SOU grad recognized for higher education research

SOU grad recognized for higher education research

Sabrina Klein, a 2013 SOU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication, has earned recognition for her exceptional work in higher education research.

Klein received her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2022, and has been named the second-place winner in this year’s American Educational Research Association’s (AERA) Rural Education Special Interest Group (SIG) awards for her dissertation titled, “There’s More to the Story: An Organizational Analysis of Rurality and Higher Education.”

In her dedication, Klein expressed her gratitude toward her undergraduate advisor, Alena Ruggerio, and the communication department at SOU, citing them as the sources of inspiration and education that have helped shape her success as a researcher. She wrote that “I cherish every heartbeat I spent learning” from Ruggerio.

“The experiences and growth I had in the communication department at Southern Oregon University gave me the confidence and knowledge to articulate my thoughts and turn them into actionable narratives,” Klein said in the dedication. “Thank you to the entire communication department for the exceptional education I received, which has given me so many essential skills that have aided in every aspect of my life.”

She will be honored at the AERA Rural SIG awards ceremony in Chicago in April. The AERA, founded in 1916, is a national research society that aims to promote knowledge about education and use research to improve education and serve the public good. The Rural Education SIG, in particular, provides a forum for scholarly conversation about the lives of rural people, places and their schools through research.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from SOU in communication and media studies, Klein earned master’s and doctorate degrees from UCLA in higher education and organizational change. She served two years as an academic mentor and three years as a graduate teaching fellow while at UCLA.

Her skills in higher education, qualitative research, nonprofit organizations, youth programs, fundraising, networking, and training make her a valuable asset to the education community.

Klein is described in her LinkedIn profile as an advocate and educator with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry, with skills including qualitative research, nonprofit organizations, youth programs, fundraising, networking and training.

SOU will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a participant in the Better Climate Challenge

SOU joins DOE program, commits to greenhouse gas reductions

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has taken a bold step toward sustainability by joining the Better Climate Challenge – a public-private partnership, led by the U.S. Department of Energy, to encourage organizations to decarbonize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The university has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% within the next 10 years and decreasing its energy intensity by 25%. The reductions will be measured from a 2018 baseline.

“This commitment is consistent with our university’s goal to produce 100% of its own electricity within 12 years through an aggressive build-out of solar arrays throughout campus,” said Becs Walker, SOU’s sustainability director. “By making conscious efforts to operate sustainably, we can also achieve fiscal responsibility and efficiency.

“We can – and will – serve as a leader in conservation and environmental stewardship while at the same time expanding students’ access to our programs by carefully managing our costs.”

SOU is already known for its commitment to sustainability, with initiatives including solar power generation; reduce, reuse and recycling programs; energy efficiency; water conservation; Bee Campus and Tree Campus certifications; and sustainable food production at The Farm at SOU. The university is also a GOLD-rated institution in the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

SOU is one of at least nine colleges or universities across the country that have committed to the DOE’s Better Climate Challenge, which was launched last March and now has a total of more than 120 partner organizations. Other Oregon entities that have signed on to the challenge include the city of Hillsboro and Bend’s Deschutes Brewery.

Participants in the challenge will help lead the way to a clean energy economy and a better future, according to the program’s website.

As a partner in the challenge, SOU will share its progress and strategies with others to help promote sustainability. The university will work with the DOE and its peer organizations to turn the threat of climate change into an opportunity to innovate and create a better planet.


Financial reporting honor for SOU

SOU earns state recognition for financial reporting

SOU was notified recently that it has received the Oregon Department of Administrative Services’ Gold Star Award for the 2021 fiscal year – at least the fifth consecutive year the university has received the state’s top financial reporting honor under former Director of Business Services Steve Larvick, who retired from that position in June.

“Steve, our rock star, was instrumental in receiving another Gold Star rating,” said Greg Perkinson, SOU’s vice president for finance and administration, in an email announcing the accomplishment.

Larvick retired June 30 after 40 years of service at SOU but was hired back to serve as controller until his successor, Agnes Maina, began work in late October. Larvick is continuing to help with the university’s transition to the Workday core information system.

The state’s Administrative Service Department lists 13 criteria – ranging from verifying funding techniques to preparing and submitting audited annual financial reports – that must be accomplished by specific dates each year for a state agency or university to earn the Gold Star Award.

“Clearly, the Gold Star is a challenge to earn, and its achievement is due primarily to your agency’s diligent efforts to maintain accurate and complete accounting records throughout the year,” said George Naughton, the Administrative Services Department’s Chief Financial Officer, in an email announcing SOU’s most recent award.

The Gold Star Award is Oregon’s equivalent to the nationally recognized Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, issued each year by the Government Finance Officers Association. Oregon has earned the GFOA certificate every year since 1992, in large part because of the efforts of state agencies to earn Gold Star recognition, Naughton said.

Daniel Henderson inducted into inventors academy

SOU alumnus and Foundation Board member inducted into inventors’ academy

Daniel A. Henderson, a 1984 graduate of Southern Oregon University and emeritus member of the SOU Foundation Board of Trustees, is among 169 innovators worldwide who have been inducted in this year’s class of fellows in the National Academy of Inventors.

Henderson is best known for his patented invention of wireless picture and video messaging used in every cell phone in the world. He has received a total of 31 U.S. patents and his prototypes for wireless picture and video messaging are part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2011 and was featured as a mobile technology innovator in a 2012 Super Bowl commercial for Best Buy.

Inventors inductee honored in Times Square“It is a true honor to be selected as a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,” Henderson said. “I am proud to be included in an elite group of distinguished colleagues, scientists and inventors that are so impactful on the great challenges of our time.”

Election as a fellow in the National Academy of Inventors is the highest professional distinction for academic inventors. Members of this year’s class of NAI fellows come from a total of 110 research universities, governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide. They hold more than 5,000 U.S. patents combined, and include Nobel laureates, members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and other prestigious organizations.

“This year’s class of NAI Fellows represents a truly outstanding caliber of inventors,” said NAI President Paul R. Sanberg, Ph.D. “The breadth and scope of their inventions is truly staggering. I am excited to see their creativity continue to define a new era of science and technology in the global innovation ecosystem.”

The 2022 class of fellows will be honored and presented their medals at the 12th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors next June in Washington, D.C.

Henderson has founded numerous technology companies and was formerly with IBM Corporation. He is also an artist, and has had many public exhibitions of his large scale stone sculpture in the United Kingdom, China, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and at SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon publicly congratulated Henderson in 2003, when his contributions to wireless communications and computing technologies were acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. “I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first commercial use of cellular phones than to recognize you, a developer, an inventor and an Oregonian,” Wyden said.

Then-Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon added praise of his own in 2007.

“Ever since the days of the early pioneers, Oregon has been a magnet for innovators and trail blazers, and there can be no doubt that you have truly blazed new trails in the fields of wireless technology and digital convergence,” Smith said.

Henderson served as a member of the SOU Foundation Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2014, and has been a permanent, emeritus member of the board since 2018. He also serves on the Board of Overseers, the Dorman Honors College Board and several other boards at New Jersey Institute of Technology, and is engaged in fostering innovation, creativity and diversity in STEM education to benefit society.

Green Film School Alliance membership for SOU Digital Cinema

SOU Digital Cinema accepted as Green Film School Alliance member

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s Communication, Media & Cinema program is one of 16 higher education programs accepted for new membership in the Green Film School Alliance – a collaboration of leading film schools that have committed to industry-level sustainable production practices in their programs.

The GFSA announced its new member institutions on Wednesday, more than doubling its membership to 27 sustainability-minded schools. The organization’s membership now includes colleges and universities in seven states, four countries and three continents – with 10 of them also appearing on the Hollywood Reporter’s Top 25 Film School list for 2022.

“It’s an honor for our young program to be recognized among the most prestigious film schools in the U.S., and beyond,” said Andrew Gay, an associate professor of digital cinema at SOU and chair of the university’s Communication, Media & Cinema program. “This alliance is an outstanding example of  SOU’s commitment to sustainability, our Digital Cinema program’s focus on state-of-the-art production, and SOU’s top-tier opportunities for students.”

SOU’s Digital Cinema bachelor’s degree program launched in 2019 and drew acclaim earlier this year for its innovative, 12-credit spring immersion course called “The Crew Experience.” Student filmmakers in the course spend an entire term learning from faculty and experienced mentors on location for a significant film project.

This year’s Crew Experience cohort produced the short film “Eight & Sand” – which last week became the 25th student project anywhere in the world to be awarded the Environmental Media Association Green Seal. SOU is the sixth university to earn an EMA Green Seal, and the first undergraduate program on the West Coast to do so. The seal is presented to student productions that achieve sustainable production goals identified in the GFSA’s Production Environmental Actions Checklist (PEACHy) for young filmmakers.

Vincent Smith, Ph.D., the director of SOU’s Division of Business, Communication and Environmental Science, said the university’s Digital Cinema Program is a perfect example of hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experiences that have become a hallmark of the institution.

“I am regularly asked to explain why Business, Communication and Environmental Science are in one division,” Smith said. “This is just one of many good reasons why thinking across traditional disciplinary boundaries makes good sense for our future.”

The Green Film School Alliance and its member colleges and universities commit to common sustainability language, standards and tools to reduce waste and lower the carbon footprint of film productions. The organization is supported by the Sustainable Production Alliance and the Producers Guild of America Green.


Carl Green, Jr., to receive SOU's Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Four SOU alumni honored for service

A retired professor and Cherokee Nation member, a current small college president, a U.S. Air Force colonel who commands Oregon’s Air National Guard fighter wing and an Alaskan who has gone from wrestler to civil rights leader all will be honored on Thursday, Nov. 3, when Southern Oregon University recognizes this year’s alumni award winners.

This year’s four award recipients were chosen by the SOU Alumni Association Board of Directors: Helen Redbird-Smith, Ph.D., for the Outstanding Alumni Award; Cynthia Pemberton, Ed.D., for the Alumni Excellence in Education Award; Col. Todd Hofford for the Stan Smith Alumni Service Award; and Master Sgt. Carl Green for the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. The awards ceremony will be at 11:30 a.m. in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room.

Helen Redbird-Smith grew up in Oklahoma, a member of the Cherokee Nation, but moved with her family to southern Oregon shortly after World War II when her father wanted her to attend “Elmo’s school” – a reference to Southern Oregon College under then-President Elmo Stevenson. She graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in education, then went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the University of Colorado. Redbird-Smith returned to Oregon to serve for 30 years on the faculty at Western Oregon University and received an appointment in 1980 from President Jimmy Carter to provide advice and counsel on the issues of Native American students. She still finds joy in learning – taking classes in film, science, Japanese and philosophy – and in honor of her SOU connections has donated to the Hannon Library many of her research papers, monographs, ephemera and documents related to Native American Tribes.

Cynthia Pemberton grew up in Medford and went on to Willamette University, competing as a student-athlete on the swim team and earning bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology. She worked in Hawaii for the Dolphin Language Institute, then returned to the Rogue Valley as a swim coach for the Southern Oregon Swim Association in Ashland, and while coaching full-time in 1983, completed her master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at SOU, with a focus on physical education, sports psychology and nutrition. She held coaching and teaching positions at the University of Nevada, Reno, and at Linfield College in McMinnville, before earning her doctorate in educational leadership at Portland State University in 1996. She has held administrative positions at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Dickinson Staten University in North Dakota and Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, and has served as president of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, since 2018.

Todd Hofford grew up in Ashland and worked while in high school at the historic Mark Antony Hotel (now the Ashland Springs Hotel). He was placed on academic probation during his freshman year at SOU, then enlisted in the Oregon Air National Guard to help pay for school and bore down academically while commuting between Ashland and Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, eventually graduating magna cum laude in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration – and a year later, with a second bachelor’s degree in communication. He earned a spot in 1998 at the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant before entering a two-year pilot program at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He returned to Oregon – first to Kingsley Field and then to the Portland Airbase as a fighter pilot in the 142nd Fighter Wing. He now serves as commander of the 142nd Wing, overseeing 1,400 service personnel and $2.2 billion worth of aircraft and equipment.

Carl Green, Jr., grew up on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and was the first in his family to graduate high school. He moved to Washington to wrestle in junior college, but returned to his home state and joined the Alaska Army National Guard to help pay for his education. He moved to Ashland to attend SOU and wrestle, transferring to the Oregon Army National Guard. An injury ended his wrestling career, but he concentrated on academics, earning bachelor’s degrees in 2009 in psychology and human communication, with certificates in human resources, mediation and conflict resolution, and nonprofit management. He re-enlisted in the military, this time in the Oregon Air National Guard, then earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Oregon. Green has held operations analyst positions at the Bonneville Power Administration and the TriMet public transportation system in Portland, then as an equity officer at TriMet and later at the Regional Transportation District in Denver. He was promoted early this year to interim director of the Colorado agency’s Civil Rights Division.

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.


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.


SOU rugby club at national tournament

SOU women’s rugby club team makes most of trip to nationals

Southern Oregon University’s women’s rugby club team, which mounted a fast and furious fund-raising effort this spring just to participate in the Collegiate Rugby Championship tournament in New Orleans, came away from the experience over Memorial Day Weekend having accomplished part of its ultimate goal – winning the final two games of the tournament.

Rugby club at tournamentLosses in the first two rounds eliminated the SOU team, first from the 16-team championship bracket and then the eight-team consolation bracket. But SOU found its footing in the four-team Challenge Bowl Bracket – which team members jokingly referred to as the “Loser Bowl” – and came away from the tournament with a trophy, following its 19-12 victory over Clemson University in the Challenge Bowl Bracket’s championship game.

“Their scrappy and physical play embodies the tenacity of this group of women,” said Mike Fredericks, who traveled to New Orleans to watch his daughter Izabella and her SOU teammates. “SOU should be proud of the way they represented the university and state of Oregon.”

The women’s rugby club, like all of SOU’s sport clubs, is led by student-officers who play on the team. The student-officers handle logistical details that range from financial planning to fund-raising to coaching to safety to inclusion. The 2021-22 academic year began at SOU with no rugby team, coach or schedule, but with five women – seniors Na’Ai Solomon-Lewis (the player-coach), Elizabeth Rose , Emma Kinler and Hannah Kramer, and sophomore Izabella Fredericks – who were determined to resurrect the club that had been put on hold by two years of the pandemic. They practiced together through the winter, then in the spring began recruiting other players and eventually cobbled together a brief home and road schedule with other club teams from the Pacific Northwest. The team earned its invitation to the Collegiate Rugby Championship tournament by winning a regional qualifying tournament in Boise.

The low-budget club model under which the SOU rugby team operates is common at many universities and colleges, but the national tournament in New Orleans featured teams with very different backgrounds – including some with multiple, full-time coaches, six-figure budgets and double the number of players. Some institutions fielded full varsity teams backed by their athletic departments.

The SOU team raised $20,000 to accept its invitation to the national tournament – more than $10,000 of it in the final month. The team lost, 21 to 10, to No. 2 seed Grand Canyon University in its first-round game, and then lost, 33 to 12, in its consolation-round game to the University of Iowa. SOU then defeated Southern Nazarene University, 29 to 10, in its first round of the Challenger Bowl Bracket, and beat Clemson University, 19 to 12, in that bracket’s championship game.

In addition to its five original players, SOU’s national tournament team was made up of Beyoncé Garcia, Maeve Moore, Emily Preston, Hailey Conner and Sonya Goddess.

“I got to witness and experience the very essence of why I am in this field, or why I get-up every morning with such enthusiasm to do what we call a job,” said Hugues Lecomte, SOU’s director campus recreation. “Every one of our 10 student-players displayed such fantastic values with a can-do attitude from the get-go.

“The team itself played in their own style, self-proclaimed the outcast of the tournament, with one of their own players fulfilling the coach responsibilities,” Lecomte said. “They connected and engaged with many other teams and players during the weekend and they were seen (and heard!) cheering other teams from the bleachers, hugging other players after games, and displaying the best sportsmanship ethics.”