Syracuse University to Welcome More Than 4,000 First-Year and Transfer Students
University takes action to enhance its longstanding commitment to a diverse student body
Tomorrow, Syracuse University will host the New Student Convocation on the turf of the iconic Carrier Dome. Surrounded by family, friends, University leaders, faculty and staff, more than 4,000 first-year and transfer students will formally begin their academic careers at Syracuse University.
“New Student Convocation is one of my favorite traditions. Each year, I look forward to greeting our new students and meeting the people who have given them such love and support,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “For our first-time students, the first few days can be nerve-wracking, a little turbulent, even frightening. But I have faith they will remember that day as one of the transformative moments in their lives. It is during New Student Convocation that our new students arrive at a powerful and exciting crossroads. I know I speak for the entire University community in welcoming them to campus. We’re grateful to have them here.”
Participating in this year’s New Student Convocation for the first time will be Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele G. Wheatly. While acknowledging New Student Convocation is a rite of passage for new students, Provost Wheatly says she too is eager to be a part of an event that plays such a special role in the lives of the University’s new students.
“We only have one chance to make a first impression to our new students and their family and friends,” says Provost Wheatly. “I am confident this year’s New Student Convocation program will demonstrate just how excited we are to have our new students as a part of the Syracuse community and I hope each of them leaves the event feeling inspired and ready to begin their college careers.”
More than 31,000 students applied for admissions this year. Dean of Admissions Maurice Harris says the volume of applications this year is a testament to the high value students and their families place on a Syracuse University education. He also says a number of high-profile events put the spotlight on Syracuse University over the past year ultimately exposing the University to a larger group of applicants.
“Last year was an incredibly exciting year to be a member of the Syracuse University community,” says Harris. “A group of Syracuse physicists was a part of the international team that discovered gravitational waves; both our men’s and women’s basketball teams appeared in their respective Final Fours; and Vice President and alumnus Joe Biden selected our campus to host an It’s On Us event on campus, where he recognized Syracuse University for its efforts to combat sexual and relationship violence.”
Harris says prospective students and their families were excited to hear about key initiatives contained within the Campus Framework, especially as it relates to enhancing the student experience.
“High school students we met with over the last year were particularly interested in hearing about residence hall upgrades, campus renovations and the increased resources being allocated to support teaching, learning, research, wellness opportunities and new academic programs,” says Harris.
Joining the Syracuse University community is a talented group of students from 59 countries and 47 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. More than 21 percent of the incoming class are first generation students. Approximately 520 students, or roughly 13 percent of the incoming class, are international students. More than 75 percent of first-year students are receiving some sort of financial aid, with the average financial aid package being just shy of $37,000, and more than 560 first-year students received a federal Pell Grant.
“Improving access and affordability for all students, but especially those from underrepresented and marginalized populations, is my chief priority,” says Ryan Williams, associate vice president for enrollment management. “We have taken a number of steps this year to provide an unprecedented level of financial aid and we are working deliberately with incoming students to ensure socioeconomic background isn’t a barrier to an exceptional education.”
The University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has long set it apart from other universities in its peer group. In fact, this year the University admitted a larger percentage of students of color applicants (41 percent), as compared to 2015. However, increased competition from other institutions has resulted in lower matriculation of students of color represented in the incoming class (24 percent), as compared to 2015 (28 percent). Several schools and colleges did experience notable increases in enrollment among students of color, including: a 14 percent increase at the Whitman School of Management; a 21 percent increase at the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics; and a dramatic 29 percent increase at the School of Education.
“While I am very pleased to see improvement in enrollment among students of color at many of our schools and colleges, I am disappointed we saw a decline in overall enrollment. It serves as a reminder that we can and must redouble our efforts,” says Chancellor Syverud. “This University has long been known for a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is critically important. Those qualities are a core, a foundation, to the Syracuse University mission of being a global research institution, always focused on the dreams and aspirations of our students. As competition increases and as more and more universities seek to build greater diversity, it is imperative that we do an even better job of advocating our strengths, our sense of community. We must always demonstrate to prospective students and their families why the Syracuse University student experience is unrivaled. We believe studying here creates unlimited opportunity—and the entire experience prepares young people for lifetimes of possibility and success.”
Syracuse University’s commitment to attracting and enrolling a diverse study body has long served as a model for other colleges and universities. As others seek to replicate Syracuse University’s success and as a result of increased competition, the University will take immediate and meaningful steps to expand and enhance its longstanding commitment to a richly diverse student body and university community. Therefore, the University will employ a series of new initiatives aimed at ensuring that all Syracuse University students are afforded an educational experience that prepares them to understand, live among, appreciate and work in an inherently diverse world.
To begin, Syracuse University will conduct a national search to recruit and hire a chief diversity officer, responsible for promoting an institutional culture that values and supports diversity across the institution. This individual will have a broad vision for the role diversity plays in achieving institutional excellence and a strong track record in managing change and in building and supporting initiatives that promote diversity, equity, access and inclusion.
Further, the University is in the process of consolidating two key divisions to ensure a seamless, high-quality experience for all students from the first introduction to Syracuse University through Commencement. This new division, Enrollment and the Student Experience, will be led by a senior leader who is dedicated to recruiting, enrolling and sustaining a diverse student population. Both the chief diversity officer and the senior vice president for the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience positions will be identified and hired in the 2016-17 academic year. The two will work closely to create and implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at increasing diversity among the entire Syracuse University community.
In addition, the Office of Admissions will enact a series of initiatives aimed at enhancing the University’s ability to effectively compete for students of color and other underrepresented students. These initiatives include:
- Reorganizing staff to create a team of four experienced recruiters focused specifically on diversity recruitment;
- Charging all admissions staff, including those from individual schools and colleges, to prioritize recruiting a diverse student body;
- Collaborating with the Office of Financial Aid to enhance merit-based incentive programs to support diversity enrollment;
- Launching a targeted fundraising campaign to provide greater institutional aid to students of color;
- Creating an affinity recruitment program aimed at recruiting students of color that fosters engagement with Syracuse University (students participating in this program will receive preference for admissions and financial aid);
- Improving the student experience, retention and graduation rates via the Student Academic Success Initiative, which includes the Orange Success advising system and an automated degree audit system; and
- Continuing to deploy a focused recruitment effort on veterans and their families.
Finally, it is clear that the University commitment to engaging military veterans represents an important dimension of a broader strategy and commitment to diversity. The University has seen an increase in student veteran enrollment for 2016, and of that group, 40 percent of all undergraduates who are veteran or military students come from underrepresented populations, and 31 percent of those students are African American, Hispanic or Native American.
“We have a long legacy of serving our nation’s veterans, and as a result, more and more post-9/11 veterans and military students are choosing to study at Syracuse University,” says J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor and executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. “Veterans and active military members face a unique set of challenges. At Syracuse University, we recognize those challenges and are acutely aware of how their life experiences shape new academic pathways and how unparalleled support helps them achieve post-service success. That is why so many veterans and military students are choosing to attend Syracuse University.”