SOU Chris Briscoe Photographer

Constant motion: Photographer Christopher Briscoe tells story through adventure

Photographer Chris Briscoe (’75) will flat-out tell you he did not enjoy most of his time at college. Not because of SOU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification, but because of his love for adventure.

“I’m just wired that way,” Briscoe said. “When I went back for my teaching certificate, I think I enrolled and re-enrolled about four or five times. I just didn’t want to sit in a classroom.”

Photo by Chris Briscoe

Briscoe once sailed a small boat to Tahiti, where he lived for a year, and he has cycled across America four times. He has traveled the world, engaging with and photographing everyone from homeless children in Cambodia to offbeat artists in New Orleans. His work includes intimate portraits of celebrities and politicians such as Rob Lowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan. He has been published in everything from The London Times to People magazine.

But Briscoe didn’t start out wanting to be a photographer. In his memoir, “Shifting Gears: Riding the Roads through America’s Heartland,” Briscoe describes how a bike trip with a friend in 1976 helped him settle into school and earn a teaching certificate. When Briscoe started student teaching, he found a passion.

“Student teaching lit me on fire,” he said. He worked with elementary school kids as lively as he was, and he used his energy and creativity to engage them. He once arranged for his third-grade students to fly over Ashland as part of a unit on mapmaking.

Photography wa

s a hobby, not something Briscoe expected to earn a living doing. Because he often photographed his students and their adventures, Briscoe’s work began getting noticed. When his work caught the attention of a photographer from the Ashland Daily Tidings, Briscoe’s career path changed. “I had always taken photographs, but that job made me a better photographer,” he said.

Briscoe left teaching after four years to pursue a full-time career in photography. “It wasn’t an easy decision. I loved teaching and I loved the kids, but my passion was photography.”

Briscoe’s award-winning photos are a mirror of humanity, showing simultaneously how interconnected we are as humans and how unique we are as individuals. His work, including his writing, is engaging, humorous and honest.

Photo by Chris Briscoe

Perhaps Briscoe is best known for photographing hands and faces. He has described the human face as the “greatest landscape,” and his portraits of Sheryl Crow are as intensely personal as those of New Orleans resident Little Freddie King.


The hands, however, hold special power and allure for Briscoe.

“Hands tell about not only what a person does; they are a roadmap of where a person has been. And maybe where they want to go. Hands are an extension of our souls. They make tools that can change the world, end the world, hold a pen to sign a peace treaty to save the world,” Brisco said.

With over three decades of work and adventure behind him, Briscoe isn’t slowing down. He is wrapping up a book about his three-month, across-America cycling adventure with his son and continuing to focus on the three things that drive him: vision, passion and courage.

“We can all have creative ideas, but having the vision to follow through makes a big difference,” he said.

As for courage, he takes a deep breath. “We all struggle with courage,” he said. “Whether you’re a teenager wanting to ask a girl on a date or trying to decide if you should quit your day job and pursue your passion. The trick is to constantly challenge yourself, let yourself take a risk and live your life.”

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Abbi Rosewood

Burning Bright: Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood’s commitment to creativity

The encouraging creative-writing community at SOU was an ideal fit for 27-year old writing dynamo Abbigail Nguyen- Rosewood (’13). Since graduating, she has written numerous essays, reviews, articles and creative works for online and print publications. And now, after recently finishing graduate school at Columbia University, Nguyen-Rosewood anxiously awaits the U.S. release of her first novel, “If I Had Two Lives,” published by Europa Editions.

“If I Had Two Lives” follows the journey of a young girl from her childhood in a military camp in Vietnam to her adulthood as a lonely and disillusioned immigrant in New York. The novel chronicles how the young woman learns what it means to love and be loved as she escapes her past and creates a new life in the U.S. 

Nguyen-Rosewood’s other works have been published in literary journals online and in print, including The Adirondack Review, Columbia Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern and The Missing Slate. An excerpt from “If I Had Two Lives” was awarded first place in the Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Literary Fiction contest.

Nguyen-Rosewood, who transferred to SOU from another state school, was relieved to get practical support navigating graduation requirements. She found SOU to be a caring and authentic place, with small classes and intimate relationships between professors and students.

“The SOU community felt genuine. The professors were kind, communicative, and accessible,” Nguyen-Rosewood recalled. 

She said what helped shape her and her career is the belief and encouragement of her friends and instructors.

“At the time, I was still finding my voice. In this nascent stage as a writer when you are vulnerable, doubtful of your abilities, it’s very easy for your flame to get snuffed out by an unkind comment, a skeptical glance. Writers are sensitive,” she said. “Words such as ‘have faith’ and ‘believe’ are often so overused that they can lose their meaning, but that’s what the SOU community gave me. They had faith and they believed in me.”

Nguyen-Rosewood says she had many influential professors at SOU, including Bill Gholson, Kasey Mohammad and Prakash Chenjeri, but her closest mentor was Craig Wright in the Creative Writing Program.

“He was among the first to see something in my writing, to believe in my talent. He nurtured it, gave me the platform to share my writing with others, and helped me acquire scholarships,” she said. “I’m indebted to him, and I’m grateful to be indebted to him.”

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Luders Manuel Writer

Luders-Manuel: Writer addresses race with creativity and compassion

Shannon Luders-Manuel (’07) wasn’t sure what a thesis statement was when came to SOU as an English major. She now makes her living as a writer, essayist and critical mixed-race scholar who has been published in a number of academic, news and creative publications.

Luders-Manuel garnered national attention earlier this year when the New York Times published her essay, “My Grandmother’s Story is Ending as Mine Begins.” The piece in the Times increased her audience base, but Luders-Manuel’s other works are where she earned her writing chops.

As a public speaker and author of “Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide: Educators’ Guide,” Luders-Manuel has found herself at the epicenter of some of the nation’s most polarizing race issues.

“When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed,” she wrote on For Harriet, an online community for women of African ancestry. “When I talk about racism, I’m black. When Trayvon Martin was shot for wearing a hoodie, I was black. When Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes on the street, I was black. When Sandra Bland was arrested for failing to turn on her blinker, I was black. When churchgoers were shot for being black, I was black.”

Luders-Manuel found her voice sharing her experience as a mixed-race woman while at SOU and during graduate school at the University of Massachusetts. She has been researching and writing the biracial experience for more than 10 years. The essay posted on For Harriet was shared over 50,000 times on Facebook when it was published in 2015.

Luders-Manuel originally chose SOU because it was an easy drive to visit family in California, but she realized shortly after arriving in Ashland that she had found her place.

“There was such a welcoming community. I lived in Baker dorm, and it had a real family feel,” she said. “Also, I had a work-study job at the library, and we really had a tight-knit community of students working there. Some of us still stay in touch.”

Though she has been away from SOU for 10 years, she still draws on the lessons she learned there. Luders-Manuel recalls one of her favorite instructors, Alma Rosa Alvarez.

“Professor Alvarez used to make us write short-response papers. After we turned them in, she would offer feedback and keep giving them back for rewrites until they were correct. She’d do this as many times as needed,” said Luders-Manuel. “If she did like it, she would put a tiny check mark at the top of the paper. I remember when I got the checkmark, I would be so excited. It was one of the most effective ways of learning to write well. She wouldn’t just tell you about your errors, she’d make you work to change them.”

Alvarez, says Luders-Manuel, was also the first teacher of color that she had ever had. “It was important to me to see a woman of color in that position. Even though we are different ethnicities, I could see myself in her,” she said. “She was also my biggest advocate. Professor Alvarez was the one who encouraged me to go to graduate school, and I’m so glad I did that. I am so grateful to her.”

Luders-Manuel, who earned a master’s degree from UMass, said she hadn’t always seen college in her future. “It wasn’t something my family encouraged at first, and it took me a long time to take the leap,” she said.

She credits SOU for giving her the foundation to write in a variety of genres, including business, news, academic and marketing. “I am able to write in many different genres because I had so many different classes and opportunities while I was at SOU. That has helped me more than anything,” Luders-Manuel said.

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Delaney Matson Sewing

Life in stitches: Delaney Matson’s passionate patterns

The old axiom says that if you do  something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That may not hold true every single day for SOU alumna Delaney Matson, but she is coming pretty close.

Matson, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts with an emphasis on costume design and construction, is now heading up the sewing shop at Colette Patterns, a leading independent pattern-design company.

She has melded a lifelong love of sewing with the business and technical skills she picked up at SOU to craft a career. While sewing has always been central to her life, she says SOU allowed her to combine multiple passions.

“I really love sewing, costuming and fashion,” Matson said. “I also had wanted to be a history major, and I didn’t know what to pick. Historical costuming is where the two blended, so that’s where I found myself.”

Matson took her theatre and sewing experience into the work world after graduation but says it wasn’t a straight path to find a job that suited her passion and paid the bills. After graduation, Matson moved to Portland and worked briefly as the manager of the costume and scene shop at Portland Community College. “When I left that job, I left theatre and haven’t gone back,” she said. “But I have continued to pursue sewing.”

A position at David’s Bridal kept sewing in the forefront, and when Colette Patterns had an opening, Matson leapt at the opportunity. Working at a fabric store in Ashland introduced her to the Colette brand and its people. “I had always wanted to be part of the Colette team, so I kept my eye out for a position there,” she said. “When one came open, I jumped. And I’ve been there ever since.”

