pre-consumer waste is composted at The Farm at SOU

“Pre-consumer” composting closes loop at SOU dining operations

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Hawk dining commons at Southern Oregon University is now addressing the issue of potential food waste at both ends of the food service stream, after beginning a new program this month to collect and compost scraps generated in the preparation of student meals. The composted “pre-consumer” waste is used to enrich soil at The Farm at SOU – and grow more produce for the dining commons.

The dining facility – operated by Aladdin Campus Dining and used primarily by students in SOU residence halls – tackled the issue of post-consumer waste three years ago by using a small grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to replace 10.5-inch plates with nine-inch plates. The larger plates tended to encourage diners to take more food than they could consume in one sitting.

“This composting program is just another step in our efforts to create a more sustainable dining operation on campus,” said Daniel Kelly, marketing and sustainability coordinator for Aladdin’s SOU operations. “Switching to a smaller plate size a few years ago was an effort to generate less post-consumer waste. This is just another avenue for us to tackle the same issue of reducing waste … but this time it’s in the area of pre-consumer waste.”

The new program will result in the composting of about 400 pounds of food preparation waste each week – materials such as egg shells and scraps from fruits, vegetables and bread. The two-step collection process begins with compostable waste being deposited in specially marked green bins adjacent to the Hawk’s kitchen prep tables; that waste is moved to larger, secondary containers when the smaller bins fill, and the larger containers are transported by truck on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to The Farm, a few blocks to the northeast.

Aladdin plans to expand the composting program to all other dining locations on campus – Elmo’s and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Stevenson Union, Southern Grounds at the Hannon Library and the Landing at Raider Village.

Kelly acknowledged the unanswered question: why not compost post-consumer food scraps? That’s a bit more complicated, he said, because scraps from diners’ food plates are often mixed with materials such as meat that typically can’t be composed due to health and safety concerns. But potential solutions that may allow some form of post-consumer composting will continue to be explored.

In the meantime, all partners in the new pre-consumer composting operation – SOU Dining, The Farm at SOU, and Facilities Management and Planning – are pleased that the “closed loop” program will support the university’s sustainability goals while improving productivity.

“As we get more and more produce from The Farm in our dining operations, being able to take some waste back to The Farm to turn it into compost creates a circular aspect, as that compost later gets used to support the crops at The Farm to generate more produce,” Kelly said. “It’s a win for plants, the environment and all the people who interact with food on campus – students, staff and community members.”


Patridge hired as general counsel

Patridge hired as SOU general counsel

Rob Patridge, who has held several high-profile professional and public service positions throughout Oregon, has been hired following a nationwide search to become Southern Oregon University’s in-house attorney. He will begin work as SOU’s general counsel on Dec. 5.

“Rob’s varied legal career has been punctuated by innovation and leadership, guiding his clients through situations both routine and ground-breaking,” SOU President Rick Bailey said this week in a message to campus. “His experiences will benefit SOU as we re-engineer our financial structure by developing entrepreneurial revenue sources.”

Patridge has served four years as the Klamath County District Attorney, almost five years as chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, two years as general counsel and district director for former U.S. Representative Greg Walden, three terms as State Representative for Oregon House District 50 and two years as a Medford City Council member.

He has directed several “change management” efforts for clients, and led government and business leaders through emerging issues in commercial alcohol, tobacco, hemp and cannabis regulation, in his current position as regulated products leader at the international Deloitte Consulting firm. His clients at Deloitte have also included health care and financial institutions.

Patridge’s other work experience includes 13 years as managing member of the Covey Consulting firm, three years as president of Powder River’s Meridian Investments branch, six years as general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, Inc., almost four years as a deputy district attorney for Jackson County and five years with Applied Laser Systems, Inc., of Medford.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree from Willamette University, and has southern Oregon roots, graduating high school in Eagle Point.

Patridge succeeds Jason Catz as SOU’s general counsel, following Catz’s resignation earlier this year to take a position at Oregon State University.

“I want to personally thank our search committee – led by Vice President Toya Cooper – for the successful search that led to Rob’s hiring,” President Bailey said. “I encourage each of you to welcome Rob to our campus and to get acquainted with him as time allows.”

John Johnstin hired as student activities and Stevenson Union director

John Johnstin named director of student activities and Stevenson Union

SOU has a new director of student activities and the Stevenson Union. Dean of Students Carrie Vath, Ph.D., is happy to introduce John Johnstin (he/him) to the campus community. John was selected following an in-depth search that included several strong candidates.

“The search committee was impressed with John’s experience, ideas and collaborative style,” Vath said. “I am very excited to have John as a member of the Student Life team.”

John joins SOU from Notre Dame University, where he served as the assistant director of student engagement and community engagement in addition to interim director of the Gender Relations Center. His official start date with SOU was October 17; his role oversees Student Activities, the Stevenson Union, Clubs and Organizations, and New Student Programs.

SOU stood out to John in several ways. He said that “many things excite me about SOU but the people (students, staff, and faculty) and the institutional potential stand out the most.”

John has a long history of dedication to institutions of higher education and the students they serve. He is a two-time graduate of Central Michigan University, with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in higher education administration. While pursuing his studies at CMU, John served as a residence hall director for seven years. During that time, he was involved with campus organizations that support survivors of sexual aggression and mentoring college-aged men.

John moved next to Dallas, Texas, and the University of Texas at Dallas. He served as an assistant director of student organizations during his three years there. He also served as co-chair of Welcome Week(s) and Homecoming. The University of Notre Dame brought John back to the Midwest for the past seven years. His work in the Gender Relations Center focused on student leadership, mentoring peer educators and violence prevention programming.

“I hope to help our students and staff to develop a robust, engaging and exciting student experience from admission through graduation,” John said.

SOU students and employees are encouraged to stop by and connect with John in Stevenson Union 312A or reach out via email at

Campus climate survey a mixed bag

“Campus Climate” put to the test at SOU

Southern Oregon University’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion conducted a campus-wide “Climate Survey” last May to assess the attitudes, perceptions and experiences of students, faculty and staff related to EDI programming and initiatives.

The survey findings revealed that respondents generally felt more satisfied than not with SOU’s overall climate of equity, diversity and inclusion. But students, faculty and staff at the same time gave low ratings to campus diversity and the level of resources committed to diversity efforts.

The results are being used to inform efforts already underway by the EDI office to address concerns and circumstances that may disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), transgender/non-binary and other specific demographic groups on campus.

The survey – designed by SoundRocket, a Michigan-based survey research organization that specializes in higher education consultation – was initiated to measure experiences, beliefs and opinions about diversity, equity and inclusion at SOU. This year’s survey will serve as a baseline to compare against future survey results and gauge SOU’s progress.

“The EDI office is glad to have the findings, and excited to bring even greater data-driven focus to our efforts to improve both the experiences and perceptions of all members of our campus community,” said SOU Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Toya Cooper.

While an overall majority of respondents expressed satisfaction with the university’s climate for equity, diversity and inclusion – and said they had never personally been discriminated against at SOU – the results show key differences in the responses of those from specific racial, ethnic and gender demographics. For instance, 84.4 percent of students, 80.8 percent of staff and 75 percent of faculty said they have never personally felt or experienced discrimination at SOU; but nearly half of the students who said they have experienced discrimination were either BIPOC (23.2 percent) or transgender/non-binary (22.8 percent). Among staff members, 27.5 percent of those who reported experiencing discrimination identified as BIPOC.

Even satisfaction with SOU’s overall climate for equity, diversity and inclusion was a mixed bag, with 57.9 percent of students and 58.8 percent of staff members – but just 40 percent of faculty members – saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied. Among students, 61.2 percent of women and 61 percent who  identified as White said they are satisfied or very satisfied, while 49.7 percent who identified as BIPOC answered the same way.

