Bobby Arellano elected Oregon Humanities chair

SOU creative arts professor elected chair of Oregon Humanities board

(Ashland, Ore.) — Robert Arellano, a professor in the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, was elected board chair for Oregon Humanities on Oct. 16. As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Oregon Humanities’ mission “connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change.”

The nonprofit sponsors hundreds of community forums all over Oregon in an average year. Last year, the organization rapidly adapted its “Consider This” conversation series to a remote format called “Connect in Place,” drawing hundreds of online participants from across the state.

“In the summer of 2019, I got to moderate an in-person conversation at Grizzly Peak Winery for Oregon Humanities in partnership with SOU that brought Richard Blanco, President Obama’s inaugural poet laureate, to Ashland,” Arellano said. “Over 200 southern Oregonians came out to connect with this renowned poet and teacher.”

Bobby, as he’s known to his students and coworkers, will chair a board of 22 volunteer members for the next two years. Beginning in 2016, he served previous terms as chair of two Oregon Humanities subcommittees – programs and communications.

Arellano is a founding director of SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, and teaches courses in design, production and writing. He has done pioneering work in electronic publishing, and has published graphic-novel editions and five other novels. He received both his bachelor’s degree and master of fine arts degree from Brown University.

“I would not have been able to take on a leadership role at Oregon Humanities without the unequivocal support of my division director, David Humphrey, and SOU Provost Sue Walsh, who have also both participated in events we’ve hosted here in the Rogue Valley,” Arellano said.

More ways to get involved with Oregon Humanities include free college-credit classes through the Humanity in Perspective program, summer youth courses and award-winning publications, podcasts, and video productions. The organization also offers free subscriptions to its Oregon Humanities Magazine.

“If there’s one thing you do to learn more about Oregon Humanities, take a minute to subscribe to our magazine,” Arellano said. “We publish stories and photos by people from right here in our community, and it’s delivered free, three times a year to anyone with an Oregon mailing address. It’s just one more benefit to being an Oregonian.”


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 student capitalized on his fervor for France

SOU student turns fervor for France into dream come true

What happens when a student is so passionate about French, all he wants to do is live in France? Micah Mills came up with an answer: graduate from SOU with a degree in International Studies and get accepted into a master’s program in business – in Lyon, France.

“It’s a crazy experience to live out a dream,” Mills said. “I definitely have days where I struggle to keep up with my French friends. I have days where I miss my friends and family in the U.S., and miss going on mountain bike rides in the mountains I know so well.”

“But the days where a non-local Frenchie thinks that you are a local and asks for directions, then invites you for a drink after chatting about our stories for five minutes – those days make the dream so dreamy.”

It was actually a touch-and-go journey for Mills. He initially registered at SOU with the sole intention of studying French, as nothing else interested him at the time. His goal was simply to go live in France, but he had no idea how that would play out.

He eventually applied for the Study Away program in Lyon, France, after he had taken as many French classes as were offered at SOU. He was admitted to the program, but his trip to focus on global studies and serve as an English teacher was cut a few months short when he had to return to the U.S. in March of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Mills came back to SOU and declared as an International Studies major, with a minor in economics. International Studies offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that examines economic and political systems in specific contexts, and his concentration was on French language and culture. SOU’s French program is currently being phased out, but students can still pursue a major in International Studies with a concentration in Spanish language and culture.

“He served as French tutor extraordinaire for our first- and second-year students – everyone raved about him,” said Marianne Golding, an SOU French professor and director of the university’s Summer Language Institute.

“For someone who had just intended to take a few classes of French, he’s done pretty well for himself.”

The admiration between Golding and Mills is mutual.

“There’s no chance that I would be where I am today, in France, without having the privilege of meeting Madame Golding,” Mills said. “Without her help at SOU, I would still be in the U.S. – working as a barista, most likely.”

Mills – who worked previously as an assistant manager at a Dutch Bros Coffee location in Central Point – applied to a couple of business schools in Lyon while completing his bachelor’s degree earlier this year in International Studies. He was admitted into a program designed for French students – all courses are taught in French.

He has been in France since August, living again in what has long felt to him like his true home.

“The master’s degree is not easy, and definitely a different style of teaching than in the U.S.,” Mills said. “But with the help of my French classmates, I get by just fine.

“When you start to tutoyer your baker – which (in French) is a level up from being on first-name basis – you feel like you’re in a Disney cartoon.”

SOU EcoAdventure students work on Bear Creek restoration

SOU’s EcoAdventure experience gets local in response to fire

(Ashland, Ore.) — Past versions of Southern Oregon University’s “EcoAdventure” courses have taken students to northern California’s Lassen and Yosemite national parks, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Costa Rica. But last year’s Almeda Fire brought a huge ecological test almost to SOU’s doorstep, and EcoAdventure faculty and students jumped on the opportunity to play a role in assessing and restoring a charred Bear Creek Greenway between Ashland and Medford.

Each year’s EcoAdventure courses are intended to connect students with real-world environmental issues and create an atmosphere of investigation and problem-solving.

“For the first few months after the Almeda fire, I was working at a local hotel that was housing victims of the fire,” said Ethan Robison, a student in last spring’s EcoAdventure fire restoration course through SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. “Each of the 50 families staying there had their own journey towards recovery and I was proud to be a small part of that process.

“When I started at SOU and found out about this class, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about the impacts of the fire on our local ecosystem.”

The spring EcoAdventure class drew 18 students, and they chose Bear Creek restoration work as their service learning project. The course covered fire regimes and climate change in the Rogue Valley, the history of Bear Creek and the U.S. Clean Water Act, and a talk, tour and native planting day in Phoenix led by a the Rogue River Watershed Council.

A separate effort by four Environmental Science capstone students looked at Bear Creek water quality following the Almeda fire. Those students presented data to the EcoAdventure class about erosion, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and other measures of water quality.

Environmental Science and Policy instructor Leslie Eldridge, who taught the Bear Creek EcoAdventure course, said many of the students felt a sense of revival after experiencing or hearing extensively about the fire, and then studying both its environmental causes and the steps to remediation. The day of planting native species along the creek was especially powerful.

“It was a beautiful example of ecosystem reset and opportunity to bring Bear Creek and the Greenway to a new condition that may improve ecological health and social connectivity between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford,” said Eldridge, who initiated the EcoAdventure water restoration course ­– the real-world element in a broader Environmental Science and Policy curriculum.

“The idea is to get students working hands-on and experiencing the environments and environmental challenges we discuss in our courses,” said Vincent Smith, an associate professor of environmental science and policy, and director of the Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

“Certainly, we have theory-based courses in these areas including restoration ecology, environmental field methods, water resources and hydrology, but in each of these cases, the idea is to prepare students to address pressing needs,” Smith said. “The Bear Creek Greenway is an example of one of those pressing needs.”

Capstone students in Environmental Science and Policy – those who are nearing graduation – each choose a capstone project that is intended to pull together much of what they have learned in the program. Capstone advisor John Gutrich offered last year’s students a variety of options, ranging from bark beetle mitigation in the Ashland Watershed to impacts of climate change on LatinX communities of southern Oregon. Four of the students chose to focus on the Almeda fire’s impact on Bear Creek, and worked together to produce a series of reports on water quality issues that were then shared with the agencies spearheading restoration efforts.

Both the EcoAdventure courses and capstone projects vary from term to term, but Smith said it’s likely the Environmental Science and Policy program’s collaborations on the restoration of Bear Creek will continue.

“I can’t predict what students will select to work on next year, but I’d be surprised if at least one group doesn’t continue work on restoration work from the fire,” he said.

Robison, the student who was drawn to last spring’s EcoAdventure course after first working to help house victims of the fire, said the restoration element of the project was a healing experience.

“Essentially, I wanted to see some physical evidence of recovery from the fire, just to prove to myself that it was possible,” he said. “Seeing the effort people put into repairing the ecosystem after the devastation helped me look past some of the pain I had seen and internalized.”


O'Shea negotiated many challenges to earn her online MBA at SOU

Student overcomes life challenges to earn SOU MBA and land “dream job”

Staci O’Shea is a survivor. She has overcome the challenges of being a teen-aged mother of special needs children. She has escaped domestic violence, found her way through a divorce, moved around the country and achieved sobriety.

She has also followed an academic path to career preparation, new-found confidence and real-world success.

“I am a survivor in a few different aspects,” O’Shea said. “School has always been a refuge from life circumstances that were overwhelming and often served as setbacks.”

O’Shea received notification last week that she has completed all requirements for her online MBA degree from the SOU School of Business, after earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration from SOU in 2019. She has reached those academic milestones while working – first with a local nonprofit and for the past year in her “dream job” as a project manager at the Dutch Bros. headquarters in Grants Pass.

“My only goal when I started was to make it through each term, one class at a time,” said O’Shea, who participated in the federal TRIO and Success at Southern student support programs, first at Rogue Community College and then after transferring as an undergrad to SOU.

“I had excellent guidance from both programs that helped me to decide that business was where I should land,” she said. “I enjoy management positions and have long been told I am a natural leader.”

But O’Shea’s route to this point in her life has been convoluted and challenging. She was born and raised in Medford before graduating in 1995 from Crater High School. She took her first college course at RCC in 1996 after becoming a teen mom. She moved to Overland Park, Kansas, then to Las Vegas and then to Eugene before eventually returning to the Rogue Valley. Along the way there was what she described as “a dangerous relationship that was riddled with domestic violence,” her divorce and the discovery a 12-Step resource.

Last week, in addition to learning that her master’s degree coursework has been accepted, O’Shea achieved her 10th year of sobriety.

She thanked SOU business professor Rene Odonez upon being notified that she was approved to receive her MBA, telling him that his “reassurance that I was on track and that I was worthy of a college degree was exactly what I needed when I sometimes doubted my abilities.” O’Shea is a first-generation college student who often lacked confidence during her undergraduate studies, and initially had trouble visualizing herself as MBA material.

“Once I realized that the online coursework was perfect for me, and I had professors and my Success at Southern counselor rooting me on, I knew I could probably handle the MBA program,” she said.

Ordonez, who coordinates graduate programs for the School of Business, said O’Shea is precisely the type of student for which SOU’s online MBA program is intended – even if her personal backstory may involve more challenges and inspiration than most. SOU offers an entirely online MBA program with concentrations in accounting, business analytics, marketing, finance, healthcare administration, information analysis and decision making, and general business practices. The program is designed for flexibility, accommodating the needs of mid-career learners and students anywhere in the world.

The university also has a traditional, on-campus MBA program with a variety of concentrations.

“Staci didn’t realize it at first, but our online MBA offerings are very well-suited for people in circumstances such as hers,” Ordonez said. “We want to reach adult learners where they live and work, and help prepare them for the next steps in their careers.

“We were lucky to have her on-campus for her undergraduate studies, as well. She is inquisitive and determined – I think she now knows that she’s a very good student and a valuable employee.”

The MBA program selected O’Shea to receive the Oregon Lottery Scholarship in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. The scholarship is awarded to graduate students based on merit and need.

O’Shea said it was a “spur-of-the-moment thing” when she applied for her Dutch Bros. position, which drew more than 100 applicants. She now feels empowered to make important decisions for a fast-growing company whose community involvement and philanthropy is making a difference nationwide.

“I would not have my job at Dutch Bros. without my educational training at SOU, in both the undergrad and MBA programs,” she said. “I have learned the importance of professionalism, critical thinking skills, self-discipline, time management skills and also creative problem-solving.

“Personally, it is important to show my kids that higher education is possible even though my younger years took a much different path. It is important to my sobriety that I set and achieve goals that are challenging yet possible, and the most important aspect of my higher education is that I don’t give up – I keep going no matter what. I earned these degrees one class at a time and was able to overcome my self-doubt with a constant stream of hope and successful completion of each course.”

SOU emeritus professor Mike Rousell has a new book about surprise

Retired SOU professor examines surprise in new book

(Ashland, Ore.) — Mike Rousell, a psychologist and emeritus professor of education at SOU, has a new book that should surprise no one who has followed his career. “The Power of Surprise,” which will be released Sept. 15 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, is the result of more than 30 years of researching life-altering events and the surprises that typically triggered them.

“One day, while pouring over my vast collection of transformative stories, looking for patterns, I experienced a revelation: A surprise sparked most of these events,” Rousell said. “Here’s the key: Moments that change us happen to us, not by us, during a surprise event.”

He cites the example of “Cindy,” a student who tended to be among the last to finish tests, and a librarian who complimented that slowness as “attentive deliberation that shows grit.”

“The comment surprised Cindy, giving her a burst of the motivator neurotransmitter dopamine and creating a window for belief formation,” Rousell said. “Now, when Cindy writes tests, her instincts prompt her to go slowly and feel proud because it confirms her grit.”

The new book – which can already be ordered on Amazon – examines the science of surprise, how it can result in spontaneous personal and societal changes, and how it is used strategically by comedians, magicians, filmmakers, writers and others. Rousell looks at how surprise can open the door for a change in belief even without conscious awareness and how it can be tapped to enrich lives, maximize influence and create positive mindsets.

He said the book is intended for a general audience – parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors, healthcare providers and others who may want to draw upon the positive influences of surprise.

Rousell said that surprise events produce a jolt of dopamine, a chemical that enables the transmission of signals among the brain’s nerve cells.

“I found that big surprises in our evolutionary past often indicated momentous opportunity or danger,” he said. “Thinking slowed reaction time. Those that stopped to think during critical moments often perished, along with the propensity to ponder when surprised. Evolution favored those who learned instantly. As a result, we developed a disposition to bypass thinking and learn instantly.”

Rousell was an associate professor of education at SOU for about 12 years before his retirement in March 2020. His previous publications include the 2007 book, “Sudden Influence: How Spontaneous Events Shape Our Lives.” A video of his 12-minute presentation about surprise at a 2019 TEDx Talks event in Salem drew thousands of views on YouTube.

He received his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alberta, and his master of education and doctorate from the University of Oregon. He taught elementary, middle and high school in Edmonton, Alberta, before joining the School of Education at SOU, and also has worked in private practice and school counseling as a certified psychologist.


New Cybersecurity Certificate Program is offered by SOU's Computer Science Department

New SOU Cybersecurity Certificate to benefit students, employers

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is addressing the pervasive issue of cyber criminals and a nationwide demand for workers trained to protect their organizations by offering a new certificate program in cybersecurity. The program allows both existing SOU students and mid-career adult learners to become certified with job-ready cybersecurity skills after completing 36 college credits – nine courses.

“This is a program designed with the needs of both regional employers and job-seeking students in mind,” said computer science instructor Priscilla Oppenheimer, whose industry experience was a key in the design of SOU’s cybersecurity curriculum.

Oppenheimer designed and manages the cybersecurity research lab for SOU’s Computer Science Department. She previously developed and taught classes on computer networking and security for Cisco Systems, and has instructed network engineers worldwide in the design, development, configuration and support of complex and secure computer networks.

“We hear about hacks and cyber attacks almost every day in the news, and it is an issue that won’t go away anytime soon,” she said. “We want to give our students the tools they need to prevent, detect and counteract any attempts to compromise the computer systems of their employers.”

The new Cybersecurity Certificate Program includes 20 credit hours of core, required courses on legal and ethical issues, computer organization, networks and security. Another 16 hours of elective coursework can include classes in computer forensics, programing, UNIX system administration, wireless networks and high-level studies in networks, security or computer science.

Students in the program should enter with precalculus and programming knowledge, similar to SOU’s two-course sequence in precalculus and the first two courses of the Computer Science Department’s programming sequence. Most students are expected to complete requirements for the certificate in about four terms, fitting courses in around other work or educational commitments.

