Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer and SOU President Rick Bailey

Lithia & GreenCars pledge historic commitment, set SOU’s philanthropic bedrock

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University and Medford-based Lithia Motors have announced a philanthropic partnership that will serve as the bedrock of future innovations at SOU. Lithia’s commitment exceeds $12 million and is the largest-ever single gift to the university.

The contributions from Lithia Motors (NYSE: LAD) create the Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund, which will be used “to propel the university forward by investing in people and programs to implement the university’s and the company’s shared vision of sustainability and diversity.” The fund will also become a catalyst to invite other companies and individuals to participate in making a significant difference in both social and environmental change.

The Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund will support:

  • SOU’s Lithia & GreenCars Scholarship Program, $5 million – Composed of student financial aid awards and a leadership development program designed to recruit and retain first-generation and/or minoritized populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education.
  • Institute for Applied Sustainability, $4 million – Anchored by four distinguished faculty members and two administrators, the mission of the institute will be to identify and implement initiatives that move the university toward a sustainable campus. Institute members will collaborate with executives from Lithia to develop projects and programs, such as the creation of a national sustainability conference, an academic credential in corporate sustainability and a national sustainability demonstration site.
  • The Lithia & GreenCars President’s Fund, $ 1million – The fund will support the university president’s efforts to develop new ways of solving complex problems and support innovation and entrepreneurship.

In addition, Lithia & GreenCars will “electrify” SOU by providing electric vehicles to the university and installing charging stations across campus.

Finally, the company will continue to support the Lithia & GreenCars/Raider Golf Tournament, building upon the many years of SOU athletic programs successes.  Proceeds from the annual tournament provide scholarships to student-athletes.

“A gift of this magnitude and scope has the potential to increase our national profile,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “This is a game-changer on two important values that our organizations share: sustainability and diversity. Lithia leaders have generously supported our university for many years, and this commitment creates momentum and a national platform to focus energy on two of the most important issues of our time.”

Lithia Motors was founded in Ashland in 1946. Sid DeBoer took the company public in 1968. Today, Lithia is one of Oregon’s two Fortune 200 companies and is now led by President and CEO Bryan DeBoer, an SOU alumnus. The company operates nearly 300 automotive dealerships across North America and recently became the largest new vehicle retailer in the world.

“The Lithia & GreenCars Momentum Fund provides critical financial support in our dual drive to promote higher education and corporate sustainability within our local communities,” Bryan DeBoer said. “These academic scholarships champion students from diverse and underserved backgrounds, and the Institute for Applied Sustainability will advance our commitment to sustainable best practices and the shift toward electrification in the auto industry.”

Institute for Applied Sustainability members

Vincent Smith, Ph.D., is a professor of environmental science and policy, director of the Institute for Applied Sustainability, and director of the Division of Business, Communication and Environment. Smith’s research explores the complex, coupled human-environment systems that shape the world in which we live. He actively partners with communities to understand socio-environmental problems and then apply that research in decision-making contexts. His work spans several traditional disciplinary boundaries including human ecology, environmental sociology, landscape ecology, agroecology and human geography.

Bret Anderson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of economics whose research interests range from providing targeted quantitative analyses to exploring more conceptual inquiries of place-based economics. Following the Almeda Fire, Anderson and several committed community members created the Local Innovation Lab in partnership with the university to provide community-based, college-to-career mentorship to empower future entrepreneurs and leaders.

Christopher Lucas, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Communication, Media and Cinema Program. His research has focused on cultural policy and the relationship between digital technologies and society, especially in the film and media industries. As a documentary filmmaker, he has produced and written for a number of award-winning documentaries on themes of sustainability and the environment, including work on fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice and water quality.

Pavlina McGrady, Ph.D., is an associate professor of business and coordinator of the Sustainable Tourism Management degree program. McGrady’s research focuses on sustainable tourism, exploring tourism businesses’ and local residents’ perceptions on tourism impacts, management and policies, to identify strategies for sustainable destination management. Her research also examines the barriers and predictors of corporate sustainability in the United States, as well as the role of leadership in a business’s journey toward sustainability.

Jessica Piekielek, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in conservation, environmentalism, sustainability, and border and migration studies. She has fieldwork experience in the U.S., Mexico and Latin America. Piekielek is a professor of anthropology and chairs the Sociology and Anthropology program.

Rebecca Walker is the university’s Director of Sustainability. She joined the university in 2019 after 15 years with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, a public agency of the Scottish government that focuses on the sustainability of Scotland’s natural resources and services. Walker recently steered the university to its first-ever “Gold” rating for campus-wide sustainability achievements, as measured by an evaluation system developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and used to grade colleges and universities worldwide.

Scale of the Lithia & GreenCars Gifts
This new commitment from Lithia continues and expands upon a long tradition of support for SOU from LAD and its founding family. The company contributed $1 million for the construction of Lithia Motors Pavilion and another $1 million to fund scholarships for student-athletes in 2017. The 96,000-square-foot pavilion serves as the athletics home and indoor sports venue for SOU, and its construction earned a LEED Gold rating for sustainability.

Philanthropy is on a significant upswing at SOU, which early this year received a $3 million donation from the estate of legendary SOU wrestling coach Bob Riehm – at that time, another record-setting gift for the university. The gift from Riehm, who passed away in 2020, endowed the men’s wrestling head coach position at SOU and scholarships for the team’s student-athletes.

About Lithia & GreenCars (LAD)
LAD is a growth company focused on profitably consolidating the largest retail sector in North America through providing personal transportation solutions wherever, whenever and however consumers desire.

SOU's Hala Schepmann leads National Science Foundation grant project

SOU awarded National Science Foundation grant for cutting-edge equipment

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s nationally-accredited Department of Chemistry has been awarded a prestigious, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The NSF funding – part of the agency’s “Major Research Instrumentation Grant”’ program – provides for the acquisition of a 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. The instrument will advance research and research training activities at SOU, and expand students’ use of modern scientific equipment in undergraduate chemistry courses already known for their hands-on instrumentation approach.

Anna Oliveri, National Science Foundation grant team  Samuel David, National Science Foundation grant teamThe new spectrometer, similar to an MRI scanner but used to determine the molecular identity of chemical species, will provide ready access to advanced NMR techniques and its low-aluminum probe will allow on-site analysis of aluminum-containing compounds. The new spectrometer is expected to be available by spring 2023.

“This instrument will increase the breadth and depth of research in the areas of aqueous aluminum chemistry, synthesis of important industrial and medicinal organic compounds, and structural identification of bioactive natural products,” said professor Hala Schepmann, the chair of SOU’s Department of Chemistry and Physics. “It is a state-of-the-art instrument that will support faculty and student research as well as our ongoing efforts to provide upward social mobility to historically underrepresented students by offering a relevant and rigorous curriculum, extensive hands-on instrument training and numerous opportunities to participate in faculty-mentored research and research communication activities.

“SOU values real-world opportunities for its students, and the availability of advanced instrumentation for chemical research puts us on par with the top undergraduate programs in the U.S.”

Schepmann led the NSF grant application process as principal investigator, and was joined by SOU Chemistry Department faculty members Anna Oliveri and Samual David as co-principal investigators. She also credited several SOU administrators and staff members with supporting the successful funding request.

This is Schepmann’s second NSF grant (2019, $1M) in the past three years and the NMR project is the second NSF grant announced this fall with SOU faculty members in leadership roles. A three-year, $1 million grant through the NSF’s Computer Science for All program will help local kindergarten-through-fifth-grade teachers develop the “computational thinking” skills of their students.

“These are exactly the kinds of funding opportunities that we are actively encouraging our faculty members to pursue,” said SOU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Walsh. “They expand our abilities to serve our students and communities in exciting, relevant ways.”

NMR spectrometers enable scientists to study the physical, chemical and biological properties of both organic and inorganic compounds. The new instrument will be used at SOU to advance aluminum chemistry, organic chemistry and natural products research investigations. It will also support the Chemistry Department’s long-held incorporation of NMR instruction throughout its curriculum, beginning with a dedicated Organic Spectroscopy course and laboratory taken by STEM majors in their sophomore year.

The National Science Foundation said in approving the SOU grant request that NMR spectroscopy “is one of the most powerful tools available to chemists for the elucidation of the structure of molecules.” The grant is supported by both the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program and its Chemistry Research Instrumentation program.

“Access to state-of-the-art NMR spectrometers is essential to chemists who are carrying out frontier research,” the NSF said. “This instrument enhances the educational, research, and teaching efforts of students at all levels in the department.”

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launch of new platform underway

SOU’s launch of new operating platform underway

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has begun a phased launch of a new operational software platform that is expected to eventually save the university more than $750,000 in recurring costs each year. It will improve user experiences and modernize processes for both students and employees.

SOU’s shift to the Workday platform – which will take three years to fully accomplish – will bring students streamlined registration options, an adaptable academic planner, and an integrated and effective mobile app, while employees will juggle fewer systems and see modernized and automated workflows, improved analytics and better security.

The university is seeking funding from the state to help cover $7 million of the $10 million pricetag to implement its new core information system, and plans to leverage its experience in implementing Workday to serve as a model – and potentially as a mentor – for other universities that shift to the platform. State funding of the move to Workday will save $2.5 million that SOU would otherwise have to pay in interest charges.

“This is an opportunity for us to improve many day-to-day experiences for our campus community, save a significant amount of money each year and potentially generate revenue in the future as we pave the way for other universities to make this important transition,” said SOU President Rick Bailey. “It is a terrific investment for SOU, and for the state of Oregon.”

SOU’s shift to Workday – from the outdated core information system it and most other universities currently use – began in early August with the planning and “discovery” phases of the new platform’s Business Administrative element, which includes human resources, finance and payroll. All employees – including faculty and student employees – will be moved to electronic time entry, leave requests and reimbursement procedures, and many other processes will be modernized and streamlined.

Implementation of the Business Administrative functions will be a gradual process, with a “go-live” date for the full component scheduled for next July 1.

The shift to Workday’s student module will then begin, and full implementation is expected to last another two 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 portal 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 has hired a vendor – Alchemy – which specializes in helping colleges and universities implement the various functions of the Workday system. The university will take on a similar mentorship role after completing its own implementation process, as several other institutions in Oregon and elsewhere have indicated they plan eventual transitions to Workday and are closely monitoring SOU’s progress. Leaders of Oregon’s seven public universities have agreed that the transition is necessary and inevitable.

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NSF grant for computational thinking research

SOU team gets NSF grant to work on “computational thinking” curriculum

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been awarded a three-year grant totaling nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation to help K-5 teachers develop  “computational thinking” skills in the Ashland and Phoenix-Talent school districts. The work will build upon a $299,000 grant SOU was awarded in September 2019 to launch the collaborative research project – which was a success despite the abrupt shift to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both grants are part of the NSF’s Computer Science for All program, which is intended to extend computer science and computational thinking (CT) opportunities to all K-12 students in the U.S. Computational thinking refers to a set of thought processes traditionally used in computer science to identify and define problems and their solutions. The CT curriculum developed by local teachers, in partnership with SOU researchers, will address barriers associated with implementing computing curriculum in early grades because it will be incorporated into core subjects and introduced in an “unplugged” manner – without computers or technology.

Maggie Vanderberg, an associate professor of computer science at SOU and the leader of the research team for the NSF project, said the grant is dream come true.

“We need to find equitable ways to broaden participation in computer science to increase diversity in the traditionally white male-dominated field,” she said. “And this idea of integrating computational thinking into core subjects will ensure all students have the opportunity to build CT skills during their regular school day – which will also serve them in many other aspects of their lives.

“By building off of what we learned in the previous project, and creating new partnerships across Oregon, we have the ability to make a significant impact across the state.”

The project will include 20 local elementary teachers from the Phoenix-Talent School District’s Orchard Hill, Phoenix and Talent elementary schools, and the Ashland School District’s Bellview, John Muir, Helman, Walker and Willow Wind elementary schools. As co-researchers, the teachers will construct a computational thinking curriculum by embedding the thought processes into existing lessons and then test and refine the effectiveness of those lessons. The goal is to empower all students with the skills necessary for success in middle and high school computing curriculum, and eventually in technologically-rich careers .

“We are excited to continue our partnerships with the Ashland and Phoenix-Talent School Districts,“ said project team researcher Eva Skuratowicz, director of the Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE). “This is a unique opportunity for K-5 and higher education in the Rogue Valley to work together and create a curriculum that can be used nationwide.

Ashland Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove explained the benefits for his district.

“The NSF grant has provided a great opportunity for teachers to delve into strategies that support early computational thinking skills development,” he said. “The project supports the work of the regular classroom teacher in an accessible way by offering tools and strategies that fold easily into classroom learning.

“I look forward to the expansion of the work provided by the grant, and the passion it will spark in the minds of students.”

Phoenix-Talent Superintendent Brent Barry shares in the excitement of continuing work on the project. “Our teachers benefit from top-notch professional development and training, which in turn will benefit all of our students as they continue their education,” he said. “This grant provides the opportunity to expand what we have learned to more teachers and students. Phoenix-Talent is grateful for the partnership with SOU and Ashland School District.”

The program will grow over the next three years to include collaborations with researchers at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend, and teachers in Lincoln County School District and Redmond School District, The ultimate goal is to develop the beginning of a K-12 computing curriculum pipeline in the state of Oregon. The three-year NSF grant totals $999,806 and will fund the team’s work beginning in October and running through September of 2025.

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SOU ceremony in Guanajuato to honor Faffie Siekman and Juan Carlos Romero Hicks

SOU leaders to honor alumnus and friends of the university in Guanajuato ceremony

(Ashland, Ore.) — A contingent from Southern Oregon University will visit sister institution Universidad de Guanajuato in the coming days to present SOU’s highest service award to prominent Mexican politician and SOU alumnus Juan Carlos Romero Hicks and his wife, Frances “Faffie” Siekman Romero.

“Juan Carlos and Faffie are true and longstanding friends of SOU and our entire community,” said SOU President Rick Bailey, who will present the couple with the SOU President’s Medal in a ceremony on Monday, Aug. 8. “They have honored their ties to SOU and the city of Ashland throughout their remarkable careers, and have gone to great lengths to strengthen the social and academic cross-cultural partnerships that we all enjoy.”

The two have tirelessly supported connections between the two universities – and the communities of Ashland and Guanajuato – since Romero Hicks enrolled at SOU for the first time in 1978. He earned master’s degrees from SOU in business administration and social sciences and has since served as rector (president) of the Universidad de Guanajuato, governor of the state of Guanajuato, a federal senator and currently as minority leader for the National Action Party (PAN) in the lower chamber of Mexico’s legislative branch. He has announced his 2024 presidential candidacy.

Faffie Siekman has focused on humanitarianism and philanthropy, supporting causes such as adequate eye care for the people of Mexico, building materials for families in need and animal welfare – including a burro rescue program near Guanajuato. She has matched donations to the Ashland Amigo Club’s Endowed Scholarship Fund – managed by the SOU Foundation – since the fund was established in 2017; it has resulted in 10 scholarships to date for students to study in either Ashland or Guanajuato.

The couple’s first child was born in Ashland, the day before Romero Hicks began classes at SOU. He has often said that his life was changed by the Amistad Program, which enables student exchanges between SOU and UG.

“When I became president of the University of Guanajuato, I said none of that would have happened if it weren’t for my experiences with the exchange program,” Romero Hicks said. “It gave me the education and the global perspective that shaped who I am.”

The SOU President’s Medal, established in 1984, is the university’s highest tribute and is awarded as often as once per year to a community member who is distinguished by her or his actions and contributions. It has previously been presented to 57 individuals and organizations, most recently in August 2019 to Confederated Tribes of the Siletz elder Agnes “Grandma Aggie” Pilgrim.

Recipients of the medal are recognized for their exemplary service to the university and community, and for demonstrating compassion, integrity, generosity, leadership and courage. The SOU president determines when and to whom the award is presented.

President Bailey, SOU Board of Trustees Chair Daniel Santos and Janet Fratella, SOU’s vice president for university advancement and executive director of the SOU Foundation, will represent the university in Guanajuato.

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Central Point schools in partnership with SOU

Central Point district signs college access agreement with SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Central Point School District and Southern Oregon University finalized an intergovernmental agreement last week that will guarantee a path to college admission for the district’s students. Basic contact information for Central Point high school students will be shared with SOU, which will promote college attendance and provide timely enrollment guidance.

The arrangement – which will improve college access, especially for traditionally underserved students – is the fourth of the rare agreements that SOU has negotiated this spring and summer with southern Oregon school districts. The university signed identical pacts with the Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass districts.

“There are many students in our region who mistakenly believe that college is not an option for them,” said SOU Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Neil Woolf. “These agreements allow us to communicate with students about the many opportunities that are available to them. Almost any student with the desire to achieve has access to academic programs at SOU that will help them become career-ready and prepare them for lifelong success.”

Prospects improve for students and their communities throughout southern Oregon when they are encouraged to attain their educational goals, Woolf said. The university is working to establish similar partnerships with school districts throughout the region.

The Central Point School District will provide SOU with basic “directory information” about its students – name, school, mailing address, school email address, phone numbers and grade level or expected year of graduation. The agreement ensures that the district and university will comply with all federal and state privacy laws, and that no information will be provided about students whose parents have asked their school not to disclose the information.

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National award for SOULA for Chinese Diaspora Project

SOU Laboratory of Anthropology project receives prestigious national award

(Ashland, Ore.) – The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) has received a national Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for its Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. The recognition is part of the AASLH Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation of state and local history.

The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is a multi-agency collaboration with the shared mission to promote research and education on Oregon’s early Chinese residents. The project partners include 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 use 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’s partners and affiliated OCDP Chinese American Advisory Committee share resources and expertise, conduct archaeological excavations, apply cutting-edge technology, model best practices and current scholarship, and aim to identify opportunities and overcome challenges in centering the history of the Chinese diaspora in Oregon.

The project will be hosting a number of public outreach events across the state this summer, including a public archaeology day at the Gin Lin Mining Trail in the Applegate Valley on Saturday, June 25, and a public archaeology day at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site on Saturday, July 16.

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards recognize 53 people, projects, exhibits and publications across the nation this year. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.

The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions and programs to make contributions in this arena.

The AASLH is a national nonprofit association that provides leadership and resources to help the history community thrive and make the past more meaningful for all people. For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at (615) 320-3203, or visit the website.

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New degrees in Music Industry and Production

SOU offers new degree in Music Industry and Production for 2022-23

(Ashland, Oregon) The Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University has launched its newest degrees – a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science in Music Industry & Production Studies (MIPS).

“I am so thrilled to see MIPS take off,” said Derek Keller, Ph.D., assistant professor of music at SOU. “Imagine yourself as an ‘artist in residence,’ composing, producing, performing your own music and preparing for a career in the industry. The MIPS program is an incubator for musical creatives and entrepreneurs who seek an open, welcoming environment to prepare for a career in tomorrow’s music industry.”

The new degree program is a robust one that features course sequences in audio & music production, music theory, aural skills, piano proficiency, music industry, business, and economics. Certificates in Music Industry and Production, and Sound Design – and a micro-credential in Audio and Music Production – are also offered for individuals that do not wish to pursue the full degree.

“MIPS is a unique blend of academics, specialization in music and entrepreneurial development,” Keller said. “I want our graduates to be ready to meet the future with poise, critical thinking and cutting edge audio tools, and to be adaptable with both academic rigor and vocational skills. We also happen to be an AVID learning partner, one of only two in the state!”

AVID is the software developer of Pro Tools, the industry-standard audio/music production software, as well as Media Composer and Sibelius. Students put their developing knowledge and skills to work in the MIP Lab and the Control Room of the Music Recital Hall at SOU.

“Students produce their own and their colleagues’ music, manage and direct live events, and contribute to our social media outlets,” Keller said. “All of this leads to network building and work experience that is résumé worthy.”

The MIP program is already gaining attention both locally and within the music industry.

“I wish they had this curriculum when I was in school,” said Andy Osborn, Artists & Labels Operations Manager at Bandcamp.com, and a featured guest artist in one of the SOU Music Program’s music industry courses this year.

“It is so terrific that you are offering these new opportunities to students and providing the cutting-edge tools and training they need; I would love to help any way I can,” wrote Ryan Wines, CEO of Marmoset Music, an SOU Alum and member of the SOU Foundation Board.

MIP classes feature regular guest artists and presenters from all sectors of the music industry.

In MUSIX, MIPS’ flagship ensemble, students compose, rehearse, produce and perform their own music. This music is released and accessible through both public/live performance and regular media outlets.  MUSIX has already released two EPs, and will release its first full-length LP in fall 2022.

“Our next release event will be in Lithia Park,” Keller said. “MUSIX recent performances are available on the OCA YouTube page, on Spotify, Pandora, or Bandcamp, or follow MUSIX on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.”

“We want our students to have complete control over their creative work, learn the power of their copyright, create a network of professional colleagues and write, produce, teach, arrange compose for film/video/radio, work in merchandising/retail/promotions/social media, manage performance venues, etc. – the industry is vast,” Keller said. “You can land a successful career in music outside of pursuing rock stardom, or performing cover music.”

The new BA/BS in Music Industry & Production Studies is now available to prospective and current students. SOU features open enrollment with rolling admissions, which means that any student can enroll at any time and begin pursuing their degree path. To apply to SOU go to https://sou.edu/admissions/apply/

To assist students, SOU’s Music Program offers over $160,000 in music scholarships, and many opportunities for work study and student employment. For more information on scholarships go to: https://app.getacceptd.com/oca.

For more detailed information about the new degree programs, contact Keller at kellerd@sou.edu.

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Gilman Scholarship recipients

Two SOU students awarded prestigious Gilman Scholarships for study abroad

(Ashland, Ore.) — Two Southern Oregon University students have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in the spring 2022 scholarship round to support their upcoming study abroad programs. The prestigious scholarships support U.S. undergraduates of limited financial means in pursuing study or internships in countries around the world.

Zion Blackburne of Rogue River, who is a digital cinema major with a minor in business administration, will study at Dankook University in South Korea. Tiana Gilliland of Grants Pass, who is double-majoring in business and healthcare administration, will study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

The Gilman Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs for study abroad, is part of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It has supported more than 34,000 Gilman scholars traveling to more than 155 countries since its inception in 2001.

“We know that studying abroad can have a significant positive impact on students’ academic and career journeys, but many students automatically write-off the opportunity as financially out-of-reach,” said Ariel Bloomer, education and abroad advisor for SOU. “I’m glad that programs like the Gilman scholarship exist to boost access to international education and help our students grow critical skills, like language, cultural agility and comparative analysis.”

Blackburne, an SOU senior, will participate this year in Dankook’s seven-week summer program, which provides a unique opportunity for students to gain professional skills and attend classes. He will lead Korean university students in conversational English lessons during the first three weeks, followed by a four-week academic program in which Blackburne will take Beginning Korean Language and Design Strategy and Planning courses. He will have opportunities outside the classroom to explore Korean culture through activities such as kimchi-making, K-pop dance class, Korean tradition knot art and a Buddhist temple stay.

SOU has a longstanding relationship with Dankook University that dates to an original “Institutional Friendship Pact” in 1970. The connection is celebrated in spaces on the SOU campus including the Stevenson Union’s Dankook Room, which features Korean art and mementos exchanged from visiting dignitaries over the years. Dankook University students visit Ashland on exchange during the academic year, while SOU students primarily participate in their English-taught program over the summer.

Gilliland will spend her entire sophomore year abroad through an SOU exchange with the University of Nottingham, where she will be based in the Department of Philosophy. She hopes to learn more about the United Kingdom’s publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, and use her study of ethics as a foundation for a career in healthcare leadership. Traveling from Grants Pass to Nottingham, Gilliland plans to make the most of her UK experience by joining student societies around her interests – particularly the University of Nottingham Skydiving Club, the largest of its kind in the UK.

The exchange with Nottingham is one of the newest in SOU’s portfolio. Ashland welcomed its first two exchange students from Nottingham during the 2019-20 academic year. The University of Nottingham is one of the UK’s elite research universities, with approximately 40,000 students in a dynamic city in central England. Exchange students to SOU come from Nottingham’s multidisciplinary Department of American and Canadian Studies, and take courses such as American Legal History, U.S. Foreign Relations, Health Care Policy and American Indian Identities while living in Ashland.

The Gilman scholarship is named for the late U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York, who received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience,” Gilman said. “It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

The Gilman scholarship is among the most competitive national programs for undergraduates seeking to fund their study or internship abroad experiences. Its scholarships are intended to make study abroad more accessible to outstanding and diverse American students who have high financial need and may not otherwise be able to fund an international, academic experience.

Applicants for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship must be undergraduates in good academic standing who receive a Federal Pell Grant as part of their financial aid package. Successful applicants receive as much as $5,000 to apply toward study abroad program costs.

Those who apply must identify a study abroad program that is the best fit for their academic, personal and professional goals, and complete a scholarship application that consists of three essays. Deadlines are in March and October of each year. For more information on eligibility and the application process, students can connect with the SOU Office of International Programs via email (studyaway@sou.edu).

Prior SOU Gilman scholars include Starlie Bertrand ‘22 of Ashland, who completed her bachelor of science in communication at the University of Calgary in Canada through National Student Exchange. While in Calgary, she took classes including Global Communications Governance, Communications History and Digital Rhetoric, and took advantage of her proximity to Banff National Park to spend plenty of time in the scenic Canadian Rockies. She hopes her experience abroad will help her launch an international career.

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SOU Research Center and city collaborate

SOU Research Center survey to help guide Ashland budget decisions

(Ashland, Ore.) — A survey that seeks to draw input from every Ashland household on city budget priorities is a collaborative project of the Ashland City Council, city staff and the Southern Oregon University Research Center (SOURCE). The survey will be distributed in early June to Ashland households that receive city utility services.

“The survey is an important joint effort between the city of Ashland and Southern Oregon University to reach out to the city’s residents,” Ashland City Manager Joe Lessard said. “The survey will give us information on the community’s service preferences going forward and help us understand how to balance them against the City’s funding resources.”

The survey will ask residents’ opinions on 14 budget-balancing scenarios (or “boxes”) that would reduce city spending and/or raise revenue through increases in fees. The object of each box – which will focus on various combinations of city departments or service areas – is to balance a projected $2 million-per-year, ongoing deficit in the city’s budget for the next biennium budget (the budgets for 2023-24 and 2024-25) by determining which services Ashland residents would be willing to have reduced or whether they would be willing to pay increased fees to maintain city spending.

The Ashland City Council and budget staff have been working with the university’s SOURCE office for the past several months to develop survey questions and explain the ramifications of each potential “box” of cuts and revenue proposals. The survey that is being sent to utility customers this month can be completed in just a few minutes and returned in the enclosed self-addressed envelope.

Staff from the SOURCE office at SOU will tabulate and statistically analyze responses to understand residents’ budget priorities and will report back to the city council.

SOURCE is affiliated with SOU, using students, university resources and the expertise of faculty to gather and evaluate research data. Clients for its surveys, program evaluations, implementation studies and economic analyses include government agencies, nonprofits and businesses.

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