“The SOU community felt genuine. The professors were kind, communicative, and accessible,” Nguyen-Rosewood recalled. 

She said what helped shape her and her career is the belief and encouragement of her friends and instructors.

“At the time, I was still finding my voice. In this nascent stage as a writer when you are vulnerable, doubtful of your abilities, it’s very easy for your flame to get snuffed out by an unkind comment, a skeptical glance. Writers are sensitive,” she said. “Words such as ‘have faith’ and ‘believe’ are often so overused that they can lose their meaning, but that’s what the SOU community gave me. They had faith and they believed in me.”

Nguyen-Rosewood says she had many influential professors at SOU, including Bill Gholson, Kasey Mohammad and Prakash Chenjeri, but her closest mentor was Craig Wright in the Creative Writing Program.

“He was among the first to see something in my writing, to believe in my talent. He nurtured it, gave me the platform to share my writing with others, and helped me acquire scholarships,” she said. “I’m indebted to him, and I’m grateful to be indebted to him.”

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Luders Manuel Writer

Luders-Manuel: Writer addresses race with creativity and compassion

Shannon Luders-Manuel (’07) wasn’t sure what a thesis statement was when came to SOU as an English major. She now makes her living as a writer, essayist and critical mixed-race scholar who has been published in a number of academic, news and creative publications.

Luders-Manuel garnered national attention earlier this year when the New York Times published her essay, “My Grandmother’s Story is Ending as Mine Begins.” The piece in the Times increased her audience base, but Luders-Manuel’s other works are where she earned her writing chops.

As a public speaker and author of “Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide: Educators’ Guide,” Luders-Manuel has found herself at the epicenter of some of the nation’s most polarizing race issues.

“When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed,” she wrote on For Harriet, an online community for women of African ancestry. “When I talk about racism, I’m black. When Trayvon Martin was shot for wearing a hoodie, I was black. When Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes on the street, I was black. When Sandra Bland was arrested for failing to turn on her blinker, I was black. When churchgoers were shot for being black, I was black.”

Luders-Manuel found her voice sharing her experience as a mixed-race woman while at SOU and during graduate school at the University of Massachusetts. She has been researching and writing the biracial experience for more than 10 years. The essay posted on For Harriet was shared over 50,000 times on Facebook when it was published in 2015.

Luders-Manuel originally chose SOU because it was an easy drive to visit family in California, but she realized shortly after arriving in Ashland that she had found her place.

“There was such a welcoming community. I lived in Baker dorm, and it had a real family feel,” she said. “Also, I had a work-study job at the library, and we really had a tight-knit community of students working there. Some of us still stay in touch.”

Though she has been away from SOU for 10 years, she still draws on the lessons she learned there. Luders-Manuel recalls one of her favorite instructors, Alma Rosa Alvarez.

“Professor Alvarez used to make us write short-response papers. After we turned them in, she would offer feedback and keep giving them back for rewrites until they were correct. She’d do this as many times as needed,” said Luders-Manuel. “If she did like it, she would put a tiny check mark at the top of the paper. I remember when I got the checkmark, I would be so excited. It was one of the most effective ways of learning to write well. She wouldn’t just tell you about your errors, she’d make you work to change them.”

Alvarez, says Luders-Manuel, was also the first teacher of color that she had ever had. “It was important to me to see a woman of color in that position. Even though we are different ethnicities, I could see myself in her,” she said. “She was also my biggest advocate. Professor Alvarez was the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school, and I’m so glad I did that. I am so grateful to her.”

Luders-Manuel, who earned a master’s degree from UMass, said she hadn’t always seen college in her future. “It wasn’t something my family encouraged at first, and it took me a long time to take the leap,” she said.

She credits SOU for giving her the foundation to write in a variety of genres, including business, news, academic and marketing. “I am able to write in many different genres because I had so many different classes and opportunities while I was at SOU. That has helped me more than anything,” Luders-Manuel said.

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Delaney Matson Sewing

Life in stitches: Delaney Matson’s passionate patterns

The old axiom says that if you do  something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That may not hold true every single day for SOU alumna Delaney Matson, but she is coming pretty close.

Matson, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts with an emphasis on costume design and construction, is now heading up the sewing shop at Colette Patterns, a leading independent pattern-design company.

She has melded a lifelong love of sewing with the business and technical skills she picked up at SOU to craft a career. While sewing has always been central to her life, she says SOU allowed her to combine multiple passions.

“I really love sewing, costuming and fashion,” Matson said. “I also had wanted to be a history major, and I didn’t know what to pick. Historical costuming is where the two blended, so that’s where I found myself.”

Matson took her theatre and sewing experience into the work world after graduation but says it wasn’t a straight path to find a job that suited her passion and paid the bills. After graduation, Matson moved to Portland and worked briefly as the manager of the costume and scene shop at Portland Community College. “When I left that job, I left theatre and haven’t gone back,” she said. “But I have continued to pursue sewing.”

A position at David’s Bridal kept sewing in the forefront, and when Colette Patterns had an opening, Matson leapt at the opportunity. Working at a fabric store in Ashland introduced her to the Colette brand and its people. “I had always wanted to be part of the Colette team, so I kept my eye out for a position there,” she said. “When one came open, I jumped. And I’ve been there ever since.”

