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SOU committee to interview president candidates

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune

With more than 100 applications to sift through, Southern Oregon University’s presidential search committee is close to interviewing a range of candidates.

Daniel Santos, a 1975 SOU alumnus, vice chair of the board of trustees and head of the search committee, said the group will hold conversations virtually with about a dozen candidates Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

“We’re extremely interested, obviously, in having the absolutely best candidates,” he said. “We’re looking for not just the academic credentials and the experience of the candidates, we’re also interested in … finance, innovation, leadership [and] transparency.”

How the candidates handle external duties, whether it’s working with community members or lawmakers, is also something the committee will be looking at with each candidate, Santos added.

“We think Southern Oregon University has a lot to offer,” he said. “By the number of candidates we have seen, we think there are a lot of people who are very interested in becoming president of SOU.”

After two days of internal interviews, up to five finalists could be announced. They will all make public visits to SOU during several weeks in mid-October. Santos estimates the board will make a decision on who the next president is by the first week in November. He or she would likely start the job in January.

Santos noted the timing in which a new president is being selected. Officials have not only had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but declining enrollment.

“It is a critical time for Southern Oregon University and higher education,” he said. “We want someone who can come in and literally hit the ground running.”

The search comes after President Linda Schott announced that she will retire at the end of 2021. Schott ascended to the position in the summer of 2016. Santos applauded her leadership.

The president search is being conducted by an 18-member committee composed of a broad swath of constituents, from campus community members to residents of Ashland. The firm Atlanta-based Parker Executive Search was hired to utilize some professional expertise alongside the committee.

Over the summer, Parker played a major role in convening listening sessions with different groups to learn what qualities they would like to see in the next SOU president. That feedback helped craft the job description, which is posted online, Santos said.

Any questions and comments about the president search can be directed to presidentialsearch@sou.edu.