Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Announcing the 2009/10 Oregon Campus Compact Student Advisory Board!

Representing service-minded students from across the state, the board will bring a strong student voice to the Compact, while playing a leading role in the development of our student engagement programs.

Please take a moment to read about this year’s board members:

Robert Bell

Rogue Community College - Grants Pass, OR / Northwest Christian University - Eugene, OR

Robert, currently attending RCC and then transferring to NCU in the fall, is the 2008/09 ASRCC President, has lobbied for Oregon students on a state-level, and is also a leader within multiple on-campus student clubs, including the Inter Club Council and Christ on Campus Club. Welcome, Robert!


Erick Castillo

Portland Community College - Portland, OR

Erick is a student coordinator and mentor for the ROOTS program, which supports the success of first-generation college students, as well as founder of the Peace Club and an advocate within the Student Parent Network and the Multicultural Center on his campus. Welcome, Erick!


Emily Johnson

Willamette University - Salem, OR

Emily is an active member of the Community Action and Awareness Team on her campus, a group dedicated to enhancing the visibility of social justice issues and community service opportunities, as well as president of the Best Buddies Club and an on-going volunteer with several community groups. Welcome Emily!


Colin Jones

Linfield College - McMinnville, OR

Colin, who led an alternative spring break team to New Orleans this past March, is an active member in the forensics (speech and debate) team and honor society (Pi Kappa Delta), as well as a leader within student government as an ASLC Senate Chairperson and Secretary of the Linfield Activities Board. Welcome Colin!


Amber Lang

Portland State University - Portland, OR

Amber, an active member of PSU's Student Leaders for Service group, which fosters relationships between service-minded students and community organizations, also runs an EDG:E after school program, and coordinates service events including a 2009 MLK Day event with 150 volunteers participating. Welcome, Amber!


This pilot year board will consist of five amazing members, each bringing their own unique perspective as a leader within their campus and community. Keep an eye out for their endeavors and accomplishments throughout the year!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Portland State University - Sustainability Updates

Ivy in the City: Sustainability and Higher Education in the Pacific Northwest

By Becky Brun, Sustainable Industries

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Wim Wiewel is facing the same issues that most university presidents are facing today: increasing student enrollment at a time when in-kind giving is down and states are dealing with budget shortfalls; keeping up with master plans that include major renovations and construction projects; staying on top of faculty research as well as students’ needs—and that’s just skimming the surface.

Wiewel is also trying to make Portland State University (PSU) a national leader in sustainable higher education. Recipient of a $25 million grant from The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation for sustainability education, PSU is gaining even more traction in the sustainability arena. But the current recession could force Wiewel and other university leaders to take fewer risks on things such as new courses and degrees in 2009.

A native of The Netherlands, Wiewel is known for his charismatic leadership and his ability to ignite success in those around him. While the dean of the business school at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Wiewel took the business college from 94th to 49th on the U.S. News & World Report’s national business school rankings. Sustainable Industries caught up with Wiewel on the downtown campus of the state’s largest university to talk about Portland State’s role in helping Oregon become a world leader in sustainability and how his approach to leadership has changed during the current recession.

SI: You’ve said that part of your attraction to Portland and Portland State was the opportunity to apply research to tangible projects in the city. Now that you’ve been at PSU for a year, where do you see the biggest opportunities?

Wiewel: One of the things I had not spent much time thinking about until I came here is the sustainable practices of the institution itself. We are a large corporation, so how we conduct our business obviously matters. Here 62 percent of the faculty, staff and students use transportation other than the automobile to get here. We make the place attractive to bicyclists. We are a co-investor on many projects with Tri-Met. On the facilities side, we go beyond state requirement for green building.

Our Green Building Research Lab, where we develop and test new green building technologies provides workforce training and facilitates the adoption of energy-efficient technologies throughout the building industry. We are working with Glumac, Interface Engineering, PAE Consultants, Gerding Edlen, David Evans and Associates and we will be involving others.

SI: How is PSU prepared to be a national leader in sustainable education?

