Real food – sustainable, human and socially equitable

SOU exceeding expectations in Real Food Challenge

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University joined universities across the country last year in working toward sustainable food practices by participating in the Real Food Challenge. Now that a year has passed, statistics show that SOU is exceeding expectations.

SOU joined more than 40 U.S. universities and four university systems by joining the Real Food Challenge, a student-founded activist organization dedicated to supporting and creating ecologically sustainable, human and socially equitable food systems.

When President Linda Schott signed the “SOU Real Food Campus Commitment,” she pledged that at least 20 percent of SOU’s food budget would be Real Food – created through sustainable, human and equitable systems – by 2023.

SOU also committed to establishing a transparent reporting system and filing annual progress reports to evaluate where the SOU Real Food Challenge team should focus. The data of the first year’s budget was recently released, which has been organized by category and color-coded for easy comparison.

Bar graph of SOU's real food by category

The bar graph shows percentages of SOU’s overall food budget by categories (in brown), and the percentage of the overall food budget that Real Food accounts for in each category (green). For instance, produce makes up 13.1 percent of the overall food budget, and the produce that qualifies as Real Food accounts for 3.2 percent of the overall budget. The Real Food percentages from all of the categories add up to 9.4 percent of the university’s overall food budget – nearly halfway to the university’s goal of 20 percent by 2023.

Pie chart of real food at SOU, across all categories

All of that progress was made in a single year of the five-year challenge, and even more changes have been made to how the school purchases coffee, produce and grocery items since this data was collected.

By the end of the spring term 2020, SOU’s Real Food Challenge team will be able to compare the changes they’ve made across multiple years to see how quickly they’re reaching the 20 percent goal. The Real Food Challenge team’s student leaders, Jamie Talarico and Jessica Zuzack, can be reached via their email for questions about the program.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Third annual observance of Indigenous Peoples Day at SOU

SOU celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Southern Oregon University’s third annual Indigenous Peoples Day observance will take place between Sunday, Oct. 13 and Monday, Oct. 14.

The events start off with a film festival at South Medford High between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday. The festival is free and open to the public, and – like the other events the following day – is designed to celebrate the survival of Native American/Indigenous cultures and to encourage decolonization activism.

The film festival is just the start, however, as Monday is packed with free events, starting with a salmon bake. The salmon bake, situated in the Stevenson Union courtyard between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., will feature food, activities, performances and guest speakers.

The festivities continue with the Intergenerational Activism Panel between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the Stevenson Union Rogue River Room. Afterward, a Decolonization Celebration will be held in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Courtyard Stage between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Throughout the day the OSF campus will host a Native plays exhibit in the Black Swan Theatre. This celebration of OSF’s Native American and Indigenous plays will conclude in the Thomas Theatre at 8 p.m. with a showing of “Between Two Knees” by the 1491s. Tickets, which can be purchased online, will have a special price for Native/Indigenous students.

The SOU community overwhelmingly decided to formally recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in June of 2017, making SOU one of several universities, seven states and over 100 U.S. cities to observe the holiday. It is typically celebrated on the second Monday of October, which the U.S. has observed as the federal Columbus Day holiday since 1937. Oregon and at least 16 other states do not recognize Columbus Day as a holiday.

No classes at SOU are canceled for Indigenous Peoples Day, but the occasion is observed through special programming and events.

SOU’s celebration of Indigenous Peoples doesn’t end on the 14th, as the Schneider Museum of Art will be housing a solo exhibition of Victor Maldonado between Oct. 24 and Dec. 14.

SOU’s Indigenous Peoples Day is sponsored by numerous SOU departments and student organizations as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Red Earth Descendants and the city of Ashland.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Flu shots are available at Health and Wellness Fair

Health care, raffles, and flu shots at SOU’s annual Health and Wellness Fair

SOU’s annual Health and Wellness Fair will be in the Stevenson Union Arena on Monday, Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Human Resources encourages all employees to participate in the once-a-year fair. Along with meeting representatives from health care organizations such as Providence, Willamette Dental and Fidelity, SOU employees will be able to enter a raffle to win items from vendors by participating in the fair’s flu shot clinic.

The flu shot clinic is a partnership between SOU and Rite-Aid, and vaccines will be administered free while supplies last to employees currently covered under an SOU medical insurance plan. Those who submit a Rite-Aid Screening and Consent Form by Friday, Oct. 4 will be prioritized for flu shots.

All who attend the Health and Wellness Fair will have the chance to enter the raffle. 

Changes to 2020 health care plans have been announced ahead of the Health and Wellness Fair, including Willamette Dental’s implant surgery annual maximums and Providence’s coverage of varicose vein surgery. More coverage changes and information on the fair in general can be found at HR’s Open Enrollment page.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Annual Golf Shootout produces record amount for SOU athletic scholarships

Last Thursday’s 29th annual Lithia/Raider Club Golf Shootout raised a record $480,000 to help SOU student-athletes.

The tournament, held annually at Medford’s Rogue Valley Country Club, also produced a record number of “Major Executive Sponsors” that each contributed $12,500 to the event.

This year’s major sponsors were Lithia Motors, The Partners Group, JP Morgan Chase, ExxonMobil, US Bank, Assurant, Chrysler Capital, Genova Burns, American Credit Acceptance, CarFax, Launch Consulting, Axalta, TD Auto Finance, Enterprise,, Wells Fargo, Cox Automotive, Ally, MaxDigital,, AutoPoint, PermaPlate, ADESA, Northwest BG, CDK and Toyota Financial.

Tournament results are available at

The Lithia/Raider Club Golf Shootout has raised a total of more than $3 million in scholarships since 2011.

Donations can be made year-around through the SOU Foundation to support intercollegiate athletics at the university. More than 400 students represent SOU by competing in a total of 13 men’s and women’s sports.

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