Ashland wildfire smoke

SOU Research Center smoke survey shows mixed views

(Ashland, Ore.) — Most tourists who visited southern Oregon during the smoky summers of 2017 and 2018 plan to return for future trips, but a majority will modify their plans to account for the possibility of more smoke, according to a new survey by the Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE).

SOURCE’s 39-page “Southern Oregon Visitor Smoke Survey” is one of two reports that were combined by Travel Southern Oregon to create the booklet, “Southern Oregon Wildfire and Visitor Perception Study.” The SOURCE survey was emailed to 8,449 people who visited southern Oregon during the summers of 2017 or 2018, and 1,905 completed the questionnaire – a response rate of 22.5 percent.

“We at SOURCE are very excited about our survey results,” said Eva Skuratowicz, director of the independent, self-supporting research arm of SOU. “We believe that it is the first rigorous, methodologically sound research about southern Oregon visitor behavior and wildfires (and) smoke from wildfires.”

Both the SOURCE study and the second report – a focus-group study with visitors from Portland and San Francisco, conducted by a Portland business consulting firm – were funded in part by a grant from the Oregon governor’s office and administered by the travel bureau.

Travel Southern Oregon’s findings were presented last week to Oregon’s congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., and will also be shared with state legislators.

Smoke from last summer’s wildfire season resulted in 26 canceled or impacted outdoor performances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and $2 million in lost revenue. Visits to Crater Lake National Park dropped by 14 percent in July and August, compared to previous summers, and a wide variety of business owners reported lost sales that were attributed to the smoke.

The SOURCE smoke survey sampled the perceptions of visitors to two geographic regions in southern Oregon: Medford/Ashland; and an area encompassing the Klamath Basin, Middle and Upper Rogue River, and the Umpqua Valley. The regional reports produced similar patterns of results.

About 85 percent of those who visited either of the areas intend to return for future visits to southern Oregon, but about 72 percent said they would take into account wildfire smoke in deciding when to visit. A majority of those said they will not visit when there are wildfires or smoke in the region, and several said they would consider visiting in seasons other than summer.

A total of 541 respondents in the smoke survey chose to answer a final, open-ended question that asked for any other relevant comments. Of those, 144 did not consider wildfire smoke to be a deal-breaker when deciding whether to visit the area again.

“We saw two plays at the Bowmer theater but chose not to see the plays at Ashland High School,” said one respondent who came to Ashland to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“We did enjoy some lovely meals in local restaurants and shopped a little, but could not fly fish, ride bikes or hike as we usually do,” the same person wrote. “We usually visit every-other year and love the area. We have been coming to Ashland for 40 years and anticipate coming back.”

However, 91 of those who answered the final question considered the smoke a significant problem and said they would travel elsewhere or alter their southern Oregon itineraries because of wildfire concerns.

“I know you can’t control fires, but they made for an unpleasant portion of our trip,” one person said. “I did, however, enjoy my visit to the southern Oregon coast.”

Another respondent planned to “move our visits earlier in July – trying to plan around possible smoke.”


Student Recreation Center opening celebration

SOU’s Student Recreation Center celebrating first birthday

All members of the SOU community are invited to join Campus Recreation on April 23 to celebrate the first birthday of the university’s  Student Recreation Center with complimentary refreshments and free access for faculty and staff.

Construction of the SRC and adjacent Lithia Motors Pavilion was completed last spring, and the recreation center opened its doors to campus on April 23, 2018. A grand opening celebration and ribbon-cutting were held in September.

This year’s birthday party will recognize the facility’s first full year of providing new recreation and wellness opportunities for the SOU community. Snacks and cake will be served at 4 p.m., and participants are encouraged to head down to the recreation field at 5 p.m. to cheer on teams in SOU’s Ultimate Frisbee Intramural Tournament.

The SRC will offer free access all day on the 23rd to SOU faculty and staff members, and students can sponsor one free guest.

The combined Student Recreation Center and Lithia Motors Pavilion complex replaced 60-year-old McNeal Pavilion. The 48,000-square-foot recreation center was funded with $17.7 million in fees that SOU students voted in 2012 to levy upon themselves. Lithia Motors Pavilion was funded separately with $22 million in state construction bonds and about $2 million from donors.

The SRC is home to SOU’s Campus Recreation program and all of its companion areas, including the Outdoor Program, intramural sports, sports clubs and other fitness and wellness programs.

The Student Recreation Center features a 44-foot-high climbing wall, suspended indoor track, “cardio-selectorized” free weight equipment and two gymnasium courts lined for basketball, volleyball and pickleball. It also has exercise machines, a spin room, two fitness studios and locker rooms.

Campus Recreation has expanded its selection of fitness classes during the first year in its new facility. It has also added new equipment and approved new membership and access options, including minor access, an Alumni Association membership and an Express Membership for faculty and staff.

SOU-Universidad de Guanajuato agreement signed

SOU and Universidad de Guanajuato pledge to build upon 50-year friendship

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University and the Universidad de Guanajuato officially renewed a friendship that has been built over the past 50 years when the institutions’ leaders pledged Monday to broaden their collaboration over the next half-century.

SOU-UG presidents sign agreement“Today’s agreement is to reaffirm our commitment to the exchange of students and faculty,” SOU President Linda Schott said at the ceremonial re-signing of a memorandum of understanding between the schools. “Our goal for this 50th anniversary celebration is to build an even firmer relationship.”

Delegations from the city of Guanajuato and its namesake university are in Ashland this week for a series of events to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Ashland-Guanajuato sister city and sister university relationships. President Schott and other SOU leaders hosted their Universidad de Guanajuato counterparts for breakfast on Monday, then toured a “unity” themed exhibit at the SOU Art Building before reassembling for the signing ceremony.

UG Rector General Luis Felipe Guerrero Agripino – the equivalent of president at a U.S. university – said he hopes to honor the two universities’ history of cooperation by expanding upon it.

“Imagine, 50 years ago we didn’t have the technology and all the ways we have to communicate now,” he said. “So there is no excuse. The best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary is to commit even more to the relationship we have.”

More than 1,000 students, faculty members and others have participated in exchange programs between the two universities and the cities of Ashland and Guanajuato, and some families from the Mexican city have been involved for three generations.

Beatriz Navarro-Parada, the Mexican consulate general for Oregon and southwest Washington, attended Monday’s ceremony and pledged the support of her office in any future collaborations.

“Please count on the consulate to help with your relationship,” she said. “We will work together.”

The 50th anniversary celebration will continue with events including an invitation-only reception and concert for the Guanajuato delegation on Tuesday night at the SOU Music Recital Hall, and a free, public lecture series on Thursday morning in the SOU Art Building’s Meese Auditorium.

President Schott and a small delegation from SOU visited Guanajuato a year and a half ago, and a larger group from Ashland and the university will continue the 50th anniversary celebration in the central Mexican city from May 27 to 31.

Guerrero Agripino, the UG rector general, joked on Monday that the two universities’ relationship is so solid that they sometimes mirror each other.

“On the visit we had, when we hosted Dr. Schott (in Guanajuato), we had rain. This is to prove to you that we are very well aligned,” he said, motioning toward a window in the Hannon Library and a downpour outside. “We can create the same conditions.”


Guanajuato lectures-night scene

SOU community invited to Guanajuato lectures

Three SOU alumni from Guanajuato will present free, public lectures on Thursday, April 11, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the sister-university relationship between SOU and the Universidad de Guanajuato.

Members of the SOU community are encouraged to attend the lectures and to welcome the visiting delegation from Guanajuato.

“If you see any visitors from Guanajuato on our campus next week, be sure to tell them bienvenidos – welcome to SOU,” said Provost Susan Walsh, who is organizing the 50th anniversary celebration.

Thursday’s lectures will be in the SOU Art Building’s Meese Auditorium at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. The first speaker will be Martin P. Pantoja Aguilar, an educator at the University of Guanajuato, who will address “Public Financing in Mexican Universities: A Matter of Academic Quality?” Georgina del Pozo, an administrator and former Amistad program coordinator at the University of Guanajuato, will speak next, discussing “Guanajuato City: History, Culture, Living, Education and Amistad.” Susana Montalvo, who has managed several small business projects in Mexico and the U.S., will wrap up the series with her talk, “Small and Medium Business in Mexico and the USA: Common and Divergent Paths.”

The lecture series is part of a multi-day celebration of the relationships between SOU and University of Guanajuato, and the cities of Ashland and Guanajuato, that began in 1969. The partnerships will be formally renewed during a breakfast observance on Monday, and an invitation-only reception and concert for the Guanajuato delegation will be held at SOU’s Music Recital Hall on Tuesday evening.

More than 1,000 students, faculty members and others have participated in exchanges since the Sister City agreement between Ashland and Guanajuato began in 1969.

The cooperative link between the two communities is unique, even though both Guanajuato and its university are much larger than Ashland and SOU. Several Guanajuato families have participated in exchange programs with SOU for three generations, and more than 80 marriages tying people from the two cities have resulted.

SOU Spring Powwow 2018

SOU Native American Student Union’s spring powwow returns to campus

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’sNative American Student Union and Native American Programs will share their culture with campus and the community at the 27th annual Spring Powwow on Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14 at SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion.

The event will return to the SOU campus this year, after being held for the past few years at Phoenix High School.

The spring powwow is expected to attract hundreds of participants and spectators through the weekend, providing a glimpse of Native American culture.

The event will feature displays and demonstrations that include drumming, dancing and cultural sharing from tribes throughout the Northwest. Dancers will perform and Native American arts and crafts will be available.

The grand entry ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and at noon on Sunday.

The family-friendly powwow is free and open to the public. No alcohol or drugs will be permitted. Lithia Motors Pavilion, located just south of the university’s football stadium, features a 1,400-seat gymnasium.


SRC solar installation-LEED Gold

SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center strikes LEED Gold

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Lithia Motors Pavilion and adjacent Student Recreation Center have earned LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, joining a growing list of SOU facilities to be recognized as sustainable.

The athletic pavilion and recreation center complex, which opened last spring, was awarded all 68 points that were sought on the Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) checklist. The SOU facility was recognized for sustainability elements including a design that allows the capture and treatment of storm water runoff, significant reduction of both energy and water consumption, and building practices that diverted more than three-quarters of the construction waste away from landfills.

“This certification recognizes not only the hard work of our facilities staff and contractors, but also the dedication of our university to live and operate sustainably,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “Sustainability is an ideal that is expressed throughout our Vision, Mission and Values. It is a key part of who we are as a university, and it reflects our commitment to a better future for our students and region.”

The Lithia Motors Pavilion and Student Recreation Center facility is the fifth at SOU to achieve LEED certification, and a sixth application is in progress. The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford is LEED Platinum, which is the Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating. The McLaughlin and Shasta residence halls, and The Hawk dining facility, all have been certified as LEED Gold, and LEED Silver certification is being sought for SOU’s recently renovated and expanded Science Building.

The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council provides a sustainability rating system that takes into account elements of a building’s design, construction, operation and maintenance.

The athletic pavilion and recreation center complex was recognized for features including a bike-friendly infrastructure and electric vehicle charging stations, lighting that minimizes disturbances to night skies and wildlife, flush and flow plumbing fixtures that reduce water usage by 39 percent and efficiency measures that reduce energy consumption by almost 23 percent. Other elements that were cited include a rooftop solar installation that offsets 10 percent of the facility’s annual electricity consumption, the use of sustainable lumber products and recycled building materials, and the use of substances such as paints and sealants that emit only low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC).

“SOU is excited to expand the campus inventory of green buildings with the LEED Gold-certified Lithia Motors Pavilion and Student Recreation Center,” said Roxane Beigel-Coryell, the university’s sustainability and recycling coordinator. “This certification celebrates the many green building strategies implemented that will support ongoing energy efficiency, water conservation and improved indoor air quality – as well as modeling SOU’s commitment to sustainability.”


natural gas-SOU-steam plant

Natural gas failure limiting some services at SOU

Failure of a valve on the main natural gas line that serves SOU and a large portion of Ashland is affecting students and employees at the university in various ways, but is expected to be resolved this evening or on Wednesday.

One of SOU’s natural gas-fueled boilers was temporarily converted this morning to burn diesel fuel. That boiler will provide heat and hot water to most buildings in the core of campus.

However, the Shasta, McLoughlin and Madrone residence halls will be without hot water until the natural gas service is restored, and The Hawk dining facility will be without its gas grills, steam kettles and dishwashers. Other campus facilities – including OLLI; the Facilities, Maintenance and Planning offices; the Digital Media Center; and the Bookstore – are on independent gas meters and are also without heat.

Staff at The Hawk are using induction stovetops to boil water for sanitization and limited cooking. The kitchen is offering salads, sandwiches, fresh fruit, pasta bar, already-prepared baked goods and some items that are being grilled on outdoor barbecues.

Elmo’s in the Stevenson Union is offering limited service, with sushi, salads, grab-and-go fare and limited grill items. Einstein’s coffee shop in the student union is at full service; Southern Grounds at the Hannon Library is offering limited beverage options.

Avista Corporation, the Ashland area’s natural gas supplier, turned off the gas meters of homes surrounding SOU this afternoon and told customers the outage is expected to last until Wednesday. However, Avista said on its website that it may take two to three days for the outage to be fully resolved. The gas company said 2,300 customers in an area from the Ashland Airport to downtown are affected.

SOU students-Churchill Hall-retention

SOU’s “Retention Summit” aimed at seeing students through to graduation

The campus community is invited to participate in a “Retention Summit” at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room, to examine what’s being done – and what other steps might be taken – to encourage students to remain at SOU through graduation.

Participants in Thursday’s summit will hear reports on current student retention efforts, data and benchmarking, and on the university’s new Navigate platform – an application created by the Education Advisory Board (EAB) to improve the student experience.

Those at the event will then break into small groups and discuss other potential means of improving retention, such as engaging and supporting students, and addressing their academic needs.

SOU President Linda Schott also hosted an “Enrollment Summit” in November to discuss this academic year’s enrollment dip among incoming SOU students and how it might be addressed. The president and SOU’s enrollment and admissions staff have followed up with several steps to ensure that this year’s decline will not be repeated.

The university overcame state and national trends toward lower enrollments a year ago with gains in both total headcount and full-time equivalent students. Early projections for the 2019-20 academic year suggest that SOU may rebound with another year of gains, if current application trends continue.

Steady enrollment growth helps the university counteract some of the effects of decreased state support. The higher education budget currently being discussed among Oregon legislators would fund the state’s seven public universities well below current service levels and would likely require large tuition increases or significant program cuts.

Zaretta Hammond-culturally responsive teaching-SOU

Author of “Culturally Responsive Teaching” to give SOU campus theme talk

Zaretta Hammond, the San Francisco-area author of “Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain,” will discuss how teachers can support underserved students in an April 10 presentation that’s part of SOU’s 2018-19 campus theme of “Ignorance and Wisdom.”

Hammond notes that student populations across the country are progressively growing more racially and linguistically diverse. She will discuss having a real impact on learning by being more responsive to students’ differences.

Her talk will touch on igniting intellectual creativity and accelerating learning by incorporating the latest findings from cognitive neuroscience and the principles of culturally responsive teaching that she lays out in her 2014 book.

The event will be from 4:30 to 630 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union. It is co-sponsored by the SOU Provost’s Office, School of Education and Division of Humanities and Culture; the Ashland, Medford and Central Point school districts; and the Southern Oregon Mentor Consortium.

Hammond, now a national education consultant, is a former high school and college expository writing instructor. She is passionate about the interconnections of equity, literacy and culturally responsive teaching. She blogs at and calls herself “a former writing teacher turned equity freedom fighter.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from New York University and a master’s degree in secondary English education with a concentration in writing instruction at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The 11th year of SOU’s Campus Theme features a variety of presentations that explore the concepts of “Ignorance and Wisdom,” and the relationships between the two.

The university adopts a theme each year for a series of lectures and discussions. Last year’s was “Truth,” and the previous year was “Shapes of Curiosity.” The series, presented by SOU’s Arts and Humanities Council, creates opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations.

SOU faculty members are asked to encourage their students to attend and participate in the Campus Theme presentations.

SOU food drive-food pantry

Governor’s Food Drive fills the shelves at SOU Student Food Pantry

The SOU community contributed non-perishable food and payroll deductions equivalent to a total of 8,022 meals during this year’s Governor’s Food Drive, which directly benefits the university’s Student Food Pantry and those who rely on it.

The university’s payroll deductions are down somewhat this year, but donations to the Student Food Pantry hit a record high with 1,809 pounds of nonperishable food. Collections bins at all buildings on campus accounted for 1,580 pounds of donated food, and a benefit concert sponsored by the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU drew another 229 pounds.

The Governor’s Food Drive draws donations each February from state government and public university employees throughout Oregon, to support the Oregon Food Bank Network. SOU arranged for its food donations to go directly to its Student Food Pantry, which provides SOU students who are in need with as many as 10 items of nonperishable food or hygiene supplies each week.

Prizes were awarded this year for those who participated in either the payroll deductions or food donations portion of the drive.

Associate Registrar Katrina Simpson won a drawing for all of those who signed up for payroll deductions, and will receive two tickets to the Chamber Music Concerts, an affiliate organization of the SOU Foundation.

Employees of Churchill Hall – which collected almost 215 pounds of food in its collection barrels, the most of any building on campus – will be treated to coffee and snacks by SOU Dining and A’viands. Central Hall finished in a close second place, with 202 pounds of food collected.