Mock homicide crime scene tape

SOU criminology and computer science students to solve (mock) homicide

Students from Southern Oregon University’s Criminology and Criminal Justice, Computer Science and Theatre departments will work together this week to create and manage something rather horrific – a homicide crime scene.

The exercise will be a cross between a first responder scenario and the Clue board game (think Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum). Four groups from the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department’s crime scene analysis class (CCJ 321) and the Computer Science Department’s computer forensics class (CS 346) will take as long as an hour each to process the mock crime scene and determine if the evidence points to a particular suspect.

Students from SOU’s Theatre Department, meanwhile, will put their skills to use by playing roles and providing realistic-looking blood and wound “evidence” for the homicide scene.

It will all play out for three-plus hours beginning at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, in the Greensprings D residence hall.

The mock crime scene is being led by Tiffany Morey, a senior instructor in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department and a former lieutenant with the North Las Vegas Police Department. She often stages realistic experiences for her students, including “shoot/don’t shoot” drills that offer a taste of the split-second decision-making that’s required of police officers.

More than 40 SOU students will use Tuesday’s mock crime scene to test everything they’ve learned in their computer forensics and criminal investigation classes. Each of the four groups will have opportunities to interview witnesses, collect evidence, analyze blood spatters, test for gunshots and process technical evidence.

Each group will finish by filling out a crime scene packet, which asks them to analyze all their evidence “to present to the district attorney” – and to explain who commited the murder.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

View from the Balkans Via Dinarica White Trail

Outdoor adventure master’s students present on Balkans trip

Outdoor adventure master’s students present on Balkans trip

Graduate students returning from a 35-day trip to the Balkans will offer a multimedia presentation on their adventures in SOU’s Meese Auditorium from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The free event includes a short film, refreshments and a Q&A session.

The students of SOU’s Master of Outdoor Adventure and Expedition Leadership Program (MOAEL) backpacked along the Via Dinarica White Trail, which travels through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania. The trail includes ancient castles to explore, beautiful waterfalls to observe and challenging cliffs to climb.

Culminating trips such as the Balkans expedition take place during the summer quarter of the MOAEL course, and are followed by the fall quarter’s presentation. The event comes at the tail-end of the MOAEL track, and counts as the final thesis for the course, synthesizing the graduate study experience.

The master’s program, which is now in its second full year, spans five consecutive quarters at SOU and incorporates a cohort model in which learning communities of 10 to 12 students work together toward their summer quarter international expedition. The program prepares students to be leaders and entrepreneurs in the outdoor adventure field, combining classroom theory with experiential field work.

A bachelor’s degree program in Outdoor Adventure Leadership has been a popular option at SOU for the past several years. It teaches technical abilities, judgment and interpersonal skills, preparing students to work in outdoor adventure positions.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Lisa Warner, Friday Science Seminar guest lecturer

Friday Science Seminar offers double-dip

Lisa Warner, an assistant professor in the Biomolecular Research Center at Boise State University, will get down-in-the-weeds sciencey during this week’s Friday Science Seminar at SOU. She will discuss her findings on how anaerobic bacteria turn inorganic carbon compounds into organic carbon compounds and will also talk about her workshops on the “Chemistry of Color and Art.”

The free lecture will be held in the Science Building Auditorium (Room 151) from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., with light refreshments provided by SOU’s STEM Division. The presentation is part of the Friday Science Seminars program, which offers events each week on topics ranging from astronomy to computer science to this week’s topic, biochemistry.

The first half of the science seminar presentation is about the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium thermocellum. What’s interesting about C. thermocellum is that it grows when introduced to CO2, even though it lacks the enzymes that would normally turn CO2 into formate – the substance needed to cause that growth. Warner has experimentally shown that C. thermocellum instead uses one-carbon metabolism and pyruvate-formate lyase to turn inorganic compounds containing carbon into formate.

If that’s not your speed, you may still want to learn about Warner’s “The Chemistry of Color and Art” workshops. These workshops were designed to get high school and college students, and community members, interested in chemistry and science by presenting it through the lens of art. Warner plans to reflect on the successes and failures of the workshop, and ultimately reassert her commitment to hosting it.

Warner’s research centers around understanding the relationship between the structures and functions of biomolecules. Among other things, she focuses on individual molecules and uses a number of highly complex techniques (one of which is called high-resolution magic angle spinning) to figure out how those molecules are put together.

She researches in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Boise State University.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, will be one of the stops during an SOU field course

Ecuador adventure awaits SOU’s students in new summer class

SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy program will mix academics with vacation-type fun in a field course next summer, focusing on tourism’s impact on the culture, environment, and biodiversity of Ecuador.

The course, Ecoadventure: Andes to Amazon (ES 408/508), is worth six credits and will take place some time over the summer. It’ll be taught on SOU’s campus, online and in the Republic of Ecuador, as the course includes a 12-day trip to the South American country. Vincent Smith, an associate professor and chair of Environmental Science and Policy, is expected to teach the course.

The course will focus on the impacts of tourism and development on the culture and environment of Ecuador,” Smith said. “Students will further explore tropical ecology and biodiversity in two distinct regions of Ecuador.”

During the course, students will take tours of the Mindo Wildlife Canopy and Ecuador’s capital Quito, raft in the Napo River, visit the Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardens and the Papallacta Hot Springs, take a Pacmanca Cooking Class, and much more.

The total cost is expected to be about $4,000, including six credits of tuition and a trip fee that will include airfare, lodging, food and ground transportation. The course is open to all students, regardless of their major.

Those who are interested in learning more about the field course are asked to fill out an online form to receive emails regarding trip updates, registration deadlines, exact costs and other details. While the exact dates for the course will be set during Winter Term, the trip to Ecuador is expected to leave the Medford airport on about July 13.

Smith has taught a number of classes at SOU, including last summer’s Ecoadventure: Mayan Riviera course, which focused on marine biology, sustainable development and tourism. His research explores the coupled human-environment systems that shape the world. Smith’s work spans from human ecology to agroecology.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Satellite program coordinator Susan Faller instructs prospective teachers

Coalition of colleges educates rural teachers in satellite program

Southern Oregon University, Southwestern Oregon Community College and Klamath Community College are teaming up to help aspiring teachers from Klamath Falls, Coos Bay and Brookings earn bachelor’s degrees in education and teaching licenses, all with minimal commuting.

For the past three years, the satellite teaching program has helped students from rural communities – who often work full-time jobs or have studied in other fields but want to start teaching – by making a degree from SOU’s School of Education more accessible. It allows students to take most of their classes online or in the evenings in their community, and lets them do all of their student teaching in their hometowns.

“There is a significant teacher shortage right now and it is incredibly difficult to find teachers for our rural communities,” said SOU faculty member Susan Faller, the program’s coordinator. “These satellite programs are fantastic because we are pulling from the community itself – people who already are invested in their towns and want to be part of the education of future generations.”

The first cohort of satellite students recently graduated, and are currently working as fully-licensed teachers in their home communities. There are currently more than 75 students participating in the program.

Meetings for those interested in the satellite program are at the Brookings SWOCC Campus from 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22; the Coos Bay SWOCC Campus from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23; and Klamath Community College from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. For more information, contact Susan Faller.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's Alison Burke receives Fulbright scholarship

SOU criminology professor awarded Fulbright scholarship to teach in Bosnia

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University criminology and criminal justice professor Alison Burke has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to lecture and teach a course on women and crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Burke will serve at the University of Sarajevo during the current 2019-20 academic year. She received a four-month teaching assignment that will begin in February.

Fulbrights are among the most prestigious scholarships in academia, and Burke’s award is the third for an SOU faculty member in three years. Erik Palmer, an associate professor of communication at SOU, is currently teaching and conducting research as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Ghana. Theatre arts professor Eric Levin was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in Ireland during the 2017-18 academic year.

“It is a huge honor for me to participate in the Fulbright program and collaborate with colleagues at the University of Sarajevo,” Burke said. “Living and working in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a phenomenal learning experience and I look forward to returning to SOU with new international connections, deeper cultural appreciation and a fresh perspective I can share with my students.”

Burke, who has been an SOU faculty member for 11 years, served in a variety of juvenile justice positions before earning her doctorate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008 and shifting her career to higher education.

Her research interests include gender and juvenile justice, and delinquency prevention. She teaches four courses – Introduction to Criminology, Theories of Criminal Behavior, Crime Control Theories and Policies, and Juvenile Delinquency – and a seminar series that includes a segment on women and crime.

Burke earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Mexico and her master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has also studied at England’s Oxford University.

Her work has appeared in publications including the International Journal of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Journal of Active Learning in Higher Education and the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. She has authored the books “Gender and Justice: An Examination of Policy and Practice Regarding Judicial Waiver,” published in 2009 by VDM Publishing; and “Teaching Introduction to Criminology,” published this year by Cognella Press.

Burke is SOU’s 18th Fulbright scholar. The university’s first Fulbright scholarship was awarded to Economics Professor Byron Brown for the 1986-87 academic year, which he spent lecturing on economics at Karl Marx University in Budapest, Hungary.

Fulbright scholarships are part of a merit-based, international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was founded by former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright and has awarded scholarships each year since 1948. It currently offers about 8,000 grants annually for graduate study, research, lecturing and teaching in more than 160 participating countries.


Ronald McNair Scholarship program

The McNair Scholarship Program seeks professor-nominated students

The SOU McNair Scholarship Program recently opened its application period, and is seeking assistance from faculty members in finding students who can benefit from the intensive McNair Program.

The majority of McNair Program Scholars reported that they heard of the program by being nominated and/or encouraged by an SOU faculty member. Dee Southard, the program director of the McNair Program, encourages faculty to nominate sophomore, junior or early senior students for the McNair Program by emailing her the students’ names, SOU email addresses and undergraduate majors.

Since 2003, SOU has been home to a McNair Program funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The SOU program offers one-on-one guidance from faculty mentors as it helps participants complete their undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school and prepare for doctoral studies. More than a dozen SOU McNair alumni have completed their doctoral programs since the program began 15 years ago.

Dedicated to Ronald E. McNair, a civil rights activist and astronaut, the McNair Program is for students facing socio-economic adversity who want to achieve a graduate education. However, Southard recommends ignoring that criterion when selecting students to nominate for the scholarship, as she’ll be giving advice and information to all who are nominated, even if they don’t make the McNair cut.

McNair Scholars are “targets of recruitment” for graduate programs across the nation. Students who participate are also often offered fully-paid campus visitation opportunities, have their graduate application fees waived and frequently receive offers of multiple years of funding support.

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. SOU’s McNair program serves 28 undergraduate scholars each year.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's Hala Schepmann is co-director of $1 million NSF grant project

SOU professor to co-direct $1 million NSF grant to advance women in STEM

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University chemistry professor Hala Schepmann will co-direct a five-year, $999,899 National Science Foundation project to support mid-career women faculty members nationwide in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The project – Advancing STEM Careers by Empowering Network Development (ASCEND) – will focus in two directions. It will help individual faculty members advance their careers and also address systemic issues that prevent mid-career women from achieving full professorships and leadership positions in their disciplines and institutions.

Schepmann and co-directors from Willamette University, Western Oregon University and Gonzaga University in the Northwest; John Carroll University and University of Detroit Mercy in the Midwest; and Claflin University, Furman University and the Citadel in the Southeast will lead the project that will include as many as 75 participants. Colleges and universities in the three regions will collaborate to provide educational opportunities, training resources and professional support.

The NSF grant to support the project began this month and will run through September of 2024.

“The ASCEND project aims to both develop women leaders among faculty and enable university administrators to remove systemic and institution-specific barriers to support the advancement of a diverse STEM faculty,” Schepmann said. “Professional development trainings will focus on self-advocacy, collaboration, leadership, change implementation, conflict resolution and negotiation.”

The grant is part of the NSF’s ADVANCE program, which is intended to increase the representation and advancement of women faculty members in STEM fields. It is part of the NSF’s strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce. The NSF has invested more than $270 million in ADVANCE projects at over 100 institutions nationwide since 2001.

The ASCEND project that Schepmann is co-directing is one of two prestigious NSF grants announced this fall that have SOU faculty members in leadership roles. A two-year, $299,000 NSF grant to develop the “computational thinking” skills of kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students is being led by Eva Skuratowicz, an adjunct professor of sociology and anthropology, and director of the SOU Research Center (SOURCE).

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Dr. Schepmann received this grant,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This award acknowledges Hala’s substantial commitment to increasing the advancement of women in science, and paves the way for SOU to continue to make a significant contribution to this important work.”

Co-directors of the ASCEND project will lead the creation of peer mentoring networks in each of the project’s three regions. Members of the networks will meet online each month and in-person once per year to collectively identify barriers to their professional advancement and strategies to address them.

Each regional network will be made up of one administrator “alliance” made up of four or five academic leaders and five faculty “alliances,” each aligned with a STEM-specific academic discipline and made up of four or five members.

“In collaboration with faculty, administrators will strategically design and implement comprehensive campus-specific change plans that reduce barriers encountered by women in STEM fields, create more equitable communities and foster the retention and advancement of a diverse STEM faculty population,” the project’s written summary says.

The project is intended to establish a “critical mass” of change and precipitate reforms that benefit women in STEM fields throughout U.S. higher education.

More information is available on the ASCEND program website.


English Program's spooky story contest is underway

Thirteen words to haunt and terrify in English Program’s spooky writing contest

How scary can a sentence be? Participants in this year’s 13-Word Scary Story Contest are trying to find out.

Students, faculty, staff and members of the Ashland community are encouraged to submit up to two entries each in the English Program’s challenge. The rules are simple; the entries must be exactly 13 words, and must also be scary. The deadline for the short stories is Oct. 16 and should be sent to Margaret Perrow via email.

Last year, Peter Doolin was picked in blind judging by English Program faculty as the winner with his entry, “In the mirror, a set of eyes stare back that aren’t my own. Just like last year, the winner of the 2019 contest will get a $50 gift card, while the runner up will receive a $25 gift card.

The two winning entries and a selection of runners-up will also be published on SOU News. Check out last year’s selected stories here.

While this may only be the second year the English department has asked for spooky short stories, the program is no stranger to contests. Ever since one of its faculty members read an article about public literary displays in 2016, the English Program has been hosting literary contests.

Their first foray into writing challenges was a six-word story contest with an autumn theme. Now their 13-Word Scary Story Contest is turning into a tradition, much like the poetry contest they host each spring. Winners of that contest also receive gift cards, and the writer of the first-place submission is invited to be a featured reader in the English Program’s annual poetry-reading event.

The English Program’s mission – which it promotes through its writing contests – is to encourage a love of words, language and literature (regardless of how many words it takes).

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Students working in Digital Cinema degree program

Digital Cinema promo makes it to silver screen

A video created by SOU students to promote the university’s new Digital Cinema degree program will screen before films at Coming Attractions Theatre locations across Oregon, northern California, Washington and Alaska.

“You’re always excited when your students’ work gets screened,” said Professor Andrew Gay, the program coordinator of Digital Cinema. “Usually that’s in film festivals … this is the widest audience any SOU production has ever had.”

The pre-show promo will be shown at 18 theaters, including the Varsity Theatre in Ashland, between Oct. 11 and Dec. 31. The promotion was an entirely free show of support for the Digital Cinema major from Coming Attractions.

“(The promo) was a lot of really hard work,” said Sophia Miller, an SOU alumnus who directed numerous segments of the promo. “It helped a lot of people bond across departments.”

The video was created by SOU students attending Gay’s class. He wrote the script for the promotion but the rest of the production – camera operation, acting, editing, visual effects, etc. – was handled entirely by SOU students.

“I didn’t know that (the promo would be shown in theaters). That’s really exciting because a lot of people will get to see the work we did, and it’ll bring more students to SOU and to the program,” Miller said.

The Digital Cinema degree was introduced earlier this year, and focuses on pairing traditional film school experiences with education about new forms of video media and the teaching of innovative problem-solving techniques. Learn more about the Digital Cinema degree at

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer