JPR's Paul Westhelle receives public radio award

JPR director receives national innovation award for public radio

(Ashland, Ore.) — Paul Westhelle, the executive director of Jefferson Public Radio at Southern Oregon University, has been awarded this year’s Madison Hodges Innovator Award for Public Radio Advancement by the nonprofit organization University Station Alliance.

Westhelle was recognized for strengthening JPR’s market position and finances, and overseeing its move last year into state-of-the-art facilities adjacent to the SOU Theater Building. The University Station Alliance, which serves as a link between public broadcast stations and the higher education institutions that sponsor them, is made up of about 50 broadcast organizations nationwide.

Westhelle receives public radio innovation award“I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of Southern Oregon University and one of the most loyal and supportive public radio audiences in the nation,” Westhelle said. “JPR is blessed with a university licensee that truly understands the civic engagement opportunities and public service potential of operating an NPR affiliate.

“JPR is also blessed with an audience that stands with us time and time again to support our work at levels that far exceed national benchmarks – JPR is special, thanks to our listeners.”

The innovator award is named in honor of Madison Hodges, a longtime manager and advocate of public radio stations in Florida who died in 2014 while battling bone cancer. The award recognizes success and the courage to advance the mission of public broadcasting.

In honoring Westhelle, the University Station Alliance noted that JPR is one of the nation’s largest multi-state regional, rural broadcast organizations, with 23 stations and 36 translators serving an area with more than a million residents.

The organization said that Westhelle, “with only modest resources to tap,” has built relationships with the university, its foundation, listeners and the communities served by JPR.

“Paul’s success belies the common belief that public radio can only survive, much less thrive, in large population centers with strong economic underpinnings,” the Alliance said. “He has also made the case that public radio makes great sense in a university setting.”

The innovator award was presented to Westhelle at last month’s Public Radio Super Regional Conference in New Orleans. He received a plaque and a check for $1,500.


Paul Condon on mindfulness

SOU’s Paul Condon has essay on mindfulness published

Paul Condon, an assistant professor of psychology at SOU, recently published an article in Current Opinions in Psychology’s special issue on mindfulness about how meditation may increase empathy and altruism in certain contexts.

Current Opinions in Psychology, a scientific journal dedicated to recent discoveries and papers in the broad field of psychology, published the special issue on mindfulness in August. It included the work of more than 100 scholars from around the world to create the largest ever field-wide collection of texts on mindfulness since it became a scientific discipline two decades ago.

“It is without a doubt the most comprehensive and authoritative scholarly work on mindfulness that is currently available,” Condon said.

Mindfulness is defined as the awareness of one’s present experience, a type of pure “living in the moment” that was particularly central to Buddhist teachings. Nowadays, people practice mindfulness across many disciplines, including health care, social justice movements, corporations and mobile applications. Scientists have looked at mindfulness with an increasingly critical eye as it has increased in popularity, trying to explain how useful the practice is without making it seem like a cure-all.

Condon’s article focuses on how meditation and other mindfulness exercises can increase pro-social behavior, such as those that help the collective instead of the individual. Condon notes that the increase in pro-social behavior seems to only happen in certain contexts, and when meditating in a certain way.

“Various (historic) meditative practices support the cultivation of virtuous mental states and behavior…,” Condon said in the article. “In contrast to Buddhist traditions, many modern mindfulness programs emphasize an ethically neutral context. Yet an ethically neutral context could lead to problematic applications of mindfulness-based training.”

Testing and research hint that neutral-value meditation – which focuses on letting all feelings, even negative feelings and ideas, enter and leave one’s mind – can both raise and lower pro-social behavior depending on what the person was like before meditating.

Positive-value meditation – in which a person discerns between morally negative and positive thoughts while meditating, and focuses only on the positive ones – shows a stronger link to increasing pro-social behavior.

“Participants who completed a mindfulness or compassion meditation program offered their seat to (a) suffering confederate at a much higher rate (50 percent), compared with those in a wait-list control (15 percent)…,” Condon’s article said. “Other measures of prosocial behavior include reductions in hot sauce used to punish a transgressor; willingness to include an ostracized individual in the online ball-tossing game ‘Cyberball’; email messages written to an ostracized individual; and visual attention to scenes of suffering measured with eye-tracking.”

Ultimately, while the evidence is encouraging, Condon concluded that much still needs to be done and the study of mindfulness and pro-social behavior is still a burgeoning field.