Wiewel: It already is. I think that we clearly have a lot of people that are doing research in this area. It’s diffused through a lot of the curriculum, so we draw both faculty and researchers who want to teach here, which then makes us more attractive to people who want to get degrees related to this area. Then the students become the workforce and entrepreneurs and the civic leaders who will continue to promote sustainability and enhance Portland’s ability to make sustainability an economic, cultural and social niche for this region.

Read the entire Sustainable Industries interview with Wiewel, as well as interviews with the University of Washington's Dan Poston, and San Francisco State University's Nancy Hayes at http://www.sustainableindustries.com/sijprofile/42019422.html?page=1.

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PSU Studies Effects of Green Roofs, Solar Arrays

Daily Journal of Commerce

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Three faculty members at Portland State University have won a grant to help them pay for their research into the effects of combining green roofs with solar arrays. Carl Wamser, a member of the university’s chemistry faculty; David Sailor, a mechanical and materials engineering faculty member; and Todd Rosenstiel, of the school’s biology faculty, received the $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The trio’s project also is being supported by Portland General Electric, the city of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and the Oregon Built Environmental and Sustainable Technologies Center.

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Turning off the Lights: Hiring an Energy Manager Could be Key to Saving Money, Environment

By Wolf Donat, The Daily Vanguard

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Noelle Studer-Spevak believes that Portland State University needs an energy manager. One has merely to walk by the Millar Library or ASPSU office at 3 a.m. and see that all of the lights are on in order to agree with her. Studer-Spevak, the sustainability manager in the Finance and Administration Office, has been working to figure out how to add a Certified Energy Manager to the staff at PSU.

Certified Energy Managers are becoming more popular worldwide, serving industry, business and government. CEMs are professionally certified by the Association of Energy Engineers. Their job duties normally entail analyzing and mitigating energy usage. They track usage an implement new technologies and design changes in order to increase the efficiency of energy system operations.

One of the CEM’s duties would be to help Portland State honor its signing of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. The commitment, involving more than 600 universities and signed by former Portland State President Daniel Bernstine, promises that the participating universities will make efforts to become climate-neutral as soon as possible.

Intermediate steps toward the climate-neutrality goal would include overhauling the energy plan currently in place and coming up with a series of long-range steps toward the goal of climate neutrality. One of the issues that Studer-Spevak is facing is that in the face of a budget shortfall, the university has instituted a hiring freeze, meaning that an energy manager could not be hired.  However, the university has also cut the utility budget, “and I’m not sure how we can cut the utility budget without someone to manage those cuts,” Studer-Spevak said. She knows that there are a multitude of things that can be done to save money and energy.

“In the past year, there have been several large projects we’ve done to save energy,” she said. “One of them is to replace all of the broken steam traps on campus.” The steam loops, like those surrounding Cramer Hall, transport steam from different boilers around campus in order to heat the buildings. “It’s been years since they were maintained,” Studer-Spevak said. Another maintenance project currently underway is cleaning the coils used to transmit heat. Dirt and dust tend to build up around the coils, significantly decreasing their efficiency.

While she wasn’t sure of the precise amount of money saved by the maintenance work, she said it was substantial. Though she would like to see that money go toward other energy-saving projects, “the money will be swept into other areas that need money.” “Our hope is that someday we can get to what Harvard does, and have a revolving fund. If we have energy savings one year, a portion of those savings will be funneled back into other energy-saving projects,” she said.

Student Senator Pro-Tempore Heather Spalding - recipient of a 2009 Oregon Campus Compact Faith Gabelnick Student Leadership Award - works with Studer-Spevak. “It’s like getting an oil change in your car,” Spalding said. “Spending the money for maintenance … it’s like a royalty. Once you put these things in place, the benefits just last and last.”

Studer-Spevak estimated that the salary for a CEM would run from $80,000-$100,000 per year. But she stressed that “that person would pay back their salary at least three times over. It’s an investment.” Studer-Spevak and Spalding are in the midst of holding meetings with the Student Fee Committee, looking at the possibility of having student fees cover the cost of an energy manager’s salary, or at least help fund smaller projects often overlooked by funding committees.

“Students are interested in creating a fund that could fund energy retrofits, for example,” Studer-Spevak said. “It’s really cool, because students are saying, ‘What do we have the power to do?'"

