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SOU names second presidential finalist

Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of higher education of the Montana University System, will visit campus Oct. 18 and 19
Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of higher education of the Montana University System, has been named a finalist for president of Southern Oregon University.

An administrator of a network of Montana universities was named the second of five finalists for president of Southern Oregon University ahead of his visit to the valley early next week.

Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of higher education of the Montana University System will visit Ashland and Medford Oct. 18 and 19, SOU announced Friday in a news release.

Tessman’s name was floated even as SOU’s first presidential candidate, Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg, was in the midst of his second day of interviews for the school’s top job.

A town hall event with Tessman is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, in Room 151 of the Science Building on SOU’s main campus in Ashland. A limited number of people will be able to attend in-person, but the event will be streamed live at: https://sou.zoom.us/j/88070508240.

Danny Santos, an SOU alumnus who is chairman of the search committee and vice chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement that the school hopes the campus community and the public “will get involved in this process and see these candidates.”

“That input will be very important in the board’s decision-making process,” he said.

After the forum, Tessman will go into closed-door interviews with SOU’s trustees at Hannon Library in Ashland. His day will wrap up with a reception and dinner at the Ashland Hills Hotel.

The second day of Tessman’s visit will include a drive to the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, 101 S. Bartlett St., Medford, to tour the facility and meet with SOU stakeholders.

SOU is not making any of the presidential finalists available for interviews.

Tessman’s CV is available on the SOU’s presidential search web page. In a university system that enrolls 50,000 students, 8,000 full-time faculty and staff, and generates approximately $315 million per year in research expenditures, Tessman has helped lead the 16 schools in their COVID-19 response, athletic conferences, and budgeting — including $55 million in coronavirus relief bill funding.

In his time as deputy commissioner, Tessman had to grapple with a controversial issue for many college campuses — whether firearms can be permitted. Earlier in the year, the Montana Legislature passed HB 102, which makes concealed or open carry guns on campus within the university system legal. The bill’s implementation got caught up in a legal battle when the MUS Board of Regents challenged it in court.

In an interview with The Daily Montanan, Tessman called the legislation “a significant challenge for our system.”

“While we were not supporters of the bill, and while we certainly find a lot of complications with the law, we’re just doing our best to act within the boundaries of the law,” he said. “It’s our responsibility. … We have no other choice but to build out a policy that will allow us to follow this law.”

Before he held his current position, Tessman was professor of political science and dean of the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana in Missoula. He was also a tenured professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.

Tessman earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University and received both his master’s degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

SOU continues to seek feedback on the finalists from the public at sou.edu/presidential-search.