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.


Kelly Taylor, a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates

SOU alumni working as Court Appointed Special Advocates

Several SOU alumni are volunteering this year as Court Appointed Special Advocates – a national organization that provides volunteer support and aid for children that have experienced abuse or neglect, and are struggling within the court system. The Jackson County division of CASA has welcomed many past and present SOU students as volunteers in recent years.

Kelly Taylor got his master of arts in teaching degree at SOU in 2006, and began teaching kindergarten shortly after. He had contact with CASA volunteers as part of that job, and eventually began volunteering himself, alongside his wife.

He currently works with two children, whom he visits at least once a month – developing personal relationships with them and their families, and offering a friendly figure to connect with. After spending time with the children, he writes court reports on their cases to help a judge make decisions for the children in a court of law.

“I got involved with CASA because I fervently believe that it takes every one of us to somehow do our part to make the Rogue Valley the best place it can be,” Kelly said, recounting why he decided to join CASA.

He enjoyed being able to get involved in the community, and the volunteer work has been very fulfilling. In general, he encourages help in the community in many different ways. CASA has been a great way for him to give back, along with activities such as nature maintenance crews, feeding the less fortunate and donating to charities.

Another SOU alum making strides with CASA is Alicia Linton Ambrocio, who majored in criminal justice with a minor in psychology at SOU. She started as an intern for CASA during her senior year of college, became a full-fledged volunteer shortly after and has now moved up to the position of case supervisor for the organization.

Alicia became inspired to work for CASA through her studies of the justice system, and realizing the potential for prejudice against people of color and other minority groups.

“Working for CASA is honestly some of the most rewarding work I have ever done,” she said. “Working with the families, putting a face to these court cases, and amplifying the children’s voices is so important, real differences can be made (in) the process.”

Alicia has found that the work done for CASA-supported children and families can have a long-lasting result on the community as a whole.

There are at least 10 current or former SOU students involved with CASA in Jackson County. The program provides its volunteers the opportunity to support children in need and foster a better overall environment for them and the communities in which they live. More information for those interested in getting involved with CASA and making a difference in children’s lives is available at this link.

Story by Nash Bennett, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Former state Supreme Court judge Virginia Linder and SOU employee Katherine Cable appointed as SOU trustees

SOU employee and retired state Supreme Court justice appointed to university board

(Ashland, Ore.) — Retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Virginia Linder and Katherine Cable, a registration systems analyst at Southern Oregon University, have been appointed by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees. Both will begin their service to the board in July.

Linder will serve a four-year term and will succeed Megan Lightman, who left the board in June 2021. Cable will succeed janelle wilson, who has served as the SOU non-faculty staff member on the 15-member board since 2018. She will serve a two-year term.

“As a graduate of SOU, I have a deep fondness for the university and for southern Oregon,” said Linder, who earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at SOU in 1975.

“SOU is a vital asset to this region of our state,” she said. “I am honored by this appointment and look forward to engaging and contributing to the board’s work in meeting the needs of SOU’s students and the surrounding community.”

Cable has a bachelor’s degree in emerging media and digital arts from SOU and is working on a second bachelor’s degree in English.

“As a lifelong student, I’ve attended classes on many campuses in three states, and SOU is by far my favorite of them all,” Cable said. “I’m proud to call myself an alumna and staff member of this university, and I look forward to serving and doing my part to make SOU the best we can be.”

Linder received her law degree from the Willamette University School of Law in 1980, then practiced in various capacities with the Oregon Department of Justice until 1997, when she was appointed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. She served there until 2006, when she was elected to the Oregon Supreme Court, where she served through December 2015. She also served as an adjunct professor of law at Willamette Law from 1997 through 2006.

Linder, who lives in Salem, said she is proud of her work as a lawyer and judge that has helped to break barriers for women, the LGBTQ community and others who have been traditionally excluded or marginalized.

Cable came to SOU as an academic records coordinator in 2016 and is now the registration systems analyst supporting the registrar’s office with information technology and systems. Prior to her time at SOU, she worked as a lifeguard, fugitive investigator, Arabic linguist, U.S. Marine, emergency medical technician and network services engineer, among many other roles.

