Interviews with presidential finalists wrapping up

Interviews of SOU presidential finalists wrapping up

Four of the five finalists to become SOU’s next president have visited campus – including two over the past week – with one more candidate scheduled to visit later this week. All of the candidates are visiting for two days of interviews and presentations with various constituent groups and community members.

Curtis Bridgeman, Ph.D. and J.D., currently the Roderick and Carol Wendt Professor of Business Law at the Willamette University College of Law, was on the SOU campus Oct. 21 and 22; and Junius Gonzales, M.D. and MBA, currently provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a tenured professor in the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences at New York Institute of Technology was at SOU Monday and today.

The last of the finalists to visit SOU – this Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 27 and 28 – will be Richard J. Bailey, Jr., Ph.D., the president of Northern New Mexico College.

“We are hoping that not only our campus community, but the entire SOU community and its partners throughout the Rogue Valley will get involved in this process and see these candidates,” said Danny Santos, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee. “We will be seeking valuable feedback from all who engage in these two-day visits, and that input will be very important in the board’s decision-making process.”

Bridgeman held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his current role at Willamette, including dean of that university’s College of Law from 2013 to 2020; associate dean for academic affairs from 2011 to 2013 at the Florida State University College of Law; and a professor of law at Florida State from 2004 to 2014. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Huntsville and received his master’s degree and doctorate in philosophy, and his law degree, from Vanderbilt University.

Gonzales also held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his current role at NYIT. He served in roles including senior vice president for academic affairs and interim president at the University of North Carolina; as provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a tenured professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso; and as founding dean and tenured professor in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University, his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and his master’s degree in business administration from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

Bailey’s other positions in higher education teaching and administration, prior to his role with Northern New Mexico College, include being the first-ever dean of students at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Air University in Alabama, and an associate professor of strategy and security studies at the university’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy, his master’s degree in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis, and his doctorate in government from Georgetown University.

The first finalist to visit SOU, on Oct. 14 and 15, was Chris Gilmer, Ph.D., the president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; he was followed on Oct. 18 and 19 by Brock Tessman, Ph.D., the deputy commissioner of higher education for 16 campuses that comprise the Montana University System. Gilmer’s and Tessman’s educational backgrounds and roles in higher education were detailed in an SOU News story last week.

An 18-member Presidential Search Committee – a diverse group made up of members of SOU’s Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, local community members and an Oregon university president – recommended the five finalists after receiving more than 100 applications for the position.

SOU students and employees, and members of the community, have an opportunity to meet and ask questions of the finalists during an open forum and Q&A session at 3:15 p.m. in Room 151 of the Science Building on the first day of each candidate’s campus visit. Day two of the schedule also includes an opportunity for community members to interact with candidates – an 8:30 a.m. session at the Higher Education Center in Medford.

More information about the finalists, their schedules and links to recordings of their open forum presentations are available on the presidential search website.

Finalists to be SOU's next president are being interviewed

Interviews of SOU presidential finalists are underway

The first two of five finalists to become SOU’s next president have visited campus over the past week, with the three remaining finalists scheduled to visit later this week and next. All of the candidates are visiting for two days of interviews and presentations with various constituent groups and community members.

Chris Gilmer, Ph.D., currently the president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg, was on the SOU campus on Oct 14 and 15; and Brock Tessman, Ph.D., currently the deputy commissioner of higher education for 16 campuses that comprise the Montana University System, was at SOU on Monday and today. The other candidates – whose names will be announced a day before their respective visits – will come to SOU on Oct. 21-22, Oct. 25-26 and Oct. 27-28.

“We are hoping that not only our campus community, but the entire SOU community and its partners throughout the Rogue Valley will get involved in this process and see these candidates,” said Danny Santos, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees and of the search committee.“ We will be seeking valuable feedback from all who engage in these two-day visits, and that input will be very important in the board’s decision-making process.”

An 18-member Presidential Search Committee – a diverse group made up of members of SOU’s Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, local community members and an Oregon university president – recommended the five finalists after receiving more than 100 applications for the position.

Gilmer held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his role at WVU-Parkersburg, including executive director/chief operating officer of Alcorn State University’s Vicksburg Campus, vice president for academic and sponsored programs at a nonprofit agency, and vice president for academic affairs at Adams State University. He holds a doctorate in English from University of Southern Mississippi, a master’s degree in English from Mississippi College, a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from University of Southern Mississippi and an associate degree in liberal arts from East Central Community College.