Students and other members of the SOU community can read Condon’s entire essay, and the rest of Current Opinions in Psychology’s special issue, for free on this website until Oct. 30.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Students learn about excellence and innovation in sustainability at SOU

SOU receives national “Excellence and Innovation Award” for sustainability

(Ashland, Ore.) — The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized Southern Oregon University today as this year’s recipient of the organization’s Excellence and Innovation Award for comprehensive sustainability and sustainable development.

The AASCU program, now in its sixth year, honored member institutions for excellence and innovation in 2019 by announcing award recipients in each of eight categories. SOU and the other winning colleges and universities will receive their awards this month at AASCU’s annual meeting.

AASCU recognized SOU for developing “a comprehensive and impactful sustainability program by collaborating across operations, academics and engagement.” The higher education organization noted that SOU has achieved energy savings of 121,000 kilowatt hours annually, an increase in campus solar electricity generation of 319 percent in the past five years and reductions in drive-alone trips of 24 percent for students and 15 percent for employees. SOU is the nation’s first university to offset 100 percent of its water use with Water Restoration Certificates purchased by student government.

“We are all very well aware of our commitment to sustainability and the natural environment, but it is gratifying to be recognized by an organization with the stature of the AASCU,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “This is not the finish line. Our students, faculty members and others on campus will continue to achieve, innovate and lead in the field of sustainability – just as we do in many other areas that benefit our students, our region and the world.”

Other institutions recognized with this year’s Excellence and Innovation Awards are California State University-Bakersfield, for excellence in teacher education; California State University-Fresno, for civic learning and community engagement; Columbus State University (Georgia), for international education; Oakland University (Michigan), for leadership development and diversity; State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, for regional and economic development; Northwest Missouri State University, for student success and college completion; and Millersville University of Pennsylvania, for innovative sustainability projects.

“Each year, I am inspired by how AASCU institutions move the bar to serve their students and advance the economic and cultural development of their communities,” AASCU President Mildred García said. “These Excellence and Innovation Award winners truly demonstrate how our members serve as ‘stewards of place,’ prioritizing student success and leaving a lasting impact on their regions.”

AASCU said all of the winning programs had top-level administrative support, connected with their institutions’ mission and strategic agenda, contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, were grounded in research and incorporated best practices.

SOU has received numerous awards and recognitions for its sustainability practices in recent years. The university received an honorable mention two years ago at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit and won the national Best Case Study sustainability award in 2015 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) for collaborating with Bee City USA to establish a Bee Campus USA designation. SOU has been named a Tree Campus USA for three straight years, was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists and a year ago was named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college by the Sierra Club, as part of its “Cool Schools” rankings.

SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion and adjoining Student Recreation Center earned LEED Gold certification this year from the U.S. Green Building Council – the fifth SOU facility to earn a LEED designation. The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford earned a LEED Platinum certification, the Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating, and the McLaughlin and Shasta residence halls, and The Hawk dining facility, all have been certified as LEED Gold.

Roxane Beigel-Coryell, who served as SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager for the past several years, left the university in July to take a similar position at California State University, Channel Islands. A new sustainability and recycling manager is expected to be announced later this month and begin work at SOU on Nov. 8.

SOU President Linda Schott and Board of Trustees member Sheila Clough will receive the university’s  Excellence and Innovation Award at the Oct. 27 opening session of AASCU’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.


SOU's Alison Burke receives Fulbright scholarship

SOU criminology professor awarded Fulbright scholarship to teach in Bosnia

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University criminology and criminal justice professor Alison Burke has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to lecture and teach a course on women and crime in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Burke will serve at the University of Sarajevo during the current 2019-20 academic year. She received a four-month teaching assignment that will begin in February.

Fulbrights are among the most prestigious scholarships in academia, and Burke’s award is the third for an SOU faculty member in three years. Erik Palmer, an associate professor of communication at SOU, is currently teaching and conducting research as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Ghana. Theatre arts professor Eric Levin was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study in Ireland during the 2017-18 academic year.

“It is a huge honor for me to participate in the Fulbright program and collaborate with colleagues at the University of Sarajevo,” Burke said. “Living and working in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be a phenomenal learning experience and I look forward to returning to SOU with new international connections, deeper cultural appreciation and a fresh perspective I can share with my students.”

Burke, who has been an SOU faculty member for 11 years, served in a variety of juvenile justice positions before earning her doctorate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2008 and shifting her career to higher education.

