Local Innovation Lab trains SOU interns as leaders

Local Innovation Lab prepares SOU interns to address disaster issues

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’re looking for a silver lining somewhere deep within the dual catastrophes of COVID-19 and last fall’s southern Oregon wildfires, look no further than the Local Innovation Lab. The collaborative project of Southern Oregon University and the Humane Leadership Institute is finding student interns and training them as leaders to tackle some of the sticky issues faced by communities and businesses affected by the disasters.

About 30 SOU students from more than 10 separate degree programs are receiving $1,000 stipends to participate as interns ­in the new program this year, and double that number are expected for the 2021-22 academic year. Four of this year’s fall term participants already have paid jobs as a result of their internships.

“Students are learning that humane leadership applies to how they lead themselves as well as how they lead others, and that it applies equally to their personal lives and their professional lives,” said Bret Anderson, SOU’s Economics Department chair and the university’s primary link to the Local Innovation Lab project.

“We are meeting students’ innate desire to contribute to their communities, especially in the wake of the Almeda Fire, while inviting them to apply their skills to impactful work,” he said.

The project grew out of a community conversation that was initiated last April, when it was apparent the COVID-19 pandemic would have deep and long-lasting effects on southern Oregon. Stephen Sloan of the Humane Leadership Institute, a local education think tank, convened a small group of people from Ashland and the Rogue Valley to discuss the emerging problems, needs and opportunities.

Those community conversations eventually grew to include more than two dozen participants, and one of the group’s first actions was to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization – Local Innovation Works – to carry out the first project, the Local Innovation Lab.

Community leaders in the larger group had discussed the need for interns to help businesses, social service agencies and local governments reboot their operations in ways that could help address pandemic-related issues. But the interns would need to be prepared to lead, rather than be led.

“I have heard over and over again that the effort required to bring a student intern up to speed is not worth the benefit of hiring an intern for many organizations,” Anderson said. “This was a gap that we identified pretty clearly. Universities do a great job of (creating) academic foundations for careers and employers do well with on-the-job training for their long-term employees, but the short-term student intern is left in the void.

“Thus, there was a need for a community organization to build a bridge between the academic community and organizations in the community that focused on the students’ own experience of leading themselves and those around them.”

Those who apply to participate in the program as student interns are required to take an SOU course on humane leadership, which emphasizes qualities such as compassion, consideration and encouragement. That course and participation in the internship program satisfy two of the three criteria needed to earn SOU’s digital badge or micro-credential in Values-Based Leadership. The third requirement is completion of any of several elective courses that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and the wider social context in which entrepreneurship and civic engagement take place.

The Local Innovation Lab, humane leadership course and Values-Based Leadership badge all are open to both enrolled SOU students and community members.

The lab was initially intended to launch with a cohort of interns for winter term, but the wildfires of early September “turned the dial up to 11,” Anderson said. It was instead unveiled as a pilot program with interns lined up after fall term had already begun.

Its organizers wove together the abilities of interns, the assets of donors and investors, and the needs of organizations affected by the pandemic or fires.

The project is clearly working.

One intern from SOU’s Financial Mathematics program is helping the city of Phoenix clean up the accounting for its water billings; a Continuing Education student is analyzing data from Medford’s Family Nurturing Center to better map social service outreach efforts to outcomes. Another student is helping create a community investment fund by looking at gaps between local banks’ loan terms and the ability of underserved entrepreneurs to get credit. Yet another is working “her dream job” with the Gordon Elwood Foundation, creating a “visually appealing, accessible online database profiling key funders in the Southern Oregon region.”

Two other interns are working with the nonprofit Remake Talent to create an interactive recovery dashboard using ArcGIS and to present the evolving network of fire relief organizations that provide resources to the Rogue Valley.

“Students get a real-world experience of impact, collaboration and reality,” Anderson said. “They get a sense of the practical utility of their education. They get a break from theory and a deep dive into the challenges of trying to get important things done with other people.”

Cherstin Lyon, SOU Honors College director

SOU Honors College director leads the Democracy Project and more

Cherstin Lyon is the director of Southern Oregon University’s Honors College, organizes the Democracy Project with Philosophy Department chair Prakash Chenjeri and mentors students. And she has been at SOU for just a year.

“Coming to SOU I was immediately impressed by how welcoming the campus is, and by all of the people who reached out to introduce themselves, invite me to coffee, and extend a helping hand,” Lyon said. “That made it very easy to reach out when I had questions or needed help. I’m delighted to be working at a university that works so well as a team, where there is such a strong sense of community and where students come first in everything we do.”

Lyon is new to SOU, but by no means new to academia – or to Oregon. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Oregon before earning her doctorate at the University of Arizona.

She taught history, first at Utah Valley University and then at California State University, San Bernardino, where she earned tenure. She coordinated CSUSB’s Public and Oral History program and master’s degree program in Social Science and Globalization, and co-directed the summer study abroad program in London. She also co-directed the Center for Faculty Excellence as the faculty associate for the Office of Community Engagement.

Lyon came to SOU in July 2019 as director of the Honors College, which seeks to create a community of learners prepared for a lifetime of intellectual curiosity, inquiry, scholarship, and service. Students and professors work in partnership to create a challenging and practical liberal arts education centered on critical thinking, multidisciplinary undergraduate research, inclusive diversity, civic engagement and community service. The college tackles regional issues with global implications.

“The Honors College creates a sense of community and belonging among students,” Lyon said. “The curriculum is intentionally linked to co-curricular activities and experiences that help students develop their unique talents and cultivate their leadership skills.

“There are many opportunities in the Honors College to expand learning beyond the classroom, and to create distinctive projects that will set students apart from the pack when applying for graduate school, internships or jobs.”

Lyon organizes the Honors College Democracy Project with Chenjeri, one of the original founders of the project. It typically includes an annual trip for students to hubs of democracy at home and abroad. Participants write “dispatches” about their experiences and observations during the trips, which typically include visiting community groups and representatives of various levels of local, regional, national and international governments. Their research then becomes part of an annual workshop at which students share what they’ve learned about democracy with southern Oregon high school students and other residents.

The Democracy Project was initially scheduled to explore Edinburgh, Scotland, and London during the 2020 summer break, but the trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Students in the program have instead focused on democracy in the Rogue Valley, with a digital symposium held for Crater High School students.

The 2021 Democracy Project will consist of a series of lectures, discussions and presentations on topics relating to democracy in America. The title for this year’s Democracy Project, “The Fragility and Strength of American Democracy,” was discussed at the opening roundtable event on Jan. 21 and at a series of events that will be open to the public via Zoom and on Jefferson Public Radio.

Future versions of the Democracy Project are expected to return to a more global perspective.

“Going back to South Africa (and) visiting Ghana would be fascinating,” Lyon said. “We also have plans to visit Sweden. I’d also like to go places that open up our understanding of democracy in the U.S., including places like American Samoa or Detroit. We are also looking into the possibility of partnering with Oregon tribes to better understand what democracy looks like from the perspective of domestic dependent nations.

“I would very much like to partner with faculty at SOU who work on community and democracy-related issues in countries around the world as a way of including more faculty in the project.”

Lyon’s favorite role as Honors College director is advising and mentoring students. One common student issue with which she has personal experience is picking a major. She studied piano performance, environmental science and policy, social control, chemistry and statistics – and was passionate about each – before narrowing her focus to history.

“I tell students all the time that choosing a major or a focused career path now does not preclude exploring other interests later,” she said. “If we are lucky, we will have decades in which to explore the things that we love. Career paths often take serendipitous turns we cannot predict, but if they remain curious and engaged, they will be prepared for a lifetime of possibilities.

“Remembering your diverse interests might inspire you to take advantage of opportunities … that might otherwise be overlooked.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's Dustin Walcher discusses insurrection and history

Notes on a day of insurrection: SOU’s Dustin Walcher

“Yesterday the President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained on the afternoon of Jan. 7, calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office for sedition either through the 25th Amendment or by way of impeachment. On Jan. 6, the president had called on his supporters to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” and “show strength” to the Congress, which was engaged in the task of counting electoral votes. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, declared that the president’s spurious charges of election malfeasance should be settled through “trial by combat.” An insurrection ensued. The resulting images of a mob overrunning and ransacking the United States Capitol shocked the conscience, but should not have been a surprise.

Reflecting on the attack on the Capitol, historian Jill Lepore lamented that “we are off the grid of the trajectory of American history.” We are not. In the first place, though yesterday’s assault by a mob of U.S. citizens was unique, the Capitol has been attacked a number of times before. Most notably, in 1814 a British army occupied and then set the building on fire. In 1950, four Puerto Rican nationalists fired on the House Chamber from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five members of Congress.

More to the point, we have seen the tactics employed by Trump’s mob throughout our history. In an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election, the insurrectionists constructed a noose, raised a cross, marched with the battle flag of the Confederacy, destroyed property, terrorized bystanders and assaulted those who stood in their way, all while calling themselves “patriots.” These are the same tactics that were used in the massive resistance to civil rights launched by white nationalists of an earlier generation, and by all incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan. Such behavior, and the ideas that motivate it, are part of the fabric of the country. This is, at least in part, who we are.

As we move beyond the era of the Trump presidency, it is up to us to reckon collectively with the unsavory elements of our history. Historian Douglas Adair explained that “History is a conversation in the present with the past, about the future.” What happened yesterday was stoked by President Trump, but was so very much bigger than President Trump. To understand the mob’s rage requires coming to terms with the reality that the same country that produced John Lewis also produced Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. Although the events of Jan. 6 represent a significant part of who we are, they do not come close to comprising the entirety of who we are. But before we can defeat our national demons, we must first name them, face them and confront them head-on. That is the challenge of history, and that is the challenge of our time.

SOU's Amber Reed publishes book on apartheid

SOU anthropologist’s book: Black South Africans wary of apartheid reforms

(Ashland, Ore.) — Post-apartheid reforms in South Africa have failed the country’s rural Black citizens and led to a longing for some aspects of life under the system that once oppressed them, according to a newly published book by Southern Oregon University anthropologist Amber Reed.

“Nostalgia After Apartheid” examines the reluctance of teachers and students in the Eastern Cape province to embrace South African democracy, which they see as restricting their cultural practices. Democracy has imposed a brand of freedom whose liberal standards clash with the customs and traditions favored in the former rural homelands.

“When I started research in this region, I was interested in the role non-governmental organizations were playing in youth political activism,” said Reed, who has done fieldwork in the country off-and-on over the past 11 years.

“The project took on a life of its own, however, as people kept steering our conversations away from the future of politics and back to nostalgic renderings of the past,” she said. “Why would Black South Africans wax nostalgic for life during one of history’s most racist and repressive regimes?”

Reed’s book answers that question by showing that many Black South Africans embrace conservative ideologies and are opposed to reforms that don’t align with their beliefs, such as the right to abortions and a ban on corporal punishment. The country’s Department of Education requires the teaching of ideals that include civic responsibility and liberal democracy, but both teachers and students often see it as the imposition of “white” values.

“’Freedom, it turned out, did not feel so free; instead, it rested on Western ideas of personhood and subjectivity that felt confining, imposing and alien,” Reed writes in the preface to her book.

“Nostalgia After Apartheid” was published last month by University of Notre Dame Press as part of the Kellogg Institute Series on Democracy and Development. It is available in hardcover or as an eBook.

The book has been praised by other authors and researchers of South Africa and apartheid.

“Amber Reed compellingly reveals how the transition from apartheid to liberal democracy has failed the rural youth who now regard the Mandela miracle of 1994 as a betrayal and have developed a bizarre sense of nostalgia for life under apartheid,” said Leslie J. Bank, co-editor of the book, “Migrant Labour Under Apartheid.”

Reed has been a professor of anthropology at SOU since 2017, and has taught a variety of anthropology and African studies courses. She received her bachelor’s degree from New York’s Barnard College, and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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SOU's Chacon studies representations of violence in Latin culture

SOU’s Enrique Chacón researches representations of violence in Mexican music

SOU Assistant Professor Enrique Chacón enjoys teaching Spanish language classes, but his focus is on teaching how violence is represented in Latin culture – and how those representations have changed.

“I’m teaching this course on the representations of violence in Latin America and I think those kinds of topics are quite interesting, because they’re directly related to my research topics,” Chacón said. “What I do through these classes is I present some examples and some theory to my students, so we can approach art, literature, film, etc., and understand not the violence itself better, but how and why it’s represented as it is.”

His research coalesced into “La Estética Perversa del Movimiento Alterado, Violencia y Música Transnacional,” which roughly translates to “The Perverse Aesthetics of the Altered Movement, Violence and Transnational Music.” The paper combines Chacón’s interest in music and representations of violence by detailing how a specific genre of Latin music has shifted over time.

“There is a traditional music in northern Mexico that is very popular, and there is a tradition in the lyrics that comes from the (1910 Mexican) Revolution where these songs praise the heroes,” he said.

“There was a shift 30 years ago where they started talking about drug traffickers – narcos. So that shift from a hero to a narco, and then there was another shift 10-15 years ago that is not only praising narcos but are sung in first-person. I study the aesthetic implications of that shift.”

Chacón talked about his research at last spring’s César E. Chávez Leadership Conference, a gathering of regional Latinx high school students and student leaders that is hosted by SOU. He presented his research both to help educate SOU-hopefuls and to get more information on the topic from a younger generation.

“I played a song, and most of (the students) knew the song,” he said. “So I asked these students, ‘what is this? What is this kind of music?’ And one of them said right away, ‘this is the music from Mexico. That’s our music.’

“For me, that was very surprising because for my generation what TV and ideology and all those things sold as the music from Mexico were mariachi bands. But now young people perceive this to be the music of Mexico.”

Students at the conference participate in workshops focusing on leadership, cultural arts and college preparation. Chacón values the conference’s intent, hoping to see more Latin American students succeed in higher education.

“It’s very important that (colleges and universities) reach people from (minority populations) in general,” Chacón said. “It’s proven that the output of studying higher education is that you become a better citizen. I think it’s a way of transforming yourself and impacting the world in a different way.

“Just 2 percent of professors in the whole country are Hispanic. I think we need to change that.”

Chacón has personal experience with crossing cultures and succeeding in American academia. A first-generation immigrant, he earned a master’s degree in Mexican literature from the Autonomous University of Puebla before studying at the University of Pittsburgh for his doctorate in Hispanic languages and literature. Chacón’s studies across the continent give him particular insight into the differences between Mexican and American colleges.

“(In Mexico) you choose what to study from the very beginning, there was no general education or possibility for you to explore other topics,” he said.

“You had to make the decision of what you’re going to be specializing in for the rest of your life when you’re in high school … and that is good and bad. It’s good to have more information about one topic, but on the other hand it’s not that good because you don’t know anything about any other topics.”

Chacón’s initial pursuit of journalism led him away from what he wanted to do, and after some introspection he realized that he wanted to return to college to study Mexican culture and language. His research led to an opportunity to study in the United States. Chacón liked the diversity of US academia, and bounced around in different higher education positions before eventually settling at SOU.

“I’ve worked in the past in bigger universities, and you don’t really get to know your students,” he said. “For example, I had students at the University of Tennessee taking intermediate Spanish, they were going to be majors and minors, but we had so many professors that I didn’t see them again.

“That is what’s so important about SOU, that it’s a smaller community, and you get the chance to help students and help them better.”

Chacón teaches lower- and upper-level Spanish language and culture classes at SOU, and fosters an atmosphere of collaboration among students and faculty.

“It has been proven that people who speak a second language develop more cerebral connections, and it’s been proven (they) make more money,” he said. “At SOU, we offer different languages – Japanese, Spanish, French – and I think it’s important that people learn a second language.”

Chacón enjoys playing music, meditating, exercising, cooking and watching films in his spare time.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Student Sustainability Center Director Luis Berrios-Hayden wins scholastic award

Student Sustainability Center director, McNair Scholar wins Scholastic Achievement Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

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Pavlina McGrady

Pavlina McGrady’s journey to teaching sustainable tourism

Pavlina McGrady, an assistant professor of business at SOU, has practiced what she teaches.

Sustainable tourism first caught McGrady’s attention as she worked on her master’s degree program at the University of Hawaii. “I have always loved the outdoors and traveling, but I was introduced to the field of sustainable tourism, specifically, during my studies in Hawaii,” she said.

McGrady served as a management trainee with the Fairmont Orchid Resort after graduating, then went to work for Marriott International. Her emphasis at both hotels was on the environmental or sustainability side of the business, but she eventually recognized that she wanted to sharpen her focus.

“I realized that I wanted to go even further and possibly make a bigger impact,” McGrady said. “That is when I decided to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus on sustainable tourism and found out about the (Human Dimensions of Natural Resources) program at Colorado State University.”

The degree program at CSU focuses on the social aspects of ecosystems and tourism, along with sustainability research and actions. It leans toward the understanding, stewardship and appreciation of natural resources as a means of preserving environmental health while gaining some human benefits.

McGrady worked as a teaching assistant while completing the CSU program, then joined the business administration faculty at SOU in 2016. She coordinates the business school’s tourism management concentration and its certificate program in sustainable tourism.

Her favorite course remains sustainable tourism, which features guest speakers, case studies and overnight field trips – although those have been canceled during the pandemic.

“I like teaching the class because it is exciting for students and for me – there are always so many interesting new things happening, so many opportunities and challenges,” she said “It keeps me on my toes, but it is very exciting, and I hopefully pass that excitement to students.”

McGrady focuses on preparing students to continue learning after they’ve finished at the university, which aligns with McGrady’s personal goals.

“I would be a student for the rest of my life if I could,” she said. “I love learning, and I certainly see how the more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know.

“My goal is to continue growing by learning more about the topics I am passionate about, as well as other topics, because sustainability is such a complex phenomenon and everything is connected to everything.”

McGrady has continued her research while at SOU, delving into topics including ski resort sustainability, bark beetle disturbances and cannabis tourism. While recreational marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, many states have legalized it. That has created a niche market of “cannabis tours,” where groups are shown the marijuana production process and given production samples.

“I find this new niche market in the travel industry very interesting and I think it is fascinating to see how policies will shift in upcoming years,” McGrady said. “I am collaborating with colleagues from Colorado, comparing local perceptions on cannabis tourism – it is exciting to identify similarities and differences and to stipulate how things will shift in time.”

McGrady has recently begun a new study on corporate sustainability in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Change toward sustainability in the business world is happening, but not at the level and pace that is needed,” she said. “I think that only a few companies are doing really well in terms of sustainability, while the majority are lagging…. Businesses are in ‘survival mode,’ and sustainability has moved out of the priority list.

“Nevertheless, I am still hopeful that this ‘quiet’ time, especially for the tourism industry, will allow destination leaders to rethink policies and management so that a true sustainable tourism is practiced around the world – the environment and culture is preserved, the industry is providing local economic benefits and local communities’ well-being is considered, while tourists enjoy authentic travel experiences.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

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New esports website brings academic and competitive information together

Everything esports: new SOU website covers academic minor and esports gaming

A minor in esports management? Information about the soon-to-be-launched Esports Hub in SOU’s Student Recreation Center? The university’s new esports website brings all the information about SOU’s trend-setting programs together in one place.

The university is launching both an academic program and a competitive team in esports this fall, becoming one of the first institutions on the West Coast to offer both. Esports is a billion-dollar global enterprise, and SOU’s combination of programs will position students for future employment in the growing industry.

The new website offers details about both the academic and competitive sides of esports at SOU, from course descriptions and faculty profiles to timely information for those interested in joining the university’s esports teams.

SOU’s academic minor in esports management is one of just a handful that are offered nationally. It is offered through SOU’s Business Program and includes curriculum in business, marketing, digital media and communication. The minor consists of two core courses – Introduction to Esports Management and Contemporary & Ethical Issues in Esports – and four elective courses.

The Esports Hub in SOU’s Student Recreation Center will feature 12 top-end computer gaming stations, one of which will be reserved for streaming and esports commentating – known as “shoutcasting.” The hub, which will be open before Thanksgiving, will be used for intercollegiate competitions, intramural gaming and open play for all SOU students and SRC members. The computers are in place and an order of chairs for the facility arrived recently; painting touch-ups, installation of the main video screen and other detail work will occur over the next few weeks.

Esports team tryouts will begin Oct. 26. Students who are interested in joining the SOU team are invited to sign up online.

SOU’s intercollegiate Esports team is expected to compete in the Collegiate Starleague (CSL), which hosted the first collegiate competition in 2009 and has grown to include teams from 1,800 college campuses across North America. The CSL offers leagues under several titles and platforms, for players at all skill levels.

