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.


SOULA and partners work on Tragedy at Tunnel 13 commemoration

Collaborative events to commemorate historic “Tragedy at Tunnel 13”

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) and Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) are part of a nationwide consortium commemorating the 100th anniversary of the “Tragedy at Tunnel 13” and its legacy. The project includes a variety of live and virtual events that memorialize what may be southern Oregon’s most infamous true crime, its victims and the far-reaching efforts to solve it.

Oct. 11, 2023, marks the 100th anniversary of the attempted robbery of Train 13 at Tunnel 13 in the Siskiyou Mountains. The crime led to the brutal murders of postal clerk Elvyn Dougherty, brakeman Coyl O. Johnson, engineer Sydney Bates and fireman Marvin Seng. The holdup led to a global manhunt, with more than 2.5 million wanted posters and a cost of more than $6 million in today’s money to catch the three DeAutremont brothers who were responsible for the crime.

The case is considered to represent the birth of American criminal forensics. The DeAutremont brothers – Ray, Roy and Hugh – were identified following a painstaking investigation, then captured after a four-year manhunt, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

SOULA and its partners in the commemoration been working for months to plan and create resources, podcasts, exhibits and live events that will focus on a variety of aspects of the historical crime and its legacy. SOULA has used archaeological tools and public outreach to revisit and reframe the case and its relevancy today.

“While to many this case evokes romantic images of the old timey train robberies and elaborate chases, the story is actually more about innovation, collaboration and the modernization of the world around them,” said SOULA research archaeologist Chelsea Rose. “On that fateful day in 1923, the DeAutremont brothers entered Tunnel 13 in one era, and came out in another.”

SOULA, which has played a central role in the Tunnel 13 commemoration, has collaborated with agencies including the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the Southern Oregon Historical Society (SOHS), the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture (BBRC), the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Oregon Historical Society (OHS), Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), the Southern Oregon Railway Historical Society, and the United States Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.

The U.S. Postal Service will make a commemorative pictorial cancellation – the postal marking that prevents a stamp from being reused – featuring original art by retired Postal Inspector, Dan Mihalko.

“As a Postal Inspector, a history buff and an artist, I was always intrigued by the DeAutremont case,” Mihalko said.

“In 1998, I did a painting of the robbery entitled, ‘The Last Great American Train Robbery,’” he said. “So, I was thrilled when offered the opportunity to design the pictorial cancellation for the 100th anniversary.”

The cancellation will be available on the anniversary at the Ashland post office and at an Underground History Live event at the Ashland Hills Hotel.

A commemoration of the Tragedy at Tunnel 13 was first suggested by Bruce Shoemaker, board member of the BBRC, which preserves and promotes railroad culture.

“The Tunnel 13 tragedy is a true story worthy of a major motion picture and the single most dramatic incident in the history of railroading in our region,” Shoemaker said. “The murder of the three Southern Pacific trainmen is also a reminder that railroad work has traditionally been – and remains – a dangerous occupation.”

View the full list of Tunnel 13 commemorative events.


SOU Career Connections expands office and staff

SOU’s expanded Career Connections office opens new space and opportunities

(Ashland, Ore.) – Southern Oregon University’s Career Connections office has opened its doors in a new space – Stevenson Union 310 – in a move that will increase visibility and allow more students to be served.

The office, upstairs next to the Social Justice and Equity Center (SJEC), is ready for an increase in students for individual and small group sessions around career planning, leadership development and career-connected learning opportunities. SOU faculty and staff are invited to an open house to see the new space on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 3 to 5 p.m. Students and alumni are encouraged to attend an upcoming Job and Internship Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26, in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room.

Career Connections has expanded its team to include two full-time professional staff and a graduate assistant. Stacey Westrum, SOU’s new director of Career Connections, brings a decade of experience with the university in student advising, adult education and corporate relations. She will be strengthening SOU’s bonds with employers across southern Oregon as part of the institution’s mission to promote economic vitality as a regionally-engaged institution.

Westrum will be the staff advisor for the National Society of Leadership Success, which is entering its second year at SOU as a vehicle for student leadership development and peer networking. She will be working closely with this year’s inaugural cohort of LAD scholars – participants in the $5 million Lithia & GreenCars Scholarship Program, a component of SOU’s landmark, $12 million philanthropic gift last year from Lithia (NYSE: LAD).

The LAD Scholars program, which has attracted an exceptional group of incoming students, combines financial aid awards with leadership development opportunities, focusing on first-generation and/or minoritized populations that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

“I am excited to be in this new role at SOU to build the Career Connections office to deepen relationships with employers, collaborate across campus and help our students with their career paths and leadership skills,” Westrum said.

The new coordinator of Career Connections, Ariel Bloomer, will be focused on student advising for career exploration and job search preparation, meeting needs expressed by SOU student responses in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

“I am thrilled to continue working with SOU students in a role so closely tied to the university’s vision of guiding all learners to create lives of purpose,” she said.

As part of a strengths-based advising approach, Bloomer will become certified in CliftonStrengths, and will help groups of students analyze and articulate the unique traits they bring to the table.

Career Connections offers students a range of services, including resume and cover letter reviews, introductions to networking, job search assistance for on- and off-campus jobs, and interview preparation. Students can also come in to talk through changes in their academic and career goals as plans and dreams shift throughout their university experience.

The Career Connections website hosts a number of tools for researching occupational outlooks, exploring  interests and skills through self-assessments, and creating application materials. Students can make individual advising appointments through Handshake, Navigate, or by emailing By engaging in a strategic series of classroom visits throughout the year, Career Connections will help students learn about these services and start pursuing intentional professional development earlier in their college careers.

The 2023-24 academic year marks the 10-year anniversary of the PEAK Program, coordinated out of Career Connections. PEAK – which stands for professional experience, achievement and knowledge – funds student jobs across campus designed to meet significant student learning outcomes and facilitate work-based learning and career growth for participating students. This year sees a re-envisioning of the program to provide additional development opportunities for PEAK students.

By partnering with programs, offices and academic departments across campus, Career Connections aims to promote equitable student outcomes. As a First-gen Forward university, SOU is committed to ensuring that students receive a tightly woven web of support to achieve the return on investment in their education that they are seeking.

“We are excited to share the wealth of resources housed in Career Connections with students, faculty and alumni,” said Dean of Students Carrie Vath, Ph.D. – affectionately known by students as “Dr. V.”

To learn more about Career Connections’ offerings, please visit the website at and follow its Instagram account @SOUcareerconnections.


Solar arrays surround President Rick Bailey and Sustainability Director Becs Walker

New solar arrays move SOU toward energy self-sufficiency

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is taking big strides toward becoming the first public university in the U.S. to produce all of the daytime electricity used on its campus, with a $1.56 million contract signed this month to install new solar arrays and a battery storage facility, and on-site construction work set to begin this winter.

The new installations on Lithia Motors Pavilion and The Hawk Dining Commons will increase SOU’s photovoltaic output by 86 percent – from the current 455 kilowatts to a total of 848 kilowatts.

The two new solar facilities, combined with nine existing arrays, will enable the university to generate just over 12 percent of the electricity it uses. The contract with Ashland’s True South Solar also includes a battery storage bank that will be built adjacent to The Hawk, enabling SOU to support community resilience by providing power in The Hawk, if needed, in the event of an emergency.

“This is truly a monumental step toward our goal of energy self-sufficiency,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “We have spent much of the past year working with state and federal lawmakers to identify and secure funding for these projects – and that work will continue. But now we will begin to enjoy some of the fruits of our labors.

“These projects not only demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, but our eventual energy independence will save us at least $750,000 per year in utility costs. Each new array that we bring online will immediately start reducing that overall energy bill.”

The university anticipates generating 100 percent of its own electricity by 2033, and is already planning subsequent rounds of solar expansion. Another project whose contract has not yet been awarded – the first of several SOU arrays that will be built on parking lot structures – will add 340 kilowatts of generating capacity and bring the university to nearly 17 percent of its overall electricity usage.

SOU has been awarded $1 million in each of the past two years from the Oregon Department of Energy’s Community Renewable Energy Grant Program and received a $2 million appropriation from Congress last December. That total of $4 million in state and federal funding will pay for the lion’s share of work under the current contract, and for the initial parking lot array. The Student “Green Tag Fee” – an assessment of $14 per student each term, approved in a student vote several years ago – is also contributing $51,000 toward the cost of the current project, demonstrating student support for SOU’s generation of renewable energy.

“The campus-wide support for sustainability initiatives – in particular, our conversion to solar power – has been overwhelming,” SOU Sustainability Director Becs Walker said. “Students, faculty and staff are helping in whatever ways they can as we ramp up our efforts and transition to renewable energy.

“This entire process is valuable, with many learning opportunities for those who choose to become directly involved.”

True South Solar and its subcontractor, Welburn Electric of Phoenix, began design work for the current phase of solar expansion immediately after the contract with SOU was signed on Sept. 1. Drawings, specifications and permit work will take a couple of months, and orders for solar and battery storage equipment will extend into the winter months before site work begins.

The Lithia Motors Pavilion solar array is expected to be completed in early 2024, and the more-complex solar array and battery storage project at The Hawk Dining Commons is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2024.

Solar energy production is one of the initiatives that SOU is currently pursuing in its effort to be more entrepreneurial in its approach to revenue generation. Achieving the energy-independence goal will also contribute to a reduction in SOU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

SOU currently has nine solar arrays on campus, 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 the university. SOU has added five arrays over the past three years, with funding by private investors, grants, the student government and university administration.

SOU will continue to implement energy conservation and energy efficiency measures as it increases its solar power production. For instance, The Hawk Dining Commons and McLoughlin Residence Hall each have solar hot water systems installed to augment their natural gas domestic water heating, and the campus has three net-zero buildings – they create as much or more energy than they use.

The university is also a partner in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge, which supports SOU’s 2033 goals to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 2018 baseline, and to reduce energy intensity by 25 percent from a 2022 baseline.


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 teacher preparation programs achieve accreditation

SOU teacher preparation programs receive national accreditation

(Ashland, Ore.) — The seven teacher preparation programs offered by Southern Oregon University’s School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities have achieved accreditation from the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation, meeting the Oregon Legislature’s mandate that all programs in the state that offer licenses to teachers or administrators must be nationally accredited by July 2025.

All teacher preparation programs in the state are working through the accreditation process, which at SOU entailed four years of work to develop a 550-page report to AAQEP that details the university’s education programs. AAQEP accreditors made a site visit to the SOU campus in April, and the agency – one of two that is nationally recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation – granted an unconditional seven-year accreditation for the SOU programs in July.

“National accreditation is very beneficial for our graduates, as there are some states and districts that require a new hire to have been prepared by a nationally-accredited program,” said Susan Faller, a senior instructor and accreditation coordinator for SOU’s School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities.

National accreditation assures the quality of educator preparation programs through a nongovernmental, nonregulatory process of self-study and peer review. The standards- and evidence-based process is intended to ensure accountability and continuous improvement.

AAQEP – which currently has about 190 member programs in 36 states and other jurisdictions – uses a model that honors local context and fosters innovation and collaboration among institutions.

“Congratulations to all of the faculty, staff and stakeholders of Southern Oregon University who have achieved their goal of national accreditation by AAQEP,” said Mark LaCelle-Peterson, the agency’s president and CEO. “The program’s strong support for candidates and long-standing P-12 partnerships ensure that the teachers it prepares are ready to meet the challenges of today’s classrooms.”

The SOU academic programs that were accredited by AAQEP include four initial licensure programs, two advanced programs and one added endorsement. The initial licensure programs are:

The advanced programs are SOU’s Initial Administrator (principal) License and the Continuing Administrator License; the added endorsement is for the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

“Accreditation by a well-regarded, nationally recognized agency is an honor for the school and the university,” said Vance Durrington, director of the SOU School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities. “It demonstrates our commitment to preparing the outstanding educators who in turn will provide positive learning experiences for future generations of our state and region.”

SOU will work during the seven years of the current accreditation to prepare materials that will support the education programs’ annual reports and reaccreditation in 2030.


SRC open for smoke respite

SOU opens indoor track for smoke respite

(Ashland, Ore.) — Campus Recreation at Southern Oregon University is continuing to help community members find refuge from the area’s wildfire smoke.

The Student Recreation Center (SRC) will offer free admission for the general public to its elevated, indoor walking and running track – a popular smoke-free haven ­– for two-hour windows Monday through Friday, from noon to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m., when the air quality is at unhealthy levels (101+ AQI). Photo ID and a signed waiver will be required at check-in.

For those wanting full access to the SRC during regular operating hours, day passes can be purchased onsite. You can find more information on SRC passes and memberships at

The SRC will be closed for annual maintenance from Saturday, September 9, through Wednesday, September 20.

SOU has made its Student Recreation Center available as a community resource during local wildfire smoke events over the past five years. The facility features high-efficiency air filtration and air conditioning systems.


Britt Gardens archaeological dig

SOU Laboratory of Anthropology receives grant for Britt analysis

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology has received a grant of about $16,000 from a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to complete a “faunal analysis” of artifacts unearthed during 2010-11 digs at Jacksonville’s Peter Britt Gardens.

The excavations by SOULA were conducted as the city of Jacksonville prepared for a restoration project on the 4.5-acre Britt Gardens site. But due to changes in the project plans and a loss of funding the archeological findings were not immediately studied to develop a detailed picture of life at the 1800s homestead.

A later grant in 2019 from the state parks’ Oregon Heritage division, for about $15,000, enabled SOULA archaeologists to analyze, interpret and catalog thousands of artifacts from the Britt homestead. The current grant of about $16,000 will fund a faunal analysis, which will study the inhabitants’ food sources by identifying animal remains such as bones and shells.

Katie Johnson, who will lead the Britt faunal analysis“This type of funding is so important for the research that we conduct here at SOULA,” said SOU research archaeologist Katie Johnson, who will lead the project. “Specialized analysis like this is very time-consuming and there are relatively few people in our field with this type of expertise, which often results in these studies not being conducted.

“The ability to obtain funding to help offset the cost allows for these studies to not only be conducted, but also to provide opportunities for students and volunteers to be a part of research that is significant on a national level.”

The grant is one of 18 “Preserving Oregon Grants,” totaling $277,681, that were awarded this summer by the state parks’ Oregon Heritage division for historic and archeological projects throughout the state. Each was approved by the Oregon Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation.

About 30,000 artifacts were recovered during the 2010-11 excavations at the Britt homestead. Peter Britt – an early Rogue Valley settler – was a painter, photographer and horticulturist whose photos of Crater Lake were instrumental in creation of the national park in 1902. The 2010-11 SOULA excavations included the site where Britt built a log cabin upon reaching Jacksonville in 1852 and the later home that his family lived in until the 1950s.

The study of faunal materials found at the site will enable the archaeological team to further explore the Britts’ daily life as immigrants and how it changed over time. The findings can then be compared to those from excavations at Jacksonville’s nearby Chinese Quarter, which burned in 1888. The Britts interacted with the Chinese gold-mining community of Jacksonville and the surrounding region in various ways, and it is believed that a comparison of archaeological findings may offer insights into political and social climates during the late 19th century.

faunal material at Britt Gardens dig siteFindings from the excavation of the Chinese Quarter were analyzed with the help of a 2016 Oregon Heritage Grant. The data has been used in numerous studies of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora and is the subject of Johnson’s master’s thesis.

The current project will be a collaborative effort by SOU, the city of Jacksonville, the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project and community volunteers.

Johnson, the project leader, is a specialist in faunal analysis and has completed work on two previous Oregon Heritage Grant projects during more than a decade of work in the state. She recently completed her master’s degree in applied anthropology and environmental studies at SOU.


SOU transitions to schools rather than divisions

SOU shifts to four academic “schools”

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs will be distributed among four “schools” rather than the university’s seven current “divisions” when the 2023-24 academic year begins in September.

The organizational shift will eventually eliminate the cost of three director-level positions and will build greater efficiency into SOU’s administrative structure. It is a cornerstone of the cost management plan adopted this spring by the SOU Board of Trustees.

“This move is resourceful and economical, and it also allows us to encourage synergy among academic programs that are related or share common themes,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We were very intentional in how we grouped the academic programs for each school, evaluating both current qualities and how we expect each program to grow and evolve.”

An example of that strategic placement of programs is in SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication, where the university’s Theatre, Music and Emerging Media & Digital Arts programs will be joined by its Communication, Media and Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance and production, and placing them under the same school will open avenues of potential collaboration.

The four new academic sections at SOU will be the School of Arts & Communication; the School of Science & Business; the School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities; and the School of Social Sciences. Two administrative sections with academic functions – the Provost’s Office and the University Library & Undergraduate Studies – will operate as stand-alone departments.

Current academic divisions at SOU are the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU; Business, Communication & the Environment; Education, Health & Leadership; Humanities & Culture; Social Sciences; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; and Undergraduate Studies.

School of Arts & Communication
The SOU School of Arts & Communication will encompass 11 undergraduate programs and one graduate-level program. The undergrad programs are Art and Art History, Communication, Creative Writing, Digital Cinema, Digital Cinema Production Arts, Emerging Media and Digital Arts, Media Innovation, Music, Music Industry & Production Studies, Shakespeare Studies (offered only as a minor) and Theatre. The school’s graduate-level offering is for the Master of Theatre Studies in Production and Design degree.

David Humphrey, currently director of the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU, has announced that he will retire at the end of December but will serve as the initial director of the new School of Arts & Communication. The search for a new director of the school is underway, and expected to be completed by early fall.

School of Science & Business
The SOU School of Science & Business will be made up of 14 undergraduate programs and two graduate-level programs. The undergrad programs are Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science & Policy, eSports Management (offered only as a minor), Financial Mathematics, Innovation & Leadership, Management, Mathematics, Mathematics-Computer Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Tourism Management and Preprofessional Programs in medical fields. The school’s two graduate-level programs are for Master in Management and Master of Business Administration degrees.

Vincent Smith – currently director of the Business, Communication & the Environment Division – will serve as director for the new School of Science & Business beginning Sept. 1. Sherry Ettlich – currently director of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Division – will serve in a support capacity until the end of the calendar year, when she plans to retire.

School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities
The SOU School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities will include eight undergraduate programs and six graduate programs. The undergrad programs are Early Childhood Development, Education Studies, English, Health & Exercise Science, Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Philosophy (offered only as a minor), Spanish Language & Culture and English for Speakers of Other Languages. The graduate programs are Master of Arts in Spanish Language Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching with Special Education Endorsement, Master of Arts/Science in Education, Master of Outdoor Adventure & Expedition Leadership and the Principal Administrator and Professional Administrator licenses.

Vance Durrington, currently director of the Education, Health & Leadership Division, will serve as director of the new School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities.

School of Social Sciences
The SOU School of Social Sciences will have 13 undergraduate programs and one graduate program. The undergraduate offerings are Criminology & Criminal Justice; Economics, Ethnic & Racial Studies (offered only as a minor); Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies; Healthcare Administration; History; Human Service; International Studies; Native American Studies (offered only as a minor); Power & Politics; Psychology; Social Justice (offered only as a minor); and Sociology & Anthropology. The graduate program is for the Master in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree.

Dustin Walcher, currently director of the Social Sciences Division, will serve as director of the new School of Social Sciences.

One other current division director – Lee Ayers, who heads the Undergraduate Studies Division – is also retiring at the end of December. Ayers and Carrie Forbes will co-direct the University Library & Undergraduate Studies department until Ayers’ retirement. Forbes will then continue as director.

The first element of the four-plank SOU Forward realignment strategy was to resolve structural defects in SOU’s financial base and eliminate what was projected as a $14.6 million deficit by the 2026-27 fiscal year. That job is in progress, after the SOU Board of Trustees approved the cost-management portion of the plan in April, reducing expenses by $3.6 million this year and identifying another $9 million in recurring cost reductions. About 82 full-time positions are being cut through a combination of job vacancies, retirements, voluntary departures, non-renewable contracts and elimination of 24 currently-held positions.

SOU is now moving on to the plan’s three other planks, all of which will prepare the university for strategic growth by diversifying its sources of revenue. SOU will reimagine how it supports faculty and programs seeking funding from external granting agencies and organizations, leverage an ongoing surge in philanthropic support and diversify revenue by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities – including solar power generation and creation of a senior living facility.


Early learning consortium receives grant

SOU and early learning consortium awarded $1.75 million grant

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Early Childhood Development program at Southern Oregon University will receive a $1.75 million grant from the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division to lead and expand a collaborative effort to provide education and support for early-learning professionals in the region.

SOU will become the fiscal agent and lead institution for the Southern Oregon Early Learning Professional Development Consortium – a collaboration between SOU, Rogue Community College, Klamath Community College, Umpqua Community College, Southwestern Oregon Community College and several child-care resource and referral agencies in southern Oregon.

This year’s grant – the largest in the consortium’s nine-year history – will support efforts to provide comprehensive financial and academic assistance to early learning professionals throughout the region. The consortium’s offerings include zero-cost courses, mentorship opportunities and financial assistance.

RCC has served as the fiscal agent and coordinated projects on behalf of the consortium over the past several years, but agreed to pass the leadership role to SOU’s Early Childhood Development team, beginning with the 2023-25 biennium that starts July 1.

“We are dearly and deeply grateful to Eileen Micke-Johnson of RCC, whose unwavering dedication and high-quality leadership has helped this project flourish, year-after-year,” said Younghee Kim, an Education professor at SOU and coordinator of the university’s Early Childhood Development program. “We hope to follow in her footsteps and look forward to consulting with her, in her continuing roles at RCC and beyond.”

Kim will share consortium leadership duties with Kayla Rapet, an instructor, advisor and navigation coach for SOU’s School of Education.

The new round of grant funding will enable the Southern Oregon Early Learning Professional Development Consortium to expand its services and create new and innovative professional development opportunities. New projects that SOU’s ECD team will work to initiate include:

  • Scholarships and other financial assistance for early learning students
  • Micro-credentials in Infant Mental Health and Early Childhood Education, created in partnership with community agencies
  • Hiring a bilingual (Spanish/English) navigation coach for ECD online students who are first-language Spanish speakers
  • A potential Bachelor of Applied Science degree in early childhood education that streamlines pathways for transfer students and aligns with SOU’s newly designed general education courses

The grant is also expected to support peer-mentoring professional development workshops for ECD students, continuation of the ECD Student Leadership Club and expansion of ECD Saturday workshops to advance regional collaborations.

Students in SOU’s ECD program graduate with a solid knowledge base of child development, play-based curriculum and teaching, and best practices for working with young children and their families. They also learn advocacy skills to support the children and families they serve, and the profession of early childhood education.