Dozens of students and community members were in attendance as Dr. Mary Cullinan, president of Southern Oregon University, delivered her annual “State of the University” address last Wednesday in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union.
Cullinan touched on many subjects during her speech, everything from reminiscing about her family’s vacation on the Shenandoah River to record-breaking enrollment numbers.
“We continue to transform our students,” she said. “Our successes are outstanding.”
“On many campuses around the country, campuses that don’t work together and plan together as well as we do, deadly cuts are affecting academic quality,” she said. “At SOU we’ve worked hard to maintain our commitment to our primary strategic goal, academic distinctiveness and quality.”
The president remained optimistic about the future of the university, although she admitted that SOU is going through rough times.
“Over the last three years, the state of Oregon has cut our funding by 27 percent,” she said. “I can’t sound like Pollyanna and say ‘all is well.’ We still face incredible challenges.”
According to Cullinan, retention rates are falling compared to last year, as well as average credit loads. Tuition has gone up as a result of the decrease in state funding, causing many students to either drop out or take fewer credit hours.
“We have shared sacrifice, and I know that hasn’t been easy for anyone,” she said. “I know we’re underpaid and overworked. I wish I could immediately fix the challenges we face. Yet we continue to accomplish great things.”
The president also pointed out several of SOU’s recent accomplishments; including setting up an Honors college, record-breaking Fall term enrollment, several new programs that “look to the future”, new faculty members, the continuation of the nationally-recognized “Campus Theme” lecture series, and the annual Southern Oregon Arts and Research presentations.
“We know these are hard times,” said Cullinan. “But we can’t bury our heads in the sand and we can’t hang our heads in despair.”
“We have a lot to celebrate,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of.”