Her research interests include gender and juvenile justice, and delinquency prevention. She teaches four courses – Introduction to Criminology, Theories of Criminal Behavior, Crime Control Theories and Policies, and Juvenile Delinquency – and a seminar series that includes a segment on women and crime.

Burke earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Mexico and her master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has also studied at England’s Oxford University.

Her work has appeared in publications including the International Journal of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Journal of Active Learning in Higher Education and the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. She has authored the books “Gender and Justice: An Examination of Policy and Practice Regarding Judicial Waiver,” published in 2009 by VDM Publishing; and “Teaching Introduction to Criminology,” published this year by Cognella Press.

Burke is SOU’s 18th Fulbright scholar. The university’s first Fulbright scholarship was awarded to Economics Professor Byron Brown for the 1986-87 academic year, which he spent lecturing on economics at Karl Marx University in Budapest, Hungary.

Fulbright scholarships are part of a merit-based, international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It was founded by former U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright and has awarded scholarships each year since 1948. It currently offers about 8,000 grants annually for graduate study, research, lecturing and teaching in more than 160 participating countries.


President Linda Schott and husband Tom Fuhrmark at Chamber celebration

SOU recognized for “business-like” operations by Medford Chamber

Southern Oregon University was recognized for its “entrepreneurial and business-like” operations during last weekend’s centennial celebration of the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County.

SOU and the Jackson County Library District each received Spirit of Enterprise Awards during the Chamber’s Excellence in Business awards ceremony on Friday night at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts in Medford.

Those were the fourth and fifth Spirit of Enterprise awards ever presented by the Medford Chamber, and the first since 2017. The awards are intended to recognize efficient operations of government agencies.

“The recipient of this award helps to create a pro-job, pro-growth business environment and culture in our community,” said Lydia Salvey, the Chamber’s vice president for communications and programs. “Innovative programs and strategic plans to boost economic growth are recognized by this award.”

SOU President Linda Schott and Lyn Hennion, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, accepted the award and congratulated the Medford Chamber on its 100 years of service to the region.

A total of 12 awards were presented on Friday night to individuals, business and other entities. The celebration continued on Saturday night with the Chamber’s 100th Anniversary Party at the Inn at the Commons in Medford.

“For a century now, the Chamber and our community leaders have come together to recognize the talents and achievements of prominent companies and outstanding individuals who have not only progressed in business, but have also succeeded in setting a great example of community involvement and advocacy,” Salvey said.

Grandma Aggie receives President's Medal

Native elder “Grandma Aggie” recognized with SOU President’s Medal

(Ashland, Ore.) — Agnes Baker “Grandma Aggie” Pilgrim, who has been recognized as a “living treasure” by the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, received the Southern Oregon University  President’s Medal in a presentation at SOU’s Thalden Pavilion.

Grandma Aggie, who is 95, is the most senior elder of southern Oregon’s Takelma Tribe and has led a varied life. Her early careers included singer, nightclub bouncer, jail barber and logger, but she embraced a more spiritual path in the 1970s. She worked as a manager and social worker with the United Indian Lodge in Crescent City, California, and joined the Cultural Heritage and Sacred Lands Committee of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.

She then enrolled at SOU – which was then Southern Oregon State College – and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Native American studies in 1985, at age 61. She is a co-founder of SOU’s Konoway Nika Tillicum Native American Youth Academy – an eight-day residential program for Native American middle school and high school students – and received the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.

Grandma Aggie has continued to be engaged with the university, returning last year to bless and help dedicate SOU’s new Student Recreation Center.

The SOU President’s Medal, established in 1984, is the university’s highest tribute and is awarded annually to a community member who is distinguished by her or his actions and contributions. The award was presented posthumously last year to Steve Nelson, who served almost 20 years as a volunteer leader of SOU’s Jefferson Public Radio and the JPR Foundation.

The presentation ceremony for Grandma Aggie was at SOU’s Thalden Pavilion, which features 28-foot-tall cedar “teaching poles” carved by Native American sculptor Russell Beebe. The pavilion is one of 13 homes around the globe of the World Peace Flame.

Grandma Aggie was a co-founder in 2004 of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, an alliance of female elders who promote protection of the earth and awareness of Native culture. She brought the Salmon Ceremony back to the Rogue Valley in 1994, after the Takelma tradition had been suppressed for more than 120 years.


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.