Tessman also held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his role with the Montana University System, including professor of political science and dean of the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana in Missoula; and as a tenured professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. He earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brown University and received both his master’s degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

SOU students and employees, and members of the community, have an opportunity to meet and ask questions of the finalists during an open forum and Q&A session at 3:15 p.m. in Room 151 of the Science Building on the first day of each candidate’s campus visit. Day two of the schedule also includes an opportunity for community members to interact with candidates – an 8:30 a.m. session at the Higher Education Center in Medford.

More information about the finalists, their schedules and links to recordings of their open forum presentations are available on the presidential search website.

Toya Cooper is SOU's first-ever Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

SOU hires its first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion

(Ashland, Ore.) — Toya Cooper, an attorney who has spent almost 20 years addressing diversity in higher education, has accepted an offer to become Southern Oregon University’s first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion. She will start work with the university Nov. 15

“I think SOU is ready to engage the questions of equity, diversity and inclusion that this moment in our nation’s history brings to bear, and to model for students what it means to respond effectively to them,” Cooper said.

“I’m excited to learn more about the good EDI-related work already underway at SOU, the OSF, city council and chamber of commerce, and eager to discover what partnerships are to be had among us for the greatest positive impact.”

SOU has a long history of providing a welcoming atmosphere for all students and employees, and has had an equity, diversity and inclusion professional on its leadership team for many years. A decision was made to elevate the position to the vice president level after the most recent person in that role resigned a year and a half ago. A three-person group of SOU administrators has served as the university’s EDI Leadership Team during the interim.

“Our candidates for this new position at SOU were exceptional, and Toya rose to the top,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “She brings a wealth of experience to the job, along with a remarkable ability to collaborate and build teams. I am confident that all members of our campus community will be well-served by her efforts.”

Cooper most recently served for a year as director of equity, inclusion and compliance at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She previously worked for 18 years at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California – as special assistant to the president for legal affairs and associate director of multicultural programs during her first year, and then as college counsel and special assistant to the provost for diversity initiatives. She has authored and presented a variety of diversity trainings and talks.

She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Westmont College and her law degree from the Willamette University College of Law in Salem. She worked as a law clerk for the Marion County District Attorney’s office while in law school, and said she welcomes the opportunity for a return to Oregon.

“I called Salem home for three years,” Cooper said. “I was drawn by and fell in love with its natural beauty, which Ashland certainly does not lack.

“In addition to SOU’s mission, values and vision, that beauty certainly serves as a draw for me.”

SOU’s vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion will oversee fairness and equal opportunity efforts at all levels of campus, and will serve as the university’s point person on those matters throughout the region and the state. It is a key leadership position that works closely with the university president and serves on the president’s cabinet.

The interim Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team is made up of Kylan de Vries, an associate professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Jonathan Chavez-Baez, Assistant Director for Latino/a/x Programs & Outreach; and Patricia Syquia McCarthy, a contracts administrative officer and risk manager in the SOU Service Center.

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SOU's Presidential Search Committee will conduct interviews in October

SOU presidential search entering interview phase

The Presidential Search Committee of the SOU Board of Trustees will begin first-round interviews by the start of October with candidates to become the university’s next president, and plans to select and interview finalists for the position by the end of October. SOU President Linda Schott announced in April that she will retire by the end of this year.

“We have enjoyed high levels of engagement every step of the way, and I am pleased to report that we received more than 100 applicants expressing their interest in becoming SOU’s next president,” Danny Santos, the search committee chair and Board of Trustees vice chair, said this week in a message to campus.

“This is extraordinary and could not have been accomplished without the help of every person on campus who has engaged in the search process, in ways both big and small,” Santos said.

The search committee already has narrowed the list of applicants to 12 top candidates who will be included in first-round interviews over the coming days. The committee’s tentative schedule calls for three to five finalists to be interviewed on-campus – unless COVID-19 conditions require remote or hybrid options – the weeks of October 11, 18 and 25. Each finalist will be interviewed over two days in a process that will enable participation by various segments of the campus community, including students, faculty and staff.

