By Scott Scholes
Southern Oregon University President Dr. Mary Cullinan will receive a leadership award next month. She will be presented with the regional award in Vancouver, British Columbia on Feb. 25. The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, which operates in the United States and Canada, will present the award.
Dr. Cullinan is receiving the award for CASE District VII. The district includes the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.
When Cullinan came to SOU in 2006, the university was in a comparatively bad financial situation next to other west coast universities.
She helped to implement the schoolâ€™s financial retrenchment plan, which was drawn to cut $4 million from the budget, while simultaneously increasing revenues through better fundraising and enrollment. Unfortunately, the plan also eliminated programs and downsized faculty members
â€œIt was a very difficult time,â€ said Cullinan.
Since then, SOU has increased enrollment by 33 percent, and brought its fund balance from 4.1 percent to 8.3 percent as of June 2010, the end of the fiscal year and the end of the retrenchment plan.
â€œWeâ€™d basically been in retrenchment since Iâ€™d been president here,â€ Cullinan said. â€œIâ€™m getting the award, but truly there were hundreds of people working on this.â€
The fall quarter saw an impressive increase in enrollment to a total of 6,443 students.
â€œWe have been growing steadily, but weâ€™ve had to put a lot of different processes in place.â€
It has been a top priority for the administration here at SOU to find ways to attract as many new students as possible. The satellite campus in Medford, which opened in 2008, is responsible for the recent rise in transfer students from Rogue Community College, Cullinan said.
SOU also has experienced a surge in online classes and out-of-state recruitment.
â€œWe have been recruiting more in Washington, Hawaii, California, and Oregon. Our enrollment has increased from all these states,â€Cullinan said.
There has also been more of a push to attract students from outside the United States.
â€œIn the last few months, weâ€™ve had recruiting in Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, India, and Australia. We have our wonderful partnership with the University of Guanajuato, Dankook University in Korea, and a number of other partnerships in various countries.â€
While SOU has accomplished a number of goals in the past few years, there have also been uneasy effects as a result of the budget cuts. Last year, campus food services were contracted out to Sodexo, Inc., in a transition that sparked some controversy.
Dr. Cullinan said she will continue to work to make SOU a cost effective school with minimal infrastructure problems.
â€œThereâ€™s no other university in the west that provides the liberal arts background of a private school at a third the cost,â€ Cullinan said.