, a 19-year-old sophomore at Southern Oregon University, became only the fourth SOU student to join the state Board of Higher Education when he was appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski last week.

Fox, an economics major and member of the student government, will serve a two-year term on the board that has governed the seven-campus Oregon University System since 1929.

"I felt it was important to have regional schools represented," said Fox, who grew up in Cottage Grove, just outside of Eugene, home to the University of Oregon. "You have a responsibility to give back if you can."

Fox said he is interested in tuition and retention issues, especially for under-represented students, including those from rural areas, students of color and non-traditional students.

"We need to find ways to bring them back into the educational system to get them the degrees they need to be competent members of the work force," he said. "Once they're in, we need to do better at completion rates."

Fox has been involved in education policy since his early high school days, beginning with serving on a transition team when his high school moved into a new building after his freshman year. He also served as the only student on a two-year project to develop a "pyramid of interventions" designed to prevent his peers from failing.

Once he reached SOU, getting involved in the student government seemed the natural choice.

"I wanted to do something significant," he said. "If you're going to spend your time doing something, it might as well be something worthwhile."

Last year he worked with the Oregon Student Association to develop a need-based "shared responsibility model" for financial aid, and he was involved in the student government's work on the city's Taser policies this fall.

As this year's Senate pro tem, Fox is focused on developing the next crop of student leaders. He also attends biweekly faculty senate meetings and has worked on retention and diversity training with the student affairs office, which he hopes will inform the projects he will work on with the state board.

When asked if he will run for student body president, he said it is only a possibility at this point, especially with his new responsibilities for the board.

"I get asked that a lot, actually," he said. "I've got to be able to see how much time I'm going to have."

Although student government takes up most of his spare time, Fox is also planning to start a hiking club with a friend, to take advantage of the terrain that originally attracted him to SOU.

As for future career plans, higher ed &

and not economics &

holds more appeal for Fox.

"I think econ is interesting because it boils down to answering questions and what causes what, and why," he said. "It's the fundamentals of how you solve problems. Do I want to be an economist? Probably not ... I think I'd like to stay in higher education. I really enjoy what opportunities I've been given on this campus, and I'd like to be involved in providing these opportunities to other students."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .