SOU president accepts new position in Eastern Washington

, Posted: Mon, June 16 2014 at 6:06 PM, Updated: Mon, June 16 2014 at 6:58 PM

Ashland, Ore. -- Southern Oregon University President Dr. Mary Cullinan is leaving the university for another presidency position at Eastern Washington University.

Dr. Cullinan is leaving the school at the end of June. She'll start her new job on August 1st.

She said she was nominated weeks ago and that a search firm told her to apply for the position.

"It's all happened really quickly," said Cullinan.

During Cullinan's eight years at SOU, the university grew by 1,300 students. The school also began a partnership with Rogue Community College in downtown Medford.

However the recession forced cutbacks. The school cut programs, staff and costs in a move they call retrenchment. It's happened two times. The first took place as Cullinan arrived on campus, the other is going on right now.

Cullinan and two of her staff were also involved in a confidence vote earlier this year. 2/3 of the faculty at SOU said they had no confidence her top two administrators.

However, Cullinan said the hard times did not play a role in her decision to leave.

"Yes, it's been a tough year but we've gotten SOU on a strong path and they will have their own governing board at this time next year and there's a lot of exciting things going on. But I feel like I've left SOU in good shape," said Cullinan

Cullinan was also one of three finalists for the presidency at Youngstown State University in Ohio. While there, reporters asked her if she was jumping ship. She said her response to that question is simply to smile.

"Eight years doesn't seem like jumping ship. Two years sounds like jumping ship. Most presidents don't stay more than five years," Cullinan said.

She said while it was a hard decision to leave Southern Oregon, it's the next step in her career.

According to Cullinan, her new job opportunity is an exciting one.  She said the larger campus, the location in a bigger metropolitan area and the university having values similar to her own were all appealing to her.

Oregon University System Chancellor Dr. Melody Rose said she will be working with the State Board of Higher Education to name an interim president.

Stay with NBC 5 News for updates.

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