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Southern Oregon University

President Mary Cullinan, PhD

All Campus Presentation

March 12, 2007


Good afternoon. Thank you for coming.  It’s good to see so many familiar faces in this room. Many of you have been active in this process from the very beginning. Thank you for your input, your commitment to our institution, and your dedication to finding the best solution to our budget problems.

You already know the context for today’s presentation. Since early October, I have been describing our situation and our mandate to realistically size our enterprise and its spending.  You know we have estimated a budget gap of $4M, and you know the road we have traveled to fix that problem in a timely manner.

While we have much work to do beyond today, this presentation marks the end of another very tough chapter in our University’s history. I am proud of how all of you contributed to this process. The white papers I received, the forums that were hosted, the input from every side of our campus community and beyond, helped us craft the final plan. The final plan delineates much of the input from department chairs and directors. It meets our goals and projects our emergence in FY 2010 as a sustainable University with adequate reserves. This is really a triumph for us.

The University Planning Council  report on the February 2 Campus Forum thanks people this way: “We want to acknowledge those departments/programs  . . .  that made constructive attempts to offer alternatives and to work towards savings targets. Their responses are in the true spirit of SOU reinventing itself in a thoughtful and fiscally responsible manner.” I can only echo and underscore those words.

So thank you for all of your hard work--past, present, and future--and thank you for your patience in waiting this extra week for the final plan.  The extra time was crucial for the plan’s success. Thanks to AP:SOU leadership, UPC, the Faculty Senate, and others who have contributed ideas and provided support for this process.

I particularly want to thank Craig Morris, our AVP for Fiscal Affairs, who worked patiently through a multitude of plans and revisions of plans to help us understand our budgets and reach our targets. We couldn’t have done this without him.

I am providing an overview of the plan to you this afternoon and, following my presentation, the entire plan will be available on my web page.



The comment period and the many opportunities for campus feedback and discussion definitely influenced this final plan.

People were very concerned about Women’s Studies, about German, about Geography and Geology, about printmaking, about Honors. I have read literally hundreds of messages about these programs. Needless to say, if other programs had been listed in the provisional plan, people would have rallied for those as well. The problem was—and is—that we needed to meet the $4 million challenge—and that couldn’t happen without programs and people being affected.

Essentially, on the academic side, every element in Academic Affairs was examined, and most areas are taking budget reductions. In all, 22 academic programs are being reduced, resulting in a loss of approximately 24 faculty FTE.



Departments worked very creatively. The shift of some teaching responsibilities in our University Seminar from professional faculty to tenure-track and tenured faculty will enable students to interact with faculty from academic disciplines early in their higher education career. However, the change will affect a number of professional faculty who have dedicated themselves to teaching our newest students. These individuals have consistently given their best to the university Seminar over the yearsand we will lose a number of those faculty.This slide reflects the faculty reductions that will occur by academic year 2009-2010. Over 12 of these positions are derived from retirements and vacancies that will not be refilled. A number of departmental faculty are going to teach part-time in University Seminar starting next year; however, by 2010, there will be only 2.7 tenured/tenure track faculty reassigned to USEM. The faculty layoffs include instructors as well as one tenure-track faculty member in Computer Science and .5 of a faculty member in the Library.

Departments and deans worked out savings based on current and upcoming retirements, bridging the savings out through 2009-2010. They also re-thought curriculum with the knowledge that faculty who are leaving will not be replaced. Departments and deans worked across disciplines to provide exciting new curricular opportunities for students. These conversations are ongoing. The Departments of English and Foreign Languages and Literatures, for example, will merge, and we will take advantage of a strategic focus on creative writing and Shakespeare Studies to recruit students to the university.

Computer Sciences, Communication, and Art are forming an exciting new core program that will enable students to explore the foundations of graphic arts, web design, video production and computer sciences. The new approach will better prepare students for a future where technology is changing. These skills are desperately needed in the workforce—and the program will be extremely attractive to students.

Although German will not continue as a major, we will continue to offer lower-division German classes. Moreover, Foreign Languages is committed to working strategically to strengthen the international focus of the campus through coordination with many disciplines.

Geography, Geology and Environmental Studies faculty are working to create a degree structure that utilizes a common core and attracts more students earlier in their academic careers to these disciplines. Alternatives include combining the current Geology and Geography degrees into one degree with tracks for Geology and Geography and retaining a separate degree for ES students or developing one degree for all three programs with common core and tracks designed for each group of students. These conversations are continuing.

We will continue to offer Women’s Studies and International Studies but change the way those programs are administered to capture additional savings.

The Provisional Plan recommended eliminating the Honors Program as it currently exists and replacing it with options that would allow students to “graduate with honors.” In response to the Provisional Plan, Honors students took time to explain how important the program has been to them. Their work demonstrated how much they learned from being in Honors. One alternative is to continue Honors sections for first-year students but move responsibility for higher-level Honors work into departments and majors.

This could be a reasonable solution for right now given the severity of our financial situation; however, it doesn’t have to be the final plan. There have not yet been sufficient opportunities for careful thought about this program. Several people have submitted ideas and plans, and even proposed budgets, for a program to attract and challenge highly motivated students. These ideas need to be considered outside of the short timeline needed for this budget plan.

I am committed to ensuring that we design a challenging curriculum for high-achieving students as we rebuild and re-invest in a new SOU. In coming weeks, as we set up planning processes—which I will discuss more in a moment—I will ask a workgroup that includes both faculty and students to focus on a plan for Honors.

When you review the plan being published today, you will see significant changes between the provisional plan and the final plan. These changes reflect input from many people on and off campus. 

I will add that, from people outside the university, the largest number of comments I received focused on the closure of our swimming pool. We’re now working with the City of Ashland to assess the condition of the pool and the costs associated with maintaining it if the community wishes to provide the necessary support.



As outlined in the provisional plan, Finance and Administration is reducing staff and service and supply budgets.  The cumulative effect results in a projected savings over $834,000.This slide shows the final reductions to be achieved by each of the vice presidents. In non-academic areas, all of what was announced in the provisional plan has been implemented, including 25 staff reductions or eliminations. These plans were discussed in detail at the various vice presidential forums.

Institutional Advancement’s plan to reduce by $88,000 remains the same as outlined in the provisional plan.

Also as noted in the provisional plan, Student Affairs has worked to create a “one stop” Enrollment Services Center—restructuring and co-locating Admissions, Financial Aid, Registrar, and Business Services. Their plan includes $373,550 in staff and S&S reductions.

By more fully integrating SOU academic support services in a single physical location, we can achieve significant improvement in service quality and enhance efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.  The Enrollment Services Center complements the upcoming development of a web portal, which provides the same convenience via technology.  In addition, budgetary savings will be achieved through reorganization and cross-training of staff, resulting in greater efficiencies and effectiveness in serving students.

As you can see, Academic Affairs’ final plan falls somewhat short of the budget target. However, we have cut as much as we can without jeopardizing our commitments to students and cutting the heart of our academic enterprise. Moreover, we are realizing more of our savings earlier than anticipated, so our fund balance will actually be in better shape than we had originally planned. With careful marshalling of our expenses, and focused commitment to recruitment and retention, I am very hopeful that we can keep SOU in the black without cutting deeper.

This final budget plan presents a less painful approach than what we unveiled in January. This plan was made possible by many long hours of hard work by our deans, chairs, and Provost as well as by UPC, APSOU and many of you. This truly was a case of great minds coming together for a better solution for SOU. 

The budget rethinking happened on a highly accelerated timetable. However, this is only a beginning. We have much to accomplish to create a vision that will guide our future success. Over the next 18 months we will work consultatively on an array of efforts to build a foundation for SOU’s progress.  We are still formulating a work plan to accomplish these goals, but these are some key tasks before us.


Other reorganizing concepts have come forward as well. Some put departments in three or four schools of approximately equal size. These plans added departments to Business and Education, arguing that a large College of Arts and Sciences would be unwieldy. Yet other groups and individuals proposed eliminating disciplinary units as we know them, arguing that a more interdisciplinary focus creates strong synergies among students and faculty and more effectively addresses real-world issues than do traditional academic units.The creation of a College of Arts and Sciences is the most ambitious piece of the Academic Affairs plan.  The idea of forming a College from three Schools came from creative faculty who wish to strengthen the focus and increase the visibility of SOU. They want the university’s structure to underscore its mission to provide a strong foundation in areas such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving--a foundation that prepares students effectively for whatever future they choose.

