Late wrestling coach leaves $3 million to SOU

Late wrestling coach leaves largest-ever gift to SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Legendary Southern Oregon University wrestling coach Bob Riehm’s influence at SOU and within the wrestling program will continue in perpetuity, with a $3 million donation from his estate announced today that ranks as the largest-ever single gift to the university.

The bequest was announced by the university and his surviving sisters at a celebration of life held earlier today for Riehm, who passed away in November 2020. A third of the gift will endow the men’s wrestling head coach position at SOU, which will be named for Riehm, and two-thirds will fund scholarships for the team’s wrestlers.

“Bob Riehm inspired excellence from his student-athletes during his hall of fame career,” said SOU President Rick Bailey. “He was an exceptional leader, coach and mentor, and we are honored to celebrate his legacy today and into the future.”

Riehm, who died at age 83, coached the school’s wrestling program for 25 years beginning in 1969, winning three national championships and mentoring 100 NAIA All-Americans. He compiled a 270-71-2 career record and has been inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the SOU Sports Hall of Fame.

“As a coach and mentor, Coach Riehm made an immeasurable impact on the lives of so many student-athletes who came through his program,” SOU Athletic Director Matt Sayre said. “His legacy, first and foremost, will always be that. This gift’s significance is an enduring reminder of his commitment to SOU, the sport of wrestling, our student-athletes and coaches. He will continue to be a positive and tangible contributor to the development of them all.”

Riehm’s first Southern Oregon team went 7-7 in dual matches, but his Raiders teams never again came close to a losing record. His ninth season, in 1977-78, brought the school’s first-ever national title. His team won another title five years later, in an undefeated season capped by back-to-back wins over the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. His team won a third NAIA championship in the 1993-94 season, his last as head coach.

The gymnasium inside SOU’s former McNeal Pavilion was named Bob Riehm Arena in 2011, at the conclusion of a fund drive in his honor that raised more than $100,000 for scholarships and equipment. Riehm Arena, now in Lithia Motors Pavilion, continues to serve as the center of competition for the university’s men’s and women’s wrestling teams.

Riehm was born in Britt, Iowa, and wrestled at the University of Iowa, where he graduated in 1960.

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Grant will fund the Indigenous Gardens Network

Indigenous Gardens Network again receives Oregon Cultural Trust grant

(Ashland, Ore.) —  Southern Oregon University, tribal partners and others have received a $30,154 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to continue the work of the Indigenous Gardens Network – a hub for Indigenous-led land projects centering on food sovereignty, land stewardship, educational opportunities and habitat restoration.

The purpose of the Indigenous Gardens Network is to provide accessibility to land and “first foods” for tribal communities. First foods are plant and animal species that Native Americans traditionally relied upon for subsistence, medicine and ceremonial uses. The network consists of a tribal steering committee and working groups with citizens of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Their Indigenous knowledge and expertise of cultivation, harvesting and stewardship inform and direct each project that the network takes on.

Projects from the past year included listening sessions on barriers to land accessibility for tribal people, planning meetings, site visits, the creation of working groups, an online Acorn Camp, a First Food Stewardship planning project at Vesper Meadow, development of a Shasta/Takelma Learning Garden at SOU and the purchase of acorn processing equipment and camas restoration tools.

“The Oregon Cultural Trust grant will enable the continuation of projects and initiatives that uplift Indigenous food sovereignty and kinship practices, and that center ceremony, Indigenous storytelling and creativity,” said Joe Scott (Siletz), IGN member and curriculum director for the Traditional Ecological Inquiry Program. “These projects also confront threats to the larger community by supporting traditional tending practices that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, mitigate the impacts of climate change and help provide clean water.”

“Ever since our people were marched from the Rogue Valley at the end of the Rogue River Wars to the Siletz Reservation in 1856 and 1857, our people have suffered from loss of close connection to those homelands, the comfort, foods and sense of belonging that they provided our people for millennia,“ said Robert Kentta (Shasta & Dakubetede ancestry), cultural resources director and Tribal Council member for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

“We very much appreciate the IGN Partnership with SOU and the Grand Ronde Tribe, and the incredible support from land managing agencies, and NGOs, and the funders like Oregon Cultural Trust, who make this re-connection and cultural restoration possible,” Kentta said.

