Students visit Ashland Water Reclamation Center

Explorations in Sustainability and Environmental Change


The Southern Oregon University Green House is a solution-oriented learning community focused on sustainability, adventure, leadership, and applied research. Students, faculty, staff, and community members work together to understand and solve community-based problems through adventure, investigation, innovation, hands-on work, and action.

Green House Vision

The Green House emphasis on inquiry-driven, problem-based learning means that our graduates develop effective leadership and communication skills, learn to think in innovative ways, and have the ability to comprehend the impacts of environmental change and the priority for sustainability. Green House graduates are poised to take practical action to solve the challenges of the 21st century.

In the Green House, curious and passionate students and teachers work together to explore the world in which we live. Students transition from assimilating knowledge and passive learning to active learning and knowledge creation. Students collaborate with faculty, staff, and community members to learn about group process and conflict resolution, to study and solve real-world problems, and to meet others who will become valuable colleagues and contacts beyond SOU.

Using information and resources from all of the disciplinary threads at our university, the Green House creates a rich academic learning community and builds transferable skills that can be applied in new ways. Green House seminars guide student cohorts through a variety of research methods, training them to effectively participate in project teams, research teams, and business enterprises. Long-term projects offer the chance to build relationships that will open doors to career opportunities and entrepreneurial innovation.

The Green House community serves as a regional resource for sustainable answers to social and environmental issues through a focus on local, regional, national, and international applied research. We find viable, realistic solutions to complex problems.

Meeting the SOU Vision (CCCA)

The SOU Green House planning team has used collaboration, creativity, community, and adventure as a set of guiding principles throughout development. The Green House establishes a campus culture in which these guiding principles are an embedded component of the college experience. The Green House is NOT a collection of integrated cohort-based classes. It is a learning community delivering life skills in authentic, exciting, and rewarding real-life contexts. The SOU Green House will successfully deliver well-trained, employable, dedicated, and excited students by carefully modeling, rewarding, and supporting these virtues in the community we create.


  • Instruction delivered through rigorously selected collaborative instructional teams.
  • Guest lecturers, project leaders, and research partners selected broadly from on- and off-campus.
  • Small group and team learning structures with explicit instruction in team development, leadership, and group dynamics.
  • Weekly group projects designed in collaboration with community partners with explicit deliverables and community reporting.


  • Transdisciplinary solution-oriented instruction emphasizing thoughtful pragmatism.
  • Diverse learning groups designed to capture synergistic opportunity and creativity.
  • Emphasis on novel data generation and creative inquiry.
  • Opportunity to act as co-creators of the new House Seminar education paradigm.
  • Emphasizing creative, brainstorming sessions within groupwork, going beyond either/or thought patterns through accessing the creative energy of the group.


  • Regular co-curricular experiences including labs, dinners, movies, and activities designed to dismantle the overt distinction between extracurricular and curricular university experience.
  • Continual ties to off-campus partners promoting bioregional community and collaboration.
  • A culture of inclusion, reward, acceptance, and expectation promoting collective accomplishment.
  • Explicit emphasis on the learning experience as a team-based process.
  • Developing awareness of characteristics of effective teams with continuing opportunities to learn experientially about effective group process.


  • Exploration of our bioregion and community embedded weekly into the House Seminar to foster commitment and dedication to the betterment of Southern Oregon.
  • Activities, lessons, and teams designed to push limits, recognize failures, find success, and celebrate process.
  • Model enthusiasm, excitement, determination, and hard work in all we do.
  • Developing the core concept of education as a personal and collaborative adventure.
  • Curriculum designed to foster students ability to push beyond perceived academic, interpersonal and physical limitations.

House Specific Objectives and Outcomes

Program Objectives:

  • Facilitate a cohort-based experience that establishes relationships between students, staff, faculty, the SOU campus, and the region.
  • Offer cross-disciplinary collaborative seminar courses as a platform for community development, thematic learning, problem solving, and rigorous academic discourse around the theme of sustainability and environmental change.
  • Support student-led and student-initiated programming tied to the overarching mission of the House as a place of learning and exploration.
  • Recruit and retain highly qualified students eager to engage in hands-on research and projects in the fields of sustainability and environmental studies.
  • Support and encourage energetic, innovative and experiential teaching across disciplines and from the community.

Knowledge and Awareness Outcomes:

  • Has been exposed to a wide range of sustainability initiatives and topics.
  • Is capable of sharing examples of and applying sustainable solutions to complex problems.
  • Demonstrates deep understanding of the interdependence of economic, social, and environmental systems.

Civic Engagement Outcomes:

  • Participates in and creates sustainability-related programs, projects, and events.
  • Imagines and desires an ecologically and socially just world.
  • Uses knowledge and perspective to act appropriately at all scales to effect change.
  • Expresses deep commitment to the Green House, Southern Oregon University, and the region.

Sustainability Leadership Outcomes:

  • Demonstrates confidence as a role model for sustainability.
  • Inspires others to participate in sustainability through action and attitude.
  • Models collaborative leadership with deep commitment and value for organizational interdependence.

Relationship Outcomes:

  • Shows capacity to engage in self-reflection and self-improvement.
  • Is willing and able to accept feedback.
  • Seeks common ground and effective potential on issues and perspectives.

Life Skill Outcomes:

  • Values life-long learning as a key element of citizenry.
  • Exhibits intrinsic motivation and self-determination.
  • Is capable of transformation, creativity and innovation.
  • Exhibits clarity about personal goals, ambitions, and purpose.


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