Southern Oregon University
SOU infuses principles of sustainability into curricula across all programs and fields of study. In addition to a Master’s degree in Environmental Education, Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Science & Policy and Outdoor Adventure Leadership, and a Sustainability Leadership Certificate, more than 148 sustainability-related courses are offered. Meanwhile, an explicit focus on sustainability in general education courses ensures that all students, regardless of degree field, are exposed to principles of sustainability and responsible environmental stewardship. Indeed, the University’s mission includes a focus on “responsible global citizenship” and a commitment to “sustainable practices.”
SOU is home to The Farm: A Center for Sustainability. Projects on The Farm inspire a generation of ecologically committed leaders who promote a vision of living and working sustainably in community and on the land. SOU also houses the Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center, which hosts numerous events throughout the year designed to educate students and community members. SOU recently launched an innovative approach to general education requirements as a cohort under the theme of sustainability, adventure, leadership, and applied research.
Numerous community partnerships provide hands-on experience and learning opportunities both within and outside the classroom. Recent academic reorganization at SOU placed the Environmental Science & Policy program in the same division as Business and Communication, better aligning the program with other academic areas that will prepare students for the new green economy. Regular “sustainability tips” are disseminated to campus constituents and a quarterly sustainability newsletter provides updates and information on sustainability efforts to the campus community and beyond.
SOU is a national leader in climate and sustainability innovation among public colleges and universities. In addition to being a “Tree Campus USA,” SOU is the nation’s first “Bee Campus USA” in honor of the healthy environment for pollinators created on campus and the education provided to students and the community about the need to protect them. SOU was the first university in the nation to offset 100 percent of energy use with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets and is now the first university in the nation to offset 100 percent of water use through the purchase of water restoration certificates. A statewide innovator and early adopter regarding sustainability, SOU is home to Oregon’s first LEED Platinum-Certified building among the state’s public institutions of higher education.
SOU’s on-campus farm provides experiential learning opportunities to both students and members of the community, and the University regularly hosts events and presentations that bring recognized experts on various sustainability related topics to campus. Recent speakers have included Paul Stamets, Vandana Shiva, and Raj Patel.
An innovative, student-run program called “Drive Less Connect: SOU” educates students about transportation options and empowers them to explore alternative transportation. This program works in partnership with the Rogue Valley Transportation District, and other organizations. Though similar programs and partnerships exist between municipalities and transportation agencies, this is the first such program to be implemented on a college campus. SOU has multiple electric vehicle charging stations on campus as well as plentiful covered bike parking and bicycle maintenance stations.
SOU articulates a creative approach to sustainability and conservation, emphasizing community partnerships and educational opportunities. In recent years, the University has increased on-site solar production by more than 160 percent and now has 250 kW of solar. It is also home to four interactive solar kiosks that provide an opportunity for students and community members alike to learn more about solar energy. The SOU student body voted to create a Green Fund, which directs a percentage of student fees to sustainability-related projects on campus. Additionally, the University has created a Climate Action Fund, which dedicates a percentage of annual air travel expenses to projects designed to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint. An ongoing lighting retrofit project is replacing aging lighting across campus with energy efficient LED lighting.
Community partners include Ashland School District; Rogue Valley Farm to School, which also incorporates the local agricultural community; the City of Ashland; Ashland Food Coop; Southern Oregon Goodwill; Crater Lake National Park, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Jackson County Master Recyclers; Recology; numerous outreach and engagement efforts spearheaded by students in SOU’s Master’s in Environmental Education program; and more.
SOU students, faculty, and staff also hold leadership positions on numerous community boards and organizations, including the Rogue Valley Food System Council, which strives to reduce energy consumed through the food system; the City of Ashland Conservation Commission; City of Ashland Climate and Energy Action Plan Committee; Mt. Ashland Environmental Committee; Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference; and more.