Marcus Allen, one of the Accelerated MBA program's first three graduates

First cohort to graduate in SOU’s accelerated MBA program

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Southern Oregon University School of Business will celebrate the first three graduates from its 3|4 + 1 Pathway to MBA Program – also known as the Accelerated Pathway to MBA – at SOU’s June 15 commencement ceremony.

“This is an opportunity for high-achieving students to fast-track their academic experiences and get a head start on their careers,” said SOU business professor Rene Ordonez, Ph.D., coordinator of the university’s graduate programs in business. “Participants will graduate and enter the workforce as holders of full MBAs.”

The three inaugural graduates in the accelerated MBA program are Cassie Preskenis, Marcus Allen and Tess Homier. Both Preskenis and Allen will also receive their bachelor’s degrees this month in SOU’s Innovation and Leadership program, and Homier will earn her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting.

Each of the three have excelled in their undergraduate studies and also taken on the challenge of graduate-level coursework.

“When my new job required a degree, the 3+1 program was the perfect fit,” Allen said. “The class schedule fit my work requirements, and the ability to complete my master’s simultaneously was a huge benefit. I met an amazing group of students from all walks of life, and the education has set me up for success in the next phase of my career.”

The initiative allows undergraduate students pursuing degrees in four specific academic areas – Business, Innovation and Leadership, Music and Theater – to earn their bachelor’s and MBA degrees concurrently in as little as four years, saving both time and money. It is an example of SOU’s commitment to providing innovative and accessible education.

“We are all incredibly proud of this ground-breaking new concept, and take our hats off to our first cohort of graduates,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Our gratitude goes out to our superstar faculty in the School of Business for creating this exciting pathway, and to the graduates who are starting an exciting tradition here at SOU.”

The Accelerated Pathway to MBA Program, launched in fall 2022, was developed by Ordonez and professor Joan McBee of the SOU School of Business. Their vision was to address growing concerns over rising tuition costs and the barriers faced by students seeking advanced degrees.

The program allows senior undergraduate students from the four select academic programs to take graduate-level courses that count toward both undergraduate and graduate degree requirements, effectively reducing both the time and cost needed to obtain two degrees.

Under the “3+1” option, students participating in SOU’s existing three-year undergraduate programs – the Accelerated Baccalaureate (AccBacc) or the Jackson/Josephine Pledge (JackJo) – can complete the MBA by extending to a fourth year. The “4+1” provides an option for students in the traditional four-year undergraduate programs, who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA by the start of their senior year, to complete the MBA degree in a fifth year.

“Upon entering the Innovation and Leadership (INL) program at SOU, I harbored doubts about my academic prowess, having been away from college for two decades,” Preskenis said. “Yet, I found a comfortable niche within the non-traditional INL program, surrounded by peers who – like me –brought diverse professional experiences to the table.

“When the chance to pursue my master’s degree alongside my bachelor’s emerged, I couldn’t resist. The journey has proven immensely fulfilling and remarkably enjoyable, culminating in the completion of both degrees at SOU.”

The accelerated MBA program has gained traction since its inception two years ago among students eager to fast-track their education and reduce expenses.

Preskenis, Allen and Homier will join 79 regular MBA graduates at SOU’s annual pre-commencement “MBA Hooding Ceremony” at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 14, at the Music Recital Hall. Media and community members are welcome to attend the hooding ceremony – a special recognition for graduate students who have completed their degree requirements.

Those seeking more information on SOU’s Accelerated MBA program may contact Ordonez at ordonez@sou.edu or (541) 552-6720, or MBA coordinator Douglas Daley, Jr., at daleyd@sou.edu or (541) 552-8113.

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SOU's inaugural Business Venture Tournament this week

Inaugural SOU Business Venture Tournament: innovative ideas across disciplines

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University (SOU) will host its inaugural Business Venture Tournament this week. The groundbreaking competition – designed to nurture entrepreneurial ideas from students across all academic disciplines – is intended to transform innovative ideas into successful business ventures, with generous support from SOU alumni Jim Teece and Dena Matthews.

The tournament’s final competition and gala event will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, in Room 217 of Britt Hall on the SOU campus. Seventeen students from various academic disciplines have submitted their venture ideas, and seven finalists will present their projects in Thursday’s final round.

The tournament’s primary goal is to help students understand that regardless of their major, any idea with an organizational structure inherently involves crucial business elements. That knowledge is essential for students pursuing any passion – from an Environmental Science major aiming to rescue endangered species to a Theatre major planning to open a children’s space for learning drama and dance.

By participating in the tournament, students gain hands-on experience in idea proof-of-concept, market research, venture promotion and presentation skills, preparing them for the real world.

The competition offers significant prizes: $3,000 for first place, $700 for second place, $250 for third place and $500 for the best sustainability features. Students who vote for a pitch and attend the gala will also be entered into a drawing for a $500 gift certificate at Southern Oregon Wilderness Adventures.

Teece and Matthews provided the initial funding for the Business Venture Tournament, envisioning a competition that would be inclusive of students from all academic backgrounds. That vision was brought to life by Vincent Smith, Ph.D., director of the School of Science and Business, and Douglas Daley, coordinator for SOU’s MBA program. Daley developed and executed the competition’s structure with support from Smith and graduate intern Jenny Chynoweth.

Thursday’s final round event will feature sponsors and table hosts, including the Ashland Food Co-Op, Southern Oregon Wilderness Adventures, Talent MakerCity, the SOU Small Business Development Center, SCORE Jackson County, Seed Collective, Rogue To-Go, Crater Works & Direct Involvement Recreation Teaching (DIRT), the SOU Institute of Applied Sustainability and Rogue Valley Women in Business.

For more information, visit venture.sou.edu.

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first-generation student goes beyond expectations

Soon-to-be graduate goes beyond first-generation expectations

(Ashland, Ore.) — To describe Nansi Cortes simply as a first-generation college student and soon-to-be Southern Oregon University graduate would ignore both her personal history and her family’s unwavering support.

Nansi’s immigrant parents, whom she said had “lower than a grade school education,” were nonetheless aware of education’s potential impact on their children. So they were all in when Nansi was in eighth grade at Medford’s McLoughlin Middle School and became eligible for the SOU/McLoughlin Bulldogs-to-Raiders partnership, a pathway program designed for first-generation Hispanic students to learn about higher education and receive extra help with coursework.

A Spanish translation of this story can be found here.

Nansi, a senior in the SOU Honors College, will receive her bachelor’s degree at the commencement ceremony in June. She has served as a student mentor, a teaching assistant and a lead student assistant in the university’s Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. And she already has been accepted into the SOU master’s degree program in Clinical in Mental Health Counseling.

“Mental health has been seen as a controversial topic for the Spanish-speaking communities,” Nansi said. “I will help educate the importance of mental health, become a bilingual counselor for young adults in Rogue Valley and advocate the benefits of therapy within the Spanish-speaking community.

“As I have been a resource for students at Southern Oregon University, I will continue to be a resource for Spanish-speaking communities.”

Her path to achievement has been neither straightforward nor easy. Her grade point average before transferring to McLoughlin Middle School was 1.9, which she quickly raised to a 3.8.

“About two months in at a new school, I passed classes with A’s, received higher test scores and eventually was asked to enroll in honors courses,” Nansi said. “With the support system I received from the new school, I began to believe in my potential to succeed and desire to plan my educational future.”

Which is where Bulldogs-to-Raiders came in. As part of the program, Nansi participated in SOU’s Academia Latina Leadership, Cesar Chavez Conference, Dia Familiar Latino and other Latinx-oriented youth programs. Those in the program visited various colleges and universities, where they received advice from students on the application process.

“As a first-generation student, I could experience the (SOU) campus by joining workshops and events, while the program taught my parents how to support me,” Nansi said. “Before joining this program, I did not think I was qualified to apply to colleges, pass courses or find the funds to attend. Bulldogs-to-Raiders gave me the opportunity for an education.”

As fate would have it, the COVID-19 pandemic was at full stride when Nansi graduated high school and enrolled at SOU in 2020. She was accustomed to learning through face-to-face classroom interactions, and was concerned about the shift to online coursework – but also felt that her scholarships would be impacted if she took a term off, so met with her guidance counselor.

“She encouraged me to attend the professor’s office hours when I was confused, join a study group for each course for support and seek the tutoring center at the Hannon Library,” Nansi said. “I completed my first year with immense help, and motivation to continue.

She learned about the SOU Honors College while attending the Cesar Chavez Conference with her Bulldogs-to-Raiders cohort, worked hard to be accepted into the program and became an Honors College student as a freshman. She has taken on the role of an academic leader among her peers, and counts that as one of her greatest achievements.

“I have tutored students outside of class to explain the material step-by-step, helped them find sources for their papers and helped the professors with grading,” Nansi said. “This has been an accomplishment because I did not have someone at home to help me with assignments. I wanted to be an additional resource for students.

“These achievements have prepared me for my future by leading me to my goal of becoming a bilingual counselor.”

She also serves as a role model to her siblings, helping them with their educational decisions, and has found her way to a rewarding, meaningful future in counseling.

“My parents will endlessly express their gratitude toward programs that help students achieve academically,” Nansi said. “They are proud to see how far their daughter has gotten in life. The sacrifices they made so I could receive a proper education will never go unseen.”

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Rogue Valley Television now available on largest streaming platforms

Rogue Valley Television now available to cable-cutters and others

Rogue Valley Television, the community- and government-access station operated by Southern Oregon University’s Digital Media Center, is now available as an app or channel on the five largest streaming platforms: Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV and mobile apps for iOS and Android. The change makes RVTV – which is also available over-the-air and on local cable – available anywhere, without an antenna or cable subscription.

RVTV offers four cable channels across Jackson and Josephine counties: RVTV Prime, RVTV Civic, RVTV Voices and RVTV Grants Pass. The stations serves as the government television service provider for Jackson County and the cities of Ashland, Grants Pass and Medford, carrying all public hearings live and on replay. Public meetings from the Ashland School District and Rogue Valley Transportation District are also available.

On its Voices channel, the station also carries community-access programming on well-being and lifestyle, news and politics, education, nature and ecology, entertainment and music, and more.

RVTV has been has been available through cable providers in the Rogue Valley for almost 35 years, and began streaming live channels from its website in the mid- to late-2000s. RVTV is considered a Public, Education and Government (P.E.G.) access television network.

The station began working with the Telvue Corporation in 2011 to migrate to an all-digital playback server, operating four cable channels with simultaneous live streaming. RVTV and Telvue began work last fall to develop mobile and OTT (over-the-top) streaming video channels across the five largest streaming platforms, to broaden the reach of both its live channels and on-demand video content from its government partners. OTT refers to technology that streams content by way of internet-connected devises.

RVTV continues to seek the most effective means of providing civic information and community media to southern Oregon residents, with support from Southern Oregon University, Jackson County and the cities of Ashland, Grants Pass and Medford.

Chloe Fiveash awarded Goldwater Scholarship

SOU student receives prestigious scholarship

(Ashland, Ore.) — Chloe Fiveash, a Southern Oregon University junior majoring in biochemistry, is one of 438 recipients nationwide of the 2024 Goldwater Scholarship – a prestigious U.S. award that recognizes the research work of undergraduates in math, science and engineering. Fiveash, a first-generation college student who experienced homelessness while in high school, is SOU’s first Goldwater Scholar since 2021 and second since 2007.

Goldwater Scholars each receive as much as $7,500 annually for tuition, fees and room-and-board, along with national recognition for their undergraduate research. Fiveash is also a McNair Scholar at SOU and receives federal Pell and Supplemental Education Opportunity grants, the Oregon Opportunity Grant and at least five other scholarships.

She completed a 2022 independent internship by researching the ability of the insecticide fipronil to be absorbed by field mustard, to determine if the plant can effectively reduce concentrations and toxic effects of fipronil. She is currently researching the ability of the mold Aspergillus niger to limit the toxicity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is common in many foods.

“I feel incredibly honored to be recognized for my dedication to my research and education,” Fiveash said. “This opportunity will allow me to focus on the more impactful aspects of my current education such as my classes and research projects, and it will also open many doors for future financial endeavors to support my desire to go to graduate school.”

Fiveash has served as a volunteer caregiver at Mountain View Adult Foster Home, worked with SOU’s OSPIRG group to help with voter registration and volunteered to clean up the Antioch Cemetery. She is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, has made the Provost’s List of full-time students earning at least a 3.5 grade point average several times and is on track to graduate cum laude in June 2025

She is one of just four Oregon university students to be selected as Goldwater Scholars this year. A total of 1,353 science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 446 academic institutions to compete for the 2024 Goldwater Scholarships. The 438 scholarships awarded for 2024 brings the total number since 1989 to 10,720. Almost all of this year’s awardees – including Fiveash – intend to pursue doctorate degrees, with 57 of them planning research careers in mathematics and computer science, 237 in the sciences, 80 in medicine and 64 in engineering and materials research.

“I am so grateful for Chloe,” said Vincent Smith, director of SOU’s School of Science & Business. “Her hard work, determination and perseverance are inspirational.

“We face so many challenges as a planet,” Smith said. “I strongly believe that education still remains the greatest path toward equality, sustainability and vitality. SOU is appreciative of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation for their commitment to recognizing remarkable human potential.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation is a federally endowed agency that was created in 1986. Its scholarship program “was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics,” according to its website. “The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.”

The application process for the Goldwater Scholarships prompts students to demonstrate their commitment to research and tighten their focus on career goals – skills they will need when applying to graduate schools and for subsequent research scholarships. SOU undergraduates interested in learning more about the Goldwater Scholarship, eligibility criteria and how to apply may contact Melissa LaBonty, assistant professor of biology and the Goldwater Scholarship campus representative, at labontym@sou.edu.

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La Clinica to operate SOU Student Health & Wellness Center

La Clinica partners with SOU to operate student health center

Medford-based community health center group La Clinica has partnered with Southern Oregon University to operate the on-campus Student Health & Wellness Center starting in September.

The collaboration is aimed at ensuring SOU can continue to provide students with affordable and high quality medical, behavioral health and reproductive health services. La Clinica accepts most insurance, including Oregon Health Plan, and does not turn away patients for inability to pay.

“La Clinica is an outstanding, community-minded organization, and SOU is proud to be partnering with them to ensure our students continue to get high-quality care while keeping their costs affordable,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “We are indebted to everyone at La Clinica for embracing this partnership with compassion, kindness, and a focus on selfless student service.”

La Clinica CEO Brenda Johnson said that providing services at SOU will come naturally for the healthcare organization.

“We’re grateful and excited to be able to step into this role as a partner and support SOU’s vision in providing accessible and affordable health care for their students,” said Johnson. “SOU is an excellent educational home, and La Clinica has a lot of experience running school-based health centers. It’s an ideal collaboration.”

La Clinica operates 29 health centers in Jackson County, including 19 at area schools. It has deep experience in providing the services offered at the student health center. The organization serves about 30,000 patients annually.

La Clinica will begin operations at SOU as students return to campus in September for fall term, and will continue to offer students access to low-cost medical, mental health, and contraceptive care, as they’ve had available previously. The Student Health & Wellness Center is at the eastern edge of the SOU campus at 560 Indiana St.

La Clinica provides a host of other services to everyone involved in its care as well, including help signing up for the Oregon Health Plan or understanding other potential community resources; special prescription drug pricing; drop-in care on Saturdays at the Acute Care Clinic; dental care; education and training services through The Learning Well (https://thelearningwell.org); and grief education and support services through WinterSpring.

About La Clinica
La Clinica offers wellness-focused medical, dental, mental health, and substance use disorder care at 29 sites: 19 school-based centers, the Acute Care Clinic, the Women’s Health Center, East Medford Dental Clinic, a learning center, and six other community health centers. Although its mission focuses on providing access to low-income people, La Clinica is open to everyone. La Clinica was founded in 1989 to serve the primary and preventive care needs of migrant and seasonal farm workers in Jackson County.  In 2001, in response to an increasing need for affordable primary health, La Clinica expanded its scope to serve every member of the community. All services are offered regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, and on a sliding-scale basis for the uninsured and low income. Visit https://laclinicahealth.org.

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.

The SOU Laboratory of Anthropology was awarded $500,000 by Congress

SOU Laboratory of Anthropology project rewarded by Congress

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology’s Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project – an ongoing, collaborative effort to research and document the lives of Oregon’s early Chinese immigrants – was awarded almost $500,000 in the spending bill approved by Congress this month. The federal allocation more than doubles the total funding that the archaeological project has received since it began in 2016.

SOU is the only one of Oregon’s four technical and regional universities to receive congressional funding in the new spending bill.

“This is another example of our representatives at both the state and federal levels recognizing the important, innovative work that is coming out of our university,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Senators Merkley and Wyden supported this request through all the twists and turns of the congressional budgeting process, and the result will be a far greater understanding of the vital roles that Chinese Americans and immigrants have played throughout Oregon’s history.”

The new federal funding will allow the award-winning Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project to expand well beyond its original focus on 19th century mining and railroad settlements, to encompass areas throughout the state where Chinese immigrants have had a presence. The project will also incorporate “orphaned” collections from other archaeological efforts, and will result in a series of field schools, volunteer opportunities, exhibits, digital content and free, public talks and programs.

“We have investigated railroad and mining sites across the state, but these funds will be used to explore and document the history of Chinese Oregonians living in diverse geographical areas and working in a variety of industries, in an effort to better capture the full range of Chinese American heritage and experience in Oregon,” said archaeologist Chelsea Rose, director of the SOU Laboratory of Anthropology.

“While we have done amazing things working with our partners to date, this allows us to investigate some of the ‘bucket list’ sites we have encountered over the years, and implement some of our dream projects,” she said.

SOULA works on the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project with agencies including the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management, the Malheur National Forest, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon State Parks, the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland Chinatown Museum.

Researchers have used local history and public archaeology to challenge dated stereotypes and highlight the transnational lives of the Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans that helped establish the early infrastructure and economic industries of Oregon. The project has included digging, interpreting and touring numerous archaeological sites around the state where Chinese immigrants worked and lived, and researching censuses and community records.

The effort has won several awards, including one last fall from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and a national Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) in June of 2022.

Sens. Merkley and Wyden submitted a “congressionally directed spending request” on SOU’s behalf to better enable students to assist with a comprehensive, statewide inventory of Chinese heritage sites. It will pay for archival research, targeted field visits and community outreach, and archaeological investigations at seven to 10 sites identified during the survey.

“These investigations would target sites that will fill in gaps in the documentary record, including industries or areas of the state that have been understudied,” the congressional request said. “This will consist of a mix of archaeological excavation, intensive survey, or analysis of orphaned artifact collections.”

About two-thirds of the $499,743 allocated by Congress will be used for fieldwork and reporting, with most of the remainder earmarked for travel, curation and supplies. The funding is part of the federal Labor, Health and Human Services budget for improvement of postsecondary education.

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SOU receives Tree Campus designation

SOU earns 10th Tree Campus designation

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been honored by the national Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Campus USA for the 10th consecutive year, in recognition of SOU’s commitment to the effective management of its urban forest.

Tree Campus Higher Education, a program that began in 2008, recognizes U.S. colleges and universities, and their leaders, for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. SOU, which first earned the distinction in 2014, is one of 411 higher education institutions nationwide to receive the most recent recognition.

“We are delighted to be awarded Tree Campus certification for another year at Southern Oregon University,” said Becs Walker, SOU’s director of sustainability. “This is very much a collaborative effort of faculty, students, staff and the community. Our trees are also facing increased stress from drought and disease, and our landscape department is working hard to minimize this impact.”

SOU earned the Tree Campus designation by fulfilling the program’s five standards for effective campus forest management: maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and a student service-learning project..

Trees on campus and in urban spaces can lower energy costs by providing shade cover, cleaner air and water, and green spaces for students and faculty. Trees can also improve students’ mental and cognitive health, provide an appealing aesthetic for campuses and create shaded areas for studying and gathering.

“Trees not only play a vital role in the environment but also in our daily lives,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Having trees on college and university campuses is a great way to show a commitment to students and faculty’s overall wellbeing.”

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member, nonprofit conservation and education organization with the mission of inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. The foundation, launched in 1972, has helped to plant nearly 500 million trees in more than 50 countries.

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Central Hall project funded in legislature short session

SOU receives support from legislature

(Ashland, Ore.) — Statewide headlines about this year’s “short” session of the Oregon State Legislature, which adjourned last week, generally characterized it as an opportunity for lawmakers to bolster the governor’s fight against homelessness and to address issues with an earlier ballot measure that decriminalized drug possession. But a close look through a regional lens suggests that Southern Oregon University was among the session’s winners.

SOU was awarded funding for two of its top three priorities for the session – expansion of its graduate-level behavioral health counseling programs and completion of its Central Hall renovation project.

“We feel that the 2024 legislative session was pivotal for SOU, and for the southern Oregon region,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Lawmakers have been vocal in recognizing that our university is taking the necessary steps to build financial sustainability, and legislative actions this year are rewarding our innovative approaches.

“We work closely with our local legislative delegation, and their influence with colleagues from throughout the state is reaping benefits for our campus and our communities. We are grateful to all of our state leaders for putting their trust and confidence in us, and for demonstrating that trust with their continuing support.”

Behavioral health funding
Legislators allocated $4 million for the state’s technical and regional universities, plus Portland State University, to expand the capacity of programs that train behavioral mental health counselors. SOU will receive $666,667 of that amount, which will be used to build a master’s degree in social work program, in collaboration with PSU, and to expand existing counseling programs.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Jeff Golden of Ashland, who initially proposed a total of $6 million to expand the state’s behavioral health treatment capacity before the amount was reduced to $4 million. The funding is intended to expand offerings in the healthcare field and help Oregon address a critical statewide shortage of behavioral health practitioners.

SOU was separately awarded a $1.8 million grant earlier this year from the Oregon Health Authority to be used in part to expand the capacity of SOU’s existing master’s degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to 60 students, from the current maximum of 48. SOU’s grant is part of the OHA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative to improve care across the state, particularly for under-represented communities. SOU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is expected to add a tenure-track faculty position this winter to support the program’s increased capacity next fall.

Central Hall renovation
SOU will receive $6 million to complete an ongoing upgrade to Central Hall – the only capital project that was funded for Oregon’s seven public universities, out of the total of $63 million in bond funding that lawmakers set aside for projects proposed by government entities throughout the state.

The funding allocated by this year’s legislature will pay for Phase 4 of the Central Hall project – interior design and finish work for the second floor, landscape renovations, a solar installation on the building roof, charging stations adjacent to the building in Lot 27 and potentially an additional solar installation in the parking lot. The design work for Phase 4 will kick off this summer or fall, and will likely include classrooms, a computer lab, study areas and other student-centered spaces.

The Central Hall project was originally allocated $6 million in the 2017 legislative session, and SOU has used additional funding from its capital improvement budget to maintain momentum on the project’s first three phases. The work began in 2022 and has included interior demolition; a seismic, mechanical, electrical, HVAC and life-safety upgrade; and design and renovation of basement and first-floor spaces.

The entire Central Hall project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors graduated from SOU

Four SOU actors take the stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

(Ashland, Ore.) — If you’ve seen a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival over the past 10 years, chances are you’ve seen Southern Oregon University students on stage.

Professor Jackie Apodaca saw opportunity when she first arrived at SOU in 2011. With a world-class Shakespeare festival just down the street, and a budding performance bachelor of fine arts program, she set to work building the SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program. Along with Scott Kaiser, OSF’s former director of company development, Apodaca turned what was once a rare opportunity – open to one or two SOU student actors every once in a while – into a unique and robust annual partnership.

The SOU/OSF Acting Trainee Program has been operating for over a decade, channeling actors directly from SOU classrooms to professional stages for life- and career-changing experiences. The opportunities provided to these young artists rival, and often exceed, internship opportunities offered through graduate programs across the country.

“Before the pandemic, we regularly had eight to 15 actors on stage at OSF every single year,” Apodaca said. “The numbers, of course, dropped during 2020, but we are quickly building back the pathway. Not only do we have four recent graduates in the OSF 2024 acting company through the Acting Trainee program, we have recently developed internships with OSF’s education department.

“And of course, we’re eager for OSF’s FAIR program to be rebuilt, which will catalyze even more opportunities for our design, technology and management students. OSF’s new leadership has been incredibly welcoming and responsive, and I am really excited for what’s to come. The OSF/SOU theatre partnership is stronger than ever.”

Here’s more about the recent SOU graduates taking center stage at OSF in 2024:

Aleeyah Enriquez from Hood River graduated from SOU in the spring of 2023. Aleeyah will be playing a watchman in “Much Ado About Nothing” and understudying this year at OSF.

“I’m so grateful to have done my BFA at SOU because not only did I have access to the amazing performance faculty for my voice, movement and acting classes, but I also had the opportunity to work with guest artists/educators directly from the festival,” Aleeyah said. “SOU is well-equipped with incredible professors and the amount of knowledge I’ve obtained has prepared me for these next steps into my career.”

Jennie Babisch from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated in spring of 2023. She will understudy several roles in this year’s OSF production of “Macbeth.”

“My favorite thing about SOU was the diversity of training I received,” Jennie said. “I studied commedia del’arte, viewpoints, masks, Meisner, Greek, Shakespeare and clowning, and so much more from so many incredible teachers at SOU – several of whom were also working actors at OSF!”

Nicole Villavicencio Gonzalez from Reno, Nevada, graduated SOU in the spring of 2023. She will be playing Fleance and other ensemble roles in this year’s production of “Macbeth.”

“Some of my favorite things about SOU theatre are its connection to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the opportunity to take workshops and classes from OSF actors,” Nicole said. “I also appreciated experiencing the amount of student collaboration it takes to put on shows at SOU. It’s a good reminder that you are a small part in comparison to the larger collaborative production.”

Thilini (Lini) Dissanayake from Eugene graduated SOU in the summer of 2023. Lini will be playing Young Jane and Adele in “Jane Eyre,” and understudying roles in “Much Ado About Nothing” at OSF this year.

“The potential to work at OSF was one of the primary reasons I came to SOU, and I am so grateful for my time here,” Lini said. “I felt so challenged, supported, and uplifted by my classmates and my professors in the BFA Performance program. Being a part of the OSF Repertory is a dream come true, and it came to fruition through my training and industry connections at this school. See y’all at the Elizabethan (Theatre) this summer!”

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