In discussions across campus, most participants have agreed that SOU’s curricula must help prepare students to see the world from multiple viewpoints, solve problems that cross disciplinary boundaries, take joy in learning and in exploring ideas that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and become skilled in using new and old modes for acquiring information and distilling information into knowledge.

As evidenced in universities around the country, a College of Arts and Sciences can provide structure for such preparation. Through department and program mergers, SOU will obtain efficiencies of management while creating increased areas of potential collaboration. Discussions concerning future reorganization and changes can continue as strategic and curricular planning continue; however, to meet immediate budget goals, decisions had to be made now as to the overall configuration of the academic areas.

A big portion of administrative savings will come from creating a College of Arts and Sciences. This streamlining takes us from 23 to 14 departments and from three deans to one dean. The streamlining affects the organizational chart of SOU; it doesn’t change the majors within the departments. While we were propelled in this direction by our financial situation, I believe this is a positive step for students and faculty. Bringing related departments together has already created opportunities for faculty and students to connect across disciplines. 

Fusing three schools into one College takes thoughtful work.  The Provost will discuss with the Academic Senate a process for appointing an acting dean of the College. I will provide formal notice to our Chancellor and Board regarding our proposed change in structure. We will create a steering committee to provide guidance and track efforts as the College comes together. And we’ll need focused work groups, including a work group to examine Honors, to identify issues and solve problems related to planning.

The College of Arts and Sciences will be born on July 1, 2007. We’ll need to have catalog changes and other work done by then—so the task is significant but not impossible. I look forward to working with many of you here today on this exciting project.


UPC’s recent report states that, “Success in the modern era requires an information architecture that supports strategic as well as tactical decision making.”Another major task is to create a sound process for linking budget with priorities, for aligning revenue with expenses, and for increasing the transparency of our budget processes.

Getting useful budget information out there in an understandable format is a challenge—but a challenge we can meet. In February, I appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to focus on our budgeting process.  This committee needs to work quickly on the timeline and plan for a consultative budget planning process and for integrating strategic planning and budgeting.  This group’s initial communications and inclusion plan is due to Executive Council and other campus leadership groups by April 16, 2007.  By May 15, 2007, they will have completed a plan for revision of the budget process and sent it forward for my approval.

We can’t change SOU budgeting overnight—but we can begin making positive change.



We must create and implement a meaningful retention strategy
. We have already begun to take important initial steps, including the work underway to create the one-stop Enrollment Services Center. Our participation in the Foundations of Excellence program is giving us a platform for future success in retooling our first year experience. We need to build on that platform to develop a first-year experience that will be one of SOU’s recognized strengths.As I have often mentioned, getting our revenue and expenses in order is only part of our challenge. We need to increase our retention of students and increase our new enrollment. With steady enrollment growth, we can begin to invest again and build back SOU.  

We will also undertake a complete assessment of our Admissions operation. This review will position us to reach “best practice” at all levels and continue improving our yield of first-year admits.

Faculty and staff are vital in communicating to our current students--communicating not only this plan but the value of an SOU education. I have been so impressed with student responses to our situation, from constructive comments to the rally at the Plaza. But some students are concerned about whether they have a future at SOU. We all need to communicate that students DO have a future here—a future that will be improved and enhanced by the hard work we have been engaged in.

Faculty, staff, and students understand how vital student enrollment is to our present and our future. Many times I’ve heard the question, “What can I do to help increase our enrollment?”

Just as “Student success is everybody’s business,” student recruitment is everyone’s concern. The answer to “What can I do to help?” can be found at  Student Affairs has developed a program titled Raider Reach Out designed to organize people interested in taking an active role in student recruitment and retention. I challenge all of us to think about what we can do to help address what is now our most pressing issue—attracting wonderful students to SOU and keeping them here.



Raider Reach Out makes it easy for faculty, staff, current students, alumni, and friends of the university to offer their expertise and energy to our recruitment efforts. By connecting with regional high schools, coordinating travel plans, and hosting individuals and groups on campus—to name only a few opportunities available—we will work together to increase the size and quality of our entering class.  I’m very excited at this opportunity to involve all of us in this important effort.



However, overall, we have not been investing in technology support the way we should be. We’ve used funds slated for technology improvements to help us meet our budget shortfalls. Now we need to come together as a campus and think about directions we should be going, as we align budget and priorities, to ensure that we will have the technology we need for the new SOU.A critical component of our ability to attract and retain students—and to enhance our teaching, learning, and research capacities— rests with our commitment to technology. We are investing in portal technology, as I mentioned, and will implement it on our web site this fall if all goes according to schedule. This technology is critical for student success in that it will allow students greater access to their accounts and an ease with which to conduct their business on campus.

To that end, we will hold a technology event or summit later this spring to bring the campus community into this important discussion.  I will put together a small planning team to help me design the format and agenda for this event. 



This building represents our investment in the future of Southern Oregon. By introducing a new academic model to our region, we are instrumental in encouraging a seamless transition between RCC and SOU. The building will also house the new Saturday MBA program to help raise the level of our executive work force in Southern Oregon. Other programs will develop and flourish there as well. Our higher education center will foster valuable community partnerships while helping us reach out to a broad array of students.Another piece of our planning is in Medford. In just over a week, we will break ground on the new RCC/SOU Higher Education Center. This project is crucial for the future of higher education in our region. A few of you asked during our comment periods whether we could afford to proceed with this project. The answer is--we can’t afford not to.

There is still work to be done in planning the programs and activities for the Center, so this is yet another significant project on our plate. I am very pleased that Dean David Harris will take the lead on the planning for us at the Higher Ed Center.


At the core of our academic enterprise is a commitment to environmental concerns and sustainability in a larger sense. After I heard from students concerned about SOU’s role in creating sustainable practices and programs on campus and in our community, I have appointed a Sustainability Council. Composed of students, faculty, and staff, the Sustainability Council will (1) advise me and the Executive Council in matters relating to sustainability and environmental impact; (2) promote environmental stewardship; (3) coordinate efforts of individuals and groups on campus; and (4) educate the campus community about sustainable practices. Eric Dittmer has agreed to chair this important new group.You’ve heard a lot from me about making SOU sustainable. Mostly I was referring to our budget—making sure we are solvent and thriving. However, SOU’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond aligning revenue and expenses.


Another critical ongoing task is our work on accreditation. In the midst of our budget cutting, many dedicated faculty and staff have kept our re-accreditation process moving forward. It is now time for us to finish this work so that we are poised for a successful site visit this fall. The work that has been done on accreditation will create a significant framework for our future strategic planning. The work many of you have been doing on accreditation is truly helping us craft a vision for the new SOU.

If we have, as UPC suggests, been unclear in our University’s strategic mission, then now is the time to clarify it and move forward. Together, we will produce a culture focused on excellence in teaching and learning, an environment that is creative, classrooms that are vibrant and nurturing, a sense of community and civic responsibility that extends beyond the classroom, and campus environments that are challenging yet supportive for our students, faculty and staff.  This must be a collaborative process where we reach beyond academic silos to take a hard look at ourselves, make strategic decisions—and celebrate the good things we’re doing. I will launch this process in coming weeks—and I welcome your ideas and participationAll of the pieces I’ve been discussing, including the final budget plan, are really part of a larger effort. Finally, we are poised to begin strategic planning. I ask all of you to join me in envisioning and defining—and then implementing—the new SOU. We will realize our collective dreams if we take a hard look at what we are, what we stand for, what we do best, and how we can help our students succeed.


As the father of daughters exploring college options, I am excited that my oldest daughter--at the top of her class and enduring incessant solicitations from private universities and colleges--is really only interested in Southern Oregon University. I have assured her that SOU has embedded in its very soul the vital elements for a perfect undergraduate education--wise professors, one-on-one attention, perfect town, diverse course offerings, pure science, applied-side humanities, and an overall commitment to excellence.I conclude with part of a letter received during this recent comment period.

What a wonderful letter. This is the vision we should have of ourselves—and we must help the rest of the world see us in this light as well.

We are a dynamic public liberal arts university, seeking to serve our students and this region with relevant, vital and compelling higher education.

And, to achieve these goals, we are dedicated to supporting our greatest strength --excellent teaching--and to building our ultimate legacy: students who are guided to success and will leave SOU as productive citizens and leaders in their communities.

Today, I ask you to put the tough months we have endured behind us and to look to the future with the same hope and optimism I have for SOU.  Many of you have been through cuts before, and I sense your weariness. But I ask you to remember all that’s good about SOU and think about what can do better as we continue to collaborate. I see a campus alive with possibility. I know you will work with me as we craft the new SOU.

Thank you. I’ll be happy to answer questions.