New pathways to college access with agreement

Ashland district is second in a week to sign college access agreement with SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Ashland School District and Southern Oregon University finalized an intergovernmental agreement on Thursday to make the basic contact information of Ashland high school students available to SOU – less than a week after the university and Medford School District completed an identical pact. The groundbreaking agreements enable SOU to promote college attendance and provide timely enrollment guidance that may improve access to college, particularly for traditionally underserved students.

“Agreements such as these are rare in the world of higher education, but we anticipate additional partnerships with other local school districts in the weeks ahead,” said SOU Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Neil Woolf. “Our hope is to open pathways to college that haven’t previously existed for many high school students in our area.”

SOU President Rick Bailey said that raising awareness of the steps that are necessary to attend college – and offering support for those who are interested – will raise the prospects of students, the university and communities throughout the region.

“This latest agreement illustrates our ongoing partnership with the Ashland School District, and our shared commitment to the educational needs of all students – including those who may not have family histories of college attendance,” President Bailey said. “I am a first-generation college student myself, so I am well aware of how helpful it is to have someone who can point out both opportunities and obstacles.”

Ashland School District Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove said the arrangement with SOU will help address questions that some students may not otherwise be able to answer.

“We are excited to give our students access to information on local post-secondary options, and to learn about how post-secondary education is both possible and a good fit for their career and life interests after high school,” Bogdanove said. “Students need to know that college is within reach.

“Having a local university like SOU is an exceptional opportunity,” he said. “When students register for high school, they can elect to participate, or not, in sharing directory information with third parties, including colleges. By participating, students and their families have the opportunity to learn more about the options available to them.”

The school district will provide SOU with basic “directory information” about its students – name, school, mailing address, school email address, phone numbers and grade level or expected year of graduation. The agreement ensures that the district and university will comply with all federal and state privacy laws, and that no information will be provided about students whose parents have asked their school not to disclose the information.


Medford School District enters agreement with SOU

Medford district, SOU sign agreement to increase college access

(Ashland, Ore.) — A new intergovernmental agreement between Southern Oregon University and the Medford School District (MSD) will be “a game-changer for college awareness and access,” providing the basic contact information of MSD high school students so the university can offer them timely enrollment guidance and opportunities.

“What this will do is allow us to promote college attendance to all of the Medford School District’s students,” said SOU Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Neil Woolf, who described arrangements of this type as rare.

“This will help with improving access to and awareness of college possibilities for all students,” Woolf said. “It will improve access to college for underrepresented students in a number of ways, and it’s a testament to the good working relationship the Medford School District and SOU have built together.”

Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion said the goal of the new intergovernmental agreement is to give students in the district access to information that may help them discover life-changing academic pathways. The arrangement is intended to increase college attendance among Medford students.

“In the Medford School District, we have a shared vision: ALL are learning and learning is for ALL,” Champion said. “This partnership helps bring that shared vision to life for our students. SOU plays a key role in providing options for our students that are open and hopeful, in addition to guiding students to own their present and future. We are grateful for their partnership.”

SOU President Rick Bailey echoed the appreciation. “We are very excited about this new agreement, and are grateful to Superintendent Champion and his incredible team,” President Bailey said. “I am confident that this will become the new statewide role model for collaboration between public and higher education.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the school district will provide basic “directory information” about its students – name, school, mailing address, school email address, phone numbers and grade level or expected year of graduation. The document specifies that the district and university will comply with all federal and state privacy laws, and that no information will be provided about students whose parents have asked their schools not to disclose the information.

The agreement says the school district and university recognize the importance of “seamless transitions from secondary to postsecondary institutions,” and both are “committed to improving the options for K-12 students to succeed in college and be career-ready.”


Guanajuato students on SOU visit

Guanajuato students visit SOU for collaborative business development project

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is hosting nine business students this week from Universidad de Guanajuato, and will send nine SOU students to the Mexican university next month as the two longtime sister campuses launch a new collaboration on multicultural business development as part of a far-reaching program under the U.S. Department of State’s umbrella.

The 18 total students from SOU and UG are working together this week on development plans for three local businesses – Irvine Roberts Family Vineyards, Indigo Creek Outfitters and Northwest Pizza and Pasta – and will do the same for three Guanajuato businesses during the May exchange. The program also includes international, online coursework for participating students during this year’s winter and spring terms, and the opportunity for immersive social and cultural experiences.

SOU's Dee Fretwell with Giuanajuato visitors“This program is so valuable and unique,” said Dee Fretwell, the SOU business instructor who proposed the project along with UG business professor and SOU alumnus Martin Pantoja. “We push the boundaries of an exchange program, blending cultural experiences with hands-on business development for live, operating businesses. I’m not sure we as a society are even grasping how valuable this is to our students and businesses alike.”

The collaboration between SOU and UG – which have maintained a steady stream of exchange and cooperative projects since 1969 – is part of the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” program, sponsored by the State Department, the U.S. Embassies and the nonprofit organization Partners for the Americas. The SOU-UG partnership applied for and received a $25,000, one-year grant from the 100,000 Strong program, which now serves 534 higher education institutions in 25 Western Hemisphere countries and 49 U.S. states. There is hope that a funding source will be found to continue the new program beyond its inaugural year.

A unique link between SOU and UG has led more than 1,000 students, faculty members and others to participate in exchanges, and has resulted in more than 80 marriages tying people from Ashland and Guanajuato over three generations. In fact, the current SOU-UG project grew out of a previous partnership between the two schools – the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program, which brought together classes of upper-division business students to work on the development of international business relationships.

The collaborative relationship that Fretwell and Pantoja formed through that program provided a natural segue to the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” grant application.

SOU student RJ Henry, who is participating in this week’s events and will be among the nine from the Ashland campus who visit Guanajuato next month, called the program an “extraordinary opportunity” that will build cooperative skills and provide valuable real-life lessons.

“The 100K Strong program offers a remarkably exciting opportunity to embark on a life experience that combines business education with cultural immersion, while making new friends along the way,” Henry said. “The benefits are the various academic, travel, cultural and social activities, which include the development of business-related critical thinking skills within group work settings, and the experience of unique cultural perspectives.”

The Guanajuato exchange students arrived in the Rogue Valley last Saturday night. They have toured the community and SOU campus in the days since, and have had meetings or events with SOU President Rick Bailey, state Rep. Pam Marsh, Ashland Mayor Julie Akins, SOU’s Faculty Advisory Board, the university’s Small Business Development Center in Medford and Ashland’s Amigo Club – an organization of community members and alumni who support the Amistad exchange program and have created an endowed scholarship fund for participants.

The SOU and UG students have visited the three local businesses that are receiving development advice, and will present their business plans at a Friday event in SOU’s Stevenson Union. They will tour Lithia Park and go on a rafting excursion on Saturday before returning to Mexico on Sunday.

The students and participating faculty members from Guanajuato were welcomed to southern Oregon by Vincent Smith, director of SOU’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment, and a faculty leader for the project. He told the visitors that we face many problems in common as a global society, from the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, to environmental destruction and political conflict.

“You are here this week to assist three businesses in planning,” Smith told the SOU and UG students as this week’s field work began. “That is important work. It is practice for the many problems you will need to solve in your lives.

“Unfortunately, the problems you will need to solve are complex. They cannot easily be solved without collaboration and cooperation. In fact, unless we work together to solve these problems we will fail.”

Smith told students from the two universities that working together, developing friendships and building trust will provide their greatest strengths.

“We are more alike than we are different, but it is our differences that will help us solve the most complex problems,” he said.


Video tour of The Farm at SOU

The Farm at SOU is gearing up for the 2022 growing season

The Farm at SOU has begun its 2022 growing season, with more than 40 different crops planted, the resumption of a popular community agriculture program and the introduction of a new one.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares are again available for participants who wish to receive weekly produce boxes and, for the first time, The Farm is growing and preparing to sell garden starts. Both programs are open to community members, regardless of their relationship with SOU.

The Farm is a community-based and student-powered operation, located near the SOU campus on North Walker Street. It provides learning opportunities for students and locally-grown food for SOU students, employees and local residents.

The CSA program, which enables subscribers to receive fresh produce from the farm each week, is expected to have crops ready to harvest and on people’s tables by mid-May and continue into September. Members of the CSA will get a share of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown on the Farm, from corn and lettuce to peaches and apples. Those who would like to subscribe for shares of The Farm’s products can follow this link to join the CSA program.

“We farmers at SOU are passionate about having people eat good food,” said Vincent Smith, Division Director for SOU’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment, and The Farm’s primary overseer.

One of The Farm’s goals has been to promote self-sustaining agriculture in the community, which has led this year to the sale of plant starts for use in home gardens. All plants sold will be fully mature nursery starts, ready to plant upon purchasing. Plant starts are available for purchase here.

Please enjoy this short video featuring a tour of The Farm and its crops by Vincent Smith and SOU environmental science graduate student Elizabeth Mackey.

Learn more about the Farm here.

The Creativity Conference returns to SOU in July

Call for proposals: Creativity Conference at SOU

The annual Creativity Conference at SOU will return to the Southern Oregon University campus July 14 to 17, and all members of the SOU community are encouraged to propose presentations or consider attending the four-day conference.

Last year’s conference, which was held remotely, featured 112 presenters and 243 attendees from more than 30 countries. The 2022 conference will operate on a hybrid format, hosting presenters and attendees both in-person and online through video conferencing.

Faculty members and others who wish to make presentations at the conference should fill out the call-for-proposals form on the Creativity Conference website. Poster sessions at the event are considered to be a valuable interactive format for all researchers, and ideal for students seeking feedback on their work.

Those with questions about the conference may reach out to either Mark Runco at or Dan DeNeui at

This year’s scheduled keynote speakers include Bonnie Cramond, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia. Cramond is the former director of the University of Georgia’s Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development, and has served on the boards of several national and international organizations and journals related to creativity and giftedness.

The international conference features many of the world’s top scholars, researchers and practitioners in the field of creativity. It provides cutting-edge information and resources for those who are interested in learning more about the science and application of creativity research.

SOU joins First-gen Forward

SOU recognized as “First-gen Forward” institution

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been selected to be part of the 2022-23 cohort of First-gen Forward, a nationwide initiative to improve academic outcomes for first-generation college students. SOU will become one of about 300 higher education institutions to have received the designation, becoming eligible for professional development opportunities, community-building experiences and access to the research and resources of sponsoring organizations.

“This is a recognition of our hard work to level the playing field for first-generation and other non-traditional students,” said Neil Woolf, SOU’s vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “Our strategic planning process a few years ago identified seven ‘strategic directions’ for SOU, one of which is to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where all learners will flourish. We are committed to providing services to assist students from under-represented backgrounds to be successful.”

Higher education institutions must apply for the First-gen Forward designation, and demonstrate both buy-in by campus leaders and their campuses’ efforts to help students from non-academic backgrounds make the transition to college life. Existing SOU programs that focus either largely or wholly on supporting the needs of first-generation students include the Bridge Program, Advanced Southern Credit, Success at Southern/TRIO-SSS, the McNair Scholars Program and University Coaching & Academic Mentoring.

First-gen Forward is an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, known as NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and the Suder Foundation.

NASPA is a U.S.-based organization for student affairs professionals with more than 15,000 members at 1,200 campuses worldwide. It is dedicated to cultivating student success in collaboration with the missions of its institutional members. Texas tech and commercial real estate entrepreneurs Eric and Deborah Suder launched the Suder Foundation in 2008 with the goal of increasing graduation rates for first-generation college students.

“First-gen Forward is an exciting opportunity for Southern Oregon University to join a dedicated community of professionals prepared to share evidence-based practices and resources, troubleshoot challenges, generate knowledge and continue to advance the success of first-generation students across the country,” said Kevin Kruger, the president and CEO of NASPA. “We are excited to see a groundswell of activity from the First-gen Forward cohort and know SOU will be a significant contributor.”

The full 2022-23 cohort for First-gen Forward has not yet been announced, but other institutions that have achieved the designation since the program was launched in 2019 include just three others in Oregon – Portland Community College, University of Portland and Oregon State University.


Pacific Islander students from SOU

SOU to offer Pacific Islander Studies course

(Ashland, Ore.) —Southern Oregon University will offer a course this spring on Pacific Islander Studies, as part of the university’s new Ethnic and Racial Studies Program. The course – ERS 399, Introduction to Pacific Islander Studies – will offer students the opportunity to learn about, and from, the Oceania and the Moana peoples.

Pacific Islander Studies instructor Kris GalagoInstructor Kris Haina Galago, a Native Hawaiian scholar and Pacific Islander advocate, will share her knowledge and experiences.

“It is my hope that by teaching this course, I can bring Pacific Islander perspectives and presence to SOU and add to the growing and thriving Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander student community,” Galago said. “Students will be encouraged to join the conversation, contribute to the learning community and share lived experiences.”

Students will examine Pacific Island peoples’ origins and migration theories, the Pasifika hip-hop/island reggae movement, Polynesian sports representation, kava drinking ceremonies and more. The experiences of those who represent the largest populations in the United States will be examined, including Tongan, Samoan, Hawaiian and Maori.

The in-person course with a Zoom option will be offered on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 3:30 to 5:20 p.m., beginning March 28. SOU students can enroll in ERS 399, Introduction to Pacific Islander Studies, by using the CRN 7194.

To apply for admission to Southern Oregon University visit: Community members age 65 and over can audit the course tuition-free when space is available and with instructor approval; for details, visit

To learn more about the Ethnic and Racial Studies Program, visit

SOU launched the Ethnic and Racial Studies Program last fall, offering a 24-credit ERS minor. Learners in the program critically examine the myths and contradictions of race and racism, and explore what purposes these constructs serve in societies where hierarchies and inequalities exist. Students analyze the complex intersections of race and ethnicity within U.S. political and social structures, gaining insights into historic and contemporary racial inequality. They consider the effectiveness of various solutions put forth by public policy, academics and community activists.

The addition of the course in Pacific Islander studies advances SOU’s commitment to a diverse, equitable, inclusive community where learners will flourish.


Bella McCord Winchester and other SOU students resumed international experiences this year

SOU students get back to international experiences after COVID pause

International experiences have resumed this year for many Southern Oregon University students, following a pandemic-related pause that limited travel for most SOU programs.

Outdoor Adventure Leadership programs led the way in summer 2021, with eight students traveling to Ecuador, and nine to Mexico and Belize, as part of OAL’s signature international expedition experiences. Another 12 students traveled to a total of nine countries during fall term 2021, by way of study abroad and exchange programs offered through SOU’s Office of International Programs.

International programs offer students experiential education, in which every moment inside and outside the classroom can be a chance to dig deeper into language, culture and society. International travel is also a crash course in planning and preparation – even more so during COVID. For those students who navigated visa delays, vaccination and testing requirements for flights, and arrival quarantines, the payoff was worth it.

International Studies major Alia Sager wanted to improve her French language skills abroad, but getting there tookAlia Sager's international experiences were in France flexibility when her initial program location closed, and when French visas took extra long to be processed.

“My advice for other students studying abroad in the COVID era is not to get discouraged,” Sager said. “There were many days where I didn’t know if the trip would be possible or not.  Plan for the best!  Even if things seem unlikely, in my case it all pulled together right before and I was able to go.”

She spent the semester in Lyon, France through study abroad partner provider USAC, in the company of students from around the world.

“The one language we had in common was French,” Sager said. “I realized just how challenging the term would be … because I had to push myself out of my comfort zone so far on a daily basis I came back a completely different person who feels more confident and secure in who I am and what I have to offer.”

SOU Education Abroad advisor Ariel Bloomer, who helps students explore program options and provides guidance during the application and pre-departure process, said that students who step outside their comfort zone tend to “step into the growth zone.”

“Everyone’s comfort zone is different, though, which is why our study away program portfolio includes such a broad range of options,” Bloomer said.

The National Student Exchange program offers opportunities within the U.S. and Canada, while SOU direct exchanges and study abroad partner providers offer options around the world.

“These experiences can also help demonstrate to employers a range of desired skills, including cultural agility, adaptability, creative problem-solving, language and ability to navigate through new processes around visas and travel,” Bloomer said.

Isaac Wilson enjoyed international experiences in FinlandBusiness major Isaac Wilson’s highlights in Finland came from a trip into the Arctic Circle, where he met reindeer, rode snowmobiles and saw the magnificent lights of the Aurora Borealis.

“Studying abroad is an opportunity to mature as a person and a way to become more independent as a person coming into adulthood,” said Wilson, who is pursuing one of the unique year-long exchange options for business majors that results in a dual degree from his European host university after graduation.

“I was incredibly fortunate to be able to study in Korea during COVID,” said Communication major Sophie Haney, who spent the fall in Gwangju, South Korea.

“I would encourage anyone who wants to study abroad right now to find a way to do it safely because it was truly a life-changing experience,” Haney said. “I think the most important thing is to understand the safety procedures of whatever country you want to visit and make sure you are following them, because then you’ll be able to fully enjoy whatever opportunities are there.”

Exchange partner university Chonnam National University in South Korea was unable to hold in-person classes during the semester due to COVID, which was initially a disappointment for Emerging Media and Digital Arts major Ezra Farner, who also studied in Gwangju this fall.

Sophie Haney and Ezra Farner had many international experiences in South Korea“My advice to students traveling in COVID is to make the most of the opportunities you have and to not dwell too much on the things you can’t control,” Farner said. “I was hoping to be able to have in-person classes when I traveled abroad and that ended up not being the case – but the advantage of that was being able to travel to other cities and take classes from various places around the country!”

Senior Communication major Bella McCord recalled the re-opening of British theatre as one of the highlights of her semester on exchange with the University of Winchester.

“I saw four shows throughout my four months away and it was so fulfilling to be able to enjoy theatre again when COVID had taken it away for so long,” McCord said. “Plus, they were all favorites I had never seen live, or shows I had never seen before but I had been waiting for the opportunity to see for years (Wicked!).”

This year’s intrepid crop of student travelers emphasized safety and risk-mitigation as key to a successful time abroad.

“If you get sick while abroad it does feel like you’re wasting what precious little time you have. Wear your mask in public places even if others aren’t, and book the correct kind of COVID tests before entering and exiting,” she said, because countries specify which of the many types of tests are acceptable.

Business major Kyle Hart, studying for the year at University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said to “make sure thatKyle Hart's international experiences took him to Nottingham you are fully vaccinated and take care of yourself … but there is a lot more joy and things to learn than fear when you go abroad.”

Sophie Haney added that South Korea “had really strict quarantine procedures when we first got there and more limited public gathering options than the U.S., but it meant that we felt safe traveling within the country and taking advantage of the fun events and opportunities.”

Students wanting to explore options for travel for summer or during academic year 2022-23 should contact the Office of International Programs to set up an appointment to speak with an Education Abroad advisor, explore the OIP page on Inside SOU to browse available programs and talk with their academic advisor(s) about studying away for their major or minor.

Story by Ariel Bloomer, SOU Education Abroad advisor

SOU Esports teams practice daily at the Student Recreation Center

SOU Esports progresses to the next level

The Esports Management minor had its first graduate last fall, and the Raider Esports team has officially been accepted into the NACE StarLeague, the national league of college Esports. The association hosts tournaments in the spring and fall, in which schools from all over the country compete in various video game competitions.

SOU Esports currently has Rocket League and League of Legends teams registered, and is looking to add a Valorant team soon. Each competes with other teams, playing those specific video games. The SOU teams will compete regularly against other college and university teams, including UCLA and University of California, Bakersfield. They are currently looking for new players, and information about upcoming tryouts is on the team’s Instagram (@sou_esports). The team is holding practices throughout the week at the Esports Hub in the SOU Student Recreation Center, in preparation for upcoming competitions, which will be streamed live on Twitch.

SOU Esports lead Ashley RadThe Esports lead, SOU student Ashley Rad, has been hard at work guiding the team into this next phase.

“We heard back in about a week that we got accepted and I was super excited that our team was able to get this opportunity,” she said, regarding the application process for getting into NACE

Ashley became the team lead at the beginning of fall term 2021, and has quickly taken the team to new heights. She hosts tryouts, runs practices and registers for tournaments. She has lots of ambition and big plans for the team.

“I absolutely love this job and the Esports industry,” she said. “I have plans to expand more next year and I aim to make Esports a much bigger organization at SOU.”

Esports is a burgeoning industry that has only skyrocketed since the introduction of the Esports Management minor at SOU last year. Jeremy Carlton, a business faculty member at SOU who oversees the program, said “enthusiasm is off the charts” in an interview with SOU News. There are currently 10 students who have declared the minor, but many more who have expressed interest in declaring – and almost every Esports class fills up quickly each term. The program also saw its first graduate with the minor last fall – someone interested in working in the industry as a mental health advisor for professional Esports teams.

Interest in Esports is expected to continue rising following the pandemic, with 577 million viewers by 2024. It’s still in its infancy, and SOU is ahead of the curve in offering educational opportunities in the field. Courses in the university’s minor offer structural principles for the world of Esports, addressing the ethics of the industry, focusing on diversity, stomping out toxicity and teaching efficient business management. The minor complements majors of all kinds, but has lots of double-dipping opportunities in the Business, Communication and Emerging Media and Digital Arts programs. Goals for the program in the future are to bring in professional Esports competitors as guest speakers, and increase connections between the team and the minor.

Learn more about the Esports Management minor here and don’t forget to watch the Raider Esports Team on Twitch Mondays and Tuesdays.

Story and photos by Nash Bennett, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

The Cambia Health Foundation has awarded a grant to the SOU Foundation to support an SOU behavioral health micro-credential program

SOU awarded Cambia Health grant for behavioral health program

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Foundation is among seven higher education organizations in the West to receive grant funding from the Portland-based Cambia Health Foundation to increase diversity among students in health care programs and to expand outreach to potential health care students in underrepresented communities.

The Cambia Health Foundation is providing a two-year, $50,000 grant to the SOU Foundation for the “Southern Oregon Mental and Behavioral Health Pathways Initiative,” which will support training and increase the diversity of school and health care providers who offer behavioral supports for students.

About $35,000 will be used for scholarship assistance to paraprofessionals who complete professional development workshops at SOU as a first step toward the university’s “Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health” micro-credential. About $10,000 will be used to develop and teach additional workshops in the micro-credential program and about $5,000 will pay for marketing and communications expenses. Any unused portion of the course development or support money will revert to scholarship use.

“This micro-credential program represents an exciting new area of collaboration between SOU and our local K-12 and community partners,” said John King, director for education, health and leadership at SOU. “Together, we are pooling resources and expertise to train both current and new employees to better support the behavioral health needs of students throughout southern Oregon.”

The Cambia Health Foundation is donating a total of $320,000 to help fund seven higher education initiatives – through the SOU Foundation, University of Idaho Foundation, University of Utah Foundation, Utah Valley University Foundation, University of Washington Foundation, Eastern Washington University Foundation and Oregon Health & Science University in combination with Portland State University.

Cambia Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit health care company and the parent of various other companies including Regence, a member of the Northwest’s Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The foundation has funded more than $80 million in grants since 2007.

The current round of health equity grants are intended to help diversify the health care workforce and increase patient satisfaction, access to care and responsiveness to underserved populations.

“This regional health care workforce diversity initiative looks to break down the barriers of entry and completion of post-secondary health care education programs for minority and underrepresented students,” said Peggy Maguire, the president of Cambia Health Foundation. “Ultimately, our goal is to foster a diverse workforce that is culturally and linguistically representative of the communities it serves, to improve access to and quality of care while advancing health equity.”

SOU’s Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health micro-credential program is aimed at pre-kindergarten through high school teachers, classroom assistants and classified staff. The program, offered collaboratively with local K-12 school districts and community mental health agencies, prepares students to provide behavioral health assistance in a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed manner.