“We are grateful for the continued support of the Oregon Cultural Trust for the collaborative work between the Siletz and Grand Ronde tribes and our many partners, including SOU, Vesper Meadows, BLM and so many others,” said Greg Archuleta (Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, Shasta ancestry), artist and educator, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. “The funding support will enable our Tribal members to connect to and help restore our ancestral lands for access to traditional first foods and important cultural sites.”

The Indigenous Gardens Network is also supported through the SOU Foundation. Those wishing to contribute to this work can make a donation through the SOU Foundation 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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Two comedies in February for SOU Theatre

SOU Theatre is back: Two comedies open this month

(Ashland, Ore.) — Live performances from the SOU Theatre Program will return from a COVID-19 hiatus with plenty of laughs in a pair of February comedies: “The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa FastHorse and “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldini.

The first of the two winter term productions, “The Thanksgiving Play,” will open with an 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, Feb. 17, in the SOU Theatre Building’s Black Box Theatre, at 491 S. Mountain Ave., in Ashland. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 19, and Feb. 24 through 26; and 2 p.m. on Feb. 26 and 27.

There will be limited seating, so those interested in attending are encouraged to contact the Oregon Center for the Arts Box Office early to reserve seats.

The political satire is directed by Steven Sapp and features a cast of four SOU students: Nate Walker, Jodie Chapin, Jade Krische and Andrew Chvatal. What could go wrong when three bleeding-heart liberals undertake to mount a woke Thanksgiving play? Just about everything in Larissa FastHorse’s hilarious satire of clueless white people straining to be politically correct.

The second production – which will overlap the first – is a zany farce in which a perpetually famished lackey schemes to double his wages by serving two masters simultaneously, and goes to increasingly desperate lengths to conceal his ruse. “The Servant of Two Masters” is directed by Brendan McMahon, an assistant professor of theatre at SOU, and features student actors Aleeyah Enriquez, AnaLea Varni, Chloe Boyan, Hayley Kennen, Jennie Babisch, John Price, Keigin Tosh, Kyler Deanda, Sam Whitler, Nicole Villavicencio, Thilini Dissanayake and Tim Turner.

The show opens with an 8 p.m. performance on Thursday, Feb. 24, in the Theatre Building’s Main Stage Theatre. Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. on Feb. 25 and 26, and March 3 through 5; and 2 p.m. on March 5 and 6.

Both of the comedies will have reserved seating; please contact the OCA Box Office early at (541) 552-6348 or via email at boxoffice@sou.edu to reserve seats.

SOU COVID-19 POLICY: All event attendees must show proof of vaccination card (actual card, or photo of it on your phone) OR a negative COVID-19 Test (from a health center, hospital or doctor’s office) within 48 hours of the performance date for admission at the door. Thank you for adhering to our policy so we can keep our students, faculty, staff, patrons and performers safe!

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geriatrician to speak at SOU

Leading geriatrician to address SOU audience

(Ashland, Ore.) — Dr. Louise Aronson – a leading geriatrician, writer and educator – will lecture on “Aging, Ageism and the Future of Elderhood” in a Jan. 10 event presented via Zoom by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Southern Oregon University in partnership with SOU’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Aronson is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist “Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine and Reimagining Life.” Her SOU lecture will begin at 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 10, and will be available at https://sou.zoom.us/j/81261161853. A question-and-answer session will follow.

The presentation is intended to challenge how people think about aging and will include suggestions for how both individuals and organizations can improve aging and the lives of older people. Aronson says that aging and old age have changed dramatically in recent decades, but that not all changes have been for the better. For example, she points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the resilience of older people and the importance of social connections, but also has demonstrated the ageism that is built into key social structures.

Aronson is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. She has received the Gold Professorship in Humanism in Medicine, the California Homecare Physician of the Year award and the American Geriatrics Society Clinician-Teacher of the Year award. She currently leads the AGE SELF CARE program and serves as an advisor to the state of California on COVID-19 in elders and eldercare settings, in addition to her clinical practice and teaching.

Her website points out that Aronson was born at the same medical center where she now works – “a fact that sometimes leads her to comment that she hasn’t gone very far in life, just down 15 floors and over a building or two.”

She has written for the New York Times, Atlantic, Washington Post, JAMA, Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, and has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, TODAY, CBS This Morning, NBC News and the New Yorker.

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SOU computer science graduate Austin Shadel

Recent SOU computer science grad protecting clients against drone attacks

It all sounds very cloak-and-dagger, but Austin Shadel sees it more as an extension of his longstanding interest in drones and robotics, and his academic focus on computer science over the past five years at Southern Oregon University. Shadel graduated in June and went to work as a software engineer at Citadel Defense Company – an industry leader in counter unmanned aerial systems (cUAS) that serves clients in the defense, government and business communities.

“The fact that the company was involved in the drone space attracted me,” Shadel said. “The company is only about 30 of us, so it’s a very small, close team – you end up working with everyone in some way.”

Recent SOU computer science grad protecting clients against drone attacks

A drone that Austin Shadel designed in high school

Citadel helps customers in 13 countries manage the potential and real threats posed by unmanned aerial systems – drones. Its standalone and integrated counter-drone products address safety, security and privacy concerns, using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to autonomously detect, track and “neutralize” drone threats.

A news story distributed nationwide when Citadel was acquired earlier this month by leading national security contractor BlueHalo described the cUAS company’s products as “technologies critical to the warfighter.”

“When defending against drone swarms and difficult-to-detect threats, Citadel’s AI/ML-powered systems allow operators to identify and terminate enemy UAS threats with unmatched speed, accuracy and reliability,” said the story, distributed by the news service Business Wire.

“Citadel’s industry-leading solutions create a distinct operational advantage for servicemen and servicewomen on the front lines.”

Shadel sees his position as primarily technical, but the protection of clients’ property – and lives – is the company’s top concern. He said the new relationship with BlueHalo will expand Citadel’s capabilities and resources, and will benefit military and intelligence customers.

“The company will continue to provide automated and AI-powered counter-drone solutions to keep servicemen and servicewomen protected from the rapidly growing threat of weaponized drones and swarms,” he said. “Our software development team will continue to build paradigm-shifting solutions and integrate new capabilities that provide protection beyond the cUAS mission.”

Shadel, 24, graduated from SOU in June with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He grew up in the San Diego area – where he recently returned to work at Citadel – and then chose to attend college at SOU because he wanted to experience a different environment while pursuing his passion for robotics, drones and coding.

“Ashland is a very pretty area and I was excited to go to school somewhere where I could experience seasons, as in San Diego it always feels like it’s summer,” he said. “Computer science had always been an academic focus of mine since high school. I pursued computer science-related activities in high school, such as being on the robotics team and taking all the engineering courses I could.

“I’ve been interested in robotics and coding in general since early high school. I used to build drones from parts I’d buy at hobby stores and go out flying them with a friend. At one point I was 3D printing drone frames for fun. I enjoyed the process of designing, building and watching something I built work.”

Shadel said his capstone courses were his favorites, and his best memories from five years at SOU were of the friends he made and the study sessions they held together for their computer science courses. The problem-solving skills and flexibility he learned at SOU have prepared him for the ever-changing demands of his new position.

“A lot of my duties and responsibilities are centered around assuring the reliability of the (counter-drone) system, so this involves extensive testing and bug-hunting on any new or existing feature,” he said. “Mixed in with this, also, is the designing of new features to meet what customers are asking for directly.

“Often times in a start-up-type environment you have to wear a lot of different hats to get the job done. So being comfortable being out of your comfort zone and being willing to learn quickly is a must-have in my opinion, for these types of situations.”

Richard J. Bailey, Jr., is SOU's next president

Richard J. Bailey, Jr., named president of Southern Oregon University

(Ashland, Ore.) — Richard J. Bailey, Jr., Ph.D., has been appointed as the next president of Southern Oregon University following an extensive national search and a unanimous vote today by the SOU Board of Trustees. Bailey has served as president of Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) in Espanola since October 2016, following a 24-year career in the U.S. Air Force.

His presidency at SOU will begin Jan. 15.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Rick Bailey as the next president of SOU,” said Daniel Santos, chair of the SOU board and of the Presidential Search Committee. “Following our nationwide search, and out of a deep pool of competitive applicants, Dr. Bailey’s interactions with the SOU community as well as his range of leadership, service and accomplishments across sectors is nothing short of remarkable.”

Bailey holds a doctorate in government from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in international affairs from Washington University in St. Louis and a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Under Bailey’s leadership and with a focus on student success, NNMC increased its enrollment by over 20 percent, cut its student loan default rate by more than 50 percent and more than doubled its student graduation rate – all without an increase in tuition rates.

He also brokered an NNMC partnership for the construction of a 1.5 megawatt solar array, which will lower utility costs for the college for the next 30 years. In 2020, Bailey led the creation of the Northern New Mexico College Eagle Corporation (the first of its kind in the history of the college), allowing the institution to partner with business entities for the purpose of diversifying the college’s revenue streams.

“I am honored to have been selected as the next president of Southern Oregon University,” Bailey said. “With a 150-year history, SOU is a vital regional institution and its best days are yet to come. I am honored to be entrusted to lead SOU forward, particularly given the tremendous opportunities available to us.

“Our world has changed over the past two years and I am convinced SOU will be on the leading edge of ushering higher education into its next phase. I look forward to being of service to SOU’s impressive faculty and staff to empower the students and communities we are fortunate to support.”

Prior to his presidency at Northern New Mexico College, Bailey served as associate professor of strategy and security studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He was the school’s first-ever dean of students.

He served as a military liaison and defense trade analyst at the U.S. State Department after completing his doctorate in 2006. He later served as chief air operations officer at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Joint Force Command Brunssum, in The Netherlands, where he oversaw air operations efforts for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. Bailey retired from the Air Force as a colonel and command pilot.

“It became apparent throughout the search and selection process that Dr. Bailey’s innovative and entrepreneurial accomplishments, leadership style, strategy expertise and optimistic vision for what is possible at SOU, can propel the university’s bright future, ” Santos said.

Santos credited the success of the search to hard work by the diverse, 18-member search committee and the thoughtful participation of hundreds of people from across campus and the surrounding communities. The presidential search committee included students, faculty, staff, community members, another Oregon university president and SOU trustees.

Bailey will succeed Linda Schott, Ph.D., who is retiring in December and has served as president of SOU since August 2016.

“The board is grateful to Dr. Schott for her dedication to SOU and her presidential leadership, which have helped advance the university,” Santos said.

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The Cambia Health Foundation has awarded a grant to the SOU Foundation to support an SOU behavioral health micro-credential program

SOU awarded Cambia Health grant for behavioral health program

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Foundation is among seven higher education organizations in the West to receive grant funding from the Portland-based Cambia Health Foundation to increase diversity among students in health care programs and to expand outreach to potential health care students in underrepresented communities.

The Cambia Health Foundation is providing a two-year, $50,000 grant to the SOU Foundation for the “Southern Oregon Mental and Behavioral Health Pathways Initiative,” which will support training and increase the diversity of school and health care providers who offer behavioral supports for students.

About $35,000 will be used for scholarship assistance to paraprofessionals who complete professional development workshops at SOU as a first step toward the university’s “Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health” micro-credential. About $10,000 will be used to develop and teach additional workshops in the micro-credential program and about $5,000 will pay for marketing and communications expenses. Any unused portion of the course development or support money will revert to scholarship use.

“This micro-credential program represents an exciting new area of collaboration between SOU and our local K-12 and community partners,” said John King, director for education, health and leadership at SOU. “Together, we are pooling resources and expertise to train both current and new employees to better support the behavioral health needs of students throughout southern Oregon.”

The Cambia Health Foundation is donating a total of $320,000 to help fund seven higher education initiatives – through the SOU Foundation, University of Idaho Foundation, University of Utah Foundation, Utah Valley University Foundation, University of Washington Foundation, Eastern Washington University Foundation and Oregon Health & Science University in combination with Portland State University.

Cambia Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit health care company and the parent of various other companies including Regence, a member of the Northwest’s Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The foundation has funded more than $80 million in grants since 2007.

The current round of health equity grants are intended to help diversify the health care workforce and increase patient satisfaction, access to care and responsiveness to underserved populations.

“This regional health care workforce diversity initiative looks to break down the barriers of entry and completion of post-secondary health care education programs for minority and underrepresented students,” said Peggy Maguire, the president of Cambia Health Foundation. “Ultimately, our goal is to foster a diverse workforce that is culturally and linguistically representative of the communities it serves, to improve access to and quality of care while advancing health equity.”

SOU’s Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health micro-credential program is aimed at pre-kindergarten through high school teachers, classroom assistants and classified staff. The program, offered collaboratively with local K-12 school districts and community mental health agencies, prepares students to provide behavioral health assistance in a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed manner.

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Distinguished Alumni Award winner Fred Mossler and three others to be honored

SOU Distinguished Alumni Award recipients to be recognized

An entrepreneur and former Zappos executive, a chemist working toward a cure for Duchene muscular dystrophy, a conservation and youth program leader, and the architect of an award-winning band program will be honored Thursday during a Homecoming Weekend luncheon to recognize Southern Oregon University’s annual Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

Fred Mossler, who earned his bachelor’s degree from SOU in 1990 and helped lead upstart online retailer Zappos to prominence, will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award and Susan Ramos-Hunter, Ph.D., who earned her SOU bachelor’s degree in 2010, will receive the Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

This year’s Stan Smith Alumni Service Award will go to Greg Wolley, who received his master’s degree in environmental education at SOU in 1981 before embarking on a career in conservation management with a focus on opportunities for youth and people of color. The Excellence in Education award will be presented to Scott Kneff, who earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance at SOU in 1999; he has nearly tripled band participation in the Southern California community of Santa Paula since 2008 and built the program into a consistent award-winner.

The four award recipients will be honored Thursday at an 11:30 a.m. luncheon at the Ashland Springs Hotel that launches this year’s Homecoming Weekend. The award luncheon is by invitation-only, due to COVID-19 protocols.

Mossler worked his way through SOU at a local shoe store and as a resident advisor in the dorms. He went to work for Nordstrom after graduation, first in Seattle and then San Francisco – which is where he was recruited in 1999 by Nick Swinmurn to lead customer service and day-to-day operations at a newly-launched online shoe retailer – which became Zappos.com. The company had more than $1 billion in sales when it was acquired 10 years later by Amazon. Mossler left the company in 2016 to focus on other entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures – from revitalizing downtown Las Vegas to launching après ski-inspired shoe brand Ross & Snow and Vegas-based restaurant chain Nacho Daddy, which donates a portion of every purchase to children in need.

Ramos-Hunter, originally from northern California, transferred to SOU from Rogue Community College to study psychology and was mentored by faculty member Mark Krause – who recommended the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program for potential graduate students. She graduated as a McNair Scholar, majoring in psychology with a chemistry minor, then earned her master’s degree and doctorate in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. She is now a senior scientist at Entrada Therapeutics in Boston, and part of a team synthesizing cutting edge bio-therapeutics and working toward a cure for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.

Wolley came to SOU to earn his master’s degree in environmental education after receiving his undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley. The local beauty combined with energetic, thoughtful teaching helped him lay the personal and academic foundation for a career that would include management roles with the Nature Conservancy, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Mt. Hood National Forest, the city of Portland and TriMet. His volunteer service includes co-founding the African American Outdoor Association and membership on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Kneff visited SOU as a senior in high school and fell in love with the university and the Ashland community. He attended community college in California for two years, then found his way back to SOU to complete his bachelor’s degree in the music program, participating in the university’s jazz band, symphonic band, saxophone quartet and the Raider Band. He then returned to Southern California to earn a bachelor’s degree in history, his teaching credentials and an eventual master’s degree. His teaching career began with stints in Los Angeles and Bakersfield, California, before he returned to Ventura County, where he grew up. Isbell School in Santa Paula had just 57 band students spread through three classes when he began in 2007; within 12 years the program had 175 students reached consistent “superior” ratings in regional band and orchestra competitions.

Bobby Arellano elected Oregon Humanities chair

SOU creative arts professor elected chair of Oregon Humanities board

(Ashland, Ore.) — Robert Arellano, a professor in the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, was elected board chair for Oregon Humanities on Oct. 16. As the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Oregon Humanities’ mission “connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change.”

The nonprofit sponsors hundreds of community forums all over Oregon in an average year. Last year, the organization rapidly adapted its “Consider This” conversation series to a remote format called “Connect in Place,” drawing hundreds of online participants from across the state.

“In the summer of 2019, I got to moderate an in-person conversation at Grizzly Peak Winery for Oregon Humanities in partnership with SOU that brought Richard Blanco, President Obama’s inaugural poet laureate, to Ashland,” Arellano said. “Over 200 southern Oregonians came out to connect with this renowned poet and teacher.”

Bobby, as he’s known to his students and coworkers, will chair a board of 22 volunteer members for the next two years. Beginning in 2016, he served previous terms as chair of two Oregon Humanities subcommittees – programs and communications.

Arellano is a founding director of SOU’s Emerging Media and Digital Arts program, and teaches courses in design, production and writing. He has done pioneering work in electronic publishing, and has published graphic-novel editions and five other novels. He received both his bachelor’s degree and master of fine arts degree from Brown University.

“I would not have been able to take on a leadership role at Oregon Humanities without the unequivocal support of my division director, David Humphrey, and SOU Provost Sue Walsh, who have also both participated in events we’ve hosted here in the Rogue Valley,” Arellano said.

More ways to get involved with Oregon Humanities include free college-credit classes through the Humanity in Perspective program, summer youth courses and award-winning publications, podcasts, and video productions. The organization also offers free subscriptions to its Oregon Humanities Magazine.

“If there’s one thing you do to learn more about Oregon Humanities, take a minute to subscribe to our magazine,” Arellano said. “We publish stories and photos by people from right here in our community, and it’s delivered free, three times a year to anyone with an Oregon mailing address. It’s just one more benefit to being an Oregonian.”

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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.

Toya Cooper is SOU's first-ever Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

SOU hires its first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion

(Ashland, Ore.) — Toya Cooper, an attorney who has spent almost 20 years addressing diversity in higher education, has accepted an offer to become Southern Oregon University’s first vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion. She will start work with the university Nov. 15

“I think SOU is ready to engage the questions of equity, diversity and inclusion that this moment in our nation’s history brings to bear, and to model for students what it means to respond effectively to them,” Cooper said.

“I’m excited to learn more about the good EDI-related work already underway at SOU, the OSF, city council and chamber of commerce, and eager to discover what partnerships are to be had among us for the greatest positive impact.”

SOU has a long history of providing a welcoming atmosphere for all students and employees, and has had an equity, diversity and inclusion professional on its leadership team for many years. A decision was made to elevate the position to the vice president level after the most recent person in that role resigned a year and a half ago. A three-person group of SOU administrators has served as the university’s EDI Leadership Team during the interim.

“Our candidates for this new position at SOU were exceptional, and Toya rose to the top,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “She brings a wealth of experience to the job, along with a remarkable ability to collaborate and build teams. I am confident that all members of our campus community will be well-served by her efforts.”

Cooper most recently served for a year as director of equity, inclusion and compliance at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She previously worked for 18 years at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California – as special assistant to the president for legal affairs and associate director of multicultural programs during her first year, and then as college counsel and special assistant to the provost for diversity initiatives. She has authored and presented a variety of diversity trainings and talks.

She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Westmont College and her law degree from the Willamette University College of Law in Salem. She worked as a law clerk for the Marion County District Attorney’s office while in law school, and said she welcomes the opportunity for a return to Oregon.

“I called Salem home for three years,” Cooper said. “I was drawn by and fell in love with its natural beauty, which Ashland certainly does not lack.

“In addition to SOU’s mission, values and vision, that beauty certainly serves as a draw for me.”

SOU’s vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion will oversee fairness and equal opportunity efforts at all levels of campus, and will serve as the university’s point person on those matters throughout the region and the state. It is a key leadership position that works closely with the university president and serves on the president’s cabinet.

The interim Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team is made up of Kylan de Vries, an associate professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Jonathan Chavez-Baez, Assistant Director for Latino/a/x Programs & Outreach; and Patricia Syquia McCarthy, a contracts administrative officer and risk manager in the SOU Service Center.

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