Interviews with presidential finalists wrapping up

Interviews of SOU presidential finalists wrapping up

Four of the five finalists to become SOU’s next president have visited campus – including two over the past week – with one more candidate scheduled to visit later this week. All of the candidates are visiting for two days of interviews and presentations with various constituent groups and community members.

Curtis Bridgeman, Ph.D. and J.D., currently the Roderick and Carol Wendt Professor of Business Law at the Willamette University College of Law, was on the SOU campus Oct. 21 and 22; and Junius Gonzales, M.D. and MBA, currently provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a tenured professor in the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences at New York Institute of Technology was at SOU Monday and today.

The last of the finalists to visit SOU – this Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 27 and 28 – will be Richard J. Bailey, Jr., Ph.D., the president of Northern New Mexico College.

“We are hoping that not only our campus community, but the entire SOU community and its partners throughout the Rogue Valley will get involved in this process and see these candidates,” said Danny Santos, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee. “We will be seeking valuable feedback from all who engage in these two-day visits, and that input will be very important in the board’s decision-making process.”

Bridgeman held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his current role at Willamette, including dean of that university’s College of Law from 2013 to 2020; associate dean for academic affairs from 2011 to 2013 at the Florida State University College of Law; and a professor of law at Florida State from 2004 to 2014. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Huntsville and received his master’s degree and doctorate in philosophy, and his law degree, from Vanderbilt University.

Gonzales also held various positions in higher education teaching and administration prior to his current role at NYIT. He served in roles including senior vice president for academic affairs and interim president at the University of North Carolina; as provost and vice president for academic affairs, and a tenured professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso; and as founding dean and tenured professor in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University, his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and his master’s degree in business administration from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

Bailey’s other positions in higher education teaching and administration, prior to his role with Northern New Mexico College, include being the first-ever dean of students at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Air University in Alabama, and an associate professor of strategy and security studies at the university’s School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy, his master’s degree in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis, and his doctorate in government from Georgetown University.

The first finalist to visit SOU, on Oct. 14 and 15, was Chris Gilmer, Ph.D., the president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; he was followed on Oct. 18 and 19 by Brock Tessman, Ph.D., the deputy commissioner of higher education for 16 campuses that comprise the Montana University System. Gilmer’s and Tessman’s educational backgrounds and roles in higher education were detailed in an SOU News story last week.

An 18-member Presidential Search Committee – a diverse group made up of members of SOU’s Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, local community members and an Oregon university president – recommended the five finalists after receiving more than 100 applications for the position.

SOU students and employees, and members of the community, have an opportunity to meet and ask questions of the finalists during an open forum and Q&A session at 3:15 p.m. in Room 151 of the Science Building on the first day of each candidate’s campus visit. Day two of the schedule also includes an opportunity for community members to interact with candidates – an 8:30 a.m. session at the Higher Education Center in Medford.

More information about the finalists, their schedules and links to recordings of their open forum presentations are available on the presidential search website.

Bobby Arellano elected Oregon Humanities chair

SOU creative arts professor elected chair of Oregon Humanities board

(Ashland, Ore.) — Robert Arellano, a professor in the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, was elected board chair for Oregon Humanities on Oct. 16. As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Oregon Humanities’ mission “connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change.”

The nonprofit sponsors hundreds of community forums all over Oregon in an average year. Last year, the organization rapidly adapted its “Consider This” conversation series to a remote format called “Connect in Place,” drawing hundreds of online participants from across the state.

“In the summer of 2019, I got to moderate an in-person conversation at Grizzly Peak Winery for Oregon Humanities in partnership with SOU that brought Richard Blanco, President Obama’s inaugural poet laureate, to Ashland,” Arellano said. “Over 200 southern Oregonians came out to connect with this renowned poet and teacher.”

Bobby, as he’s known to his students and coworkers, will chair a board of 22 volunteer members for the next two years. Beginning in 2016, he served previous terms as chair of two Oregon Humanities subcommittees – programs and communications.

Arellano is a founding director of SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, and teaches courses in design, production and writing. He has done pioneering work in electronic publishing, and has published graphic-novel editions and five other novels. He received both his bachelor’s degree and master of fine arts degree from Brown University.

“I would not have been able to take on a leadership role at Oregon Humanities without the unequivocal support of my division director, David Humphrey, and SOU Provost Sue Walsh, who have also both participated in events we’ve hosted here in the Rogue Valley,” Arellano said.

More ways to get involved with Oregon Humanities include free college-credit classes through the Humanity in Perspective program, summer youth courses and award-winning publications, podcasts, and video productions. The organization also offers free subscriptions to its Oregon Humanities Magazine.

“If there’s one thing you do to learn more about Oregon Humanities, take a minute to subscribe to our magazine,” Arellano said. “We publish stories and photos by people from right here in our community, and it’s delivered free, three times a year to anyone with an Oregon mailing address. It’s just one more benefit to being an Oregonian.”

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

Toya Cooper is SOU's first-ever Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

SOU hires its first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion

(Ashland, Ore.) — Toya Cooper, an attorney who has spent almost 20 years addressing diversity in higher education, has accepted an offer to become Southern Oregon University’s first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion. She will start work with the university Nov. 15

“I think SOU is ready to engage the questions of equity, diversity and inclusion that this moment in our nation’s history brings to bear, and to model for students what it means to respond effectively to them,” Cooper said.

“I’m excited to learn more about the good EDI-related work already underway at SOU, the OSF, city council and chamber of commerce, and eager to discover what partnerships are to be had among us for the greatest positive impact.”

SOU has a long history of providing a welcoming atmosphere for all students and employees, and has had an equity, diversity and inclusion professional on its leadership team for many years. A decision was made to elevate the position to the vice president level after the most recent person in that role resigned a year and a half ago. A three-person group of SOU administrators has served as the university’s EDI Leadership Team during the interim.

“Our candidates for this new position at SOU were exceptional, and Toya rose to the top,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “She brings a wealth of experience to the job, along with a remarkable ability to collaborate and build teams. I am confident that all members of our campus community will be well-served by her efforts.”

Cooper most recently served for a year as director of equity, inclusion and compliance at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She previously worked for 18 years at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California – as special assistant to the president for legal affairs and associate director of multicultural programs during her first year, and then as college counsel and special assistant to the provost for diversity initiatives. She has authored and presented a variety of diversity trainings and talks.

She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Westmont College and her law degree from the Willamette University College of Law in Salem. She worked as a law clerk for the Marion County District Attorney’s office while in law school, and said she welcomes the opportunity for a return to Oregon.

“I called Salem home for three years,” Cooper said. “I was drawn by and fell in love with its natural beauty, which Ashland certainly does not lack.

“In addition to SOU’s mission, values and vision, that beauty certainly serves as a draw for me.”

SOU’s vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion will oversee fairness and equal opportunity efforts at all levels of campus, and will serve as the university’s point person on those matters throughout the region and the state. It is a key leadership position that works closely with the university president and serves on the president’s cabinet.

The interim Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team is made up of Kylan de Vries, an associate professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Jonathan Chavez-Baez, Assistant Director for Latino/a/x Programs & Outreach; and Patricia Syquia McCarthy, a contracts administrative officer and risk manager in the SOU Service Center.

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SOU EcoAdventure students work on Bear Creek restoration

SOU’s EcoAdventure experience gets local in response to fire

(Ashland, Ore.) — Past versions of Southern Oregon University’s “EcoAdventure” courses have taken students to northern California’s Lassen and Yosemite national parks, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Costa Rica. But last year’s Almeda Fire brought a huge ecological test almost to SOU’s doorstep, and EcoAdventure faculty and students jumped on the opportunity to play a role in assessing and restoring a charred Bear Creek Greenway between Ashland and Medford.

Each year’s EcoAdventure courses are intended to connect students with real-world environmental issues and create an atmosphere of investigation and problem-solving.

“For the first few months after the Almeda fire, I was working at a local hotel that was housing victims of the fire,” said Ethan Robison, a student in last spring’s EcoAdventure fire restoration course through SOU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. “Each of the 50 families staying there had their own journey towards recovery and I was proud to be a small part of that process.

“When I started at SOU and found out about this class, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about the impacts of the fire on our local ecosystem.”

The spring EcoAdventure class drew 18 students, and they chose Bear Creek restoration work as their service learning project. The course covered fire regimes and climate change in the Rogue Valley, the history of Bear Creek and the U.S. Clean Water Act, and a talk, tour and native planting day in Phoenix led by a the Rogue River Watershed Council.

A separate effort by four Environmental Science capstone students looked at Bear Creek water quality following the Almeda fire. Those students presented data to the EcoAdventure class about erosion, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and other measures of water quality.

Environmental Science and Policy instructor Leslie Eldridge, who taught the Bear Creek EcoAdventure course, said many of the students felt a sense of revival after experiencing or hearing extensively about the fire, and then studying both its environmental causes and the steps to remediation. The day of planting native species along the creek was especially powerful.

“It was a beautiful example of ecosystem reset and opportunity to bring Bear Creek and the Greenway to a new condition that may improve ecological health and social connectivity between Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford,” said Eldridge, who initiated the EcoAdventure water restoration course ­– the real-world element in a broader Environmental Science and Policy curriculum.

“The idea is to get students working hands-on and experiencing the environments and environmental challenges we discuss in our courses,” said Vincent Smith, an associate professor of environmental science and policy, and director of the Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

“Certainly, we have theory-based courses in these areas including restoration ecology, environmental field methods, water resources and hydrology, but in each of these cases, the idea is to prepare students to address pressing needs,” Smith said. “The Bear Creek Greenway is an example of one of those pressing needs.”

Capstone students in Environmental Science and Policy – those who are nearing graduation – each choose a capstone project that is intended to pull together much of what they have learned in the program. Capstone advisor John Gutrich offered last year’s students a variety of options, ranging from bark beetle mitigation in the Ashland Watershed to impacts of climate change on LatinX communities of southern Oregon. Four of the students chose to focus on the Almeda fire’s impact on Bear Creek, and worked together to produce a series of reports on water quality issues that were then shared with the agencies spearheading restoration efforts.

Both the EcoAdventure courses and capstone projects vary from term to term, but Smith said it’s likely the Environmental Science and Policy program’s collaborations on the restoration of Bear Creek will continue.

“I can’t predict what students will select to work on next year, but I’d be surprised if at least one group doesn’t continue work on restoration work from the fire,” he said.

Robison, the student who was drawn to last spring’s EcoAdventure course after first working to help house victims of the fire, said the restoration element of the project was a healing experience.

“Essentially, I wanted to see some physical evidence of recovery from the fire, just to prove to myself that it was possible,” he said. “Seeing the effort people put into repairing the ecosystem after the devastation helped me look past some of the pain I had seen and internalized.”

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SOU emeritus professor Mike Rousell has a new book about surprise

Retired SOU professor examines surprise in new book

(Ashland, Ore.) — Mike Rousell, a psychologist and emeritus professor of education at SOU, has a new book that should surprise no one who has followed his career. “The Power of Surprise,” which will be released Sept. 15 by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, is the result of more than 30 years of researching life-altering events and the surprises that typically triggered them.

“One day, while pouring over my vast collection of transformative stories, looking for patterns, I experienced a revelation: A surprise sparked most of these events,” Rousell said. “Here’s the key: Moments that change us happen to us, not by us, during a surprise event.”

He cites the example of “Cindy,” a student who tended to be among the last to finish tests, and a librarian who complimented that slowness as “attentive deliberation that shows grit.”

“The comment surprised Cindy, giving her a burst of the motivator neurotransmitter dopamine and creating a window for belief formation,” Rousell said. “Now, when Cindy writes tests, her instincts prompt her to go slowly and feel proud because it confirms her grit.”

The new book – which can already be ordered on Amazon – examines the science of surprise, how it can result in spontaneous personal and societal changes, and how it is used strategically by comedians, magicians, filmmakers, writers and others. Rousell looks at how surprise can open the door for a change in belief even without conscious awareness and how it can be tapped to enrich lives, maximize influence and create positive mindsets.

He said the book is intended for a general audience – parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors, healthcare providers and others who may want to draw upon the positive influences of surprise.

Rousell said that surprise events produce a jolt of dopamine, a chemical that enables the transmission of signals among the brain’s nerve cells.

“I found that big surprises in our evolutionary past often indicated momentous opportunity or danger,” he said. “Thinking slowed reaction time. Those that stopped to think during critical moments often perished, along with the propensity to ponder when surprised. Evolution favored those who learned instantly. As a result, we developed a disposition to bypass thinking and learn instantly.”

Rousell was an associate professor of education at SOU for about 12 years before his retirement in March 2020. His previous publications include the 2007 book, “Sudden Influence: How Spontaneous Events Shape Our Lives.” A video of his 12-minute presentation about surprise at a 2019 TEDx Talks event in Salem drew thousands of views on YouTube.

He received his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alberta, and his master of education and doctorate from the University of Oregon. He taught elementary, middle and high school in Edmonton, Alberta, before joining the School of Education at SOU, and also has worked in private practice and school counseling as a certified psychologist.

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SOU will host 2022 residence hall conference

SOU to host international residence hall conference in 2022

Southern Oregon University will make a bit of history next June, becoming the smallest institution to host the annual conference of the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. The conference, held each year since 1954, typically attracts between 1,000 to 2,500 participants, but here’s the hitch: the organization has announced that the 2022 event will be held remotely.

“With the announcement of the 2022 annual conference being held virtually, student leaders at SOU realized that it was the perfect opportunity for a small school to host the 68th NACURH annual conference,” said SOU student Rachael Baker, recognition chair for the university’s chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary – a branch of NACURH.

“SOU is making history by not only being the smallest institution to ever host this conference, but also earning the title of being the first institution in Oregon to host the conference,” Baker said.

In fact, the only other NACURH conference to be hosted by a Pacific Northwest school was in 1965, at Washington State University. The nearest to Ashland was in 2006, at the University of California, Berkeley.

A group of 12 student leaders from SOU worked for eight months to put together a presentation and bid for the 2022 international leadership conference, which was accepted earlier this summer. Baker is the conference chair and has worked on the project with Kyrstyn Kelly, the NACURH board liaison; Mimi Pieper, finance chair; William Hutson, website and technology chair; Caleb Hefner, social media and marketing chair; Bree Erb, educational sessions chair; Mason Healy-Patterson, entertainment chair; Beck Weiser, volunteer chair; Izzy Hodgin, accessibility chair; Phoenix Ramirez, safety and security chair; and spirit and mass gatherings co-chairs Jay Santos and Ryana Terao.

Allyson Beck – SOU’s assistant director of housing for leadership, retention and marketing – is serving as staff advisor for the conference team.

NACURH, the largest student-led non-profit organization in the world, is made up of eight regions that cover the entire U.S. and portions of Canada, Mexico and The Bahamas. The organization’s purpose is to bring together students from a wide variety of college residence halls to discuss ideas, best practices and resources that may help them improve residence hall experiences at their campuses.

More than a dozen individual and chapter awards are presented at each annual conference.

Dr. Vincent Smith to head Division of Business, Communication and the Environment

Smith to head SOU Division of Business, Communication and the Environment

(Ashland, Ore.) — Dr. Vincent Smith – chair of Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Science and Policy Program and director of The Farm at SOU – has been named director of the university’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment.

Smith has served on the SOU faculty since fall 2011 and has made a mark on campus with innovative courses such as “EcoAdventure” excursions to Central and South America, “Social Problems and Policy: Food and Nutrition,” “Food, Power and Agriculture” and “Sustainability and Natural Resources.” His research focuses on the human/environmental systems that shape the world – including various issues surrounding food systems – and he incorporates the academic disciplines of human ecology, environmental sociology, landscape ecology, agroecology and human geography.

“The division of Business, Communication and the Environment encourages collaboration between programs focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and regional solutions,” Smith said. “Our region is our campus. Our students want to make a difference. They are waiting for SOU to empower them to collaborate with regional businesses, state and federal agencies, artists, nonprofits and dedicated citizens.

“While our region, nation, and planet face tremendous challenges, I believe that when our students, faculty, staff and community work together we can and will generate the science, citizenship and civility required to creatively solve even the toughest of challenges.”

Smith succeeds business professor Joan McBee, who has served as division director for Business, Communication and the Environment for the past year, following the retirement of former director and business professor Katie Pittman.

Business, Communication and the Environment is one of SOU’s seven academic divisions and includes the academic programs within the departments of business, communication, and environmental science and policy. Each division is led by a director who provides leadership and guidance for the departments and programs within their divisions, encouraging originality and advancement while aligning their academic programs with the university’s mission, vision and values.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Smith is joining our senior academic leadership team,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The breadth and depth of his professional portfolio truly compliments the entrepreneurial direction the BCE Division has been forging since its inception in 2014.

“Vince has many exciting ideas about how to take the outstanding work of the BCE faculty, staff and students to the next level, in collaboration with other partners across campus – as well as in the greater community, region and state.”

Smith was hired as an assistant professor in 2011 and was promoted to associate professor five years ago. He has a varied background of applying academics and research to the real world, including a nine-month project in which he managed a family farm in Missouri as a direct-market mixed vegetable operation, two years as an instructor at The Science Factory children’s museum in Eugene and a year of teaching at an outdoor school on California’s Catalina Island.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Truman State University in Missouri, his master’s degree in environmental science from Oregon State University and his doctorate in environmental science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As an undergraduate, Smith participated in the Semester at Sea program through the University of Pittsburgh, visiting Japan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Cuba.

Smith enjoys working with students from various sociological and environmental backgrounds, and finding research opportunities for those whose academic interests are similar to his own. He has advised students on undergraduate capstone projects ranging from permaculture to body modification.

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Haleigh Wagman will be the first female infantry officer produced by an ROTC program in Oregon

SOU graduate is Oregon’s first female, ROTC-trained infantry officer

Haleigh Wagman knew long before her graduation from SOU last year that she was on track for something special, but she chose to keep it to herself until the accomplishment was in sight. That happened in the fall of 2019, when Wagman – a four-year Army ROTC participant – let others at SOU know she would become the first female infantry officer produced by an ROTC program in Oregon.

“I knew since the beginning of my sophomore year that it was what I was going to do,” she said. “I kept it a secret until the beginning of my senior year, when we had to announce what (field) we were choosing.

“I wanted to be given opportunities based on my own merit and reputation that came from my military knowledge, academic abilities and physical fitness.”

Wagman, now a second lieutenant in the Texas Army National Guard in San Marcos, is assigned to the Infantry Basic Officer course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and will officially become the first Oregon ROTC-trained female infantry officer when she completes the course in May.

She will then return to her 141st Infantry Battalion until she begins post-graduate studies in August. She has received offers from the Medical Science doctoral program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and from the Integrated Biomedical Sciences doctoral program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Wagman graduated from SOU last summer with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She credits the ROTC program for helping her build discipline, and faculty members in SOU’s STEM Division for challenging her academically.

“Dr. (Patrick) Videau is awesome; he always keeps things real with students and is entertaining to learn from,” Wagman said. “He and Dr. (Brie) Paddock both go out of their way in order to get students the help they need, and are both key players in my love for science and reasons for pursuing graduate school.”

Despite her love for science, it was athletics that initially attracted Wagman to SOU. Raiders volleyball coach Josh Rohlfing is a family friend who was in her parents’ wedding, and she came to Ashland to play volleyball after graduating from North Valley High School in Grants Pass.

“My dad actually was an assistant coach (at SOU) for a couple years while I was in middle school,” Wagman said. “So with that and growing up in the Rogue Valley, I felt pretty familiar with the school coming into it.”

She needed to pay for college, so planned ahead and finished high school early, joined the Oregon Army National Guard and attended Basic Combat Training before starting at SOU. The National Guard awarded a four-year scholarship that paid for full tuition and fees, and by joining the ROTC program she became eligible for its no-cost housing plan, which at the time was in Susanne Homes Hall.

“I think the thing I enjoyed most about SOU was living in the ROTC dorms,” she said. “It allowed for us to have our own culture and space that was quieter for waking up early in the mornings and building friendships through shared experiences.”

She found that the biggest challenge of her undergraduate experience at SOU was compensating for the fact that she came out of high school without any college credits and had a full schedule of required coursework in both military science for ROTC and biology for her major. She also needed to graduate in four years.

“I was at 20 to 22 credits a term, and oddly enough I actually got the best grades those terms,” Wagman said. “I think it’s because I have poor time management when left to my own devices, but when I was that busy it forced me to manage my time well and get things done.

“The ROTC program has helped with my time management and leadership skills,” she said. “Both (the ROTC and Army National Guard) scholarships required that I stayed physically fit, morally qualified and academically qualified. Those things helped push me in school and keep me on track to graduate and receive my commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.”

Cherstin Lyon, SOU Honors College director

SOU Honors College director leads the Democracy Project and more

Cherstin Lyon is the director of Southern Oregon University’s Honors College, organizes the Democracy Project with Philosophy Department chair Prakash Chenjeri and mentors students. And she has been at SOU for just a year.

“Coming to SOU I was immediately impressed by how welcoming the campus is, and by all of the people who reached out to introduce themselves, invite me to coffee, and extend a helping hand,” Lyon said. “That made it very easy to reach out when I had questions or needed help. I’m delighted to be working at a university that works so well as a team, where there is such a strong sense of community and where students come first in everything we do.”

Lyon is new to SOU, but by no means new to academia – or to Oregon. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Oregon before earning her doctorate at the University of Arizona.

She taught history, first at Utah Valley University and then at California State University, San Bernardino, where she earned tenure. She coordinated CSUSB’s Public and Oral History program and master’s degree program in Social Science and Globalization, and co-directed the summer study abroad program in London. She also co-directed the Center for Faculty Excellence as the faculty associate for the Office of Community Engagement.

Lyon came to SOU in July 2019 as director of the Honors College, which seeks to create a community of learners prepared for a lifetime of intellectual curiosity, inquiry, scholarship, and service. Students and professors work in partnership to create a challenging and practical liberal arts education centered on critical thinking, multidisciplinary undergraduate research, inclusive diversity, civic engagement and community service. The college tackles regional issues with global implications.

“The Honors College creates a sense of community and belonging among students,” Lyon said. “The curriculum is intentionally linked to co-curricular activities and experiences that help students develop their unique talents and cultivate their leadership skills.

“There are many opportunities in the Honors College to expand learning beyond the classroom, and to create distinctive projects that will set students apart from the pack when applying for graduate school, internships or jobs.”

Lyon organizes the Honors College Democracy Project with Chenjeri, one of the original founders of the project. It typically includes an annual trip for students to hubs of democracy at home and abroad. Participants write “dispatches” about their experiences and observations during the trips, which typically include visiting community groups and representatives of various levels of local, regional, national and international governments. Their research then becomes part of an annual workshop at which students share what they’ve learned about democracy with southern Oregon high school students and other residents.

The Democracy Project was initially scheduled to explore Edinburgh, Scotland, and London during the 2020 summer break, but the trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Students in the program have instead focused on democracy in the Rogue Valley, with a digital symposium held for Crater High School students.

The 2021 Democracy Project will consist of a series of lectures, discussions and presentations on topics relating to democracy in America. The title for this year’s Democracy Project, “The Fragility and Strength of American Democracy,” was discussed at the opening roundtable event on Jan. 21 and at a series of events that will be open to the public via Zoom and on Jefferson Public Radio.

Future versions of the Democracy Project are expected to return to a more global perspective.

“Going back to South Africa (and) visiting Ghana would be fascinating,” Lyon said. “We also have plans to visit Sweden. I’d also like to go places that open up our understanding of democracy in the U.S., including places like American Samoa or Detroit. We are also looking into the possibility of partnering with Oregon tribes to better understand what democracy looks like from the perspective of domestic dependent nations.

“I would very much like to partner with faculty at SOU who work on community and democracy-related issues in countries around the world as a way of including more faculty in the project.”

Lyon’s favorite role as Honors College director is advising and mentoring students. One common student issue with which she has personal experience is picking a major. She studied piano performance, environmental science and policy, social control, chemistry and statistics – and was passionate about each – before narrowing her focus to history.

“I tell students all the time that choosing a major or a focused career path now does not preclude exploring other interests later,” she said. “If we are lucky, we will have decades in which to explore the things that we love. Career paths often take serendipitous turns we cannot predict, but if they remain curious and engaged, they will be prepared for a lifetime of possibilities.

“Remembering your diverse interests might inspire you to take advantage of opportunities … that might otherwise be overlooked.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's Dustin Walcher discusses insurrection and history

Notes on a day of insurrection: SOU’s Dustin Walcher

“Yesterday the President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained on the afternoon of Jan. 7, calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office for sedition either through the 25th Amendment or by way of impeachment. On Jan. 6, the president had called on his supporters to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” and “show strength” to the Congress, which was engaged in the task of counting electoral votes. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, declared that the president’s spurious charges of election malfeasance should be settled through “trial by combat.” An insurrection ensued. The resulting images of a mob overrunning and ransacking the United States Capitol shocked the conscience, but should not have been a surprise.

Reflecting on the attack on the Capitol, historian Jill Lepore lamented that “we are off the grid of the trajectory of American history.” We are not. In the first place, though yesterday’s assault by a mob of U.S. citizens was unique, the Capitol has been attacked a number of times before. Most notably, in 1814 a British army occupied and then set the building on fire. In 1950, four Puerto Rican nationalists fired on the House Chamber from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five members of Congress.

More to the point, we have seen the tactics employed by Trump’s mob throughout our history. In an effort to overturn the results of the presidential election, the insurrectionists constructed a noose, raised a cross, marched with the battle flag of the Confederacy, destroyed property, terrorized bystanders and assaulted those who stood in their way, all while calling themselves “patriots.” These are the same tactics that were used in the massive resistance to civil rights launched by white nationalists of an earlier generation, and by all incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan. Such behavior, and the ideas that motivate it, are part of the fabric of the country. This is, at least in part, who we are.

As we move beyond the era of the Trump presidency, it is up to us to reckon collectively with the unsavory elements of our history. Historian Douglas Adair explained that “History is a conversation in the present with the past, about the future.” What happened yesterday was stoked by President Trump, but was so very much bigger than President Trump. To understand the mob’s rage requires coming to terms with the reality that the same country that produced John Lewis also produced Joe McCarthy and George Wallace. Although the events of Jan. 6 represent a significant part of who we are, they do not come close to comprising the entirety of who we are. But before we can defeat our national demons, we must first name them, face them and confront them head-on. That is the challenge of history, and that is the challenge of our time.