Students in outdoor classroom at SOU, ranked among top 20 U.S. public liberal arts colleges

SOU rated among top 20 public liberal arts institutions in U.S.

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been named one of the nation’s top 20 public liberal arts colleges in a new rating by College Values Online, a website that helps prospective students evaluate colleges and universities.

SOU is the only university in Oregon to make the list, and joins Washington’s The Evergreen State College as the only two West Coast schools included in the top 20.

College Values Online rated public liberal arts colleges throughout the U.S. based on their tuition costs, student retention rates, class sizes, the variety of degree programs offered and core curriculum. The 20 institutions that rose to the top are listed alphabetically, and are not numerically ranked.

The website specifically mentions SOU’s economics, environmental science and theatre programs, and its connections to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

College Values Online offers a wide variety of college and university ratings – from “Small Catholic Colleges” to “Best Colleges for Rowing.” It has ratings for both online and on-campus programs.

SOU is also included on the website’s list of the most affordable colleges in the Pacific Northwest.


SOU's McDermott (left) is the CCC's Sports Information Director of the Year

SOU’s McDermott named conference sports information director of the year

Southern Oregon University’s Josh McDermott has been named the Cascade Collegiate Conference Sports Information Director of the Year, the league office announced.

The annual award is voted on by the sports information directors of the CCC, recognizing outstanding work in promotion, work with CCC and NAIA championship events, publicity and marketing efforts.

“Congratulations to Josh McDermott on his selection as the Cascade Conference Sports Information Director of the Year,” stated Commissioner Robert Cashell. “Not only does Josh continue to elevate Raider Athletics, he has played a critical role in supporting CCC and NAIA Championships during the past year.”

McDermott, completing his sixth year with the Raiders, led the sports information coverage for the CCC volleyball, softball and track & field championships hosted by SOU during the 2018-19 season. In addition, he handled NAIA Opening Rounds in men’s soccer and softball. He provided coverage of SOU’s first national softball title, the men’s soccer team’s first trip to the NAIA final site, an NAIA combined title in cross country and the deepest ever run for the Raider volleyball team.

Nationally, his work received a fourth first-place award in the NAIA-SIDA Publications Contest in the last four years, in a fourth different category (game notes).

McDermott was also the CCC SID of the Year in 2015.

McDermott is a product of Ashland High School and played for the SOU men’s basketball team from 2005-09, while he studied journalism at the university. He was a reporter for three years at the Roseburg News-Review before joining the SOU athletic department.

His father, Brian, has been SOU’s men’s basketball coach since 1996.

This story is reposted from an earlier version on

Student in broadcast booth of SOU radio station KSOR

Still nifty, JPR is fifty: SOU’s public radio station celebrates landmark

Oregon’s newspaper headlines on May 21, 1969, included “Apollo Set for Moon Orbit This Afternoon” and news that the Oregon Senate had rejected a measure to lower the voting age to 19.

In Ashland, Jerry Allen – the future “Voice of the Oregon Ducks” – signed on for the inaugural broadcast of a new radio station on the campus of what was then Southern Oregon College.

“What you’re about to hear is something new under the sun … and we don’t intend to ever let it get old,” said Allen, whose radio name at the time was Jerry Smith. “We like to think that its freshness reflects the voice, life and souls of the SOC student body.”

The station, KSOR, is celebrating its 50th birthday today at Southern Oregon University. What started as a tiny station whose signal was the strength of a refrigerator bulb – 10 watts – is now the flagship of Jefferson Public Radio, one of the country’s largest regional public radio networks.

JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle and News Director Liam Moriarty marked the occasion with a five-minute segment of reflections and archival audio from KSOR’s first day on the air.

The station was launched by Dave Allen, a professor of communication at SOC, and broadcast from noon to 9 p.m. on weekdays. The station featured a mix of programming in its early years that included broadcasts from Jacksonville’s Peter Britt Music Festival and the Ashland City Band’s concerts in Lithia Park.

“KSOR took a big step in 1979, when it was granted membership in National Public Radio and also qualified that same year for funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Westhelle said on the birthday broadcast.

“Over the years, people from neighboring communities began hearing KSOR’s programming and wanted to bring it to their town,” he said. “They held all sorts of grassroots fundraising efforts to make that happen.”

The radio station built satellite radio stations in surrounding areas during the early 1980s to protect itself from competition on FM radio, and that allows current-day JPR to broadcast three distinct program streams: classics and news, rhythm and news, and news and information.

The station used translators – small relay transmitters – to broadcast its signal throughout southern Oregon and northern California. It adopted the name Jefferson Public Radio in 1989, borrowing from the mythical “State of Jefferson” in which its broadcasts could be heard.

