On track for long career as a welder

On track for long career as a welder

Daniel Morris

Years ago, when Sause Bros.’ Human Resources Director Kathy Rose, and HR Coordinator Ashley O’Neil, visited Daniel Morris’ high school manufacturing class, he couldn’t imagine where his life was headed. First came a job at Sause Bros., and then with support and encouragement from them, Daniel entered the welding program at Southwestern, working and training at the same time. Currently Daniel is an apprentice welder, on his way to becoming a journeyman welder/fitter.

Rose says, “Sause Bros. looks forward to our continued partnership with SWOCC and welding instructor Chelsea Clemens, to encourage upcoming generations to seek professions in the trade fields.” 

Daniel says he struggled with academics when he was young but was good working with his hands. Hours spent hanging out with Dad in his shop had an impact. He knew he had an inclination for working in the manufacturing field.

A major influence on Daniel’s career path was his Marshfield High School manufacturing instructor, Glen Crook. Crook is a great partner to Southwestern and a big supporter of the College’s welding program. “Daniel was a perfect candidate for the apprenticeship program at Sause Bros. I’m really proud of him,” shared Crook.

Daniel is grateful for where he’s ended up. “I’m not sure where I’d be if I hadn’t found the trades. Sause Bros. gave me an amazing opportunity right out of high school. Mr. Crook did so much for me. And my instructor at Southwestern, Chelsea Clemens, was great. She really knows her stuff and works hard for her students,” says Daniel.

What Do Two Welding Instructors, Our College President, And Many Of Our Students Have In Common?

What Do Two Welding Instructors, Our College President, And Many Of Our Students Have In Common?

Answer: 4-H and farm life led welders and president to SWOCC

Most folks know our college’s president, Patty Scott, as Oregon’s longest serving college president. What they don’t know is she’s also the daughter of a Wallowa farm family who loves hard work and small-town life. Scott often talks about her roots in northeastern Oregon and her involvement in 4-H, America’s largest youth engagement organization. 4-H set her on a path into education.

Ironically, as we worked on this feature about Southwestern’s welding program, we found the college’s two welding instructors got their start in 4-H, too. 4-H operates in Oregon through the OSU Extension Service. In our region it connects young people from 4th grade through high school with service and group projects, leadership camps, and animal projects that culminate with our county fairs in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

President Scott raised sheep and dairy cows, showed horses, trained dogs and did cooking/sewing through the organization while growing up. Our lead Welding instructor Chelsea Clemens engaged in 4-H showing horses and training dogs. Duncan Cooper, who teaches welding in Southwestern’s Coos and Curry job training programs, was involved in sheep and dog 4-H programs.

What is it about 4-H that helps young people gain confidence and find their way in the world?

“As I look back, it was through 4-H that I experienced my first sense of accomplishment and understanding of being responsible,” said President Scott. “Animals need to be fed and cared for, and sometimes that is at 5 a.m. I learned record keeping, time management, and leadership and public speaking skills that I use today. Watching my parents as club leaders inspired my lifelong interest in community service.”

Inspired to teach
Chelsea Clemens
Associate Professor Welding

Born and raised in Coos Bay, Chelsea Clemens headed into high school with a mind toward being in the medical field, maybe a doctor. She took anatomy and physiology at Southwestern and soon enrolled at Portland State. It wasn’t long, though, before she came back home.

“I realized that was not my career choice. I didn’t like the city. I liked the more rural, slower pace. I like working with my hands.” She lined up a summer job at Roseburg Forest Products and was making good money. All the while, the crew she worked with kept teasing her that she’d be a good welder.

“I saw Southwestern had a welding program. I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to take a few classes,” she said.

Soon Chelsea had a two-year welding degree and then a new job at the barge-building company Southern Oregon Marine. Still, she had an urge to teach, that started with class assistant experience at Southwestern and even younger, while in 4-H.

“I learned a lot in 4-H about how to teach people, because you start as a young person and you learn from the seniors. Then you grow into a senior and learn to instruct the juniors,” she said.

She gained confidence speaking to the public. “It teaches a young person how to communicate with people and it really gets you engaged in your community. And, you get to learn.”

In 2015, Chelsea picked up a call from Southwestern’s former welding instructor. He kept in touch with his former teaching assistant, and was retiring. He thought she should apply. You know the story … eight years later, Chelsea is a welding instructor inspiring tomorrow’s boat builders, construction workers and metal fabricators.

Mechanically minded
Duncan Cooper
Assistant Professor Welding, Manufacturing

Duncan Cooper’s path to teaching was similar to his colleague Chelsea Clemens. He was raising sheep and dogs, and participating in 4-H as a young person. Being so horribly shy, a person might never have imagined Duncan would grow up to teach dozens of students in a college welding program.

“In my 4-H group especially, it was part of the requirements that we talk with the public. We had to interact with them. We talked about our animals and how stuff works. That helps a lot with trying to structure a speech of any kind,” he said.

He happened to visit a Southwestern campus while in high school for a Math & Skills Day competition, not knowing someday he would teach there. After graduating Coquille High School, Duncan joined the military. When he returned to civilian life, he dabbled in welding. Liking it, he enrolled in Southwestern’s program, even assisting in the labs.

