A recent visit to Southern Oregon University in Ashland provided a number of surprises. Not only have the campus facilities been updated recently with the addition of some impressive new residence halls and academic areas (and plans for a new recreation center on the horizon), but the academic programs have received some revamping as well. Another big draw for students from Washington state is that SOU participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program (WUE) and all students who are admitted from WUE states like Washington will automatically receive the tuition discount. On top of that students can earn SOU merit scholarships as well.
SOU's tagline is "Outstanding People, Programs and Place." The faculty and staff we met during our visit were impressive not only because of their credentials and enthusiasm for education but also for the connections they make with their students. Frequently we saw both faculty and administrators greeting students by name as they passed in the halls and often engaged them in conversations that let you know their acquaintances were substantive rather then superficial. The level of engagement between students and professors leads to a great many projects, internships and research opportunities in which students can participate. On a small campus of roughly 5,000 undergraduates it is very difficult to be just a nameless face in a crowd.
Some of the programs that SOU has been most known for are theatre, music and fine arts, but the presence of business, STEM, and other innovative academic programs are the "hidden gems" of campus. SOU recently started a Honors College and an academic "House Experience" where like minded students can focus on a common theme in some of their course content. A recent area of innovation is the interdisciplinary center for Emerging Media and Digital Arts. This center combines communications, computer science, art and business and is the fastest growing major on campus. Students see the value of learning how to create, manage and understand the technology of digital media that permeates our culture. Their "Follow the Food" app was a collaboration between students, faculty and community groups and an example of the real-world applications this major provides for students. The freshmen students we met from the EMDA program blew our socks off with their projects and creative ideas.
One can't mention SOU without also commenting on their ideal location in Southern Oregon. Not only is it a great spot for the outdoor enthusiasts, but for those who are looking for a little culture you need not look any further than Ashland's renown Oregon Shakespeare Festival and nearby Jacksonville's premier Britt Music Festival. Although college students can keep quite busy with campus activities, downtown Ashland and the surrounding area provides a nice diversion of quaint shops and great local eateries.
Southern Oregon University offers a number of appealing surprising for those students willing to take a look!