JPR is owned and operated by SOU and is supported by the fundraising efforts of the JPR Foundation.

“Fifty years after our first broadcast, JPR has become a vital, civic, educational and cultural resource for our region,” Westhelle said. “We’re heard by over 90,000 listeners every week. We have one of the largest networks of translators and stations in the country. We’ve become an innovator and leader among NPR stations nationwide, we operate an award-winning newsroom and we reach a potential audience of over a million people across 60,000 square miles of rugged terrain in two states.

“Our success comes from the commitment of so many: volunteers, staff members, students, underwriters, our Southern Oregon University community and of course all you listeners who give so generously to support our work, year after year.”

SOU Bee Campus pollinator habitat

SOU earns renewal as Bee Campus USA

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University – which became the original Bee Campus USA three years ago – has been notified that its certification has been renewed for 2019 following a rigorous application process.

Colleges and universities are certified based on various criteria as “bee campuses” by the Bee City USA organization, an initiative of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. SOU collaborated with Bee City USA to develop guidelines for the Bee Campus certification in 2015, after being inspired by two early adopters of the Bee City designation – Ashland and neighboring Talent.

There are now 70 colleges and universities nationwide that have earned Bee Campus USA certification, including four others in Oregon: Lane Community College, Portland Community College, Portland State University and University of Oregon.

Phyllis Stiles, the founder and “pollinator champion” of Bee City USA, congratulated SOU on its successful renewal and thanked the university for its leadership role in the effort to preserve bees and other beneficial insects.

“Most importantly, you continue to inspire your campus and community to take care of the pollinators that play a vital role in sustaining our planet,” Stiles said.

SOU was also named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college last summer by the Sierra Club, as part of its annual “Cool Schools” rankings.

Measures taken at the university to help bees survive and thrive include a student-maintained pollinator-friendly garden, two other native pollinator-friendly beds, herbicide-free wildlife areas and creation of a Bee Campus USA subcommittee of SOU’s Sustainability Council.

Colleges and universities may apply to become certified Bee Campuses after first forming leadership committees made up of faculty, staff and students. Those selected as Bee Campuses must commit to development of habitat plans, hosting of awareness events, development of courses or workshops that support pollinators, sponsorship and tracking of service-learning projects for students, posting of educational signs and maintaining a pollinator-related web presence.

They must also apply each year for renewal of their certification.


SOU's Carlos-Zenen Trujillo (left front) at Kennedy Center festival

SOU theatre student honored at Kennedy Center event

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University student Carlos-Zenen Trujillo was among the award-winners recognized at last month’s 2019 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF ) in Washington, D.C., and announced last week by the Kennedy Center.

Trujillo – a senior majoring in theatre at SOU – was one of two students from throughout the U.S. to be presented the John Cauble Awards for Arts Leadership, which were accompanied by $5,000 cash prizes. Cauble is a professor emeritus and founding director of UCLA’s Graduate Program in Arts Management.

The KCACTF is a national program that involves about 20,000 college and university theatre students each year in its state, regional and national festivals. Participants are encouraged to celebrate the creative process and share their experiences with other budding theatre artists.

Many students were honored with scholarships, fellowships and cash awards at the Kennedy Center’s national event after their work stood out during the program’s eight regional festivals earlier this year. Trujillo was among more than 120 students who were selected to receive all-expenses-paid trips to Washington, D.C., for the national festival.

He attended the Kennedy Center festival as one of nine regional ASPIRE Arts Leadership Fellows. The weeklong fellowship – which focuses on equity, diversity and inclusion – is intended to cultivate future theatre leaders from the ranks of promising women students and students of color.

The nine ASPIRE fellows met with Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and other leading theatre professionals. The program also included leadership skill-building, exploration of challenges facing America’s theaters and professional networking opportunities.

The KCACTF organization is intended to help improve the quality of college theatre in the U.S., and has participants from more than 700 academic institutions nationwide.

This year’s 50th anniversary festival included a concert that featured Tony Award-winners Jason Robert Brown and Lindsay Mendez; Helen Hayes Award-winner Tracy Lynn Olivera; and the Kennedy Center Musical Theatre Fellows. There were also roundtable discussions with a group of prominent playwrights, readings of short plays, auditions for acting scholarships and opportunities for master classes.


JPR broadcast booth, Murrow Awards

JPR wins regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for news reporting

The Jefferson Public Radio newsroom at SOU is among the winners of the 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. The “Murrows” are presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) to recognize outstanding broadcast and online journalism.

JPR won in the Hard News and Continuing Coverage categories in RTDNA’s Northwest small market division, made up of public and commercial radio stations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. This is the second year running JPR has won in those categories.

“I’m thrilled to see JPR news recognized once again for its outstanding work during the past year, creating high-impact journalism and telling compelling stories about our region,” JPR Executive Director Paul Westhelle said. “The work recognized by the RTDNA is the result of a team effort by our entire newsroom – work which is made possible by the generous support of our listeners.”

JPR’s winning entry in the Hard News category examined the West Coast tourism industry’s responses to a recent string of smoky summers:

“West Coast businesses that depend on the summertime tourist dollar took a big hit from this years’ wildfires and smoke.

“The same thing happened last year. And two years before that. Now, the idea that smoky summers may become the norm is beginning to take hold, and tourist operators — and the towns that rely on them — are looking for ways to adapt.”

Listen to the full story: The West Coast Tourism Industry Starts To Adapt To A Smoky Future

The station’s winning entry in the Continuing Coverage category looked at how deeply the Redding area was affected by the nearby Carr fire, and challenges to the area’s recovery:

“In late July, the Carr fire burned through Shasta and Trinity Counties in far-northern California. Driven by dry fuels, hot temperatures and high winds, it became a ‘fire tornado,’ jumping the Sacramento River and sweeping through neighborhoods in Redding, the region’s largest city. Nearly half of Redding’s population had to evacuate and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed. Eight people, including three fire fighters, died.

“These are stories of how the Carr fire affected the Redding area and some of the challenges facing the recovery effort.”

Listen to the full story: The Carr Fire: Aftermath And Challenges To Recovery

Regional winners of Murrow awards are automatically entered in the national Edward R. Murrow competition. National winners will be announced in June.

This story is reposted from Jefferson Public Radio

SOU's Brook Colley finalist for Oregon Book Awards

SOU faculty member a finalist for Oregon Book Awards

SOU faculty member and alumna Brook Colley has been named a finalist for this year’s Oregon Book Awards in the category of general nonfiction for her book, “Power in the Telling: Grand Ronde, Warm Springs and Intertribal Relations in the Casino Era.”

Colley, an assistant professor for SOU’s Native American Studies program, is one of five finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction.

Her book examines – in historical, social and political terms – a conflict between the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde over the Warm Springs tribe’s unsuccessful 15-year effort to develop a casino in Cascade locks. The book was published last April by the University of Washington Press.

“Ultimately, Colley’s engaging examination explores strategies for reconciliation and cooperation, emphasizing narratives of resilience and tribal sovereignty,” a description on Google Books said.

The Oregon Book Awards will be announced at an April 22 ceremony in Portland, hosted by Cheryl Strayed – author of the bestseller-turned-movie “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

The annual awards are presented by the nonprofit organization Literary Arts, Inc., to recognize the best work of Oregon writers in the areas of fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, drama, graphic literature and literature for young readers. The nonfiction category includes two awards: the Frances Fuller Victor Award for general nonfiction and the Sarah Winnemucca Award for creative nonfiction.

Out-of-state judges are assigned to name award recipients in each category, based on literary merit.

Finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award are:

  • .Katrine Barber of Portland, “In Defense of Wyam: Native-White Alliances and the Struggle for Celilo Village,”University of Washington Press
  • Kenneth R. Coleman of Portland, “Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon,”OSU Press
  • Brook Colley of Phoenix, “Power in the Telling: Grand Ronde, Warm Springs and Intertribal Relations in the Casino Era,” University of Washington Press
  • Mary DeMocker of Eugene, “The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep,”New World Library
  • Noah Strycker of Creswell, “Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest and the Biggest Year in the World,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Frances Fuller Victor, who died in 1902, spent 35 years traveling throughout Oregon to interview pioneers and write the region’s history.

Colley was a member of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program at SOU, which prepares non-traditional students for post-graduate education. She received bachelor’s degrees in sociology and political science at SOU in 2007, then earned her doctorate in Native American Studies at the University of California-Davis before returning to SOU as a faculty member in 2015.


SOU donors just might turn students into doctors

Mackenzie Murphy, an SOU Honors College senior and hopeful physician-to-be, has reached out through the SOU Foundation to thank donors who have contributed to the university and made her honors scholarship possible.

“A lot of the students in the Honors College come from low-income backgrounds and most of us honestly would not be able to afford to go to a four-year college,” Murphy said.

She is a biology major with minors in chemistry and mathematics, and plans to attend medical school and then work as an emergency room physician. She is from New York, and fell in love with the university and Ashland community when she came to SOU for a visit.

