AAAS Pacific Division meets this week at SOU

SOU to host 100th annual meeting of the AAAS Pacific Division

(Ashland, Ore.) — Leading West Coast scientists with gather in Ashland Tuesday through Saturday, June 18 to 22, when Southern Oregon University hosts the 100th annual Pacific Division Meeting of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Organizers are putting a unique, grassroots spin on the conference by encouraging visiting scientists to enjoy the area’s cultural and recreational amenities, and by offering opportunities for community members to be involved in the event. The public is welcome to attend the meeting’s opening reception and plenary session on Tuesday afternoon and evening, and everyone is invited to a “science pub” event on Wednesday evening at three Ashland pubs and restaurants.

Anyone may attend the full, four-day schedule of lectures, workshops and presentations by signing up for the conference and paying a $35 registration fee. Membership in the AAAS is not required.

The program for this year’s meeting is intended to mix scientists with the interested public in discussions about science, with an emphasis on the environment and climate change. There will be an invitation-only symposium at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Room 161 of the SOU Science Building on the role of scientists in advocating for local and regional climate policy; a talk at 8:45 a.m. Thursday in the SOU Music Building on “The Honey Bee as a Model for Reverse-Engineering a Brain;” and a town hall-style meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday in Room 207 of the Science Building on the climate future for Oregon wineries.

Tuesday’s public opening reception, from 4 to 6 p.m. in SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art, will feature an exhibit of works from various artists that are “inspired by science.” The opening talk that follows at 6 p.m. in the adjacent Art Building’s Meese Auditorium will be about “Freeing the Klamath River.”

Topics for the “science pub crawl” from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday will include the social, economic and political impacts of climate change at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant; “Fires!” at Harvey’s Place Restaurant & Bar; and a “Climate Change Poetry Jam” at Oberon’s. About 10 to 20 scientists participating in the AAAS conference will be present at each of the Ashland pubs to engage with the public in informal conversations.

A full schedule of the meeting’s events is available online.

The four-day AAAS conference is expected to draw between 250 and 350 participants, with a fifth day on Saturday reserved for educational field trips and visits to various local venues or attractions.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, with about 120,000 members in more than 91 countries. It publishes the journal “Science.”

The organization’s Pacific Division serves more than 30,000 members in California, Hawaii, Idaho, western Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and most other Pacific Basin countries.

The division was recognized by the AAAS in 1912, and has held annual meetings almost year since 1915 – meetings were not held in 1918 because of World War I, or in 1943-45 because of World War II. The group has met three times previously in Ashland, most recently in 2010.

The AAAS Pacific Division is led by Executive Director James Bower, in an arrangement with SOU. Bower, a computational biologist who has served as a faculty member at Cal Tech and University of Texas, moved to Ashland four years go and accepted the AAAS post following the retirement of former executive director Roger Christianson, an emeritus biology professor at SOU.


Latoya Gibbs presents research on competency-based training

SOU faculty member presents competency-based findings at aviation conference

Latoya Gibbs, an affiliate professor in SOU’s Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) department, recently shared her findings on competency-based training at The World Aviation Training Summit (WATS) in Orlando, Florida.

WATS is billed as the world’s largest gathering of aviation training professionals who serve airlines, regulators, training providers and the training industry.

Gibbs’ presentation, “Competency-Based Training: Connecting the Dots to Passenger Satisfaction,” was part of the WATS Cabin Crew Training Conference – one of four separate conferences at the training summit.

The talk was based on Gibbs’ research on the effect of competency-based training on flight attendants’ performance and, ultimately, passengers’ satisfaction. She trained a group of 109 flight attendants in four competences: managing stress, dealing with conflict situations, displaying human relations skills and delivering quality customer service. The research included pre- and post-training measures of the flight attendants’ performance and customer satisfaction.

Gibbs has worked as a flight attendant and a cabin crew training instructor, and                                   earned her doctorate in hospitality industry administration from Oklahoma State University. Her current research interests include competency-based training in aviation and hospitality education.

She focuses on human capital as a sustainable competitive advantage through performance and retention. She has published in the “Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research” and the “Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education,” and has presented at various conferences.

