Provost and VP for Academic and Student Affairs Casey Shillam

Former University of Portland administrator to become SOU’s top academic leader

(Ashland, Ore.) — Casey Shillam, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N, who served most recently as dean and professor of the University of Portland School of Nursing & Health Innovations, will be the next Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Southern Oregon University. She will begin her duties at SOU on Friday, March 1.

Shillam is an experienced academic leader, nurse, educator, administrator and U.S. military veteran. She is an expert on aging, a skilled researcher and statistician with a long record of research funding, and has a prolific publication history. Under her leadership, student enrollment at the University of Portland nursing school grew by 35%, becoming the state’s largest undergraduate nursing program. Throughout her administrative career, she has secured more than $10 million in federal, philanthropic and foundation funding for academic program development, student scholarships and research.

“Dr. Shillam has already made a huge impact in our state, and we are truly excited to have her join the SOU family and apply her expertise to our academic and student-centered programs,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Her skills align seamlessly with many of our programs and initiatives – from our outstanding academic program offerings to our student support systems, to our plans for a senior living facility on the SOU campus, to ongoing efforts that will expand our behavioral mental health offerings and address the statewide shortage of counselors. We look forward to her leadership helping us to continue to move onward and upward as an institution.”

Shillam’s work on aging and health policy has made significant impacts regionally and nationally. In Oregon, she shaped legislation through the House Committee on Health Care to address the healthcare workforce shortage, resulting in actionable steps with measurable outcomes to address critical issues. At the federal level, she co-chaired the Department of Health & Human Services RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council, which provided the U.S. Congress with the first national caregiving strategy and federal funding priorities to support over 53 million family caregivers. She is currently serving on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission.

“Southern Oregon University stands out as a leader of regional institutions of higher education, and I am honored to join this thriving campus community,” Shillam said. “A strong roadmap has been developed by President Bailey and the entire SOU community, leveraging opportunities and strengths of the people and resources of southern Oregon. I am eager to begin my work in implementing this plan with SOU’s innovative leaders, talented faculty, dedicated staff and outstanding students.”

Shillam is a first-generation college graduate with a deep commitment to student support and well-being. She earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and letters at Portland State University; bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing, all at Oregon Health & Science University; and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis. Her bachelor’s degree in nursing was from the OHSU program on the SOU campus.

Current Provost Susan Walsh, Ph.D., announced last summer that she planned to retire, but agreed to serve until Shillam begins her new role on Friday. Walsh has served 42 years at SOU, rising through the academic ranks from instructor in the Communication Department, to full professor and eventually to the institution’s top academic leadership position.

The Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs is the leader in sustaining an environment of academic excellence and student success at SOU.


SOU faculty members picked for AASCU leadership institute

Four from SOU chosen for AASCU leadership institute

(Ashland, Ore.) — Four Southern Oregon University faculty members are among 36 educators selected from higher education institutions across the country to take part in the inaugural Department Chair Leadership Institute, an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities that is intended to help participants develop critical skills and prepare for future administrative roles.

SOU’s participants in the AASCU program are Jackie Apodaca, professor and co-chair of the Theatre Department; Dee Fretwell, senior instructor and chair of the School of Business; Larry Gibbs, associate professor and chair of the Healthcare Administration Program; and Jesse Longhurst, associate professor and chair of the Education Department.

Members of the initial cohort of the DCLI will participate in an in-person meeting this week in Washington, D.C., and in three 75-minute virtual sessions in February and March. The leadership institute’s comprehensive curriculum covers how to lead a department based on an institution’s mission and strategic plan, navigate difficult conversations, grow and sustain a future-focused department and and maintain relevance as higher education changes.

The DCLI is designed for current department chairs state colleges and universities who aspire to be dynamic, strategic and empathetic leaders. Participants gain a national perspective on the importance of the department chair in serving the institutional mission, leading with an equity mindset, delivering value and ensuring student success. The institute was created in response to AASCU member feedback and requests for a robust professional development program for department chairs.

Richard Helldobler, president of New Jersey’s William Paterson University and a former AASCU board member, is serving as executive sponsor and lead faculty member of the new leadership institute. He said a recent study found that 67% of department chairs reported no training was received for their position, even though chairs are considered the most critical front-line managers for academic and institutional effectiveness.

“AASCU is taking this issue head-on with the development of this new program to help department chairs understand roles and responsibilities, finances and navigating the complexities of university leadership,” Helldobler said.

The demand for the new program was so high that the 2024 institute will be made up of two cohorts, with the second group participating in its in-person meeting in August and virtual sessions in September and October.


Andrew Gay, director of SOU School of Arts & Communication

Internal candidate hired for SOU director position

(Ashland, Ore.) — Andrew Kenneth Gay, a professor and chair of Communication, Media & Cinema at Southern Oregon University, has been hired as director of SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication – which includes the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU.

Gay has taken on numerous leadership roles since joining the SOU faculty in 2014, including his current, two-year appointment to the SOU Board of Trustees. In addition to his academic roles, he has served two years as chair of the Faculty Senate and led a recent three-year effort to transform SOU’s general education curriculum.

“I am especially excited to know that our students will benefit from Andrew’s collaborative and interdisciplinary vision for the future,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, in announcing Gay’s promotion to the campus community.

SOU’s School of Arts & Communication, which was initiated this fall, combines the university’s Theatre, Music and Creative Arts departments with its Communication, Media & Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance, creativity and production, and new opportunities for collaboration are created by placing them under the same school.

All of the university’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs have been distributed among four “schools” beginning this fall, rather than the seven “divisions” that previously administered the programs. The shift leads to more efficiency in SOU’s administrative structure, and was a key part of the cost management plan adopted last spring by the Board of Trustees.

Gay will succeed David Humphrey, Ph.D., who created the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU and led that division for 11 years. Humphrey is retiring at the end of December.

“Ashland and SOU have always been internationally recognized destinations for creativity, storytelling and human connection, and our new School of Arts & Communication continues that tradition with a renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration,” Gay said. “I’m thrilled to lead the new school and the Oregon Center for the Arts as we build a hub for creative careers and meaningful expression in our region and work to realize our students’ most ambitious dreams.”

The university’s undergraduate program in Digital Cinema was created under Gay’s leadership in 2019. The program launched an innovative, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience” in 2022, and later that year the program was accepted as a member of the prestigious Green Film School Alliance.

He received the Teaching Excellence Award from the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) in 2022 and earned SOU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2021.

Gay teaches digital cinema courses in storytelling, screenwriting, directing, producing, production management, film festival programming, career design and development, and short film production. He is the former board president of Film Southern Oregon, previously sat on the board of the Oregon Media Production Association, has been a programmer for the Ashland Independent Film Festival and serves on the Teaching Committee for EDIT Media (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Teaching Media) and on the board for the University Film & Video Association (UFVA).

He came to SOU in 2014 from the University of Central Florida, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Digital Media, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy/Religion from Flagler College.

Gay has also worked as a freelance production coordinator, production manager and assistant director in commercials, reality television and independent film, and for such companies as Red Bull, Discovery and Disney. He has written, directed and produced for both fiction and documentary media.


Age-friendly designation for SOU

SOU achieves “age-friendly university” status

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been accepted for membership in the Age-Friendly University Global Network – a collection of more than 100 universities across five continents that have committed to age diversity and intergenerational interactions on their campuses and in their communities.

“This is a timely and impactful distinction for SOU,” President Rick Bailey said. “It meshes with some initiatives that we’re already very excited about. Our acceptance into this distinguished network really highlights our dedication to students of all ages and backgrounds, and our utmost respect for the knowledge, expertise and capabilities of older adults.”

The membership underlines SOU’s commitment to serving mid-career and older students and welcoming the contributions of older employees. It will also place the university on lists of age-friendly institutions that are maintained by organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Gerontological Society of America.

SOU, Portland State University and Western Oregon University are the only Oregon institutions to gain AFUGN membership. Member colleges and universities commit to AFUGN’s list of 10 Age-Friendly University Principles, which touch on second careers, intergenerational learning, online educational opportunities, engagement with retired communities and other key topics.

“Your institution’s demonstrated commitment to this cause and its ongoing efforts to promote age-friendly policies, research, services and initiatives are to be lauded,” said Aaron Guest, Ph.D., an Arizona State University faculty member who serves as secretariat of AFUGN.

“We are thrilled to embark on this journey together and look forward to a fruitful and collaborative relationship,” he said. “Together, we can significantly impact older adults’ lives and create societies where everyone can age with dignity, respect and fulfillment.”

The new membership meshes with SOU’s plans to build a senior living center on campus and with the existing Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. OLLI at SOU leaders collaborated on the AFUGN membership application with Noriko Toyokawa, an associate professor of psychology at SOU whose research focuses on intergenerational relationships and health in later life.

“Age diversity on campus is a resource for learning and community building,” Toyokawa said.

SOU has been awarded state funding to raze its outdated and largely unused Cascade Housing Complex, and university leaders have begun conversations with potential private partners for development of a senior living facility in its place. The goal is to create a living community that creates a unique synergy between the center’s residents, SOU students, OLLI at SOU and the university. A list of seniors who are interested in moving into the facility has already been generated.

SOU’s is among the largest of 125 OLLI programs on college and university campuses across the U.S., with close to 1,700 members at the university’s Ashland and Medford campuses. The SOU program, like others around the country, provides a variety of in-person and online noncredit courses and outdoor activities geared toward adults 50 or better who seek “learning for the joy of learning.” OLLI at SOU invites adults to come for the classes and stay for the connections.

OLLI at SOU members collaborate with staff to govern their organization, and teach and take classes in subjects ranging from art and music to science and technology to health and recreation. The local program began with 100 members in 1993 as Southern Oregon Learning in Retirement (SOLIR) before being incorporated into the nationwide OLLI network that is part of the Bernard Osher Foundation.

The AFUGN was initiated in 2012 at Ireland’s Dublin City University and has grown into a network of institutions that promote positive, healthy aging by offering age-friendly educational programs, research, curriculum, online education, health and wellness activities, arts and culture programs and opportunities for civic engagement.


Jason Mendoza appointed to SOU Board of Trustees

Current chair and university employee appointed to new terms on SOU board

(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has appointed Jason Mendoza, an area coordinator for Southern Oregon University’s Housing Department, to serve on SOU’s Board of Trustees, and reappointed current board chair Daniel Santos to his second full, four-year term. Both were confirmed on Friday by the Oregon Senate and their service to the board begins immediately.

Mendoza will serve a two-year term as the new non-faculty staff member of SOU’s governing board. He is an SOU alumnus, receiving his bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice seven years ago, and he held criminal justice positions in Jackson and Klamath counties before taking his current position with SOU’s University Housing.

“SOU holds a very special place in my heart, as it is where I met my wife and we started our family prior to graduating,” Mendoza said. “This opportunity brings me full-circle at SOU, where as a student worker in University Housing, my wife and I received the support we needed to graduate. I will be pleased to join the board in advocating for and supporting first-generation students like myself.”

Santos is also an alumnus, receiving his bachelor’s degree in criminology at SOU in 1975, before earning his law degree at Willamette University College of Law. He has remained involved in education throughout his career, serving as a founding member of Scholarships for Oregon Latinos, and in guiding roles with Willamette University’s Willamette Academy for students from underserved communities and the Leadership Council for Oregon Mentors. He has served on the SOU Board of Trustees since 2016 and currently is the board’s chairperson.

“I am excited to continue my service to SOU, and I am looking forward to working with Jason and all of our fellow board members,” Santos said. “Our role is to keep the institution on a solid, sustainable path and ensure access to future generations of students. SOU is headed in the right direction, both academically and fiscally, thanks to the innovative, responsible guidance of our board and university leaders.”

Santos is a retired associate dean for the Willamette University College of Law, where he oversaw student affairs and administration. He has served in various capacities for Oregon governors Neil Goldschmidt, Barbara Roberts, John Kitzhaber, Ted Kulongoski, Kate Brown and Tina Kotek. His roles included service as Roberts’ legal counsel and Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision chair, and as a senior policy advisor for Kulongoski.

He currently serves on the boards of directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Mid-Valley Literacy Council, among others.

Mendoza is a member of the city of Ashland’s Housing and Human Services Advisory Committee, which assesses and makes recommendations to the City Council on housing and human service needs. He is an advisor for both the SOU Ho`opa`a Hawai`i Club and Samoan Club, and is passionate about helping underrepresented populations – especially the Polynesian community.

He has worked with the SOU Admissions Department in the recruiting and retention of Pacific Islander students, including traveling to American Samoa, and has helped Phoenix High School students learn about Samoan culture during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Mendoza also helped to organize the United Pacific Islanders of Southern Oregon (UPSIO) Pacific Islander Summer Celebration in August – an event that was hosted by the Samoa Pacific Islander Coalition (SPDC).

SOU was granted authority by the state to form its own independent Board of Trustees beginning July 1, 2015, following the legislature’s dissolution of the Oregon University System and State Board of Higher Education. SOU’s board is responsible for governance and oversight of the university.

Eleven at-large trustees serve four-year terms, and one voting position each is reserved for an SOU undergraduate student, an SOU graduate student, a faculty and a non-faculty staff member – each of whom serve two-year terms. One non-voting undergraduate student member also serves on the board for a two-year term.


SOU Forward realignment plan approved

SOU Board of Trustees approves realignment plan

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to adopt the SOU Forward fiscal realignment plan – a four-plank strategy that balances expenses with revenue and then prepares the university for strategic growth by diversifying its sources of revenue.

The board focused primarily on the plan’s first plank – immediate cost management – while the three planks or elements that are centered on revenue generation will unfold over the next several years.

“University leaders clearly understand SOU’s difficult position and have identified the steps necessary to address the institution’s immediate financial threats,” said Daniel Santos, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees. “What my fellow board members and I find most hopeful is that this plan also lays out a course of action that will enable the university to diversify its revenue and avoid similar threats in the future.”

The cost management measures that trustees adopted will reduce expenses by $3.6 million this year while identifying another $9 million in recurring cost reductions. They address structural flaws in the university’s financial model that otherwise would result in a projected $14.6 million deficit by the 2026-27 fiscal year.

The measures will reduce the SOU workforce by the equivalent of almost 82 full-time positions – about 24 of them resulting in current employees losing their jobs. The remainder will be achieved through a combination of current job vacancies, retirements, voluntary departures and non-renewable contracts. The university is working closely with the 24 current employees whose positions will be lost to identify other opportunities.

Those whose positions are impacted are being given advance notice ranging from 120 days to 15 months, depending on job category.

“Make no mistake, this continues to be a challenging process for all of us at SOU,” President Rick Bailey said. “But we will remain committed to kindness, compassion and unity. We are in this together, and will always be mindful of the ways in which this plan affects all of our students, faculty and staff.

“Ultimately, as challenging as this work is, we are doing it because we are united in our love for students. We owe it to current and future students to take the steps necessary to keep SOU affordable and accessible for generations to come.”

The staffing reductions will touch SOU’s three employee groups almost equally, with 27 faculty positions, 30 classified positions and 25 unclassified positions affected. The timing of reductions will vary over the next year and a half, with most being achieved by June 2024 or soon thereafter.

The realignment process, which began in earnest last October, has aimed for transparency and collaboration, with input from SOU’s shared governance partners – the Associated Students of SOU, Faculty Senate and Staff Assembly – and the unions representing both faculty and classified employees. With each decision, efforts have been made to maintain academic excellence and student experiences.

The structural flaws in SOU’s fiscal model are the result of a longstanding reliance on the combination of state appropriations and tuition revenue to pay for most operations. The proportion of those two funding sources has flipped in recent decades for all of Oregon’s seven public universities – what used to be about a two-thirds share from the state and one-third from tuition is now the exact opposite.

President Bailey has said that SOU can “no longer pull the tuition lever” each time its budget must be balanced. The SOU Forward plan identifies strategies that will build the university’s fiscal resilience and reduce its reliance on state funding and tuition.

Those revenue-generating planks call for the university to reimagine how it supports faculty and programs seeking funding from external granting agencies and organizations, leverage an ongoing surge in philanthropic support for SOU and diversify revenue by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities that include solar power generation and creation of a senior living facility.


Misinformation about SOU's fiscal realignment cleared up by President Bailey

President corrects misperceptions on fiscal realignment

SOU President Rick Bailey reached out to students and employees this week to correct various misinformation and misperceptions that have circulated among the campus community regarding the cost-management portion of the university’s four-pronged fiscal realignment plan.

The bottom line is that students and others should expect “a robust mix of academic programs and student experiences” at SOU for the foreseeable future, President Bailey said.

He specifically pointed out that the only academic program proposed for elimination at SOU is the master’s degree in Environmental Education, and all current students in that program will be able to complete their degree requirements.

“No other programs are being proposed for elimination,” he said. “Rather, our intent in identifying budget reductions was to more tightly focus some academic programs to better align with the needs of students as they graduate and begin or resume their careers.”

For example, the Theatre Program – where several inaccuracies have circulated among concerned students, staff and patrons – will continue to be a key piece of the SOU identity and an important element of the university’s overall offerings in the creative industries. The program is not one of SOU’s largest but its students, staff and patrons are vocal in their support.

“Discussions have been underway with the (theatre) department for the past several years about how we may be able to better integrate and create synergy among programs related to theater, film, video, gaming, concerts and special events – boosting the career opportunities for graduates who want to work in the creative industries,” President Bailey said in this week’s campus message. “The current fiscal realignment process accelerated those discussions.”

He also made clear that the university’s cost-cutting proposals do not include widespread layoffs. Almost 82 full-time equivalent positions have been identified for elimination by summer 2024, but 59 of those reductions will be accomplished through a combination of recurring job vacancies, retirements, voluntary departures and non-renewable contracts.

“The balance will come from current employees whose positions are proposed to be eliminated, and we are acting with openness, kindness, compassion, and support as we move through this process,” the president said.

He added that the current employees whose positions are proposed for elimination will not be identified by name, out of respect for their privacy, but those impacted positions will soon be made public. The positions are spread across faculty, classified and unclassified employee groups, with care taken to avoid or keep to a minimum any impacts to student experiences or academic opportunities.

President Bailey said he expects additional feedback and potential adjustments as he and other campus leaders continue to address the university’s structural deficit. The cost management plan will be presented on March 17 to the SOU Board of Trustees, and the board will take action on the plan at its meeting on April 21.

Cost management is one of four “planks” that make up SOU’s overall fiscal realignment strategy. The other planks, or elements, of the plan are to build a system of support for research and other projects to be funded by external granting agencies and organizations, leverage the ongoing surge in philanthropic giving to SOU, and diversify revenue by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities such as solar power production and an on-campus senior living facility.

“Our ultimate goals are to repair the structural flaws in SOU’s financial model that have resulted in recurring budget crises over the past 25 years, and ensure continued access and academic success for our students,” President Bailey said. “We will achieve both by reducing SOU’s reliance on tuition and state appropriations.”

SOU will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a participant in the Better Climate Challenge

SOU joins DOE program, commits to greenhouse gas reductions

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has taken a bold step toward sustainability by joining the Better Climate Challenge – a public-private partnership, led by the U.S. Department of Energy, to encourage organizations to decarbonize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The university has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% within the next 10 years and decreasing its energy intensity by 25%. The reductions will be measured from a 2018 baseline.

“This commitment is consistent with our university’s goal to produce 100% of its own electricity within 12 years through an aggressive build-out of solar arrays throughout campus,” said Becs Walker, SOU’s sustainability director. “By making conscious efforts to operate sustainably, we can also achieve fiscal responsibility and efficiency.

“We can – and will – serve as a leader in conservation and environmental stewardship while at the same time expanding students’ access to our programs by carefully managing our costs.”

SOU is already known for its commitment to sustainability, with initiatives including solar power generation; reduce, reuse and recycling programs; energy efficiency; water conservation; Bee Campus and Tree Campus certifications; and sustainable food production at The Farm at SOU. The university is also a GOLD-rated institution in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

SOU is one of at least nine colleges or universities across the country that have committed to the DOE’s Better Climate Challenge, which was launched last March and now has a total of more than 120 partner organizations. Other Oregon entities that have signed on to the challenge include the city of Hillsboro and Bend’s Deschutes Brewery.

Participants in the challenge will help lead the way to a clean energy economy and a better future, according to the program’s website.

As a partner in the challenge, SOU will share its progress and strategies with others to help promote sustainability. The university will work with the DOE and its peer organizations to turn the threat of climate change into an opportunity to innovate and create a better planet.


Patridge hired as general counsel

Patridge hired as SOU general counsel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar power production to be supported by state grant

SOU to expand solar power, move toward energy independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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