SOU welcome sign-open forums are this week

Open forums this week on SOU’s tuition and budget

Open forums to present and discuss the latest news about state funding and its effects on SOU will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, and all members of the university community are encouraged to attend.

The forums will focus on factors that will affect SOU’s tuition rates and overall budget for the 2019-20 academic year.

The first forum will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Stevenson Union Gallery. The second will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Room 202 of the Stevenson Union.

The SOU Board of Trustees voted unanimously on May 16 to approve a tuition rate increase for the 2019-20 academic year that will be tied to the level of higher education funding adopted in the Oregon Legislature’s current session. The range was based on recommendations of the university’s Tuition Advisory Council and was brought to the board by President Linda Schott.

The increase will most likely be in the range of $15 to $23 per credit hour, based on funding scenarios legislators have discussed publicly.

But the Legislature’s funding discussions have covered a broad range of possibilities, which has made it difficult for Oregon’s seven public universities to make concrete budget plans. Representatives of SOU and the other universities continue to work with legislators, emphasizing the importance of adequate funding for higher education and easing the burden on students and their families.

The state covered two-thirds of the universities’ operating costs 30 years ago while tuition paid for the other third. The burden has steadily shifted, and tuition now pays for two-thirds of the universities’ operations and the state pays for one-third.

SOU’s government relations and budget staff will discuss the changing budget and tuition possibilities during this week’s open forums. They will describe potential implications for the university and its students, including the most likely scenarios for next year’s tuition rates.

Forum participants will be reminded that the Legislature typically finalizes its budget in early July, and any input – particularly the compelling stories of SOU students – may make a difference in lawmakers’ decisions.

President Schott discusses tuition rates at Board of Trustees meeting

SOU Board of Trustees approves potential tuition rates for 2019-20

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees agreed today with President Linda Schott’s recommendation for tuition rates for the 2019-20 academic year that will be directly tied to the Oregon Legislature’s budget allocation for higher education. Tuition for resident undergraduate students is expected to increase by a range of $15 to $23 per credit hour, depending on the Legislature’s funding decision.

“The board’s vote today demonstrates our commitment to preserving access to a college education for SOU’s current and future students, while balancing the board’s responsibility to safeguard the fiscal health of the institution,” said Lyn Hennion, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees. “An SOU degree will remain an affordable and clear path toward a successful future.

“This decision is linked directly to the amount of state revenue we receive as one of Oregon’s seven public universities,” she said. “The more funding provided by the State Legislature, the lower we will be able to set our students’ tuition rates.”

The range of tuition rates approved by the Board of Trustees is based on a unanimous recommendation from SOU’s Tuition Advisory Council, which has met more than a dozen times and is made up of students, faculty and administrators. President Linda Schott suggested adopting a spectrum of potential tuition rates tied to various legislative funding scenarios, and the trustees unanimously approved the plan following more than an hour of discussion.

SOU’s tuition increase for the coming academic year will be accompanied by continued efforts to reduce costs across campus. The university has saved more than $1 million over the past year by asking departments to voluntarily trim their budgets.

“No option available to us would have been painless,” President Schott said. “These are the best choices for our students and the university, as lawmakers continue to shift the burden of higher education from the state to our students and their families.”

The state paid for two-thirds of its universities’ operating budgets 30 years ago and tuition covered the remaining third. The ratio is now exactly opposite.

However, President Schott said the support of SOU’s Board of Trustees will enable the institution to continue on the strong positive trajectory it has established in recent years. “Today’s actions maintain the excellence of our academic and support services, and enable us to continue meeting the needs of current and future learners in our region,” she said.

SOU remains committed to keeping higher education within the reach of all students and prospective students, and will offset the tuition increase with $500,000 in additional institutional aid for those who are least able to afford the additional cost. The university has also addressed student expenses for textbooks, and the room-and-board costs of those who live in residence halls. The overall cost of attendance – which includes tuition, mandatory student fees, and housing and meals – is expected to increase next year by 4.39 to 5.21 percent, depending on the tuition rate eventually adopted.

The increase in resident undergraduate tuition is likely to be in the range of 8.5 to 13.5 percent for next year, depending on the Legislature’s funding decision. The annual dollar amount of the increase, based on 15 credit hours per term, will be between $675 and $1,035. Tuition for nonresident undergraduates will increase by 5 percent – $26 per credit hour or $1,170 per year.

Because the state’s six other public universities are also planning for increases, tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest of the Oregon schools.

State legislators are not expected to make final decisions on the state budget until early July, but universities must prepare their budgets during the spring. SOU will continue to make its case for additional state funding, but must use current information to plan for the coming academic year.

“We look forward to state lawmakers prioritizing higher education and making a clear financial commitment to the students who are Oregon’s future leaders,” said Hennion, the Board of Trustees chair.

-SOU-

Campus Expo plans were developed at SOU's Churchill Hall

SOU Campus Expo 2.0 to offer glimpses of higher education future

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is wrapping up the second installment of a research exercise it calls “peering into the future of higher education,” and will share its findings with the community in a Campus Expo event on Friday.

The expo, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room, will feature presentations on seven topics that may help SOU in the implementation of its Strategic Plan – a blueprint for the university’s future.

The expo is free and open to faculty, staff, students and the general public. Refreshments will be served.

“As we completed our strategic planning, I promised that our plan would be dynamic – not one that would sit on a shelf and collect dust,” SOU President Linda Schott said when she announced the current round of research to campus.

“As the (implementation) work has proceeded, it has become clear that we need to do additional thinking about some of the ideas and issues in the plan,” she said.

Seven 10-minute reports at Friday’s expo will cover higher education trends and projections in the areas of financial stability, institutional collaborations, upper division education, general education, generating certifiably creative graduates, increasing learner satisfaction and success, and achieving lives of purpose.

About 80 faculty and staff members volunteered to split into seven “professional learning communities” and research those topics over the past two months, and will offer their findings at the Campus Expo. Audience members will then have an opportunity to discuss each presentation with others seated at their tables.

President Schott introduced the concept of professional learning communities two years ago to set the stage for SOU’s year-long strategic planning process. Seven groups formed at that time examined optimum learning spaces, who future students may be, how people best learn, how students are taught before arriving on campus, how advances in technology will change teaching, how to prepare graduates for jobs that don’t yet exist and how higher education will be sustained in the future.

The findings from that round of faculty-staff research helped to define the university’s new vision, mission and values, and the “strategic directions” that are now being implemented. Information from the current studies will help to maintain, focus and expand the implementation process.

White papers from both the 2017 professional learning communities and the groups that conducted this year’s research will be available following Friday’s expo on the university’s strategic planning website.

-SOU-

Ashland wildfire smoke

SOU Research Center smoke survey shows mixed views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-SOU-

Student Recreation Center opening celebration

SOU’s Student Recreation Center celebrating first birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOU-Universidad de Guanajuato agreement signed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-SOU-

Guanajuato lectures-night scene

SOU community invited to Guanajuato lectures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOU Spring Powwow 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-SOU-

SRC solar installation-LEED Gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-SOU-

natural gas-SOU-steam plant

Natural gas failure limiting some services at SOU

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

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

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

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

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

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