“We are unable to announce the exact dates for these visits until we know who the finalists will be and can confirm their plans for travel to southern Oregon,” Santos said. “We will notify the entire campus and members of the public of specific details when more information is available.

“I urge members of the campus community to be as flexible as possible with their schedules throughout the period in October when finalists will visit campus,” he said. “Your engagement and feedback will be of tremendous value in the decision-making process, for SOU and the candidates.”

The SOU Board of Trustees selected Parker Executive Search in May to help identify and recruit candidates for the university’s presidency, and appointed a diverse, 18-member Presidential Search Committee composed of five trustees, three students, three faculty members, three staff members, three community members and one Oregon university president. Parker is a firm that specializes in higher education presidential searches.

Santos said the university is committed to making the interview and hiring processes as inclusive and transparent as possible, whether it occurs fully on campus or COVID restrictions require other approaches. The identities of finalists will be made public and opportunities for interactions with them will exist regardless of the interview formats. Santos emphasized that a priority is to ensure the safety of SOU’s campus community and all candidates for the position.

The latest information on the presidential search can be found at sou.edu/presidentialsearch.

SOU has adopted a land acknowledgement

SOU adopts “land acknowledgement”

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has adopted an acknowledgement that the SOU campus lies on the ancestral homelands of the area’s Native American tribes, who were removed through a series of actions by Euro-American settlers and the U.S. government, beginning in the mid-1800s.

The formal “land acknowledgement” was developed by staff representatives of the Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes, and Brook Colley, chair of SOU’s Native American Studies Program.

“In our desire for collective healing and partnership, we offer this Acknowledgment of Indigenous peoples and their connections, rights and responsibilities to the land that Southern Oregon University occupies,” developers of the statement said on the SOU website where it is found.

The full and unabridged land acknowledgement may be read at meetings or gatherings on the SOU campus, and the land acknowledgement website – whose text and images were approved by representatives of the two tribes – may be linked to from other university web pages.

SOU’s complete land acknowledgement is:

“We want to take this moment to acknowledge that Southern Oregon University is located within the ancestral homelands of the Shasta, Takelma, and Latgawa peoples who lived here since time immemorial. These Tribes were displaced during rapid Euro-American colonization, the Gold Rush, and armed conflict between 1851 and 1856. In the 1850s, discovery of gold and settlement brought thousands of Euro-Americans to their lands, leading to warfare, epidemics, starvation, and villages being burned. In 1853 the first of several treaties were signed, confederating these Tribes and others together – who would then be referred to as the Rogue River Tribe. These treaties ceded most of their homelands to the United States, and in return they were guaranteed a permanent homeland reserved for them. At the end of the Rogue River Wars in 1856, these Tribes and many other Tribes from western Oregon were removed to the Siletz Reservation and the Grand Ronde Reservation. Today, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians are living descendants of the Takelma, Shasta, and Latgawa peoples of this area. We encourage YOU to learn about the land you reside on, and to join us in advocating for the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous people.”

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solar arrays installed at The Farm at SOU

Solar arrays pop up at The Farm at SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Farm at SOU is sprouting solar arrays this month, with two new and innovative projects taking shape over the past week. The first, mounted on The Farm’s storage building, is student-funded and the second, installed atop 20-foot poles, was financed by a private investor.

“It is a coincidence that these projects happened within a few days of each other, but it is also indicative of our commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship,” said Rebecca Walker, SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager. “These are exciting projects that were both innovatively funded and will generate renewable electricity for the university and our community, and provide educational and other benefits to our students.”

The storage building project, installed early last week by Ashland-based True South Solar has been funded by a Renewable Energy Development Grant from Oregon Department of Energy and the SOU Green Fund. The SOU Green Fund comes from a “Green Tag” fee of $13 per student each term and is overseen by the Environmental Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of SOU. The student Green Fund will receive annual payments based on the generation of the electricity from the storage building, through a power purchase agreement with the university. The Green Fund allows the university’s student government to invest in sustainability projects at SOU, such as renewable energy generation on campus and offsetting SOU’s water usage.

That new solar array will produce 15.48 kilowatts of electricity.

The second array, installed last Friday by Ashland’s STracker Solar, is a community project that employs dual-axis tracking technology – the solar panels follow the path of the sun throughout the day, maximizing efficiency and output. The three elevated panels are adjacent to three existing panels on the neighboring ScienceWorks property – all of them owned by Abbott’s Development.

