A short time ago, our colleagues in the Department of Public Safety received a Stop Bias complaint from an individual reporting what appeared to be an anti-Semitic symbol drawn on a white board in Hinds Hall. An immediate investigation revealed…
Five Questions for First-Year Seminar Interim Director Chandice Haste-Jackson
Chandice Haste-Jackson was appointed interim director of the First-Year Seminar program in February, 2021. Since then, she has been working alongside colleagues from across the University to completely redesign the required course for all first-year students. It is part of a change to the undergraduate curriculum approved by every school and college in fall 2020 and part of the commitment made by the University to require all students to take courses covering topics of diversity, inclusion, equity and access.
As the University welcomes students back to campus, we caught up with Haste-Jackson for an update on the First-Year Seminar and her role as interim director.
Why were you interested in serving as interim director of the First-Year Seminar?
As an alumna of Syracuse University and someone who has served in staff and faculty roles, I saw the interim director position as a unique opportunity to contribute to the systemic change and development I have seen over the past 25 years. My experiences in those roles has led me to believe that while change in some areas has been very slow, it has been steady. We still have work to do and I am willing to do the necessary work to bring about that change.
What does it mean to be interim director? Can you describe your role?
As interim director I believe my role is to be a servant leader and build a sustainable program. What I bring to the First-Year Seminar is a knowledge of the history of diversity, inclusion, equity and access at Syracuse University and the ability to work broadly across campus to create a vision for moving forward. My history here helps me identify the strengths and challenges that exist on the path to achieving the vision of a University that is genuinely welcoming to all.
Making that vision a reality requires coordinating, integrating and creating opportunities for people, places and things to work together—both now and over the long term.
I have to believe in what we are doing and motivate others to join me in building it. Building what you can’t see requires a certain amount of inner resolve, trust in others and the ability to constantly adapt to change. In the end, my goal is to work with inspired and talented people to transform how people think and how our systems work.
The First-Year Seminar is an opportunity for the University to advance DEIA and student success. How would you describe that opportunity? Why is it especially important now?
Syracuse University is a microcosm of the world, and students who live and study with us must have opportunities to develop their awareness, knowledge and communication ability around the critical issues in our society. The new course is designed to help students participate in active learning around topics that affect them as global citizens.
While students primarily come to Syracuse University for academic preparation, they bring their identity and experiences to our campus. The First-Year Seminar is an opportunity for them to familiarize themselves with the place where they will spend important years of their lives. While at the University, students are expected to expand their knowledge and ability to engage within their discipline as well as the campus culture. Being aware of bias, stereotype, prejudice and discrimination builds a foundation for students to develop knowledge of themselves and how they relate to others. This is critical and will help them to thrive during their time at Syracuse, and subsequently put them in a position to succeed in their future professions where they may be called upon to work with people from all backgrounds and cultures.
If you were to give advice to a typical first year student about how to get the most out of the First-Year Seminar, what would that advice be?
Bring your whole self to the experience. This course will help you learn about Syracuse University, but also gives you the opportunity to focus on YOU—who you are and who you want to become. You will discover aspects of your identity and learn how to engage with peers and professors who come from all over the world. This is much more than a class to take and pass; it is a class in which you can set the stage for your own academic, social, personal wellness and cross-cultural goals.
If you talk to one of this fall’s First-Year Seminar students in Fall 2022, what do you hope they would say about their experience in the course?
I would hope that this student was able to say that the First-Year Seminar, including the discussions and activities they participated in during the course, ignited something within them to want to learn more about themselves and their interests. I hope they would see it as leading them to see how they uniquely fit into the Orange family, that they saw themselves as welcomed and wanted as a member of the campus community, and that they did not feel as if they were the ‘only one’ or an ‘other’ amongst their peers. If I could go even further, I would hope that this student told me that they were inspired to become an FYS 101 peer leader because of the experiences they had and wanted to encourage and inspire incoming first- year and transfer students!