Chancellor Cantor outlines progress of Scholarship in Action
Chancellor Cantor outlines progress of Scholarship in ActionFebruary 05, 2007Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s vision, Scholarship in Action, is elevating the University’s prominence nationally, according to Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. In her Jan. 23 address to the University community in a nearly full Hendricks Chapel, the Chancellor said that the University’s vision of Scholarship in Action is “already giving SU a high profile in the national search for ways higher education can address the accelerating changes in knowledge and technology and the seriousness of the challenges ahead for our society and our world.”
The Chancellor began by outlining the mission of higher education, remarking, “Higher education is a public good — the teacher of youth, a creator of citizens, a birthplace of new ideas, discoveries and creations, and an indispensable partner in the search for answers to society’s most critical issues.” She went on to assert, “As knowledge and technology become more important, our mission is expanding.”
Cantor described three key tenets of higher education as public good: innovation that matters, tapping a diverse talent pool, and incubating democracy. SU has made major contributions in all three areas, and is strongly positioned to do even more, she added:
Innovation that matters. The Chancellor said that colleges and universities — like Syracuse — have long been primary engines of innovation. She cited the work of the late Burton Blatt, former dean of the School of Education, who was a pioneer in the deinstitutionalization movement, and Floyd Allport, who began the world’s first social psychology training program at SU in 1924. Today, the Chancellor said, American society is looking to universities with renewed expectations that they produce “innovation that matters” — which IBM refers to as the double bottom line of doing well and doing good — yet traditional federal and industrial research support is diminishing. Despite these challenges, Cantor said, SU recognizes that we must invest in technology infrastructure that will drive the growth of our sponsored programs and ensure that we are positioned for innovation; she believes that the University is well positioned to respond and raise the necessary support. One example she cited was research that is being conducted in the crucial areas of cell signaling, biocomplexity and biomaterials in the life sciences.
Tapping a diverse talent pool. The Chancellor discussed a second vital part of the public mission of higher education, which is to draw upon the huge, growing and diverse talent pool that is still largely untapped in our cities and towns, preparing students from all groups for all careers, whether in science and technology, business and the professions, or as humanists, artists and designers. As colleges and universities, she said, we must make visible commitments to educational access and opportunity for those who will lead our nation forward. There is historical precedent in this area for Syracuse as well. For example, following World War II, the University led in the effort to educate service veterans, as well as former Japanese American internees, and was a pioneer in providing financial aid to make college a reality for a wider population.
Incubating democracy. Higher education has traditionally instilled in each new generation a commitment to responsible citizenship and democracy, Cantor noted, and today as we face dangerous global issues, we need to call upon our best knowledge and keenest ethical sensibilities. To do this, she said, higher education must engage the public consciousness and cultivate a sense of shared responsibility on such issues as conflict and peace, inter-group relations and democratic culture. Both in Central New York and at SU, proud examples of these efforts can be found: from abolitionism to the struggle for women’s suffrage, from the nation’s first grassroots peace council to the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts (PARC) at the Maxwell School, which has been a model for other institutions.
Cantor then turned to Scholarship in Action, an agenda, she said, that is positioning SU to use its institutional history and current strengths to address the expansive mission of higher education. “Scholarship in Action is grounded in the belief that we open up rich new opportunities for learning, innovation and discovery in settings where we are deeply engaged with each other and with `communities of experts’ on and off our campus,” she said. She then detailed three areas of focus: clusters of academic excellence, embedding diversity in our excellence, and engaging the world:
Clusters of academic excellence. Cross-disciplinary collaboration is becoming increasingly important in making real progress, Cantor said. These collaborations include consortia among colleges, such as the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems and the Humanities Corridor that includes SU, the University of Rochester and Cornell University. Other collaborations take place between departments and colleges on the SU campus, such as the Gerontology Center, which draws faculty and students from more than a dozen disciplines, and the new Institute for the Study of the Judiciary, Politics and the Media, which draws from the College of Law, the Maxwell School and the Newhouse School.
Embedding diversity in our excellence. “Diversity — both intellectual and social — is central to our work. It is not a side pursuit,” Cantor asserted. It is essential to get the insights of those who are positioned at different angles in society. The University’s efforts to increase diversity include the Haudenosaunee Promise Scholarship Program, the College of Law’s Center for Indigenous Law, Governance and Citizenship and other efforts to engage with the neighboring indigenous nations. The award-winning WellsLink Program provides support for first-year students of color. Courses increasingly incorporate diversity topics — for example, the diversity initiative integrated into Writing 105/205 and the global awareness requirements for the Renee Crown Honors Program. Graduate students from many disciplines wrote the book “Interrupting Heteronormativity,” which was published by SU’s Graduate School with support from the LGBT Resource Center.
Engaging the world. The University must be involved in both local issues, such as the success of the Syracuse City Schools and the restoration of Onondaga Lake the Chancellor said, but it must also be involved in larger concerns, such as worldwide literacy and the global environment. To that end, the University is engaged on many levels — students and professors helping elementary school children to create photography, the University helping minority and women entrepreneurs start businesses as part of the South Side Innovation Center, work in community health by the College of Human Services and Health Professions, a student-created program to encourage mutual understanding between Latino youth and Syracuse City police officers, and the creation of the Connective Corridor, an urban pathway that will carve out an arts district from the Hill to the Near West Side.
We are not alone, the Chancellor said, either in terms of our peer institutions in higher education or the many foundations, corporations, agencies and alumni who want to support us, and to pool their expertise with ours. In turn, the visibility and stature of our institution continues to grow as we participate actively and in leadership roles in state, national and global networks.
Just recently, the University has taken important leadership roles to advance scholarship: the University was selected to be part of the first class of institutions included in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s new classification of Community Engagement; the Kauffman Foundation named the University as one of eight new members of its Campus Entrepreneurship Initiative; and the University was chosen to become the new home of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, a consortium of 75 colleges, universities and arts institutes that aim to promote the democratic reach of the humanities, arts and design through public scholarship and campus-community partnerships.
In closing, the Chancellor said that as we go forward we should recall that reinvention is about reconnecting with history and figuring out how to honor it by building on its value in a new world. She pointed out that Scholarship in Action is doing just that — finding strength in our institutional history and in the history of our region to to build on its value in a new world. As we honor our history, she said, we also must be willing to be bold, agile and both operationally and substantively willing to take risks.
“Let’s consider the lives we can touch, right here in Syracuse, and how they bring us closer to the wider world whose future we can have a hand in shaping toward a more just, equitable and peaceful place.”