SOU's Schneider Museum offers virtual exhibition

The Schneider Museum of Art’s new virtual exhibit Celebrating Wild Beauty presented online

The Schneider Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, “Celebrating Wild Beauty,” is being showcased online through the web-based virtual art gallery service Artsteps and the Museum’s website.

“‘Celebrating Wild Beauty’ would have opened our May 30 fundraising Gala,” said Scott Malbaurn, director of the Schneider Museum. “Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel the Gala. As it became clear that we would not be able to present the exhibition in-person, like many we pivoted and began working on a virtual gallery and online catalog.”

Malbaurn curated the exhibition, which recognizes the 20th anniversary of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The monument was created to maintain biodiversity and safeguard endangered species in 2000.

The exhibition highlights artists who have directly worked in the monument or drew inspiration from it and similar wild spaces in the Pacific Northwest – including Isabella Thorndike Church, Grayson Cox, Dot Fisher-Smith, Malia Jensen, Chris Russell, Rick Silva and Mark Tribe. The online gallery launched earlier this month.

“The artists … have a diverse practice and they each have a different sensibility and perspective that I thought would make a unique exhibition,” Malbaurn said.

The exhibition includes paintings, videos, drawings, photographs and an installation. With COVID-19 shutting down the museum, Malbaurn and art preparator Jason Hayes had to shift their plans for showcasing the exhibition. They settled on Artsteps, a web-based application that allows anyone to create a virtual, 3D art gallery. Artists, organizations and enthusiasts can model actual or virtual exhibitions by designing realistic three-dimensional spaces.

“The benefit is that anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection can have a view of the exhibition,” Malbaurn said. “Although it will never be as impressive or important as in-person viewing.”

One piece that is limited by the move to Artstep is Isabella Thorndike Church’s installation, “RECAPTURE.” Photos of the piece can be seen through the Artsteps gallery, but that doesn’t compare to seeing an installation in-person. To that end, Church installed “RECAPTURE” in a storefront at 25 E. Main St., in Ashland, to allow for safe viewing of her work.

Other pieces have thrived in the transition to an online exhibition. Pieces by Mark Tribe, Rick Silva and Malia Jensen are all on HD video. The personalized nature of digital galleries allows viewers to watch a piece start-to-finish, or jump around in the video’s timeline to see specific parts. Malbaurn sees the future of museums and exhibitions being at least somewhat digital.

“Museums definitely prefer to be open,” he said. “During COVID-19, digital exhibitions will allow spaces to stay active and somewhat connected. As COVID-19 passes, museums may continue to use some of these new tools such as Zoom talks or digital curator walk-throughs, which is great for those who cannot travel.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

New hires bring energy to SOU Computer Science Department

SOU Computer Science Department gets new hires

Southern Oregon University’s Computer Science Department received a big boost this year with the hiring of two new professors – including a new department chair who will bring an international perspective to the program.

Daniel DeFreez and Fabrizzio Alphonsus Alves de Melo Nunes Soares joined the SOU Computer Science Department for fall term, with Soares transitioning from work and life in Brazil to a new experience as head of the SOU department.

“I am very excited about (computer science) in almost everything,” Soares said. “But I am very passionate about programming courses. I love to see a student smile when they realize that they can solve a problem. That makes my day.”

Soares worked as a professor of computer science, information systems and software engineering at Universidade Federal de Goiás in Goiânia, Brazil.

His research interests include computer vision, human-computer interaction, machine learning and programming topics. He is the leader of the Pixellab group, which develops solutions for accessibility, precision agriculture and interactive systems.

“Federal universities are free (in Brazil),” Soares said. “Therefore, to enroll in a major program at the university, students are submitted to a vast selection process, which only the students with the best grades under the cap get a seat.

“This looks good in some ways because we generally have outstanding students,” he said. “However, it is terrible, because in a country with such large social differences, students from lower classes have less access to good schools, and less chance to get good enough grades to access public universities.”

Being mindful of social models, and the ways in which people are disadvantaged by them, is one of Soares’ focuses. He worked on Project Braille Écran, a system to help blind and low-vision people use touch-screen smart phones. It proposed a number of solutions, including a screen protector with braille indents.

“(Braille Écran) is one of the most motivating research projects in which I worked,” Soares said. “Because if I can help a few blind people, even a single one, I think my work will be worth it.”

That kind of mindfulness is what drew Soares to SOU.

“In the past, I used to look at advertisements for professor positions to see what universities abroad required to hire a new faculty member,” he said. “I confess that many times I was very disappointed that the universities used to advertise positions based on numbers – the number of papers published, the number of projects, the number of grants, etc. It looks like they were not hiring a human being.

“When I saw the SOU position advertised, I read it slowly, and surprisingly, the advertising said that SOU was looking for a professor who teaches, cares about students, is concerned about diversity, and so forth – so here I am!”

Soares succeeded Peter Nordquist as the department head in computer science following Nordquist’s retirement.

“I think my plan (for the department) for the short-term is to understand the U.S. culture and educational system, SOU, the (computer science) department and the community, and to start to build a participative strategic plan,” Soares said. “In the medium-term, construct changes that can reflect our new team and local community and regional industry needs.”

Joining Soares on the computer science team this academic year is DeFreez – an SOU alumnus who received his master’s degree in mathematics and computer science in 2012. He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Oregon and his doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Davis.

“Being an SOU student was a life-changing experience for me – that’s why I came back,” DeFreez said. “SOU is a special place with a real sense of community. Some of my longest-lasting professional and personal relationships were formed while I was a student here.”

His thesis, “Android Privacy Through Encryption,” proposed a way to modify a Linux/Android disk encryption software called eCryptfs to better protect a phone’s disk memory from hackers and investigators.

“There are a wide range of scenarios, from the dissident hiding from a dictatorial regime to the prying eyes of a stalker, where the successful use of forensic techniques may inflict grave injustice upon the owner of the object of analysis,” DeFreez said in his thesis. “In the face of untoward forensic inquiry, a person has little recourse other than to prevent forensic techniques from succeeding in the first place.”

DeFreez taught in the past as an adjunct at SOU, but this is his first year as an assistant professor and full-time faculty member. He is especially excited about teaching Programming Languages, which focuses on the interplay between the languages we use to speak to computers. He’s also looking forward to a spring term elective on software security.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Deadline to apply for scholarships is approaching

Deadlines approaching to apply for millions in scholarships

SOU students seeking private and state-funded scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year must apply by March 2 with Oregon’s Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC). Students who fill out the application at may be awarded from a yearly pool of over $112 million.

There is no cost to apply for as many as 40 of the 600 privately-funded scholarships available at OSAC – though most require the applying student to be an Oregon resident. The Office of Student Access and Completion is part of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Applying requires the completion of either the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA), which is used in determining eligibility for the Oregon Promise, the Oregon Opportunity Grant and numerous scholarships.

SOU students may also apply for need- and merit-based scholarships through the Southern Online Scholarship Application (SOSA). The deadline for the SOSA is March 15.

For more information on OSAC, SOSA, and other financial aid options, SOU students may contact SOU’s Financial Aid Office in the Stevenson Union, or through the university’s financial aid website.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

John Francis to speak at SOU

Planetwalker and environmentalist John Francis speaks at SOU

Planetwalker, environmentalist, author, motivational speaker and Southern Oregon University alumnus John Francis will return to SOU on Thursday, Feb. 20, to share what he learned during several years without motorized transportation or verbal communication.

Francis’ lecture will be at 6 p.m. in the Stevenson Union’s Rogue River Room. The event is free, with a suggested donation of two non-perishable food items. Food donations and a silent auction will support the SOU Student Food Pantry and SOU’s efforts in the Governor’s State Employee Food Drive.

Francis had an epiphany when he witnessed a 1971 oil spill in San Francisco Bay. He felt partially responsible for the spill even as he helped scrub the beaches, birds and sea life, and he made a deeper commitment. He decided to stop using motorized vehicles and walk everywhere he needed to go.

Several months later, frustrated at the outrage that his decision to walk triggered among others, he took a vow of silence.

His non-motorized lifestyle lasted 22 years, and his silence lasted 17. During that time, Francis walked across the United States and South America, and throughout the Caribbean. He earned a bachelor’s degree at SOU (then Southern Oregon State College), a master’s degree in environmental studies at the University of Montana and a doctorate in land resources at the University of Wisconsin.

After Francis began using motorized vehicles again, he started speaking and consulting with a variety of audiences around the world. He helped the travel and tourism industry with environmental issues, served as an ethical advisor to civilian and military humanitarian operations, and encouraged diversity in traditional conservation and environmental organizations.

He spoke at the 2008 TED Conference in Monterey, California, and returned to SOU in 2012 to speak about his experiences and receive the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award for the year.

Francis is currently an education fellow with the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., which has published his two books, “Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence,” and “The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World.”

He is also a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, where he is a member of the board at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

His lecture this month is sponsored by SOU’s Multicultural Resource Center, Sustainability Council, Black Student Union, Environmental Science and Policy Program, and the School of Business.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU-HECC-adult educational attainment

Oregon approves new adult educational attainment goal

(Salem, Ore.) – A new educational attainment goal for adult, working-age Oregonians has been announced by Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

The goal – specifically targeted to meet current and projected job opportunities – was developed by the HECC in partnership with the state’s Workforce and Talent Development Board. It aims to expand the number of degrees, certificates or credentials earned by adult Oregon residents by 2030 to 300,000 – a 50 percent increase over the 200,000 that are already projected.

“This goal will galvanize our statewide efforts to prepare Oregon working-age adults to take advantage of projected growth in family-wage jobs, to be resilient when the economy changes, and to ensure that our work is laser-focused on reducing attainment gaps for those who do not have equal opportunity today,” said Ben Cannon, the HECC’s executive director.

The adult educational goal is intended to foster economic mobility, supporting Oregonians in preparing for family-wage jobs of the future. The goal also recognizes a need to reduce attainment gaps for underserved populations through broad, inclusive approaches to skills and talent development.

The goal culminates a work group process that began nearly a year ago, following the passage of House Bill 2311 – which directed the HECC and WTDB to establish a statewide educational attainment goal for adult Oregonians. The workgroup was chaired by Neil Bryant, chair of the HECC, and by Ken Madden, chair of the WTDB. It also included representatives from Oregon’s public and private institutions, along with workforce and business partners.

“This is not just a postsecondary education system goal―this is a goal that will touch every community and every family in this state,” Bryant said. “Thanks to the Oregon Legislature, and the rigorous work of the workgroup and statewide experts, Oregon now has a meaningful, applicable goal for the postsecondary success of working adults.

“We thank all who contributed, and we look forward to moving forward to make this goal a reality.”

The new goal, approved at the HECC’s Nov. 8 public meeting, states:

“Oregon anticipates more than 120,000 additional jobs requiring post-secondary training or education between now and 2030. In order to meet this need, 300,000 additional adult Oregonians should earn a new degree, certificate or credential valued in the workforce during that time. Because Oregon has substantial attainment gaps among minority, low income and rural Oregonians, the state will also commit to reducing those attainment gaps by half during the decade.”

The most recent projections from the Oregon Employment Department show that over the next decade (2017-2027), more than 90 percent of job openings that pay more than $40,000 per year will require postsecondary education. The new adult attainment goal, in conjunction with Oregon’s 40-40-20 educational attainment goal for Oregon youth in the educational pipeline, is intended to guide progress in Oregon’s educational and workforce systems.


Pollinator Friendly

Cool School: SOU named nation’s top pollinator-friendly campus


(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University – which became the original Bee Campus USA three years ago – has been named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college by the Sierra Club, as part of its annual “Cool Schools” rankings.

“Besides the fact that the campus boasts more than a dozen pollinator gardens, professors have taken students out to create bee habitats for the campus farm and to collect native flower seeds to sow the in arboretum,” the Sierra Club wrote of SOU.

The environmental group picked what it considered to be the top 14 schools out of 50 campuses across the country that have been certified for the Bee Campus USA list, administered by the Bee City USA organization. SOU topped a Sierra Club list that included both small and large institutions – including Georgia Tech (No. 2), University of Missouri, Columbia (No. 10), Auburn University (No. 11) and University of Central Florida (No. 14).

“Student engagement between the environmental science students and the Landscape Department at SOU has made it possible for us to change the culture surrounding the urban campus environment,” said Mike Oxendine, SOU’s landscaping superintendent.

“Where we once tended manicured lawns, we now tend pollinator gardens and wildlife habitat,” he said. “We are adapting to the changing climate by making the SOU campus landscape a resilient and safe place for pollinators and other forms of wildlife.”

SOU is now one of four Bee Campus USA schools in Oregon, but is the only one to make the Sierra Club list. The University of Oregon, Portland State University and Portland Community College are the state’s other Bee Campus USA institutions.

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 Student Recreation Center

SOU accommodates smoke-weary public in recreation center schedule


(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is continuing to help community members find refuge from the area’s wildfire smoke, even during an upcoming maintenance period for the university’s Student Recreation Center.

The center’s annual closure for maintenance and training had been scheduled for 16 days next month, but has been reduced to 10 days to accommodate public use of its elevated, indoor walking and running track – a popular smoke-free haven over the past month. An average of 32 community members have used the track each evening since the university began offering free admission for two-hour windows each Sunday through Thursday. The facility’s popularity peaked at 73 users on Thursday.

The entire recreation center will be closed from Saturday through Monday of Labor Day weekend. The indoor track will resume its current public hours – from 6 to 8 p.m. daily, Sunday through Thursday – during the period between Labor Day and the maintenance closure (which will run from Monday, Sept. 10, through Wednesday, Sept. 19).

When it reopens following the closure on Thursday, Sept. 20, public hours for the indoor track will shift to 10 a.m. to noon daily, Monday through Saturday. There will be no public hours on Wednesday, Sept. 26, when the recreation center’s grand opening activities will be held.

SOU  President Linda Schott has also invited community members to use other air-conditioned facilities on campus to escape this summer’s wildfire smoke. Facilities and hours of availability are:

The Stevenson Union has a variety of spaces that are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (SOU offers free Wi-Fi to visitors.)

  • Dankook: SU Room 314.Located on the 3rd level of the student union, this space features soft chairs and couches.
  • Game Room: SU Room 330.Located on the 3rd level, this space features soft furniture, video gaming, puzzles and board games.
  • Elmo’s seating: Elmo’s Dining is closed, but Einstein’s Bagels and Coffee is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This space on the union’s main floor features round tables, booths, and small conversation tables. There is one TV.
  • Diversions (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only): Located on the basement level of the union, this space features tables, chairs, soft furniture and cable TV.

The Hannon Library is open during the summer from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Saturdays.


SOU Bryce Smedley Kenya

SOU School of Education makes global connections at Kenya conference

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s School of Education is acting globally this week, serving as one of the leading organizers for the inaugural World Conference on Transformative Education in Kenya.

Bryce Smedley (left) in Africa

The conference will be held Thursday through Saturday, July 26-28, at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamega, Kenya. Its theme is “Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Research in Africa.”

SOU Assistant Professor Bryce Smedley – an organizer of the conference and the university’s representative at the event – credited SOU’s Global Connections Initiative for an expanding commitment to international education.

“We are part of a global community and therefore we must create globally competent teachers here in southern Oregon,” Smedley said. “SOU is not only participating in these discussions but actively providing leadership and making an international difference.”

Conference topics include Smedley’s work, “Transformative Education Through Service Learning and English Language Clubs,” and other topics including child development, teaching indigenous languages and educational opportunity in rural and developing regions.

The WCTE is co-sponsored by Southern Oregon University, the Global Institute for Transformative Education, the Bay and Paul Foundations, the School Project Foundation and Ball State University.

Keynote speakers include Ambassador Amina C. Mohamed, current cabinet secretary for the Kenya Ministry of Education; sociologist and professor Colletta A. Suda; governor of Kakamega County Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya; and many other experts in the fields of child development, culturally responsive teaching and holistic education.

SOU’s sponsorship of the conference is part of the School of Education’s dedication to expanding educational horizons and opportunities for both international and local students, said John King, director of the university’s Division of Education, Health and Leadership. The school’s Global Connections Initiative is also resulting in partnerships with education professionals and organizations worldwide. It has led to engagement with English learners of all ages and backgrounds, including displaced refugees in sub-Saharan Africa.

Through the initiative, SOU has participated in the construction of a community literacy center and girls’ school in Chombo, Malawi; promotion of teacher and student exchanges with the Roong Aroon School in Thailand; and membership in the Pacific Circle Consortium to support inter-cultural learning, educational research and policy development across the Pacific region.

The SOU School of Education will integrate both content and connections from the conference into upcoming courses in the school’s graduate and undergraduate catalogs, and further international outreach and recruitment efforts.
For more information on SOU’s School of Education, visit:


SOU Smoky Ashland

SOU offers opportunities for community members to get fresh air


Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is making the best of a smoky situation, taking steps to protect students and employees from the area’s unhealthy air while offering a respite for community members in several air-conditioned facilities across campus.

“We’re lucky enough to be located in what we consider in many ways to be Oregon’s most attractive region,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “This is an opportunity for us to pay back this special community. Many of our students are gone for the summer, and we have several buildings where we are happy to welcome the public for various activities.”

Community members are invited, as long as this summer’s wildfire smoke lingers, to visit the university’s Hannon Library and Stevenson Union, and even get some exercise on the indoor walking and jogging track at the new Student Recreation Center. There will be no cost for any of the activities, but visitors are asked to abide by parking regulations in SOU’s lots.

Campus facilities and hours of public availability:

  1. The Stevenson Union will be open to community members looking for a break from poor outdoor air quality. These spaces are available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (SOU offers free Wi-Fi to visitors.)
  • Dankook: SU Room 314.Located on the 3rd level of the student union, this space features soft chairs and couches.
  • Game Room: SU Room 330.Located on the 3rd level of the Union, this space features soft furniture, video gaming, puzzles and board games.
  • Elmo’s Seating: Elmo’s Dining is closed, but Einstein’s Bagels and Coffee is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. This space on the union’s main floor features round tables, booths, and small conversation tables. There is one TV.
  • Diversions (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only): Located on the basement level of the union, this space features tables, chairs, soft furniture and cable TV.
  1. The Hannon Library is open during the summer from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; and 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Saturdays.
  2. The Student Recreation Center has an elevated, indoor walking/running track that will be available to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. daily, Sunday through Thursday.

SOU employees have been advised to wear protective N95 or N100 face masks – which have been made available to them – if their work takes them outside. They will be encouraged to wear the masks anytime the air quality index rises above 200 at the state Department of Environmental Quality’s monitoring station at the Ashland Fire Department.
“We are very serious about helping all members of our campus community protect their health,” President Schott said.


SOU LGBTQ Friendly

SOU earns high LGBTQ-friendly ranking in online guide


(Ashland, Oregon) — Southern Oregon University has been recognized by a third publication in the past year as one of the nation’s most LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities.

Affordable Colleges Online, a popular website that offers various rankings and advice for prospective students, placed SOU seventh on its list of the 69 most LGBTQ-friendly universities in the country. SOU is the highest-ranked Oregon university on the list, which also includes University of Oregon, Portland State University and Oregon State University.

“This recognition is important during these times, since our SOU students are navigating their sense of belonging on a campus that appreciates and celebrates their diverse gender, affectionate and sexual identities,” said Thomas Arce, coordinator of the SOU Queer Resource Center, “From their peers, to faculty and staff, we have created a welcoming environment for SOU students and understand there’s still growth to be made.”

SOU was recognized last fall, for the fifth year in a row, as one of the nation’s Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities by Campus Pride, a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ people on more than 1,400 U.S. campuses. The university also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice.

Criteria for the most recent list from Affordable Colleges Online included having an LGBTQ support center, inclusive housing, LGBTQ scholarships and college affordability. The ranking mentions SOU’s Queer Resource Center, gender-inclusive housing, Lavender Graduation celebrations for LGBTQ graduates and availability of a gender-inclusive Greek life option for students seeking to improve their professionalism.

SOU includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy and offers LGBTQ-related academic offerings through its Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program. SOU also participates in LGBTQ-specific college fairs, and its counseling and health staff provide queer- and trans-friendly services.