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Academic Strategic Plan: Creating an Unsurpassed Student Experience
A core theme of the Academic Strategic Plan (ASP), creating an unsurpassed student experience is a priority for Syracuse University as we aim to prepare students for future success. The efforts to support this component of the ASP are well underway, with significant initiatives launching more than two years ago.
With the creation of the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience (ESE), the University further advanced its efforts to enhance the student experience. Since then, as a comprehensive and cohesive team, ESE has worked to enliven its core vision of creating an unsurpassed student experience—from prospective student to current student to graduate. Through support from Invest Syracuse: Advancing Academic Excellence and the Student Experience, new initiatives have been launched to promote student access, support, retention and success.
As the University attracts, recruits and enrolls the most talented and diverse students from across the globe, once they arrive to Syracuse as new students, ESE has worked to implement new initiatives to make the transition to college life more seamless. Programs were also created specifically for international students, as preparing to study in the United States has additional considerations. Some enhancements made to the first-year and transfer experience over the last two years include:
- establishing the Orange Visit Grant Program to provide need-based financial assistance to admitted students who may not otherwise be able to travel to campus to visit;
- hiring an assistant director of international student orientation;
- creation of the online pre-orientation program, Virtual Welcome Academy, to provide incoming undergraduate students from China with information and resources to help prepare before arriving to Syracuse; and
- in partnership with Academic Affairs, launching the enhanced First-Year Experience initiative to engage students in important discussions about community, belonging, inclusion, identity and wellness.
After students join the campus community, ESE has made significant strides to enhance the living and learning environment to “nourish the whole student to support academic, social and emotional well-being,” a goal in the Academic Strategic Plan. Through its comprehensive and integrated approach to the student experience, ESE has focused on enhancing holistic health and wellness, support services, engagement and community-building opportunities, and career and academic advising—all to advance student success in and out of the classroom. Enhancements made to the student experience have included:
- adding four therapists, a training director, psychiatric nurse practitioner and graduate student trainees at the Counseling Center and three medical providers in Health Services, expanding their hours of operation, and creating drop-in hours, increasing access to services and reducing wait times;
- expanding recreation options and equipment to promote student fitness and well-being through the addition of program staff and creation of the Graham Fitness Center and the Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Center at Drumlins;
- implementing a dean of students model to expand services and operations that address student issues and provide support in a proactive, systemic and integrated way;
- adding staff to support student case management, conduct investigations and residential programming; and
- integrating the Office of Residence Life and the Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Services to create the Office of Student Living, promoting a holistic living experience centered on belonging, inclusion, community, independence and learning across housing environments on and off campus.
These enhancements will only be further supported through the opening of the Barnes Center at The Arch, in fall 2019, and the transformation of the Schine Student Center, commencing in May 2019. Bringing all student wellness services into one centralized, accessible space, students will experience integrated, student-centered care that meets the holistic wellness needs of our diverse student community. The Schine Student Center will transform back to its core mission as the “living room” of campus—a place where students can eat, meet, study and lounge—creating new opportunities for students to connect, build community and get involved.
Furthering students’ success also means preparing them to be engaged citizens, scholars and leaders in a changing global society. In support of this vision, in partnership with Academic Affairs and the University’s schools and colleges, ESE launched new initiatives to support student retention, graduation and placement outcomes, beginning with the appointment of the assistant provost and dean of student success, Amanda Nicholson, to work across ESE and academic units. Efforts to improve student success have included:
- establishing an integrated student success model that looks holistically at academic, career and post-graduate advising, supporting students through the process of selecting a major, connecting their learning to hands-on experience and then finding a job or graduate program;
- adding 16 new professional advisors, 14 of which were funded through Invest Syracuse, in schools and colleges;
- implementation of Handshake, a modern career services management technology, connecting students with jobs, internships, career events and employers;
- enhancing the Student Employment Office to expand student employment opportunities and build stronger connections to career growth and development; and
- establishing the Success Scholars program to provide merit scholarships to high-achieving first-year and transfer students.
As the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience continues to implement its strategic plan and develop new initiatives through Invest Syracuse, the efforts to provide an unsurpassed experience and prepare our students for future success will further distinguish the value of a Syracuse education.