“The SOU Board of Trustees is pleased to welcome these trustees to the board in July,” said Daniel Santos, the board chair. “Their diverse expertise and insight will help advance the mission of SOU and the work of the board. We also thank Trustees Lightman and wilson for their tremendous contributions to the SOU Board.

“We are doubly lucky that Virginia and Katherine both have been appointed,” Santos said. “As alumni who both have remained engaged in this institution, I know their care for SOU will only strengthen our future work together.”


SOU computer science graduate Austin Shadel

Recent SOU computer science grad protecting clients against drone attacks

It all sounds very cloak-and-dagger, but Austin Shadel sees it more as an extension of his longstanding interest in drones and robotics, and his academic focus on computer science over the past five years at Southern Oregon University. Shadel graduated in June and went to work as a software engineer at Citadel Defense Company – an industry leader in counter unmanned aerial systems (cUAS) that serves clients in the defense, government and business communities.

“The fact that the company was involved in the drone space attracted me,” Shadel said. “The company is only about 30 of us, so it’s a very small, close team – you end up working with everyone in some way.”

Recent SOU computer science grad protecting clients against drone attacks

A drone that Austin Shadel designed in high school

Citadel helps customers in 13 countries manage the potential and real threats posed by unmanned aerial systems – drones. Its standalone and integrated counter-drone products address safety, security and privacy concerns, using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to autonomously detect, track and “neutralize” drone threats.

A news story distributed nationwide when Citadel was acquired earlier this month by leading national security contractor BlueHalo described the cUAS company’s products as “technologies critical to the warfighter.”

“When defending against drone swarms and difficult-to-detect threats, Citadel’s AI/ML-powered systems allow operators to identify and terminate enemy UAS threats with unmatched speed, accuracy and reliability,” said the story, distributed by the news service Business Wire.

“Citadel’s industry-leading solutions create a distinct operational advantage for servicemen and servicewomen on the front lines.”

Shadel sees his position as primarily technical, but the protection of clients’ property – and lives – is the company’s top concern. He said the new relationship with BlueHalo will expand Citadel’s capabilities and resources, and will benefit military and intelligence customers.

“The company will continue to provide automated and AI-powered counter-drone solutions to keep servicemen and servicewomen protected from the rapidly growing threat of weaponized drones and swarms,” he said. “Our software development team will continue to build paradigm-shifting solutions and integrate new capabilities that provide protection beyond the cUAS mission.”

Shadel, 24, graduated from SOU in June with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He grew up in the San Diego area – where he recently returned to work at Citadel – and then chose to attend college at SOU because he wanted to experience a different environment while pursuing his passion for robotics, drones and coding.

“Ashland is a very pretty area and I was excited to go to school somewhere where I could experience seasons, as in San Diego it always feels like it’s summer,” he said. “Computer science had always been an academic focus of mine since high school. I pursued computer science-related activities in high school, such as being on the robotics team and taking all the engineering courses I could.

“I’ve been interested in robotics and coding in general since early high school. I used to build drones from parts I’d buy at hobby stores and go out flying them with a friend. At one point I was 3D printing drone frames for fun. I enjoyed the process of designing, building and watching something I built work.”

Shadel said his capstone courses were his favorites, and his best memories from five years at SOU were of the friends he made and the study sessions they held together for their computer science courses. The problem-solving skills and flexibility he learned at SOU have prepared him for the ever-changing demands of his new position.

“A lot of my duties and responsibilities are centered around assuring the reliability of the (counter-drone) system, so this involves extensive testing and bug-hunting on any new or existing feature,” he said. “Mixed in with this, also, is the designing of new features to meet what customers are asking for directly.

“Often times in a start-up-type environment you have to wear a lot of different hats to get the job done. So being comfortable being out of your comfort zone and being willing to learn quickly is a must-have in my opinion, for these types of situations.”