Although hired as a tailor in the sewing room, Matson has moved up quickly at Colette. As sewing manager and technical editor, Matson sews all the samples for photo shoots that advertise the company’s new patterns in its monthly magazine, “Seamwork,” and she ensures a level of quality control for each pattern on the market. “I make all the samples for the photo shoots, but I also test the patterns to make sure that the measurements are correct and that the pattern sews up correctly,” she said.

Matson said the skills she mastered at SOU have been absolutely critical to her success at Colette. “We focused on vintage sewing and historical sewing techniques and how these are applied to a more modern audience,” said Matson of SOU’s costume design and construction program. “We learned flat-pattern drafting, where we had a list of equations and we put in our measurements to figure it all out. Now there’s computer technology that makes it easier, but learning how to draft it by hand, knowing what makes a true fit, and translating that information, I use that every day,” Matson said.

According to Matson, the hands-on nature of costuming in the SOU Theatre Arts Program gave her the kind of in-the-trenches experience she needed to be successful. “I do a lot of alterations, and in theatre – especially in costuming – you are constantly having to alter existing costumes to fit the next actor,” she said, noting that studying “fit issues” has helped her ensure proper fit across all of Colette’s patterns.

But Matson is not one to rest on her laurels. She is currently spearheading a product-testing program at Colette to help understand the user experience. “Everybody sews really differently, so I’m trying to gauge how people sew at home so we can reflect that in our designs and in our accessibility,” she said.

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

Southern Oregon University among U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges

NEWS BRIEF (available online at
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is tied at the No. 25 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges rankings for the best public, regional schools in 15 Western states, which was published today. SOU is also ranked No. 76 among all regional universities in the West.
On its overview page for SOU, U.S. News pointed out that the university’s student-faculty ratio is 21-to-1, and that 46.3 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. It also highlights student services such as nonremedial tutoring, the Women’s Resource Center and the Student Health and Wellness Center.
SOU ranks second among Oregon schools on the public, regional universities list. Western Oregon University tied with two other universities for 22nd on the ranking, while SOU tied with four other universities for the next spot on the list, No. 25.
U.S. News & World Report came out with its first college rankings in 1983, and has published an increasingly more popular – and varied – list since 1985. The 2014 rankings drew 18.9 million page views in a single day to, according to Wikipedia. The 2018 version includes almost 50 types of numerical rankings, in categories ranging from “A-Plus Schools for B Students” to “High School Counselor Rankings.”
The publication says it ranks schools based on hundreds of data points, including as many as 15 measures of academic quality. The most weight is given to student outcomes such as graduation and freshman retention rates.
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

A message from President Schott about DACA

Greetings to all members of the SOU community
I am writing to you from Guanajuato, Mexico, where SOU has enjoyed a sister-university partnership for 50 years with the Universidad de Guanajuato. I have been reminded in meetings with my counterparts at our sister university, and with officials from the City of Guanajuato, of what a warm and lasting collaboration we enjoy.
The U.S. began a relationship just over five years ago with a group of young immigrants who entered our country as minors. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy now protects almost 800,000 students and others who grew up in the U.S. and are determined to build their lives there, but lack the legal documentation to remain.
You have likely heard by now that President Trump will end DACA’s protections in six months, unless Congress acts to shield this group of young people from deportation.
I want to assure you that SOU’s commitment to all of its students – including those who have been protected by DACA – supersedes politics. We are obliged as an institute of higher learning to safeguard the ability of each student on our campus – regardless of immigration status, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religious affiliation or political persuasion – to pursue his or her educational dreams.
SOU will continue to protect the privacy of all students, respect the value that their differences bring to our campus and accommodate the needs of those who face obstacles in their academic paths. We will resist immigration enforcement at SOU without legal compulsion or evidence of imminent risk to public safety.
Oregon law prevents SOU or any state agency from assisting with the investigation or apprehension of those whose only offense is their lack of immigration documentation. U.S. education privacy laws require that we maintain the confidentiality of students’ information, including their immigration status.
SOU is among the hundreds of colleges, universities and higher education organizations around the country that support the continuation of DACA protections. While we await Congressional action on this issue, students who feel they may be directly impacted by the changing DACA policy may contact Unete, a Medford-based advocacy center for farm workers and immigrants, at (541) 245-1625.
The bonds of friendship between SOU and Universidad de Guanajuato can be felt in every greeting and every hug I have received here. Faculty and administrators told me repeatedly today that it is those bonds that will ultimately prevail. Goodness, kindness and a spirit of determined cooperation will help us overcome our obstacles, regardless of scope or scale. Let us remain strong in our support of each other and in our commitment to education for all who seek it.
With optimism,
Linda Schott
President, Southern Oregon University

SOU receives silver “STARS” rating for sustainability achievements

NEWS BRIEF (available online at
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has earned a silver rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for the university’s campus-wide sustainability achievements.
SOU reported its accomplishments through the AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which rates the efforts of colleges and universities in five categories: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration, and innovation and leadership. Participating institutions can be recognized simply for reporting their sustainability achievements, or for rating at the organization’s bronze, silver, gold or platinum levels.
SOU’s silver STARS rating is valid for three years. It is the latest of several recent recognitions of the university’s sustainability efforts. SOU received an honorable mention earlier this year at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit, was the nation’s first certified Bee Campus USA, has been named a Tree Campus USA for three straight years, was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists and offers LEED Gold campus housing at its Raider Village complex.
AASHE is a nonprofit organization that helps colleges and universities work together to create and lead the way to a sustainable future. More than 400 institutions have participated in the STARS ratings.
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