SOU Computer Science Building

SOU-led team receives NSF grant to develop “computational thinking” model

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been awarded a two-year, $299,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop the “computational thinking” skills of kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students in the Ashland and Phoenix-Talent school districts.

The grant is part of the NSF’s Computer Science for All program, which is intended to extend computer science and computational thinking opportunities to all K-12 students in the U.S. Curriculum developed by SOU-led researchers, in partnership with teachers in the two school districts, will be intended for use in schools nationwide.

“It’s critical for students to learn computational thinking skills during their early years of elementary school,” said lead researcher Eva Skuratowicz, director of the Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE). “That gives them the confidence to continue their learning in fields such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”

Computational thinking is the articulation of problems and solutions in logical, computer-like ways. Those skills enable people to decompose problems, identify patterns and design answers.

“CT solutions have evolved from general problem-solving skills because of advances in technology that have changed both the nature of problems that need to be solved and our ability to solve them,” said Maggie Vanderberg, an associate professor of computer science at SOU and research team member for the NSF project.

The two-year project, “Empowering K-5 Teachers in Southern Oregon Through CT,” will begin in October. For the first year, researchers and a small group of educators will work side-by-side to develop and assess CT classroom strategies. During the second year, a total of 16 local teachers – two each from the Phoenix-Talent School District’s Orchard Hill, Phoenix and Talent elementary schools, and the Ashland School District’s Bellview, John Muir, Helman, Walker and Willow Wind elementary schools – will be chosen to collaborate on the project.

Skuratowicz and her research team were awarded the highly competitive NSF grant on their third attempt. Their proposal has been developed over the past four years in collaboration with the two local school districts.

“It is a great honor for SOU to be chosen by the National Science Foundation to lead this important and far-reaching project,” said SOU Provost Susan Walsh, the university’s chief academic officer. “This is a tribute not only to the tenacity of the research team, but to the sense of collaboration that drives our university.”

Eping Hung, a computing teacher at Ashland’s Willow Wind Elementary School, has helped to develop the grant project, along with Gladys Krause from Virginia’s William and Mary College and Joseph Wilson from the American Institutes for Research.


Excavation by SOULA at Britt Gardens site

SOU Laboratory of Anthropology receives grant to complete Britt project

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology has received a grant of about $15,000 from a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to analyze and report on artifacts unearthed during 2010-11 digs at Jacksonville’s Peter Britt Gardens.

Britt GardensThe excavations by SOULA were conducted as the city of Jacksonville prepared for a restoration project on the 4.5-acre Britt Gardens site. But funding dried up and the archeological findings were never fully studied to develop a detailed picture of life at the 1800s homestead.

“We are thrilled to receive the Preserving Oregon grant,” said Chelsea Rose, a research archeologist with SOULA. “The Britt Gardens Site is one of the most important archaeological resources in southern Oregon, and this funding will allow us to analyze and interpret the thousands of artifacts from the Britt homestead and share our findings about this fascinating family with the local community, tourists and interested scholars.”

The grant is one of 18 that were awarded this summer by the state parks’ Oregon Heritage division for historic and archeological projects throughout Oregon. Each was approved by the state Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation.

Peter Britt historical photo

Peter Britt

About 30,000 artifacts were recovered during the excavations nine years ago. Britt – an early Rogue Valley settler – was a painter, photographer and horticulturist whose photos of Crater Lake were instrumental in creation of the national park in 1902. The SOULA excavations included the site where Britt built a log cabin upon reaching Jacksonville in 1852.

“Everyone always asks archaeologists what our favorite find is,” Rose said. “Mine came from the Britt Gardens Site – two glass plate photograph negatives with images on them.

“This grant finally gives us the opportunity to tell the story of these artifacts, and hundreds of others, and what they can reveal about the lives of the Britt family and their experience in 19th century Jacksonville.”

The grant will pay for artifact analysis, site mapping, illustration and photography of the excavation project, and compilation of a detailed report on archeological findings. SOULA is also working with the university’s Hannon Library to create a digital artifact collection that will feature more than 100 artifacts from the Britt site.


