Southern Oregon University's new president, Linda Schott, started work on Monday with the usual formalities — keys, parking permit, email, a campus tour and a reception. She also took time to sit down for an interview with Tidings reporter Joe Zavala, and what she had to say sounded promising for the future of Ashland's regional state university.
SOU's Board of Trustees expressed genuine enthusiasm when unanimously choosing Schott for the post after a lengthy national search. Schott comes to SOU after holding the top job at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a small regional university with some similarities to SOU, including a history of budget challenges.
It was also, in Schott's own words, a campus with "no clear vision or sense of direction" when she arrived there, and she said has the sense that SOU may lack some clarity on that question as well — whether SOU's appropriate mission is to be a public liberal arts college, or more of a regional institution focusing on the needs of students from this area.
SOU has undergone a major transition under interim President Roy Saigo, with a new, local board of trustees independent of state control, and has confronted budget problems by streamlining its degree programs. The university also reached a new contract agreement with the faculty, a major step forward.
If Schott can follow up on that by guiding the university's faculty, staff and students to focus on a clear mission, the campus will be the better for it.