Distinguished Alumni Award winner Fred Mossler and three others to be honored

SOU Distinguished Alumni Award recipients to be recognized

An entrepreneur and former Zappos executive, a chemist working toward a cure for Duchene muscular dystrophy, a conservation and youth program leader, and the architect of an award-winning band program will be honored Thursday during a Homecoming Weekend luncheon to recognize Southern Oregon University’s annual Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

Fred Mossler, who earned his bachelor’s degree from SOU in 1990 and helped lead upstart online retailer Zappos to prominence, will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award and Susan Ramos-Hunter, Ph.D., who earned her SOU bachelor’s degree in 2010, will receive the Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

This year’s Stan Smith Alumni Service Award will go to Greg Wolley, who received his master’s degree in environmental education at SOU in 1981 before embarking on a career in conservation management with a focus on opportunities for youth and people of color. The Excellence in Education award will be presented to Scott Kneff, who earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance at SOU in 1999; he has nearly tripled band participation in the Southern California community of Santa Paula since 2008 and built the program into a consistent award-winner.

The four award recipients will be honored Thursday at an 11:30 a.m. luncheon at the Ashland Springs Hotel that launches this year’s Homecoming Weekend. The award luncheon is by invitation-only, due to COVID-19 protocols.

Mossler worked his way through SOU at a local shoe store and as a resident advisor in the dorms. He went to work for Nordstrom after graduation, first in Seattle and then San Francisco – which is where he was recruited in 1999 by Nick Swinmurn to lead customer service and day-to-day operations at a newly-launched online shoe retailer – which became The company had more than $1 billion in sales when it was acquired 10 years later by Amazon. Mossler left the company in 2016 to focus on other entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures – from revitalizing downtown Las Vegas to launching après ski-inspired shoe brand Ross & Snow and Vegas-based restaurant chain Nacho Daddy, which donates a portion of every purchase to children in need.

Ramos-Hunter, originally from northern California, transferred to SOU from Rogue Community College to study psychology and was mentored by faculty member Mark Krause – who recommended the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program for potential graduate students. She graduated as a McNair Scholar, majoring in psychology with a chemistry minor, then earned her master’s degree and doctorate in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. She is now a senior scientist at Entrada Therapeutics in Boston, and part of a team synthesizing cutting edge bio-therapeutics and working toward a cure for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.

Wolley came to SOU to earn his master’s degree in environmental education after receiving his undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley. The local beauty combined with energetic, thoughtful teaching helped him lay the personal and academic foundation for a career that would include management roles with the Nature Conservancy, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Mt. Hood National Forest, the city of Portland and TriMet. His volunteer service includes co-founding the African American Outdoor Association and membership on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Kneff visited SOU as a senior in high school and fell in love with the university and the Ashland community. He attended community college in California for two years, then found his way back to SOU to complete his bachelor’s degree in the music program, participating in the university’s jazz band, symphonic band, saxophone quartet and the Raider Band. He then returned to Southern California to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, his teaching credentials and an eventual master’s degree. His teaching career began with stints in Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California, before he returned to Ventura County, where he grew up. Isbell School in Santa Paula had just 57 band students spread through three classes when he began in 2007; within 12 years the program had 175 students reached consistent “superior” ratings in regional band and orchestra competitions.

Three generations of the Lattin-Crocker family chose SOU

Lattin-Crocker: Three generations of Raiders

The Lattin-Crocker clan has a strong connection with Southern Oregon University and a long legacy of school engagement. The tradition began in the 1960s with Frances (1964 graduate) and Bruce Lattin (1967), and Dawn (1969) and Paul Lattin (1970). Their time at the university was marked with great joy, camaraderie and personal growth.

Paul Lattin followed his brother Bruce to SOU.

“I knew my older brother Bruce liked it, and most of my friends went there. I hadn’t really considered any other place,” he said. “I really enjoyed the small classes, the instructors paid attention to you and, best of all, I met my wife Dawn there.”

Lattin credits Southern Oregon College with sparking his drive to succeed.

“I was a pretty average student my first two years, but in my junior year, I worked in food service as a student manager,” he said. “The work, and the confidence they had in me, gave me the drive I needed. From that moment on, I had the incentive to do better in school. My grades went up, and I have held onto that confidence and courage my entire life.”

