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New enterprising students, new distinguished faculty point Syracuse University to the future
Kevin C. Quinn
Building on its legacy as a place of opportunity and innovation, Syracuse University this week will welcome 3,260 new undergraduate students—bright, enterprising women and men who represent the University’s most economically and socially diverse incoming class ever. Over the next year, these students will be joined by 98 new faculty members who have been recently recruited and hired—comprising one of SU’s most competitive new faculty cohorts ever.
“In a world where we are all at risk of narrowing our vision, SU is intent on looking to the future,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “Who are the students of the future, those enterprising men and women who will make a difference in the world? Who are the faculty of the future who will engage the most pressing issues of our day?”
Students of the future
As a strong indicator of SU’s affordability and student economic diversity, 27 percent of this year’s incoming students are Pell Grant-eligible, a widely accepted definition of students from low-income families. SU already has the highest percentage of Pell-eligible students among its private Association of American Universities (AAU) peers. The University also was ranked fourth in the nation in percent of Pell-eligible students among private institutions with endowments above $500 million, according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
An aggressive financial aid strategy supported the successful efforts to recruit the entering class. For 2009, institutional financial aid was increased by 13 percent to $167 million, and the University utilized these resources to help increase affordability for a broader range of families than ever before. Specifically, the resources were targeted to ensure low-income students graduate with a more manageable debt, to increase aid to middle-income students and meet the full need of all students.
“Syracuse University has long been a place of opportunity for enterprising students from all economic and social backgrounds,” says Cantor. “This year’s incoming class strongly builds on that legacy and continues to position us ahead of the curve in recruiting in the face of the documented national demographic shifts taking place. We know that the college student of the future increasingly will be from low- and middle-income families from diverse urban centers across the nation. I hear constantly from our alumni who are so proud that Syracuse took a chance on them. SU’s history is that of an inclusive institution, from opening our doors to returning GIs after World War II, to today’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. As we recruit now and in the future, we are playing to our traditional strength of being able to discern and tap the great potential of the diverse next generation.”
Innovators of the future
SU’s successful student recruitment campaign was matched by aggressive efforts to recruit new faculty members. This year, SU forged ahead with searches—both to fill vacancies and invest strategically in traditional and emerging areas of strength—to take advantage of the strong market for top-notch faculty talent. Attracting large pools of highly qualified applicants, the University recruited 98 new professors from leading universities across the United States and internationally, in every school and college, in areas ranging from information security to inclusive education, and architecture to physics. Several new arrivals have appointments that bridge fields and all of Syracuse’s schools and colleges—appointments that support innovative, cross-cutting academic programs.
“We take the success we’re experiencing in recruiting faculty as strong recognition in the academic community for SU’s incredibly positive momentum,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina. “This incoming group of faculty that we’ve recruited is simply stellar. From promising young faculty beginning their careers, to scholars with endowed chairs, they’re positioned to make an immediate impact on the education of our students, create synergies across academic programs, and advance agendas for research and creative activities that make a real difference in the world.”
Unique opportunities to address pressing issues of the world
Cantor and Spina attribute that momentum to what they see as the resonance of SU’s vision, Scholarship in Action. They describe it as the University’s commitment to optimize educational and research opportunities for students and faculty by forging reciprocal and sustained partnerships with organizations and individuals from all sectors of the economy. The partners form “communities of experts” that collaborate to address pressing issues and challenges that are found locally, but also resonate globally. Areas of focus include environmental sustainability; achieving economic growth through home-grown entrepreneurship; rejuvenating cities by investing in the arts, technology and design; and remaking urban schools to educate the increasingly diverse students populating cities.
SU has a long tradition of welcoming students from all backgrounds, even when this has run counter to prevailing social currents. At its founding in 1870, the University admitted women to both undergraduate and graduate study long before many other institutions did either. In the 20th century, it enrolled students from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds—African Americans, Japanese Americans, Jews—at times when they were implicitly or explicitly excluded elsewhere. SU also transformed itself to meet the needs of veterans returning from World War II, tripling its student body overnight in response to President Harry Truman’s urgings to give back to those who defended the nation but who were received tepidly on many campuses.
“We can’t predict what the future will bring,” says Cantor, “but we’re excited that our messages seem to be resonating that SU will go the extra mile to provide support for students so they can prepare for the world in the world.”