The Cybersecurity Certificate can supplement a student’s bachelor’s or master’s degree program, or can be earned as a stand-alone credential. SOU’s 20 certificate programs differ from the university’s 17 new micro-credential offerings, in that they are more in-depth and require additional coursework. Both are aimed at preparing students for a changing job market by teaching specific skills.

“There is a huge nationwide demand for employees who are equipped to protect the computer systems of both large and small companies,” said Sherry Ettlich, chair of SOU’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Division. “We chose to launch this certificate, rather than the major that many other universities offer, to provide greater flexibility and better serve those wanting to add this expertise while working in IT or related positions, or while working toward SOU degrees in computer science or other academic disciplines.

“SOU and the STEM Division are responding to the real-world needs of today’s employers, and preparing our students to succeed.”

The U.S. has an estimated 500,000 open jobs in cybersecurity as companies and organizations seek to protect themselves from the massive cost and disruption of security breaches.

Students in SOU’s new certificate program will learn about common threats and vulnerabilities, security principles, cryptography, risk management, access control, wireless networking and network device configuration. They will be taught to develop secure software and to design and manage secure networks.


Jack Diab is an intern with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

SOU undergrad reaches for the stars with summer research at NASA

Think SOU senior-to-be Jack Diab was excited when his application was accepted for an internship this summer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena? “I was over the moon (pun intended),” said the chemistry major from Ashland.

Diab – who has a longstanding interest in all things NASA – filled out the JPL application along with several from other agencies and organizations. He got the one he wanted, and will spend the summer working in the JPL’s Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Division, focused on icy ocean worlds such as Ceres, Enceladus and Europa.

“It was really exciting to see that my hard work was recognized by JPL and that I could help out with real NASA research,” said Diab, whose internship is intended to help understand the makeup of a subsurface ocean on Ceres, a dwarf planet and largest object in the asteroid belt.

“I will also be working on many side projects related to ocean worlds and their chemistry,” he said. “My work will involve a lot of thermodynamic modeling and other computational work.”

Diab’s focus at SOU has been on organic chemistry, and he served as a mentor over the past year to help teach the subject. He learned about thermodynamics in his physical chemistry courses, and how to use the computer programing language Python to model various problems.

“These classes – and the thorough and excellent teaching of these subjects by my professors – has really prepared me for this internship,” Diab said.

The admiration is mutual, according to Greg Smith, an assistant professor of physical chemistry at SOU and a key faculty member and advisor for Diab. Smith taught some of the general chemistry courses that Diab took as a freshman, and the “Computational Methods for Scientists” course where Diab learned Python and the basics of computer modeling.

“Jack brings an inquisitiveness and tenacity to his work in the classroom and the laboratory,” Smith said. “He loves to explore the connections between the theoretical and the practical aspects of science. He did great work all year and I’m looking forward to working with him on his capstone research next year.”

Diab said it was the smallness of the university and opportunities to do meaningful research as an undergraduate – including hands-on work with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) equipment – that attracted him to SOU and the Chemistry Department. Smith said that’s all by design – the department has a two-year capstone sequence that includes a total of six scientific presentations and a comprehensive research project in the program’s second year.

It’s an academic atmosphere that encourages real-world learning and research, and high achievement.

Chemistry Department Chair Hala Schepmann said there are close to a dozen undergrads and recent graduates from SOU’s STEM Division who are currently on prestigious research assignments. For instance, junior biochemistry major Maya Helms – another organic chemistry mentor – is continuing her ongoing research this summer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. And an alumna of SOU’s STEM Division recently graduated from medical school at the Oregon Health and Science University and was accepted into a seven-year surgical residency at Stanford University.

SOU’s Chemistry Department is expanding its undergraduate research opportunities this summer with the ChemREx Fellowship Program, in which professor Anna Oliveri is mentoring two students in their research projects. The new program was made possible by generous donations from the McIntyre and Hatton families.

“It is always tough to participate in research as an undergrad, but the Chemistry Department has a really nice system of setting all of us up with a research mentor for our capstone so that we can do real research,” Diab said.

He is on track to graduate next summer, and is eying graduate programs in chemistry, computational chemistry and related fields. Diab’s experiences this summer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will likely broaden the options for the next phase of his academic journey.

