(Ashland, Ore.) — The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized Southern Oregon University today as this year’s recipient of the organization’s Excellence and Innovation Award for comprehensive sustainability and sustainable development.
The AASCU program, now in its sixth year, honored member institutions for excellence and innovation in 2019 by announcing award recipients in each of eight categories. SOU and the other winning colleges and universities will receive their awards this month at AASCU’s annual meeting.
AASCU recognized SOU for developing “a comprehensive and impactful sustainability program by collaborating across operations, academics and engagement.” The higher education organization noted that SOU has achieved energy savings of 121,000 kilowatt hours annually, an increase in campus solar electricity generation of 319 percent in the past five years and reductions in drive-alone trips of 24 percent for students and 15 percent for employees. SOU is the nation’s first university to offset 100 percent of its water use with Water Restoration Certificates purchased by student government.
“We are all very well aware of our commitment to sustainability and the natural environment, but it is gratifying to be recognized by an organization with the stature of the AASCU,” SOU President Linda Schott said. “This is not the finish line. Our students, faculty members and others on campus will continue to achieve, innovate and lead in the field of sustainability – just as we do in many other areas that benefit our students, our region and the world.”
Other institutions recognized with this year’s Excellence and Innovation Awards are California State University-Bakersfield, for excellence in teacher education; California State University-Fresno, for civic learning and community engagement; Columbus State University (Georgia), for international education; Oakland University (Michigan), for leadership development and diversity; State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill, for regional and economic development; Northwest Missouri State University, for student success and college completion; and Millersville University of Pennsylvania, for innovative sustainability projects.
“Each year, I am inspired by how AASCU institutions move the bar to serve their students and advance the economic and cultural development of their communities,” AASCU President Mildred García said. “These Excellence and Innovation Award winners truly demonstrate how our members serve as ‘stewards of place,’ prioritizing student success and leaving a lasting impact on their regions.”
AASCU said all of the winning programs had top-level administrative support, connected with their institutions’ mission and strategic agenda, contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, were grounded in research and incorporated best practices.
SOU has received numerous awards and recognitions for its sustainability practices in recent years. The university received an honorable mention two years ago at the Presidential Climate Leadership Summit and won the national Best Case Study sustainability award in 2015 from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) for collaborating with Bee City USA to establish a Bee Campus USA designation. SOU has been named a Tree Campus USA for three straight years, was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists and a year ago was named the nation’s top pollinator-friendly college by the Sierra Club, as part of its “Cool Schools” rankings.
SOU’s Lithia Motors Pavilion and adjoining Student Recreation Center earned LEED Gold certification this year from the U.S. Green Building Council – the fifth SOU facility to earn a LEED designation. The RCC-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford earned a LEED Platinum certification, the Green Building Council’s highest sustainability rating, and the McLaughlin and Shasta residence halls, and The Hawk dining facility, all have been certified as LEED Gold.
Roxane Beigel-Coryell, who served as SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager for the past several years, left the university in July to take a similar position at California State University, Channel Islands. A new sustainability and recycling manager is expected to be announced later this month and begin work at SOU on Nov. 8.
SOU President Linda Schott and Board of Trustees member Sheila Clough will receive the university’s Excellence and Innovation Award at the Oct. 27 opening session of AASCU’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.