Q & A with Special Assistant to the Chancellor Bea González
Chancellor Syverud recently named University College Dean Bea González and Barry L. Wells special assistants to the Chancellor. Syracuse University News sat down with González to discuss her expanded role and to check in on the progress being made to address concerns raised by student protesters this past fall.
Q. What excites you most about this new opportunity?
A. What excites me most about this new role is that it’s really an extension of the work I am doing at University College for nontraditional students. Here we really try to meet students where they are and help them navigate this institution in a way that helps them reach their goals. As I look more closely at our academic strategic planning process, I see that the value I bring is in my ability to connect the dots. I can take the thinking and conversations that are happening with diverse groups all across this campus and bring it all together to create a more cohesive environment for all of us.
Q. Looking back on your role working with THE General Body in the fall, what did you take away from that experience?
A. First of all, I learned the true value of listening. I think I am a good listener and I tried to bring that to every interaction I had with the students. What I learned through the process of working with THE General Body is that we as an institution may need to do more to provide our students with spaces where they feel safe to build community. Our students are looking for community. We are all looking for community. I want to help advance that conversation.
Q. How do you define community?
A. For students, I think a community is a place where their values are recognized and validated. Where their sense of who they are is respected. Our students come here to earn a degree. They come here to build on their beliefs—their common core. We admit leaders to this University and leaders want to be challenged and they want an opportunity to make their community—the world—a better place. We have to pay attention to people’s basic needs and we have to be there for all of our students.
Q. In your opinion, what role does physical space play in creating a sense of community?
A. To me, organizing is one of those things that happens organically. But physical space is important to people. One of the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education and Advocacy is to provide such a space, and that’s being seriously considered. This is a really important piece of the Campus Framework Master Plan conversation. How do we build physical spaces that allow for community? That can be as simple as where we put benches for people sit to where we create collaborative study spaces. But we also have to think about community. The gathering does not always happen in a physical space; it’s how we interact with each other and how we learn to live together.
Q. Many on campus are wondering what’s been happening to address the concerns raised by student protestors and advance the needs of all students. What would you like them to know?
A. The Chancellor and his executive team, together with several departments across campus, have been continuing to work on the issues raised last semester. There has been substantial progress in a number of areas. Most of the updates can be found here. We are also in the process of building a comprehensive web page that will continually update the status of several ongoing initiatives and we’ll publicize that once it’s launched.