SOU was the perfect fit for Dawn.

“It was a really good experience,” she said. “To this day, when we visit Ashland all those wonderful memories come back. I got a great education, and Paul and I have been married 50 years.”

Frances Lattin had originally gone to the University of Oregon, but it didn’t quite click with her so she decided to transfer after a lot of positive feedback from friends.

“SOC was just a whole different world. I had such wonderful professors,” she said.

As an English major with a theater minor, she said one of her favorite instructors was Angus Bowmer, founder of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“He became a dear friend; I still have letters from him,” she said. “The instructors at SOU really got to know their students and connect with them.”

Lattin went on to teach high school after graduating.

“I had a wonderful career as a teacher,” she said. “Southern shaped so much of my life, my career, my relationships,” she said. “I tear up a little bit thinking of all the opportunities that SOC and my education have given me.”

Lattin happily shared her experiences with her daughters, Cathy and Suzy, and was delighted when the two decided to attend the university as well.

“It’s fabulous that my daughters also chose to go there,” she said. “They even met some of the same people I knew. I loved hearing about their time there.”

Cathy Crocker (1990) and Suzy Tannenbaum (1992) credit their mother, in part, with their eagerness to go to SOU and their engagement in college life.

“All of us had really rich experiences, and I’m so glad we were involved in student life,” Crocker said.

Tannenbaum said her education wasn’t the only thing she has carried with her throughout her career.

“Southern had such a community feel,” she said. “That’s what I carried into my law-enforcement career, working with the public, bringing people together, and building community and relationships.” she said.

Tannenbaum, the chief of public safety at Oregon State University, leads a team of officers who ensure the safety and security of the campus community. The family connection with SOU gives Tannenbaum great joy.

“Our kids and our grandkids will know that SOU is a special place,” she said. “We have such a history with it, our parents were even married at the little church near campus. I’m so proud of being a Southern grad, and I celebrate being a Raider and all the wonderful friendships and connections I’ve made through it.”

Crocker feels the same fondness for SOU as her sister. The relationships she made and the sense of engagement that her time at SOU helped foster has shaped her life in numerous ways.

“I grew a lot in college, and working as a resident assistant helped me learn to really dig deep with people and connect,” she said. “Those experiences helped make me into the person I am today.”

Crocker, who was a communication major with a minor in psychology, has devoted much of her time to community service, working with children and volunteering.

Both Crocker and her husband, Dan (1990), say they have fond memories of their time as residential staff at the dorms.

“Dan and I were high school sweethearts,” she said. “I was in Diamond Hall, and he was in Emerald. We could actually see each other from the windows of our apartments.

“We learned so much about the power of engagement and building community with our fellow students. It was amazing, and now our child Aubrey is an RA at SOU, so the tradition continues.”

Dan Crocker, who is the CEO of the Ashland YMCA, said his campus involvement was key to learning the skills that he uses every day.

“I was originally going to a different university and didn’t get involved in anything, and I was basically flunking out,” he said. “At SOU, I got involved. First, I was elected as hall president, and that led to being elected as the on-campus student government president, then I decided to be a hall director to help incoming freshmen not make the same mistakes I initially made.

“I had no idea that decision would lead to so many opportunities in the future.”

Over the summers he further honed his skills working as a Y camp director.

“By the time I graduated SOU, even counting my horrible credits from my first college, I graduated with strong leadership skills and a 3.7 GPA,” he said. “My time at SOU was amazing. It didn’t even seem like work.”

Aubrey, majoring in Emerging Media and Digital Arts, said that SOU checked all the boxes.

“For me, SOU was the most comfortable place I visited,” she said. “After a visit, I just felt like it was where I belong.”

Parents Dan and Cathy’s involvement in student life is what inspired Aubrey to become an RA as well.

“I like that I’m part of a long family tradition, both of going to SOU and involvement in campus life,” she said. “I hadn’t really thought of it as a legacy, but it’s a great one to have.”

Shared and updated from the spring 2020 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU commencement speaker Erim Gomez

SOU alumnus and former McNair Scholar to headline 2021 Commencement

(Ashland, Ore.) — Erim Gómez was a McNair Scholar and first-generation college graduate at SOU, a co-director of what is now the SOU Environmental Resource Center and an active member of the SOU Alumni Association Board of Directors. On June 12, the newly minted Ph.D. and assistant professor at the University of Montana will also serve as SOU’s commencement speaker.

Graduates and others participating in SOU’s live-streamed commencement ceremony will hear about Gómez’s compelling personal story, his heartfelt mission to encourage under-represented and other students to pursue and achieve their higher education dreams, and his passion for environmentalism and the sciences.

Erim GomezGómez is proud of his family’s farm-working and immigrant roots, and that both he and his brother Edrik – who died in a 2008 helicopter crash while serving as a wildland firefighter – were part of the prestigious McNair Scholarship program at SOU. Gómez received his doctorate in environmental and natural resources science from Washington State University last fall. He was hired at the University of Montana in August 2020 as an assistant professor in the school’s highly regarded Wildlife Biology Department.

“I challenge you to not fear failure and to take risks,” Gómez is expected to tell SOU’s new graduates on Saturday. “I learn a lot more from my failures than my successes. If you don’t occasionally fail, you need to set larger and higher goals. 

“Your SOU degree will and has already opened doors for you,” he will suggest. “Make sure that you keep the doors open for those who come after you.”

Gómez will anchor the list of speakers at this year’s SOU commencement, a hybrid day of activities that will include an in-person, live-streamed opportunity to walk across the stage at Raider Stadium, a wide-ranging online ceremony and a variety of events in which individual programs will recognize the accomplishments of their graduates.

The in-person photo opportunity at Raider Stadium – at which no guests will be allowed – will begin at 9 a.m. The virtual ceremony – live-streamed on the SOU Commencement webpage and the university’s social media platforms – will start at 2 p.m.

This will be SOU’s second consecutive year of virtual commencement ceremonies, a result of the global pandemic. The online events will include a life-streamed ceremony with Gomez and other speakers, Zoom parties and private, dedicated social media engagement. A number of the university’s academic programs and divisions also have created virtual or hybrid events that celebrate their graduates’ accomplishments.

About 1,100 degrees are expected to be conferred.

Gómez received his bachelor’s degree in biology from SOU in 2007, then went on to earn his master’s degree and doctorate in natural resources sciences from Washington State. He won national recognition in 2011, when he was awarded the Bullitt Foundation’s Environmental Fellowship – which offers $100,000 over two years of graduate study for students focusing on environmental issues in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Gomez used the fellowship to study Palouse Prairie amphibians in eastern Washington.


Danny Santos' career of service

Danny Santos: In the name of service

Danny Santos, who earned his bachelor’s degree in criminology at SOU in 1975, always had a passion for service. But he credits SOU – Southern Oregon College at that time – with providing him the tools and opportunities to chart and navigate a career path that focused on helping others.

“Southern Oregon College was a wonderful place to grow up and mature,” Santos said. “It gave me so many academic and employment opportunities.”

Santos is currently serving his second four-year term on the SOU Board of Trustees.

He was raised in California’s Imperial Valley, where his father was his hometown’s first Latino police officer, and his parents instilled in him the value of hard work and education.

“We would spend our summer vacations working in the fields. We would work the Imperial Valley and move north to the San Joaquin as it got hotter, but we would always get back home in time for school,” he said. “Education was the priority.”

Santos said he chose SOC because he had a friend who was attending, and the school was so welcoming. While surprised by the lack of diversity at the college, he was also heartened by the support he received from instructors and administrators.

“Going to SOC was one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “The instructors were supportive and encouraged me to try so many new things. It is really nice to have someone say, ‘You can do more.’”

Encouraging others and championing the underserved is something Santos has modeled throughout his career. After graduating, he became interested in education and working with migrant students. He returned to SOU to pursue a teaching certificate and eventually helped launch a migrant education program in southern Oregon. Later, while working in Salem as director of the Oregon Migrant Education Service Center, Santos served as a citizen lobbyist, meeting lawyers and government employees. That work inspired him to study law.

