Esports management minor is coming to SOU

Esports team and esports management minor coming to SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will be among the first universities on the West Coast to offer both an academic program and a competitive team in esports when both are launched this fall. Esports is a billion-dollar global enterprise, and the programs will position SOU students for future employment in the burgeoning industry.

The University of California, Irvine, has an existing continuing education program in esports and a growing number of universities are exploring academic or team esports programs. SOU’s academic minor in esports management will be one of just a handful nationally.

The combination of competitive esports and the academic minor may help to attract more nontraditional students to SOU, President Linda Schott said.

“By offering a new academic minor, the university can meet the needs of students and the demands of a rapidly growing industry,” the president said. “Our new esports team will provide competitive, non-traditional sports offerings to students, which has the potential to increase student recruitment, engagement and retention.”

The academic minor – offered through SOU’s Business Program – will include curriculum in business, marketing, digital media and communication. Preliminary plans for the program call for new courses including Introduction to Esports Management and Contemporary & Ethical Issues in Esports.

SOU business faculty member Jeremy Carlton is organizing the esports management minor. Students can enroll for classes that begin this fall.

“The minor will help prepare students to be an integral part of the action in a field that values quick and strategic thinking, mental agility, intellectual curiosity and creativity,” Carlton said.

The university will also open an Esports Lab in its Student Recreation Center. The lab will house multiple computer gaming stations, one of which will be reserved for streaming and esports commentating – known as “shoutcasting.” The lab will be used for intercollegiate competitions, intramural gaming and open play for all SOU students and SRC members.

The university anticipates that its intercollegiate team will compete in the Collegiate Starleague (CSL). Collegiate esports started with CSL, which hosted the first collegiate competition in 2009 and has grown to include teams from 1,800 college campuses across North America. The CSL offers leagues across several titles and platforms, for players at all skill levels.

The CSL’s leagues and tournaments award scholarships to top-rated student gamers each year, and the organization is expected to eclipse the $1 million mark in scholarships in 2020.

SOU has elected to have members of its intercollegiate team help choose which games it will play. A survey conducted earlier this year indicated that students were most interested in “Apex Legends” and “Call of Duty.”

An important focus of the SOU team will be on health and well-being.

“This is a new sport, which means we have asked our campus recreation program to ensure that our players can perform at the highest levels,” Schott said, noting that there is a wellness and physical activity component required for students who participate on the competitive team.

“Our team members will engage weekly as part of a mandatory wellness component,” she said.


Student teachers in SOU's School of Education are working remotely

SOU’s graduating student teachers provide value in varied settings

(Ashland, Ore.) — Even the most seasoned educators are currently navigating uncharted territory. But for student teachers in Southern Oregon University’s School of Education, unusual classroom circumstances are coinciding with the culmination of college journeys.

Teaching placements have gone ahead as scheduled – though not exactly as planned – for 110 SOU students who are either seniors or on track to complete the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or Special Education programs this spring. They’re spread across 60 K-12 schools in 12 different districts, from Coos Bay to Klamath Falls and all over the Rogue Valley – with all learning delivered through a variety of remote formats.

John King – SOU’s director for the Division of Education, Health and Leadership – was among those figuring out logistics as the extent of disruption caused by COVID-19 was becoming apparent prior to spring term.

“Fortunately, we have great relationships with the districts and principals, and these (student teachers) are the people they’ll be hiring in the fall, so we’re working towards the same goals,” King said.

“What we’re trying to do is ensure our student teachers are providing added value for schools and students,” he said. “They need to satisfy degree requirements, yes, but we want to make sure they’re not just an extra burden because these schools are already under such enormous pressure in having to redesign a lot of their own work.”

Under normal circumstances, student teachers spend full days during the spring in their respective classrooms, delivering instruction and developing original curriculum. They’re now limited to remote instruction and finding classroom-to-classroom variations in approach, from face-to-face video instruction to packet pick-ups and online work.

MAT candidate Lauren Perkinson falls closer to the latter category in teaching anatomy and physical sciences at North Medford High School. Though she records herself giving lectures, the majority of her work goes into a weekly “learning grid” of activities that includes six options, from which students are asked to complete two.

“Everyone is affected differently and struggling to some extent, especially when it comes to students you have no contact with, but it’s a good lesson in the importance of adaptability as an educator,” Perkinson said. “One of the biggest takeaways is seeing teachers work together and support each other and students however they can, because they care so deeply about them.”

That support extends back to SOU, where ideas and experiences are shared in weekly Zoom classes.

“We’re trying to give them a menu of possibilities based on what each school is doing,” King said. “We have 110 different examples, so it gets incredibly complex very quickly, but that means they’re being equipped not only for their own classrooms, but also hearing experiences of others and seeing how these systems can work together.”

With subject knowledge testing centers closed, King is working with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission to offer alternatives for soon-to-be-graduates to complete their state licensure requirements.

“We certainly haven’t figured everything out,” he said. “But we’re trying to approach the situation with generosity and grace and patience, and we’re all learning together.”

Story by Josh McDermott, SOU staff writer


SOULA staff work on Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project

SOULA wins Oregon Heritage Excellence Award for Chinese immigrant research

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) has won a 2020 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award for its work on the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Students worked with faculty on the project as part of a Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) summer archaeological field school in 2019.

“The (Oregon Heritage Excellence Award) recipients represent the extraordinary efforts to preserve Oregon’s heritage,” said Beth Dehn, coordinator for the Oregon Heritage Commission. “They also serve as models for others on how to develop new ideas, approaches and innovations.”

The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is one of only 10 projects to receive the award. The grassroots archaeology partnership of federal, state and local agencies examined the Chinese diaspora – or dispersed population – in Oregon, and challenged stereotypes that have been historically assigned to the immigrants.

The project is led by Chelsea Rose of SOU Laboratory of Anthropology, who partners with archaeologists from state and federal agencies on archaeological sites across Oregon.

The ongoing project has involved digging, interpreting and touring nine archaeological sites where Chinese immigrants worked and lived; and searching historical records such as censuses, community records and data from the Kam Wah Chung Museum in John Day. Research findings have been publicized through lectures, tours, theses, digital “story maps” and will be presented in an upcoming volume of the Oregon Historical Society’s quarterly journal. Local involvement with volunteer projects has been encouraged through the cultural heritage program Passport in Time and other public archaeological events.

“It is exciting to see how far this project has come, and how much can be accomplished when agencies work together toward a common goal,” Rose said.

SOULA started the partnership with the Malheur National Forest, and it has since expanded to include Oregon State Parks, the Medford District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Oregon Historical Society, and other local and regional organizations.

The lead editors of the Chinese in Northwest American Research Committee – Chuimei Ho and Bennet Bronson – wrote one of three letters recommending the OCDP for the Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.

“Very few heritage efforts in other places have been as effective and innovative,” the letter from Ho and Bronson said. “Nothing like it currently exists in California or elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The OCDP’s research subject is vast, still largely untouched, and of great importance to all Chinese Americans.”

The historic population of Chinese immigrants in rural Oregon was high, but there are few descendant communities because of anti-Chinese violence and the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The OCDP offers Oregonians a deeper sense of their shared heritage by discovering and publicizing Chinese achievements.

Don Hann, project co-director with the Malheur National Forest, has used innovative Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology to document historical Chinese mining sites. LIDAR, which sends a laser pulse through the surface of the ground, has allowed OCDP archaeologists to map over 1,000 acres of mining complexes hidden in the forest within an accuracy of 10 inches. The new maps highlight a system of dams, reservoirs and ditches that provided water for mining.

These complicated water systems reveal a picture of 19th century Chinese immigrants as entrepreneurs who had experience organizing gold mining operations in foreign countries.

SOU students participated in the OCDP last year by taking the class SOAN 375. The four-credit, four-week course – the archaeological field school – introduced methods of excavating, mapping, recovering and recording artifacts from prehistoric or historic sites.

“It was an incredible project for SOU staff and students to be a part of, and we are continuing to work and expand our research across the state,” Rose said.

She and other members of the SOULA staff have also worked on the Cangdong Village Project, a Stanford-led transnational research project looking into the five-county area that was home to most Chinese Immigrants during the 19th century. SOULA partnered with the Hannon Library and PAR Environmental in 2018 to create the Chinese Material Culture Collection – a digital archive of artifacts commonly found on 19th and 20th century Chinese archaeological sites in the American West.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer


SOU's virtual connections will help prospective students

SOU offers virtual opportunities for prospective students

(Ashland, Ore.) — Buildings at Southern Oregon University are currently closed to the public, all courses are being held remotely and most students are visible only during Zoom meetings and other online forums.

But next year’s class of incoming freshmen and transfer students have decisions to make, and SOU has created a comprehensive lineup of virtual opportunities to help them through the process.

“Prospective students need to find the right collegiate fit to prepare themselves for a productive, meaningful future,” said Kelly Moutsatson, SOU’s director of admissions “We need to make sure they have all the tools they may need to make good decisions about where to go for college.

“We’ve done a pretty amazing job of duplicating our on-campus admissions features and events, in a virtual environment.”

Spring is typically the busiest time of year for college admissions offices, with a variety of campus visits, registration get-togethers and orientation sessions for prospective students on the schedule. Those in-person events have been suspended at SOU in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been replaced by “virtual connections” to help would-be students get a feel for campus, talk one-on-one with admissions counselors and negotiate the registration process.

The university’s new virtual connections website puts the remote resources for students who are considering applying to SOU in a single online location. Features include a half-dozen virtual information sessions that will be held each Friday through May 22 for prospective students and their families. Those who sign up for the group sessions can ask an admission counselor about programs, scholarships, financial aid, housing or other aspects of life on campus – and the university’s $60 application fee will be waived for the day of the session.

The website also includes a portal to SOU’s 360-degree Virtual Campus Tour – the next-best thing to actually being on campus. There are opportunities to schedule video chats with admissions counselors and to learn more about events such as Preview Days for prospective students and Raider Receptions, Raider Registration and New Student Orientation for admitted students.


Restoration work at The Farm will happen Friday

Habitat restoration at The Farm at SOU to be completed – at safe distances

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University students and staff will make use of a charitable donation at one of the best places on campus for social distancing when they complete the restoration of a “wet meadow” area on Friday at The Farm at SOU.

The wetland was previously overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species, but has recently been cleared and a new boardwalk that originates at the Thalden Pavilion has been built into the area. About five student employees and interns will work with associate professor Vincent Smith, director of The Farm, to plant a variety of native plants beginning at about 3 p.m. on Friday.

“The plants are all native wetland plants and will be used exclusively to create habitat and as a tool for teaching about the value of wet meadows,” Smith said.

Funding for the restoration project was provided by local philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden of Ashland. An earlier donation from the Thaldens paid for construction in 2018 of the adjacent pavilion that bears their name.

SOU is offering 98 percent of the courses that were originally scheduled for spring term – all by remote instruction or online platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All campus buildings are closed to the public, and students and employees have been urged to wear face masks and strictly observe safe social distancing.

But the 5 ½-acre property at The Farm offers a unique opportunity to get at least a handful of students outside and working on a project that supports the university’s commitment to sustainability. The Farm could have been shut down while the university is in remote operation, but doing so would have cost eight students the jobs they rely upon to help pay for school.

“The reason The Farm at SOU is still operating is because we can guarantee outdoor distanced work,” said Smith, chair of the university’s Environmental Science and Policy program. “The students have all received distancing training.”

The Farm, on Walker Street in Ashland, serves as a venue for organic agriculture and a source of healthy, sustainable food for the SOU community. It is also a center for sustainability and a hub for education, student and faculty research, and community outreach to the Rogue Valley.


Ed Battistella's new book is on presidential insults

SOU professor’s book shows presidential insults are nothing new

(Ashland, Ore.) — The contentious 2016 presidential campaign inspired Southern Oregon University English professor Ed Battistella, and the result is a new book examining the history of presidential insults and invective.

“Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President, from Washington to Trump,” was published last month by the Oxford University Press.

The book documents more than 500 presidential insults and spares none of the 45 U.S. presidents. Holders of the nation’s highest political office have been called “ignoramuses,” “idiots” and “fatheads,” and have drawn comparisons to creatures including “sad jellyfish” and “strutting crows.”

“I’ve always loved history and was curious about the insults and invective used in earlier elections,” he said. “Our language provides plenty of ways to insult those in power and our Constitution gives us the right to do it.”

Battistella’s new book demonstrates that insulting the president is a time-honored American tradition.

“It was a pleasure to read a book that made me laugh aloud,” U.S. Senate historian emeritus Donald A. Ritchie said in his review of the book. “Edwin Battistella has done an impressive job of documenting and explaining the history of presidential ignominy. I suspect that readers will be sending him their favorite insults for the next edition.”

“It’s an engaging, thought-provoking look at a tradition as old as the republic and as immediate as the next election,” said Rosemarie Ostler, author of “Splendiferous Speech.”

Battistella is the author of several books, including Oregon Book Award finalist “Bad Language” and “Sorry about That: The Language of Public Apology.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his master’s degree and doctorate in linguistics from the City University of New York. He teaches linguistics and writing at SOU.

Battistella wrote in an April 1 opinion piece for Time Magazine that presidential insults are an unwelcomed but expected part of the job for U.S. commanders in chief.

“Today, Donald Trump characterizes reporting he does not like as ‘fake news’ and has called the mainstream press ‘enemies of the people,’ Battistella wrote. “But part of the genius of American democracy – both in our legal system and in our politics – is that citizens can openly insult the president.

“We enjoy protections of freedom of speech and freedom of the press that other nations do not, and our freedoms allow us to direct invective at the president with legal impunity.”


SOULA work at Peter Britt Gardens

SOULA archaeological research leads to historic designation for Britt Gardens

Seven months after the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology was awarded a grant to analyze the Peter Britt Gardens, the site was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. 

The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology conducts archaeological research throughout southwest Oregon, allowing students to gain practical experience toward their anthropology major and the Cultural Resource Management certificate. SOULA works with the Coquille Indian Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Medford District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Jackson County and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

Peter Britt settled in the Rogue Valley in 1852 and is best known for his early photography and agricultural innovations that helped spur the wine and pear industries in southern Oregon. He documented southern Oregon and its residents, and is credited with taking the first photograph of Crater Lake.

He created a formal garden on his property that was a cherished community space and a popular tourist destination. In 1960, 55 years after Britt’s death, his house and the connected garden burned down. 

Oregon’s State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation nominated the site to the National Register of Historic Places at its June 2019 meeting. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.

Before the inclusion of the Britt Gardens Site, only nine individual properties in Jacksonville were listed in the register.

SOULA initially excavated the 4.5-acre Britt Gardens in 2010 and 2011, before funding dried up and prevented the hundreds of findings to be fully studied. However, the city of Jacksonville and the state Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation approved a $15,000 grant to continue SOULA’s anthropological research in August 2019, as part of an effort to reconstruct the historic site. The committee awarded 17 other similar grants.

SOULA’s research uncovered Peter Britt’s original log cabin on the property. According to Mark Tveskov, the director of SOULA and an associate professor of Anthropology at SOU, the cabin site is “rare and highly significant, as it is one of the earliest known cabin sites yet discovered and professionally excavated in the State of Jefferson.” The cabin was the initial home Britt lived in when he came to the Rogue Valley in 1852, before he began construction of a larger home in 1856.

As the reconstruction of the gardens continued, SOULA teamed up with the Hannon Library to digitize over 100 artifacts from the site. Of the 2,064 prints created by Peter Britt, 776 can be found on the Southern Oregon Digital Archives. SODA was created by the Hannon Library in the early 2000s with grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Oregon State Library.

Peter Britt Gardens was added to the National Registry of Historic Places last month, making it the 10th Jacksonville location to be added and the first addition since March 2000. “It is rare for archaeological sites to make this distinction, so we are all happy that the nomination made it all of the way through,” said SOU research archaeologist Chelsea Rose.

Listing in the National Register is the first step towards eligibility for National Park Service-administered federal preservation tax credits that have leveraged more than $45 billion in private investment and National Park Service grant programs. Britt Gardens hosts the Britt Festival, an outdoor music and performing arts festival.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU operations modified for spring term

SOU goes remote for spring term, campus closed to public

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has informed students and employees that all spring term courses will be delivered remotely and most on-campus operations will be limited to help slow the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

SOU’s decisions came in response to an executive order today by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for all public colleges and universities in the state to halt in-class coursework through at least April 28. University leaders made the decision to offer all classes remotely throughout spring term to give students, faculty and others a greater degree of certainty.

The university’s main campus in Ashland will be open only to SOU faculty, staff and students beginning Saturday.

President Linda Schott informed students of the developments today, and offered some details about how SOU’s COVID-19 responses will affect winter and spring term grades, financial aid, spring courses, academic support programs, student employment, residence hall occupants and other campus programs or operations. The university will waive interest on all student accounts, late payment fees and revolving charge fees for all of spring term.

SOU’s tuition rate is set for the entire academic year, but the university’s Board of Trustees will discuss modifications to a variety of student fees – including those for the Student Recreation Center, Student Health & Wellness Center, Student Life activities and remote delivery of courses – during an emergency meeting tonight.

SOU employees were notified this afternoon that most will be encouraged work remotely until further notice, and those who remain on campus will be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Exceptions to the telecommuting arrangement include those whose work is designated as “essential,” whose work cannot be performed away from campus, whose presence on campus is required for operational purposes or who need technical or other resources that are not available at their remote locations.

Academic counseling and guidance will continue throughout the term – largely online – and faculty members will be told whether their presence on campus is needed.

SOU’s new measures are consistent with those adopted by most of Oregon’s six other public universities in response to the governor’s executive order.

The order prohibits colleges and universities “from conducting in-person classroom laboratory and other instruction” from this Saturday through April 28, with the possibility that the period will be extended. Gov. Brown also ordered higher education institutions to “limit on-campus operations only to critical functions and … employ strict social distancing measures for all on-campus employees and residents.”

The governor specifically allowed the continued operation of programs including student housing and dining services. SOU’s residence halls will remain open for spring break throughout spring term, and food service will continue to be available at the Hawk dining commons – but only by takeout.


SOU named Tree Campus USA

SOU is designated as “Tree Campus USA” for sixth year

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has earned recognition as a 2019 Tree Campus USA – an honor it’s held since 2014.

Tree Campus USA, an Arbor Day Foundation program started in 2008, honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation.

“Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use,” said Lauren Weyers, the program coordinator at the Arbor Day Foundation. “Southern Oregon University is stepping up to do its part … to provide a solution to these global challenges.”

A total of 383 campuses nationwide received the recognition in 2019, but only seven colleges in Oregon were recognized – six universities and one community college. SOU is listed among those seven because it fulfilled Tree Campus USA’s five core standards for effective campus forest management: a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, a dedicated annual expenditure for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and a student service-learning project.

SOU’s Arbor Day is run by the Landscape Services Department, which has ramped up its Arbor Day activities as part of an ongoing campaign to remain a designated Tree Campus. Between 2014 and 2016, Landscape Services organized volunteers to plant 137 large trees and 24,000 plants around campus.

All trees planted at SOU’s Arbor Day celebrations are donated by Plant Oregon, a Talent nursery. SOU offers free t-shirts and lunches to its Arbor Day volunteers. Arbor Day 2020 is on Friday, April 24.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member, nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission of inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. Tree Campus USA’s colleges donate money to support the Arbor Day Foundation’s Time for Trees initiative, which strives to plant 100 million trees in forests and communities by 2022.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer


Study shows SOU's economic impact on region

Study confirms SOU’s vital economic impact role in region

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is a powerful economic engine for its region, responsible for a total of $282.5 million in annual output in Jackson County, according to a recent economic impact study by Portland-based consulting firm ECONorthwest.

SOU also is responsible for a total of 2,146 direct, indirect and induced jobs in its home county, the study found. Direct jobs are those at the university, indirect jobs are at businesses with which the university contracts and induced jobs are those generated in the local economy when wages earned at the university are spent.

The ECONorthwest study looked at the impact of all four Technical and Regional Universities (TRUs) in Oregon – SOU, Oregon Institute of Technology, Western Oregon and Eastern Oregon. SOU rated highest in both total economic output and total jobs among the four universities.

“This study confirms what we have long known – that SOU is a critically important player in the southern Oregon economy,” SOU President Linda Schott said.

“Our impacts go well beyond what was measured in this study,” she said. “We work collaboratively with employers in our region to develop academic programs that fill local needs and create opportunities for our students. We confer about 1,100 degrees each year, and a high number of those graduates stay in our area to launch careers and become leaders in their fields.”

The economic impact study also pointed to a recent analysis by the Oregon Employment Department that found a significant earnings advantage for local workers with four-year college degrees. The Employment Department determined that Jackson County residents with bachelor’s degrees earned an average of 35.5 percent more per month than those with some college or an associate degree, and 48.7 percent more than those with only a high school education.

The ECONorthwest study found that the TRU institutions had an annual total of 188,053 out-of-town visitors on their campuses, who spent a combined $15.4 million in those communities – with SOU the highest, at $6.05 million. Spending was calculated for lodging, dining and shopping.

Overall, the study found that the four TRUs were responsible for $1.03 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic output in Oregon.