Log In
  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 57.22
Liaison Roxane Beigel-Coryell
Submission Date June 30, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Southern Oregon University
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Roxane Beigel-Coryell
Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator
Facilities Management & Planning
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Air & Climate:

A recent student capstone project resulted in the creation of a phenology research area at the Farm at SOU. The phenology research area was developed by the student to provide opportunities for current and future students and faculty to study the impacts of climate change. Using phenology as an indicator for trends in climatological change, both short-term and long-term, students at Southern Oregon University have the opportunity to demonstrate both the advancement of events such as “bud burst” (Spring) and the delay of discoloration of leaves (Fall). By integrating an on-going data collection technique into the Environmental Studies curriculum where students continually add data to the USA National Phenology Network, the long-term goal of providing strong evidence of climate change on a national level will be achieved while awareness of the issue amongst SOU students and the Ashland community is heightened.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Buildings:

A student developed and executed a project to meet the Farm at SOU's need for additional storage by building a natural building. This project utilized the Farm at SOU as a living laboratory for students and community members by offering a series of hands-on workshops to learn about natural building and assist in the construction of the structure. Workshops were offered to students free of charge. The building is constructed of earthen materials, including a living roof, straw insulation and earthen plasters. In addition, the building provides ongoing awareness and education through an informational plaque located at the front of the structure.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Energy:

The student art gallery manager worked with the Environmental Affairs Committee two years in a row to secure funding for lighting retrofits in all student-managed art galleries on campus. This student presented the energy and cost savings potential for switching from halogen lamps to LED lights. The student secured funding, purchased the lamps, and installed the new LED lights. The lights conserve energy, reduce maintenance needs, provide better light quality for exhibits, and save the university money.

In 2017, one student recognized that the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (ASSOU) were repeatedly investing in projects that had zero financial return on investment. He conducted research to identify an opportunity for the student government to invest in a project that would provide financial returns for years to come. He developed an innovative model for the student government to purchase solar panels to be installed on a campus building and to enter into an agreement, similar to a power purchase agreement, with the university administration to pay the student government for the electricity generated by those panels. This project provides the student government with a sustainable investment option and increases the campus' renewable energy assets.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Food & Dining:

Students regularly have the opportunity to conduct applied learning and research in the area of food and dining on the SOU campus. Not only was The Farm at SOU designed and realized by students, but the entity continues to provide students with hands-on agricultural experience and serves as a living learning laboratory for the campus. More recently, students have completed capstone projects in partnership with the farm relating to food and dining through the research and creation of mini-Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares that would be affordable for students. Previously, the Farm only offered CSA shares to faculty and staff at a cost that was not affordable for most students. One student worked diligently to develop a model that makes CSA shares accessible to students in addition to faculty and staff.

Another student is working on a multi-year project to partner with campus dining to assess the volume of "real food" available through campus dining. The student is working to assess our current standing and propose goals to be adopted by the university to improve upon the real food served the dining services.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Grounds:

The Southern Oregon University campus is often used as a living laboratory for student learning and applied research in relation to grounds. Recent student research projects have included wetland restoration, creation of an extensive campus botanical tour, and development of a proposal to turn campus lawns into drought-tolerant landscapes.

The campus realized that there was a deteriorated wetland on the Farm at SOU. A student conducted a research project to restore the wetland and incorporate the wetland in K-12 education field visits for children in the local school district.

Collaborating with Environmental Science student, Daniel Collay, for his senior capstone project as well as faculty, and staff across campus we are developing signed Sustainability and Botanical Tours to educate our regional community about SOU’s myriad of sustainability programs and biodiversity. To recruit students and foster community-wide engagement, participants are guided by interactive informational signs through a tour from The Farm at SOU, to bioswales and solar arrays at our dorms and Student Union, up to our native Arboretum, through the ECOS community gardens, our pesticide-free Pollinator Gardens and more; over 100 specimen plants and sustainability projects are featured. Our digital campus map includes Sustainability and Botanical Tour layers that allow people to find and read about any spot along the tours. Creating these accessible tours illuminates and encourages the ways in which our campus and greater community can expand sustainability in their lives on- and off-campus. https://inside.sou.edu/fmp/landscape.html#sou-botanical-tour

Another group of students worked together to conduct and apply research to create an ethnobotanical garden on campus. The Ethnobotanical Garden will be comprised of traditionally significant plants to Native Americans in both their historical context and relevance to current members of Native American communities represented in the SOU faculty, student body, and the broader community of Ashland. On the Farm at SOU a traditional Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans, squash) will be placed along with ceremonially significant plants such as sage, tobacco, and sweetgrass, to be provided as a free and locally-cultivated source for plants used in ceremony. The Three Sisters Garden will provide an illustration of a traditional agricultural system practiced all over the Americas for hundreds of years, in addition to supplying a modest amount of food. The Garden will add a strong educational element for the Farm’s expanding Sustainability Farm School on Native American culture and ceremony, past and present. It will also serve Native American community members in and outside of the university in sourcing plants for ceremonial use, removed from commerce and rooted in a sense of place.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Purchasing?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Purchasing:
---

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Transportation?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Transportation:

Southern Oregon University students used the campus as a living laboratory to conduct research and apply learning in relation to transportation options and bicycling accessibility. During the past few years, students have conducted an assessment of bicycling on campus, developed and executed a proposal to expand the campus bike rental program, and completed the application to earn the university a silver Bicycle Friendly University rating.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Waste:

Several students have realized the SOU campus as a living laboratory for learning and applied research in relation to waste. One pair of students conducted research on the impacts of cigarette butt waste and developed a proposal to install cigarette butt recycling stations on campus. The waste will be collected by campus staff and sent to TerraCycle to be recycled into new products.

Another student worked with campus dining and landscape services to develop an in-house pre-consumer composting program. The student conducted research on pre-consumer waste, best practices in composting, and developed a partnership between landscape services and dining to collect, transport, and manage pre-consumer compost from the kitchens on campus.

Another student conducted similar compost research on the campus farm, with a focus on composting of agricultural waste. The student researched best practices, acquired necessary equipment, and started a farm compost operation.

In 2011, a team of students conducted a waste audit on campus and recognized the need for improved recycling infrastructure on campus. These students conducted thorough research on recycling best practices, existing campus processes, and regional opportunities. The students secured funding and university approval to build a campus recycling center, introduce new indoor and outdoor recycling bins throughout campus, and resulted in the hiring of a Sustainability & Recycling Coordinator to facilitate improved waste management on campus.

Another student conducted an audit of printing on campus, assessing possible paper waste associated with overprinting. The student developed a new fee structure for students and departments to discourage unnecessary printing.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Water:

Students have conducted multidisciplinary research and learning in relation to water both through a rainwater harvesting project and research on take back the tap campaign. One student did extensive research and outreach relating to take back the tap, conducting an audit of water bottle filling stations on campus and developing a plan to phase out the sale of bottled water on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Coordination & Planning:

One student used the campus as a living laboratory in relation to coordination and planning through her research to assess and renew the mission and organizational structure of SOU's Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center (ECOS). Her research examined the role of ECOS on campus, student/faculty/staff perception of ECOS, how the organization's mission aligned with the university's mission, and opportunities to better align the organizations mission and structure to best serve the campus community.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
---

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Investment & Finance?:
Yes

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Investment & Finance:

In 2017, one student recognized that the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University (ASSOU) were repeatedly investing in projects that had zero financial return on investment. He conducted research to identify an opportunity for the student government to invest in a project that would provide financial returns for years to come. He developed an innovative model for the student government to purchase solar panels to be installed on a campus building and to enter into an agreement, similar to a power purchase agreement, with the university administration to pay the student government for the electricity generated by those panels. This project provides the student government with a sustainable investment option and increases the campus' renewable energy assets.

Other students have worked diligently to conduct research on divestment and socially responsible investment strategies. Although students have not yet been successful, several have done through research on the reasons behind divestment, opportunities to invest in sustainable industries, and have made educated presentations and letter submissions to the university's foundation, attempting to persuade the foundation to consider changing their investment policy.


Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Public Engagement?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Public Engagement:
---

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
No

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to Wellbeing & Work:
---

Is the institution utilizing its campus as a living laboratory for multidisciplinary student learning and applied research in relation to other areas (e.g. arts & culture or technology)?:
---

A brief description of the student/faculty projects and how they contribute to understanding campus sustainability challenges or advancing sustainability on campus in relation to other areas:
---

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
---

Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.