SOU President speaks about new potential job opportunity

, Posted: Tue, April 29 2014 at 5:38 PM, Updated: Tue, April 29 2014 at 10:25 PM

Ashland, Ore. -- Southern Oregon University President Dr. Mary Cullinan made a big announcement this week.

A campus-wide e-mail from Cullinan's office was sent out on Monday informing students and employees at SOU that she was named a finalist for the presidency at Youngstown State University in Ohio. She is one of three finalists for the position.

"I look forward to exploring this professional opportunity and learning more about that university and position," wrote Cullinan in the e-mail.

In an interview with NBC 5 News, Cullinan said it all happened very quickly.

"I wasn't expecting any of it," Cullinan said.

"I'm certainly interested to see what the possibilities are," she continued.

According to Cullinan, she was nominated for the position and was asked to send in her resume. Cullinan's application is available on the YSU website, with her cover later dated April 7th.

"We did a Skype interview on Saturday and they called that afternoon and invited me to campus next week so it's been a whirlwind," she said.

SOU's President said she was not seeking out the opportunity. However, now she's carefully considering the new job prospect as officials at YSU carefully consider her as a candidate.

"It's really not possible for me to think really seriously about it until I go to the campus," explained Cullinan.

"At this point it's certainly intriguing," she said.

The announcement comes in the midst of a rocky time at SOU. The university is cutting programs, staff and costs in a move they call retrenchment in order to make up a roughly $2-3 million shortfall.

"It's been a very difficult year and it's been hard on everybody," said Cullinan.

Add to the financial turmoil, faculty recently requested the removal of two of Cullinan's top administrators:  Provost James Klein and Vice President of Finance and Administration Craig Morris. The request is a result of more than 2/3 of faculty members voting they have no confidence in Klein and Morris.

"It was a difficult year. We not only had retrenchment, but we had bargaining and that was painful on all sides," Cullinan said.

However, she said the rough year won't affect her decision on whether to stay or leave.

"I will be here if this position doesn't work out. So it's just an interesting opportunity," she said.

For now, the plan is for Cullinan to travel to Ohio next week. Then she will wait on word from Youngstown about where she stacks up against the two other finalists.

Cullinan added that she feels confident that SOU's new budget and five year plan will lead SOU in the right direction. She said preview days for incoming freshman have been positive, breaking records for previous preview days. While Cullinan acknowledges the difficult year, she pointed out the new residence halls, new honors college, initiatives and renovations to campus buildings.

"Administrations change at universities and SOU has gone through changes in administration over the years ... The next person who comes into my job is going to have a wonderful opportunity to continue moving this university forward," said Cullinan.

NBC 5 News tried to speak with SOU employees, but no one wanted to go on camera.

One person said off camera that the announcement wasn't a surprise, considering Cullinan's relationship with many faculty members.

Stay with NBC 5 News for updates on this developing story.

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