SOU president takes message to state capitol

The Oregon state capitol in Salem. Photo via Pixabay
February 16, 2022

Bailey advocates entrepreneurial approach in Salem during legislative session

By Holly Dillemuth,

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey spent Feb. 8-10 in Salem, spreading his message of an entrepreneurial approach to education with legislators and regional university presidents from around the state. 

Bailey spoke with this week about his state capitol visit, speaking by phone prior to his first meeting with the SOU Foundation Board of Trustees. Bailey said his primary goals for his visit to the Oregon Legislature were to introduce himself to legislators and to the executive branch, take part in some strategic listening, and advocate for SOU and the vision he and the Board of Trustees plan to pursue the next several years, which includes an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to education.

“We talked about our goal and our intent at SOU to be innovative and entrepreneurial in our approach not only to education, but to resources,” Bailey said. “That was well-received by everyone and heartfelt on both sides of the aisle. That was very encouraging.”

While in Salem, Bailey met with Terry Cross, chair of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, as well as Morgan Cowling, executive director of the Oregon Community Colleges Association.

SOU President Richard J. Bailey

He hopes to make a presentation on behalf of SOU to all 17 community colleges to share the same message in the future. Bailey also made the rounds and met with legislative leaders in high-ranking roles on committees related to education and resources. 

“I think everyone is excited to see what we come up with,” Bailey said. “The message I received is that as we bring new ideas that can diversify our revenue streams and change the fiscal model. I sensed from them that they would be eager to support that … including resource support … especially because there may be ways where there are limited resources that come to fund one of these initiatives that pays off for 30 years. I think they were very interested in resource investments that they know, or are hopeful, will have a very long-term, positive return on investment.”

When asked, Bailey said there are currently four concepts “percolating” in regards to potential innovative partnership approaches in the future, pending action by the SOU Board of Trustees.

Bailey said each of the concepts has both challenges and opportunities but that all have the potential to help SOU diversify revenues, and to enhance educational opportunities for students.

“I don’t want to over promise because … these ideas are still in their infancy,” Bailey said.

While in the preliminary stages, the concepts would have input from and be vetted by SOU’s Board of Trustees, according to Bailey.

Institutions that are purposefully creative, innovative, and nimble will likely fare better, he added, and he believes legislators are open to innovation. 

He also met the other six presidents of Oregon universities and attended a dinner with five of them.

“My message to them was that the more we collaborate with each other, the better,” Bailey said. “The more we find ways to help each other, the better, because our students will benefit from that, and the state will benefit from that.”

While in Salem, Bailey also met with the director of the Oregon Community College Association. He plans to meet with Rogue Community College President Cathy Kemper-Pelle in March.

“There may be collaborations between SOU and OIT where each of us can provide a specific perspective that actually students can benefit from the mutual partnership,” he said.

“In terms of partnerships with community colleges, the goal is to make sure that for those students who want to continue on to a Bachelor’s degree, that we make that transition as seamless as possible.”

Bailey emphasized that while a significant part of his focus is innovation and entrepreneurial when it comes to university funding, there’s a lot more to his role.

“I don’t spend all my time thinking solely about revenue,” Bailey said. “I also think about student retention, I think about how to support faculty, how do we communicate with students, how do we build a culture here that is intentionally inclusive and diverse.”

Email reporter Holly Dillemuthat

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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