Abbott’s is owned by Brad Roupp of Ashland, and operates the Abbott’s Cottages vacation rentals. Abbott’s is considered a tax equity investor, leasing property for the new array from SOU and using the city of Ashland’s virtual net metering system to allocate the power it generates to the company’s rental properties. SOU receives an annual lease payment, all renewable energy credits related to the project and the opportunity to use the solar facility for educational and research purposes.

The six solar trackers at Abbott’s installations at The Farm and ScienceWorks will produce a combined 160 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

“The Farm at SOU is a center for sustainability,” said Vincent Smith, director of The Farm at SOU and of the university’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

“These two new projects will not only offset all of our energy use, but will provide opportunities for student and faculty research,” Smith said.

SOU has a total of eight other solar arrays on seven buildings on the Ashland campus and one at the Higher Education Center in Medford. Output from SOU’s solar facilities is typically fed back into the electrical grid and credited to SOU’s accounts, reducing the university’s utility bills.

SOU’s first solar installation was a 24-panel, 6-kilowatt array that was placed on Hannon Library in 2000 and it still generating electricity.

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Water conservation zones at SOU are in response to an ongoing drought

SOU water conservation brings brown lawns, drought-tolerant plantings

Several areas of the usually lush 175-acre SOU campus have dried up this summer – intentionally, rather than through neglect. Those areas have been designated as water conservation areas in response to the region’s ongoing drought and the university is monitoring them for potential fire hazards.

Signs that identify many of the water conservation areas have been posted this month.

“Water resources are severely limited and several main properties on campus are now dry and brown,” said Zack Williams, SOU’s landscape supervisor. “We’re aware of this and are working closely with the city of Ashland Fire Department to remain in compliance with fire hazard reduction guidelines.”

SOU’s grounds have traditionally been irrigated with water from the Talent Irrigation District canal that runs across the hills south of campus. But several years of drought and low snowpack have dried up the reservoirs that supply the canal – Howard Prairie, Hyatt and Emigrant – and users of the irrigation water faced unprecedented restrictions this year.

The university’s sustainability, landscaping and facilities staff have inventoried various areas of campus and are balancing a reduction in water use with wildfire risks. A complicating factor is that a drought-related beetle infestation – which is affecting much of southern Oregon – is destroying dozens of trees  on SOU property.

“Exacerbated by the drought, SOU has been battling a severe beetle infestation on several major stands of conifer trees on campus property,” Williams said. “Every effort is being made to save as many trees as possible.”

Several of SOU’s water conservation areas and vast expanses of lawn will be transitioned over the coming months and years to more drought-tolerant landscaping. New plantings are expected this fall and next spring.

SOU among eight recipients of climate/social justice grants from Second Nature

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is one of eight North American higher education institutions to be awarded grant funding Tuesday from the Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature for innovative, cross-sector climate projects. A preference was given to those that emphasized justice, equity and engagement with communities of color.

SOU’s Social Justice and Equity Center was awarded a $6,600 grant to establish an “equity and climate resilience” program and hire a student Equity and Climate Resilience Fellow. The student will support collaboration between those working toward racial or social justice and others advocating climate resilience and adaptation.

“Southern Oregon University recognizes the intersection of social equity and climate justice, and is delighted to have received funding from Second Nature to help further our work in this area,” President Linda Schott said. “Sustainability is a critical aspect of our Strategic Plan, our values at SOU and our daily operations. We work across the board to ensure our culture is infused with sustainability.”

SOU is developing a rich history with Second Nature, which was formed in 1993 to mobilize higher education toward the goal of sustainability. The university was among 90 institutions to become “charter signatories” in 2016 to the organization’s Climate Commitment, which requires a set of climate targets and progress reports. A year later, SOU was one of just six U.S. colleges and universities to be recognized with Climate Leadership Awards from Second Nature.

This year’s “Acceleration Fund” awards will pay for projects that focus on long-term, campus-community activities that are likely to continue after the one-year grant term expires. The other seven awards went to the College of Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, Drexel University in Philadelphia, Gonzaga University in Spokane, Milwaukee Area Technical College in Wisconsin, Stetson University in Florida, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Second Nature described a highly competitive process for this year’s grants. All colleges and universities that are Climate Leadership Network signatories or University Climate Change Coalition members were eligible to apply.

“We were positively overwhelmed with the number and diversity of applications we received,” said Tim Carter, president of Second Nature. “While it meant that our review committee had to make some tough decisions, it also affirms the higher education sector’s commitment to advancing climate action and climate justice.”

SOU’s new Equity and Climate Resilience Fellow is expected to be recruited and hired in July and begin work in September.

The student will work with the university’s Equity Coordinator for Sustainability and Basic Needs Resourcing to plan and organize working group meetings, workshops and conferences throughout the academic year. A regional conference in spring 2022 will have a theme of “embedding an equity lens in climate resilience and adaptation.”

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

Spelling competition returns

SOU Youth Programs brings spelling competition back to region

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon’s elementary, middle and high school students know how to spell “normal,” and it begins with the resumption of extracurricular routines. Southern Oregon University’s Pre-College Youth Programs gave the region’s students an opportunity to restart one tradition when it coordinated the recent Regional Spelling Contest for 2021, following a two-year interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many schools in the area were unable to hold their individual spelling competitions in 2020, and the State Spelling Contest – organized by Oregon Spellers (www.OregonSpellers.org) and usually held in Salem each year – was canceled for both 2020 and 2021.

SOU Youth Programs was determined to offer a regional competition in 2021 for students in Jackson and Josephine counties, and was able to do so with backing from the Lithia4Kids Foundation. SOU worked with coordinators from schools and school districts throughout southern Oregon to establish virtual competition rules that would challenge students to bring their best to the spelling contest.

The regional finals, held on May 15, yielded winners for Jackson and Josephine counties in each of three categories: for students in grades 1 through 5, 6 through 8 and 9 through 12. The first- and second-place winners in this year’s spelling competition are:

Jackson County

Division 1
First Place:
Ryleigh Ho, grade 5, Hoover Elementary, Medford School District
Second Place:
Nolan Linthorst, grade 5, Mae Richardson, Central Point School District

Division 2
First Place:
Blake Greenwell, grade 6, Logos Public Charter School, Medford School District
Second Place:
Lia Hall, grade 8, The Valley School, Medford School District

Division 3
First Place:
April Hanson, grade 11, Logos Public Charter School, Medford School District

April was declared the winner of Division 3 in Jackson County, after competing and taking first place at Logos Public Charter School, which was the only school in Jackson County to submit a winners list to participate at the Division 3 level.

Josephine County

The Three Rivers School District swept the Josephine County competition because it was the only district in the county to submit winners lists for any division.

Division 1
First Place:
Lior Shapira, grade 5, Williams Elementary, Three Rivers School District

Division 2
First Place:
Cozmo Castaldi Neubauer, grade 8, Lorna Byrne Middle School, Three Rivers School District

Division 3
First Place:
Rory Forsythe-Elder, grade 10, Illinois Valley High School, Three Rivers School District

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Bill McMillan

Celebration of life: Bill McMillan

A celebration of the life of William (Bill) McMillan – a 30-year employee of SOU’s Facilities, Management and Planning Department – will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, in Area B at Emigrant Lake.

Bill, a highly-regarded custodian whose most recent areas of responsibility were in the Computer Services and Susanne Holmes buildings, died suddenly while on his way to work in the early morning hours of May 24. He was 69.

He worked in nearly every building on campus during his time at SOU and had a positive effect on numerous people over the years. His experience and can-do attitude earned him the respect of staff, faculty and students throughout the university. His co-workers describe him as dedicated and hard-working – and in fact, he also held jobs at Omar’s Restaurant and Martino’s in Ashland.

Bill was well-known throughout Ashland for his smile, joyful greetings and positive energy. He was passionate about old TV shows and classic rock music, and proud of his family.

He is survived by his long-time spouse, Judith McMillan; his four children, Dan McMillan, Angelina Tejada-Ingram, Jimmy McMillan and Charlie McMillan; and his four grandchildren, Gwenivere McMillan, Opal Tejada-Ingram, Ira Tejada-Ingram and Meredith McMillan.

Bill will be laid to rest at Mountain View Cemetery in Ashland, across the street the home where he raised his family. He will be buried beside his brother, Glenn McMillan, who preceded him in death.

Those who wish to send flowers or a memorial gift to Bill’s family may do so through the Sympathy Store at Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.