Students at SOU to benefit from new ScholarshipUniverse app

SOU simplifies and broadens student aid options with ScholarshipUniverse

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has launched a new suite of software intended to keep students in school by helping them identify and apply for relevant scholarships – both internal and external.

The ScholarshipUniverse platform, from the higher education support vendor CampusLogic, automates much of the scholarship screening and application process for students. It matches scholarships to students based on their responses to a series of questions and guides them through the application process.

Students can login to the ScholarshipUniverse website or use a mobile app to check the status of their scholarship applications. It also helps to keep students on-task – those who have started scholarship applications will receive live alerts and text messages, reminding them to finish the process.

A majority of SOU students are eligible for financial aid in one form or another – scholarships, grants, institutional aid or work-study. But many students at SOU and elsewhere don’t make the most of their financial opportunities – CampusLogic estimates that almost three million students across the country leave college each year because of finances, while many scholarships go unfilled.

Almost 500 colleges and universities nationwide use products from CampusLogic to help their students navigate the financial aspects of higher education.

SOU’s recent strategic planning process identified student success through service excellence as a key component of the university’s mission. Its addition of the ScholarshipUniverse software is intended to help more students remain in school, complete their degree programs and go on to lead successful lives.

The ScholarshipUniverse platform helps students track and manage both internal scholarships available through the Southern Oregon Scholarship Application (SOSA) and external scholarships offered by a spectrum of organizations, foundations and private companies.


Smoke blankets the Ashland hills

SOU steps up as smoke moves in

Significant smoke moved into Ashland on Thursday night for the first time this summer and Southern Oregon University acted quickly to protect students and employees, and offer refuge for community members seeking to escape the poor air quality.

Smoke from the Milepost 97 fire, which had burned more than 1,650 acres near Canyonville as of Friday morning, blanketed much of the Rogue Valley and pushed the air quality index to “unhealthy” range.

SOU staff began regular monitoring of exterior and interior air quality and promised to take whatever actions are necessary to support the health and safety of all on campus.

Particulate-filtering N95 or N100 face masks were made available to all employees at the Facilities Management and Planning office on Walker Street. Those who spend extended periods outside were encouraged to wear the masks if air quality measurements rise above 200 and into the “very unhealthy” range at the state Department of Environmental Quality’s monitoring station in Ashland.

University staff initiated daily indoor air quality tests for every SOU building and if unfavorable conditions are found, steps will be taken such as closing the dampers to outside air, installing more effective air filters and supplying air purifiers. Building-by-building conditions will be updated later today on SOU’s Environmental Health and Safety website.

“Many of our buildings have exceptional air filtration systems and provide healthy havens from the smoke outside,” said Greg Perkinson, SOU’s vice president for finance and administration, in a Friday morning message to campus.

The university invited community members to share its healthy spaces, as it did for about two months last summer. Areas where the public can find respite from smoke include the indoor walking and running track at SOU’s Student Recreation Center, where community members will be welcome from 6 to 8 p.m. every Sunday through Thursday until outdoor air quality improves. Other on-campus spaces where the public can enjoy fresh air are located in the Stevenson Union and Hannon Library.

“The health of everyone at SOU is a top priority for all of us,” Perkinson said in his campus message. “Our monitoring of indoor and outdoor air quality will continue as we work to ensure a safe environment for students, staff and others.”

SOU's public safety officers will train with APD in downtown Ashland

SOU public safety officers to get code-violation training with APD

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Campus Public Safety officers may occasionally be seen in downtown Ashland beginning this week, citing people for smoking, intrusive panhandling and other minor infractions as part of a new training program with Ashland Police.

CPS officers, who typically work on or adjacent to the SOU campus, are authorized by the Ashland Municipal Code to serve as code compliance officers throughout the city and issue citations for those who violate provisions of the city code – the same as Ashland Police Department’s Central Area Patrol officers.

But the SOU officers don’t get a high volume of citation-writing work on their home turf, and newly hired officers sometimes struggle with the nuances of dealing with code-violators. That isn’t an issue for the city’s CAP officers – particularly in the downtown area.

So Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara and SOU Campus Public Safety Director Andrew MacPherson have agreed to a training partnership: newly hired CPS officers will begin shadowing Ashland’s CAP officers, who will serve as code violation mentors. The SOU officers will learn from their city counterparts, and become better prepared for enforcement actions on and near campus.

“SOU is an integral part of our community, and cooperation and collaboration with them can only yield overall positive results,” said Ashland City Administrator Kelly Madding, who approved the new program.

SOU’s officers will never work by themselves in downtown Ashland. But after a period of time working with and observing city officers, the CPS officers will likely begin initiating contact with suspected code-violators – under the watch of their mentors from the city’s police department.

“This is a great opportunity for our public safety officers to get intensive training in some situations that don’t happen all that often on campus,” said MacPherson, SOU’s director of public safety. “With this training, they’ll be prepared when those situations do happen, and in the meantime we’re strengthening the solid relationship we already have with Ashland Police.”


Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium members meet again this week

Consortium of Southern Oregon colleges and universities work together on student success

(Ashland, Ore.) — Collaboration to benefit the region’s students and economy is continuing this month as the new Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium holds two separate meetings for academic and enrollment leaders.

The chief academic officers from the four schools – Klamath Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology, Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University –  will meet for the third time in the past year when they convene for about six hours on Wednesday at SOU. Several of their key staff members will also participate.

The academic group is expected to address topics including how new and existing majors at the four schools can complement each other; programs that lead to stand-alone certificates and alternative credentials for students; 2+2(+2) programs that allow students to incrementally earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees; development of stronger K-12 programs that serve as pipelines to higher education; and personalized learning opportunities.

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the third floor of SOU’s Hannon Library, and will continue until about 3:15 p.m. Representatives of media outlets are welcome to report on the day’s discussions.

Enrollment leaders from the four institutions met last Monday, July 8, at the Running Y Ranch near Klamath Falls.

That meeting was the second for the SOHEC institutions’ enrollment and student affairs leadership group. They discussed several topics, including the “Badger to Owl Connection” partnership between KCC and Oregon Tech. The program promotes access, affordability and degree completion by offering tuition waivers for two terms at Oregon Tech to qualifying KCC graduates.

The SOHEC leaders also discussed the potential expansion of a reverse transfer program in which credits earned at SOU or OIT can be transferred back to RCC or KCC. The program enables students who have transferred from community college to the universities before earning their two-year associate degrees to complete them while working toward their four-year bachelor’s degrees.

The consortium’s enrollment group agreed to meet quarterly, with the next meeting tentatively scheduled to take place this fall at SOU.

The consortium – a first-of-its-kind alliance of Oregon colleges and universities – is aimed at streamlining students’ educational pathways and addressing southern Oregon’s specific workforce needs. The member institutions work in partnership to promote and build student success in the region, working as colleagues rather than competitors to improve educational attainment.

The SOHEC partners were recently honored with a “Collaboration Award” at the annual meeting of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. (SOREDI). The award “takes a holistic view of our region and looks for partnerships that cultivate an environment of support” and teamwork, according to SOREDI. It was accepted by RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle, KCC President Roberto Gutierrez, Oregon Tech President Nagi Naganathan and SOU Provost and Vice President Sue Walsh, on behalf of President Linda Schott.

SOHEC’s collaborative efforts took root with the four institutions’ presidents following a joint lunch meeting a year and a half ago, and the partnership was announced last November with signing events in both Klamath Falls and Medford.

It is considered a pioneering step toward preparing students and workforce members in the region for a rapidly changing future. The consortium has been endorsed by state officials including the governor and the chair of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

SOU's Alison Burke finishes Western States Endurance Run

SOU criminology professor completes ultra dream: Western States 100

SOU faculty member Alison Burke compared her feat to the experiences of her students after she recently achieved any ultramarathoner’s dream. She not only finished her first 100-mile race, but the race just happened to be the “granddaddy of them all” – the Western States Endurance Run.

“The big take away from this experience is really believing in and enjoying the process rather than measuring success based on the outcome,” she said – acknowledging that’s an easy thing to say after finishing the race (50 runners didn’t).

Alison Burke at a Western States aid stationBut Burke said her long months of training for the race, and then enjoying the miles as she navigated the Western States course from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California, affected her more profoundly than the euphoria of the finish line.

“Anything can happen on race day – injury, illness or other unforeseen events,” she said. “It just so happened that everything went so smoothly for my race, but that’s not always the case.

“Building up to a race, there are marked improvements in fitness that should be celebrated. I can’t help but think of my students with this analogy. If they enjoy and focus on the process of learning rather that the outcome – the grade at the end of the term – then they will be happier and more fulfilled with their education.”

Burke, a criminology and criminal justice professor at SOU since 2008, earned her entry into Western States by volunteering at several previous years’ races. The event is limited by the U.S. Forest Service to 369 runners, and 5,862 entered a lottery to run in this year’s race.

The endurance run is a cornerstone event in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning: the five oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail races in the U.S. Western States was launched as its own event in 1978, though its roots go about six years deeper, when seven soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, participated on foot in the Western States Trail Ride. A handful of runners competed alongside the horses each of the next few years, until the 100-mile run became an independent event.

This year’s race began at 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, at the base of Squaw Valley Resort – just northwest of Lake Tahoe­ – and runners gained a total of 18,090 feet and descended 22,970 feet before finishing on the track at Auburn’s Placer High School.

Runners traverse snowfields atop Squaw Valley and some of the other peaks along the course, and often contend with 100-degree temperatures in the canyons of the American River.

“The hardest thing about the race was waiting for it to start,” Burke said. “Squaw Valley was a very intense place in the days leading up to the race. You can feel the energy, anxiety and excitement radiating off everyone in Olympic Village. It was actually very overwhelming.”

Burke has run more than 15 previous ultramarathon events, ranging from 50 kilometers to 100 kilometers (62 miles). But a jump to the 100-mile distance is difficult for many, in part because it requires running through the night for all but the fastest runners.

She worked with a running coach – Molly Schmelzle of Running Rabbit Endurance in Ashland – to prepare for the race, and said the experience helped her gear up both physically and mentally for the distance.

“It really is incredible what people can do when they put their mind to it,” Burke said. “A hundred miles is commonplace for many of the runners here in southern Oregon, but I never dreamed I’d be among the ranks. I was utterly petrified going into it.

“As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (former Liberian president and first woman head of state in Africa) said, ‘If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough.’”

Burke and her Western States crewBurke was assisted during the race by a crew of four, including a pacer who accompanied her on the final 38 miles of the course. Her crew members – who were allowed by race rules to meet her at 10 of the 21 aid stations along the course – included two with SOU ties: Hannon Library’s systems librarian Jim Rible and Camille Siders, whose husband is business faculty member Mark Siders.

“I am utterly humbled by my crew, who were extraordinary and totally dialed in,” Burke said. “All I had to do is run. They had to navigate back roads, meet me at hot, dusty, crowded aid stations and keep my spirits high.

“They had a harder job than I did. I am so, so thankful to them!”

Her entire crew met Burke at the Robie Point aid station – just 1.1 miles from the finish –to wrap things up as a team.

Nearing the finish at Western States“We all ran to the finish together, laughing and smiling and feeling all the emotions of the race,” she said. “Another person who joined us was a woman I met (before the race) in Squaw Valley, who was volunteering at the Dusty Corners aid station (mile 38) and said she’d look for me on race day. I didn’t see her at the aid station when I ran through, so she went all the way to Robie Point to cheer me on!

“This kind of support happened all day throughout the whole race – strangers going out of their way to help random runners get to the finish line.”

As she finished – in 26 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds – the loudspeaker announcer called out Burke’s name and described her as a criminology and criminal justice professor at SOU. A woman in the crowd approached and asked if Burke knew her daughter, who is an SOU student. She did, and the student’s mom got a picture of herself with the new 100-mile finisher.

Burke is one of 319 finishers of this year’s race, and the 32nd woman out of 65 who finished (22 didn’t). She was inspired by many of the other participants: a former second-place finisher at Western States who ran 91 miles of this year’s race on a prosthetic leg; the first blind runner to attempt the race; the event’s first transgender participant; and by the 20th Western States finish for 68-year-old Scotty Mills of California.

“But seriously, crossing that finish line at Placer High School was thrilling, exciting and amazing,” Burke said. “It’s known as the happiest place on earth for a reason!”

Post-race, she feels great – and ravenously hungry. She doesn’t have any other big races on her calendar for now, but will be returning the favor for her pacer next month, when she runs Colorado’s Leadville Trail 100 Run.

“It’s her turn to embrace the brutality, and my turn to be the tireless crew,” Burke said.

SOU women's wrestling gets new head coach

Joel Gibson named Raider women’s wrestling head coach

Joel Gibson, a former Raider All-American and longtime assistant coach for Southern Oregon University men’s wrestling, has been chosen to lead the SOU women’s wrestling program.

Gibson will become the first full-time head coach for the team, which completed its fourth season in 2018-19.

Joel GibsonHe has spent a total of eight seasons on Mike Ritchey‘s men’s wrestling staff, including the last two as the head assistant, since finishing his collegiate career with the Raiders in 2007. He was Phoenix High School’s head wrestling coach from 2014-17.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity,” Gibson said. “The program is still in its infancy stages and we’ve experienced some success, but I have very high expectations about where we can go from here both athletically and academically. I feel our team has a lot of potential and can’t wait to see what this next year brings.”

Gibson is a product of North Medford High and was initially a wrestling letter-winner at Oregon State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with an emphasis in history. He then competed for SOU during the 2006-07 season, serving as a team captain and receiving SOU’s Dan Speasl Most Inspirational Award after a seventh-place finish at the NAIA Championships.

Gibson graduated magna cum laude from SOU with a master’s degree in health and physical education in 2011.

He began his coaching career under Ritchey in 2007 while continuing his schooling. He’s contributed to 10 individual NAIA national championships and 31 total All-American performances. While at Phoenix, he produced two girls’ state champions, eight boys’ state placers, and six freestyle and Greco-Roman state placers.

Gibson was freestyle coach for the 2019 Oregon Women’s Cadet and Junior National Team, and has earned Copper and Bronze coaching certifications from USA Wrestling. He married SOU alumna Ricci (Coultas) Gibson, a former Raider softball player, in 2013. The couple live in Medford with their daughter, Henley, and son, Everett.

“We’re confident Joel will bring structure and high standards to the program, both on the mat and in the classroom,” SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre said in announcing Gibson’s hiring. “He presented a coherent plan for developing the whole student-athlete, from recruitment to graduation.

“He will also develop the SOU women’s wrestling team’s potential to compete for Cascade Conference and NAIA championships.”

In four trips to the Women’s College Wrestling Association Championships, the Raiders have placed 10th, 11th twice and 12th in the team point standings. They took eighth at the inaugural NAIA Invitational in March, with one All-American, after going 9-8 in dual matches.

The Cascade Conference announced last month that it will make wrestling its eighth official women’s sport beginning with the 2019-20 season. The circuit will initially include SOU, Eastern Oregon, Life Pacific (California), Menlo (California), Providence (Montana), Simpson (California) and Warner Pacific, with Corban set to launch its program in 2020-21.

This story is based on an earlier version at

Suresh Appavoo, SOU's new Chief Diversity and Inclusivity Officer

SOU hires chief diversity and inclusivity officer

(Ashland, Ore.) — Suresh Appavoo, who has served in diversity leadership roles for the past 18 years at Dominican University of California, has been hired as Southern Oregon University’s new chief diversity and inclusivity officer. He is expected to begin work at SOU in mid-August.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Dr. Appavoo to SOU,” President Linda Schott said. “He is extremely well-qualified to fill this critical role, and to lead the creation of what our strategic plan describes as a diverse, equitable, inclusive community on our campus.

“He shares our goals to instill a sense of belonging at SOU, to support those from underrepresented backgrounds and to prepare all of our learners to succeed in this increasingly diverse world.”

Suresh has been Dominican’s dean for equity and diversity for the past five and a half years, and he served as director of the university’s Center for Diversity for 12 ½ years before that. His recent accomplishments include developing a five-year institutional diversity plan and aligning it with Dominican’s strategic plan.

He will have similar responsibilities at SOU, where he will be expected to develop initiatives to support elements of the university’s strategic plan that pertain to diversity, equity and inclusion. He will be asked to help promote a welcoming climate for all students and address barriers to recruiting and retaining students. The chief diversity and inclusivity officer will report directly to the president and will serve as a member of her executive team.

Suresh will also serve as SOU’s Title IX coordinator and affirmative action officer.

“In Oregon, and especially at Southern Oregon University, we have to recognize that we have an unprecedented, innovative and transformative opportunity to create an equitable, inclusive and sustainability-serving institution,” he said. “My goal is to partner with everyone who is a part of the SOU community to collaboratively actualize this opportunity so that we can all learn to be, and learn to live, with all of our diverse identities.”

The expanded position of chief diversity and inclusivity officer will replace the role of director of diversity and inclusion at SOU. Marjorie Trueblood Gamble left that job last June to become Dean of Multicultural Life at Macalester College in Minnesota and Shenethia Manuel, a higher education administrator who has worked in Missouri and Oklahoma, has filled the position on an interim basis.

Appavoo received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of the Pacific and his master’s degree in international management from the American Graduate School of International Management, which is now a part of Arizona State University. He earned his doctorate in international and multicultural education from the University of San Francisco.

He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2012, while serving at Dominican University, to work with government agencies and institutions of higher education in the Republic of Maldives.


SOU students have some certainty about next year's tuition rate following last Thursday's vote by the HECC

Oregon’s HECC approves SOU tuition rate for 2019-20

Southern Oregon University’s tuition rate for the academic year that begins this fall was approved unanimously last Thursday by Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, whose members commended SOU’s efforts to include students in the tuition-setting process.

The rate approved for undergraduate students who are Oregon residents is an increase of $17 per credit hour – or 9.9 percent – over the current year’s tuition rate. Resident undergraduate students will pay a total of $189 per credit hour, unless lawmakers unexpectedly add more funding for higher education during the Oregon Legislature’s closing weeks. Tuition rates for resident graduate students will also increase by 9.9 percent, and rates for non-resident undergraduate and graduate students – who already pay substantially more than Oregon residents – will increase by 5 percent.

“It’s good for our students and our university to have some degree of certainty,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “At the same time, we know there are some legislators who recognize the burden that has increasingly been shifted to students and their parents. We hope to reverse that trend, and would welcome an opportunity to continue that work before this year’s legislative session ends.”

The tuition rate that SOU proposed, and was approved on Thursday by the HECC, is toward the lower end of a sliding scale that was accepted last month by the SOU Board of Trustees. The university’s board approved a range of tuition increases – from $15 to $23 per credit, or 8.5 percent to 13.5 percent – that were tied to various state funding scenarios for Oregon’s seven public universities.

The amount is still not set in stone, but the funding measure currently winding its way through the Oregon Legislature includes $837 million for higher education – $100 million more than for the biennium that ends June 30. The public universities have said it will take at least $120 million more than the current allocation to maintain current service levels, because of increases costs of retirement, health care and wages – all of which are managed at the state level.

Under the formula used to divide state money among Oregon’s universities, the $100 million increase in higher education funding will result in an increase of only $1.67 million in revenue at SOU for the coming academic year, which does not keep pace with rising costs. Leaders of the university have already begun to lay groundwork for a review of the funding formula and potential changes to level the playing field for all universities.

Tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest at Oregon’s public universities, and its overall cost of attendance – which includes tuition, along with mandatory student fees, housing and meals will increase by just over 4 percent next year. The university is also increasing the pool of institutional aid – available to the most financially vulnerable students – to $4.1 million next year, from the current year’s $3.6 million.

Cost-containment at university housing will help keep SOU's overall cost of attendance relatively low despite a tuition increase

SOU’s budget and tuition come into focus

A key legislative subcommittee today approved a funding bill for Oregon’s seven public universities, signaling an end to SOU’s long process of planning its budget and tuition rates for the 2019-20 academic year.

The Joint Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Education approved an allocation of $837 million over the next two years for the state’s public universities. That’s $100 million more than the universities received for the current biennium, which ends June 30, but still below the $120 million that was sought to keep pace with increased costs of retirement, health care and wages – which are controlled at the state level.

SOU will need to set its tuition increase for next year at 10 percent – $17 per credit hour – if higher education funding remains at $837 million as the bill is voted on by the full Ways and Means Committee and then the House and Senate over the next few weeks. The overall cost of attendance at SOU – which takes into account tuition, mandatory student fees, housing and meals – will be approximately 4.5 percent because of ongoing efforts to limit cost increases in other areas.

The tuition increase for next year will also be offset by $500,000 in additional institutional aid – from the current $3.6 million to $4.1 million – for students who are least able to afford the additional cost. Information about institutional aid and other forms of financial assistance is available at SOU’s Financial Aid Office.

President Linda Schott said in an email to campus today that the level of state funding authorized by the legislative subcommittee “still will not support current service levels at SOU” because of rising costs at the state level and the formula used to divide funding among Oregon’s public universities.

“But lawmakers’ movement from their starting point of flat funding for public universities suggests they recognize the importance of higher education in changing learners’ lives,” the president said.

SOU and the other six public universities lobbied for an increase of  $120 million, to keep pace with the rising statewide expenses. Even state funding at that level would not have prevented a tuition increase at SOU.

The SOU Board of Trustees last month approved a recommendation, based on input from the university’s Tuition Advisory Council, for a 2019-20 tuition increase tied directly to the level at which legislators would eventually fund higher education. At the time, the most likely scenario appeared to be near 13.5 percent.

The university’s recommendation for a 10 percent tuition increase will be presented on Thursday to Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which must approve any tuition increase above 5 percent. Those who wish to listen to the meeting can call (888) 273-3658 and enter the access code 5934430.

Kamilah Long-SOU commencement speaker

OSF’s Long to serve as keynote speaker at SOU commencement

(Ashland, Ore.) — Graduates and others at Southern Oregon University’s June 15 commencement ceremony should expect a keynote speech about motivation, self-empowerment, the importance of personal interactions and the lifelong value of friendships. And perhaps a soulful, heartfelt song.

Kamilah Long, the director of leadership gifts at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a powerful speaker at local events, will tell graduates to believe in themselves and drill down to their “core purpose.”

“I have a story I want to share,” Long said. “It’s about the experience I had working for Angela Basset, as an intern on the set of a movie. It impacted the rest of my life.

“And I’ll probably weave a little song into it – ‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.’”

Long will anchor the list of speakers at this year’s SOU commencement, which will begin with an 8:45 a.m. processional into Raider Stadium. The program is expected to be more compact than in recent years, with the focus squarely on the accomplishments and potential of about 1,000 graduates who will receive degrees.

There will be no tickets to the event, but graduates have been asked to tell their guests to arrive early. Parking and seating are both limited, and available on a first-come basis.

Long, who is originally from Montgomery, Alabama, has worked in the development office at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since 2014. She previously worked as a creative arts consultant for the Lowndes County Board of Education in Alabama, and has served as an artistic director and as an adjunct professor.

She received her bachelor’s degree in theatre and biology from Alabama State University and her master of fine arts degree from the University of Louisville.

Long said one piece of advice she would have liked to have heard more emphatically during her graduation ceremonies is to maintain the friendships that are forged in college.

“Yeah, stay in contact with the people you’ve connected with,” she said. “What you learn in life is that your family doesn’t always have to be your blood relative.”

Long was chosen as the keynote speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony in part because of the rousing reception she received as a speaker at this year’s Southern Oregon Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration. She spoke about the impact of hearing Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a young girl, and about believing in yourself and living with dignity. She ended that speech with a few soulful lines of the Gospel song, “How I Got Over” – which Mahalia Jackson sang shortly before Dr. King delivered his iconic speech at the 1963 March on Washington.

Long said she hopes to touch on the importance of contributing to society, treating others with kindness and respect, and living with confidence in her speech to SOU’s graduates.

“My approach is definitely motivation of the students to use their personal power,” Long said. “It’s about self-empowerment and the importance of stepping into your light.”