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World Environmental Awards Recognize Portland Nonprofit, Efforts Staffed by PSU Students and Faculty

By Abby Haight, OregonLive

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Green Empowerment is a Portland-based nonprofit which has been recognized at the Energy Globe Awards in Prague for installing solar-powered water systems in remote communities in Nicaragua. The projects were staffed by specially trained students and faculty members from Portland State University.

The environmental awards, founded in 1999, reward projects that create economic use of resources and employ alternative energy sources. More than 800 projects from 111 nations vie for awards in five categories -- Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Youth. The awards opened a meeting of European Union environment ministers in Prague. Border Green Energy Team, a Thai partner of Green Empowerment, won first prize in the Fire category and the audience-elected overall Grand Prize for solar powered clinics in Eastern Myanmar.

Green Empowerment helped design and put in place the 35 remote clinics and two large hospitals, which serve 175,000 people and are designed to be disassembled if the Myanmar junta's military approaches. The clinics are scattered over 600 miles of jungle. Green Empowerment also was a finalist in the Water category for its work with partner Asofenix in Nicaraguan villages, installing solar-based water delivery systems. With access to clean water, communities improved their overall health, while adding latrines, showers, biogas digesters and home gardens. The Portland nonprofit also is involved in a project that brought electricity to remote Peruvian villages through wind turbines, micro-hydro and solar installations, providing power to four rural clinics, nine schools, four community centers and 40 family homes.

Green Empowerment was founded in 1997 with a focus on social justice, environmentalism and internationalism. One of its first projects was continuing the micro-hydro efforts in Nicaragua started by Ben Linder, a young Portland engineer who was killed by Contras. The organization has also projects in Borneo, Philippines, Ecuador, Guatemala and on the border of Myanmar/Thailand.

Monday, May 4, 2009

University of Oregon, Lane Community College Projects Receive Seed Grants

Ashland Daily Tidings Online

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Six projects from the University of Oregon and Lane Community College have won grants for 2009 from the Meyer Fund for a Sustainable Environment. Meyer funds provide seed funding to UO and LCC faculty for research and teaching initiatives that are innovative, interdisciplinary and promote a sustainable society.

The UO received a $1 million grant in 2007 from the London-based T & J Meyer Family Foundation to establish the Meyer Fund for a Sustainable Environment. The UO fund is a five year program managed by a steering committee of UO and LCC faculty. Approximately $200,000 is distributed annually to projects led by faculty of the two institutions. The newly announced grants, totaling $200,119, are for the second year of the fund.

The largest 2009 grant, for $58,051, went to a solar energy project (Energizing the Next Generation with Photovoltaics) led by UO physics professor Frank Vignola. The project — a curriculum building approach designed to capture students' enthusiasm for science and to teach them about the basic principles of solar technology — includes faculty from UO physics department and LCC's Science Division. The project also supports the Electric Vehicle/Solar Challenge curricula sponsored by the Eugene Water and Electric Board in more than 60 area middle-school classrooms.

"It is one thing to develop a lab kit and curriculum," Vignola said. "It is another to test the curriculum and lab kit in the classroom. The Meyer Fund award enables us to do this and to improve the prototype and refine the curriculum. The improved curriculum and PV lab kit can then be used worldwide to help educate students about science with photovoltaics, an exciting renewable technology."

Vignola heads the UO's Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory, which promotes a sound solar energy future.

A $35,700 grant will support a curriculum-building project (Engaging Labor Efforts to Address Climate Change: An Educational Approach to Building Involvement) for union leaders and core activists, led by Barbara Byrd of the UO's Labor Education Research Center (LERC) in partnership with faculty from two UO departments: geography and planning, public policy & management. LERC's faculty and partners will develop a climate-change curriculum designed to help prepare union members to fill green collar jobs.

"The climate emergency caused by global warming, and the policy responses to this crisis, will fundamentally remake Oregon's economy," Byrd said. "In addition, the National Economic Recovery Act promises to generate millions of new green jobs. But while environmental advocates and representatives from business and regulated utilities engage in the debates, a critical partner is often missing: workers and the organizations that represent them."

Labor's participation in the design and implementation of the "green economy" is critical, she said.

