While you were out: summer news from Ashland

Students’ return to the classrooms of Southern Oregon University is the final sign of summer giving way to fall. Here is a recap of what happened while you were out, according to headlines from the Ashland Daily Tidings and the Medford Mail Tribune.

SOU to establish Honors College

University officials have confirmed that an honors college will be established for Southern Oregon University by the beginning of the 2013 school year, according to the Daily Tidings.

The college will accept 25 students per year and will focus on students having mentors from the community throughout their four years of attendance in order to prepare them for the work environment, according to the Daily Tidings. This is a modified version of other honors colleges which typically prepare students to go on to graduate school rather than going directly into the work force.

According to the Daily Tidings, the program requires students to take over fifteen honors courses in place of general education classes. Courses will be taught by current SOU teachers and will be held in existing buildings on campus. Entering students are required to have a high school GPA of 3.75, SAT score of 1,200 and an ACT score of 27, though other exceptional students may be able to enter the program.

SOU awarded grant to study alternative power

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Southern Oregon University a $250,000 grant to study the feasibility of a campus biomass co-generation plant. Such a plant could potentially be used to generate 100 percent of SOU’s electricity and 70 percent of its heat if constructed, according to an article in the Mail Tribune.

The biomass plant is one solution to a plan that would leave the SOU campus “climate-neutral by 2050” as stated by university President Mary Cullinan, according to the Mail Tribune.

An estimated cost for the completed plant is around $12 million, according to the Mail Tribune. Multiple solutions are being examined, such as the use of pellets, woody debris and other by-products. Illinois Valley High School in Cave Junction is currently using pellets as an energy source.

A discussion involving community members is expected to assist the study, which could take up to two years to complete.

Staff changes at SOU

Reorganization from within the student affairs division at Southern Oregon University led to the elimination of four management positions, including the dean of students, according to an article in the Daily Tidings.

The responsibilities associated with these positions have been redistributed among six new positions designed to increase student access to staff within student affairs. With more personnel available, students should be able to receive more one-on-one advising time, mentoring and counseling geared toward success after graduation, according to the Daily Tidings.

Along with the changes comes the possibility of increased retention rate at SOU. The goal is to have a 75 percent retention rate within the next two years, which would be a 12 percent improvement from 2005, according to the Daily Tidings.

New faculty for the Department of Performing Arts

David Humphrey is the new director of performing arts at Southern Oregon University. Humphrey comes to the school with over 30 years of professional executive management and artistic production experience, including working with the Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco, Calif. and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., according to the Daily Tidings.

Two more faculty members, James Donlon and Jeff Richmond, are also added to the department this year. Donlon has a 40-year career in fields such as movement, dance, mime, clowning, masks, puppetry and circus. Richmond has experience with modern jazz composition and performance education, and will be teaching upper level and advanced music theory classes along with jazz and trumpet performance, according to the Daily Tidings.

JPR and SOU reach an agreement

After more than a year of feuding, Jefferson Public Radio and Southern Oregon University have reached an agreement that gives SOU sole control of 22 radio stations, according to the Daily Tidings.

SOU had wanted to consolidate the assets of JPR, which was seen by opponents as an attempt to seize all of the assets as well as eliminate fundraising by the JPF Foundation. Attempts to mediate the fighting had been unsuccessful and the groups were even subject to a 90-day cooling-off period by Gov. John Kitzhaber. A six-page agreement was reached in August, according to the Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune.

This agreement also established a framework for the selling of radio station licenses. Proceeds from license sales will now be used to support JPR. Some controversy still remains as to the assets available to the JPR Foundation, despite the agreement, according to the Daily Tidings.

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