We create innovative projects that will serve as models for sustainability efforts in partnership with communities, corporations, and other organizations to drive change.
We amplify voices and empower communities for a livable future.
We facilitate collaboration, support research, further education, and organize events to advance sustainability.
We imagine new possibilities for regenerating communities, environments, and economies amid a rapidly changing world.
Vincent M. Smith, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Applied Sustainability
Vincent M. Smith is the Director of the Division of Business, Communication, and the Environment at Southern Oregon University. He previously served as Chair of the Environmental Science & Policy Department and held a joint teaching appointment specializing in sustainable food systems, agroecology, and environmental sociology. He earned his BA in plant ecology from Truman State University, his MS in environmental science from Oregon State University, and his PhD in interdisciplinary environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He additionally serves as the Director of the SOU Institute for Applied Sustainability and is the Director of The Farm at SOU. Dr. Smith also represents Southern Oregon University as a member of the Rogue Valley Food System Council, as a board member of the Rogue Basin Partnership, as a board member of Rusted Gate Farm, and serves on the environmental affairs committee of Mt. Ashland Ski Area. He lives in Ashland with his wife and three children where he enjoys exploring the beauty of Southern Oregon.
Associate Director, Institute for Applied Sustainability
Becs Walker is the Director of Sustainability for the campus at Southern Oregon University and the Associate Director of the Institute of Sustainability. Becs also teaches Sustainability and Natural Resources at the University.
Becs moved to Ashland from Scotland in 2019 after working for 15 years at the Scottish EPA. As Head of Waste and Resources at the Scottish EPA, Becs managed 5 national teams responsible for implementing European, United Kingdom and Scottish legislation. She also worked with the Scottish Government developing world-leading climate change policy and circular economy policy.
Becs also serves on the City of Ashland’s Climate and Energy Policy Committee, Mt Ashland Sustainability and Environment Committee. Becs is an avid mountain biker and enjoys skiing, running and being in the mountains.
Graduate Student, SOU Farm Education Coordinator
Charlotte Hyde is a Master’s Candidate in the M.S Environmental Education program and serves as Farm Education Coordinator Graduate Assistant at the SOU Farm. Charlotte is interested in integrating principles and practices of regenerative agriculture into environmental education curricula. Additionally, Charlotte is intrigued by the nexus of community and ecosystem ecology, particularly in the context of terrestrial nutrient cycling. While with the IAS, Charlotte is conducting research on the development of best practices in the structure and implementation of student-led applied campus sustainability initiatives in higher education institutions. She received her B.A in Environmental Biology from Pomona College.
Jessica Piekielek, Ph.D.
Chair, Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Jessica Piekielek is a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in conservation, environmentalism, sustainability, and border and migration studies. She has fieldwork experience in the US, Mexico, and Latin America. Jessica chairs the Sociology and Anthropology program. She received her PhD in anthropology at the University of Arizona.
Pavlina McGrady, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Tourism and Sustainability
Dr. Pavlina McGrady is an associate professor at the School of Business at Southern Oregon University, and the coordinator of the Sustainable Tourism Management degree. Pavlina’s current research focuses on sustainable tourism, exploring tourism businesses’, and local residents’ perceptions on tourism impacts, management, and policies, to identify strategies for sustainable destination management. Another area of Pavlina’s scholarly work examines barriers and predictors of corporate sustainability in the United States, as well as the role of leadership in the businesses’ journey towards sustainability. Pavlina founded the SOU Sustainability Curriculum Initiative (SOUSCI) and has been serving on the SOU Sustainability Council as well as the Travel Southern Oregon board.
Christopher Lucas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Program Coordinator of Digital Cinema
Dr. Christopher Lucas is an assistant professor in the Communication, Media, and Cinema Program. He was a founding member of SOU’s Sustainable Curriculum Initiative. His research has focused on cultural policy and the relationship between digital technologies and society, especially in the media industries. As a documentary filmmaker he has produced and written for a number of award winning documentaries on the theme of sustainability and the environment, including work on fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice, and water quality. He’s a member of the International Documentary Association, and a past participant in the Climate Story Lab, an international convening on building new, more diverse cultural narratives about climate change and sustainability.
Bret Anderson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Economics
Earlier in his career Dr. Anderson published several scholarly articles on the subject of global growth and labor market inequalities. However, since the twin crises of the wildfires and pandemic impacted the region, his research, teaching, and community advancement efforts have shifted into the areas of economic readiness and democratization of the local economy. Professor Anderson considers his expertise as being a facilitator of place-based solutions.
To that end, Professor Anderson and several committed community members created the Local Innovation Lab in partnership with Southern Oregon University. The Local Innovation Lab is a community-based, college-to-career mentorship program that aims to empower our future entrepreneurs and leaders.
Professor Anderson believes that economics, alongside many of the social sciences, is able to help construct the needed institutional frameworks and narratives that can open our collective imaginations for creating local and sustainable solutions for society’s grand problems.