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

SOU hires chief diversity and inclusivity officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOU’s budget and tuition come into focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamilah Long-SOU commencement speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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