New Cybersecurity Certificate Program is offered by SOU's Computer Science Department

New SOU Cybersecurity Certificate to benefit students, employers

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is addressing the pervasive issue of cyber criminals and a nationwide demand for workers trained to protect their organizations by offering a new certificate program in cybersecurity. The program allows both existing SOU students and mid-career adult learners to become certified with job-ready cybersecurity skills after completing 36 college credits – nine courses.

“This is a program designed with the needs of both regional employers and job-seeking students in mind,” said computer science instructor Priscilla Oppenheimer, whose industry experience was a key in the design of SOU’s cybersecurity curriculum.

Oppenheimer designed and manages the cybersecurity research lab for SOU’s Computer Science Department. She previously developed and taught classes on computer networking and security for Cisco Systems, and has instructed network engineers worldwide in the design, development, configuration and support of complex and secure computer networks.

“We hear about hacks and cyber attacks almost every day in the news, and it is an issue that won’t go away anytime soon,” she said. “We want to give our students the tools they need to prevent, detect and counteract any attempts to compromise the computer systems of their employers.”

The new Cybersecurity Certificate Program includes 20 credit hours of core, required courses on legal and ethical issues, computer organization, networks and security. Another 16 hours of elective coursework can include classes in computer forensics, programing, UNIX system administration, wireless networks and high-level studies in networks, security or computer science.

Students in the program should enter with precalculus and programming knowledge, similar to SOU’s two-course sequence in precalculus and the first two courses of the Computer Science Department’s programming sequence. Most students are expected to complete requirements for the certificate in about four terms, fitting courses in around other work or educational commitments.

The Cybersecurity Certificate can supplement a student’s bachelor’s or master’s degree program, or can be earned as a stand-alone credential. SOU’s 20 certificate programs differ from the university’s 17 new micro-credential offerings, in that they are more in-depth and require additional coursework. Both are aimed at preparing students for a changing job market by teaching specific skills.

“There is a huge nationwide demand for employees who are equipped to protect the computer systems of both large and small companies,” said Sherry Ettlich, chair of SOU’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Division. “We chose to launch this certificate, rather than the major that many other universities offer, to provide greater flexibility and better serve those wanting to add this expertise while working in IT or related positions, or while working toward SOU degrees in computer science or other academic disciplines.

“SOU and the STEM Division are responding to the real-world needs of today’s employers, and preparing our students to succeed.”

The U.S. has an estimated 500,000 open jobs in cybersecurity as companies and organizations seek to protect themselves from the massive cost and disruption of security breaches.

Students in SOU’s new certificate program will learn about common threats and vulnerabilities, security principles, cryptography, risk management, access control, wireless networking and network device configuration. They will be taught to develop secure software and to design and manage secure networks.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New micro-credentials allow students to set course in many directions

SOU adds array of “micro-credentials” to enhance learning and career preparation

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has joined an academic movement that is transforming higher education, adding a total of 17 “micro-credentials” that are designed to recognize individual skillsets or competencies of both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students. The certifications provide opportunities for existing students and for mid-career learners seeking to expand their options.

SOU’s micro-credentials range from Cinema Production Technology to Foundations of Professional Writing to Values-based Leadership. Most of the new micro-credentials require about 12 credit hours of coursework – which can stand alone or count toward students’ degree requirements. Some include community workshops, service learning or other opportunities to apply skills and knowledge.

“Micro-credentials provide our students another very useful tool to demonstrate their academic and occupational abilities,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Employers are increasingly looking for particular skills, along with broad knowledge and the ability to innovate. These micro-credentials certify students’ mastery of very distinct areas of study, and can be equally valuable to undergraduates wanting to strengthen their degree programs and to adult learners looking to boost their careers.”

Micro-credentials, whose acceptance has grown quickly over the past several years among U.S. colleges and universities, allow students to craft what have been called “t-shaped” educational experiences – the broad, horizontal base of their academic majors combined with deep, vertical concentrations in one or more specialized areas of study. They are typically brief, accessible programs that are considered “stackable” as learners achieve sets of discrete, demonstrable areas of expertise based on their career needs, professional goals or personal interests.

SOU, like most institutions offering micro-credentials, awards digital badges to those who complete the mini-certifications. Digital badges can be shared through social media, email signatures or electronic resumes.

The micro-credential programs currently offered by SOU – with more expected to be added – are Cinema Production Technology; Community Planning; Digital Security; EDI: Gender, Indigeneity, & Sexuality; Environmental Research & Data Analysis; Foundations of Professional Writing; Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health; Foundations of Sustainability and Tourism; Geographic Information Systems (GIS; Network Technology; Project Management; Set Skills for Cinema Production; Social Media Strategy; Story Development for Screenwriting; Sustainable Food Systems; Team Leadership and Collaboration; and Values-Based Leadership.


Spelling competition returns

SOU Youth Programs brings spelling competition back to region

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon’s elementary, middle and high school students know how to spell “normal,” and it begins with the resumption of extracurricular routines. Southern Oregon University’s Pre-College Youth Programs gave the region’s students an opportunity to restart one tradition when it coordinated the recent Regional Spelling Contest for 2021, following a two-year interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many schools in the area were unable to hold their individual spelling competitions in 2020, and the State Spelling Contest – organized by Oregon Spellers ( and usually held in Salem each year – was canceled for both 2020 and 2021.

SOU Youth Programs was determined to offer a regional competition in 2021 for students in Jackson and Josephine counties, and was able to do so with backing from the Lithia4Kids Foundation. SOU worked with coordinators from schools and school districts throughout southern Oregon to establish virtual competition rules that would challenge students to bring their best to the spelling contest.

The regional finals, held on May 15, yielded winners for Jackson and Josephine counties in each of three categories: for students in grades 1 through 5, 6 through 8 and 9 through 12. The first- and second-place winners in this year’s spelling competition are:

Jackson County

Division 1
First Place:
Ryleigh Ho, grade 5, Hoover Elementary, Medford School District
Second Place:
Nolan Linthorst, grade 5, Mae Richardson, Central Point School District

Division 2
First Place:
Blake Greenwell, grade 6, Logos Public Charter School, Medford School District
Second Place:
Lia Hall, grade 8, The Valley School, Medford School District

Division 3
First Place:
April Hanson, grade 11, Logos Public Charter School, Medford School District

April was declared the winner of Division 3 in Jackson County, after competing and taking first place at Logos Public Charter School, which was the only school in Jackson County to submit a winners list to participate at the Division 3 level.

Josephine County

The Three Rivers School District swept the Josephine County competition because it was the only district in the county to submit winners lists for any division.

Division 1
First Place:
Lior Shapira, grade 5, Williams Elementary, Three Rivers School District

Division 2
First Place:
Cozmo Castaldi Neubauer, grade 8, Lorna Byrne Middle School, Three Rivers School District

Division 3
First Place:
Rory Forsythe-Elder, grade 10, Illinois Valley High School, Three Rivers School District


SOU commencement speaker Erim Gomez

SOU alumnus and former McNair Scholar to headline 2021 Commencement

(Ashland, Ore.) — Erim Gómez was a McNair Scholar and first-generation college graduate at SOU, a co-director of what is now the SOU Environmental Resource Center and an active member of the SOU Alumni Association Board of Directors. On June 12, the newly minted Ph.D. and assistant professor at the University of Montana will also serve as SOU’s commencement speaker.

Graduates and others participating in SOU’s live-streamed commencement ceremony will hear about Gómez’s compelling personal story, his heartfelt mission to encourage under-represented and other students to pursue and achieve their higher education dreams, and his passion for environmentalism and the sciences.

Erim GomezGómez is proud of his family’s farm-working and immigrant roots, and that both he and his brother Edrik – who died in a 2008 helicopter crash while serving as a wildland firefighter – were part of the prestigious McNair Scholarship program at SOU. Gómez received his doctorate in environmental and natural resources science from Washington State University last fall. He was hired at the University of Montana in August 2020 as an assistant professor in the school’s highly regarded Wildlife Biology Department.

“I challenge you to not fear failure and to take risks,” Gómez is expected to tell SOU’s new graduates on Saturday. “I learn a lot more from my failures than my successes. If you don’t occasionally fail, you need to set larger and higher goals. 

“Your SOU degree will and has already opened doors for you,” he will suggest. “Make sure that you keep the doors open for those who come after you.”

Gómez will anchor the list of speakers at this year’s SOU commencement, a hybrid day of activities that will include an in-person, live-streamed opportunity to walk across the stage at Raider Stadium, a wide-ranging online ceremony and a variety of events in which individual programs will recognize the accomplishments of their graduates.

The in-person photo opportunity at Raider Stadium – at which no guests will be allowed – will begin at 9 a.m. The virtual ceremony – live-streamed on the SOU Commencement webpage and the university’s social media platforms – will start at 2 p.m.

This will be SOU’s second consecutive year of virtual commencement ceremonies, a result of the global pandemic. The online events will include a life-streamed ceremony with Gomez and other speakers, Zoom parties and private, dedicated social media engagement. A number of the university’s academic programs and divisions also have created virtual or hybrid events that celebrate their graduates’ accomplishments.

About 1,100 degrees are expected to be conferred.

Gómez received his bachelor’s degree in biology from SOU in 2007, then went on to earn his master’s degree and doctorate in natural resources sciences from Washington State. He won national recognition in 2011, when he was awarded the Bullitt Foundation’s Environmental Fellowship – which offers $100,000 over two years of graduate study for students focusing on environmental issues in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Gomez used the fellowship to study Palouse Prairie amphibians in eastern Washington.


SOU expands online master’s degree programs in education

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has expanded its selection of online advanced degrees in education by adding seven new concentrations or certificates to the three master of science in education options that were launched two years ago.

The education programs, designed primarily for working adult learners, provide pathways for career advancement and leadership roles in schools, corporations and nonprofit agencies.

The new, 100 percent online options for master of science in  education degrees are for a certificate in Reading Endorsement and for concentrations in Adult Education for English as a second language students, Leadership in Higher Education, Public Health Education, Curriculum and Instruction, Reading and Literacy, and Reading and Literacy Endorsement.

The three online master’s degree concentrations that launched in June 2019 are in Leadership in Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, and Curriculum and Instruction in STEM Education. They currently serve 88 students.

“These new online programs demonstrate SOU’s commitment to accessibility,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “We want to provide meaningful academic opportunities to all who may need them, including adult learners seeking advanced degrees or certification to help them move forward in their careers.

“SOU is a valuable resource for its students at all stages of their lives and careers.”

The master’s in education program consists of courses taught by SOU faculty members that total 45 credit hours, regardless of the concentration chosen. The program can be completed in as few as 16 months, for tuition totaling $16,600.

SOU also offers an online master of business administration program with options for five concentrations that began in January 2018 and now serves about 200 students.

SOU provides faculty and academic programing for its online programs, and aligns its coursework with current trends in schools and the workplace by maintaining close connections with regional employers.

The new programs at SOU offer five start dates per year. Candidates with bachelor’s degrees in any discipline will be considered for admission; no teaching license or GRE score is required.

The master’s in education curriculum features real-world applications designed to enhance leadership skills on the job and in the broader community.

SOU offers a total of more than 90 bachelor’s degree, graduate and certificate programs in its seven academic divisions.


The search is on for President Linda Schott's successor

SOU board begins search for new university president

(Ashland, Ore.) —The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees has begun its search for the university’s next president, following President Linda Schott’s announcement last month that she will retire by the end of 2021.

SOU’s governing board has selected Parker Executive Search – a firm that specializes in higher education presidential searches – as its partner in recruiting the university’s next president, and has appointed a diverse, 18-member Presidential Search Committee composed of five trustees, three students, three faculty members, three staff members, three community members and one Oregon university president. The committee will be chaired by Danny Santos, vice chair of the SOU Board of Trustees.

“The Board of Trustees is now seeking a new president who will advance the vision, mission and values of SOU and shape the future of the institution as it moves forward into its next phase,” Santos and Board of Trustees Chair Paul Nicholson said.

“The Board is greatly appreciative of President Schott’s many contributions to SOU since August of 2016 and will continue to build upon this progress for the university,” they said.

The latest information on the presidential search can be found at

The Presidential Search Committee will work over the coming months to identify, recruit, and evaluate candidates for the university’s next president, but is intentionally working without a set timeline.

“Given the importance of this decision, the board intends to give the recruitment of SOU’s future president all the thoughtful deliberation it requires,” Nicholson said.

The search is intended to be an inclusive and transparent process, beginning with a series of “listening sessions” over the next couple of weeks to gather input from students, faculty, staff and community members about qualities sought in SOU’s next president. The schedule for listening sessions, which will be led by representatives of the search firm, follows:

Faculty Listening Session
June 3, 2021, 12:30 – 1:30 PM

Staff Listening Session
June 3, 2021, 3:45 – 4:45 PM

Student Listening Session
June 3, 2021, 5:00 – 6:00 PM

Community Listening Session 
(Community members, Parents, Alumni, others off campus)
June 7, 2021, 10:00 – 11:00 AM

Open Listening Session 
(Open to all including those who are unable to attend earlier sessions)
June 7, 2021, 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Listening sessions also will be scheduled with additional groups, including the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee.

Those who are unable to attend listening sessions are encouraged to submit their input by using an online form and those who want to follow the status of the search may check in on the presidential search website.


Debra Lee will serve on SOU Board of Trustees

Legal aid lawyer and honors student join SOU Board of Trustees

(Ashland, Ore.) — Medford legal aid attorney Debra Lee and Mimi Pieper, an SOU sophomore Honors College student, have been appointed by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Lee succeeds Les AuCoin, who served on the board from its formation in 2015 until his resignation in January. She will serve a four-year term. Pieper succeeds Dylann Loverro, who has served as the student member on the 15-member board since November 2019 and will graduate in June.

“SOU is a tremendous asset for our region and a vital part of the southern Oregon community,” Lee said. “I am honored to join my esteemed colleagues on the governing board and hope to contribute to the university’s bright future.”

“I am excited to be a part of my university’s Board of Trustees,” Pieper said. “I look forward to supporting the mission, vision and values that will increase student success at SOU.”

Pieper, who is working toward a 2024 bachelor’s degree business administration with minors in ethics and rhetoric, carries a 4.0 grade point average and is an active participant in the Honors College Democracy Project. She is a marketing intern for Prelio Technology.

Lee was born in Toisan, China, and immigrated with her family to Rhode Island in 1956. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her law degree from Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. She served as a legal aid attorney in Tennessee, Arkansas and Jackson County before becoming executive director of Medford’s Center for Nonprofit Legal Services in 1989.

Lee has been involved in the Medford Rogue Rotary Club, SOU Foundation, Medford Housing Advisory Commission, Jackson County Continuum of Care Board, Oregon Community Foundation and the American Leadership Forum of Oregon.

“We are pleased to welcome Debra and Mimi to SOU’s Board of Trustees,” said Paul Nicholson, the board’s chair. “They are both extraordinarily bright, talented and  accomplished, each in her own way. Their voices will be welcomed additions to the board.

“The board also thanks Les AuCoin and Dylann Loverro for their dedicated service to the board. We wish each of them all the best in their future endeavors.”


SOU president to retire by end of year

SOU President Linda Schott to retire by end of 2021

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University President Linda Schott, who has positioned SOU for the future since taking office in August 2016, announced to campus today that she will retire at the end of 2021, capping a 36-year career in higher education. Schott pledged to continue putting all of her energy into serving SOU and will do her best to prepare the university for her successor.

“I intend to stay fully engaged in leading the university until a new president is hired,” President Schott said. “Our leadership team is strong, and all have indicated their willingness to continue in their roles throughout the presidential transition.”

Paul Nicholson, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees, praised the work Schott has done at SOU and said she will leave the university on firm footing.

“Linda Schott has been a force for change at SOU; her vision, energy and leadership have transformed the university in a positive way,” Nicholson said. “The board is deeply appreciative of her work and what she accomplished – all of which has laid a powerful foundation for the challenging work ahead of us.

“We also thank Dr. Schott’s husband, Tom Fuhrmark, and their family for their tremendous support during her tenure. The board wishes Dr. Schott much happiness in the next stage of her life.”

The SOU community developed a new vision, mission and strategic plan that has been integrated into the university’s daily operations during Schott’s tenure. The university also opened several new facilities during the past five years (the Student Recreation Center, Lithia Motors Pavilion, Thalden Pavilion and the Theater/JPR Building) and garnered additional state funding for the campus and its infrastructure. The university reshaped academic offerings for both traditional students and the growing number of adult learners who are returning to SOU to complete bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees. Graduation rates for SOU students increased 13 percent over seven years ending in 2019, and the percentage of graduates working in fields related to their majors has reached 68 percent – 10 percent above the national average.

Using national data to help align academic offerings with emerging workforce needs, the university also developed a menu of 18 new microcredentials – with more on the way – that enable both undergraduates and those who have already graduated to pick up extra skills.

President Schott played leading roles in the creation of the Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium and the Southern Oregon Education Leadership Council. 

Schott came to SOU from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where she served as president from 2012 to 2016. She previously taught at three Texas universities and held administrative positions in Michigan and Colorado. She received her bachelor’s degree in history and German from Baylor University, and her master’s degree in history and Ph.D. in history and humanities, both from Stanford University.

SOU’s Board of Trustees plan to discuss the president’s retirement and a presidential search during its regular meeting on April 16, 2021. A search committee is expected to be formed in the coming weeks to begin the process of finding Schott’s successor. Nicholson said the board will look forward to engaging the campus community during the search for SOU’s 14th president.


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

FAFSA form for financial assistance

Prospective students lagging behind on financial assistance applications

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University financial aid office and Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission have an urgent message to anyone considering college this fall: the time is now to submit applications for public and private assistance that can help make higher education affordable.

The HECC reported that the completion rate for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms as of Jan. 1 was 15 percent lower among this year’s high school seniors in Oregon than it was at the same date in 2020. Kristen Duncan, SOU’s financial aid director, said her office is seeing about a 10 percent decline in FAFSA submissions for the 2021-22 academic year.

She emphasized that financial wellness and success for many students begins with submission of the FAFSA or ORSAA (Oregon State Aid Application) – the two aid applications that cover most forms of government assistance and many private resources.

“By filling out this application, students are ensuring that they will be eligible for some form of federal aid – both need-based grants and the option to borrow Federal Student Loans,” Duncan said. “The FAFSA takes just under 20 minutes to fill out from start to finish, and is available via your smartphone and tablet by downloading the MyStudentAid app.

“The FAFSA does not have an official deadline, but needs to filled out before June 30 to be considered for aid. Not filling out this federal application can limit the amount of aid that a student can receive from the school of their choice. It affects everything from outside scholarships to school-specific scholarships.”

Duncan pointed out that – as its name implies – there is no cost to complete or submit the FAFSA, and most who do so are eligible for one or more forms of aid. “Not filling out the FAFSA is the number one biggest mistake a student can make if they are trying to pay for college,” she said.

The HECC noted in a recent memo to Oregon’s colleges and universities that FAFSA and ORSAA submissions – which are down a combined 13 percent this year – are particularly important to students experiencing poverty, students of color and those from rural areas. The agency suggested that disruptions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year have caused the drop-off in financial aid applications.

“This decline means that many high school seniors, continuing college students and adults seeking to continue their education or workforce training could miss out on financial assistance that can make education more affordable,” the HECC said.

Completion of the financial aid forms keeps options open for accessing and using aid anytime in the upcoming academic year.

Information from FAFSA and ORSAA submissions determines students’ eligibility for public grants and numerous scholarships. The ORSAA is Oregon’s alternative to the FAFSA for students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and/or undocumented status.

The applications can be submitted throughout the academic year, but several private scholarships and institutional aid programs have spring deadlines. Some grants also have limited funding, so filing late could mean missing out.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data shows that students who complete the FAFSA are 84 percent more likely to enroll in postsecondary education.