Academic assessment supports and gives meaning to SOU's mission as follows:
Southern Oregon University is an inclusive campus community dedicated to student success, intellectual growth, and responsible global citizenship.
Southern Oregon University is committed to
- a challenging and practical liberal arts education centered on student learning, accessibility, and civic engagement;
- academic programs, partnerships, public service, outreach, sustainable practices, and economic development activities that address regional needs such as health and human services, business, and education; and
- outstanding programs that draw on and enrich our unique arts community and bioregion.
In 2008, Southern Oregon University began an extensive visioning and strategic planning process that produced a Master Academic Plan, a Strategic Plan, a Marketing and Recruitment Plan, and a Fundraising Plan. As part of this process, a consultant firm was retained to identify themes that could be used to market and brand the institution. The consultants surveyed current students, staff and alumni, as well as prospective students and parents, and identified three themes that reflected the characteristics that distinguish the University from its peers. These include Connected Learning, Intellectual Creativity, and Sense of Place. SOU has always envisioned itself as a liberal arts university serving southern Oregon and northern California, but this branding exercise gave birth to a new appellation for SOU—The Public Liberal Arts University of the West.
The core values and beliefs expressed in SOU’s mission statement were articulated by faculty and staff in 2005 as part of a general education curriculum reform led by the Curriculum Realignment Action Committee (CREAC). Specifically, CREAC was formed in fall of 2002 as one of several responses to prior accreditor recommendations for improved institutional research and assessment. During a three-year period , CREAC (and its various subcommittees) created a general education curriculum that established four Foundational Goals in Communication, Critical Thinking, Information Literacy, and Quantitative Reasoning. These goals were then integrated into the Freshman First-Year Experience and all lower and upper division general education courses based on an assessment model of outcome-based proficiencies for student learning. The resulting framework identified target goals, assessment instruments, and timelines for assessing student learning in the first, second and final years of study.
Over the last ten years, SOU has made substantial progress toward creating systemic change in articulating and assessing our values and beliefs surrounding liberal arts learning. Our mission, accreditation themes, and objectives are integral parts of this ongoing inquiry into how well we fulfill our branding promise. We have fashioned our themes and objectives to measure learning outcomes that are consistent with the values of liberal learning generally and congruent with the unique pillars that distinguish SOU from its peers. This inquiry will answer the questions: What do SOU graduates look like? What do they know? What skills do they possess? Perhaps the best metaphor of how our themes align with our branding promise is to think of the three mission core themes—student success, intellectual growth and responsible global citizenship—as pillars that define the foundations of knowledge expected of an SOU graduate. The three elements of branding—sense of place, connected learning, and intellectual creativity—are the elements that hold the pillars upright but define the unique ways that the SOU experience produces that knowledge.