Southern Oregon University (SOU) is a contemporary, public liberal arts university with selected professional programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. One of seven institutions in the Oregon University System (OUS), SOU provides intellectual and personal growth through quality education. The University emphasizes critical thinking, career preparation, and the capacity to live and lead in a multicultural, global society. In 2009 The New York Times named Southern Oregon University as a “hidden gem” of higher education.
SOU serves the whole of southern Oregon and the northernmost counties of California. The University is a major partner in the economic, cultural, and environmental developments of this vast area, offering students valuable opportunities to participate. Designated a Center of Excellence in the Fine and Performing Arts by the Oregon University System, SOU is also gaining recognition for its outstanding education and research in science fields and technology.
SOU’s culture of close faculty-student relationships is ideal for undergraduate instruction. Classes are taught by faculty with the highest degrees in their fields (93 percent) in a friendly, service-oriented environment. Hands-on experiences in research and community projects complement classroom, laboratory, and studio learning. An Accelerated Baccalaureate Degree Program, Honors College, and other special programs and certificates are also available.
The University’s rising national reputation is based on its faculty’s notable research and creative talents, as well as its practical liberal learning. Southern is one of twenty-seven institutions across the United States and Canada to be selected for membership in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). SOU is engaged internationally through its many students from other nations, exchange programs, and longstanding sister university alliances, the flagship being the Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico.
Southern’s main campus in Ashland is largely residential in character, whether students live on campus or in Ashland’s student-friendly neighborhoods. On-campus housing includes four complexes with residence halls and excellent dining, apartments for upper-division students, family housing in Old Mill Village with childcare service, and a facility for visiting groups participating in SOU’s educational enrichment offerings. SOU serves a growing number of students who commute from as far away as Grants Pass, Oregon, and Redding, California, as well as providing many educational programs and services at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford. SOU has fruitful and growing partnerships with community colleges, especially Rogue Community College (RCC), Umpqua Community College (UCC), and the College of the Siskiyous, as well as Oregon Health & Science University.
In 2003, Outside Magazine ranked Southern Oregon University twentieth in the nation on their list of coolest places to study, live, and work. The region is a uniquely diverse geographic, geological, and ecological area. It is distinguished by the Rogue, Umpqua, and Klamath Rivers; Crater Lake National Park; many lakes; and the convergence of three mountain ranges: the Cascades, the Siskiyous, and the Coast Range. Such qualities give rise to the University’s distinctions in environmental studies and outdoor adventure leadership, as well as its tremendous recreational opportunities, ranging from golf, rafting, fishing, and sailing to hiking, skiing, biking, horseback riding, and camping.
Arts and culture, recreation, tourism, retail sales, natural resources, and burgeoning health care services are the driving forces of the region’s economy. Technology industries are diversifying the economy as new companies move into the area, start-up firms emerge, and technology advances locally. There are three medical centers that offer world-class health care services.
The region hosts five fairs and thirteen festivals, in addition to nearly thirty art galleries and more than two dozen cultural and art museums. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland and Britt Music Festivals in Jacksonville are the most notable festivals. Theatre venues include Oregon Cabaret Theatre and Medford’s Craterian Theater at the Collier Center for the Performing Arts. Recreational facilities include 151 public and 110 commercial campgrounds, seventeen golf courses, three racetracks, two ski areas, two ice-skating rinks, and four horse stables. There are sixty-four registered guided tours in southern Oregon.
Ashland and SOU
Southern Oregon University is located in Ashland at the base of the Siskiyou Mountains in the Rogue Valley. It is a five-hour drive or a one-hour flight from Portland to the north or from San Francisco to the south. With a population of 20,000, this charming town boasts eighty-five restaurants and ninety-three lodging facilities, sixty-six of which are bed and breakfasts. Its restaurants, delis, bakeries, banks, bookstores, ice-cream parlors, vintage movie theatre, specialty shops, and clothing stores are within easy walking distance of campus. The annual Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF) is a popular attraction. A bicycle path leads from SOU to downtown Ashland and beyond. The city offers an ideal setting for picnics and strolls in its beautiful Lithia Park, with its duck ponds, paths, arboretum, and creek.
Ashland is surrounded by forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers that provide spectacular areas for outdoor sports and ecological studies. Benefiting from a mild four-season climate, Ashland’s average rainfall is twenty inches, less than half that of Portland or Eugene. Although the valley floor is generally free of snow, winter recreational facilities are just a thirty-minute drive away at Mt. Ashland Ski and Snowboard Resort. Cross-country ski opportunities are available in the Siskiyou and Cascade Mountains. Just minutes away, Emigrant Lake offers waterslides, sailing, and a park. Lake of the Woods, located at the base of Mount McLoughlin, is less than an hour’s drive from campus.
SOU and the community are focal points for rich cultural activities and organizations. Created in 1935 by SOU’s Theatre Professor Angus Bowmer, Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) is now one of the top five regional theatres in the nation and one of the top three worldwide rotating repertory theaters with Shakespeare at their core. The festival draws more than 380,000 patrons annually.
The University’s Schneider Museum of Art (SMA) hosts major art exhibitions and youth programs, and the Center for the Visual Arts (CVA) features artworks by faculty, students, and visiting artists. SOU is home to the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Music Concert Series (CMC). Its Music Department also provides frequent concerts and recitals by exceptional faculty and students.
Southern occupies a 175-acre campus with fourteen academic buildings, four residence hall complexes, family housing, a student union, and multiuse facilities. All classrooms on campus are accessible to disabled students. Beautifully landscaped grounds and architecturally pleasing buildings provide a pleasant environment for academic endeavors, student club activities, and opportunities to think and study together with peers and faculty. Among the newer facilities are McLoughlin and Shasta residence halls, plus dining facilities (2013) and the Center for the Visual Arts (2000).
SOU dedicated the Lenn and Dixie Hannon Library in 2005 following a major renovation and expansion. The project nearly doubled the size of the existing library and yielded a new learning center with contemporary services and technologies, ample study spaces, seminar rooms, reading areas with fireplaces, and a coffee shop. The academic and student services are exceptional. Hannon Library won the 2004 Federal Depository Library of the Year award from the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Ashland and SOU house many unique facilities and services, such as the nation’s only Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory and the nationally recognized Jefferson Public Radio (JPR). Southern hosts one of the largest Native American powwows and a popular Hawaiian luau, both of which are coordinated by student multicultural groups. It offers the only Native American studies certificate and minor programs in Oregon, in addition to providing a popular education camp for Native American youth in the summertime. Among its extensive array of youth programs is the award-winning Academia Latina for middle school Hispanic and Latino children. SOU also has an established reputation for the size and scope of its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) programs for older adults.
Established in 1984, the Medford Campus is now part of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, which opened in fall 2008. Awarded LEED platinum green certification, the center provides many of the courses and services available on the main campus in Ashland and includes degree completion and graduate programs, classrooms, computer labs, registration, academic advising, a bookstore, and distance-learning capabilities.
Southern Oregon University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The Chemistry programs have earned the approval of the American Chemical Society. The Education programs are accredited by the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. The Music program is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music. The Mental Health Counseling program is nationally accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).