Always advocating for diversity and inclusion, he focused his legal career on social justice and public interest issues. He was eventually appointed associate dean for student affairs at his law school alma mater, Willamette University College of Law, and retired from that position in 2019.

Santos has compiled a long and accomplished resume with a very consistent theme: service to the state of Oregon and to the people with the most need. He was a senior policy advisor for Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and also worked in the administrations of Governors John Kitzhaber, Barbara Roberts and Neil Goldschmidt, clocking more than 24 years of distinguished public service along the way.

The recipient of numerous awards for his work and generosity, Santos is a founding member of Scholarships for Oregon Latinos. He has supervised the Oregon Migrant Education Service Center and directed the Jackson County Migrant Education Program. He also currently serves on the SOU Board of Trustees and on the boards of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Mid-Valley Literacy Council.

Santos urges prospective college students to get involved in activities both in and out of school, and to find opportunities to be of service. “Young people have so much potential to bring a new vision to things,” he said. “I tell students, don’t just do well, do good.”

While at SOC, Santos took his instructors’ advice to get involved in a variety of activities and he dove into all that southern Oregon had to offer, joining community organizations, taking classes outside his major and working as a residence assistant (RA) and head resident (HR) in housing. “Being an RA and HR taught me a lot,” he said. “I learned how to deal with difficulties, and I learned how to listen.”

Santos said he still marvels at how every step in his career can be traced to the support and connections he had at SOU.

“So much education is outside of the classroom, the people you meet and the community you live in,” he said. “I still think of that. You never know where an experience will take you.”

Shared and updated from the spring 2019 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

NPR reporter and SOU alum Jeff Brady

SOU alum Jeff Brady: ready for NPR

Jeff Brady, a 1995 SOU graduate in communication, was an insecure kid from the southern Oregon coastal community of Gold Beach before he became a national desk reporter for NPR – National Public Radio. He didn’t make the cut to work as a reporter for his high school newspaper and didn’t think he was college material.

“I didn’t really feel I was destined for college,” he said. “I grew up in Gold Beach, and after graduating high school I went with my mom to Central Point where we ran a small grocery store. At the store, I worked a lot of hours and listened to NPR, and I got hooked.”

Brady jumped at the chance when he heard a call for volunteers to answer phones during a Jefferson Public Radio pledge drive. “I worked my way to the newsroom as a volunteer.”

Brady wanted more, but he needed a degree to work as a broadcaster. That’s when he took a leap and enrolled at SOU.

“No one in my family had graduated from college, and I had not even traveled outside southern Oregon,” Brady said. “The idea of college was intimidating, so SOU was a perfect launchpad. I felt safe to explore the world.”

Brady continued working at JPR while attending SOU. He even occasionally hosted a news program called the Jefferson Daily.

“That is what I am most proud of; I just did it,” he said. “I learned how to do live radio, to develop my voice and use it to tell stories.”

His first reporting job after college was at KBND in Bend, where he learned to work fast and efficiently – skills that would become critical as he moved through his career. He returned from there to southern Oregon and began a three-year stint at KTVL News Channel 10, producing morning newscasts, reporting on stories throughout the region and ultimately co-anchoring the weekend newscasts.

The year 1999 became a tipping point for Brady’s career, having moved to Portland to work at Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“I landed at OPB at an interesting time – Enron owned the local utility, the telephone industry was undergoing deregulation and the internet bubble was just about to burst,” he said. “This is where I first started learning about the energy business and its environmental effects.”

He has now traveled the nation, covering issues ranging from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline to Three Mile Island. “None of the broadcasting jobs I have had would have been possible without my training at SOU and JPR,” Brady said. “It is where I was allowed to experiment and become a real live broadcaster.

“SOU taught me that I have a capacity for intelligence. I didn’t get that message in high school, but at SOU I remember taking classes where we would analyze a piece of literature or discuss political situations. That process gave me the confidence to move forward and express myself.”

