Hackathon participants coded games in eight hours

SOU coders create Mt. Shasta-themed games in Hackathon event

Shasta Networks, an Ashland-based leader in healthcare technology, teamed up this month with the SOU Computer Science Club and the Alan and Priscilla Oppenheimer Foundation to host SOU’s 2nd annual Hackathon.

Students came together via Zoom for the April 4 event in which they created small coding projects in only eight hours using either Java or Python.

The Hackathon was judged by Shasta Networks software engineers on originality and creativity, technical difficulty, completeness and clean structure of the code, elegance of the code, and functionality of the developed software.

“We used GitHub, which allows people to publish their code in a shared repository,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, an assistant professor in SOU’s Computer Science Program. “That way, the judges could see the contestants’ code, once they pushed the final version to GitHub.”

After a difficult deliberation, the judges announced this year’s winners.

In first place, and the recipient of $300, was Richard Coleman and his game, “Shasta Battle.” Players of the game must throw snowballs at the top of Mt. Shasta to keep it snowy and intact, and prevent the volcanic mountain from erupting.

“Complex game that used PyGame library. Good graphics,” said judges, “Professionally done, especially considering the eight-hour time limit for working on it.”

Denis Roman finished in second place for his interactive skiing game. Going above and beyond in a short time, the game includes sprites, collisions, a collision sound, and increasing difficulty as time passes.

“Nice graphics and good sound effects,” judges wrote. “(We) were especially impressed by the well-structured and clean code.”

Taking third place was Samuel James, for his text-based adventure game with great ASCII art. The game – which dives into Mt. Shasta and myths about creatures said to live in the mountain – left the judges impressed.

“Good story, good coding, good art,” they said.

Hackathon participants were able to overcome the obstacle of social distancing and form a collaborative environment during a time when community is difficult to achieve.

“I think we were able to emulate a ‘real’ hackathon,” Priscilla Oppenheimer said. “We weren’t really hampered by the need for physical distancing.

“Technology is really saving the day with the coronavirus,” she said. “Meetings, exercise classes, hackathons, book clubs and even scientific collaboration can all be done with Internet-based tools. Whether it’s Zoom, Google docs, GitHub or other tools that allow for collaboration, technology is helping us maintain our ties with colleagues, friends and family.”

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications assistant and student writer

SRC promotes virtual well-being

SOU Student Rec Center makes well-being a virtual exercise

With SOU’s Student Recreation Center closed and many students at home settling into a term of online classes, Campus Recreation has provided a list of 41 virtual resources to maintain physical and mental well-being.

The list – split into 6 sections – makes it easy for students to maintain routines and build new ones during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The variety of links come from Campus Recreation’s 8-dimensional view of wellness, funneled into three categories: occupational, intellectual and financial wellness.

“We wanted to make sure to include resources for those areas alongside physical wellness,” said Heather Brock, the business and marketing coordinator for Campus Recreation. “Another guideline we set was to keep the majority of the resources and apps free and/or choose ones that had an extended free trial period.”

Keeping non-traditional students, faculty and staff in mind, the Campus Recreation team also included sites with activities for children and parents.

The guiding philosophy was that now more than ever, it is important for students and others to maintain their health. Mental and physical well-being are a major part of stress management and many students are looking for ways to prioritize their health while having to stay home. Students whose daily routines have been disrupted are relying on technology for classes, fitness, social activities and more.

“Luckily, with technology and this new explosion of online resources, there are ways that students can maintain those routines while also following stay-at-home guidelines,” Brock said.

Along with the list of resources, Campus Recreation is hosting a 4-week Virtual Rec Challenge on Instagram that began April 13 and will continue through May 8. Each week of the challenge – which is open to SOU students and employees – focuses on a new theme of wellness.

A winner is randomly selected each week to receive a Campus Recreation swag bag (with prizes held for pickup at the SRC). NOTE: Make sure you’re following all current personal and public safety guidelines outlined by the CDC, state and local authorities. Posts that are obviously breaking those guidelines will be disqualified.

“What’s pretty neat about this list is that these resources won’t just become irrelevant when the pandemic is over.” Brock said. “Online students and long-distance commuters who might not be able to visit the SRC as much as on-campus students will likely find these resources helpful, regardless.”

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's virtual connections will help prospective students

SOU offers virtual opportunities for prospective students

(Ashland, Ore.) — Buildings at Southern Oregon University are currently closed to the public, all courses are being held remotely and most students are visible only during Zoom meetings and other online forums.

But next year’s class of incoming freshmen and transfer students have decisions to make, and SOU has created a comprehensive lineup of virtual opportunities to help them through the process.

“Prospective students need to find the right collegiate fit to prepare themselves for a productive, meaningful future,” said Kelly Moutsatson, SOU’s director of admissions “We need to make sure they have all the tools they may need to make good decisions about where to go for college.

“We’ve done a pretty amazing job of duplicating our on-campus admissions features and events, in a virtual environment.”

Spring is typically the busiest time of year for college admissions offices, with a variety of campus visits, registration get-togethers and orientation sessions for prospective students on the schedule. Those in-person events have been suspended at SOU in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have been replaced by “virtual connections” to help would-be students get a feel for campus, talk one-on-one with admissions counselors and negotiate the registration process.

The university’s new virtual connections website puts the remote resources for students who are considering applying to SOU in a single online location. Features include a half-dozen virtual information sessions that will be held each Friday through May 22 for prospective students and their families. Those who sign up for the group sessions can ask an admission counselor about programs, scholarships, financial aid, housing or other aspects of life on campus – and the university’s $60 application fee will be waived for the day of the session.

The website also includes a portal to SOU’s 360-degree Virtual Campus Tour – the next-best thing to actually being on campus. There are opportunities to schedule video chats with admissions counselors and to learn more about events such as Preview Days for prospective students and Raider Receptions, Raider Registration and New Student Orientation for admitted students.


SOU's Navigate app will help students track obligations

SOU adopts new Navigate app to enhance student connections

Southern Oregon University has subscribed to and tested a new, online system that will help students to “navigate” their college careers – from registration through meeting with advisors, scheduling classes, applying for financial aid, accessing campus resources and graduation.

Navigate – a new system from the higher education strategy firm EAB – will link faculty, advisors, staff and students in a coordinated network that will help students organize their time and keep track of their obligations.

The Navigate Student app was introduced at SOU on a limited basis last fall, and will be rolled out for use by all students – with participation by faculty and staff – during spring term. It is considered an effective platform for initiating and maintaining important connections even as all classes at the university are delivered remotely.

Students are encouraged to download Navigate Student in the App Store or Google Play and begin exploring its features – from forming study groups to interacting with professors or advisors.

Faculty and staff are asked to participate in the campus-wide introduction of the app by taking part in an abbreviated, online EAB Navigate training session of 30 minutes or less. They are also asked to incorporate downloading the Navigate Student app into course assignments, as appropriate, and to take other opportunities to encourage students to get and use the app.

Students will be able to use the app to explore careers that fit their goals, find events, make appointments with advisors and get alerts about registration issues and other important information. Students who begin using the app will be asked to take part in an intake survey that will enable them to receive customized notifications related to their interests.

Those who have any suggestions regarding the Navigate Student app, or who have issues downloading or using the app, are asked to email navigateadmin@sou.edu. An SOU team that is implementing the use of Navigate Student on campus will send text messages to students about the app.

SOU's Stevenson Union, which will host a Pub Night

Upcoming “Pub Night” a test run for potential campus pub

SOU’s Stevenson Union will host a “Pub Night” in the Diversions Room from 5 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb 25) – and depending on the outcome, it could be a precursor to an ongoing event.

The Stevenson Union, Campus Dining, and EPIC Events are collaborating to create a fun night of sipping, eating and community building for all members of the SOU community who are 21 and over.

Food options such as fries, pulled pork nachos and burgers will be made-to-order alongside a selection of beer, wine and soda. All menu items can be purchased with cash, debit or credit cards, or the university’s own Raider Cash.

“Student programmers in the past have asked why we can’t have a pub in the Union,” said Danielle Mancuso, the associate director of student life and organizer of the Pub Nights.

“Last year during the Stevenson Union surveys, many students mentioned a desire for a pub,” she said. “These Pub Nights will demonstrate if there really is a desire from students to have a pub on campus.”

This week’s initial Pub Night will include a performance by Antics Improv, along with Disney trivia hosted by EPIC Events. A second Pub Night will be held March 3, also from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Diversions Room.

“It is my hope that Pub Nights create community on campus,” Mancuso said. “The partnership between the Stevenson Union, Campus Dining and EPIC creates more opportunities for students, staff and faculty to have opportunities for informal gatherings and connections.

“Maybe class ends early and the conversation continues at The Pub? This is a great outlet for student clubs and organizations that perform to do so in a laid back environment.”

The idea for an SOU pub was first floated in 2013 by then-Chief Information Officer Brad Christ, and it received general support from students and faculty. Christ advocated for a permanent pub on campus, but the current iteration of Pub Night was built off of his survey.

“Come support Pub Night,” Mancuso said. “Bring a friend and be sure to have your ID.”

A full menu can be found on Inside SOU.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU is designated as military friendly

SOU added to Military Friendly School list by VIQTORY

SOU has been designated a Military Friendly School by Viqtory, a veteran-ownd marketing company that connects the military community to civilian employers, and educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Viqtory’s Military Friendly awards are given to schools, nonprofits and companies that meet their data-driven assessments and take their proprietary survey. The difficulty of the survey increases each year due to improved methodology, criteria and weightings. This year’s list includes 695 colleges, universities and trade schools that exhibit leading practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience or spouses.

“This designation places SOU on the lists that our transitioning service members will see as they leave service,” said Kevin Stevens, director of the university’s Veterans Resource Center. “It reflects positively on the university community as well as our greater community, as places that veterans, military and their families can achieve academic and personal success.”

More than 200 SOU students each year are considered military-affiliated. Most of them are veterans or dependents, while many others serve as cadets in the Army ROTC program. SOU also offers a Military Science Program that serves nearly 150 students per term, and various campus organizations are dedicated to helping veterans – including the Veteran’s Resource Center, the Student Veterans Association and the Veterans’ Student Union.

SOU was also the first Oregon university to adopt the Military Order of the Purple Heart proclamation on Nov. 27, 2019. President Linda Schott pledged the university’s support to military veterans and placed SOU on the Purple Heart Trail, a symbolic system of roads, highways, monuments and cities that give tribute to those awarded the Purple Heart.

“(The military-friendly designation) is a great step forward for the university,” Stevens said. “This shows that we meet the minimum standards for the military-friendly designation, however, my plan is for SOU to continue to rise in the rankings as one of the top military-friendly universities for students in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and the country.” 

Higher ranking designations include Bronze, Silver, Gold and the coveted Top Ten awards.

SOU’s Military Friendly Rating breakdown rates the university in six areas: academic policies and compliance, admissions and orientation, culture and commitment, financial aid and assistance, graduation and career, and military student support and retention.

The 2020-­2021 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Dylann Loverro to join SOU Board of Trustees

SOU Honors College student joins university’s Board of Trustees

(Ashland, Ore.) — Dylann Loverro, a Southern Oregon University Honors College student who has held various positions on campus, has been appointed by Gov. Kate Brown and confirmed today by the Oregon Senate to serve on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Loverro succeeds Shanztyn Nihipali, who graduated in June, as the university’s student member for the 15-person board. Her two-year appointment is a voting position.

“I am excited and honored to be a part of my university’s governing board,” Loverro said. “I look forward to supporting the strategies and vision that will increase student success and the great work happening at SOU.”

Loverro, who is working toward a 2021 bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies, is currently chief justice of the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (ASSOU) and student representative on the Faculty Senate’s University Assessment Committee. She has also served as the international senator and vice speaker of the Student Senate.

She completed the Leadership Fellows Program during her freshman year at SOU, has participated in an Alternative Spring Break trip to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Colorado and next spring will lead a Raider Alternative Weekend trip.

“We are pleased to welcome Dylann to SOU’s Board of Trustees,” said Lyn Hennion, the board’s chair. “She is a very involved and high-achieving student, and her voice will be a welcomed addition to the board.

“The board also thanks its retiring trustee, Shanztyn Nihipali, for his years of dedicated service to the board and his alma mater – SOU. We wish Shanztyn the best in all of his future endeavors.”

Loverro is from Ellensburg, Washington, where her mother is an associate professor of psychology and her father is chair of the Department of Curriculum, Supervision and Educational Leadership at Central Washington University.

She is fluent in French, and studied abroad in Lyon, France, during the 2017-18 academic year. During her senior year of high school, she served on the bipartisan Youth Advisory Board to former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington’s 8th Congressional District.

Loverro intends to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees after completing her undergraduate studies at SOU. She hopes for a career with the U.S. State Department, the United Nations or another international organization.


SOU inventors will participate in InventOR competition

SOU joining Oregon inventors’ competition

SOU is participating for the first time in the annual Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge, aka InventOR, a statewide competition designed for student inventors and entrepreneurs to find funding and make their prototypes marketable realities.

Teams interested in participating in InventOR should attend the informational meeting on Oct. 17, at 12:30 p.m. in Central Hall, Room 106. Alternatively, teams can contact Rebecca Williams, an assistant professor of business at SOU.

According to its website, InventOR defines an invention as, “a new, innovative, and tangible product, process or service that affects the communities and environment in a positive way.” While there must be a physical element to the project, the invention can be in any field and teams are even allowed to compete with only an idea in hand.

The competition will start with a preliminary, school-level round. Once the two best and brightest teams of inventors at SOU are picked, they’ll move onto a semifinal competition, where they’ll be given $500 to develop their prototype as they go head-to-head against 18 other participating schools. One team from each school will then move on to the finals, where teams will be given $1,500 to improve their prototype. A total of $30,000 in prizes is up for grabs for the finalists.

Prototypes will be judged based on four criteria: the quality of the prototype, the clarity of the pitch, the environmental and/or social impact, and accomplishment of a team’s goals.

Invent Oregon is sponsored through the Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon, The Oregon Community Foundation, the Oregon Lottery and the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Paul Kirby in "Lodestar," which has a busy film festival schedule

SOU student’s documentary on recreational therapy hits the film festival circuit

“Lodestar,” a short documentary film by SOU graduate student and Army Ranger veteran Paul Kirby, has a busy schedule on the film festival circuit.

It has been selected for the St. Lawrence International Film Festival, the Miami Independent Film Festival, the 2019 Impact DOCS Awards, the First Time Film-Makers Review and the Digital Monthly Online Film Festival.

Kirby wrote, produced, directed and acted in the documentary during spring term, as part of faculty member Chris Lucas’ Advanced Documentary Production class at the SOU’s Digital Media Center. Two other SOU students – Evan Johnson (editor) and Dustin Saigo (cinematographer) – assisted with the production.

The film focuses on coastal access and nature experiences as an under-used intervention for mental health issues, and describes the role of then-Gov. Tom McCall in ensuring public access to all Oregon beaches in 1967.  McCall described Oregon as a lodestar – a star used in shipping navigation to point the way.

“Oregon is unique, in that it is the only state other than Hawaii that has unrestricted public access to the entire length of its coastline,” Kirby said. “Oregon leads the way in terms of public coastal access, but I felt strongly that we need to celebrate our state’s unique status in order to reinforce the existing legislation.”

“Lodestar” touches on a suicide epidemic among veterans and the restrictive coastal access laws of states such as Florida and California. It invokes images of Kirby’s own experiences with PTSD and depression, juxtaposed against his experiences sea kayaking along the Oregon Coast.

The film tackles a topical issue – the federal “Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act” (HR-2435) is under consideration during the current session of Congress. The bill, currently awaiting a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Health, would require an interagency task force to identify opportunities for recreational therapy by veterans on public lands and other outdoor spaces.

Kirby has also been selected as a guest presenter at the Arctic Futures 2050 Conference at the National Academy of Sciences this September in Washington, D.C. The research focus of his presentation is Inuit self-determination.

“One of the great things about the interdisciplinary grad program is it provides the skills and flexibility to make a documentary about the suicide rate among veterans and also conduct research on other marginalized groups with similar issues – like the suicide epidemic among Inuit youth,” Kirby said. “I wouldn’t be able to do that without synthesizing Native American Studies with Documentary Production.”

SOU's Jessica Pistole, NAIA Softball Coach of the Year

Pistole honored as NAIA Coach of the Year

Southern Oregon University softball coach Jessica Pistole, who guided her team last month to SOU’s first-ever national championship in a women’s sport, was the NAIA Softball Coach of the Year on Wednesday.

The fifth-year head coach has led the Raiders to three consecutive NAIA World Series appearances. This year’s team made it through the winners bracket of the double-elimination tournament unbeaten, then had two chances to beat longtime powerhouse Oklahoma City, which came out of the loser’s bracket needing a two-game sweep.

Oklahoma City won the first game before the Raiders won the World Series with an 8-3 win in an elimination game for both teams.

SOU went 15-23 the season before Pistole became head coach and has gone 219-82 in the five seasons since, including a 149-38 mark over the last three years.

Pistole and her assistant coaches – Duane PardueCheyenne Bricker, Mike Mayben and Harlee Donovan – last week were named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s NAIA National Coaching Staff of the Year.

The program has also won three consecutive Cascade Conference regular-season titles and three consecutive conference tournament titles, and has set program records for wins in each of the last three seasons.

The Raiders have earned NAIA Scholar Team honors each season under Pistole.

The coach, originally from Loomis, California, was named the CCC Coach of the Year for the third time this season.

Her team finished this season with a 52-8 record and its first-ever No. 1 ranking in the final NAIA Top 25 poll.

The Raiders ranked sixth nationally in hits per game (10.3), seventh in team batting average (.360) and runs (7.0), and 16th in earned-run average (2.08).They also committed fewer than half as many fielding errors (58) as their opponents (118).

This story is based on an earlier version at souraiders.com