“Campus Connections” forum discusses prioritization, student jobs, new facilities, and more

On Wednesday the offices of the President and Provost of Southern Oregon University hosted “Campus Connections,” an informal monthly gathering for sharing new information related to the university and to announce new initiatives in the works.

Some of the initiatives discussed were the Honors College, the Houses program, the prioritization process, the addition of 50 new campus jobs each year, and new facilities currently under construction.

SOU President Mary Cullinan opened the event with an overview of reasons why change is necessary.

“We’re going through transformative changes as states are dis-investing,” she said. “Universities all over the country are asking questions. How do we convince students to stay?”

Cullinan said that the students who are most likely to remain in school until graduation are those most connected to campus through jobs, activities and clubs and also with faculty.

“SOU is taking on the challenge [of keeping students] very intently by building a sustainable and stable environment,” she said.

Provost James Klein first talked about the Honors College to be launched this fall, a program he said will “hopefully increase retaining of students from sophomore to junior year, if not better.” So far, he said, 40 applications have been received and 25 have been accepted.

“I think we’re off and running,” Klein said.

Cullinan discussed the Houses project, an undertaking she said would form one of the “distinctive characteristics of the Honors College.”

Out of the nine or ten House proposals submitted, two have been approved, the “Greenhouse” and the “Social Justice” house.

“We don’t have a model on which to base this initiative,” said Cullinan. “It’s a really exciting approach for us, a terrific way for us to be distinctive.”

Cullinan also talked about work being done to create on-campus jobs, of which there are currently about 1,100. The university’s stated goal is to add 50 jobs each year, including work designed to build students’ professional skills.

“Within a few years, each incoming freshman will be required to take on a minimum number of work hours,” Cullinan said. “We are aiming for a wider array of possibilities and to help retention.”

Klein then talked about a number of construction projects on campus. He brought up the recreation center to be built in the north campus complex as one example – students voted to increase their incidental fees to build the facility.

Klein also mentioned the new field and track for football and soccer, and changes to the Science Building. Money left over from the renovation of the Science Building would go towards new changes, he said, likely to be made in the fall and winter.

Cullinan ended the meeting with a brief discussion of the prioritization project.

“This is a huge initiative, as you all know. It will help us toward our work of being distinctive in finding and locating programs, being able to identify what we have,” she said.

Cullinan mentioned “program review groups” as a central part of the prioritization initiative, tasked with maintaining a reasonable number of programs to save money and prevent the school from facing financial retrenchment.

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