Student Quinn Barrabee credits SOU's University Coaching and Academic Mentoring program

SOU’s University Coaching and Academic Mentoring program brings results

SOU student Quinn Barrabee was nearly finished with a term paper but couldn’t quite get over the hump, so he turned to his academic lifeline – the University Coaching and Mentoring (UCAM) program and academic coach Jade Severson.

“Jade said that ‘If you come in first thing tomorrow, I bet we could finish it,’” Barrabee said. “I did just that and an hour later I finished and turned in my paper, and got an ‘A’ on it.”

The University Coaching and Academic Mentoring (UCAM) program is a small, closely knit campus initiative that provides one-on-one support to a group of roughly 50 students. It can take students from their transition into college all the way through to their capstone, and no program like it is offered at any other West Coast university.

“We help students in planning their term, breaking large tasks into manageable pieces, learning time management, organization and how to study, and in writing papers,” Severson said. “We also really focus on building a UCAM community – our students learn to support one another and even become roommates and friends.”

UCAM connected the dots for Barrabee – a Communications student with a focus on social media and public engagement – who just needed someone to keep him on track.

“When I first met Jade, it was like finding the last piece of the puzzle you have been working on forever and finally finding it,” he said. “There are no amount of words that I could say that convey how much she helped me, both academically and growing as a person.”

UCAM academic coaches are the key to the program, helping students write papers, facilitating study sessions, triaging late assignments and more.

Improved study skills and academic persistence are common among students in the program. An average of 95 percent of UCAM students over the past three years have continued their academic journeys at SOU from one term to the next, and they graduate at a rate 25 percent higher than the general student population.

Barrabee credits the incredibly positive relationship he’s built with Severson.

“I would go so far to say that without UCAM by my side I would be lost,” he said. “Thanks to them, my writing ability has improved significantly.”

All students are welcome at UCAM, but the program can be of particular help to those with disabilities such as ADHD, ASD and executive dysfunction. UCAM connects those students to SOU’s Disability Resources office for help with academic accommodations. UCAM coaches try to help all students find strategies that work for them, but are constrained by the program’s size.

“We would love to improve access to our program so that anyone who wants to participate is able,” Severson said. “Right now, all of our funding is generated from the fees that we charge for services, which has limited our ability to expand and offer more scholarships to students.”

Severson and the other UCAM coaches hope to diversify their funding model, but the program’s tight budget means that two of the three coaches are 10-month employees, making it difficult to find time for grant applications. That said, UCAM coaches prioritize helping students and keeping their doors open during the academic year.

“UCAM is not just a place to get help with your homework, it’s a community of many people who just want to help you (and) see you succeed in your academic goals and beyond,” Barrabee said.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Program for non-traditional students receives five-year grant

SOU awarded $1.6 million to help first-generation and non-traditional students

(Ashland, Ore.) — The TRIO-Student Support Services (SSS) program at SOU, which helps non-traditional students succeed and graduate, has received a five-year, $1,627,990 federal grant renewal to keep the program in operation through 2026.

The U.S. Department of Education grant will provide $325,598 per year in funding for SOU’s Success at Southern/TRIO Program, which is limited to 190 students per academic year and has served more than 1,500 since 1994.

The SOU program offers services including academic advising, tutoring, personal education plans, career guidance, preparation for graduate programs and financial aid information. The program is free and intended for first-generation, low-income, disabled or other non-traditional students.

Students must apply to participate in the Success at Southern/TRIO-SSS program and those who meet eligibility requirements are invited to interviews about their educational goals, career ambitions and academic barriers. Students who are accepted into the program must each attend a mandatory orientation session and an initial personal education plan meeting, then become eligible for all of the Success at Southern/TRIO-SSS services.

The federal TRIO programs, which were created following passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, are intended to help disadvantaged students progress through the academic pipeline from middle school through graduate school. There are currently eight sections of TRIO, and the SOU grant is part of the Student Support Services Program. SOU also participates in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program – a separately funded TRIO program – which prepares eligible undergraduate students for eventual doctoral studies.

TRIO’s programs help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities, to negotiate obstacles that may hinder their academic progress.