Sustainability at the Student Recreation Center

SOU green buildings project in full swing, improving campus sustainability

SOU has walked its talk on sustainability over the past three years, completing eight new green building projects – with four of them including new solar arrays. The Sustainability at SOU program is committed to promoting an environmentally friendly culture and implementing more sustainability features campus-wide.

“It’s really important for us to demonstrate new ways of doing things to build a better world to live in,” SOU Sustainability and Recycling Manager Becs Walker said in an interview with SOU News.

The Student Recreation Center on campus has abundant sustainable features throughout the facility, including brand-new solar panels, electricity-free workout machines, and fully paperless operations – exchanging paper towel dispensers for air hand drying units in all bathrooms, and using reusable cloths for cleaning the equipment. The SRC has been awarded LEED Gold certification, which is a green building certification system that assesses things like air quality, energy use and overall sustainability. SOU has a goal to reach at least LEED Silver or the equivalent on all buildings on campus.

There are three buildings on campus that currently fall under the “net-zero” category, meaning they create more energy than they spend: the Athletics Storage at Raider Stadium, the Farm’s Storage Barn and the Outdoor Program Equipment Storage Building. None of the three buildings have heating and cooling units, which greatly lowers the energy cost. They also feature new solar arrays, generating energy to power the buildings’ electrical equipment.

SOU has spent the last four years hard at work trying to reduce the energy cost and increase sustainability across campus, and the efforts aren’t done. Britt Hall is currently being completely remodeled, with new sustainable features in mind – and has a LEED Silver certification pending. There’s been a long standing goal to promote sustainability in all ways at SOU, whether it’s through education, campus life or facilities.

Please enjoy this video tour of the SRC’s sustainability features, led by Director of Campus Recreation Hugues Lecomte, and Sustainability and Recycling Manager Becs Walker.

Click here to learn more about campus sustainability, and all the work being done to keep the campus green.

campus climate survey underway at SOU

Experiences, beliefs and opinions sampled in ongoing “campus climate” study

SOU students and employees have until May 24 to participate in a 15-minute, online “campus climate” survey that will measure experiences, beliefs and opinions about diversity, equity and inclusion at the university, and serve as a baseline to gauge future progress and to make future comparisons of  SOU’s climate with that of other institutions.

Incentives to take part in the survey include a variety of random drawings: for each of two $50 gift cards, and for numerous $10 food truck vouchers, with the total number determined by level of participation.

Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Toya Cooper and SOU’s EDI  Leadership Team contracted with SoundRocket, a Michigan-based survey research organization that specializes in higher education consultation. Respondents’ answers to the survey will remain anonymous, and will be used to determine steps the university can take to develop and grow a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.

“The data will help SOU gain a baseline for the climate, which can be measured against data collected from future iterations of the survey,” Cooper and the EDI team said. “The survey will be used to inform policy, programmatic efforts and practices aimed at SOU’s commitment to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community where all learners flourish.”

The survey began on May 3 and will remain open through Tuesday, May 24. SOU students and employees began receiving invitations by email on May 3, and a reminder on May 4, both with links to the survey.

SOU undertook a similar campus climate survey two years ago, but that was conducted on a different platform so it is important for all members of the campus community to participate in the current survey, to gain a more accurate reflection of all perspectives.

Most questions for the survey are part of SoundRocket’s standard survey for equity, diversity and inclusion. A handful of other, SOU-specific questions were developed collaboratively by SOU and the vendor.

The incentives are intended to reward participation and generate enough responses to produce valid data. The two $50 gift cards will be widely usable, such as Visa or Mastercard. The $10 meal vouchers will be for use at either of two food trucks – Empanada Caba and Sultan’s Delight – that will visit campus from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 2. Three SOU musical groups will perform during the food truck event.

A total of 50 meal vouchers will be given to randomly selected student participants if the overall response rate is 30 percent; the number will rise to 200 vouchers for a 40 percent response rate and to 340 vouchers for a 50 percent rate. For employees, there will be 30 vouchers for a 30 percent response rate, 40 vouchers for a 40 percent rate and 60 vouchers for a 50 percent rate.

Video tour of The Farm at SOU

The Farm at SOU is gearing up for the 2022 growing season

The Farm at SOU has begun its 2022 growing season, with more than 40 different crops planted, the resumption of a popular community agriculture program and the introduction of a new one.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares are again available for participants who wish to receive weekly produce boxes and, for the first time, The Farm is growing and preparing to sell garden starts. Both programs are open to community members, regardless of their relationship with SOU.

The Farm is a community-based and student-powered operation, located near the SOU campus on North Walker Street. It provides learning opportunities for students and locally-grown food for SOU students, employees and local residents.

The CSA program, which enables subscribers to receive fresh produce from the farm each week, is expected to have crops ready to harvest and on people’s tables by mid-May and continue into September. Members of the CSA will get a share of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grown on the Farm, from corn and lettuce to peaches and apples. Those who would like to subscribe for shares of The Farm’s products can follow this link to join the CSA program.

“We farmers at SOU are passionate about having people eat good food,” said Vincent Smith, Division Director for SOU’s Division of Business, Communication and the Environment, and The Farm’s primary overseer.

One of The Farm’s goals has been to promote self-sustaining agriculture in the community, which has led this year to the sale of plant starts for use in home gardens. All plants sold will be fully mature nursery starts, ready to plant upon purchasing. Plant starts are available for purchase here.

Please enjoy this short video featuring a tour of The Farm and its crops by Vincent Smith and SOU environmental science graduate student Elizabeth Mackey.

Learn more about the Farm here.

SOU Rotaract Club raises $10k

SOU Rotaract Club raises $10,000 for ShelterBox

The SOU Rotaract Club has now raised $10,000 in a three-year fund-raising commitment to ShelterBox, a charity that works in international disaster relief by providing families with shelter and other supplies.

Students from the club did multiple fundraisers, including selling Christmas decorations, hosting an Easter egg hunt and volunteering at local events. It is part of a three-year commitment made by the club to raise money for ShelterBox.

ShelterBox was established in 2000, and has since provided disaster relief in 97 different countries. The organization, an official partner organization of Rotary International, offers relief to displaced families who have lost their homes due to natural disasters. Families are given shelter boxes that each contain a large tent “house,” water purification kit, blankets and other equipment.

SOU’s current chapter of Rotaract – an entry-level version of Rotary International, geared toward young adults – was formed less than five years ago, and now has a steady core of active members and several others who have been interested in specific club projects. Rotaract chapters must take on both local projects and “world service” projects each year.

SOU’s Rotaract Club went all in on ShelterBox, resulting in a huge fundraising landmark. They’re not done yet though, with plans to continue fundraising for ShelterBox and increase student engagement during the 2022-23 academic year.

Students looking for a great way to get involved with their community and gain leadership skills in a fun environment can contact SOU’s Rotaract Club to learn about membership opportunities. More information is available on the club’s Twitter page or its website.

SOU News sat down with the club’s president, Teal Hamner, to discuss the club and the ShelterBox fundraising in this podcast interview below.

Story and photos by Nash Bennett, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

The Cambia Health Foundation has awarded a grant to the SOU Foundation to support an SOU behavioral health micro-credential program

SOU awarded Cambia Health grant for behavioral health program

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Foundation is among seven higher education organizations in the West to receive grant funding from the Portland-based Cambia Health Foundation to increase diversity among students in health care programs and to expand outreach to potential health care students in underrepresented communities.

The Cambia Health Foundation is providing a two-year, $50,000 grant to the SOU Foundation for the “Southern Oregon Mental and Behavioral Health Pathways Initiative,” which will support training and increase the diversity of school and health care providers who offer behavioral supports for students.

About $35,000 will be used for scholarship assistance to paraprofessionals who complete professional development workshops at SOU as a first step toward the university’s “Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health” micro-credential. About $10,000 will be used to develop and teach additional workshops in the micro-credential program and about $5,000 will pay for marketing and communications expenses. Any unused portion of the course development or support money will revert to scholarship use.

“This micro-credential program represents an exciting new area of collaboration between SOU and our local K-12 and community partners,” said John King, director for education, health and leadership at SOU. “Together, we are pooling resources and expertise to train both current and new employees to better support the behavioral health needs of students throughout southern Oregon.”

The Cambia Health Foundation is donating a total of $320,000 to help fund seven higher education initiatives – through the SOU Foundation, University of Idaho Foundation, University of Utah Foundation, Utah Valley University Foundation, University of Washington Foundation, Eastern Washington University Foundation and Oregon Health & Science University in combination with Portland State University.

Cambia Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Cambia Health Solutions, a nonprofit health care company and the parent of various other companies including Regence, a member of the Northwest’s Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The foundation has funded more than $80 million in grants since 2007.

The current round of health equity grants are intended to help diversify the health care workforce and increase patient satisfaction, access to care and responsiveness to underserved populations.

“This regional health care workforce diversity initiative looks to break down the barriers of entry and completion of post-secondary health care education programs for minority and underrepresented students,” said Peggy Maguire, the president of Cambia Health Foundation. “Ultimately, our goal is to foster a diverse workforce that is culturally and linguistically representative of the communities it serves, to improve access to and quality of care while advancing health equity.”

SOU’s Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health micro-credential program is aimed at pre-kindergarten through high school teachers, classroom assistants and classified staff. The program, offered collaboratively with local K-12 school districts and community mental health agencies, prepares students to provide behavioral health assistance in a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed manner.


Accelerated program allows students to earn bachelor's degree and MBA in four years

SOU offers new, accelerated option for bachelor’s degree plus MBA

(Ashland, Ore.) — The SOU School of Business has launched a new, accelerated option for its MBA program that will enable eligible students to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration in as little as four years, and save time and money on their educational pathway.

“This is an opportunity for high-achieving undergraduate students to fast-track their academic experiences and get a head start on their careers,” said Rene Ordonez, coordinator of SOU’s graduate programs in business. “Participants will graduate and enter the workforce as holders of full bachelor’s degrees and MBAs.”

The Accelerated MBA program offers a “3+1” option for students participating in SOU’s existing, three-year undergraduate programs – the Accelerated Baccalaureate (AccBacc)  or the Jackson/Josephine Pledge (JackJo). Students with “superior” GPA or standardized test scores are eligible for the Accelerated Baccalaureate program, and the JackJo Pledge program is available for graduates from Jackson or Josephine county high schools who meet other specific academic requirements.

Students from those programs can choose the “3+1” option to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years, taking some graduate-level elective courses during their first three years and finishing SOU’s Evening MBA program with required, core classes during a fourth year.

They will reduce their time in school and take advantage of lower tuition by taking some graduate-level classes as undergrads, potentially saving as much as $20,000.

The new, accelerated program also offers an option for students in traditional, four-year undergraduate programs who are earning at least a 3.0 GPA by the start of their senior year. Students choosing the “4+1” option will complete bachelor’s degree requirements and simultaneously begin MBA coursework during their fourth year, then will finish the remaining core classes for their MBA during a fifth year.

Participants choosing either the “3+1” or the “4+1” option will also benefit academically from being part of a professional cohort, and may also qualify for financial aid.

“It is imperative for the student to work closely with his/her undergraduate faculty advisor and the MBA program advisor during their participation in the program in order to optimize the financial and completion-time benefits accorded by the program,” Ordonez said.

Those seeking more information on the Accelerated MBA program should contact Ordonez at or (541) 552-6720, or MBA coordinator Douglas Daley, Jr., at or (541) 552-8113.


Most fall term classes at SOU will begin remotely

SOU shifts for fall term to combat COVID variant

SOU President Linda Schott announced in a webinar with employees last week (recording here) and in subsequent messages to students and employees that the university has changed course due to an ongoing surge of the COVID-19 delta variant and most classes will now be conducted remotely for at least the first few weeks of fall term.

“We will begin fall term with primarily remote classes and plan to return to a largely in-person experience on Oct. 11 or soon thereafter,” the president said in her message to employees. “This change in direction was made after consulting with local and state health officials, and an epidemiologist at OHSU. They all asked us to avoid the potential for further strain on our area’s healthcare systems, which may happen if we brought students and employees back to classrooms and buildings without strict controls in place.”

The delta variant has pushed regional hospitals to their limits – their combined ICU load was at 94 percent of capacity as of last week, and the surge of COVID patients was interfering with their ability to provide more routine medical care.

President Schott told campus that the university ”must enact and enforce health protocols that promote public health” as the worldwide pandemic moves toward its two-year mark. The delay in in-person classes and activities is intended to help ensure the safety of students and employees, and to allow more time for all members of the SOU community to become fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccination will be required for employees who must work on campus to fulfill their job responsibilities or who wish to participate in in-person activities. Unvaccinated employees will go through a Human Resources-led process to assess circumstances, duties and responsibilities, operational needs and reasonable accommodation.

Students who are vaccinated will be eligible for in-person classes after SOU shifts back to in-person operations; those who are unvaccinated but have exemptions or accommodations approved through the Dean of Students Office may also attend in-person, but with restrictions that could include testing, social distancing or face coverings. Unvaccinated students without approved exemptions or accommodations will not be eligible for in-person classes or activities, and should work with their student success coordinators or faculty advisors to find appropriate online or remote options.

Face coverings will be required for students, employees and campus visitors at all indoor and outdoor public spaces, as Gov. Kate Brown mandated when delta variant cases surged in the state this summer.

“By reinforcing these health protocols, we hope to quickly get as close as possible to being a ‘fully vaccinated’ campus,” President Schott said.

She reminded employees to fill out their required attestation forms and for students to complete their required forms by Sept. 7 or as soon as possible.

Classes will be remote until early October, but the SOU campus will remain open with safety precautions in place. Some campus activities such as sporting events and artistic performances will continue before the university returns to broad in-person operations, but all who attend must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the event. Face coverings are also required.

Phoenix Ramirez won the ASSOU presidential election

ASSOU election produces 2021-22 leadership team

Ballots in the ASSOU spring election were counted Monday night and the slate of officers for the 2021-22 academic year will be headed by Phoenix Ramirez as student body president and Gabrielle Slyfield as vice president.

The student leaders – including eight newly elected senators – will be sworn in June 8.

Ramirez, a theatre major with a minor in esports management, has held several leadership roles in his three years as an SOU student. He has been a Raider Welcome Team leader, recognition chair for National Residence Hall Honorary, a mentor for the Bridge program and the ASSOU Clubs and Organizations Senator.

He said that he sought the presidency to help ensure that the SOU community remains welcoming to all students when the university returns to on-campus learning in the fall.

Slyfield, his running mate, transferred to SOU last fall to study psychology and will be a senior next year. She previously lived in the San Francisco area and has taken on roles at her previous schools including being a diversity representative, the head of student-staff relations on leadership and heading fundraisers for the institution and charities. She has also served as a caregiver and is currently a toddler teacher at a local school.

She said that she wants to be a vice president who other students can relate to as they juggle school, classes, jobs and their own mental health.

ASSOU senate positions that were decided in this month’s election were:

Academic Advocacy Senator is Keeley Reiners, a current freshman who is majoring in outdoor adventure leadership and minoring in sociology and anthropology. She is currently ASSOU’s administrative director.

Clubs and Organizations Senator is Mindy Welsh, a junior in the elementary education program. She has served for the past year as ASSOU’s non-traditional senator, then vice speaker and then speaker for spring term.

Non-Traditional Senator is Franklin Paul Jeffers, who earned certifications in welding and fabrication and in drafting technology from Lane Community College before, transferring to SOU. He completed an Associate of Arts in General Studies Degree from Central Oregon Community College. The honors Franklin has had on campus at SOU include being on the President’s and the Provost’s list, and being a scholar in the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

Recreation, Outdoor and Athletic Programs Senator is Mia Santander, currently a sophomore majoring in health and physical education. She is a midfielder/forward on the SOU women’s soccer team and was named to the 2020 Academic All-Cascade Conference team.

Accessibility Senator is Brenda Ledezma.

Campus Life & Housing Senator is Jay Santos.

Gender Equity and Sexual Diversity Senator is Lenora Owens.

Multicultural Affairs Senator is Pascal-Jumeaus Brassuer.

Goldwater Scholarship recipient Sarah Emsley

SOU student awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

(Ashland, Ore.) — Sarah Emsley, a Southern Oregon University junior majoring in life sciences, is one of 410 recipients nationwide of the 2021 Goldwater Scholarship – a prestigious U.S. award that recognizes the research work of undergraduates in math, science and engineering.

Goldwater Scholars each receive as much as $7,500 annually for tuition, fees and room-and-board, along with national recognition for their undergraduate research. Emsley has been involved in multiple research projects at SOU, including a recent capstone in microbiology that examined the effects of dietary curcumin on the gut microbiome of fruit flies.

Biology faculty member Patrick Videau suggested last fall that Emsley should apply for the Goldwater Scholarship and – despite misgivings – she eventually agreed to undertake the rigorous, months-long process.

“Up until that point I had not thought myself a competitive enough candidate to attempt to apply for a scholarship at that level,” Emsley said. “The only other scholarship I had ever received or competed for was from my previous employer, and was designed to help me return to school.

“Throughout the application process for the Goldwater, I remained reserved in my expectations of receiving such a prestigious award. I screamed when I got the congratulatory email.”

She has since been awarded two more scholarships for next year – the Cora Styles Memorial Scholarship for $1,300 and the Osher Reentry Scholarship for $5,000.

Emsley, 29, was born in Connecticut, grew up in Sacramento as part of a career-oriented family and was working as an emergency medical technician in Medford – where she owns a townhome – when she restarted her academic career in 2019 as a part-time SOU student seeking to finish her bachelor’s degree. She now expects to graduate in June 2022 with her degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, then will move on to a doctoral program in immunology.

Her previous career as an EMT pointed her toward the study of life sciences, and her coursework and research at SOU have uncovered a career path in translational medical research – working to improve treatment and vaccine options in the fight against infectious diseases.

“The most remarkable thing about my experience at SOU is the overwhelming support by the (faculty members) in both the biology and chemistry departments,” she said. “They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to nourish my scientific explorations and invest in my personal success.

“The hands-on lab experience, opportunities to engage in academic research and one-on-one interactions are the most valuable experiences I have had, and I suspect they’re unique to SOU.”

Emsley is the first Goldwater Scholarship recipient at SOU since 2007, and one of seven this year from the state of Oregon – joining one each from Reed College and the University of Oregon, and four from Oregon State University. A total of 1,256 students from 438 colleges and universities were nominated for this year’s scholarships – no school may nominate more than four students.

“This is great recognition for SOU’s natural science programs, and their commitment to undergraduate research,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Sarah has worked closely with our faculty on several notable research projects, and we are very proud of her achievements.”

Videau, who has mentored Emsley along with fellow biology faculty member Brie Paddock and chemistry faculty member Mark Koyack, said he is confident that she will achieve her lofty career goals.

“Sarah is an absolute joy to have in the classroom and research lab,” he said. “She approaches her work with a measured precision and thorough attention to detail that allow her to connect the dots between concepts, classes and hands-on scientific endeavors.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which typically awards 260 scholarships per year, partnered with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs and expanded the program by 150 scholarships this year to maintain America’s “global competitiveness and security,” according to the foundation’s website.

The application process for the Goldwater Scholarships prompts students to demonstrate their commitment to research and tighten their focus on career goals – skills they will need when applying to graduate schools and for subsequent research scholarships.

“Sarah is a great student who worked closely with Dr. Videau on research projects this past summer and fall,” said Sherry Ettlich, director of SOU’s STEM Division. “We look forward to all she has yet to accomplish in the coming year before graduating and moving on to graduate school.”

Emsley said she hopes the Goldwater Scholarship will help separate her from the competition as she heads into the application cycle this fall for graduate school programs the following year at various research universities.

“I expect that being awarded the Goldwater Scholarship will not only ensure greater financial stability during my final year at SOU, but also open doors of opportunity for my future,” she said.

The Goldwater foundation is a federally endowed agency that was created in 1986. Its scholarship program “was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics,” according to its website. “The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.”


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