His life experiences also helped to shape the news he pursues, giving people who are often left out of conversations the opportunity to share their stories and be heard. Brady’s journey has come full circle. This once-insecure high school student looking for his voice is now helping others find theirs.

Brady, who was recognized in 2018 with SOU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, is credited with helping demystify the energy industry for listeners and establishing NPR’s Environment and Energy Collaborative for reporters at NPR member stations around the country.

Shared and updated from the Fall 2019 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

Former SOU student-athlete has been teaching basketball in China

SOU alum Terriel Thomas builds his own team in China

Terriel Thomas, a 2013 SOU graduate, never imagined he would earn a living playing basketball in China. “Sometimes, I still can’t believe this is my life,” he said a year and a half ago, after three years in China. “I always dreamed of being a basketball coach and working with kids. And now, I’m doing it in this amazing place.”

The former student-athlete was working for the United States Basketball Academy’s (USBA) training academy. The USBA is an Oregon-based organization that offers young students in China the training necessary to pursue their hoop dreams, and possibly play basketball in the United States.

“I travel around the country and help set up basketball academies, teach other coaches, and even teach a bit of English related to the game,” Thomas said. “These kids are terrific. The people I’ve met in China are wonderful.”

Life in China has been an adventure. Thomas has a job he adores and a blossoming family life that includes a baby girl. “I am very happy, and I truly believe that without SOU, I would not be here,” he said. “I like to say, ‘Chicago made me, Boise raised me, and SOU made me the man I am today.’”

No stranger to making bold moves, Thomas left Boise to play basketball at SOU.

“I come from a really close family,” he said. “Some of us are in Idaho and Illinois, but I didn’t know anyone in Oregon, and it was hard at first.”

He credits a number of people with helping turn SOU into a home and eventually giving him the sense of family he longed for.

Thomas said that while he initially thrived at SOU, there were challenges. Making new friends was harder than he had hoped, and he sometimes missed being among other people of color. The period when Thomas was feeling the most homesick and out of place turned into one of the most pivotal moments of his life.

“I was really struggling, and I started acting out,” he said. “My grades were dropping and I wasn’t getting along with my coach. I was asked to leave the team. I was devastated. Nothing like this had happened to me before.”

But Athletic Director Matt Sayre and education instructor Joel Perkins stepped in.

“Matt made me see that I needed to work things out with my coach, and I needed to figure out what I wanted for the future,” Thomas said. “Joel Perkins was my advisor, and he talked to me straight, too. Just having those two talks changed me. I didn’t have a plan, and I had to make one. I’m glad that I listened to them, and I’m proud that I overcame a really difficult period.”

Thomas eventually connected with the Black Student Union and worked for SOU’s EPIC events planning organization, which offers a variety of socially engaging events for the campus community.

“I just had to get out there,” he said. “I made a point of saying hello to at least one stranger a day. I attended events outside of basketball and tried to move outside my comfort zone. That helped a lot.”

The fact that his teammates, coaches and teachers stuck with him even when things were hard was the real mark of a family for Thomas. “My time at SOU ended up being some of the best years of my life,” he said.

In his work, Thomas draws every day on what he learned at SOU, not just the academics and basketball skills, but also the loyalty and support needed to make a team truly thrive.

“I want to show the kids and adults I work with how strong a team can be when they trust and love each other,” he said, adding that he’s proud of the young players he coaches. “The classes are intense but these kids are strong players. These kids are amazing.”

Thomas posted recently on his website that 2020 was off to a good start for him “until COVID-19 decided to call a timeout on us all.” He has taken a much more active role in his home life – from doing dishes to changing diapers – and said the pause has helped bring him balance.

“Just like back at SOU (Go Raiders!!!), during timeouts I just watched the board, drank water, looked for my snickers and well, never really actually listened to what Coach was saying … this virus, being slowed down and now having to listen (no distractions) I’m able to play my part better,” he said.

“And being a better husband and father helps me to become a better coach. And better coaches know how to effectively use timeouts and make the necessary in-game adjustments that will lead to success on the court.”

Shared and updated from the Fall 2019 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine