Boarding School art display at SOU

Boarding School Healing project comes to SOU

SOU’s Native American Student Union and Native American Studies program are working together to honor and recognize the victims of 150 years of residential and boarding school assimilation and erasure practices by hosting an interactive art display at various campus locations. The display – currently inside the Stevenson Union – is intended to bring awareness and education to the Boarding School Healing project.

The display of keepsakes and artifacts is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays through the summer. It will be installed at other locations around campus through fall and winter terms.

Chance White Eyes, an assistant professor of Native American Studies at SOU, will also teach a fall term course (NAS 360) on “Boarding School Legacies.” The class will offer Native American perspectives on the practices of Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. and Canada, along with current practices in Indian education.

“The community is encouraged to add their own prayers, keepsake or item,” said an announcement of the display from the Native American Student Union.

“This is a first step in healing for the indigenous, Native American and Alaskan Native communities.”

A memo in June from U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland described the federal government’s attempts to forcibly assimilate indigenous cultures beginning with the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 and continuing through the 1960s. Indigenous children were taken from their families and relocated to distant residential facilities, where their Native identities, languages and beliefs were suppressed and parents could not visit. Many died of abuse and were buried in unmarked graves.

Resources for those who are struggling with recent disclosures about the practices of former Native American boarding schools are available through the Native American Student Union, which is part of SOU’s Multicultural Coalition, or the Native American Studies program.

SOU will host 2022 residence hall conference

SOU to host international residence hall conference in 2022

Southern Oregon University will make a bit of history next June, becoming the smallest institution to host the annual conference of the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. The conference, held each year since 1954, typically attracts between 1,000 to 2,500 participants, but here’s the hitch: the organization has announced that the 2022 event will be held remotely.

“With the announcement of the 2022 annual conference being held virtually, student leaders at SOU realized that it was the perfect opportunity for a small school to host the 68th NACURH annual conference,” said SOU student Rachael Baker, recognition chair for the university’s chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary – a branch of NACURH.

“SOU is making history by not only being the smallest institution to ever host this conference, but also earning the title of being the first institution in Oregon to host the conference,” Baker said.

In fact, the only other NACURH conference to be hosted by a Pacific Northwest school was in 1965, at Washington State University. The nearest to Ashland was in 2006, at the University of California, Berkeley.

A group of 12 student leaders from SOU worked for eight months to put together a presentation and bid for the 2022 international leadership conference, which was accepted earlier this summer. Baker is the conference chair and has worked on the project with Kyrstyn Kelly, the NACURH board liaison; Mimi Pieper, finance chair; William Hutson, website and technology chair; Caleb Hefner, social media and marketing chair; Bree Erb, educational sessions chair; Mason Healy-Patterson, entertainment chair; Beck Weiser, volunteer chair; Izzy Hodgin, accessibility chair; Phoenix Ramirez, safety and security chair; and spirit and mass gatherings co-chairs Jay Santos and Ryana Terao.

Allyson Beck – SOU’s assistant director of housing for leadership, retention and marketing – is serving as staff advisor for the conference team.

NACURH, the largest student-led non-profit organization in the world, is made up of eight regions that cover the entire U.S. and portions of Canada, Mexico and The Bahamas. The organization’s purpose is to bring together students from a wide variety of college residence halls to discuss ideas, best practices and resources that may help them improve residence hall experiences at their campuses.

More than a dozen individual and chapter awards are presented at each annual conference.

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.

Earth Month in full bloom at SOU

Earth Month in full swing at SOU

Earth Day – first observed nationwide in 1970 to tap an emerging environmental consciousness – has blossomed 51 years later into a full-blown Earth Month at SOU with a series of events, activities and programing throughout April for the campus community and beyond.

This year’s Earth Month observance, organized by the Student Sustainability Team and hosted by the Social Justice and Equity Center (contact at ecos.sou.edu), includes a slate of more than a dozen opportunities for SOU students, employees and others to participate. Choices range from the monthlong EcoChallenge to a Bike and Hike Week (April 26-30) to an Intersectional and Inclusive Environmentalism statewide panel discussion on Earth Day itself – April 22.

Earth Week at SOU will feature public events both virtual and live, and on and off the university campus.

EcoChallenge. Everyone in the SOU community is invited to join the SOU EcoChallenge Team: take the challenge and see how a few weeks of action can add up to a lifetime of change for you and the planet. The Earth Month EcoChallenge provides tools and inspiration to turn intention into action, and gives participants a fun and social way to think about and act on proven solutions to reverse climate change. Visit earthmonth.ecochallenge.org to learn more, set up your account and join the Sustainability at Southern Oregon University team! This is a fun and sustainable way to get involved in the SOU community while at home.

AIFF screening: “2040.” SOU students and employees are invited to attend a free virtual screening of the film “2040” as part of the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Director Damon Gameau, motivated by concerns about the planet his four-year-old daughter would inherit, embarked on a global journey to meet innovators and changemakers in the areas of economics, technology, civil society, agriculture, education and sustainability. Drawing on their expertise, he sought to identify the best currently available solutions to help improve the planet’s health and that of the societies that operate within it. SOU students, faculty and staff can register to receive a one-use screening voucher to view the film from home anytime on April 16 or 17. This registration form closes April 15, so please register in advance!

Story Circle. The Southern Oregon University Student Sustainability Team invites you to join Erica Ledesma and Raul Tovar from De La Raiz Project for a free online story circle on Wednesday, April 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. We will be gathering online to share our experiences of Our Place, Before and After. This virtual event is open to the public and folks both near and far are invited to join!

Intersectional and Inclusive Environmentalism. Student sustainability leaders from several Oregon colleges and universities invite you to this Earth Day keynote panel and Q&A on Zoom, featuring Summer Dean aka ClimateDiva & Madison Daisy aka ClimateDaisy.

EcoQuest Adventure. From Thursday, April 22 to Sunday, April 25, take part in activities at home and outdoors that are organized by local nonprofits, businesses and agencies that usually have exhibits at Rogue Valley Earth Day. You can sign-up and track activities in an online app (coming soon) — and be entered in a raffle to earn prizes! Check back soon at roguevalleyearthday.net/ecoquest for more information.

Food Pantry Bag Battle. Want to learn creative ways to cook meals based on items from the Student Food Pantry food bags? Join the live “Battle of the Food Pantry Bags” on Zoom, where students and faculty members will compete to create the best meals on a budget. Learn about the Food Pantry, hear stories from four contestants (faculty contestants include Leslie Eldridge and Dr. Jamie Trammel from the ESP program, competing against two surprise student contestants), and vote for what you think would be your favorite meal. All audience members will be entered into drawings for multiple “door prizes” – including gift cards to ShopNKart, Creekside Pizza and a CSA produce half-share from the Farm at SOU.

Bike and Hike Week. For the last week of Earth Month, the Student Sustainability Team invites you to participate in the Bike/Hike Week social media giveaway! How does it work? Simply take a picture of yourself riding your bike or going on a hike, tag us in the post or story, use the hashtag #BikeandHikeSOU, and make sure you are following @sou_studentsustainability on Instagram. Two winners each day will be picked at random to receive Dutch Bros gift cards, and contestants can enter every day! Not on Instagram or don’t have a public IG profile? Email your photo to ecos@sou.edu. Winners will be contacted by IG direct message (or email).

A Latino’s Conservation Journey. Erim Gómez will share how he has navigated college as a first-gen student and POC, and a career in conservation, all while struggling with learning disabilities. Gomez graduated from SOU with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2007. He was a McNair Scholar at SOU and worked for ECOS, where he helped to establish SOU’s first Green Tag Fee to support campus sustainability initiatives. He went on to earn his doctorate in Natural Resource Sciences from Washington State University (2020) and is now assistant professor of wildlife biology at the University of Montana.

The Farm at SOU.

CSA. Sign up for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a mutually beneficial way for community members to support the university’s farm by investing in a share of crops at a reduced price. Members receive a weekly bag of in-season, pesticide-free produce throughout the growing season.

Volunteer Fridays. Join the Farm at SOU at 155 Walker St from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. every Friday to volunteer and learn more about sustainable agriculture.

Art submissions. The Farm is currently looking for art submissions to be displayed on-site. If you have an idea for a visual art piece that you could create, please submit it for consideration.

Farm Stand. Save the date – The Farm will offer the SOU community a farm stand stocked with high quality, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables every Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m., located at the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Wightman Street, from May 27 to October 7.

Earth Week with OSPIRG. SOU’s OSPIRG chapter is hosting a week’s worth of events to celebrate Earth Day. Check out their events and RSVP.

A full list of SOU Earth Week events can be found at https://sustainability.sou.edu/sou-earth-month-2021/.

SOU team wins hackathon

SOU team wins statewide hackathon

A team of four SOU computer science students won first place out of 62 teams in a statewide “hackathon” last weekend after developing and coding a game they called “Laughing Stock” over two days. The HackOR event, held on a combination of online platforms, drew a total of 600 contestants with teams from institutions including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

The game created by a team of SOU juniors – Liam Erickson, Sam Platt, Peter Jacobson and Ronin Ganoot – challenges players to try getting through a TSA terminal at a virtual airport. Once aboard their airplane, they must make various decisions, such as whether to put their bare feet on the seat (bad idea). The team described it as a “nightmare realm” of adventure games of the players’ choosing.

“Events such as this prepare our students for the workplace, where they will need to analyze the requirements for a project and develop software solutions in a fast-paced environment,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, an assistant professor in SOU’s Computer Science Program.  “SOU prepares students for environments like this by teaching them not just to be great programmers, but also to think about what problems need to be solved.”

She said at least two other SOU students – Joshua Yoon and Jacob Golden – also participated in the HackOR event, which was held on social platforms including Zoom, YouTube, Discord, Devpost, GitHub and gather.town. Oppenheimer served as one of the hackathon’s mentors, helping students with outreach and providing support during the event.

The HackOR event was founded by Joy Liu, a student who is on a gap year before starting college. Judges included both industry leaders and professors from around the state and included at least one from Ashland – Bill Saltzstein, an engineer and innovator in the medical device field. Judges said that they especially liked that the winning SOU entry was hand-crafted, with good code and excellent graphics.

Last weekend’s competition was the first statewide hackathon for SOU computer science students. The university put on its own internal event last year.

FAFSA form for financial assistance

Prospective students lagging behind on financial assistance applications

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University financial aid office and Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission have an urgent message to anyone considering college this fall: the time is now to submit applications for public and private assistance that can help make higher education affordable.

The HECC reported that the completion rate for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms as of Jan. 1 was 15 percent lower among this year’s high school seniors in Oregon than it was at the same date in 2020. Kristen Duncan, SOU’s financial aid director, said her office is seeing about a 10 percent decline in FAFSA submissions for the 2021-22 academic year.

She emphasized that financial wellness and success for many students begins with submission of the FAFSA or ORSAA (Oregon State Aid Application) – the two aid applications that cover most forms of government assistance and many private resources.

“By filling out this application, students are ensuring that they will be eligible for some form of federal aid – both need-based grants and the option to borrow Federal Student Loans,” Duncan said. “The FAFSA takes just under 20 minutes to fill out from start to finish, and is available via your smartphone and tablet by downloading the MyStudentAid app.

“The FAFSA does not have an official deadline, but needs to filled out before June 30 to be considered for aid. Not filling out this federal application can limit the amount of aid that a student can receive from the school of their choice. It affects everything from outside scholarships to school-specific scholarships.”

Duncan pointed out that – as its name implies – there is no cost to complete or submit the FAFSA, and most who do so are eligible for one or more forms of aid. “Not filling out the FAFSA is the number one biggest mistake a student can make if they are trying to pay for college,” she said.

The HECC noted in a recent memo to Oregon’s colleges and universities that FAFSA and ORSAA submissions – which are down a combined 13 percent this year – are particularly important to students experiencing poverty, students of color and those from rural areas. The agency suggested that disruptions and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year have caused the drop-off in financial aid applications.

“This decline means that many high school seniors, continuing college students and adults seeking to continue their education or workforce training could miss out on financial assistance that can make education more affordable,” the HECC said.

Completion of the financial aid forms keeps options open for accessing and using aid anytime in the upcoming academic year.

Information from FAFSA and ORSAA submissions determines students’ eligibility for public grants and numerous scholarships. The ORSAA is Oregon’s alternative to the FAFSA for students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and/or undocumented status.

The applications can be submitted throughout the academic year, but several private scholarships and institutional aid programs have spring deadlines. Some grants also have limited funding, so filing late could mean missing out.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data shows that students who complete the FAFSA are 84 percent more likely to enroll in postsecondary education.

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Oregon Fringe Festival to be online

Honorarium recipients announced for Oregon Fringe Festival

This year’s Oregon Fringe Festival, which will take place online and feature outdoor art installations on the SOU campus, has selected recipients and awarded honorariums to seven artists worldwide whose work is boundary-breaking, unconventional, excites discussion and explores different perspectives of a held position, principle or belief. The festival will be presented by the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU from April 29 to May 1.

The Fringe Festival – usually a six-day event at SOU – will be condensed this year but will maintain its trademark edge as emerging creators and real-world artists share their experiences and engage with each other’s work. The festival’s mission is to provide a boundary-breaking platform for free expression and celebrate unconventional art and spaces.

The 2021 version will feature more than 50 acts and more than 40 different artists. Viewers will have opportunities to interact with a variety of creative work – including live virtual performances, artist lectures/workshops, an extensive virtual gallery and outdoor art installations.

Seven local, national and international artists were selected for this year’s honorariums:

• Carlos Fernandex and Manisha Sondhi (Theatre), London
• Neila Miller (dance/movement), Chicago
• Aurelia Grierson (theatre), Ashland
• Cody Clark (magic/comedy), Louisville, Kentucky
• Nat Allister (theatre), Minneapolis
• Derek Keller (music), Ashland
• Ginger and Johnny (theatre), Los Angeles

The Oregon Fringe Festival, which began in 2014, is an Oregon Center for the Arts-funded showcase of SOU students’ creative work. It includes presentations of music, visual art, theatre, dance, creative writing and spoken word, and is built to expand as needed. The festival invites artists from all stages of their careers – from beginners to award-winners – to mingle, network, and perform.

“Our mission is simple: to provide a platform for free expression, and work to secure a tolerant space for the sharing of ideas through story,” the OFF website says.

The festival provides a boundary-breaking platform for free expression that amplifies the voices of those who are unrepresented in the creative arts. A lens on equity, diversity and inclusion will filter the selection process for all projects submitted.

People with disabilities are encouraged to enjoy the events, and those who require accommodations can contact SOU’s Disability Resources office in advance at DSS@sou.edu.

All of the festival’s presentations are free and open to the public.

Campus Pride rates SOU at top

SOU rated at the top for eighth year in a row by Campus Pride

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has been recognized for the eighth year in a row as one of the nation’s Top 40 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.

SOU earned five out of five stars overall on the Campus Pride Index, which ranks universities in each of eight categories: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. SOU drew five-star rankings in six of the categories and four-and-a-half stars in the other two.

The Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for prospective and current LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization and pandemic-related isolation.

“LGBTQ youth and families want to know what campuses are doing when it comes to inclusive policies, programs and practices,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and creator of the Campus Pride Index. “The ‘Best of the Best’ highlights the Top 40 this year across six regions throughout the country.”

SOU was also ranked 21st among the 50 best colleges for LGBTQ students by the online publication College Choice, which released its 2020 rankings in July.

The Campus Pride list of the top 40 LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities in the U.S. included three Oregon institutions – SOU, the University of Oregon and Portland State University. A total of eight in the West region received the organization’s “Premier Campus” designation.

SOU addresses sexual orientation and gender identity in the university’s non-discrimination policy and offers gender-inclusive housing options, the stand-alone Queer Resource Center and LGBTQ-related academic offerings through the 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.

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SOU's cohort of first-year students is diverse and smart

SOU’s first-year cohort: diverse, smart and persistent

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s 2020 cohort of first-year students is fairly evenly split between Oregon and out-of-state residents, much more diverse than either Jackson county or the state as a whole and has a wide variety of scholarly interests, with students in 19 academic majors.

The freshman class of 570 – not including transfer students – is also smart, with an average high school grade point average of 3.34. Another 380 first-year transfer students have enrolled at SOU this fall, along with nearly 3,000 continuing, returning and non-admitted students.

“We have a really good group of first-year students this fall, and great students who are continuing their educational journeys with us,” said Neil Woolf, SOU’s vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “The COVID-19 pandemic, the recent wildfires and other external events have been huge distractions. All of our students this year have persevered. They want to learn and succeed.”

The pandemic and a resulting shift to mostly remote classes at SOU and most other universities resulted in dire predictions of enrollment declines in the 10 to 20 percent range for higher education institutions across the country. Official enrollment figures for Oregon’s public universities won’t be available until about halfway through fall term, but preliminary data suggest that SOU’s losses will be under 10 percent.

“We certainly would have preferred to hold steady on enrollment or even gain some students,” Woolf said. “But given this year’s realities and obstacles, this is far from a worst-case scenario. The dedication of our faculty, staff and the students themselves has been phenomenal.”

SOU’s freshman cohort is 56.6 percent female, 41 percent male and 2.4 percent non-binary. About 56 percent identify as white, just under 16 percent as Hispanic or Latinx and 28 percent as multi-racial, unknown or other people of color. By contrast, the most recent demographic data from the county and state suggest a white population of nearly 89 percent in Jackson County and 85 percent statewide – although Hispanic or Latinx residents are not separated from those figures.

Oregon residents make up 56.6 percent of SOU’s freshman class, with non-residents at 43.4 percent – led by California at 25.9 percent. Students from a total of 16 other states or territories are included in the cohort. More than 73 percent are living in SOU residence halls or other campus housing, and just under 27 percent are living off-campus.

One in five SOU freshmen have not yet declared an academic major. For those who have decided on majors, the top choices are psychology, theatre arts, biology, creative arts, pre-nursing, business, and criminology and criminal justice.

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Essential workers from SOU's MBA program

Essential workers in SOU’s MBA Program share their stories

Joan McBee, the department chair of the SOU School of Business, asked essential workers in her graduate program this spring to share their experiences on the department’s Facebook page. Their responses are bittersweet, highlighting the strength of people in crisis and the tragedy of COVID-19.

“I know several students who are struggling to get their homework done, get their kids to do their homework, deal with working at home and all the distractions, and also have the demands of work – especially if they are considered essential workers,” McBee said. “My graduate assistant and I thought it would be good to run some stories on Facebook to honor those essential workers and to motivate others.”

One such essential worker is Sarah Wheeler, an operations specialist for Albertsons supermarket. She mentors and coaches managers, but has been swamped with other duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with working full-time, she’s raising her 2-year-old son and getting her master’s in business administration degree at SOU.

“I spend most days helping out wherever I am needed in the stores,” Wheeler said. “We have super-sized freight loads with the panic buying, so it has become increasingly difficult for the stores to get it all out on the sales floor before the store opens. It is incredible to see how our associates have come together as a big family, supporting each other through positive encouragement.”

While Wheeler works in retail, many of the responses that McBee received were from medical professionals. MBA students Alicia Preston, Dave Bergland and Ben Gugler all work at Rogue Valley Manor, where they support nearly 1,000 senior residents. Kylie Marshall is a respiratory therapist trained in critical care and cardio-pulmonary medicine.

“We’re the first ones in the room when you come into the ER short of breath and exposed,” Marshall said. “We’re the last ones you see when we’re intubating you. We’re the ones managing your life on the ventilator. We’re the ones who pull the tube when you’re awake or the ones who pull it to let you go.”

However, the most dramatic of McBee’s collected stories comes from Ryan Lilley, a bachelor of applied science student and the operations manager at Mountain Medics. Lilley started by detailing the event that caused him to get into health care in the first place.

“I was 5 years old and there was a car accident up the street from my grandmother’s house,” Lilley said. “My mother was a nurse and my father worked for the Forest Service. We briskly walked up the street to a crowd of 15 to 20 bystanders looking over … a man lying lifeless on the ground. My mother immediately began CPR and my father assisted.

“The gentlemen recovered and immediately vomited and rolled over… I knew from then on, I was going to be like my mother, and not a bystander.”

Lilley has jumped around a number of healthcare professions, from Ski Patrol to wilderness EMT to paramedic to lab assistant, before joining his friend’s company, Mountain Medics.

“Mountain Medics performs essential duties for the state of California, federal government and large corporations in reference to medical response for disasters, wildfires, rescues, along with COVID-19 screening and testing sites,” he said.

“Now more than ever the relevance of our company has become increasingly obvious. These crews need our help, and communities need our help.”

McBee found all of the stories she received emotional and motivational. Everyone who responded to her call for stories is working as hard as they can to keep themselves and their communities safe, and working toward their master’s degrees at the same time.

“This situation will change us forever, from our families to our jobs, from our small towns to our great cities,” Lilley said. “Our response is what will define us and this pandemic.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer