SOU soars to new heights

With Japanese drummers, English and Scottish country dances and students posing as DNA, Southern Oregon University recognized student and faculty achievement Tuesday in the opening of its second annual Southern Oregon Arts & Research celebration.

The three-day event on the Ashland campus showcases research, capstone and University Seminar projects developed throughout the year. Nearly 180 students, faculty and staff will take part in 11 art exhibits, four live performances of dance and music, 28 poster sessions and more than 40 public presentations displaying the value of education at SOU.

Four Japanese students demonstrating Taiko drumming Tuesday drew a crowd of about 50 people to the Stevenson Union courtyard on campus. They were followed by a dozen biology students who represented the movements of enzymes and cells in a DNA dance developed by their teacher John Sollinger.

Today, SOAR is featuring poetry, drama and video/film presentations throughout the day from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The SOU Dulcets, an a capella group will perform at 3 p.m. during an ice cream social on campus. (click here for complete schedule of events and campus locations).

On Thursday, Steve Shein's Business Sustainability Leadership course, consisting of both graduate and undergraduate students, will showcase research in the rapid growth of green industries and what lies ahead for the future. The course presentation is one of a number of exhibits and lectures open to the public all day at the Stevenson Union on the SOU campus.

Tuesday's dance was part of Sollinger's University Seminar class, a three-term course first-year students take to strengthen communication and study skills.

"One of the goals of the University Seminar class is oral, visual and written communication," Sollinger said. "In some ways (dancing in front of people) is as hard for students as giving a speech."

To close the opening celebration, the audience was invited to join in a Scottish dance called "The Beginning of the World."

More than 600 students in University Seminar classes shared presentations in such categories as creative writing, art and drama in the Stevenson Union and Hannon Library.

Their work will be judged by current and former students and the three winners in each category will receive a $50 prize.

"Arts and words are equally valued," said Mada Morgan, director of University Studies and University Seminar. "There are different ways to present your ideas."

Presentations and lectures will continue from 10 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. Thursday in the Stevenson Union, Hannon Library and the Music Recital Hall. For complete details, visit

SOAR encourages students to cultivate diversity and to think globally as well as locally, Morgan said. Presentations range from robotics to mythology to murdered women in Juarez and queer identity within the Catholic Church.

Morgan said it is important to teach students to value the perspectives of other cultures.

"The Japanese drumming was a symbolic recognition of celebrating other cultures," Morgan said. "We need to do more of that. I love that diversity."

SOU a cappella group, Dulcet, is performing at an ice cream social on campus at 3 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

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