Participants welcomed to Creativity Conference at SOU

Second annual Creativity Conference at SOU sets new benchmark

This summer’s second annual Creativity Conference at SOU attracted leaders of the academic field and working professionals looking for ways to bring creativity into their work, and set a high-water mark in the process.

Last month’s four-day conference got kudos from participants for the breadth, depth and structure of its presentations.

“The first conference at SOU (in 2018) was a huge success – and 2019 improved on it,” said Mark Runco, executive director of the SOU Creativity Conference and the university’s director of Creativity Research and Programming.

Dan DeNeui, a conference organizer and director of SOU’s Division of Social Sciences, said the annual conference is building a loyal following.

“Many of our attendees (at this year’s event) attended last year’s conference, and a large majority of this year’s attendees indicated that they will likely return again next year,” DeNeui said.

Overall, this year’s Creativity Conference drew more than 240 attendees and presenters from a total of 25countries. It featured more than 180 talks, panels and posters on topics such as learning through creative play, creativity and well-being, creative problem-solving and the importance of creative spaces.

“Great range of presentations, styles and approaches to applying creativity in various areas of work, government and education,” one participant wrote in an evaluation of the conference.

Creativity Conference at SOUThis year’s keynote speakers were Teresa Amabile, a Baker Foundation professor at Harvard Business School; Dean Simonton, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Davis; and Torrie Allen, who will become the president and CEO of Arts Midwest this month.

Amabile’s work focuses on individual creativity and productivity, and organizational creativity and innovation. Her keynote address was presented by LEGO – which served as a corporate sponsor of this year’s conference, along with Scienceworks, OSF, SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art and six other companies or organizations.Creativity Conference at SOU

Simonton’s studies focus on human intelligence, creativity, greatness and the psychology that drivesscience. Allen, who takes over the lead position at Arts Midwest this month, was previously the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s director of development and has been a national arts leader for 15 years.

Runco said this year’s panel discussions were also popular, and participants enjoyed the “boom talks” feature. “The presenter has 10 minutes to share their most important idea – boom!” he said.

“One attractive thing about the SOU conferences is that they bring together researchers and practitioners – academics producing cutting-edge research – as well as individuals who have quite successfully applied creativity to business, the arts, counseling and education,” Runco said. “The conferences cover a huge amount of ground, but the format allows the audience to stay energized.”

Creativity Conference at SOUOther featured speakers at this year’s conference included 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, the 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.

“This was an exciting conference for me,” another conference participant wrote in evaluating the event. “I’m not a creativity researcher, but use the field’s research in my work. I appreciated the mix of research and practical application, the quality of research and other work presented, the energy level of everyone involved and the care taken in planning the event. It was terrific.”

The annual event also provides an opportunity for creativity researchers to collaborate and broaden their network.

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

(All images by Michael D. Davis)

Creativity Conference at SOU     Creativity Conference at SOU



SOU's entirely online Master of Science in Education degree program

SOU introduces 100 percent online master’s programs in education

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has expanded its selection of online advanced degrees with this month’s launch of a master of science in education program with three areas of concentration.

The program, designed primarily for working adult learners, provides pathways for career advancement and leadership roles in schools, corporations and nonprofit agencies. Students choose between concentrations in Leadership in Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, and Curriculum and Instruction in STEM Education.

The master’s in education program consists of courses taught by SOU faculty members that total 45 credit hours, regardless of the concentration chosen. The program can be completed in as few as 16 months, for tuition totaling $16,605.

SOU’s new offerings will join an online master of business administration program with options for five concentrations that began in January 2018 and now serves more than 100 students.

SOU offers both the online MBA and the new online master’s in education programs in cooperation with Academic Partnerships, a Texas-based educational support company that works with select universities across the country to provide online degree programs.

Academic Partnerships offers staff and expertise to promote the programs and recruit prospective students, studying the non-traditional student population to help its partner institutions create effective strategies for adult learners.

SOU provides faculty and academic programing, and aligns its coursework with current trends in schools and the workplace by maintaining close connections with regional employers.

The new programs at SOU offer five start dates per year. Candidates with bachelor’s degrees in any discipline will be considered for admission; no teaching license or GRE score is required.

The master’s in education curriculum will feature real-world applications designed to enhance leadership skills on the job and in the broader community.


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.