Southwestern Hosts Alumni Weekend and Golf Tournament Scholarship Fundraiser

Southwestern Hosts Alumni Weekend and Golf Tournament Scholarship Fundraiser

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC) and the SWOCC Foundation invite the community and businesses to participate in a celebration of alumni. Festivities will take place June 3-4, 2022, and include a Golf Tournament (to fundraise for scholarships) and a Hall of Fame ceremony.

Friday, June 3:

  • All Day = Campus Tours: call 541-888-1595 or click HERE to schedule
  • 5:30 p.m. = Social at the Back Alley Pub & Grill

Saturday, June 4:

  • 9 a.m. = Opportunity Links! Golf Tournament at the Coos Golf Club to fundraiser for scholarships (registration required)
  • 3 p.m. = Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony & Athletic Awards at Prosper Hall

This year’s event will kick off with a “meet and greet social” at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 3, at The Back Alley Pub & Grill.

At 9 a.m., Saturday morning, the SWOCC Foundation will host a golf tournament at the Coos Golf Club. If you are interested in putting together a four-person team for $600, or would like to sponsor the event, please contact the SWOCC Foundation: foundation@socc.edu or 541-888-7209. Your donation will fund scholarships for students who attend Southwestern on both our Coos and Curry campuses.

Following the golf tournament on Saturday at 3 p.m., the athletic department will honor former athletes, teams, coaches, and those who have had a noteworthy impact on the school and its athletic programs. The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place in Prosper Hall during the annual sports awards. One team and three individuals covering a wide range of Laker history will make up the Southwestern Hall of Fame class of 2022.

This will be a no-host weekend, and the public is encouraged to come to the event.

The Hall of Fame class of 2022 inductees are:

  • The late Jennifer Gunnell (Volleyball 1989-90)
  • Joanna Grotenhuis (Volleyball 1990-91)
  • John Speasl (former Athletic Director and coach, 1973 – 2011)
  • The first Southwestern baseball team (1966-67) including players:
    • Harry Abel, Jack Greene, Dan Kirk*, Lewis LaFleur*, Ray Lemke, Dennis Metzger, Dennis Rodgers*, Terry Severson*, John Walker* and Tom Wright, coached by the late Bill Horning.

*The college is seeking help in locating some team members. Anyone with information should contact the hall of fame committee at hof@socc.edu or 541-888-7208.

Geology Lecture: Relationships Between Elakha (Sea Otter) and a Sense of Place on Oregon’s South Coast – A conference honoring the life and legacy of Chief Don Ivy

Geology Lecture: Relationships Between Elakha (Sea Otter) and a Sense of Place on Oregon’s South Coast – A conference honoring the life and legacy of Chief Don Ivy

Chief Don IvyCoos Bay, OR – Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s popular Geology Lecture Series continues for the 2021-22 academic year with a series of talks covering “Relationships Between Elakha (Sea Otter) and a Sense of Place on Oregon’s South Coast” a conference honoring the life and legacy of Chief Don Ivy. Join us on Saturday, April 16, 2022 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. At the time of this news release we expect to be live in the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the Coos Bay campus and also streaming via Livestream at the college website (https://livestream.com/swocc/geology2021-22).

This conference brings together a number of experts including Bob Bailey (President of the Elakha Alliance) delivering “Elakha Alliance: Bringing Sea Otters Home”; Dr. Roberta “Bobbi” Hall (Oregon State University, Emeritus) discussing “With the Coquille Indian Tribe — and the Sea Otters”; Dr. William “Bill” Robbins (Oregon State University, Emeritus), author of Hard Times in Paradise: Coos Bay, Oregon with “The Floodtide of EuroAmericans and the Disruption of Elakha”; and Dr. Loren Davis (Oregon State University) talking about “The Importance of the Devils Kitchen Archaeological Site”.

The talks will be followed by a panel discussion/question and answer session with our speakers. Our conference is dedicated to the life and legacy of Chief Don Ivy. When Chief Ivy was recognized as the Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Distinguished Alumnus in the Spring of 2021, several individuals associated with the Elakha Alliance were in the virtual audience. The idea of hosting an event on the south coast involving Elakha and sense of place conceived. Following Don’s passing in July 2021 we began to plan a conference dedicated to many of the tenets that Chief Ivy lived by, among them recognizing the cultural identity of Native Peoples of the region, supporting education, improving community, and fostering a greater awareness for land stewardship. It’s our intent that those attending will go forward with a better “sense of place”. It is also our hope, that like Don, we will all go out and “think deeply, make an impact, share our knowledge and go on to encourage others to do the same.”

In addition to our speakers, representatives of The Coquille Tribe, Elakha Alliance, South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and The University of Oregon’s Charleston Marine Life Center will be present in the Hales Center lobby before and after the lecture.

All lectures in the series are free. The final speaker in the series this year will be Dr. Ron Metzger (Southwestern Professor of Earth Sciences) on Saturday, May 21 at 7:00 pm with “The Final Lecture? Oribatid Mites, Conodonts and Musings from Nearly Four Decades in the College Classroom”. Lecture Series Sponsors include DB Western, Southwestern Foundation, The Mill Resort and Casino, and the American Geophysical Union.

For additional information or to submit questions prior to the talk contact Ron Metzger at rmetzger@socc.edu or 541-888-7216.

Photo credit: Morgan Rector

A delicious life

A delicious life

OCCI alum is living the culinary dream

It’s been a long and winding road for Justin Wolf to reach the status of Executive Chef. Born and raised in Medford, Oregon, cooking was always a big part of his family and life. Even his senior project in high school involved cooking, teaching kids how to help with dinner. And as long as we’re mentioning family, Justin’s father, Michael works at the SWOCC Curry campus! 

Because his culinary journey began at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI), graduating with honors in 2011 at age 19, we were very interested in ‘the rest of the story’. We caught up with Chef Wolf at his new gig, Executive Chef for Partake in Grants Pass. He had just finished baking the bread for the day and had a short break before preparations for the evening’s delicacies began.

OCCI: So first, tell us about the new restaurant, Partake Shop & Lounge.

Wolf: I’m so excited about Partake. It’s different. It’s not your average restaurant, lounge, or shop. It’s a bit of all three. We’re doing an upscale, small plate menu in the lounge, along with signature cocktails. I’m in charge of developing the menu and it’s constantly evolving. 

We also have an international bottle shop and wine tasting room on the premises. And in case that’s not enough to temp you, we house an artisan cheese shop too – which sells a lot more than just cheese. I bake the bread daily for the lounge and the cheese shop. And to top it off we’re located in a gorgeous historic building in downtown Grants Pass. We opened our doors on November 23, 2021.

OCCI: We checked out the menu on the website. It looks amazing. So now . . . let’s back up a bit and talk about the start of your career. Tell us what factors influenced your choice to come to OCCI for your culinary training.

Wolf: I love the coast, crabbing, fishing, the outdoors, the lake. As a family we used to visit the coast a lot when I was a kid. I still come as much as possible with my wife. And I love cooking with seafood so OCCI’s location was great for that. Being from out of the area, I needed to live on campus which ended up saving me a lot of money. I was looking for the most cost-effective culinary training. It was perfect, close enough to home, not too close, not too far away.

OCCI: Can you share something important that you learned at OCCI that you draw on now in your work?

Wolf: I remember distinctly my Interpersonal Communication class. That class proved invaluable when it comes to working in a kitchen with a lot of different people. My time at OCCI also taught me how to run an efficient kitchen.

OCCI: Do you remember a particular experience you had while at OCCI that really had an impact on you?

Wolf: One of the concepts that I was exposed to at OCCI that has really influenced my work is the farm-to-table principle. I’m committed to local, sustainable, and renewable practices. I also learned about the French sous vide technique of cooking. It’s a method where food is sealed in a pouch and then heated in a water bath. I saw it first demonstrated the day I toured OCCI. I’m obsessed with it and use it all the time.

OCCI: Chef Randy Torres was your instructor. What do you remember about Chef Torres?

Wolf: Chef Torres is very knowledgeable and approachable. I was intimidated by him at first because of his vast and impressive experience. But when you get to know him, he’s great.

OCCI: What was living in student housing like?

Wolf: Living on campus was fun. I made some great friends I still stay in contact with. I used to bring home leftovers and trade with the baking and pastry students that lived upstairs.

OCCI: Why would you recommend OCCI to people considering a career in the culinary arts?

Wolf: It’s an exceptional place! Especially for young people, who need to get a good base foundation of culinary skills.

OCCI: Now the experienced sage gets to pass on some advice to the younger set interested in a culinary career . . . 

Wolf: It took a lot of trial and error for me to get where I am today. I wasn’t afraid to leave a situation if I wasn’t growing. If it’s not the right fit, it’s time to go. Just look at my resume. I’ve worked at a lot of places and learned something different from each experience.

And . . . don’t take no for an answer when you find a restaurant you want to work at.

Does a delicious career in the culinary world sound good to you? Contact us today at 541-888-7309.

Hospitals help student nurses graduate early

Hospitals help student nurses graduate early

On the Front Line

Southwestern doubled enrollment in its nursing program this year to help health care providers meet a growing demand for workers. It was a race to meet hospital and clinic needs and be ready to expand the program into the new soon-to-open Health & Science Technology Building.

Then came COVID-19. It brewed into a perfect storm.

With three months to graduation, Southwestern’s nursing students headed toward their final clinical training in hospitals. All the while statewide, fearful hospital managers started canceling training for student nurses.

“We knew if we could get our second year students out early, they could get all their practicum out of the way,” said Nursing Director Joannie Miller.

Her students needed their final 225 hours of training side-by-side with registered nurses serving as faculty. So, Miller jumped on the phone in early March, dialing partners at Bay Area Hospital. She called Hospice and the hospitals in Reedsport, Coquille, Bandon and Gold Beach.

“They all stepped up,” she said.

Every single one.

“The full-time nursing faculty worked through their spring break to make this happen for our students. Southwestern, the community and our students are truly blessed to have this caliber of people in the Nursing Department,” Miller said.

In all, 31 students completed clinicals this term. All graduated early, thanks to collaboration with final skill testing, revised safety protocols, and buy-in from the Oregon State Board of Nursing. Four already have job offers.

And, what about Miller and her faculty team? They are reviewing 140 applications for students hoping to get into next year’s nursing class.

“We are on the front lines. This is what we do as nurses,”
Miller said.”

What our graduates have to say …

Keith Selanoff

Nursing Alumnus Keith Selanoff holds a celebration sign
2020 SWOCC Nursing Alumnus Keith Selanoff

What has it been like to train in this current environment?
It’s definitely different! I’ve been fortunate to do my nursing practicum in hospice. Social distancing has had an impact on patient contact. I so look forward to the time when things go back to face-to-face interaction.

Why did you choose nursing?
I’ve always enjoyed taking care of the sick. Providing my patients with compassionate and competent care, or even a distraction from their current situation, is what it’s all about for me. I started as a CNA when I was 17. Finishing nursing school is a lifelong dream for me.

What do you want to do in nursing longer term?
My goal is to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. I’m taking upper division classes at Eastern Oregon University, and will start classes for the bachelor’s of science in nursing at OHSU in the fall.

How would you encourage future students?
Nursing school is tough, but you can do it. Don’t give up. You will get through and the faculty in the nursing program will support you 100%. It is a lot of work, but it goes by in a flash and before you know it you’re done. Find a study group that works well for you. That is a big help.

Ally Cuneo

nursing alumna Ally Cuneo holds a stethoscope
2020 SWOCC Nursing alumna Ally Cuneo

What’s it been like to train in this current environment?
There have definitely been ups and downs. I’ve been working side-by-side with a nurse at Coquille Valley Hospital in the ER. I absolutely love the craziness of the ER. We are creating a new system of response each day, and
it’s really improving my patient care skills fast.

Why did you choose nursing?
When I had my son, I was so impressed with the nurses that helped me. My husband is a paramedic, and we really love the lifestyle and the schedule. I decided I wanted a job that would be useful everywhere because we do humanitarian work, so nursing is a perfect fit.

What do you want to do in nursing longer term?
Working in the ER suits my personality. I like to be on the go and it’s exciting. I’d enjoy having a job in the ER. Long term, I’d like to work in labor and delivery.

How would you encourage future students?
I want to tell students that it’s worth all the hard work. I made a pact with other students that we would carry each other across the finish line, and we have! We’re a team, a family. The faculty pushed me and encouraged me. I have nothing but good things to say about them.

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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