Fall is a magical time of year in Ashland. The weather is crisp, leaves begin to change and our skiers and winter outdoor enthusiasts get ready for a snowy winter. One of Ashland’s greatest treasures both culturally and economically is Southern Oregon University. From exciting athletics to culturally diverse opportunities in the arts, Southern Oregon University has much to offer to the entire community and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce is grateful for our partnership with the institution and its commitment to the Ashland community.

Classes begin on Sept. 26 for the fall term. In 2015, the fall enrollment exceeded 6,200 students; numbers for the 2016 year will be available after Oct. 1. From majors in business administration to theater arts, Southern Oregon University has much to offer incoming and prospective students. As one of Ashland’s largest employers, the university enhances our economic base as well.

There are a number of ways to celebrate fall in Ashland through Southern Oregon University. From attending a performance or exhibit with the Oregon Center of the Arts representing music, theater, art, the Schneider Museum, Hannon Library and much more, to attending an exciting Raiders Athletics event, there is much to take advantage of. Both the Rogue Valley Symphony and Chamber Music Concerts have events at the university as well.

Businesses can engage with the student population with their “SOU Loves Ashland” and “Meet Ashland” events.

“SOU Loves Ashland” will bring SOU students closer to what makes the Ashland community an efficient, friendly and culturally unique place to live. The students will be encouraged to go into many of the local businesses to get a real feel for what Ashland has to offer. Each time a student enters a business, they have an opportunity to receive a sticker on their “passport.” This completed passport will then earn them an entry into a raffle for prizes, supplied by SOU. Businesses are also welcome to offer any other coupons, promotions, free samples and giveaways that they would like. This event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24.

“Meet Ashland” is an opportunity for businesses to go to campus and introduce themselves to the entire SOU community. During this event, local businesses can showcase their products and services in the courtyard and foyer of the Stevenson Union. This event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, at the university. If you would like to participate in either event, please contact Danielle Mancuso at mancusod@sou.edu.

There is excitement in the Southern Oregon University leadership as well for 2016. The Ashland Chamber is delighted to join the university community in welcoming Dr. Linda Schott as the university’s new president. She will serve as the university’s 13th president and comes to SOU from the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where she had served as president since 2012. SOU’s Board of Trustees chose Schott, who has a B.A in history and German from Baylor, over 75 other applicants. She also has an M.A. in history as well as a Ph.D. in history and humanities from Stanford.

Prior to her role at Presque Isle, Schott held various positions in higher education teaching and administration. Schott succeeds Dr. Roy Saigo, who retired in 2016. We are grateful to Dr. Saigo for his leadership over the past two years. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce looks forward to continuing our strong partnership with SOU under Dr. Schott’s leadership and know she will continue SOU’s commitment to be an involved partner of the Ashland community.

Thank you to the wonderful faculty and welcome students to the beautiful campus that is such an important part of Ashland. The Ashland Chamber encourages everyone to connect with the campus, engage with the leadership and attend an event at Southern Oregon University this fall.

Dana Preston is membership development manager for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. For more information, go to www.ashlandchamber.com, call 541-482-3486 or stop by the office at 110 East Main St.