Perceptions of safety on campus vary significantly among demographic segments, with 53.1 percent of students saying they are never concerned for their physical safety, 43.3 percent saying they are sometimes concerned and 3.6 percent saying they are often concerned. The differences arise when responses are sorted by gender identity – 71.3 percent of transgender/non-binary students say they are sometimes concerned for their safety, compared to 26.4 percent of men and 44.6 percent of women.

Among Ashland residents – who make up 63 percent of the survey respondents – 77 percent overall and 63 percent who identify as BIPOC said they feel welcome.

The overall response rate for the survey was 26.23 percent – including 53.1 percent among staff members, 50 percent for faculty and 26 percent for students. SoundRocket indicated that the average nationwide response rate for this type of survey ranged from 15 to 30 percent.

SOU’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion already has begun addressing some of the areas in which the survey revealed differences for racial-, ethnic- and gender-specific demographic groups, including a sense of belonging to one or more campus communities, discriminatory experiences, feelings of safety and perceptions of fairness in compensation.

The EDI office is partnering with Human Resources to re-establish and expand faculty and staff gatherings that were previously known as BIPOC Luncheons, and also established three summer work groups from SOU’s Committee for Equity and Diversity to develop the “Inclusive Guide for Living and Working in the Rogue Valley” – an online handbook intended to ease newcomers’ transition into the region and assist in developing a sense of belonging and community.

Cooper held a series of meetings this summer with SOU’s academic division directors, and a plan is in the works to increase diversity in their program areas, beginning with diversity in their networks. The EDI office has also begun discussions with the offices of Outreach and Engagement, and Admissions, to help with tracking and maintaining relationships with participants from the university’s pipeline programs, with the goal of improving access to higher education among historically underrepresented students.

Developing the data is key and the Office for EDI is working on creating opportunities for those who are interested to give additional feedback on the findings. Look for additional information in the weeks to come.

Solar power production to be supported by state grant

SOU to expand solar power, move toward energy independence

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been awarded a $1 million grant from the Oregon Department of Energy to expand solar power production on campus, in the next step toward its ambitious goal of becoming the first college or university in the U.S. to generate 100 percent of the electricity used on campus.

The award from ODE’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program will add solar arrays to The Hawk Dining Commons and the Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center complex, and will pay for the installation of battery storage at the Hawk to support students, first responders and the broader community, if needed.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for SOU, and for our students and the Ashland community,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “This grant supports our campus-wide efforts to expand sustainability as an integral part of our everyday operations. It also is a significant milestone in our entrepreneurial mission to reduce costs and broaden revenue, easing the financial burden on students and their families.”

Solar energy production is a key element of SOU’s innovative plan to develop new revenue streams and reduce dependence on the two traditional funding sources for public higher education nationwide – tuition and state funding. The proportions of funding from those two sources has flipped over the past 25 years in Oregon, from two-thirds state money and one-third tuition, to exactly the opposite.

Energy self-sufficiency will save SOU at least $700,000 per year in utility costs and President Bailey plans to expand the program from there, with additional solar installations that will enable the university to generate income by selling electricity to local utilities. He achieved that on a smaller scale at Northern New Mexico College, where he served as president before being hired at SOU in January.

SOU is also awaiting confirmation of a $2 million federal grant for its campus-wide solar build-out. Oregon’s U.S. senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, have placed SOU’s request in the senate’s draft appropriations bill for the 2023 fiscal year, which is currently in a process known as “Congressionally Directed Spending.” The federal grant, if awarded, will pay for additional solar arrays on SOU’s parking lots and rooftops.

For the state grant that was awarded this week, SOU submitted its application in July for $1 million toward a project that will cost a total of $1.34 million. It is considered both a community renewable energy project and a community energy resilience project, under the definitions of ODE’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program.

The program was created by the 2021 Legislature, which set aside $50 million for projects throughout the state over the next three years – with $12 million available in the 2022 funding cycle. The program – open to Oregon tribes, public bodies and consumer-owned utilities – drew a total of 56 applicants who submitted 68 applications, with 20 projects awarded grants in the program’s first round.