“Graduate school for chemistry relies heavily on research, making any experience I can get now very valuable,” he said. “Not only will this internship give me excellent research experience, but I will expand my horizons on the applications of chemistry, make connections to JPL scientists in fields I am interested in, and learn new techniques and skills that will help me in future research.”

Smith, his capstone advisor, expects Diab to work from his solid research foundation to build a successful academic experience and a career in science.

“Jack has the natural curiosity and work ethic to succeed in many scientific fields,” Smith said.

“He’s gaining invaluable experience in this internship and I’m sure he’ll have many options available after graduation. Whatever path he ultimately decides on, I think he’ll do great work.”

Session at an earlier Creativity Conference

SOU’s International Creativity Conference returns – virtually this year

(Ashland, Ore.) — The third annual Creativity Conference at SOU will begin its four-day run on Thursday, July 8, with a slate of 170 presenters, including 46 from outside the U.S. The conference is expected to draw a total of about 250 presenters and participants ­– many of the world’s top scholars, researchers and practitioners in the field of creativity.

This year’s conference will be entirely digital and online, following the cancellation of the 2020 event and uncertainty that lingered well into the spring about the COVID-19 pandemic. Dan DeNeui, a conference co-chair and director of SOU’s Division of Social Sciences, said that both in-person and remote options were mapped out for this year’s conference and the online version was chosen to ensure an event that won’t be disrupted again.

“We made the decision in the spring to give us time to alert our speakers and guests of the virtual-only conference, and put our plans fully in place to make this conference a fantastic virtual experience,” DeNeui said.

This year’s keynote speakers include Ron Beghetto, a professor and director of the University of Connecticut’s Innovation House; and Ruth Richards, a professor at Saybrook University, a private school in Pasadena, California.

Beghetto is an internationally recognized expert on creative thought and action in educational settings.  He is the editor of publications including the Journal of Creative Behavior and has served as a creativity advisor for organizations such as the LEGO Foundation and the Cartoon Network. His keynote address at the Creativity Conference will be a 9 a.m. on Thursday, July 9.

Richards works in the areas of consciousness, spirituality, integrative health and creative studies. Her academic interests include the healthy benefits of the creative process. Her keynote address at the Creativity Conference will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 11.

Another big name at the conference will be its other co-chair, SOU Director of Creativity Research and Programming Mark Runco. He has produced a series of tests to measures creative potential and performance, and teaches both graduate- and undergraduate-level classes on creativity and innovation.

Runco’s deep background in the study of creativity is relied upon as keynote, featured and other speakers are chosen for the Creativity Conference.

“We draw speakers who are already well known in the study of creativity, and we also draw those who are actively working on new research and who are the ‘rising stars’ in the industry,” DeNeui said.

The event offers about 150 talks, panels and a feature that was well-received at the most recent conference in 2019 – 15-minute “boom talks,” typically about the current outcomes of active research.

The annual conference also provides opportunities for creativity researchers to collaborate and broaden their network.

SOU has adopted the goal of serving as Oregon’s “university for the future.” Its strategic plan – the university’s roadmap into the future – places an emphasis on creativity, innovation and other human skills that augment technical skills and are particularly valued by employers.


Dr. Vincent Smith to head Division of Business, Communication and the Environment

Smith to head SOU Division of Business, Communication and the Environment

(Ashland, Ore.) — Dr. Vincent Smith – chair of Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Science and Policy Program and director of The Farm at SOU – has been named director of the university’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

Smith has served on the SOU faculty since fall 2011 and has made a mark on campus with innovative courses such as “EcoAdventure” excursions to Central and South America, “Social Problems and Policy: Food and Nutrition,” “Food, Power and Agriculture” and “Sustainability and Natural Resources.” His research focuses on the human/environmental systems that shape the world – including various issues surrounding food systems – and he incorporates the academic disciplines of human ecology, environmental sociology, landscape ecology, agroecology and human geography.

