Culinary students excel on USA Olympic team

Culinary students excel on USA Olympic team

From Coos Bay USA to Stuttgart Germany, eight student chefs and Executive Chef Randy Torres brought the award-winning spirit of Southwestern’s Oregon Coast Culinary Institute to the IKA/Culinary Olympics in February.

OCCI students joined other aspiring chefs from across the country on the USA Junior National Team. The excitement was intense with this being the first major competition for most students. “This event is amazing! It connects young chefs with people who can help further their careers for the rest of their lives,” OCCI student chef Brooklyn Hansen said. 

image of a plate of desserts

The 26th international culinary sport competition featured teams from 55 nations and more than 1,200 participants. It’s the oldest, largest, and most international culinary competition in the industry. 

The USA National Team, comprising professional chefs from across the nation and coached by OCCI Executive Chef Randy Torres, brought home an overall Silver Medal.

“It’s wonderful being involved in the camaraderie that IKA fosters. This competition is a unique adventure for students and SWOCC is proud to be a part of it. It’s a pivotal experience that changed the direction of my life when I participated on a team in 2008.”  – Chef Torres

image of three chefs working in a commercial kitchen with plates on a counter in front of them

The USA Junior Team, all 25 or younger, participated in two competitions. They earned a Bronze Medal in the “Restaurant of Nations,” a three-course menu for 110 people, and brought home Silver in the “Junior Chef’s Table,” a five-course menu for ten people.

OCCI hosted both teams’ practice sessions as they prepared for Stuttgart. It was extremely valuable training for our students to work alongside and learn from the finest professional chefs from around the country.

Congratulations Chef Torres and OCCI students!




Pictured front row: Elena Smith, Liam T. O’ Brien, Jesone Khantikone, Brooklyn Hansen, Oliver Cowan, Chef Randy Torres

Back row: Maxwell R. Smith, Maddison Valdez, Paige Hoene

Southwestern hosts 23-24 Student Athlete Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – June 1, 2024

Southwestern hosts 23-24 Student Athlete Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – June 1, 2024

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Hall of Fame Committee honors former athletes, teams, coaches, and those that have had a large impact on the school and its athletic program. One team and two individuals covering a wide range of Laker history will make up the Southwestern Oregon Community College Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024.

This year’s inductees are:

  • First Softball Team (1994-95) including players: Sara Anderson*, Kylleen Campbell (Nipp), Kelly Chestnut (Coleman), Sandi Corum (Wayman), Katy Gibson*, Beccy Grenz (King), Casey Howard, Misty Ferry (Howerton), Shanen “Keg” Koegler, Jennifer “Bug” Mahan (Franklin), Cheri “Pumba” Spillman (Anderson) and Coach Charlie Christiansen
  • First Softball All-Americans: Jennifer “Bug” Mahan (Franklin) and Dannett Johnson.

The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 1, 2024 at 3:00 pm in Prosper Hall on the Coos Campus (1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay) during the annual sports awards. There will be food available following the ceremony. This event is free and open to the public.

The Hall of Fame Committee is seeking help in locating some of the team members. Anyone having information on the inductees marked with an asterisk (*) or have any other questions, please contact the Hall of Fame Committee at hof@socc.edu or 541-888-7452.


Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

Southwestern calls for Distinguished Alumni nominations

COOS BAY, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College is seeking the community’s help to honor graduates who have gone on after college to improve their professions, education, communities, and the world. Each year since 1992, the College has requested nominations for a distinguished alumni. 

The College is accepting nominations for 2024 through April 1. To be eligible, nominees must have graduated with a degree or certificate, or have completed a minimum of 60 credits from Southwestern.

Past recipients have included leaders in education, the arts, Native American tribes, business and finance, research, health care, and the military. Today, Southwestern’s graduates continue to distinguish themselves in professions and innovative efforts to build friendships around the globe. The College wants to celebrate these individuals who have contributed selflessly to improving society. Please consider nominating alumni for the recognition they deserve. 

To read more about past recipients, go to Alumni News at www.socc.edu/alumni-news/

To download the nomination form, go to:


Please submit nomination forms by April 1 to: alumni@socc.edu


Or mail them to:

Southwestern Oregon Community College 
c/o President’s Office
1988 Newmark Ave.
Coos Bay, OR  97420

Nursing career paths are as unique as you

Nursing career paths are as unique as you

A career as a professional nurse can take you anywhere you want. Meet four examples.


Jackie Hummel

Jackie Hummel’s journey was not easy. It took her a decade to reach the place she is in now, but she would do it all over again.

Jackie had spent fifteen years as a medical assistant most recently at Bay Clinic. But she wanted to do more. While working part-time, she entered the nursing program at Southwestern, and is now a Pediatric nurse, specializing in caring for infants and children, and providing phone triage, becoming the bridge between medical care and emotional support. As a mom of three herself, she understands what’s going on at the other end of the phone.

Along the way, Jackie had support from fellow students and her family. Scholarships from the SWOCC Foundation and programs like STEP helped alleviate some of the financial burden. Regularly meeting with former nursing students provided guidance and boosted her self-esteem. Surrounding herself with people who had walked a similar path gave her the strength to keep going.

Jackie says, “Stay determined and refuse to give up. Don’t let setbacks discourage you from pursuing your dreams.” Now she has new goals. Starting next year, she will be going back to school to earn her bachelor of science in nursing at OHSU with a plan to become a Family Nurse Practitioner.


Heather Aldrich

Heather Aldrich thought she would like to be a nurse educator after she retired from nursing. But a short text four years ago made her think about it sooner. “I didn’t leave nursing because I didn’t love it (because I did, and I still do patient care), I just got an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I love explaining complicated concepts, watching the light go on in someone’s eyes, and taking the ‘terror’ out of a potentially intimidating situation.”

Heather started at Southwestern as a student after toying with the idea of medical school. Feeling at loose ends and visiting a friend in Coos Bay, on a whim she decided to try nursing. Eventually that lead to a bachelor’s degree from OHSU, then various kinds of nursing work from oncology, ICU, recovery, creating education programs for Bay Area Hospital, and teaching -clinicals for the college. 

Considering a nursing career but you’ve heard nursing school is hard? Heather says, “Nursing is for people with the right intent. Even if you’re not a “good student,” if you are a caring person, we want you.”


photo of Lori Shott

Lori Shott’s career path reflects the diverse opportunities available in nursing. 

Lori has a lot of advice for students and anyone considering a nursing career. “Start with a solid foundation in the science of nursing assessment and hone those nursing instincts. Keep an eye on your nursing goal but balance it with an open mind too. Be willing to change, adapt and see where life takes you. You will be able to apply the nursing process to whatever type of nursing career you end up doing.”

For Lori that has meant working in assisted living facilities, labor and delivery, clinical informatics (specializing in data related to clinics and hospitals), care management, at the Waterfall Clinic, and now in private practice as a Family Nurse Practitioner. And she teaches nursing labs at Southwestern.

Reflecting back to when she was a nursing student 20 years ago she says, “We had to do a lot of pretending. Not anymore! Nursing education looks so much different now with the new technology. And the instructors at Southwestern have been (and some still are) nurses in the community which adds a practical dimension to the education they provide.”


Chaz Davis

Chaz Davis believes that being a nurse is not just a job, but a calling. It goes beyond the routine tasks and medical procedures; it involves a sense of purpose and dedication to helping others in their most vulnerable moments. For Chaz, being a patient advocate is at the core of nursing. 

After a ten-year career as a paramedic, Chaz was looking for a more structured lifestyle. Nursing fit the bill and now he’s part of the surgery department at Curry General Hospital. He likes to point out that being a nurse is recession-proof. In times of economic uncertainty, healthcare remains an essential industry, ensuring job security for those in the field. Unlike other professions that can be outsourced or automated, the human touch and compassion provided by nurses cannot be replaced by technology.

