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SOU president among finalists for Ohio post

Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan is one of three finalists in the running to become president at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio.

Cullinan announced through an all-campus email Monday afternoon that she had been nominated for the position but had not actively searched for this job or any others.

Cullinan, who has been SOU's president since 2006, said the timing is right, as a retrenchment plan and budget are place.

"I think this would be a good time for me to leave," she said Tuesday.

"We have a strong budget plan in place. It's been eight years, and I think we've gotten a lot of things done."

She was nominated by a colleague from out of the area for the position, she said, and submitted her application April 7, according to the application document posted on the YSU website.

"This came about quite suddenly," Cullinan said in the email announcement. "I was nominated for the position; the search consultant asked if I would be available to interview via Skype this past Saturday. That afternoon, the consultant invited me to visit the campus next week."

Cullinan's application for the position includes a two-page letter of interest detailing her accomplishments at SOU and previous jobs.

She is scheduled to visit the YSU campus on May 7.

The other two finalists for the position are Jim Tressel, executive vice president for student success at the University of Akron and a former football coach at YSU, and Gary Miller, chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Cullinan said she was looking forward to learning more about the position at YSU, an urban research university with about 13,500 students.

"I'm very interested in exploring it, but at this point I've only met with the search committee over Skype," she said.

Cullinan said she hasn't applied for any other positions.

The announcement comes just over a month after Cullinan announced that the university would begin retrenchment, cutting programs and faculty to save about $6.1 million per year, and making additional one-time cuts totaling $7.8 million.

As part of retrenchment, 80 positions will be lost through layoffs and retirements over the next five years. The physics program will be scrapped and several other low-enrollment majors and minors will be phased out.

SOU faculty in March held a no-confidence vote on Cullinan, Provost Jim Klein and Vice President of Finance and Administration Craig Morris. Cullinan received no-confidence votes from 63 percent of faculty, Klein from 71 percent and Morris from 76 percent.

Because Klein and Morris received no-confidence votes from more than two-thirds of the faculty, the Faculty Senate made a formal recommendation for their removal.

Cullinan said her decision to pursue the YSU job was unrelated to the no-confidence vote.

In her application letter to YSU, Cullinan said she works closely with faculty and staff and believes strongly in the power of shared governance.

Following last month's no-confidence vote, some faculty members expressed frustration that Cullinan and Klein were bypassing shared governance and making too many unilateral decisions without faculty input. One professor said that the administration was failing to plan ahead when it came to the future of the university.

SOU's five-year strategic plan ends this year.

Should she be offered the position at YSU and accept it, Cullinan would begin the new job sometime over the summer, she said.

YSU is looking for a new president after Randy Dunn, its president for just seven months, unexpectedly revealed plans to take a position at another university in late February. His contract was voided in early March, and the university appointed an interim president.

Under Dunn's contract with YSU, he was earning $375,000 per year, plus benefits.

Cullinan currently makes $205,200 per year at SOU plus benefits and the possibility of a $10,000 bonus if she fully completes this year as president.

In her email, Cullinan said SOU is still important to her.

"Please know that I care deeply about SOU and am very proud of all the university does for students," she said.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.

SOU president among finalists for Ohio post