Gibbs, who joined SOU’s Sociology and Anthropology Department last year, received her bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and her master’s degree from the University of the West Indies.

She spent 17 years in the aviation industry, serving first as a flight attendant for Air Jamaica and later as a cabin crew instructor for Caribbean Airlines.

Chance White Eyes

New Native American Studies faculty member to begin at SOU this fall

Chance White Eyes, who has worked most recently as a post-secondary consultant on educational and diversity issues, has accepted an offer to join the SOU faculty as a tenure-track assistant professor of Native American Studies.

White Eyes, an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, will begin teaching at SOU this fall.

He served at the University of Oregon for almost five years as a graduate teaching fellow and then another year as assistant to the university’s tribal liaison before shifting to consulting work last fall. He previously served for a year at the UO as an academic advisor and Native American retention specialist.

White Eyes has most recently consulted with Oregon State University on Native American access and success, and has operated RED Day Consulting with a focus on global diversity, indigenous and human rights, and equity and inclusion in post-secondary settings.

He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from OSU and his doctorate in critical and socio-cultural studies in education at the UO.

His research interests include indigenous research methodologies, indigenous post-secondary educational success, the history of education in the United States, oral traditions, storytelling and narrative analysis. He has offered presentations on indigenous issues and initiatives at several national and international conferences.

White Eyes is currently working on an article that examines Native American storytelling and how those stories can support Native American students in non-Native colleges and universities. He is working on another article that explores acts of student resistance and how those acts enrich or detract from educational experiences.

SOU lectures-calculations on chalkboard

WSU’s Watkins to offer thought-provoking mathematical lectures at SOU

Washington State University’s David Watkins will dive into a pair of deep mathematical concepts when he presents lectures at SOU on Friday, May 3, about eigenvalues and mathematical research.

Watkins’ first presentation, at 10:30 a.m. in Taylor Hall, Room 28-31, will offer an examination of eigenvalues for the 36th installment of SOU’s annual Kieval Lecture. He will describe current research into eigenvalues and set straight some commonly taught computational missteps.

“Toward the end of a first course in linear algebra, students learn that matrices have these things called eigenvalues,” Watkins said in describing his lecture. “They will certainly be taught how to compute eigenvalues, but the method that they will learn is wrong!”

The lecture series – which is free and open to the public – was endowed by the late Harry S. Kieval for speakers to address broad popular aspects of mathematics that are attractive to undergraduates and the general public. Kieval was an Ashland mathematician who died in 1994 at age 80.

Watkins – an internationally recognized expert in scientific computing, numerical analysis and numerical linear algebra – will also serve as guest lecturer for this week’s Friday Science Seminar. That presentation, at 3:30 p.m. in Room 151 of the Science Building, will cover the benefits and satisfaction of conducting original mathematic research – even if the same work was done in ancient Greece.

“Anybody can do research,” Watkins said. “If you can figure it out for yourself, the reward in satisfaction will be substantial. And it doesn’t matter whether you discover something new or rediscover things that have been known for a thousand years.”

Watkins is a professor emeritus of mathematics at WSU. He is the author of three books in the field and more than 100 mathematical and scientific publications. He was recently honored, along with several co-authors, by the award of a SIAM Outstanding Paper Prize for work in eigenvalue computations.

The Friday Science Seminar lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided by SOU’s STEM Division. The lecture series offers presentations each week on topics ranging from biology to computer science to chemistry.

China's Cangdong village, where many Chinese migrants originated (photo courtesy of Stanford University)

SOU archaeologists participate in study of Chinese migrants’ homeland

(Ashland, Ore.) — Three members of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) have participated in a three-year, international project to investigate everyday lives of 19th century Chinese migrants both in the U.S. and their Chinese homeland.

The Cangdong Village Project – which was confidential until this month – was led by Stanford University and involved researchers from at least seven U.S. universities and one in China.

“This important project marks the first-ever archaeological study of its kind, and we are so excited that SOU was able to play a role in this milestone transnational research project,” said SOU research archeologist Chelsea Rose, who served as a crew chief.

Her work on the project involved multiple trips over the past couple years to Cangdong village in southern China’s Pearl River Delta region – part of a five-county area that was home to most of the Chinese who migrated to the U.S. during the 19th century.

Rose serves as a research faculty member in the SOU Laboratory of Anthropology, where her focus is on archaeology of the American West – particularly the dispersal of an early Chinese migrant population in Oregon. She has been involved in the Stanford-based Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project, which led to the Cangdong project.

She was joined on the Cangdong project by fellow SOULA employees Katie Johnson-Noggle, who served as the project’s cartographer and graphic designer, and Tyler Davis, who worked as a field researcher.

The project examined the practices of Cangdong Village residents during about a 50-year period in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Migrants from the area left to escape violence and economic hardship, and arrived in the American West to work in mines and railroads. They established flourishing Chinatowns throughout the region until many were forced to flee again by anti-Chinese violence and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Researchers at Cangdong village found a variety of Chinese ceramic bowls, some of which matched bowl types that have been found at railroad camp sites in the U.S. They also excavated British-made ceramic plates and American-made medicine bottles and clothing from the migration period.

Rose and other researchers have excavated sites where Chinese migrants lived and worked in Oregon and elsewhere in the U.S. West, but the areas from which they migrated had not been studied until Stanford initiated the international research effort. Stanford University was established with much of the wealth that Leland Stanford earned helping to oversee construction of the western half of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

A total of 27 archaeologists, anthropologists and others are listed as team members for the Cangdong Village Project. Participating institutions include SOU, Stanford, China’s Wuyi University, University of New Orleans, University of Massachusetts at Boston, San Francisco State University, Humboldt State University and Durham University.


SOU Digital Cinema in studio

HECC gives green light for launch of Digital Cinema degree at SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission gave final approval today for a new Digital Cinema degree program that will begin this fall at Southern Oregon University and prepare students for careers in film and other forms of visual media.

Members of the HECC, whose approval is needed for all new degree programs at the state’s seven public universities, OK’d the SOU program ( without discussion. It had previously been reviewed and endorsed by both the SOU Board of Trustees and the state universities’ provosts council.

“We’re excited to finally offer a major for the students out there who are looking for a ‘film school’ education,” said Andrew Gay, the program coordinator and associate professor of digital cinema at SOU.

“But we also know that today’s student filmmakers need to be prepared for all kinds of visual storytelling careers that go beyond the traditional ‘film school’ format,” he said. “Here at SOU, students will get that immersion in both worlds — in traditional filmmaking and in new digital worlds like streaming television and virtual reality.”

The new major will build upon the success of the existing Digital Cinema concentration within SOU’s Communication major, while introducing several new courses and immersive experiences for student filmmakers – including required coursework related to innovation.

The program’s centerpiece is a new, 12-credit spring immersion called “The Crew Experience,” in which student filmmakers will spend an entire term learning on location, collaborating under the supervision of experienced professionals on the sets of a significant film projects. Students will apply and interview for their crew positions based on the experiences, skill levels and portfolios of work they have developed in preceding classes.

No other film or media program in the Pacific Northwest offers such an experiential approach to professional production training.

Curriculum for the new program was designed with input from an advisory council of current and former students, film and media industry professionals, and experienced educators in the field. It was designed with both state and regional employment trends in mind.

“Economic diversification is key to the health and wealth of southern Oregon, and the media production sector is a promising target for growth in this region, based on existing assets and infrastructure,” said State Sen. Jeff Golden, who served on the new program’s advisory council.


nominations for McNair Scholars program

Promising students sought for SOU McNair Scholars Program

SOU faculty and staff are asked to help identify and nominate students for the next cohort of SOU’s McNair Scholars Program, which has prepared eligible undergraduate students for post-graduate education since 2003.

A majority of past participants in the program have said they were encouraged by faculty or staff to apply, so the program’s director is seeking nominations of students who have shown academic promise and an interest in graduate school. Prospective McNair Scholars should be sophomores, juniors or early seniors.

Those who wish to be considered this spring for the 2020 cohort must submit their completed application packets by 3 p.m. on May 6.