About Southwestern Chaz says “It’s the best kept secret! It’s such an asset to this community, and the campus is beautiful. I never had a negative interaction, not just with Judy (Instructor Dr. Judith Dornbach) but with all the staff at the Curry Campus.” Chaz’s advice? “If you can invest some time, some money, and some focus, you’ll come out with a secure, sustainable career. It’s worth every minute.”

Acclaimed Chefs from ACF Culinary Team USA Host Exclusive Luncheon at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (RSVP Required)

Acclaimed Chefs from ACF Culinary Team USA Host Exclusive Luncheon at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (RSVP Required)

Coos Bay, OR – The Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI) at Southwestern Oregon Community College is pleased to announce a luncheon prepared by the esteemed American Culinary Federation (ACF) Culinary Team USA. This exclusive culinary affair will take place on Wednesday, August 16, 2023. Seating is available by RSVP only, with reservations offered every 15 minutes from 12:30 – 2:00 p.m. at OCCI, located at 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay.

The ACF Culinary Team USA will be preparing an exquisite three-course menu as part of their training to prepare for the prestigious world competition in early 2024. This luncheon will tantalize the taste buds with a seafood starter, a succulent beef entrée, and a delectable dessert. Due to the competitive nature of the event and impending competition, a specific menu cannot be published in advance.

The luncheon is priced at $45 per person, offering an unparalleled opportunity for food enthusiasts, culinary professionals, and students to indulge in the artistry of the culinary world. Community members are welcome to join!

Luncheon Details:

  • Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2023
  • Time: 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
  • Location: OCCI, 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay, OR
  • RSVP: Reservations are required for entry, with seating available every 15 minutes. Call 541-888-7309 or email shawn.warren@socc.edu.
  • Cost: $45 per person for a three-course lunch; beer and wine available for purchase.

The ACF Culinary Team USA comprises culinary professionals and students from various regions across the country. OCCI’s very own Executive Chef Randy Torres assumes the role of Assistant Manager. The team also boasts a pool of remarkable local staff and students, including current OCCI students Paige Hoene, Jeff Schneck, and Maddison Valdez, as well as OCCI graduate Elena Smith. Assistant to the US National Team is OCCI alum Shane Wilder.

Proceeds from the luncheon will contribute to the team’s competition expenses.

To secure a seat at this event, reservations are required, and seating is limited. Parties larger than six cannot be accommodated. To make a reservation, contact Shawn Warren at shawn.warren@socc.edu or call 541-888-7309.

New SWOCC Foundation Scholarship to Inspire Next Generation of Social and Environmental Justice Advocates

New SWOCC Foundation Scholarship to Inspire Next Generation of Social and Environmental Justice Advocates

Friends of Jody McCaffree (1960 – 2022) are creating a new scholarship through the Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation to honor her memory.

Very few people have the courage to dedicate their lives to advocating for social and environmental justice.

Jody McCaffree was one such unique individual. Inspired to serve, Jody spent 30 years of her life as an activist.

She dedicated time to women’s health issues related to hormone replacement therapies, bringing in specialists for education workshops. She was perhaps best known for her research into and efforts to oppose a natural gas terminal and pipeline project through Coos Bay.

Jody passed away in October 2022, after battling cancer. Friends who Jody inspired and worked with over the past 20 years want to honor her memory and activism with a permanent scholarship at Southwestern Oregon Community College Foundation.

Jody studied accounting at Southwestern in the 1980s, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She went on determined to continue to acquire knowledge, which became the cornerstone of her activism and work.

This scholarship will assist students who have financial need, and who pursue learning related to community justice and health, ecology, economy and sustainability.


Gifts to the the Jody McCaffree Social & Environmental Justice Scholarship can be made in the following ways:

     1) Online at www.socc.edu/give (put “Jody McCaffree” where prompted for where you would like to allocate your donation)

Give to the Jody McCaffree scholarship online here

     2) Via Mail (send check to the following address with “Jody McCaffree” in the memo line)

SWOCC Foundation
1988 Newmark Ave.
Coos Bay, OR 97420

For more information about the SWOCC Foundation and how they help “open the door for opportunity” for local students, please visit www.socc.edu/foundation.


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