“Everybody here is so nice and supportive,” Murphy said. “My ideal goal is to go to OHSU and to practice in the Oregon area.”

Acceptance into the SOU Honors College can be life-changing for students. All students in the program receive scholarships.

“I am deeply appreciative of each and every donor,” Murphy said. “Their donations have helped so many students like me, and they have impacted the way we see our education and how well we are going to do in the future.”

Private gifts from donors and other philanthropic partners make up an important revenue source for the university. Funding through the SOU Foundation helps to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty, provide scholarships, build first-class facilities and maintain the quality of SOU’s education and research programs.

Reposted from the SOU Foundation website

Chad Hamill-ACE fellowship-SOU

Prospective higher ed leader to serve prestigious ACE fellowship at SOU

(Ashland, Ore.) — Chad Hamill, the vice president for Native American initiatives at Northern Arizona University, has chosen to serve a prestigious ACE fellowship (from the American Council on Education) at Southern Oregon University during this year’s winter and spring terms.

The ACE fellowship program is highly competitive, and considered a pipeline for those aspiring to presidencies and other senior administrative positions in higher education.

Hamill will work closely with President Linda Schott while serving his fellowship, applying his expertise to existing SOU programs and acquiring knowledge that he will take back to NAU.

“We are thrilled to serve as Dr. Hamill’s host institution during his ACE fellowship,” President Schott said. “We expect that this relationship will help SOU to improve its outreach, and already strong connections, with Oregon’s nine recognized Native American tribes.

“It is especially gratifying to us that SOU was Dr. Hamill’s first choice for a host institution, and that he is truly excited about contributing to our mission.”

Hamill said that he visited a larger university first and had more or less decided to serve his fellowship there, but quickly changed his mind after a visit to SOU last spring.

“Ten minutes into my first meeting with President Schott and her team, it was clear that they are united by a shared vision for SOU,” he said. “I look forward to contributing to that vision over the next five months while learning the ins and outs of university leadership, in particular through the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Schott.”

The ACE fellowship program, established in 1965, is intended to identify and prepare future higher education leaders. Almost 2,000 people have received ACE fellowships, and more than 80 percent of them have gone on to serve as senior leaders at U.S. colleges and universities.

A total of 43 fellows were chosen for the 2018-19 academic year, following nomination by their home institutions and a rigorous application and selection process. ACE represents more than 1,600 college and university presidents, providing leadership and advocacy on key higher education issues.

Hamill, an associate professor and former chair of NAU’s Department of Applied Indigenous Studies, has taught at the Flagstaff university since 2007. His specialties include music and sovereignty, music and spirituality and Indigenous ecological knowledge. His book, “Songs of Power and Prayer in the Columbia Plateau,” explores song as a vehicle for spiritual power among tribes of the interior Northwest – including his own, the Spokane.

He has served previously as an instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and at the California Institute of the Arts.

Hamill received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the California Institute of the Arts, and his doctorate in ethnomusicology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


SOU-Kathy Park-service excellence coin

Coin of the realm: SOU recognizes service excellence

SOU has borrowed from the somewhat mischievous military tradition of the “challenge coin” to recognize service excellence on campus and support the university’s Strategic Direction II: to become an employer of choice and create a culture of service excellence to all constituents.

“Service Excellence coins” have been presented to a total of 11 SOU employees over the past couple months – most recently and visibly, to Churchill Hall administrative assistant Kathy Park during last week’s meeting of the SOU Board of Trustees.

SOU-service coin“She’s a classic unsung hero – one of those many employees working hard, mostly behind the scenes – and she does a great job,” says Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Perkinson, who joined President Linda Schott and Board of Trustees Chair Lyn Hennion in surprising Kathy with the award.

“Giving her that round metal object – also known as a coin – is just a way of saying thanks.”

The origin of military challenge coins is a little hazy, but the Wikipedia version involves an American pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines in World War I, made his way to a French outpost and narrowly avoided execution as a spy by showing his unit’s medallion.

The military tradition of carrying specific unit medallions or coins grew. It started as a way to reinforce pride in the military unit, then morphed into a way for military commanders to recognize excellence. One member of a unit can also challenge another member to show his or her coin at any time.

Perkinson says the coins are being used by senior leaders at SOU to reward outstanding achievement, attitude or behavior, and to help build a culture of service excellence across campus. They are sometimes awarded privately, with a handshake and a thank-you, and sometimes more formally or publicly – as was the case at last week’s board meeting.

The face of the coins bear an SOU emblem and the back is inscribed with four of the elements that have been identified as critical in promoting service excellence at SOU: knowledge, teamwork, accountability and quality service.