"The single greatest barrier to labor involvement in climate-change discussion is the disconnect between labor's traditional focus on wages and working conditions and the seemingly abstract issue of global warming," she said. "This project aims at bridging that gap, relying on LERC's longstanding commitment to helping unions, their leaders and members to build their capacity to engage in policy-making. We will train our constituents in the science and technical aspects of global warming and climate change policy, and the implications of those issues for work, workers and unions. Our goal is to increase not only labor's ability but also its motivation to contribute to the state dialogue and assure that the 'triple bottom line' of environmental, economic and social sustainability is reached."

The four other grants are:

$35,694 for "Zero-Sum Gained: Moving Our Existing Building Stock Toward Net Energy Equilibrium," a project led by the UO's Donald Corner, department of architecture. The project will establish a case reference base that will guide the rehabilitation of existing buildings toward a balance of energy demand and production -- or net-zero-energy. An evaluative framework will be developed to guide reinvestment decisions.

$34,566 for "Spreading Sustainability: How Science-Based Solutions Move to Broad Practice" led by the Andrew Nelson of the UO's Lundquist College of Business in partnership with his colleague Jennifer Howard-Grenville and Julie Haack of the UO department of chemistry. They will develop a model for understanding the processes through which university-based sustainability research and education influences industry and policy. They also will create a replicable set of tools for visualizing and communicating the dissemination and impact of such research and education.

$22,000 for "Workforce Water Efficiency Training Teams," a project led by LCC's Tammie Stark, a water and sustainability instructor, and Roger Ebbage, energy management program manager. This project addresses the economic, social and environmental challenges of water scarcity and climate change through the creation and distribution of water auditing tools. Teachers and students would use the tools to increase water efficiency in residential and K-12 settings. Partners include the Lane Community College Water Conservation Technician degree program, the UO's Climate Master Program and Kennedy High School.

$14,108 for a "Junior Climate Initiative" led by Rob Ribe, UO department of landscape architecture, and Bob Doppelt of the UO's Institute for a Sustainable Environment. A youth program Junior Climate Stewards will be piloted in Lane County, building on the successes of the Climate Leadership Initiative’s Climate Master Program and the Oregon State University Extension’s Wildlife Stewards program. The partnership supports youth and adult community members in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency.

While based in the United Kingdom, the T & J Meyer Family Foundation has ties to the UO by way of family members' earning their college degrees from the institution. The foundation is managed by Tim and Jane Meyer and their four children. In addition to foundation work, the Meyer family has sustainable projects, research and education centers in Oregon, Argentina and London.

Volunteer, Oregon State University Graduate Goes Where Scientists Typically Fear to Tread

By Joanne Scharer, WillametteLive
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Melissa Austin, Salem born and bred, is passionate about, dedicated to, and busy creating community. Between working as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Marion County Public Works-Environmental Services and volunteering endless hours with various community organizations dedicated to sustainability, Austin has her hands full.

With a degree in forensic chemistry from Western Oregon University and a master’s in microbiology from Oregon State University, Austin’s curiosity about science goes back to 8th grade.

“Science is cool,” she says emphatically, “It’s fascinating to me.”

In high school and college, Austin joined all the clubs that students focusing on science typically joined, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and others. However, being a member of organizations with commendable missions wasn't enough, she wanted to be doing something about it in her community.

After graduating from OSU, Austin worked as a microbiologist for a private engineering firm in Grants Pass until Salem called her back home. Since then she has been altering her career path, finding ways to merge her interest in community building and sustainability with her skills and knowledge as a scientist.

One of Austin’s first involvements upon her to return was with Marion-Polk Food Share community gardens. Before long she was so active in the community with volunteer work, it made sense to take an AmeriCorps position.

Before she began her 11-month position with Marion County, Austin worked with Oregon PeaceWorks to help develop its 5% Solution to the Climate Crisis project and at LifeSource Natural Foods.

Despite having an advanced degree and greater earning potential than an AmeriCorps position provides, Austin has enthusiastically embraced her work as a Multi-Family Waste Reduction Educator with Marion County, focusing on recycling for apartment complexes and other multi-family communities. The opportunity has taught her more about the diversity of people and neighborhoods in Salem and opened her heart in a way that science doesn’t necessarily allow for.

“Being a scientist,” Austin says, “emotions aren’t in that.”

