SOU shifts to four academic “schools”
(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s 46 undergraduate and 10 graduate-level academic programs will be distributed among four “schools” rather than the university’s seven current “divisions” when the 2023-24 academic year begins in September.
The organizational shift will eventually eliminate the cost of three director-level positions and will build greater efficiency into SOU’s administrative structure. It is a cornerstone of the cost management plan adopted this spring by the SOU Board of Trustees.
“This move is resourceful and economical, and it also allows us to encourage synergy among academic programs that are related or share common themes,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We were very intentional in how we grouped the academic programs for each school, evaluating both current qualities and how we expect each program to grow and evolve.”
An example of that strategic placement of programs is in SOU’s new School of Arts & Communication, where the university’s Theatre, Music and Emerging Media & Digital Arts programs will be joined by its Communication, Media and Cinema department, among other programs. All share components related to performance and production, and placing them under the same school will open avenues of potential collaboration.
The four new academic sections at SOU will be the School of Arts & Communication; the School of Science & Business; the School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities; and the School of Social Sciences. Two administrative sections with academic functions – the Provost’s Office and the University Library & Undergraduate Studies – will operate as stand-alone departments.
Current academic divisions at SOU are the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU; Business, Communication & the Environment; Education, Health & Leadership; Humanities & Culture; Social Sciences; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; and Undergraduate Studies.
School of Arts & Communication
The SOU School of Arts & Communication will encompass 11 undergraduate programs and one graduate-level program. The undergrad programs are Art and Art History, Communication, Creative Writing, Digital Cinema, Digital Cinema Production Arts, Emerging Media and Digital Arts, Media Innovation, Music, Music Industry & Production Studies, Shakespeare Studies (offered only as a minor) and Theatre. The school’s graduate-level offering is for the Master of Theatre Studies in Production and Design degree.
David Humphrey, currently director of the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU, has announced that he will retire at the end of December but will serve as the initial director of the new School of Arts & Communication. The search for a new director of the school is underway, and expected to be completed by early fall.
School of Science & Business
The SOU School of Science & Business will be made up of 14 undergraduate programs and two graduate-level programs. The undergrad programs are Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science & Policy, eSports Management (offered only as a minor), Financial Mathematics, Innovation & Leadership, Management, Mathematics, Mathematics-Computer Science, Sustainability, Sustainable Tourism Management and Preprofessional Programs in medical fields. The school’s two graduate-level programs are for Master in Management and Master of Business Administration degrees.
Vincent Smith – currently director of the Business, Communication & the Environment Division – will serve as director for the new School of Science & Business beginning Sept. 1. Sherry Ettlich – currently director of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Division – will serve in a support capacity until the end of the calendar year, when she plans to retire.
School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities
The SOU School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities will include eight undergraduate programs and six graduate programs. The undergrad programs are Early Childhood Development, Education Studies, English, Health & Exercise Science, Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Philosophy (offered only as a minor), Spanish Language & Culture and English for Speakers of Other Languages. The graduate programs are Master of Arts in Spanish Language Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Teaching with Special Education Endorsement, Master of Arts/Science in Education, Master of Outdoor Adventure & Expedition Leadership and the Principal Administrator and Professional Administrator licenses.
Vance Durrington, currently director of the Education, Health & Leadership Division, will serve as director of the new School of Education, Leadership, Health & Humanities.
School of Social Sciences
The SOU School of Social Sciences will have 13 undergraduate programs and one graduate program. The undergraduate offerings are Criminology & Criminal Justice; Economics, Ethnic & Racial Studies (offered only as a minor); Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies; Healthcare Administration; History; Human Service; International Studies; Native American Studies (offered only as a minor); Power & Politics; Psychology; Social Justice (offered only as a minor); and Sociology & Anthropology. The graduate program is for the Master in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree.
Dustin Walcher, currently director of the Social Sciences Division, will serve as director of the new School of Social Sciences.
One other current division director – Lee Ayers, who heads the Undergraduate Studies Division – is also retiring at the end of December. Ayers and Carrie Forbes will co-direct the University Library & Undergraduate Studies department until Ayers’ retirement. Forbes will then continue as director.
The first element of the four-plank SOU Forward realignment strategy was to resolve structural defects in SOU’s financial base and eliminate what was projected as a $14.6 million deficit by the 2026-27 fiscal year. That job is in progress, after the SOU Board of Trustees approved the cost-management portion of the plan in April, reducing expenses by $3.6 million this year and identifying another $9 million in recurring cost reductions. About 82 full-time positions are being cut through a combination of job vacancies, retirements, voluntary departures, non-renewable contracts and elimination of 24 currently-held positions.
SOU is now moving on to the plan’s three other planks, all of which will prepare the university for strategic growth by diversifying its sources of revenue. SOU will reimagine how it supports faculty and programs seeking funding from external granting agencies and organizations, leverage an ongoing surge in philanthropic support and diversify revenue by pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities – including solar power generation and creation of a senior living facility.
By Press Release – June 29, 2023 SOU shifts to four academic “schools”