“These new solar projects at SOU will take our efforts to the next level,” SOU Sustainability Director Becs Walker said. “We are pursuing all viable opportunities to generate renewable energy on campus. This will help us financially as well as set us on the pathway to achieve carbon neutrality.  Our university is helping to lead the way for our community, region and the state of Oregon.”

SOU chose the Hawk Dining Commons and Lithia Motors Pavilion/Student Recreation Center projects for this year’s state funding based on site readiness, community resiliency and public welfare factors. SOU will continue to implement energy conservation and energy efficiency measures as it increases its solar.

The university currently has nine solar arrays on its Ashland campus with a total output of 455 kilowatts, plus an array at the Higher Education Center in Medford and a pole-mounted array installed last year by a nonprofit on land leased from SOU. The two new arrays supported by the state grant will increase SOU’s solar capacity by a total of 359 kilowatts.

SOU’s first solar array – a 6 kilowatt project with 24 solar panels – was installed on the Hannon Library in 2000. A total of five new arrays have been added in just the past three years, in projects funded through a combination of private investors, grants, the student body and the university. SOU’s Hawk Dining Hall & McLoughlin Residence Hall each have solar hot water systems installed to augment the natural gas domestic water heating, and the campus also has three net-zero buildings – they create as much or more energy than they use.

Solar energy production is one of four opportunities that SOU is currently pursuing in its effort to be more entrepreneurial in its approach to revenue generation. The university has also initiated a project to raze its vacant Cascade housing complex, which was completed in the early 1960s, and replace it with an innovative senior living facility that produces synergy between its residents and the university. Funding for the demolition has been approved by the state and is expected to begin in the next few months.

Other projects that will produce revenue or reduce expenses for SOU include the establishment of a University Business District in southeast Ashland – discussions are underway with the local business community – and replacement of its operational software with the cutting-edge Workday platform, which eventually will save the university about $750,000 per year in recurring costs.

The projects are part of an effort to “re-engineer” SOU’s financial structure, reducing expenses to better reflect current enrollment and academic interests, expanding revenue sources and positioning the university for strategic growth into the future.


Indigenous Peoples Day returns to SOU

SOU commemoration of Indigenous Peoples Day returns as in-person event

(Ashland, Ore.) — The annual Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at Southern Oregon University is returning as an in-person event on Monday, Oct. 10. Indigenous Peoples Day amplifies Indigenous voices and celebrates the historic, cultural and contemporary presence of Indigenous peoples and Tribal Nations, who have persevered in the protection of Indigenous rights and cultural sovereignty, and continue to make significant contributions to the world.

SOU’s president announced in 2016 that the university would observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day after alumna Lupe Sims, a descendant of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, partnered with the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee to petition for recognition of Indigenous sovereignty. Formal observation by SOU was declared in June 2017, and  the Ashland City Council voted two months later to follow suit.

This year’s celebration – the fifth official observation of Indigenous Peoples’ day by SOU and the city of Ashland – will begin at 11 a.m. with a salmon bake in SOU’s Stevenson Union Courtyard (plates are $8, no charge for Elders). Sims, who is coordinating this year’s celebration, will deliver opening acknowledgements, followed by an honor song by host drum Screaming Eagle (the Jackson family of Klamath Falls), who were present at the first formal Indigenous Peoples Day event in 2017.

David West, a citizen of Potawatomi Nation and director emeritus of the Native American Studies department at SOU, will deliver the opening prayer, and SOU Provost Susan Walsh will read a Land Acknowledgment. SOU President Rick Bailey and SOU professor and former Ashland City Councilor Dennis Slattery will read declarations on behalf of SOU and the city of Ashland. Musician, traditional dancer and SOU Native Nations Liaison Brent Florendo (Wasco Band of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs) – will honor those recognitions with a hand drum song and will lead a community round dance.

The day’s events will continue with Indigenous advocacy at 12:30 p.m. in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room, led by Tribal citizens including Elder and traditional ecologist and practitioner Joe Scott (Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Takelma); Dan Wahpepah (Anishinabe, Kickapoo, and Sac and Fox); Rowena Jackson (Klamath Tribes); Chauncey Peltier, (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Fort Totten Sioux); and Antonio Bonilla (Afro-Taino). Tribal Elders West and Ed Little Crow (Lakota and Dakota) will hold an Elder discussion that is open to the community. Elder Mark Colson (Chehalis, Yurok and Dakota) will speak about Indigeneity and healing within Indian country in the present. Michele Pavilonis, of Lenape descent, will lead a Medicine Wheel Healing Support Group – a talking circle for finding and keeping balance – during the day’s events on SOU campus. The support group will be held in honor of breath and heartbeat.

SOU student-driven initiatives during this event include a formal recognition of the nine federally recognized Oregon Tribes and the continuing relationship between SOU and Indian country. That recognition will be in preparation for a permanent display and dedication of the flags of the nine Tribal Nations at a central location on campus in the upcoming year.

The Shasta Takelma Learning Garden working group, which is part of a larger Indigenous Gardens Network – a hub for Indigenous-led land projects centering on First Foods, land stewardship, educational opportunities and habitat restoration – will share about their place-making collaboration with the Siletz Tribes and Grand Ronde Tribes.

The student-led projects represent progress that has been made in the past five years toward SOU honoring the stewardship of Indigenous cultural sovereignty. Everyone is welcome and will have the opportunity to gather in community, and stand in solidarity, with Indian country and Native/Indigenous peoples. This is as drug- and alcohol-free event.


SOPride parade this weekend

March with SOU at SOPride

The annual SOPride celebration and parade returns to Ashland this weekend, Oct. 7 to 9, following a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Southern Oregon University and the Social Justice and Equity Center invite all SOU students, staff, faculty and their families to march together in the SOU parade entry.

Showing up for queer and trans students, employees, and community members is a longstanding campus tradition, and SOU typically has one of the largest entries in the parade. The SOPride parade starts at noon on Saturday, and will proceed from Union Street, across from Safeway, through downtown Ashland and the Plaza, culminating at the Lithia Park bandshell for the SOPride Festival.

Those who wish to march with SOU can meet at the Stevenson Union courtyard at 9:30 a.m., leaving SOU by 10 a.m. to walk to the parade start – or meet up at the parade start on Union Street at 11 a.m.

SOU’s Social Justice and Equity Center is hosting a sign-making and decorating event from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, in Room 308 of the Stevenson Union. Drop by during that time and make a sign or two for yourself or others to show your pride! Pizza, snacks and sign-making supplies will be provided.

For more information or to request mobility support to participate in SOU’s parade entry, please visit

SOPride 2022 kicks off with a SOPride Crawl beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and running all weekend. Participating queer-friendly businesses will host Pride-themed events including music, karaoke, drag shows and cabaret.

SOPride was founded in 2009 by Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne. SOPride hosts the southern Oregon celebration in October, in recognition of National Coming Out Day – an annual celebration on Oct. 11. The first annual Ashland SOPride was held on Oct. 10, 2010, with over 500 participants in the march and hundreds more enjoying from the sidewalks. SOPride continues to celebrate the magnificent diversity of the southern Oregon community and has an outstanding leadership team that is composed of many SOU student leaders.

For more information about SOPride and all of the events during SOPride weekend, visit

Two appointed to SOU Board of Trustees

Former SOU administrator and consultant appointed to Board of Trustees

(Ashland, Ore.) — Liz Shelby, who retired from Southern Oregon University after serving as director of government relations and chief of staff, and lobbyist and government relations consultant Iris Maria Chávez have both been appointed by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees. They will begin their service to the board on Sept. 28.

Shelby appointed to Board of TrusteesShelby will complete the partial four-year term to which retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Virginia Linder was appointed in February, but was unable to serve. Chávez will complete the unexpired four-year term of Lyn Hennion, who served on the board since its inception in 2015 and was appointed to a new term in June.

“I am honored and excited to join the Board of Trustees of Southern Oregon University,” said Shelby, who served for 25 years at SOU before her retirement in 2017. “With my background and commitment to public higher education in Oregon, I am eager to help guide the sustainability and diversity of SOU during this important time in the university’s history.”

Chavez appointed to Board of TrusteesChávez is the managing partner of Equity Action Partners of Portland, and has more than 15 years of experience working in government affairs, community engagement and communications for advocacy organizations and think tanks, advancing state and federal policy to improve community outcomes and increase government accountability. She has built issue-advocacy campaigns with a variety of advocacy and civil rights organizations across the country, leading to bipartisan legislation to provide investments in education, public safety, social justice and child welfare.

“I’m excited to join my new colleagues on the board at Southern Oregon University,” Chávez said. “I look forward to supporting the strategies and vision that will ensure the continued success of the university and our students.”

Chávez serves as the board chair for the Partnership for Safety & Justice and is a board member for the Latino Network Action Fund. She has built coalitions with – and advocated on behalf of – organizations including the Education Trust, League of United Latin American Citizens, Chalkboard Project, Children’s Institute, Partnership for Safety & Justice, Sponsors, Inc., and the Oregon Coalition of Community Charter Schools.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in history, sociology and African Diaspora Studies from Tulane University and her master’s degree in social policy from the University of Chicago.

Shelby served six SOU presidents as director of government relations and three as chief of staff before her retirement five years ago. She was involved in several significant transitions for the university, including its name change from Southern Oregon State College in 1997 and the shift to an independent board of trustees in 2015.

She previously served 16 years as director of the federal Small Business Development Center in the SOU School of Business, helping local entrepreneurs with business plans and working with existing business owners to develop strategies that increase profitability.

Shelby, a two-time alumna,  earned her bachelor’s degree in business and her master’s degree in business administration at SOU. She is the board chair for the Resolve Center for Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice and is vice president of the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation’s board of directors. She previously served on the board of Rogue Credit Union for 14 years.

“The SOU Board of Trustees is very happy to welcome Iris and Liz to the board,” said Daniel Santos, the board chair. “Their expertise and broad range of experiences will help all of us to guide the university and advance its mission for the next 150 years. We are also tremendously grateful for Lyn Hennion’s lengthy and insightful service and leadership on the SOU Board; we wish her the very best.”


President Bailey lays out financial strategy to solidify SOU's operations

SOU prepares for strategic realignment to solidify financial future

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey announced to employees today an emerging plan to address an outdated financial model that has left SOU and many other public higher education institutions relying too heavily on tuition revenue to balance their budgets. According to Bailey, the work over the next several months will be to strategically realign the university for future growth.

“We are drawing a line in the sand on using tuition increases to meet rising costs,” President Bailey said. “We are all committed to the innovations that will keep more and more from being put on the backs of our students.”

The president called for teamwork in managing costs with steps that will reduce recurring, annual expenses, as well as programmatic realignments that enable SOU to sharpen its focus and better prepare students for success and service to their communities.

“Our university has operated for most of its 150 years on a financial model that’s very common in public higher education: near-exclusive reliance on a combination of state funding and tuition revenue,” Bailey said. “That model was effective until about 30 years ago, when the balance between those two funding sources began to flip – what used to be about a two-thirds share from the state and one-third from tuition is now the exact opposite.

“Our leadership and budgeting teams have looked long and hard at our structural issues, and are confident that SOU’s financial foundation can be successfully re-engineered, but it will take several years to get there,” Bailey said. “Our new, bottom-line fiscal formula must be one in which revenue is greater than or equal to costs for the long-term. While that sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t always followed.”

Bailey said there are four “planks” to re-engineer the university’s fiscal operations: managing costs, vigorously going after grants, leveraging SOU’s growing philanthropic capacity and diversifying the university’s revenue streams.

In his announcement, Bailey offered two examples of how the university has already begun to address recurring costs: a three-year shift to a new core information system that will improve service and save $700,000 per year; and the goal of making SOU the first public university in the nation to make all of its own electricity on its campus, saving another $700,000 to $800,000 per year. The university’s shift to the Workday information system began last month, and SOU has applied for both state and federal funding for the next steps toward powering the entire campus with its own solar arrays.

Bailey acknowledged that changes to SOU academic and support programs will be complicated but he promised transparency and intends to include student, faculty and staff governance groups in the analysis process, along with the unions that represent faculty members and classified employees.

“Our guiding principles throughout this process will be to act with integrity, transparency, compassion and humility; to focus on the best interests of our students and the long-term vision of SOU; and to view each step through the lens of JEDI – justice, equity, diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Bailey cited recent examples of how SOU efforts in the areas of grant procurement and philanthropy are already on the upswing. Recent grants from the National Science Foundation will pay for cutting edge research equipment in the university’s Chemistry and Physics Department, and will allow researchers in the Computer Science Department to work with local elementary teachers to develop their students’ computational thinking skills. And SOU just last week announced a $12-million philanthropic commitment from Lithia Motors and GreenCars that will support the university’s sustainability and accessibility efforts. That gift announcement came just months after the estate of late wrestling coach Bob Riehm made a $3 million donation, which at the time was easily the largest-ever single gift to the university.

The SOU president said that his vision for diversifying revenue to the university, beyond the traditional sources from tuition and state funding, will start with four ideas: expanding solar production as mentioned above; razing the Cascades Complex and building an innovative senior living facility that creates synergy between its residents and students; establishing a University Business District that produces partnerships between SOU and neighboring businesses; and creating a training center to help other organizations transition their core information systems to the Workday platform.

“There are undoubtedly more ideas that we have yet to imagine, but these are the handful that we are actively pursuing for now – and we are confident in each of them,” Bailey said “If just one or two of them pan out, they will be game-changers. If all of them cross the finish line, they will be transformational for the university. Ultimately, I am confident that SOU will reimagine what public higher education looks like, build a fiscally sustainable institution for our students, faculty and staff, and become a role model for the rest of the country – and we will do it together.”


Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer and SOU President Rick Bailey

Lithia & GreenCars pledge historic commitment, set SOU’s philanthropic bedrock

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University and Medford-based Lithia Motors have announced a philanthropic partnership that will serve as the bedrock of future innovations at SOU. Lithia’s commitment exceeds $12 million and is the largest-ever single gift to the university.

The contributions from Lithia Motors (NYSE: LAD) create the Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund, which will be used “to propel the university forward by investing in people and programs to implement the university’s and the company’s shared vision of sustainability and diversity.” The fund will also become a catalyst to invite other companies and individuals to participate in making a significant difference in both social and environmental change.

The Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund will support:

  • SOU’s Lithia & GreenCars Scholarship Program, $5 million – Composed of student financial aid awards and a leadership development program designed to recruit and retain first-generation and/or minoritized populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
  • Institute for Applied Sustainability, $4 million – Anchored by four distinguished faculty members and two administrators, the mission of the institute will be to identify and implement initiatives that move the university toward a sustainable campus. Institute members will collaborate with executives from Lithia to develop projects and programs, such as the creation of a national sustainability conference, an academic credential in corporate sustainability and a national sustainability demonstration site.
  • The Lithia & GreenCars President’s Fund, $ 1million – The fund will support the university president’s efforts to develop new ways of solving complex problems and support innovation and entrepreneurship.

In addition, Lithia & GreenCars will “electrify” SOU by providing electric vehicles to the university and installing charging stations across campus.

Finally, the company will continue to support the Lithia & GreenCars/Raider Golf Tournament, building upon the many years of SOU athletic programs successes.  Proceeds from the annual tournament provide scholarships to student-athletes.

“A gift of this magnitude and scope has the potential to increase our national profile,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “This is a game-changer on two important values that our organizations share: sustainability and diversity. Lithia leaders have generously supported our university for many years, and this commitment creates momentum and a national platform to focus energy on two of the most important issues of our time.”

Lithia Motors was founded in Ashland in 1946. Sid DeBoer took the company public in 1968. Today, Lithia is one of Oregon’s two Fortune 200 companies and is now led by President and CEO Bryan DeBoer, an SOU alumnus. The company operates nearly 300 automotive dealerships across North America and recently became the largest new vehicle retailer in the world.

“The Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund provides critical financial support in our dual drive to promote higher education and corporate sustainability within our local communities,” Bryan DeBoer said. “These academic scholarships champion students from diverse and underserved backgrounds, and the Institute for Applied Sustainability will advance our commitment to sustainable best practices and the shift toward electrification in the auto industry.”

Institute for Applied Sustainability members

Vincent Smith, Ph.D., is a professor of environmental science and policy, director of the Institute for Applied Sustainability, and director of the Division of Business, Communication and Environment. Smith’s research explores the complex, coupled human-environment systems that shape the world in which we live. He actively partners with communities to understand socio-environmental problems and then apply that research in decision-making contexts. His work spans several traditional disciplinary boundaries including human ecology, environmental sociology, landscape ecology, agroecology and human geography.

Bret Anderson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of economics whose research interests range from providing targeted quantitative analyses to exploring more conceptual inquiries of place-based economics. Following the Almeda Fire, Anderson and several committed community members created the Local Innovation Lab in partnership with the university to provide community-based, college-to-career mentorship to empower future entrepreneurs and leaders.

Christopher Lucas, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Communication, Media and Cinema Program. His research has focused on cultural policy and the relationship between digital technologies and society, especially in the film and media industries. As a documentary filmmaker, he has produced and written for a number of award-winning documentaries on themes of sustainability and the environment, including work on fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice and water quality.

Pavlina McGrady, Ph.D., is an associate professor of business and coordinator of the Sustainable Tourism Management degree program. McGrady’s research focuses on sustainable tourism, exploring tourism businesses’ and local residents’ perceptions on tourism impacts, management and policies, to identify strategies for sustainable destination management. Her research also examines the barriers and predictors of corporate sustainability in the United States, as well as the role of leadership in a business’s journey toward sustainability.

Jessica Piekielek, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in conservation, environmentalism, sustainability, and border and migration studies. She has fieldwork experience in the U.S., Mexico and Latin America. Piekielek is a professor of anthropology and chairs the Sociology and Anthropology program.

Rebecca Walker is the university’s Director of Sustainability. She joined the university in 2019 after 15 years with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, a public agency of the Scottish government that focuses on the sustainability of Scotland’s natural resources and services. Walker recently steered the university to its first-ever “Gold” rating for campus-wide sustainability achievements, as measured by an evaluation system developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and used to grade colleges and universities worldwide.

Scale of the Lithia & GreenCars Gifts
This new commitment from Lithia continues and expands upon a long tradition of support for SOU from LAD and its founding family. The company contributed $1 million for the construction of Lithia Motors Pavilion and another $1 million to fund scholarships for student-athletes in 2017. The 96,000-square-foot pavilion serves as the athletics home and indoor sports venue for SOU, and its construction earned a LEED Gold rating for sustainability.

Philanthropy is on a significant upswing at SOU, which early this year received a $3 million donation from the estate of legendary SOU wrestling coach Bob Riehm – at that time, another record-setting gift for the university. The gift from Riehm, who passed away in 2020, endowed the men’s wrestling head coach position at SOU and scholarships for the team’s student-athletes.

About Lithia & GreenCars (LAD)
LAD is a growth company focused on profitably consolidating the largest retail sector in North America through providing personal transportation solutions wherever, whenever and however consumers desire.