“The division of Business, Communication and the Environment encourages collaboration between programs focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and regional solutions,” Smith said. “Our region is our campus. Our students want to make a difference. They are waiting for SOU to empower them to collaborate with regional businesses, state and federal agencies, artists, nonprofits and dedicated citizens.

“While our region, nation, and planet face tremendous challenges, I believe that when our students, faculty, staff and community work together we can and will generate the science, citizenship and civility required to creatively solve even the toughest of challenges.”

Smith succeeds business professor Joan McBee, who has served as division director for Business, Communication and the Environment for the past year, following the retirement of former director and business professor Katie Pittman.

Business, Communication and the Environment is one of SOU’s seven academic divisions and includes the academic programs within the departments of business, communication, and environmental science and policy. Each division is led by a director who provides leadership and guidance for the departments and programs within their divisions, encouraging originality and advancement while aligning their academic programs with the university’s mission, vision and values.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Smith is joining our senior academic leadership team,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The breadth and depth of his professional portfolio truly compliments the entrepreneurial direction the BCE Division has been forging since its inception in 2014.

“Vince has many exciting ideas about how to take the outstanding work of the BCE faculty, staff and students to the next level, in collaboration with other partners across campus – as well as in the greater community, region and state.”

Smith was hired as an assistant professor in 2011 and was promoted to associate professor five years ago. He has a varied background of applying academics and research to the real world, including a nine-month project in which he managed a family farm in Missouri as a direct-market mixed vegetable operation, two years as an instructor at The Science Factory children’s museum in Eugene and a year of teaching at an outdoor school on California’s Catalina Island.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Truman State University in Missouri, his master’s degree in environmental science from Oregon State University and his doctorate in environmental science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As an undergraduate, Smith participated in the Semester at Sea program through the University of Pittsburgh, visiting Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Cuba.

Smith enjoys working with students from various sociological and environmental backgrounds, and finding research opportunities for those whose academic interests are similar to his own. He has advised students on undergraduate capstone projects ranging from permaculture to body modification.


New micro-credentials allow students to set course in many directions

SOU adds array of “micro-credentials” to enhance learning and career preparation

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has joined an academic movement that is transforming higher education, adding a total of 17 “micro-credentials” that are designed to recognize individual skillsets or competencies of both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students. The certifications provide opportunities for existing students and for mid-career learners seeking to expand their options.

SOU’s micro-credentials range from Cinema Production Technology to Foundations of Professional Writing to Values-based Leadership. Most of the new micro-credentials require about 12 credit hours of coursework – which can stand alone or count toward students’ degree requirements. Some include community workshops, service learning or other opportunities to apply skills and knowledge.

“Micro-credentials provide our students another very useful tool to demonstrate their academic and occupational abilities,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Employers are increasingly looking for particular skills, along with broad knowledge and the ability to innovate. These micro-credentials certify students’ mastery of very distinct areas of study, and can be equally valuable to undergraduates wanting to strengthen their degree programs and to adult learners looking to boost their careers.”

Micro-credentials, whose acceptance has grown quickly over the past several years among U.S. colleges and universities, allow students to craft what have been called “t-shaped” educational experiences – the broad, horizontal base of their academic majors combined with deep, vertical concentrations in one or more specialized areas of study. They are typically brief, accessible programs that are considered “stackable” as learners achieve sets of discrete, demonstrable areas of expertise based on their career needs, professional goals or personal interests.

SOU, like most institutions offering micro-credentials, awards digital badges to those who complete the mini-certifications. Digital badges can be shared through social media, email signatures or electronic resumes.

The micro-credential programs currently offered by SOU – with more expected to be added – are Cinema Production Technology; Community Planning; Digital Security; EDI: Gender, Indigeneity, & Sexuality; Environmental Research & Data Analysis; Foundations of Professional Writing; Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health; Foundations of Sustainability and Tourism; Geographic Information Systems (GIS; Network Technology; Project Management; Set Skills for Cinema Production; Social Media Strategy; Story Development for Screenwriting; Sustainable Food Systems; Team Leadership and Collaboration; and Values-Based Leadership.