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

SOU's World Series champions raise their trophies

Parade to celebrate SOU’s NAIA World Series champions

SOU students and employees are encouraged to build time into their schedules, if practical, to attend today’s parade and celebration of the university’s national champion softball team. The Raiders won the NAIA World Series title last Wednesday in Springfield, Missouri.

Today’s parade will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Mountain Street near the SOU Plunkett Center. It will proceed along Siskiyou Boulevard and down Wightman Street to the Lithia Motors Pavilion for a trophy presentation and celebration of the team’s accomplishments.

Students, employees, alumni and other fans are asked to view the parade from the lawn and sidewalk along Siskiyou Boulevard between the Stevenson Union and Churchill Hall. Softball team members, SOU President Linda Schott, the university’s Raider Band and others are expected to participate.

Employees who are interested in attending the festivities should coordinate with their supervisors to confirm attendance on work time.

The softball team’s victory in Wednesday night’s winner-take-all game against Oklahoma City in Springfield, Missouri, resulted in SOU’s first-ever national title in a women’s sport.

The Raiders made it through the World Series winner’s bracket unbeaten, then had two chances to defeat Oklahoma City – which emerged from the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament. Oklahoma City won the first game of the two-game set with SOU on Wednesday morning.

SOU is just the second Cascade Conference member to win the NAIA World Series since it began in 1981. The team finished 52-8, setting an SOU wins record for the third consecutive season under fifth-year head coach Jessica Pistole.

SOU celebrates World Series championship

Raiders softball team returns to SOU as World Series champs

The SOU Raiders softball team, united all year in its focus on a national title, was returning to Ashland today in four separate groups after winning the university’s first championship Wednesday night in the NAIA World Series.

SOU President Linda Schott, who was traveling in Mexico as part of the Ashland-Guanajuato Sister City delegation, said she followed the championship series closely and is thrilled with the result.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our team and our university,” the president said. “These young women are textbook examples of student-athletes. They demonstrated their talent, toughness and determination on a national stage – and the team has a combined grade point average of 3.5. They are ideal representatives of SOU and the state of Oregon. I look forward to congratulating them when we’re all back on campus.”

Plans are in the works for a parade next week to celebrate the team’s championship. Details will be posted on SOU News when the date, time and route are finalized.

The SOU team was led on Wednesday by a complete-game effort from pitcher Gabby Sandoval and a first-inning grand slam by shortstop Paige Leeper as they defeated NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma City, 8-3, in an elimination game for both teams.

The Raiders made it through the World Series winner’s bracket unbeaten, then had two opportunities to defeat Oklahoma City – which emerged from the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament. Oklahoma City won the first game of the two-game set with SOU on Wednesday morning.

SOU is just the second Cascade Conference member to win the NAIA World Series since it began in 1981, and the team set a school record for wins for the third consecutive season under fifth-year head coach Jessica Pistole.

Wednesday night’s game was Sandoval’s 33rd complete game of the season, giving her a 36-4 record – the 10th-most single-season wins in NAIA history and the most for any pitcher since 2013.

Maria Ruiz, awarded U.S. citizenship

SOU student overcomes immigration obstacles, succeeds academically

Maria Belen Ruiz Gonzalez was 5 when she arrived in the United States on the Fourth of July 18 years ago, and she thought the fireworks over Portland were a celebration of her arrival. The SOU business major will observe Independence Day as a newly-minted U.S. citizen this year, nearly closing the loop on a long cycle of immigration roadblocks and limited opportunities for her family and herself.

“There is nothing more frustrating to me than people who have a mindset that if you just come into the country legally, you should be fine,” Ruiz says. “My own family came to the states on a plane, with proper documentation.”

Her mother came first, to check out the possibilities, and Ruiz followed with her father and brother. All had visitor visas that allowed them to enter the U.S. from Paraguay, where her mother was a businesswoman and her father an accountant. They escaped a pervasive climate of violence in their hometown of Asuncion, Paraguay.

Maria Ruiz (center) in citizenship class

“On two separate occasions, armed men showed up at my home to attempt to kidnap my brother and I so they could hold us for ransom,” Ruiz says. “It’s a thing in Paraguay. On more than a few occasions, my mom was attacked in her own office by burglars demanding money.

“My parents were nice people – they didn’t have people who hated them or anything, but this is how people survive and get by in Paraguay.”

Her parents took what work they could find in the Portland area, settling in Tualatin and holding two or three under-the-table jobs each. They were overworked and underpaid, Ruiz says, because they didn’t have U.S. Social Security numbers.

Their visitor visas soon expired, driving the family deeper into the shadows of society. They couldn’t apply for Social Security cards, couldn’t file tax returns and, as immigration laws tightened, were unable to hold drivers licenses. They couldn’t leave and then re-enter the U.S., and because they had overstayed their visas it eventually became more difficult for their relatives to visit. Ruiz’s mother and aunt haven’t been able to see each other for more than 18 years.

“I refused to talk about my legal status for years due to fear instilled in me from a young age,” Ruiz says. “However, I’m here, I’m proud and I’m fearless.”

She turned a corner in her personal journey in October 2013, when she gained permanent resident status in the U.S. – a process that she describes as far more difficult and convoluted than her recent citizenship interview and test. As a permanent resident, she became eligible for a Social Security card and a driver’s license, and was able to work above-board.

She took another huge step – or a leap of faith – the following fall, when she enrolled at Portland Community College.

“I had no clue what I was doing, or what the collegiate system was like here,” Ruiz says. “Nobody in my family had ever attended college in the U.S. My dad was a CPA in Paraguay, but my mom was a self-made entrepreneur and she hadn’t even finished high school.

“So for me, my first full two years of college were guessing games.”

She initially applied for and was granted financial aid, but that was revoked when her grades plummeted during her freshman year. She paid for the entire second year out-of-pocket, working full-time at Nordstrom in Portland while attending classes and resuscitating her GPA.

Her boyfriend – defensive lineman James Aso’au Porter – was recruited to play football at SOU beginning in 2016, and a year later Ruiz decided to transfer and join him on the Ashland campus.

“I struggled a lot to fit in here,” she says. “I’m a very outgoing person, but I felt like I was out of my league at a university.

“What helped a lot was the football team – especially the defensive linemen. My boyfriend would take me to all the things they would do. I went to all the games. If I talked to other students within my classes, it was almost always the football players. They have been my go-to, my protectors, my friends here at SOU.”

Ruiz is on course to earn her bachelor’s degree next spring in business administration, with a concentration in marketing and a minor in communication. She plans to move back to Portland after graduation and would love to land a job with either Nike or Adidas – and to “wake up just as excited to learn and grow every day as I do from my classes.”

But her immigration history continues to raise obstacles for her, even though she’s been a permanent U.S. resident for five years and became a citizen in April.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process requires her to list at least one parent as a source of financial support. She can’t list her mother, who still has no reportable income and no Social Security number, and Ruiz had a falling out with her father when she was in high school and no longer communicates with him.

She got by while at PCC by using the college’s payment plan and saving money from her job. She now works at Dutch Bros. in Medford, but doesn’t earn enough to cover all school and living expenses, and has hasn’t applied for scholarships or other aid.

“I’m a barista and the tips are good, but aren’t that great,” Ruiz says. “I was granted subsidized and unsubsidized (college) loans. I now have almost $10,000 in school loans for the entire year and summer that’s coming up.”

But she has developed a sense of belonging at SOU, and credits small class sizes and caring professors for her academic success and growing confidence – specifically calling out business faculty members Dennis Slattery, Mark Siders and Jeremy Carlton.

“I’m a firm believer of fate,” she says. “I think we’re all where we’re supposed to be in this point in time. SOU is that for me.”

The admiration of her professors runs in both directions, with Slattery describing his student as “sweet and intelligent, and terribly hard-working.”

“Her story is one of courage and hard work, all in this wonderful personality and bright light of a person,” he says.

A high point in Ruiz’s journey was the U.S. citizenship process. She applied last Halloween – just a few days after she became eligible, following five years as a legal permanent resident. It meant a trip to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration office in Portland, a $725 application fee and a “biometric screening” – fingerprints, photograph and signature. She received a study packet of 100 U.S. civics questions, and was told she’d need to correctly answer six out of 10 randomly selected questions during her oral exam for citizenship six months later – in April.

“I got the first six questions correct, so I didn’t need to answer any more,” Ruiz says.

As proud as she is of her accomplishment, she is most excited about what it will mean for her mother. Because Ruiz is over 21 and now a citizen, her mother is eligible for a change in her own legal status. “All that has to be done is file paperwork and pay the fees,” she says.

That’s the catch – legal fees and application expenses will amount to almost $6,000. And because she received no financial aid this year, most of Ruiz’s earnings have gone toward her own expenses. She had been putting some money aside to buy her mother a round-trip airline ticket to Paraguay for Mothers Day, to be reunited with family members for the first time since 2001. But Ruiz and her mother have agreed those savings should instead go into their immigration fund.

“I will still buy her a round trip ticket, but after all the legalities are dealt with,” Ruiz says. “For me, I won’t consider this (citizenship process) successful until my mom is 100 percent protected from deportation.”

SOU men's track team, which won a Cascade Conference championship

SOU wins 4th consecutive Cascade Conference All-Sports Championship

Southern Oregon University will hang a Cascade Conference All-Sports Championship banner for the fourth year in a row, after landing at No. 1 in the final 2018-19 standings announced Thursday by the league office.

The Raiders won conference titles in four sports – in men’s soccer and volleyball in the fall, and men’s track and field and women’s softball in the spring. The university also got important points from its men’s and women’s cross country teams, which each finished second at their championship meets, and from its third-place women’s track and field team.

SOU totaled 203.1 points and Oregon Tech – which was deadlocked with the Raiders heading into the spring season – finished in second place for the second year in a row with 191.7. Eastern Oregon (187.3), College of Idaho (181.9) and Corban (162.6) were next in the standings.

Points for the All-Sports Championship standings are awarded based on participating institutions’ top eight finishes in CCC regular-season standings – except in the cases of cross country, golf, track and field, and men’s wrestling, whose scores are based on finishes in conference championship contests. The scoring formula also takes into consideration the number of schools competing for championships in each sport.

The conference All-Sports Championship trophy was awarded for the first time in 2006-07, and the Raiders won it for the first time in 2015-16.

Eleven colleges and universities are regular members of the Cascade Conference and nine more are associate members that participate in a limited number of sports.

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

Student presentation at 2018 SOAR conference

SOAR conference returns to SOU with 80-plus events in four days

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon Arts & Research (SOAR) conference – an annual showcase of Southern Oregon University talents, interests and innovations – will begin Tuesday, May 14, and continue through Friday, May 17.

The 12th annual forum will feature a film screening and discussion about citizen activists’ creative efforts to bridge America’s deepening divides; a “language roundtable” at which international students and language club members discuss the importance of language programs in the global era; and more than 80 other separate events presented over four days by SOU students, faculty and staff.

SOAR’s events – which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from 20-minute demonstrations or performances to multi-day exhibitions – capture SOU’s unique and inclusive spirit.

This year’s conference features a total of 16 exhibitions, or displays of original creative work; 25 presentations of projects, capstone experiences, research elements or theories; 20 symposia on group projects; 11 performances of music, drama, dance, readings and other creative expressions; five demonstrations of skills or activities; and six food outlets. There will also be 120 poster presentations.

All SOAR events are free and open to the public. Those who are attending SOAR events may park for free in SOU’s Mountain Street parking lot. Information about this year’s conference is available on the SOAR website.

The Oregon Writing Project at SOU and the university’s Multicultural Resource Center will cohost a screening of the PBS documentary “American Creed,” which first aired in March 2018. The documentary – with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer-winning history David Kennedy – explores the efforts of prominent and everyday citizens to overcome philosophical or political differences in America. The screening is at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, in the Hannon Library’s Meese Room and will be followed by a discussion moderated by Alma Rosa Alvarez, chair of SOU’s English Program.

SOU language club students and international students will discuss the importance of languages and language programs, despite the current trend language programs being cut at universities across the nation in a symposium on Tuesday, May 14. The students will share the experiences they could not have had without a second or third language—from study abroad and internship possibilities, to personal growth and cultural exchanges that have led to life-long multinational friendships. The event will be at 12:30 p.m. in Room 323 of the Stevenson Union.

A full schedule of this year’s SOAR events is available online.

-SOU-

SOU crew wins women's pair category at rowing championships

SOU team continues to surprise the collegiate rowing world

The SOU Rowing Team, which burst onto the national scene as a rookie program two years ago, captured the gold medal in the women’s pair category a week ago at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships near Sacramento.

SOU’s two-person crew of Kenna Tyler and Molly Beilstein won the 2,000-meter race by two boat-lengths against much more established programs including the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Santa Barbara, which placed second.

“This truly is an amazing accomplishment for SOU students,” Environmental Science and Policy Professor John Gutrich, who is faculty advisor to the rowing club, wrote in an email announcing the win. “SOU received much praise and coverage during the announcing of the race.”

Nine West Coast collegiate programs entered the women’s pair competition and six boats qualified for the grand final race on Sunday, April 28. The SOU team was seeded first after winning a preliminary heat the previous day, and faced crews from UCSB; the University of Central Oklahoma, which finished third; UC-Berkeley; Humboldt State University; and Chapman University.

The regatta was held at Lake Natoma, on the American River near Rancho Cordova, northwest of Sacramento.

The SOU Rowing Team also entered crews in the men’s pair category and the women’s 4+ category – which has four rowers plus a coxswain, who guides them.

The team is a sport club at SOU – a student-led organization overseen by the Campus Recreation Department. The university’s sport clubs can be competitive, recreational or instructional but most represent SOU in intercollegiate competition. The rowing team trains at Emigrant Lake.

SOU’s rowing team was formed two years ago and surprised many at the 2017 American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) National Championships in Georgia by finishing second overall out of 22 entries in the novice women’s 4+ category.

Bike blender at previous SOU Earth Week

Earth Week at SOU packs in wide variety of events

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s fifth annual, student-driven Earth Week celebration from April 15 to 20 will be all about awareness of important issues facing the planet – and celebration of efforts that are making a difference.

Events will range from a “tea talk” about environmental justice and a “pollinator party” with local beekeepers, to a transportation options fair and an Earth Day bike ride. The three-day Environmental Justice Film Festival will have screenings on Tuesday through Thursday, and a Gender Neutral Clothing Swap will also be held each of those days.

The film festival – sponsored by SOU’s Sustainability Resource Center (ECOS), Black Student Union, Queer Resource Center and Food Justice League, and the local climate action group Rogue Climate – will offer films that focus on environmental and social justice from 6 to 8 p.m. each evening. Tuesday’s film will be in the Stevenson Union Arena and the other two films will be in the facility’s Rogue River Room.

One of the featured events at this year’s Earth Week observance will be an “Earth Day Extravaganza” on Tuesday in the Stevenson Union Courtyard. It will feature displays that highlight some of the notable sustainability efforts underway in the Rogue Valley, and opportunities to interact with local organizations and groups that are engaged in those efforts.

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

Earth Week highlights
MONDAY: Meatless Monday brings an entirely vegetarian menu, all day, to the Hawk dining commons; Tea Talk discussion about environmental justice, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Third Eye Theater between the Stevenson Union and Britt Hall.

TUESDAY: Graduate student Emily Lind of the Environmental Education club will lead a short “bird hike” around the Ashland Pond, transportation provided (email stewartc3@sou.edu for information); Earth Day Extravaganza, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stevenson Union Courtyard; a gender-neutral clothing swap, sponsored by the Queer Student Union, will offer free clothes from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Stevenson Union Gallery (SU 323); Environmental Justice Film Festival, “Viceland’s Rise, Standing Rock Part II,” about the Standing Rock efforts to protect tribal burial sites from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

WEDNESDAY: “Nature Reading” of short creative works about nature and ecology, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Third Eye Theater; OSPIRG pollinator party with beekeepers, live music, free food, face-painting, raffles and speakers, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stevenson Union Courtyard; gender-neutral clothing swap, 1 to 6 p.m., Stevenson Union Gallery (SU 323); Environmental Justice Film Festival, “An American Ascent,” about the first African-American expedition on Denali, North America’s highest peak.

THURSDAY: Transportation Options Fair with information about getting around without a car, with goodie bags and smoothies made with a “bike blender,” 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stevenson Union Courtyard; gender-neutral clothing swap, 1 to 6 p.m., Stevenson Union Gallery (SU 323); Environmental Justice Film Festival, “Urban Roots,” about depressed industrial towns and the need for a sustainable future.

FRIDAY: Arbor Day of service, a day of stewardship with ECOS, SOU Landscaping and The Farm at SOU, with an optional free lunch, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. (details and sign-up online); silver maple birthday party, music and games at the silver maple in Raider Village, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

SATURDAY: Earth Day Bike Ride with ECOS, biking along the Bear Creek Greenway with treats in Talent, noon to 3 p.m. (details and sign-up online); Rogue Valley Earth Day 2019, a free, all-ages celebration about stewardship and community-building, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum.

A full list of SOU Earth Week events can be found on the SOU sustainability website.

-SOU-