The SOU program offers one-to-one guidance from faculty mentors as it helps participants complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school and prepare for doctoral studies. SOU’s McNair program serves 28 undergraduate scholars each year, and more than a dozen alumni have completed their doctoral programs since the program began 15 years ago.

Student participants in the nation’s 187 currently funded McNair programs are considered “targets of recruitment” for graduate admissions officers. They are offered fully-paid visitation opportunities and often given offers of admission that include all-expenses-paid packages with stipends for living expenses.

Benefits and resources available free of charge to participants in SOU’s McNair Scholars Program include seminars on topics pertinent to pre-doctoral students, advising, tutoring, access to a resource library, help with graduate school applications, travel assistance and more.

The program is named for Ronald E. McNair, who stood up for civil rights as a youth before becoming a physicist and astronaut. He was the second African-American to fly in space, but died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

The McNair program was initiated in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Education to increase doctoral studies by students from underrepresented and disadvantaged groups.

Those wishing to recommend a student for SOU’s McNair program should send the student’s name, email address and undergraduate major to program director Dee Southard at

Mike Rousell-SOU-Surprise-TEDx

Surprise! SOU’s Rousell discusses the brain, dopamine and change at TEDx

Mike Rousell, an associate professor of education at SOU, still remembers the surprise response he received from a teacher after complaining about his childhood dyslexia and learning difficulties. “Why don’t you become a teacher?” his instructor asked.

What that teacher may not have realized is that the unexpected comeback may have produced fertile ground in which the seeds of Rousell’s confidence as an academic and future educator could take root. Rousell has spent more than three decades as a psychologist and professor analyzing what he calls “surprise-driven formative events,” and offered a fast-paced, informative – and surprising – presentation at a TEDx Talks event held earlier this year in Salem and published recently on YouTube.

“Surprises to beliefs we hold about ourselves can be defining and formative,” he told the TEDx audience. “So now that you know what surprise-driven belief formation looks like, what does a surprise-driven formative event look like?

“Samantha used to think that her shyness was a weakness – that is, until one day when her swim coach named her captain of the swim team. He told the team, ‘She may be shy, but when she talks you’re going to want to listen.’ Since that surprise comment, she now feels quietly powerful.”

Rousell, who has taught full-time at SOU since 2008, was one of 11 speakers at the January TEDx event, the sixth in a Salem series. His 12-minute talk – “Surprise! How Your Brain Secretly Changes Your Beliefs” – examined how the human brain is affected by surprise and the groundwork for reevaluation is laid.

He said that surprise produces a jolt of dopamine, a chemical that enables the transmission of signals among the brain’s nerve cells. He said it’s “essentially a neurological error signal” that to human ancestors signaled inherent danger or opportunity.

And Rousell portrayed strategic surprise as a “life hack” that can enrich others’ lives.

“If you’re a teacher and you have a student who is frozen with the fear of making mistakes, catch that student making a mistake,” he said. “They will be surprised, and they will expect criticism. Surprise that student instead and say, ‘Your eagerness to make your mistakes so willingly make you a strong learner.’

“If you surprised that student, they got a burst of dopamine and they have to make sense of that. So now when they make those inevitable mistakes, they get a little hit of dopamine … which says, ‘Fight on, because you’re a strong learner.’ And that is the signal feature of a growth mindset.”

Rousell 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 accepting his position in the School of Education at SOU, and also has worked in private practice and school counseling as a certified psychologist.

He told the TEDx audience that humor is an effective tool in changing people’s beliefs, because of its frequent use of an element of surprise – and he offered an example. Rousell said that a consequence of his line of study is that he is often asked what has been the biggest surprise in his life.

“I was having a little disagreement with my wife and at the end of it she looked at me and she said, ‘you might be right,’” he said.

SOU Honors College Cherstin Lyon

New director hired at SOU Honors College

(Ashland, Ore.) — Cherstin Lyon – a history professor and co-director of the Faculty Center for Excellence at California State University, San Bernardino – has been hired as director of the Southern Oregon University Honors College following a national search. She will begin work at SOU on July 31.

Lyon, who visited the university for interviews in January, will be the second director of the Honors College. She will succeed Ken Mulliken, who created the Honors College in 2013 and left last summer to take a position at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

“I am confident that this outstanding program is in good hands and that Cherstin will help guide it to new heights,” SOU Provost Susan Walsh said in announcing the hire to campus on Thursday.

Prakash Chenjeri, a philosophy professor at SOU who has served in various honors programs for many years, is currently interim director of the Honors College and will continue in that role until Lyon’s arrival.

Lyon has served on the CSU-San Bernardino faculty since 2006. She also serves as a faculty associate in CSUSB’s Office of Community Engagement and on the Program Transformation Committee for its University Honors program.

She has served previously as an instructor at the University of Arizona, an adjunct faculty member at Utah Valley University and a graduate teaching fellow at both the University of Arizona and the University of Oregon.

Lyon received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the UO, and her Ph.D. from Arizona. Her doctoral thesis was on “Prisons and Patriots: The Tucsonian Draft Resisters of Conscience Of World War II,” and she is author of the book, “Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience and Historical Memory.”

The Honors College at SOU, currently in its sixth year, accepts students from any major. All who are accepted into the Honors College participate in specialized programs and hands-on experiences outside the classroom.


Creativity Conference at SOU

Second annual Creativity Conference at SOU to expand global conversation

Southern Oregon University will expand the global academic discussion of imagination and ingenuity this summer by presenting its second annual Creativity Conference at SOU – a four-day event expected to attract hundreds of participants from around the world.

The conference – on the SOU campus July 11-14 – is intended primarily for those who study creativity, but will also offer insights for those who consider themselves creative and those looking to leverage creative thinking in their fields.

Presentations will cover a wide variety of academic specialties, and working professionals will be able to participate in applied workshops featuring hands-on activities for developing and using creativity in the workplace.

Last year’s inaugural SOU Creativity Conference drew more than 300 people from 28 countries, to participate in about 175 presentations.

“I have been immersed in this field for over 30 years,” said Mark Runco, executive director of the SOU Creativity Conference and recently hired director of Creativity Research and Programming for the university.

“I have never seen an event anywhere near the one we had at SOU in 2018 – and will have again in July 2019,” he said. “Heck, 28 countries were represented, and many ‘big names’ in the field were here, and will be again. There really has been nothing like this – ever, anywhere.”

Runco has served as an endowed professor and creativity researcher at the University of Georgia and a research fellow at the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology. He is editor of the Creativity Research Journal and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Creativity, and has served as president of a division of the American Psychological Association dedicated to art, creativity and aesthetics.

Keynote speakers at this year’s Creativity Conference at SOU are Teresa Amabile, a Baker Foundation professor at Harvard Business School; and Dean Simonton, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

Amabile’s work focuses on individual creativity and productivity, and organizational creativity and innovation. Her keynote address will be presented by LEGO, a corporate sponsor of this year’s event.

Simonton’s studies have focused on human intelligence, creativity, greatness and the psychology that drives science.

Other featured speakers at this year’s conference will include Min Tang, director of the Institute for Creativity and Innovation at Germany’s University of Applied Management; Ron Beghetto, professor and director of the University of Connecticut’s Innovation House; Yael Katz, vice provost for academics at Canada’s Sheridan College; Jonathan Feinstein, professor of creative development at Yale University; Adam Green, of Georgetown University, founder and current president of the Society for the Neuroscience of Creativity; and Roger Firestien, senior faculty member and president of Innovation Resources, Inc., at State University of New York, Buffalo State.

Dan DeNeui, a conference organizer and director of SOU’s Division of Social Sciences, said the annual event provides an opportunity for creativity researchers to collaborate and broaden their network.

“The conference (last year) was a great way to get together and talk about how we can use creativity to solve problems,” DeNeui said.

This year’s program has not yet been announced, but is likely to be wide-ranging. Last year’s presentations ranged from “Fostering Creativity Through Virtual Environments” and “Attitudes toward creative people and innovators,” to “Rumination and Reflection During Art-Making.”

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.