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.


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.


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!”


Provost and VP for Academic and Student Affairs Casey Shillam

Former University of Portland administrator to become SOU’s top academic leader

(Ashland, Ore.) — Casey Shillam, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N, who served most recently as dean and professor of the University of Portland School of Nursing & Health Innovations, will be the next Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Southern Oregon University. She will begin her duties at SOU on Friday, March 1.

Shillam is an experienced academic leader, nurse, educator, administrator and U.S. military veteran. She is an expert on aging, a skilled researcher and statistician with a long record of research funding, and has a prolific publication history. Under her leadership, student enrollment at the University of Portland nursing school grew by 35%, becoming the state’s largest undergraduate nursing program. Throughout her administrative career, she has secured more than $10 million in federal, philanthropic and foundation funding for academic program development, student scholarships and research.

“Dr. Shillam has already made a huge impact in our state, and we are truly excited to have her join the SOU family and apply her expertise to our academic and student-centered programs,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “Her skills align seamlessly with many of our programs and initiatives – from our outstanding academic program offerings to our student support systems, to our plans for a senior living facility on the SOU campus, to ongoing efforts that will expand our behavioral mental health offerings and address the statewide shortage of counselors. We look forward to her leadership helping us to continue to move onward and upward as an institution.”

Shillam’s work on aging and health policy has made significant impacts regionally and nationally. In Oregon, she shaped legislation through the House Committee on Health Care to address the healthcare workforce shortage, resulting in actionable steps with measurable outcomes to address critical issues. At the federal level, she co-chaired the Department of Health & Human Services RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council, which provided the U.S. Congress with the first national caregiving strategy and federal funding priorities to support over 53 million family caregivers. She is currently serving on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission.

“Southern Oregon University stands out as a leader of regional institutions of higher education, and I am honored to join this thriving campus community,” Shillam said. “A strong roadmap has been developed by President Bailey and the entire SOU community, leveraging opportunities and strengths of the people and resources of southern Oregon. I am eager to begin my work in implementing this plan with SOU’s innovative leaders, talented faculty, dedicated staff and outstanding students.”

Shillam is a first-generation college graduate with a deep commitment to student support and well-being. She earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and letters at Portland State University; bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing, all at Oregon Health & Science University; and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis. Her bachelor’s degree in nursing was from the OHSU program on the SOU campus.

Current Provost Susan Walsh, Ph.D., announced last summer that she planned to retire, but agreed to serve until Shillam begins her new role on Friday. Walsh has served 42 years at SOU, rising through the academic ranks from instructor in the Communication Department, to full professor and eventually to the institution’s top academic leadership position.

The Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs is the leader in sustaining an environment of academic excellence and student success at SOU.


Raider Educator Day keynote will be from alumna Katherine Holden

Raider Educator Day with SOU’s School of Education

(Ashland, Ore.) — A keynote address from Katherine Holden, a nationally recognized alumna and principal of Talent Middle School, will highlight the second annual Raider Educator Day, hosted on Saturday, March 9, by Southern Oregon University’s School of Education. The event, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union, will serve as a platform for prospective and current students, and recent alumni, to connect with seasoned education professionals, gain insights into the field and explore career opportunities.

Holden, who also taught high school for 10 years at the Ashland School District’s Wilderness Charter School and served seven years as associate principal at Ashland Middle School, has earned acclaim for her innovative contributions to education – particularly in areas including grading reform and equity, diversity and inclusion. She was named the 2022 National Assistant Principal of the Year in recognition of her transformative work in implementing a standards-based grading and reporting system. Her expertise has been shared at conferences across the United States, and she has led professional development for over a thousand educators.

“Katherine Holden’s remarkable career exemplifies what can be achieved by those who embrace the possibilities of innovative teaching and service,” said Vance Durrington, director of SOU’s School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities. “Our Raider Educator Day provides a unique opportunity for newcomers to the field of education, or those contemplating education careers, to gain insights from our most respected educators.”

The event will include sessions and mock interviews with superintendents, administrators, hiring managers and teachers from local school districts – many of whom are SOU alumni. School of Education faculty members and student leaders also will participate.

The day is intended to provide valuable career and pathway advice to attendees. Topics will include teacher preparation programs, scholarships and insights into the evolving landscape of the education field.

Raider Educator Day is open at no charge to all who are interested. The schedule and sign-up information are available online.

About Katherine Holden
Holden earned her bachelor’s degree in biology, master’s degree in education and the Administrative License Program at SOU. She currently serves as principal at Talent Middle School and has been actively involved in educational leadership and advocacy.


SOU government relations director Marc Overbeck

Career policy advocate takes on government relations position with SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Marc Overbeck, who has served for the past 12 years in a variety of legislative and policy roles for the Oregon Health Authority, has been selected to become Southern Oregon University’s director of government relations. He will begin his duties at SOU on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Overbeck has served in a variety of policy-related roles over the past 30 years, including positions with the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Governor’s Child Care Commission, the Oregon Governor’s Office and as a legislative aide. In his current role as the federally-designated director for Oregon’s Primary Care Office, Overbeck has provided insight and direction to state and federal policymakers and helped guide distribution of millions of dollars in government funding.

“I’m thrilled and honored to join the team at Southern Oregon University,” Overbeck said. “As a third-generation Oregonian with ties to the southern Oregon area, it’s really special to me to give back. I’m excited to bring my decades of governmental, political and policy experience to an institution I truly believe in.”

Overbeck said he was particularly drawn to SOU by the university’s emphasis on entrepreneurial spirit and innovation as it looks beyond higher education’s traditional, two-pronged financial reliance on state appropriations and tuition revenue. SOU has addressed the issue of cost management, is expanding its efforts to secure funding from external granting agencies and organizations, and is leveraging an ongoing surge in philanthropic support. The university is also a pioneer in revenue-generating projects that include solar power generation, construction of a senior living facility and creation of a university business district.

“I’m very inspired by President (Rick) Bailey’s vision of a university of the future,” Overbeck said. “At a time of social division, the opportunity to create and foster a place where all students, faculty and community members can belong is special.

“Something wonderful is happening at Southern Oregon University under President Bailey’s leadership, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

SOU’s government relations director is the university’s primary liaison with state and federal lawmakers, and advocates for the university on matters involving higher education policy and funding.

Overbeck received his bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy from Willamette University, and was named a Hansard Scholar at the University of London. He also received a Hammer Award from then-Vice President Al Gore – a recognition of work that results in a government that works better and costs less.


four appointed to SOU board

Four appointed to SOU Board of Trustees

(Ashland, Ore.) — A local entrepreneur and double-alumna, a chemistry professor and campus leader, a graduate student in the School of Education and an undergraduate Honors College student have been appointed by Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees.

Sachta Bakshi Card will complete the unexpired, at-large term of Jonathon Bullock, who resigned from the board last year; her term will end in June 2027. Hala Schepmann, Ph.D., will serve a two-year term as the SOU board’s faculty representative; Julissa Taitano will serve a two-year term as the board’s graduate program representative; and Garima Sharma will serve a two-year term as the board’s undergraduate representative. Card, Schepmann and Taitano are full voting members of the board, while Sharma’s undergrad position is non-voting in its first year and then shifts to a voting position in its second year.

“This is an outstanding group to help steer the course of the university we all love,” said SOU Board Chair Daniel Santos. “These new board members bring rich and varied experiences to the table, and each has deep connections to SOU. Our governing body, university, community and state will benefit from their service.”

Sachta Bakshi Card, who was born and raised in India before moving to the U.S. at age 17 to attend SOU, is an entrepreneur and investor who owns restaurants and advises other small businesses in southern Oregon. She is an honors graduate of SOU, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics, a certificate in Applied Finance and Economics, and a master’s in management degree. She also has an MBA from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in International Business from University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. Card is a member of the boards of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Options for Helping, Resources and Assistance (OHRA). She received the prestigious American Association of University Women’s award for the Outstanding Woman Student in Economics while a student at SOU.

Hala Schepmann joined the SOU faculty in 2001 and recently served as chair of Chemistry and Physics, navigating the department through the COVID-19 pandemic and leading the creation of an endowed summer research program for students and faculty.  She has also served in SOU leadership roles including president of the faculty association and co-founder and leader of a university alliance that supports underrepresented faculty groups. Schepmann co-leads the National Science Foundation ASCEND project that focuses on supporting the advancement of women STEM faculty nationwide.  Her most recent effort – a project of NSF GRANTED (Growing Research Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity) – seeks to transform research enterprises at primarily undergraduate, emerging research institutions. Schepmann specializes in organic chemistry and spectroscopy and her research interests include drug discovery and development of inclusive teaching strategies. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin, her master’s degree in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of California, Berkely, and her doctorate in bioorganic chemistry from Rice University.

Julissa Taitano is a graduate student in the SOU School of Education’s Master of Science in Education program, with a concentration in higher education leadership. She has served as a student leader in many positions, including as a member of the SOU women’s wrestling team, and as a student representative and former student body vice president in the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University. She currently serves as chair of the Student Fee Budget Committee, which works to determine students’ “incidental fees” and other charges that can affect the university for many years. Taitano, as an aspiring educator, recognizes a systemic need for higher education institutions to embrace the urgency of being a catalyst for change. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education, with a minor in philosophy at SOU.

Garima Sharma is a junior in the SOU Honors College, with double majors in healthcare administration and pre-nursing, and minors in ethics and health promotion. She currently serves as chief justice for the ASSOU, where she looks at governing documents and helps establish rules for the student government to follow. Sharma has embraced leadership roles across campus, including service as president of the Black Student Union and work in the Social Justice & Equity Center. She has also been a resident assistant in University Housing for the past two years.

SOU was granted authority by the state to form its own independent Board of Trustees beginning July 1, 2015, following the legislature’s dissolution of the Oregon University System and State Board of Higher Education. SOU’s board is responsible for governance and oversight of the university.


SOU Clinical Mental Health Counseling program receives funding

SOU counseling program expanding to address statewide need

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s master’s degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling has been awarded a $1.8 million grant from the Oregon Health Authority, and would receive another $1 million if pending legislation is approved, to help address a critical statewide shortage of behavioral healthcare practitioners.

The current OHA grant will be used in part to expand the capacity of SOU’s program to 60 students, from the current maximum of 48. There are now 40 students in the program – eight below capacity. The grant will incentivize participation in the program by making available as much as $18,000 in support for each student in next fall’s CMHC cohort – $5,000 in tuition assistance plus a $1,000 stipend per term, for as many as three terms.

The SOU program has extended its priority deadline to Feb. 14 for admission into the fall 2024 cohort of students. Applications are now being accepted for next fall’s students.

“The state is working to prioritize funding to deal with the behavioral health crisis in Oregon,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “SOU and other universities in Oregon now have an opportunity to work together and expand our existing behavioral health programs, and collaborate with community partners to meet workforce needs with more licensed mental health counselors and master’s of social work degrees.”

A new study commissioned by the state suggests that Oregon lacks the capacity to house an estimated 3,000 adult, residential mental health patients – from inpatient psychiatric beds at hospitals to facilities for those with substance use and withdrawal management issues. The report indicates a construction cost of at least $500 million, but does not address staffing or operational costs at those facilities, or workforce development costs.

SOU’s $1.8 million grant is part of the OHA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Initiative to improve care across the state, particularly for under-represented communities including people of color, tribal members, LGBTQIA+ and residents of rural Oregon. Oregon Tech received a $623,700 grant through the OHA initiative to expand its master’s degree programs in Applied Behavior Analysis and Marriage and Family Therapy.

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.

A hearing is scheduled today for Oregon Senate Bill 1592, a separate piece of legislation sponsored  by State Sen. Jeff Golden that targets the state’s behavioral mental health workforce crisis. If approved in this year’s short legislative session, the bill would provide $1 million each in funding for programs at SOU, Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Tech and Western Oregon University, and $2 million for Portland State University.  SOU would use the funding to build a master’s degree in social work program, in collaboration with PSU, and to expand existing programs.

The mission of SOU’s CMHC program is to train competent, culturally aware, ethical counselors to provide exceptional mental health services in both public and private settings. The  program is fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).


SOU completes first phase of core information system upgrade

SOU successfully shifts to innovative core information system

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has successfully completed the first phase of its transition to a cutting-edge core information system – a process that most of Oregon’s colleges and universities, and many other government entities, are expected to duplicate in the coming years.

SOU is switching its primary operational software from a platform that was developed more than 30 years ago – and is still in use by most higher education institutions across the country – to the modern platform Workday. The move is expected to eventually save the university more than $750,000 in recurring, annual costs and improve the user experiences of both students and employees.

The first phase of the transition, which has been in the works for two years, has focused on employee-based elements of the platform: finance, payroll and human resources. Those elements of Workday “went live” at SOU on a limited basis in mid-December, and the transition was completed in January – including processing of the month’s payroll.

“This is a monumentally complex shift, and some entities that have gone before us have reported a pretty chaotic process,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “We have had employees from various departments across our campus who have worked as a team on this project since mid-2022. Their selfless efforts have been focused and deliberate, and the results so far are outstanding – they are continuing to correct a handful of minor glitches, but there have been no breakdowns or reports of deep-seated issues.

“A change to operational software may not seem especially thrilling or energizing, but this is truly a transformational move for SOU. This is a key moment in the repositioning of this university, from a culture of scarcity to one of opportunity.  We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone on our SOU team who bent over backward to make this possible for all of us.”

SOU’s team for its Core Information System Replacement (CISR) project has worked on the transition with the company Alchemy, a vendor that specializes in helping colleges and universities implement various functions of the Workday system.

The transition from an outdated core information system to Workday will enable employees to juggle fewer systems and see modernized and automated workflows, improved analytics and better security. It includes a shift for all employees – including faculty and student employees – to electronic time entry, leave requests and reimbursement procedures, and many other processes are being modernized and streamlined.

The next phase of  Workday implementation – the student module – will begin this spring and is expected to last another two and a half years. The new platform will affect how students view and register for courses, and will provide tools for them to create academic plans, manage financial aid and complete other functions throughout their academic careers. Most functions will be accessible on Workday’s mobile app.

Workday also will become the primary application through which the registrar will schedule and manage courses, and where faculty members and advisers will view and edit students’ transcripts and course progress.

SOU leaders intend to eventually leverage the university’s experience in implementing Workday to serve as a model – and potentially as a mentor – for other universities that shift to the platform. Several other institutions in Oregon and elsewhere have indicated they plan eventual transitions to Workday – Portland Community College and Oregon State University have already signed contracts – and are closely monitoring SOU’s progress.


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

Travis Campbell recognized by American Economics Association

SOU economist’s research recognized by American Economic Association

(Ashland, Ore.) — SOU economist Travis Campbell and a co-author from Rutgers University have been recognized by the American Economic Association for writing the best research paper over the past year on LGBTQ+ economics.

The award for Campbell, an assistant professor of economics at SOU, and co-author Yana Rodgers of Rutgers was announced at the AEA’s annual meeting this month in San Antonio, Texas. Their paper, “Conversion therapy, suicidality and running away: An analysis of transgender youth in the U.S.” was nominated for the award from the AEA’s Committee on the Status of LGBTQ+ Individuals in the Economics Profession.

The research paper by Campbell and Rodgers was published last year in the Journal of Health Economics. Their study is based on data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, and found that the controversial practice of “conversion therapy” increases the risk of suicide attempts among transgender youth by 55 percent, and increases the likelihood of running away from home by 128 percent. Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation – or gender identity or expression – to conform with heterosexual norms.

Campbell and Rodgers analyzed data from U.S. Transgender Survey, which is the largest-ever assessment of transgender people with more than 27,700 respondents across the U.S. participating.

Campbell has also authored an article for The Conversation website that summarizes the paper he co-authored with Rodgers, and a few related papers he has written.

Campbell joined the SOU Economics faculty after earning his Ph.D. in economics in 2022 from the University of Massachusetts. His research applies microeconomics to social justice issues, including economic inequalities based on race, gender and sexuality. His classes at SOU include Micro and Macroeconomics, Quantitative Methods and Application, Healthcare Economics, Labor Economics and Gender Issues in Economics.

The AEA’s Committee on the Status of LGBTQ+ Individuals in the Economics Profession presents its award annually to the best paper, published in a peer-reviewed journal or academic press, on topics “especially relevant to or about LGBTQ+ populations.”

The AEA committee was created to help build an economics profession that is open to all, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, religion, family status or disability. The committee is based on the belief that a diverse profession encourages the highest quality scholarship.