The members of Southern Oregon University's first independent board of trustees barely had time to get comfortable with their new role when they were called upon to do the most important job any governing body undertakes: hiring a chief executive. They handled that task in a transparent and collaborative way, which is a good sign for the future of the university.
Oregon lawmakers overhauled the system of governance for Oregon's seven public universities by disbanding the statewide Board of Higher Education and allowing each campus to create its own board. SOU's convened for the first time in July 2015, and learned in October that interim President Roy Saigo was retiring.
University presidents formerly were appointed by the chancellor of higher education. Now, it was up to the new board. No specific innovation the board could implement was as important as this choice, and the new trustees rose to the challenge.
Rather than keep the search process under wraps, the board reached out to students, faculty, staff and community residents to find out what qualities they wanted in a president. When the finalists had been selected, each delivered a presentation in a session open to the public, and responded to questions from the audience.
Dennis Slattery, a business professor and the faculty representative on the board, said that collaborative process led the board to choose Linda Schott as SOU's new president, which he said was "a better decision because it was local." We agree.