Over the summers and between classes, Duncan worked on a large dairy. Farm work is a do-all job. Once you are known as a go-to person for welding, fabrication, and repairs in farming and fishing, you won’t starve in this region.

“I never even touched a cow while I was there. I was always working on the heavy equipment,” he said.

Duncan does private contracting now, too. He has worked with the fishing fleet in Port Orford, where he lives. So, when Southwestern needed a second welding instructor for its classes in Brookings and Coos Bay, well, you know the story. Duncan got a phone call, encouraging him to apply.

Pictured left to right: Dr. Patty Scott, Duncan Cooper, Chelsea Clemens

Southwestern Foundation Hosts A “Celebration Of Nursing” Open House Nov. 16

Southwestern Foundation Hosts A “Celebration Of Nursing” Open House Nov. 16

The Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation and the College’s Department of Nursing invite all nurses in the local community to an open house on Wednesday, November 16, 2022, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. The event, “A Celebration of Nursing,” will take place in the nursing wing of Southwestern’s new Umpqua Hall.

Current faculty and students will provide tours of the College’s new nursing lab. Practicing and retired LPN/LVNs, RNs, APRNs and nursing alumni/faculty are encouraged to network, connect with peers and help inspire the next generation of nurses.

“We have an amazing group of nurses practicing here in our local community. They know, first-hand, what it takes to make it through school,” said Joannie Miller, Executive Director of Nursing at Southwestern. “Our own students are motivated by seeing their success. This event provides a unique opportunity to facilitate those connections, showcase our new labs and simply have fun celebrating our profession.”

Guided by a board of community volunteers, the Southwestern Foundation organized as a nonprofit organization in 1962, the year after the college started. Since then, thousands of students have attended the college using Foundation scholarships. These awards inspire students to achieve their goals and give back to our community.

Community health care organizations interested in hosting an information table at the event are welcome to do so with a minimum $100 donation through the Southwestern Foundation. Donations to serve as a sponsor may be submitted at www.socc.edu/give, and designate “nursing event sponsor” in the notes section.

If you are interested in donating to Southwestern Foundation nursing scholarships, simply visit www.socc.edu/give or call 541-888-7211 for additional information.

Southwestern honors Carolyn Thompson as 2022 Distinguished Alum

Southwestern honors Carolyn Thompson as 2022 Distinguished Alum

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce the selection of Carolyn Thompson of North Bend as the 2022 Distinguished Alum. The Distinguished Alumni award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia. 

“Carolyn has been a terrific ambassador for the college for many years. Her dedication to helping students is inspiring. Her story exemplifies the journey many of our students have taken to reach their goals,” said President Patty Scott, in announcing the honor. “SWOCC changes lives, and Carolyn is an example of this.” 

Thompson grew up in Coos Bay. As a young person, she moved through the foster care system with a desire to succeed, dedicating her energy to excelling in studies and graduating high school.

“The one thing I could always count on in my life was school. It started at 8:30 in morning. It fed me. It nurtured my spirit and my soul,” Thompson said. 

After high school, she began attending SWOCC, working with instructors who encouraged her to explore and push her limits in learning. “I could have gone a lot of places, but my money went furthest at SWOCC. It was just what I needed, a personalized education that challenged me.” 

After earning an Associate of Arts Degree in Business Administration and Management in 1984 from Southwestern, she moved on to Oregon State University graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1986. 

She went to work as a certified public accountant, eventually returning to practice in Coos Bay. From here, she has dedicated her personal life and career to improving her profession, community, and educational opportunities for others.  At 57, Thompson serves on the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation board of trustees, working to increase scholarships for students and empower donors in giving back in ways that create lasting impacts.

Thompson has taught at Southwestern at times and been actively involved for many years as a volunteer in government and service clubs. This included work with North Bend School Board, Coos Bay Schools Foundation, Zonta Club of the Coos Bay Area, Dance Umbrella for South Coast Oregon, Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and Ford Family Leadership Institute. 

This is the 31st year Southwestern has honored alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia.

Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

Southwestern honors Donald Ivy as 2021 Distinguished Alumnus

COOS BAY, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce the selection of Donald Ivy of Coos Bay as the 2021 Distinguished Alumnus. 

Ivy is Chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe, a position he has held since 2014. In a nomination supported by educators, tribal leaders, former lawmakers, and Oregon’s governor, advocates for the award describe Ivy as representing “the best of what any educational institution hopes to achieve.” He encourages “individuals to think deeply, make an impact, share their knowledge and go on to encourage others to do the same.”

A quest to learn and remember

Ivy has made it his lifetime endeavor to work in growing knowledge, understanding history and engaging youth. The state of Oregon honored him with its Heritage Excellence Award in 2013. The following year, the University of Oregon appointed Ivy as its first-ever Tribal Elder in Residence.

“This honor is a reminder of the great privilege I have to know the people I know. I am thankful for the graces and goodwill of other people more accomplished than me who have allowed me into their space,” Ivy said. 

Ivy has published articles on history and archaeology. He is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum. While heading the Coquille Tribe’s cultural program, he oversaw creation of the Kilkich Youth Corps, which provides workplace skills, mentoring and summer employment to tribal teens.

An advocate for education

“Don Ivy came to our college in the mid-1990s to learn about the land, history and philosophy. He has used that knowledge to become in many ways a teacher for us all. He is a genuine leader who brings people together with shared vision for self-improvement and making our state better,” said Southwestern President Patty Scott.

Ivy served for several years on the college’s Foundation, advocating for the need to support scholarships and invest in quality facilities and training for residents of the south Oregon coast region. Under his leadership, the Coquille Indian Tribe was the college’s first vocal supporter and partner in building the college’s new Health & Science Technology center. The building will open in fall 2021, providing modern labs for training new generations of scientists, engineers and health care professionals. 

“When I talk to somebody who’s a SWOCC student, I talk to them about the technology building. I see the excitement in our nursing students and others, and that building how important it is to them,” Ivy said. “I’m hoping the doors swing open in the fall and we fill it with students, and know we have accomplished a great thing.”

The Southwestern Foundation typically honors Distinguished Alumni in a celebration in coordination with graduation. This year, the college is postponing a Distinguished Alumni celebration until tentatively fall 2021. 

“The whole COVID thing has challenged us with asking, ‘What are those things that are the most deeply rooted, the big important things that really, really matter,” Ivy said. “Celebration of community is hugely important. It reminds us to be together.” 

This is the 30th year Southwestern has honored alumni who have demonstrated significant contributions to their professions, communities, or academia. To learn more about the college, go to www.socc.edu.

On a journey of inspiration

On a journey of inspiration

Yesterday’s drop-out. Today’s teacher

When Lou Rushton hiked into Coos Bay looking for a bus to take south, the 50-state traveler had never heard of this town nor any little towns on the Oregon Coast. He figured Coos Bay was just another step in a long journey. In reality? It was 2002 and Rushton had “crash landed” at Southwestern Oregon Community College.

“I was curious, terrified by the thought of college, but curious about why people enjoyed it,” he said.

Rushton’s experience at Southwestern helped him re-frame his life. It launched him on a learning journey that took him to the East Coast, the Gulf Coast and back again. Two years ago, Rushton landed again at Southwestern, this time gracefully as an assistant math professor.

“This is the magic. It’s the small places. It’s the weird un-thought of places that are transforming people,” Rushton said.

Searching for a way out

High school was never a fit for Rushton. He dropped out at 16 in Cleveland, Ohio, and got a warehouse job. He quickly learned unskilled work was not a path to a good future, so he enrolled in an alternative adult high school degree program by phone, before online education took hold.

Restless, he started traveling. It was in Coos Bay he discovered his love of learning. Rushton needed a chance to dry out from his cold, wet travels. He found a place to stay and got a pizza-making job. Soon, his new circle of friends connected him to the college. His first advisor, Southwestern’s music director, told him to take a science class.

“I remember going home and literally looking them up. We didn’t have Internet yet. I literally got out the dictionary, thinking ‘what are these options?’” he said.

Having the experience I had here transformed my life. – Math teacher Lou Rushton, 2006 Southwestern grad

Geology, physics, chemistry, biology? He picked geology to learn about Earth. Within three weeks, instructor Dr. Ron Metzger noticed Rushton’s work ethic and suggested he become president of the Geology Club.

“I remember thinking, you’ve got the wrong guy,” Rushton said.

Metzger had the right guy.

Learning to teach

“Lou did what students are supposed to do. You show up. You work hard. You ask questions. You show initiative,” Metzger said.

Rushton moved into student housing and became a resident assistant. He participated in activities and tutored. He became Southwestern’s outstanding student that year.

“Some people golf. Some people enjoy bowling. I just enjoyed being in classes, being in an academic environment,” he said.

Archive photo of geology instructor Ron Metzger and student Lou Rushton
Geology professor and mentor Dr. Ron Metzger stands with former student Lou Rushton in this archive photo circa 2005. Today, they are good friends and teach together.

People told Rushton to teach. After graduating with an Oregon Transfer Degree in 2006, he moved to the University of Oregon and got his bachelor’s degree. He detoured east to St. John’s University in New York, took a teaching fellowship and worked in a Brooklyn high school. He earned a master’s degree in civil engineering, and another master’s and then another. He taught at a community college in Ohio, and figured out he loved teaching.

“He’s a great math teacher,” Metzger said. “He still has the same enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude.”

Nearly 20 years after they met, Rushton and Metzger are equals, and good friends. Now, Rushton is the one inspiring students. 

Creating community

Rushton’s office is next door to the tutoring lab. It is common any day to walk in and see this middle-aged man in jeans sitting beside a student working through math problems. He also tells his story, helping students think beyond today to imagine possibilities.

“I thought my career path wouldn’t have anything to do with math,” said Kaitlyn Heitman, a student in his Math 98 class. “But honestly, Lou is making me rethink that. If I challenge myself a little bit more, I could go into any field I want to.”

Hearing a student say that, has to make a teacher smile.

“Having the experience I had here transformed my life,” Rushton said. “To be a part of that with other future students is just too cool.”


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