Rethinking SOU: new “House” model to be offered to incoming freshmen in fall 2013

Editor’s Note: “Rethinking SOU” is a multi-part series that will focus on two “change processes” happening this year at Southern Oregon University spearheaded by President Mary Cullinan. One is called “Houses,” and it will change how students satisfy their general education requirements. For more information on the proposed Houses, go to

When it comes to general education requirements, the biggest complaint on campus is that you often end up having to take a class you don’t want to — just to graduate.

For example, you might be a major in communication. But you have to take a statistics class in order to fill a math requirement even though the class has nothing to do with your career path or interests.

That will change for some incoming freshmen next fall. Southern Oregon University is going in a new direction when it comes to how the university handles general education. It’s part of a review and revitalization process that SOU President Mary Cullinan says is necessary for the future of the university. As so many parts of our world change – like how we read books, listen to music, and learn – due to technology, she says higher education needs to go through changes as well.

Starting in the fall of 2013, SOU will offer a new plan for incoming freshmen called “Houses.”

A House is a group of faculty and students with common interests who will work together for a year to examine and possibly solve an issue or a problem. Each House will be geared toward the career interests of these students, offering them a chance to focus on issues they care about, and give them more real life experience.

Some of the reasons for these changes at SOU are to keep students longer and to have them better prepared for jobs when they get right out of college.

“We have found that students stay here if they are connected to the campus,” says Cullinan. “If they are connected with clubs or other things on campus that make them feel a part of this community then students stay.”

The idea of Houses is it gives students a sense of purpose at SOU. They participate in a project and belong to a community and while they work toward solving an issue they believe in, they get to be more a part of the university.

Cullinan says one example would be a House that could have the theme of studying and getting rid of hunger in the Rogue Valley. Students could work together with faculty to try and solve this issue over the year taking classes specifically for that.

Using the same example, a student who needs a math credit could take a statistics class in that House specifically designed to look at the numbers and math needed to understand and solve the problem of hunger. In other words, students would be able to take classes that benefit their careers instead of just fulfilling a requirement.

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