Ultimately, her experiences volunteering have been guiding her to a career path focused on community service with a desire to, as she says, “make more of a difference.”

At this stage, Austin is intrigued with community outreach as it relates to community building and sustainable behaviors.

“I enjoy working with people to create a more connected self-sufficient community,” she explained.

It’s evident in her community action project, a requirement of the AmeriCorps program. Austin organized a course in Salem created by Northwest Earth Institute called “Menu for the Future.”

The course, held from January through March, was open to any one in Salem and provided an opportunity to learn about eating in modern industrial society, emerging food alternatives, and sustainable food systems.

Austin isn’t abandoning her scientific nature, but she’s learning how to use it differently. Austin brings her own perspective to sustainability issues that aren’t always clear cut or easy to understand for the layperson.

“I know science and I know what people are afraid of. I understand where both sides are coming from," she said.

Austin sees diversity and sharing as a key ingredient in real change and community.

“Interaction opens doors,” she said.

Even with a sincere concern for the environment, Austin’s goals go beyond the “greening” of Salem by including community networking.

“That’s what Salem needs,” Austin said. “What’s this network going to look like? I don’t know what it’s going to look like for us in Salem, but I want to be a part of it.”

Clackamas Community College Student Builds Houses During Spring Break

Local student Elsa Moore, 17, spent spring break building a Habitat for Humanity home in Jacksonville, Fla., as part of Salem Habitat's Youth United group. Moore was one of nine participants selected from across the U.S. for the March 15-21 service trip.

"It was so much fun and I can't wait to sign up for next year's build," she said. "It's a great opportunity to help those in need (and) make awesome new friends all over the country."

This was Moore's first building project. "We painted a bunch and did some siding on a house," she said. "My favorite part was definitely siding. I was extremely good with the hammer."

Moore had been a South Salem High School student for three years and now will attend the Chemeketa Community College Early College High School program.

Through Youth United, students partner with their local Habitat affiliate and are responsible for raising 70 percent of the house sponsorship costs, and those older than 16 help with construction. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, affordable shelter for more than 1.5 million people. For information, visit www.habitat.org.

Event: Clackamas Community College Sustainability Project in Full Swing, May Events

The Clackamas Review Online

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Tuesday, May 5, noon to 1 p.m. Ted Brekken of OSU and Wallace Energy Systems and Renewable Energy Facility talks about the potential of wave energy.

Friday, May 8, noon to 5 p.m. CCC Horticulture Club Plant Sale. Vegetables, herbs, perennials, trees and shrubs, all grown by CCC horticulture students. Bring your own boxes.

Tuesday, May 12, noon to 1 p.m. Eban Goodstein, Lewis & Clark Professor of Economics and National Teach-In organizer discusses the clean-energy economy and the role of the new generation in creating a just, sustainable and prosperous future.

Tuesday, May 19, noon to 1 p.m. Bob Wise of Cogan Owens Cogan presents “Sustainable Development in China.”

Thursday , May 21, 7 to 9 p.m. Localization: Sustainability from Global to Local, a panel presentation featuring CCC’s leaders in sustainability including Don Hartsock, social sciences; Jeff McAlpine, English; Elizabeth Howley, horticulture; Karen Halliday, reference librarian; and Terry Mackey, CCC librarian. Journalism instructor Melissa Jones will moderate.

Tuesday, May 26, noon to 1 p.m. CCC horticulture instructors Elizabeth Howley and Renee Harber join Cieridwen Terrill in a forum on invasive species.

Thursday, May 28, noon to 1 p.m. R.A. Brown, University of Washington professor emeritus, discusses “What makes a climate expert?”

June 6, 7 and 8. The Clackamas Green Screen Film Festival debuts at various locations on the campus.

For more information about the Sustainability Project or the Green Screen Film Festival, please see www2.clackamas.edu/sustainability/ or call Jeff McAlpine at 503-657-6958, ext. 5240 or Janet Paulson at 503-657-6958, ext. 2307.

Central Oregonians are Lining Up to Volunteer

By Erin Golden, The Bulletin

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Since January, Debbie Woodford has spent two days a week at the La Pine Community Kitchen doing something she loves: creating menus and preparing meals for large groups of people.

In the past, she’s done similar work as the owner of a restaurant and as a cook in a college dormitory, but those positions came with a paycheck. Now, six months after she moved to La Pine from Idaho and started looking for a job, Woodford, 55, still hasn’t had any luck, so she’s cooking for free at the Community Kitchen, which provides free meals to more than 300 people each week.

“It’s not so much about the money — it’s about filling my time,” she said.

And with local unemployment rates settled well into the double digits, Woodford isn’t alone. From soup kitchens to after-school programs, leaders of organizations around Central Oregon say they’re seeing a big increase in the number of people interested in volunteering their time — including many who say they’re out of work and need something that will keep them busy and allow them to network and develop new skills.

Christina Riggs, the La Pine Community Kitchen’s executive director, said she started getting more calls from people like Woodford a few months ago. Back then, the organization had about 30 regular volunteers, and now that number is closer to 50.

“We’ve been getting mostly people that have been laid off, and they need something to do while they look for work,” she said.

Around the area, other groups have seen a similar trend.

Taffy Gleason, the executive director of Bend’s Community Center, said she used to get one or two calls a week at most from people interested in volunteering. These days, she hears from about a dozen people each week who want to pitch in. Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Oregon President Lisa Burbidge said her group now gets about 10 calls per week about volunteering, up from about two per week in the past.

And in Prineville, St. Vincent de Paul Society Executive Director Joe Edmonds said about five people contact his organization every week, looking to help out at one of the group’s thrift stores or in the donation center and food bank. That’s a big change from a year ago, when he said interest from new volunteers was “pretty much nonexistent.” “We are seeing walk-ins coming in on a regular basis because of the economy, saying they’re not working and they would like to volunteer,” Edmonds said. “They’re using it for résumé building and networking and to expand their skills.”

In some cases, new volunteers have offered their assistance with repair and maintenance projects that might have otherwise been out of an organization’s price range. At Bend’s Community Center, Gleason said companies facing smaller workloads because of the economy have sent over teams of employees to volunteer, rather than just writing a check.

“People are saying, ‘I can’t afford to donate cash at this point in time, but can I do something else for you, is there anything else you need? I do carpentry, whatever it is.’ … They’re putting their skills and their wisdom to use.”

Volunteers at the Boys & Girls Clubs have helped with painting and cleaning, repaired doors and electrical outlets, put up Sheetrock and even built a counter in the game room at one club facility. Burbidge said the help has made a big difference.

“We literally went through, room by room, in every club, and put a giant to-do list together and have been checking things off the list,” she said. “It has improved safety in the clubs, made them brighter and more kid-friendly. The kids can tell, and they love it.”

Leaders of many local organizations said they’re now hearing from interested volunteers with advanced degrees and often decades of experience in the work force. For some volunteers, working for free provides a chance to connect with potential employers while they wait for a paying position to open up.

Sandy Sawyer, 38, moved to Bend this winter from Las Vegas and hoped to land a job as a therapeutic recreation specialist. But even though she has a degree in recreation and years of experience — including a stint as a camp program director — Sawyer hasn’t been able to find work, so she’s volunteering with the Bend Park & Recreation District.

On Wednesdays, Sawyer works with elementary school students in a jewelry-making class, and on Saturdays, she helps with the district’s special recreation division, supervising group activities for adults with disabilities. Sawyer said she enjoys the work and hopes it might lead to something more permanent.

“I want to keep myself busy, keep networking and just kind of keep my foot in the door for when a position does open so people know I’m there and available,” she said. “My end goal is to eventually get a position.”

Others, like Liz Coleman, 48, of Bend, say they’re hoping to find a job in another field but want to help out while they have some free time. Coleman, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math-related fields, worked for several years teaching and tutoring students at Central Oregon Community College before taking a similar job in Corvallis. Now back in Bend, Coleman said she’d like to return to teaching math but decided it could be a good time to share one of her other passions: the outdoors. She’s currently finishing required training and preparation to volunteer with some of the park district’s outdoor programs and help out in the Juniper Swim & Fitness Center’s weight room.

“It’s just nice to get out and meet people, that whole stuck home thing — you can only talk to your cats and dogs for so long before you go stir crazy,” she joked.

Though many new volunteers have called local organizations looking to fill the time as they search for jobs, some have also said they want to pitch in for other reasons.

Kathleen Joy, the executive director of the state’s Commission for Voluntary Action & Service, said the latest numbers on statewide volunteerism haven’t yet been released.

But she said she has been hearing from groups across the state that more people are helping out — including some who say they were inspired by President Barack Obama’s repeated mentions of the importance of getting involved in community service.

“I think it’s the Obama factor,” Joy said. “I think people have been reinvigorated, and I think the president’s constant call to service is having an impact on people.”

Others said they think people have become more open to helping out because of both political and economic changes taking place across the country.

Cheryl Howard, the chairwoman of the Orchard District Neighborhood Association, said about 250 people have signed up to join her group in the last few months, including many who say they want to know what they can do to help their neighbors.

She said that’s a change from the past, when many people wanted to be association members but weren’t interested in volunteering.

“I think that the era of consumerism and the ‘me’ mentality is really over,” she said. “People are realizing the important thing in a community is for us all to get together. … I think people are refocusing their priorities, and I think they’re better priorities.”

Gleason said many volunteers want to help because they’ve realized how easy it can be to fall on tough times.

“What I hear more than anything is, ‘I’m still in a good position, I still have a job, my friends, my family and my neighbors are having a tough time, and I want to help other people on some level,’” she said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of empathy, a lot of compassion, a lot of latent caring just coming up because people are saying, ‘Gosh, times are tough for a lot of people, and I could be next.’”

Mexico's Head of Science and Technology — a Southern Oregon University Grad — Proposes Closer Ties

By John Darling, The Mail Tribune Online
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Mexico's top official for science and technology says his nation's worst problem is poverty and that the business, governmental and educational sectors of the United States need to step up to full partnership with Mexico to create a more stable and prosperous region.

Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a graduate of Southern Oregon University, told an SOU audience Thursday that 40 million of Mexico's 105 million people don't have basic needs such as education, health care, clean water and employment, and that much of the solution lies in the areas of shared technology.

Romero Hicks, whose mother and wife immigrated to Mexico from the U.S., earned two degrees from SOU and became the governor of the state of Guanajuato. He is general director of the National Council for Science and Technology. Some of his 10 children attend school in Ashland.

Romero Hicks lauded SOU as a model of a university that works with Mexico and for decades has facilitated a strong flow of ideas, programs and people back and forth. Some 35 people traveled here this week from Guanajuato, Ashland's sister city in Mexico, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of ties between the two cities and between SOU and the University of Guanajuato.

However, Romero Hicks decried the persisting negative stereotypes of Mexicans in this country, and vice-versa, noting, "how little we know about each other."

North America should be a partnership of equals like the European Union, he said, adding that the NAFTA trade agreement of the 1990s "is a contradiction because it opened a free flow of merchandise but not of people "¦ in a free, orderly and safe migration."

Romero Hicks said Mexico and the U.S. have many links in history, culture and trade, and "you need a strong Mexico. We need to listen to each other."

Pointing to problems in trade, migration, drug trafficking, public safety and the rule of law, Romero Hicks said all need a vision grounded in new technology, with university researchers able to get their advances readily commercialized.

"It's a huge contradiction. We've never known so much yet never had so many people in poverty," said Romero Hicks, noting that Mexico devotes .05 percent of its gross domestic product to science and technology, compared to 2.6 percent in the U.S. In addition, Mexico graduates 2,500 doctorate students a year compared to 50,000 in the U.S., he said.

Romero Hicks' candid assessment of Mexico drew support and suggestions from the audience, which included four past and present SOU presidents.

Stephen Reno, now chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, lauded growing regional partnerships between businesses, governments and universities and pointed to a new $235 million system piping methane from a landfill 13 miles to the University of New Hampshire, supplying 90 percent of its energy.

"It took seven years to do it — the first four years convincing people it was worth exploring," said Reno.

Romero Hicks responded with tales of his own — families responding "like it was a funeral" when a child planned to go into science, and professors who said that channeling their research to commercial applications would be "like prostitution."

To much laughter, he responded, "Well, you need more prostitutes."

As part of the shared vision sought by Mexico, Romero Hicks said his nation is seeking international partners and shared degree programs with universities.