SOU faculty members picked for AASCU leadership institute

Four from SOU chosen for AASCU leadership institute

(Ashland, Ore.) — Four Southern Oregon University faculty members are among 36 educators selected from higher education institutions across the country to take part in the inaugural Department Chair Leadership Institute, an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities that is intended to help participants develop critical skills and prepare for future administrative roles.

SOU’s participants in the AASCU program are Jackie Apodaca, professor and co-chair of the Theatre Department; Dee Fretwell, senior instructor and chair of the School of Business; Larry Gibbs, associate professor and chair of the Healthcare Administration Program; and Jesse Longhurst, associate professor and chair of the Education Department.

Members of the initial cohort of the DCLI will participate in an in-person meeting this week in Washington, D.C., and in three 75-minute virtual sessions in February and March. The leadership institute’s comprehensive curriculum covers how to lead a department based on an institution’s mission and strategic plan, navigate difficult conversations, grow and sustain a future-focused department and and maintain relevance as higher education changes.

The DCLI is designed for current department chairs state colleges and universities who aspire to be dynamic, strategic and empathetic leaders. Participants gain a national perspective on the importance of the department chair in serving the institutional mission, leading with an equity mindset, delivering value and ensuring student success. The institute was created in response to AASCU member feedback and requests for a robust professional development program for department chairs.

Richard Helldobler, president of New Jersey’s William Paterson University and a former AASCU board member, is serving as executive sponsor and lead faculty member of the new leadership institute. He said a recent study found that 67% of department chairs reported no training was received for their position, even though chairs are considered the most critical front-line managers for academic and institutional effectiveness.

“AASCU is taking this issue head-on with the development of this new program to help department chairs understand roles and responsibilities, finances and navigating the complexities of university leadership,” Helldobler said.

The demand for the new program was so high that the 2024 institute will be made up of two cohorts, with the second group participating in its in-person meeting in August and virtual sessions in September and October.


SOU and other local organizations sponsor MLK, Jr. celebration

Southern Oregon MLK, Jr., Celebration on Jan. 15 in Ashland

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will join several other local organizations in sponsoring this year’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Celebration for southern Oregon from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15, at the historic Ashland Armory and in downtown Ashland. All community members are invited to participate in the event, which is free and open to the public.

The festivities will honor Dr. King’s legacy, and the diverse and vibrant southern Oregon community. This year’s theme is “We Choose Love! Now more than ever, the DREAM must continue.”

The event’s keynote speech will be delivered by D.L. Richardson, a civil rights scholar, educator and longtime host of the local MLK celebration.

This year’s event will also include messages from Rogue Valley faith leaders, spoken word presentations by area students and performances by the Ashland School District Middle School Choir, the Rogue Valley Peace Choir, BASE Youth Dancers and The Friends of Bishop Mayfield Band, who will perform a tribute to the beloved local blues legend.

There will be a slideshow presentation on the importance of the Civil Rights Movement, as the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act is celebrated, 60 years later.

In keeping with long-time tradition, participants in the MLK celebration will march from the Ashland Armory to the downtown Plaza to hear Dr. King’s original “I have a Dream” speech, and a performance by the Kirby Shaw Singers.

Seating for the Ashland Armory portion of the family event will be limited, and available on a first-come basis. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m., and sign language interpretation will be provided for the live event and an online simulcast at

While the event is free, donations are welcome and everyone is encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the SOU Food Pantry.

Sponsors and participating organizations, in addition to SOU, include the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, Travel Ashland, City of Ashland, Ashland School District, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Food Co-Op, Black Southern Oregon Alliance and Black Alliance for Social Empowerment..


SOU President's Medal, highest award, goes to three retired faculty members

SOU’s highest award to go to three retired faculty members

(Ashland, Ore.) — SOU President Rick Bailey will present three retired faculty members with the highest recognition of service to the university during a celebration from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union.

The SOU President’s Medal will be awarded to poet Lawson Fusao Inada, artist Betty LaDuke and linguist “Señora Chela” Grace Tapp Kocks.

“These three extraordinary scholars and teachers served our university and our students with brilliance for a combined 99 years, and also distinguished themselves as significant innovators in their individual fields of study,” President Bailey said in an announcement to campus. “Each has earned the deepest respect and gratitude of our campus community, and has made a lasting impression on our world.”

Inada joined the SOU faculty in 1966 and taught until 2002. He is a third-generation Japanese American, and the betrayal that he felt when his family was confined in internment camps during World War II shaped much of the poetry that would lead him to prominence. His four published collections of poetry included winners of the Oregon Book Award and the American Book Award, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, was named Oregon’s poet laureate in 2006 and his words are inscribed in stone at the Japanese American Historical Plaza in Portland. Inada received a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Oregon.

LaDuke arrived at SOU in 1964 and taught until 1996. She was the second woman art teacher when she joined the SOU faculty and was the only woman in the Art Department for 18 years. She has traveled the world for more than 65 years, sketching, painting and telling stories through her art of people linked to the land and community, during peace and war – from civil rights struggles in the 1960s and 1970s, to recent works focused on farms and farmworkers. She received the Oregon Governor’s Award in the Arts in 1993 and the National Art Education Association’s Ziegfield Award for distinguished international leadership in 1996. The National Museum of Eritrea dedicated a gallery to her paintings in 2017. LaDuke received a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in printmaking, both from California State University, Los Angeles

“Señora Chela” came to SOU in 1966 to teach Spanish and French, and soon became the university’s cornerstone of multicultural outreach. She directed SOU’s international shows for 25 years, serving as a conduit between the university and the Rogue Valley’s Hispanic community. She is the architect of both a 54-year sister city relationship between Ashland and the Mexican city of Guanajuato, and SOU’s Amistad exchange program with the Universidad de Guanajuato. More than 750 students have participated in the exchange program since 1969, and hundreds of Ashland and Guanajuato residents have visited their sister cities. She was named an emeritus member of the SOU faculty in 1997. She received a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University, Greeley, and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The SOU President’s Medal, established in 1984, is the university’s highest tribute and is awarded as often as once per year to one or more community members who are distinguished by their actions and contributions. It has previously been presented to 59 individuals and organizations, most recently in August 2022 to Mexican politician and SOU alumnus Juan Carlos Romero Hicks and his wife, Frances “Faffie” Siekman Romero.

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.


NSF research initiative leaders include SOU's Hala Schepmann

SOU to help lead research initiative for undergraduate institutions

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is part of a consortium of 11 colleges and universities across the country that will use a new, $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to plan and host three regional workshops intended to advance research enterprises at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs).

The goal of NSF’s GRANTED initiative (Growing Research Access for Nationally Transformative Equity and Diversity) is to “break down systemic barriers that hinder underrepresented investigators, students, and institutions typically overlooked as participants in NSF’s research funding programs.” The project is intended to increase research capacity and improve infrastructure at emerging research institutions.

Hala Schepmann, a chemistry professor at SOU, is one of six “principal investigators,” or project leaders, for the grant that will bring workshops to the Northwest, Midwest and Southeast regions of the country. Taylor Smith, SOU’s assistant vice president for Advancement Services and Sponsored Programs, is serving as support staff for the Northwest regional workshop.

“It can be challenging to navigate the research funding and practice process at small- and mid-size universities which often lack some of the resources available at larger research institutions,” Schepmann said. “This work will help SOU advance research activities both regionally and nationally, ultimately increasing faculty and student engagement in the nation’s research enterprise.”

All three of the inter-institutional, regional workshops are expected to take place in the fall of 2024, with the Northwest event taking place at the University of Portland because of its close proximity to several non-Ph.D.-granting institutions.

The other institutions taking part in the GRANTED project are Western Oregon University and Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, John Carroll University in Ohio, University of Detroit Mercy in Michigan, Black Hills State University in South Dakota, Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, Gonzaga University in Washington, Furman University in South Carolina and the University of Idaho.

The regional workshops will bring together teams of research administrators, institutional leaders and faculty from predominantly undergraduate, emerging research and minority-serving institutions. Workshop participants will work together to discern and design interventions to common barriers.

Advancing research work at PUIs will promote faculty and student engagement and broaden participation in research nationwide. The workshops are expected to result in a set of best practices that will be part of a research toolkit for PUIs across the country.


SOU Digital Cinema launches crowdfunding campaign

SOU Digital Cinema taps crowdfunding for support

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Digital Cinema program has taken a creative turn in seeking financial support for its work, launching an $18,000 crowdfunding campaign to help pay for two signature projects. The campaign has been extended through Dec. 15.

Money raised in the Indiegogo campaign will be split between the annual Crew Experience project, a 12-credit immersion course for student filmmakers, and individual Capstone Production Grants for Digital Cinema students.

“Crowdfunding is a double-win for our students because it both develops a valuable skill for careers in the creative industries and also helps raise awareness and funds for the Digital Cinema program,” said Andrew Gay, a professor of Digital Cinema and incoming director of SOU’s School of Arts & Communication.

“Almost all entrepreneurial producers will find themselves crowdfunding at some point, and these students are learning that process through hands-on, real-world application,” Gay said.

The crowdfunding campaign is live and open for contributions – extended for two weeks beyond its original end date of Nov. 30. Each donation made – minus fees to the crowdfunding website – is split evenly between Crew Experience and individual Capstone Production Grants, unless donors select the “Adopt a Capstone Filmmaker Package,” which triggers recognition and other perks. The crowdfunding campaign is facilitated by the SOU Foundation, and all pledges are tax-deductible.

Contributions to the campaign help fund this year’s Digital Cinema projects, and also invest in student filmmakers who are part of the entertainment industry’s future. Supporters are also asked to share the crowdfunding campaign page with others who may wish to help students with their film education.

“Donations that end up going to my capstone will help pay for shooting locations, costumes, special effects makeup, and food for the cast and crew,” said Lilah Keebler, a senior Digital Cinema major. “The money given will also go toward creating the costume of the monster that taunts the main character, Chloe, for the majority of the film. This could potentially get costly, meaning funding is a necessity to bring the monster to life.

“Horror has always been my favorite genre and I’m so excited about the opportunity to make this film.”

The individual Capstone Production Grants will benefit Digital Cinema seniors – in both leadership and support roles – as they begin their thesis projects. Each thesis project is tied to a capstone director, and other capstone students may participate in a variety of positions that include photography, production, editing and more. Capstone projects also provide a valuable proving ground for underclassmen to develop their skills while crewing under the mentorship of more experienced seniors. Projects must pass a rigorous vetting process to qualify for a Capstone Production Grant.

The Crew Experience takes junior Digital Cinema students out of the classroom to learn on location with industry mentors, operating as a single production unit for an entire term. The $9,000 raised through the Digital Cinema Production Fund will help to build sets, procure props and costumes, cover location fees and provide other essentials to cast and crew.


SOULA receives national recognition

SOULA receives national recognition

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology (SOULA) has received an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) for SOULA’s collaborative work with other agencies on the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project – a wide-ranging effort to research and document the lives of Oregon’s early Chinese immigrants.

SOULA and other entities collaborating in the diaspora project received the National Trust/Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Award for Federal Partnerships in Historic Preservation during the NTHP’s recent PastForward Conference in Washington, D.C. The NTHP is a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save historic places nationwide, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is an independent federal agency; the two entities partner in presenting the Federal Partnerships award.

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

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

The NTHP award honors outstanding partnerships that advance the preservation of important historic resources and have a positive impact on the community. It celebrates a project or program in which a federal agency and one or more nonfederal partners have achieved an exemplary preservation outcome.

“We are pleased to recognize the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project for their collaborative, multi-agency grassroots effort to uplift the underrepresented role of Chinese Oregonians in the region’s history,” ACHP Chair Sara Bronin said. “This project can serve as a model as we prioritize telling the full story of American history through preservation of historic places.”

The NTHP award was the second prestigious recognition for the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project in a little over a year – it received a national Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) in June 2022, as part of that organization’s Leadership in History Awards.

“The Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project is thrilled to have our work nationally recognized,” SOULA Director Chelsea Rose said. “What began as a small, grass-roots collaboration now spans the state and is enriching our collective history by re-entering the important roles that Chinese Oregonians had in the settlement and development of the region.

“This (NTHP) award not only helps us continue to do this work, but will hopefully inspire others to work together, pool resources and seek out the important stories that have been lost or erased over time.”

The Federal Partnerships award was one of nine awards presented at this year’s PastForward conference to honor those who excel in preservation.


Fall term enrollment continues rebound at SOU

SOU fall enrollment expands on recent upturn

(Ashland, Ore.) — Fall term admission numbers suggest the continuation of a strong rebound in enrollment at Southern Oregon University, led by the institution’s largest freshman class since 2018. The number of new freshmen at SOU increased this fall by 15.1% compared to a year ago, while the number of incoming transfer students is up by 10.6%.

Overall, student headcount for the traditional yardstick at the fourth week of fall term is 162 higher than that of last fall – a 3.4% gain to a total of 4,889. The increases among freshmen and transfers account for 84 and 30 students, respectively.

“These numbers tell me that prospective students and their families are hearing our message,” SOU President Rick Bailey said. “We offer remarkable academic and student experience opportunities in an environment that is second to none, with a heart-centered approach from faculty and staff who are unparalleled in their commitment to helping students achieve their educational goals. It’s a perfect recipe.

“Our scholarship and financial aid programs, and our dedicated admissions staff, bring our broad spectrum of educational programs within reach of all who wish to take this transformative, positive step.”

SOU experienced a double-digit percentage decline in enrollment during the years following the COVID-19 pandemic and regional wildfires of September 2020. The university’s turnaround began with small increases in headcount for both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, and has picked up momentum with encouraging overall numbers this fall.

Headcount is expected to settle at a year-over-year increase of about 2% by the end of fall term, while full-time equivalent figures – a more accurate reflection of students’ total credit hours – is projected to end the term about 1% higher than those of fall 2022. That would mark the first uptick in full-time equivalent enrollment in several years.

Student retention plays a significant role in this fall’s positive enrollment picture. Last year’s freshman cohort returned this year at a rate of 66.3%, compared to 65.6% for the previous cohort, while total undergraduate retention is at 78% this fall, compared to 76.2% in 2022.

Another positive note comes from SOU’s Advanced Southern Credit, a dual-enrollment program with local high schools, which is showing an increase of about 7% this fall.

“Our university has faced recent obstacles that are common among public universities across the country, along with others that are particular to our state and even our region,” said Matt Stillman, Ph.D., SOU’s registrar and assistant vice president for enrollment management.

“We have taken a leading role in adapting, innovating and getting back on track to serve our communities and prepare our students for purposeful, rewarding lives.”

SOU’s enrollment has been negatively affected in recent years by not only the pandemic and the southern Oregon wildfires of three years ago, but also by factors such as changing attitudes toward higher education and a long-anticipated national decline in the traditional, college-age demographic.

The university has responded with investments to modernized enrollment management efforts and increase its pool of prospective students, and with groundbreaking initiatives to establish intergovernmental agreements with school districts across the state of Oregon and transfer agreements with several community colleges in Oregon and California.

Under the intergovernmental agreements, school districts share their students’ basic directory information with SOU, which then promotes college attendance and provides timely enrollment guidance. The arrangement improves  college access, especially among traditionally underserved students.


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

Andrew Gay, director of SOU School of Arts & Communication

Internal candidate hired for SOU director position

(Ashland, Ore.) — Andrew Kenneth Gay, a professor and chair of Communication, Media & Cinema at Southern Oregon University, has been hired as director of SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication – which includes the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU.

Gay has taken on numerous leadership roles since joining the SOU faculty in 2014, including his current, two-year appointment to the SOU Board of Trustees. In addition to his academic roles, he has served two years as chair of the Faculty Senate and led a recent three-year effort to transform SOU’s general education curriculum.

“I am especially excited to know that our students will benefit from Andrew’s collaborative and interdisciplinary vision for the future,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, in announcing Gay’s promotion to the campus community.

SOU’s School of Arts & Communication, which was initiated this fall, combines the university’s Theatre, Music and Creative Arts departments with its Communication, Media & Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance, creativity and production, and new opportunities for collaboration are created by placing them under the same school.

All of the university’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs have been distributed among four “schools” beginning this fall, rather than the seven “divisions” that previously administered the programs. The shift leads to more efficiency in SOU’s administrative structure, and was a key part of the cost management plan adopted last spring by the Board of Trustees.

Gay will succeed David Humphrey, Ph.D., who created the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU and led that division for 11 years. Humphrey is retiring at the end of December.

“Ashland and SOU have always been internationally recognized destinations for creativity, storytelling and human connection, and our new School of Arts & Communication continues that tradition with a renewed focus on interdisciplinary collaboration,” Gay said. “I’m thrilled to lead the new school and the Oregon Center for the Arts as we build a hub for creative careers and meaningful expression in our region and work to realize our students’ most ambitious dreams.”

The university’s undergraduate program in Digital Cinema was created under Gay’s leadership in 2019. The program launched an innovative, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience” in 2022, and later that year the program was accepted as a member of the prestigious Green Film School Alliance.

He received the Teaching Excellence Award from the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) in 2022 and earned SOU’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2021.

Gay teaches digital cinema courses in storytelling, screenwriting, directing, producing, production management, film festival programming, career design and development, and short film production. He is the former board president of Film Southern Oregon, previously sat on the board of the Oregon Media Production Association, has been a programmer for the Ashland Independent Film Festival and serves on the Teaching Committee for EDIT Media (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Teaching Media) and on the board for the University Film & Video Association (UFVA).

He came to SOU in 2014 from the University of Central Florida, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film and Digital Media, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. He has a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy/Religion from Flagler College.

Gay has also worked as a freelance production coordinator, production manager and assistant director in commercials, reality television and independent film, and for such companies as Red Bull, Discovery and Disney. He has written, directed and produced for both fiction and documentary media.


SOU alumnus Ted Adams receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Four receive SOU alumni awards for work and service

(Ashland, Ore.) — A graphic novelist, television producer and retired corporate CEO; a geriatric nurse practitioner, designer of retirement housing and nursing school founder; a retired credit union CEO and financial literacy proponent; and a partner in a Portland distillery and youngest master distiller in the U.S. have been recognized as this year’s Southern Oregon University alumni award winners.

This year’s four award recipients were chosen by the SOU Alumni Association Board of Directors: Ted Adams for the Distinguished Alumni Award; Heather Young, Ph.D., for the Alumni Excellence in Education Award; Gene Pelham for the Stan Smith Alumni Service Award; and Molly Troupe for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. The awards were presented as part of last week’s homecoming celebration.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually by the university and the SOU Alumni Association to recognize someone whose personal and professional achievements have significantly benefited humankind and brought distinction to the university. This year’s honoree, Ted Adams, earned his business degree at SOU in 1990, founded Clover Press and then went on to co-found IDW Publishing in 1999 – a company that would become one of the largest comic book publishers in the country, with a market cap of more than $300 million. Adams served for 20 years as publisher and CEO of IDW Publishing and IDW Media Holdings. The companies adapt existing works as comics or graphic novels, and also have produced television series for Syfy and Netflix. Adams and IDW opened the San Diego Comic Art Gallery to showcase the comic book and graphic arts industry, and he has also served on the boards of the non-profit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Traveling Stories and SOU Foundation Board of Trustees.

The Alumni Excellence in Education Award recognizes career achievement in education, service to community and commitment to SOU. Heather Young earned a degree in nursing in Sacramento and was working in Coos Bay when she learned of an innovative pilot program offered by SOU’s nursing program that offered all courses in Coos Bay and Roseburg. She was awarded her degree in 1986, then went on to the University of Washington to earn her Ph.D., and become a geriatric nurse practitioner. Young worked in the corporate world to help design retirement housing that met he needs of older residents, and also served as a faculty member for the UW nursing program. She then founded the now-prestigious Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis, in 2008, and served as dean until 2018. She continues to serve on a variety of advisory panels and commissions that help to shape state and national policies on healthy aging.

The Stan Smith Alumni Service Award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the community and service to people. Gene Pelham, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business at SOU in 1983 and 2006, credits an attentive high school counselor with helping him secure a scholarship to attend college and he has in turn tried to help others throughout his career. He began work with a Eugene credit union in 1985, took his first CEO position in 1999, then returned to southern Oregon in 2007 as CEO of Rogue Credit Union – where he served until his retirement in 2022. RCU grew to serve 183,000 members and held $3 billion in assets under Pelham. He encouraged volunteerism among his employees, who last year donated 8,000 hours of service to more than 30 organizations. The credit union also raised more than $600,000 over the past five years to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, and Pelham has spearheaded efforts to teach the essential skills of financial literacy in local schools.

The Distinguished Young Alumni Award is presented to a recent university graduate who has demonstrated distinction in career, civic involvement or both. Molly Troupe wanted to become a forensic anthropologist when she chose SOU for its highly regarded chemistry department. She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, then was admitted to Hariot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a master’s degree program in brewing and distilling. She became a quality control assistant with Hood River Distillers after returning to Oregon, then moved on to Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend for three years, eventually becoming production manager and lead distiller. Troupe became the original employee and master distiller – the youngest in the U.S. to hold that title – in 2017 for Freeland Spirits in Portland. Troupe is now a partner in the venture and in 2018 was named to the Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” list. She helped Freeland pivot quickly when COVID-19 hit in spring 2020, shifting for a time from spirits to hand sanitizer, and winning contracts with the city of Portland and Providence Hospital.


Age-friendly designation for SOU

SOU achieves “age-friendly university” status

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been accepted for membership in the Age-Friendly University Global Network – a collection of more than 100 universities across five continents that have committed to age diversity and intergenerational interactions on their campuses and in their communities.

“This is a timely and impactful distinction for SOU,” President Rick Bailey said. “It meshes with some initiatives that we’re already very excited about. Our acceptance into this distinguished network really highlights our dedication to students of all ages and backgrounds, and our utmost respect for the knowledge, expertise and capabilities of older adults.”

The membership underlines SOU’s commitment to serving mid-career and older students and welcoming the contributions of older employees. It will also place the university on lists of age-friendly institutions that are maintained by organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Gerontological Society of America.

SOU, Portland State University and Western Oregon University are the only Oregon institutions to gain AFUGN membership. Member colleges and universities commit to AFUGN’s list of 10 Age-Friendly University Principles, which touch on second careers, intergenerational learning, online educational opportunities, engagement with retired communities and other key topics.

“Your institution’s demonstrated commitment to this cause and its ongoing efforts to promote age-friendly policies, research, services and initiatives are to be lauded,” said Aaron Guest, Ph.D., an Arizona State University faculty member who serves as secretariat of AFUGN.

“We are thrilled to embark on this journey together and look forward to a fruitful and collaborative relationship,” he said. “Together, we can significantly impact older adults’ lives and create societies where everyone can age with dignity, respect and fulfillment.”

The new membership meshes with SOU’s plans to build a senior living center on campus and with the existing Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. OLLI at SOU leaders collaborated on the AFUGN membership application with Noriko Toyokawa, an associate professor of psychology at SOU whose research focuses on intergenerational relationships and health in later life.

“Age diversity on campus is a resource for learning and community building,” Toyokawa said.

SOU has been awarded state funding to raze its outdated and largely unused Cascade Housing Complex, and university leaders have begun conversations with potential private partners for development of a senior living facility in its place. The goal is to create a living community that creates a unique synergy between the center’s residents, SOU students, OLLI at SOU and the university. A list of seniors who are interested in moving into the facility has already been generated.

SOU’s is among the largest of 125 OLLI programs on college and university campuses across the U.S., with close to 1,700 members at the university’s Ashland and Medford campuses. The SOU program, like others around the country, provides a variety of in-person and online noncredit courses and outdoor activities geared toward adults 50 or better who seek “learning for the joy of learning.” OLLI at SOU invites adults to come for the classes and stay for the connections.

OLLI at SOU members collaborate with staff to govern their organization, and teach and take classes in subjects ranging from art and music to science and technology to health and recreation. The local program began with 100 members in 1993 as Southern Oregon Learning in Retirement (SOLIR) before being incorporated into the nationwide OLLI network that is part of the Bernard Osher Foundation.

The AFUGN was initiated in 2012 at Ireland’s Dublin City University and has grown into a network of institutions that promote positive, healthy aging by offering age-friendly educational programs, research, curriculum, online education, health and wellness activities, arts and culture programs and opportunities for civic engagement.