In a recent commentary for Breaking Defense, Sean O’Keefe, University Professor in the Maxwell School, noted the opening of President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address in 1981, where the Republican observed that the peaceful and orderly transfer of national authority…
Q&A with New Maxwell Dean David Van Slyke
As a member of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs community for 12 years, David M. Van Slyke knows well and appreciates the school, its people and their rigorous commitment to scholarship.
His new role as dean now allows him to gain an even deeper understanding through his plans for regular engagement with the Maxwell community. And he hopes others will also be encouraged to engage in and bring their own valuable perspectives to vital conversations that will inform the school’s mission and its future.
Van Slyke stepped into his new role in July after serving as associate dean and chair of the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs. He has dual tenure in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences and holds the Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy. He is a two-time recipient of the Birkhead-Burkhead Award and Professorship for Teaching Excellence.
Van Slyke is actively engaged in the work of the Maxwell School’s Executive Education program and has worked extensively with senior leaders in government, nonprofit and business organizations in China, India, Peru, Singapore, Thailand and many other countries. A leading international expert on public-private partnerships, public sector contracting and contract management, and policy implementation, he has provided guidance to several federal government agencies and international organizations.
He recently shared some thoughts about the Maxwell School and the start of his tenure as dean.
Q: What are your priorities for your first year?
A: As an institution dedicated to excellence in both graduate professional education and undergraduate and graduate education across the social sciences, Maxwell is a very large and diverse organization. First and foremost, it’s my responsibility to listen actively and to engage in conversations that will help to ensure that I have a thorough understanding of the needs and opportunities of our community.
Having been a part of Maxwell for the past 12 years gave me a head start in some areas. It gave me deep appreciation for the expertise of my colleagues and their remarkable commitment to the school and to our students. I deeply value my colleague’s commitment to high quality, rigorous and relevant research that can advance knowledge, scholarship and practice.
Leading the search committee and participating in conversations across the school and the University, as well as with our many constituencies, further broadened my understanding; and, I continue to seek out and encourage these vital conversations.
One early result is that I’ve come to understand the degree to which our very diversity—which is vital to our mission and central to our work—can muddy our individual understanding of who we are as an institution. We need a better definition of who and what we are; to reaffirm the school’s mission and ensure that each and every person at Maxwell understands their part in it; and regular engagement across the school to support and sustain a strong identity.
This work is foundational to establishing school-wide priorities and goals, aligning them with the University’s academic plan and developing strategies for achieving them and measuring their impact.
Q: What is your plan for engaging students and collaborating with faculty?
A: I’m confident that we are all dedicated to the Maxwell School and Syracuse University succeeding at the highest levels, and active citizenship is in our DNA. I see regular engagement and participation in schoolwide initiatives as vital to our individual and collective success, and there are so many outlets and opportunities to be involved.
We all bring valuable perspectives, experiences and expertise to the table. I will do everything I can to ensure that each and every member of our community feels encouraged—feels compelled—to contribute, and to raise awareness of opportunities to do so. Whether it’s taking a more active role in school leadership, increasing participation in department and staff meetings, working with our students on applying learning through experiential projects in this community and beyond, or making new connections through initiatives like the Tenth Decade Project Maxwell Citizenship Initiative, we can all play a part in strengthening our school.
Q: What excites you most about your new role as dean?
A: The Maxwell School is a very special place, it has a complementary and unique relationship with the College of Arts and Sciences, and all of our students will be future leaders in some capacity. What we deliver in terms of a robust liberal arts education with a core commitment to critical thinking, effective communication and rigorous analysis are skills that will provide the foundation for adaptability and impact in a dynamic and globalizing environment. I’m excited to be a part of that. And, the proof is in the results.
Come visit us during Orange Central and meet some of our alumni, current students, and the faculty and staff and you’ll see why the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs is different and more impactful than other colleges of social sciences and public affairs. Our scholarship, teaching and service are making a difference in the lives of so many individuals and communities, here and around the world.
Q: What do you do in your spare time to balance your demanding role as a leader, scholar and educator?
A: Being engaged with my family and active in church and community organizations brings me joy and fills up much of my time outside of Maxwell. Finding opportunities to serve at InterFaith Works, Dewitt Community Church, the Manlius Boy Scout troop and the Town of Manlius local youth sports, brings me fulfillment and keeps me grounded. I also enjoy exercise, sports and being outside in the beautiful Central New York region.