Fast Forward Syracuse Update

Amid all the construction, campus tours and summer activities over the past 60 days, work has continued on Fast Forward Syracuse, the University-wide initiative providing the key strategic direction and framework for propelling the University forward, fostering academic and operational excellence, and meeting the challenges ahead.

This update details progress since the June 24 announcement and launch of Fast Forward Syracuse and its three interrelated components: a Strategic Plan, a Campus Master Plan and an Operational Excellence Program.

In recent weeks, faculty, staff and students, as well as other key stakeholders, have all provided critical input to advance this initiative. As the higher education landscape becomes more competitive, the University must anticipate and respond to the changing needs of our students, faculty and staff. As we look ahead, together we can set the University on a financially sustainable path toward academic and research excellence and provide a road map to guide future investments.

Continued opportunities for campus community members to engage and provide feedback will coincide with the start of the new academic year. Among the many options for collaboration and discussion will be an initial Fast Forward Syracuse Town Hall meeting led by Chancellor Kent Syverud in September.

What’s happening?

Fast Forward Syracuse: Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan will set a framework for the University over the next decade to advance its quality, excellence, reputation and relevance. It will define the University’s goals and strategic direction, detail the University’s priorities and identify specific actions to pursue and investments that should be made. While it will be an all-University plan, its focus will be on teaching/learning and research/discovery—with the undergraduate and graduate student experience at its core.

The strategic planning process itself will be broadly participatory, providing members of the University community—inclusive of volunteer leadership, alumni, faculty, staff and students—an opportunity to be heard about the future direction of the University. The plan will prioritize the University as a whole—rather than focusing on the various schools, colleges, departments and support units—and it will serve as a vehicle by which the University, ultimately, can be greater than the sum of its parts.

The steering committee will be facilitated by Vice Chancellor Eric Spina with additional representatives from the campus community. They will engage with Chancellor Syverud and a small group of Trustees comprising the Board of Trustees Governing Council to ensure that the ultimate outcome is consistent with expectations for a plan that is bold, responsive to the dynamic higher education environment, sets clear priorities and aims for distinctive excellence for the University. The Strategic Plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees for their consideration and approval in May 2015, after which it will become a “living plan” with routine assessment of progress toward key objectives, and regular revision to account for changes in our environment.

The following individuals are members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee:

  • Jean-Francois Bedard, associate professor, School of Architecture
  • Mehrzad Boroujerdi, professor, Maxwell School
  • Lorraine Branham, professor and dean, Newhouse School
  • Lisa Dolak, Angela S. Cooney Professor, College of Law
  • Charles Driscoll, University Professor, Engineering & Computer Science
  • Boris Gresely ’15, undergraduate student; president, Student Association
  • Daryl Gross, director of athletics
  • Marcelle Haddix, associate professor, School of Education
  • Mike Haynie, vice chancellor for Veterans and Military Affairs
  • Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, senior vice President and dean of Student Affairs
  • Ken Kavajecz, professor and dean, Whitman School
  • Ian MacInnes, associate professor, iSchool
  • Cristina Marchetti, William R. Kenan Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Louis Marcoccia, executive vice president and chief financial officer
  • Katie McDonald, associate professor, Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics/BBI
  • Patrick Neary, graduate student; president, Graduate Student Organization
  • Chris Sedore, senior vice president for Enrollment Management
  • Eric Spina, vice chancellor and provost
  • Andria Costello Staniec, Associate Provost for Academic Programs
  • Amanda Eubanks Winkler, associate professor, art & music history; chair, Humanities Council
  • Ralph Zito, professor and chair, College of Visual and Performing Arts
  • Jeff Kaplan, senior advisor to the Chancellor, ex officio

Staff members to the committee will include:

  • Libby Barlow, assistant vice president for Institutional Research and Assessment
  • Carol Boll, writer/researcher, Public Affairs
  • Andy Clark, senior associate vice president, Operational Excellence Program Office
  • Jerry Edmonds, director, Project Advance
  • Jaclyn D. Grosso, executive director, Operational Excellence Program Office
  • Sara Wason, executive director, Foundation Relations

The Steering Committee will soon charge seven working groups to develop recommendations and strategies for the key areas identified below. The working groups will rely on input from all University constituents, as well as their own experiences and information about the broader higher education environment.

The working groups are:

  1. Undergraduate excellence: Providing a world-class undergraduate experience inside and outside the classroom and achieving strong outcomes.
  2. Strategically focused research and doctoral programs: Targeted investment to achieve excellence and impact in areas of great opportunity.
  3. Leadership in veterans and military affairs: Building on history and opportunity to achieve national leadership in research, teaching and support.
  4. Enhancing internationalization: Leveraging internationalization on campus and in the world, in teaching and in research to create a stronger, more relevant University.
  5. Change: innovation and institutional renewal: Establishing the culture, structures and mechanisms to ensure that Syracuse University undergoes productive change.
  6. Student- and faculty-centered operations: Ensuring that University units and operations prioritize the student experience and faculty productivity.
  7. Professional program excellence: Providing distinctive professional programs, including master’s programs, online programs, executive education, certificate programs and other initiatives that prepare students and professionals to become leaders.

The charges to these working groups and their members will be released next week. Additional opportunities for the campus community to provide input will be announced shortly.

Fast Forward Syracuse: Campus Master Plan

In July, the Campus Master Plan Advisory Group met with Chancellor Syverud to discuss the physical environment and explore how it can best support the University’s academic and research mission, residential life and overall infrastructure.

The Campus Master Plan Advisory Group is composed of the following members:

  • Chancellor Kent Syverud
  • Julia Czerniak, professor, School of Architecture
  • Steven L. Einhorn, Board of Trustees (Advisory Group Chair)
  • Winston C. Fisher, Board of Trustees
  • Melanie Gray, Board of Trustees
  • Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, senior vice president for Student Affairs
  • Sam Leitermann, G’14, internal vice president, Graduate Student Organization
  • Daniela Lopez ’15, vice president of the Student Association
  • Louis Marcoccia, executive vice president and chief financial officer
  • Cathryn Newton, dean emerita and professor, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Corinne Smith, professor, School of Education
  • Michael Speaks, dean and professor, School of Architecture
  • Andria Costello Staniec, associate provost for Academic Programs
  • Eddie Zaremba, G’13 Whitman School, co-president of the Disability Student Union

In addition, two staff members to the Advisory Group have been identified:

  • Eric Beattie, director, Campus Planning, Design, and Construction
  • Nicci Brown, vice president, Communications and Chief Marketing Officer

To assist with some of the elements and planning scenarios, the University identified 13 architectural planning firms to submit a Request for Quote (RFQ). Based on the responses from the national firms, three were invited to campus on July 30 to review current pedestrian walkways and vehicle interfaces, campus safety and lighting, and the overall campus environment.

The Campus Master Plan Advisory Group will reconvene at the end of August to hear presentations by the three firms and their planning recommendations for next steps.

There will be numerous opportunities for campus community members to learn more and provide feedback about the planning recommendations.

Fast Forward Syracuse: Operational Excellence

Work on the Operational Excellence program officially began in July to evaluate the University’s approach to organizational design, purchasing practices and common business processes. The goals of the program are to enhance the University’s overall effectiveness; to make Syracuse a better place to learn and work; and to achieve a $5 million recurring annual savings over a multi-year period—funds that will be utilized to invest in the priorities identified in the Strategic Planning process. Initially, the program will focus on administrative structures and areas identified in the Innovation and Opportunities Assessment; it is not focused on academic programming, faculty affairs or classroom activities.

Led by Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and President Jeff Kaplan, the program is guided by the Operational Excellence Steering Committee and managed by the Program Management Office (PMO), which Kaplan oversees and which will serve as the hub of all activity related to Fast Forward Syracuse.

Eight initial teams, representing faculty and staff in both the schools and colleges and the central administration, have formed and are working to design enhancements in important areas of campus operations. As part of this work, the University is reviewing its administrative organization structures across campus to increase effectiveness and reduce complexity.

Highlights from this summer’s work include:

  • Three cross-functional teams of faculty and staff are now working to change the way the University buys goods and services to better leverage its collective buying power. The initial focus is on designing policies to ensure the best possible value when purchasing printers, copiers, office supplies and travel services.
  • Three cross-department teams are working to enhance, automate, and streamline some of the most critical processes: sponsored research, coordination of alumni relations and fundraising activities, and our core human resources processes.
  • Several departments have begun organizational reviews, which will continue through the rest of the calendar year. The leaders of each unit at the University (for example, a dean or head of a central administrative department) will lead the review of their unit with support from the Program Management Office. This review will consider the structure of non-faculty support functions; review of faculty organizational structures will occur after and be informed by the strategic planning process.
  • Finally, three University staff members will assume new roles this week as they help fully launch the PMO for Fast Forward Syracuse.
    • Andrew Clark has been named senior associate vice president and operational excellence program manager. In his new role, Clark will be responsible for guiding the day-to-day activities of the Operational Excellence Program.
    • Jaclyn Donati Grosso has been named executive director for communications and public relations for Fast Forward Syracuse. Grosso will set and guide the strategy for all communications related to the initiative and will inform and educate the University community about the initiative.
    • Beverly Everding is the executive assistant for the Program Management Office. Everding will support the day-to-day administrative functions and serve as the principal point of contact for the University community.

The Program Management Office is responsible for gathering ideas and input from across campus; providing support to individuals, schools and departments undergoing or desiring change; and reporting to the Executive Committee, Chancellor and Trustees on the progress of the initiative.

What’s ahead?

Since launching Fast Forward Syracuse, many faculty, staff and student ideas and suggestions have been submitted to the website and are being considered for implementation.

Faculty, staff and students have also joined working teams. These teams—made up of a broad spectrum of carefully considered faculty, staff and student volunteers—will design the solutions and the plans to implement them. Although specifics of the program will unfold more fully this fall and into the next year, the University community can first expect changes in operational areas, including facilities planning, human resource processes, purchasing processes, fundraising processes and organization design.

Moving forward, every effort will be made to ensure there are ongoing opportunities for the University community to be engaged in a shared dialogue. Further information about Strategic Plan priorities and work team participation will be shared. The Campus Master Plan Advisory Group will also communicate objectives and recommendations for the overall campus environment. The Program Management team will provide updates about Fast Forward Syracuse to invite collaboration, insights and communicate progress. The participation of faculty and staff—from idea submission on the Fast Forward Syracuse website to participation on working teams—is highly encouraged. To submit an idea, volunteer for a work team or read the latest updates, visit

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