Alum from Arizona settles in the Rogue Valley and volunteers to make it a better place for all
Growing up in the Arizona desert, Vance Beach ’11, MiM ’14 had no idea that he would someday make it to a small university in rural southwest Oregon. Attending Dobson HS in Phoenix, Vance excelled in football and track but because of a post-season football staff change, he didn’t receive many of the recruitment letters that had been sent his way. He initially went to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff but got injured and took the year off from school. He went to a local junior college part time while he managed a car wash. Vance spoke Spanish fluently which fostered his professional relationship with many Latino customers.
Vance called several universities wanting to pursue his education but hoping to also play football. SOU was the only school that responded to him. “SOU was the only school that wanted me to come visit and when I did, I saw deer for the first time ever and I loved the scenic setting of the campus,” he said. After his visit, he signed a national letter of intent and was excited to come to Ashland for his education.
Once on campus, Vance balanced football and his academic courses. It was a challenge he relished but the biggest challenge was adjusting to the small campus and small-town vibe of Ashland after growing up in a metropolitan area of 1.5 million. Initially, he went to school to play football and didn’t think too much about graduating. But it was a meeting with his counselor his junior year that changed his academic outlook after hearing about how many credits he needed to graduate. “After that great counseling and positive outlook, my attitude changed and I really got serious about school,” he added. As a result, Vance made the dean’s list his last two years in school and got more involved on campus by contributing to the Black Student Union.
Gradually, Ashland and campus felt more and more like home. He met his future wife Tiffany on campus and they had their first child his senior year. After graduating spring of 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in communication, Vance pursued football and had a workout for Coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans during the NFL lockout. It was there where he met a contact who told him about Consolidated Graphics (later R.R. Donnelly). They offered a three-year paid leadership development program in Medford so he jumped at the opportunity to learn a diversity of jobs, including supervisory experience with the company. While in the program, Vance joined the masters in management program at SOU and earned his graduate degree in 2014. He was hired on with R.R. Donnelly and went into sales as a Global Account Executive. In this position he works with clients throughout the world and has local clients including Lithia Motors, SOU and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
In 2014, Vance joined the SOU Alumni Association board of directors and served as President of the board for two years and Co-President for one. “I loved serving on the volunteer board because it helped me to stay connected to my alma mater and I was able to educate others and potential students, about SOU’s work,” he said. Vance served a total of nine years on the alumni board. Recently, Vance has volunteered to help promote equity and diversity in Medford, Ashland, SOU and in the Medford School District, producing educational videos to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. “I want to get involved with the social fabric of my community. As a black man living in a predominantly white region, I believe I can offer a lot of credibility and experience to help educate people about stereotypes and misconceptions,” he said. In 2020, Vance founded the Southern Oregon Black Alliance for Social Empowerment (BASE) after observing that there was very little synergy with social activism in the region. BASE is an effort to bring everyone together. “People of color in the Rogue Valley need resources and communication to help them navigate through life’s hurdles,” he added.
Vance wouldn’t trade his SOU experience for anything. “SOU has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have been able to make amazing connections with people from all generations. Providing me with collegiate-level sports and a graduate-level education, SOU has prepared me for a life-long journey,” he said.