Although hired as a tailor in the sewing room, Matson has moved up quickly at Colette. As sewing manager and technical editor, Matson sews all the samples for photo shoots that advertise the company’s new patterns in its monthly magazine, “Seamwork,” and she ensures a level of quality control for each pattern on the market. “I make all the samples for the photo shoots, but I also test the patterns to make sure that the measurements are correct and that the pattern sews up correctly,” she said.

Matson said the skills she mastered at SOU have been absolutely critical to her success at Colette. “We focused on vintage sewing and historical sewing techniques and how these are applied to a more modern audience,” said Matson of SOU’s costume design and construction program. “We learned flat-pattern drafting, where we had a list of equations and we put in our measurements to figure it all out. Now there’s computer technology that makes it easier, but learning how to draft it by hand, knowing what makes a true fit, and translating that information, I use that every day,” Matson said.

According to Matson, the hands-on nature of costuming in the SOU Theatre Arts Program gave her the kind of in-the-trenches experience she needed to be successful. “I do a lot of alterations, and in theatre – especially in costuming – you are constantly having to alter existing costumes to fit the next actor,” she said, noting that studying “fit issues” has helped her ensure proper fit across all of Colette’s patterns.

But Matson is not one to rest on her laurels. She is currently spearheading a product-testing program at Colette to help understand the user experience. “Everybody sews really differently, so I’m trying to gauge how people sew at home so we can reflect that in our designs and in our accessibility,” she said.

Reprinted from the Fall 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine

SOU Ferrell homeless

Serving the Underserved: Maslow Project a one-stop resource for homeless youth

Jackson County has the third-highest number of homeless and at-risk children in Oregon – an estimated 2,500, according to the Department of Education. Homeless youth are more likely to miss school or drop out, receive lower scores on standardized tests and have a higher probability of suffering from depression, physical illnesses, and learning disabilities.

Mary Ferrell (’99) has been working to give homeless and at-risk youth a better chance for education and security. She founded the Medford-based, nonprofit Maslow Project in 2006 as a one-stop resource for homeless youth.

The Maslow Project provides a variety of services and necessities to area homeless youth, including food and clothing, hygiene items, laundry facilities and access to computers, school supplies, mental-health counseling and case management.

“We offer tools to help relieve some of the stress of students not having their needs met enough to focus on school,” Ferrell said. “When kids have their basic needs met, they can make progress in school.”

The education department defines homelessness as lack of a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” This means homeless youth might be living in emergency shelters, motels or couch surfing, or they could be sleeping in cars, parks or doorways.

After graduating from SOU with a degree in history, Ferrell worked for the Medford school system where she saw firsthand the difficulties students faced when their basic needs were not met. She also learned how complicated it was for students and families to access available services. “I realized that everything designed to help people had several layers of hoops to get through,” she said.

Ferrell rolled up her sleeves and partnered with other organizations to collect supplies such as backpacks, clothes and food, and ultimately founded the Maslow Project. “The goal was one stop for supplies, but there were other needs as well,” she said.

Ferrell would help in any way she could—even standing in line for food boxes when families were unable to get to the places supplying the food. Her partnerships grew, and the work expanded.

Today, the Medford School District, as well as the Ashland, Phoenix-Talent, Rogue River and Grants Pass school districts contract with the Maslow Project to provide services to their homeless populations.

The organization’s name and purpose are inspired by Abraham Maslow’s pyramid-shaped Hierarchy of Needs. Basic needs come first: food, water, shelter and clothing. Additional support services such as education, counseling, mentoring and tutoring follow.

“There is still so much work to do,” Ferrell said. “We have very little affordable housing in the region. The housing crisis is a serious issue.”

Despite the challenges, Ferrell’s work is paying off. As of last summer, 70 percent of the students served by the Maslow Project last year in the Medford School District had graduated from high school. That is significant since Medford’s overall four-year graduation rate for homeless high school seniors is higher than the state and national averages.

Since its start, the Maslow Project has received national and international recognition for its work, including an award from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth. The recognition is nice, but feedback from the students has been the best reward.

“We have students who are incredible success stories, who give back to the community. Some stay connected with us and work with the project helping other kids,” she said. “One student is working with us now; she’s at SOU and she’s completely turned her life around.”

Ferrell says her time at SOU helped shape her life.

“While I was at SOU, I was a young mom raising two children. I had to balance school and family, and SOU made me feel so supported,” she said. “My son’s daycare program on campus was wonderful, and my instructors didn’t look down on me for being nontraditional. It all gave me a real sense of community.”

While she knew she wanted to work in a service capacity, Ferrell says she originally considered law school. “Then I realized it was easier to effect change working in my own community,” she said.

Ferrell advises young people considering a work in service to be fearless.

“I feel like young people think you have to wait for an opportunity, but I say don’t worry about it,” she said. “If you feel like you have a solution, put yourself out there. There is so much need, and there is a lot that a single person can do.”

Reprinted from the Spring 2017 issue of The Raider, SOU’s alumni magazine