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.

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

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.

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SOU will have a virtual commencement ceremony for 2021

SOU to go virtual for 2021 commencement

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will hold this year’s commencement ceremony on a virtual platform to ensure a safe, high-quality experience for its 2021 graduates and an inclusive, flexible venue that is accessible to family members and friends.

SOU President Linda Schott announced the decision on Tuesday, more than a month before the start of spring term. It will be the university’s second consecutive year without an in-person commencement, but will be distinctly different than the 2020 event – which the university pulled together after the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a move to remote instruction for spring term and beyond.

This year’s June 12 event will include a live-streamed ceremony, Zoom parties and private, dedicated social media engagement. The university will encourage additional virtual or hybrid events by its various academic programs and departments.

“I feel very positive about this decision,” President Schott said. “Committing to this format early in the game allows us to create the best ceremony possible to recognize the achievements of a 2021 class of graduates who have overcome unprecedented obstacles to complete their degrees and prepare for successful lives of purpose.

“We will avoid the uncertainty that would be unavoidable with an in-person ceremony in June, and will be able to provide a lively virtual experience that will enable families and other supporters from around the world to participate.”

SOU will also build on the successes of some program-level celebrations that were held in a variety of remote formats last year, by creating a template for academic programs and departments to use in recognizing their own graduates.

SOU expects that some students and their families may still choose to be in Ashland for the June commencement weekend, and the university will work with the local business community on tourism opportunities.

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Local Innovation Lab trains SOU interns as leaders

Local Innovation Lab prepares SOU interns to address disaster issues

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’re looking for a silver lining somewhere deep within the dual catastrophes of COVID-19 and last fall’s southern Oregon wildfires, look no further than the Local Innovation Lab. The collaborative project of Southern Oregon University and the Humane Leadership Institute is finding student interns and training them as leaders to tackle some of the sticky issues faced by communities and businesses affected by the disasters.

About 30 SOU students from more than 10 separate degree programs are receiving $1,000 stipends to participate as interns ­in the new program this year, and double that number are expected for the 2021-22 academic year. Four of this year’s fall term participants already have paid jobs as a result of their internships.

“Students are learning that humane leadership applies to how they lead themselves as well as how they lead others, and that it applies equally to their personal lives and their professional lives,” said Bret Anderson, SOU’s Economics Department chair and the university’s primary link to the Local Innovation Lab project.

“We are meeting students’ innate desire to contribute to their communities, especially in the wake of the Almeda Fire, while inviting them to apply their skills to impactful work,” he said.

The project grew out of a community conversation that was initiated last April, when it was apparent the COVID-19 pandemic would have deep and long-lasting effects on southern Oregon. Stephen Sloan of the Humane Leadership Institute, a local education think tank, convened a small group of people from Ashland and the Rogue Valley to discuss the emerging problems, needs and opportunities.

Those community conversations eventually grew to include more than two dozen participants, and one of the group’s first actions was to create a 501c3 nonprofit organization – Local Innovation Works – to carry out the first project, the Local Innovation Lab.

Community leaders in the larger group had discussed the need for interns to help businesses, social service agencies and local governments reboot their operations in ways that could help address pandemic-related issues. But the interns would need to be prepared to lead, rather than be led.

“I have heard over and over again that the effort required to bring a student intern up to speed is not worth the benefit of hiring an intern for many organizations,” Anderson said. “This was a gap that we identified pretty clearly. Universities do a great job of (creating) academic foundations for careers and employers do well with on-the-job training for their long-term employees, but the short-term student intern is left in the void.

“Thus, there was a need for a community organization to build a bridge between the academic community and organizations in the community that focused on the students’ own experience of leading themselves and those around them.”

Those who apply to participate in the program as student interns are required to take an SOU course on humane leadership, which emphasizes qualities such as compassion, consideration and encouragement. That course and participation in the internship program satisfy two of the three criteria needed to earn SOU’s digital badge or micro-credential in Values-Based Leadership. The third requirement is completion of any of several elective courses that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and the wider social context in which entrepreneurship and civic engagement take place.

The Local Innovation Lab, humane leadership course and Values-Based Leadership badge all are open to both enrolled SOU students and community members.

The lab was initially intended to launch with a cohort of interns for winter term, but the wildfires of early September “turned the dial up to 11,” Anderson said. It was instead unveiled as a pilot program with interns lined up after fall term had already begun.

Its organizers wove together the abilities of interns, the assets of donors and investors, and the needs of organizations affected by the pandemic or fires.

The project is clearly working.

One intern from SOU’s Financial Mathematics program is helping the city of Phoenix clean up the accounting for its water billings; a Continuing Education student is analyzing data from Medford’s Family Nurturing Center to better map social service outreach efforts to outcomes. Another student is helping create a community investment fund by looking at gaps between local banks’ loan terms and the ability of underserved entrepreneurs to get credit. Yet another is working “her dream job” with the Gordon Elwood Foundation, creating a “visually appealing, accessible online database profiling key funders in the Southern Oregon region.”

Two other interns are working with the nonprofit Remake Talent to create an interactive recovery dashboard using ArcGIS and to present the evolving network of fire relief organizations that provide resources to the Rogue Valley.

“Students get a real-world experience of impact, collaboration and reality,” Anderson said. “They get a sense of the practical utility of their education. They get a break from theory and a deep dive into the challenges of trying to get important things done with other people.”

SOU will skip shortened football season

SOU opts out of spring football season

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Southern Oregon University football team will forgo the shortened spring football season and look toward the fall, SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre informed Frontier Conference officials on Friday, Feb. 12.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, and know there will be some disappointed Raiders,” Sayre said. “But the goal is a quality, high-level playing experience, and we feel much better about our ability to provide that six months from now.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced earlier in the week that the Oregon Health Authority would revise guidelines that had halted full-contact sports in the state during the pandemic, but the timeline for a return to regular activity remains uncertain. The first contest on SOU’s four-game Frontier schedule – which was reduced from the standard 10-game slate after being postponed in the fall – was set for March 20.

“We feel we are not prepared for the rigors and intensity of a college football season, largely because our players haven’t tackled, blocked or had contact of any kind in 450 days,” Sayre said. “It’s only fair to make this decision now for our Frontier Conference partners to be able to reschedule and adjust travel plans, and for our student-athletes to have a definitive direction.

“We’ve had conversations with colleagues at Portland State University, University of Montana and other regional institutions about their decisions to opt out of competition this spring and gained good insight into the value of a clear direction with an emphasis on the fall of 2021.”

SOU will plan to conduct a regular spring practice schedule. Each of the team’s seniors will have the option of returning in the fall.

“It’s an extremely difficult decision and heartbreaking for our seniors who are looking at options for after college, but it is the decision that’s in the best interest of our program,” said Raiders head coach Charlie Hall. “We can prepare our team in a traditional manner and be ready for the fall.”

This story is reposted from souraiders.com.

New storage facility checks the solar and recycling boxes

New SOU storage facility is doubly green

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has completed a new storage facility at Raider Stadium that addresses sustainability on two fronts – it includes the university’s ninth array of solar panels, and the structure itself was created from recycled shipping containers.

The new facility, which will be used for storage of Athletic Department equipment and supplies, is SOU’s second net-positive building – the renewable energy it produces is greater than what it consumes. The first was SOU’s Student Recreation Storage Building, built in 2018 with solar installed in 2019.

“SOU is wholly committed to the pursuit of sustainability in both construction and day-to-day operations,” said Rebecca Walker, the university’s sustainability and recycling manager. “This project demonstrates that when we think differently and creatively, sustainability can make both financial and environmental sense.

The new storage facility’s solar panel installation was paid for by a fund that is fed in part by other energy savings projects on campus. The fund receives money from sources including energy savings incentives and credits from the university’s natural gas company, recycling receipts and other sustainability-related income sources.

The building itself – located behind the stadium’s east bleachers – is made from six recycled railroad shipping containers. The university repurposed three containers that we already on campus and purchased another three for $10,500 from Oregon Cargo Containers of Grants Pass.  The solar panels, installed by True South Solar of Ashland, will produce 49.68 kilowatts of electricity – enough to power about five typical homes.

“Athletics was in need of safe and adequate storage,” said SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre. “What was designed for that purpose by the SOU Facilities Management and Planning Department and architect Matt Small – using rail boxcars and a plan to collect solar energy from the roof of that structure – is an asset Raiders can be proud of.”

The new project pushes SOU’s total solar energy generation capability to more than 430 kilowatts. The university has a total of seven other solar arrays on six buildings on the Ashland campus and one at the Higher Education Center in Medford.

Output from SOU’s solar facilities is typically fed back into the electrical grid and credited to SOU’s accounts, reducing the university’s utility bills.

SOU’s first solar installation was a 24-panel, 6-kilowatt array that was placed on Hannon Library in 2000 and it still generating electricity at 70 to 80 percent efficiency.

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The Indigenous Gardens Network will promote access to "first foods" by Native Americans

Indigenous Gardens Network receives Oregon Cultural Trust grant

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University, tribal partners and others have received a $35,483 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to initiate the Indigenous Gardens Network – a hub for conversation and coordination around traditional food gathering areas throughout southwestern Oregon.

The Indigenous Gardens Network is intended to restore areas where “first foods” and other culturally significant items can be cultivated, harvested and made accessible to Indigenous people. First foods are plant and animal species that Native Americans traditionally relied upon for subsistence, medicine and ceremonial uses. The network that will be funded by the new Oregon Cultural Trust grant will pull together new and existing resources to address urgent issues such as food security, climate change and Indigenous food sovereignty.

“The Indigenous Gardens Network centers the knowledge and expertise of Native people and communities and approaches all projects with a robust sense of accountability to them,” said Brook Colley, chair of the SOU Native American Studies Program and principal investigator on the OCT grant.

“(The network) will be Indigenous-led, driven by their needs and solutions, and based on mutual respect,” Colley said.

The project is a regional partnership that brings together diverse partners including tribes, educators, conservation organizations and land managers or owners to address barriers to first food access and cultivation. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Vesper Meadow Education Program and other regional partners are joining SOU on the project.

A history of genocide, forced treaties and removal from ancestral lands created a pervasive, detrimental legacy for Indigenous people, many of whom remain displaced from southwestern Oregon. Several tribes from the region were forcibly relocated to Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations during the mid-1800s, and descendants continue to live there as citizens of the Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes.

Many members of those tribes have not re-established the annual food-tending practices of their ancestors for reasons including a lack of access to public and private land, scarcity of financial and human resources, concerns over safety and prejudice, divergence between Indigenous and Western perceptions of land use, and degradation of Indigenous gardens caused by ranching and other industries.

The Oregon Cultural Trust grant will enable the partner organizations to initiate the Indigenous Gardens Network, while additional funding sources will be sought for follow-up efforts. The network will work to re-establish specific first foods, medicines, materials and landscapes in southwestern Oregon, and to engage both private and public partners in supporting tribal access to – and stewardship of – critical cultural resources.

The Indigenous Gardens Network supports tribes and other Native communities in building sustainable food systems that improve health and well-being, strengthen food security and increase their control over Indigenous agriculture and food networks.

The Indigenous Gardens Network is also supported through the SOU Foundation. Those wishing to contribute to this work may make a donation online or contact Brook Colley (colleyb@sou.edu) for more information about the Indigenous Gardens Network. Information on donating to the Oregon Cultural Trust is available on the organization’s website.

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"All My Relations" is a virtual spin-off program for Native youth and families

SOU retreat for Native American youth spins off multigenerational program

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Konaway Nika Tillicum wasn’t what anyone expected last summer, when the seven-day academic and cultural enrichment residential camp for Native American Youth was shifted to a virtual version of itself because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then the totally unexpected happened: the Oregon Community Foundation, a longtime supporter of the Konaway program, reached out to its organizers at SOU to find out if there were any plans to continue supporting pre-college Native youth in Oregon at the conclusion of the one-week program. Serious conversations began, the foundation offered a new $50,000 grant and a virtual offshoot program for Konaway students and their family members was born.

“All My Relations” – the English translation of the Chinook Trade Jargon phrase, “Konaway Nika Tillicum” – was launched on Oct. 28 with seven students and has rapidly grown to include more than 33 students and their families in six states. There are currently 19 students from seven Oregon counties in the program. Another eight participants live along the Oregon border in Washington or California and have tribal connections to the region. The program runs through fall, winter and spring terms, offering biweekly, virtual longhouse gatherings to provide academic encouragement and support, and discuss everything from beading moccasin ornaments to traditional story-telling to maintaining cultural identity during a pandemic.

“It was clear that students and families were hungry for this kind of connection and assistance, and when we were approached by OCF it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get something going,” said Katherine Gosnell, assistant director of youth programs at SOU.

“OCF is keenly aware of the disproportionate impacts of COVID on Native communities and were seeking ways to address the situation,” said Rachel Jones, SOU’s director of outreach and engagement. “We shared with OCF the wish list of ideas that the Konaway team had created during the virtual Konaway, for ways that we could continue working with the students.”

Jones and her staff put together an outline and projected cost for the program, and the foundation backed the proposal with a quick-turnaround grant.

“It was a great testament to OCF’s exceptional role across the state during this challenging year – they were extremely responsive, had a quick turnaround and eliminated lengthy application processes,” Jones said.

All My Relations was originally seen as a one-time project, but has now transitioned into a pilot for what organizers hope will be an ongoing program to support and enhance the original Konaway residential offerings. Organizers at SOU are seeking additional funding through grants and donations from foundations, organizations and individuals to support a second year of All My Relations beginning in fall 2021.

“Not only are we serving Native American Youth but we are serving their families, their friends, and their communities as well,” said Tamara Ellington, an SOU adjunct instructor and residential coordinator for the Konaway program.

“We have students that join with their parents, their foster parents, their closest trusting neighbors with good internet connectivity, their cousins, their friends, and their elders,” she said. “This is truly a multigenerational program modeled and influenced by the original Konaway Nika Tillicum Native American Youth Academy.”

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SOU's Amber Reed publishes book on apartheid

SOU anthropologist’s book: Black South Africans wary of apartheid reforms

(Ashland, Ore.) — Post-apartheid reforms in South Africa have failed the country’s rural Black citizens and led to a longing for some aspects of life under the system that once oppressed them, according to a newly published book by Southern Oregon University anthropologist Amber Reed.

“Nostalgia After Apartheid” examines the reluctance of teachers and students in the Eastern Cape province to embrace South African democracy, which they see as restricting their cultural practices. Democracy has imposed a brand of freedom whose liberal standards clash with the customs and traditions favored in the former rural homelands.

“When I started research in this region, I was interested in the role non-governmental organizations were playing in youth political activism,” said Reed, who has done fieldwork in the country off-and-on over the past 11 years.

“The project took on a life of its own, however, as people kept steering our conversations away from the future of politics and back to nostalgic renderings of the past,” she said. “Why would Black South Africans wax nostalgic for life during one of history’s most racist and repressive regimes?”

Reed’s book answers that question by showing that many Black South Africans embrace conservative ideologies and are opposed to reforms that don’t align with their beliefs, such as the right to abortions and a ban on corporal punishment. The country’s Department of Education requires the teaching of ideals that include civic responsibility and liberal democracy, but both teachers and students often see it as the imposition of “white” values.

“’Freedom, it turned out, did not feel so free; instead, it rested on Western ideas of personhood and subjectivity that felt confining, imposing and alien,” Reed writes in the preface to her book.

“Nostalgia After Apartheid” was published last month by University of Notre Dame Press as part of the Kellogg Institute Series on Democracy and Development. It is available in hardcover or as an eBook.

The book has been praised by other authors and researchers of South Africa and apartheid.

“Amber Reed compellingly reveals how the transition from apartheid to liberal democracy has failed the rural youth who now regard the Mandela miracle of 1994 as a betrayal and have developed a bizarre sense of nostalgia for life under apartheid,” said Leslie J. Bank, co-editor of the book, “Migrant Labour Under Apartheid.”

Reed has been a professor of anthropology at SOU since 2017, and has taught a variety of anthropology and African studies courses. She received her bachelor’s degree from New York’s Barnard College, and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles.

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Campus Pride rates SOU at top

SOU rated at the top for eighth year in a row by Campus Pride

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been recognized for the eighth year in a row as one of the nation’s Top 40 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities by Campus Pride, a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ people on more than 1,400 U.S. campuses.

SOU earned five out of five stars overall on the Campus Pride Index, which ranks universities in each of eight categories: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. SOU drew five-star rankings in six of the categories and four-and-a-half stars in the other two.

The Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for prospective and current LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization and pandemic-related isolation.

“LGBTQ youth and families want to know what campuses are doing when it comes to inclusive policies, programs and practices,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “The ‘Best of the Best’ highlights the Top 40 this year across six regions throughout the country.”

SOU was also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice, which released its 2020 rankings in July.

The Campus Pride list of the top 40 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities in the U.S. included three Oregon institutions – SOU, the University of Oregon and Portland State University. A total of eight in the West region received the organization’s “Premier Campus” designation.

SOU addresses sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy and offers gender-inclusive housing options, the stand-alone Queer Resource Center and LGBTQ-related academic offerings through the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program. SOU also participates in LGBTQ-specific college fairs and its counseling and health staff provide queer- and trans-friendly services.

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