Press Release

Ryan J. Hagemann, OUS Board Secretary - Cell: 503-705-1251; Office: 503-725-5700

SOU President Appointed: Provost/VP Mary Cullinan of
Stephen F. Austin State University

A press conference will be held today at 2:30pm to introduce Dr. Cullinan as the new President of Southern Oregon University. Location: SOU, Redford Lounge, in the Stevenson Union, Ashland, Oregon (for a campus map and driving directions go to:

PORTLAND, Oregon, June 9 – The Oregon State Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) this morning approved the appointment of Dr. Mary Cullinan, currently provost/vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of English at Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas), as Southern Oregon University president, effective September 1, 2006, at an annual salary of $171,000.

Dr. Cullinan succeeds Dr. Elisabeth Zinser, who has served as SOU president since 2001. Zinser announced her plans to retire last year, effective August 31, 2006, after a 40 year academic career in higher education. SOU has a current student enrollment of just under 5,000, and over 260 full- and part-time faculty.

Dr. Cullinan's selection is the result of a rigorous effort to match Southern Oregon University's particular needs at this time with the experience and skills presented by an excellent pool of candidates," said Howard Sohn, chair of the search committee and member of the Board. "SOU faculty, staff, students, and community representatives helped define SOU leadership priorities and shared their assessments of the top candidates. In the end, it was a difficult choice among outstanding finalists. There is no doubt that the university and the Southern Oregon community will be well served by Dr. Cullinan's leadership.”

George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System, said, “Dr. Cullinan’s experience as a provost who is very closely connected to student and faculty needs and instructional quality will certainly be an asset for SOU. She has spent her career not only striving for academic excellence at a number of institutions, but also on student enrollment and retention, community college partnerships, and budget and institutional accountability. These are the skills sets that Dr. Cullinan brings with her that will benefit the University and its Southern Oregon community.”

Mary Cullinan has been provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas since 2003.  During this time, she has developed a First-Year Experience team which is working to transform students’ freshman year academic success. Additionally, Dr. Cullinan created structures to improve curricular planning, led a consultative process to create an improved faculty workload policy, and hired the first executive director of Enrollment Management to design strategies to improve student recruitment and retention. Cullinan has also provided leadership for the campus’ first-ever research conference, which increased the institution’s focus on scholarship, research, and artistic activity; and worked to plan a new doctoral degree program in Environmental Science.

Prior to her tenure at Stephen F. Austin State University, Dr. Cullinan served as dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences at California State University-Stanislaus from 1996-2003, overseeing over twenty departments; redesigning budget processes to improve accountability and reflect enrollment changes; increasing external support for faculty; and leading planning efforts which created a new University Honors Program.  She also served in numerous positions from 1981-1996 at California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay), including director of the Office of Faculty Development and Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching, interim dean of the School of Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences, and chair of the Department of English.

Dr. Cullinan has participated in several professional programs, including the Governor's Executive Development Program in Texas and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Senior Fellows Program.  She has also published four books, including Business Communications: Principles and Processes, and American Women Writers: Diverse Voices in Prose Since 1845. Cullinan earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and her B.A., magna cum laude, in Honors English from the University of Pennsylvania.

“I am very excited about joining the SOU community and helping the university meet its mission and its challenges in serving the higher education needs of Oregon students,” said Dr. Cullinan following this morning’s announcement. “Throughout my time in Ashland, I have been very impressed with the faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members who took the time to be involved in the selection process, and help me understand their needs and interests. That says a lot about the collective commitment of the campus to its students and core mission. I’m impressed with the faculty’s dedication to their academic areas, concern for students, and obvious love of this campus. I look forward to moving on campus and becoming part of this beautiful, engaged community.”

Note to Editors: Downloadable photo of Dr. Mary Cullinan is available at

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