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Marcelle Haddix Takes a Holistic Approach to New Strategic Initiatives Academic Affairs Role (Q&A)
As associate provost for strategic initiatives in the Office of Academic Affairs, Marcelle Haddix wants the work of her office to have an impact on the academic enterprise and the experiences of students—and to connect the University’s academic efforts with the community.
“I want people to see the arts and humanities as central to research, teaching and scholarship,” Haddix says. “I want us to have strong relationships and connections to the surrounding community and to disrupt and challenge the idea that we don’t have that.”
In February, Haddix was appointed by Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter to the new administrative role. Haddix is fulfilling key functions, overseeing multiple University units and being the Academic Affairs liaison to many campus and community initiatives. She advances diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility initiatives and oversees the First-Year Seminar and Women in Science and Engineering.
Many University arts and humanities organizations, affiliates and research programs report to her office. They include Syracuse University Art Museum, Light Work, La Casita Cultural Center, Point of Contact, the Coalition of Museums and Art Centers, the Lender Center for Social Justice and the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service. She also is principal liaison to the University Senate and liaison to the Syracuse University Libraries, the Office of Community Relations and the University’s other academic programs having community-based or experiential learning components.
In addition, she works to connect the Office of Academic Affairs with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Academic Leadership for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (ALDEIA), the Women in Leadership Initiative and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Currently, the office consists of herself and executive assistant Lucianna Juiliani.
Before her new appointment, Haddix, who has been at the University since 2008 in the School of Education, served as Distinguished Dean’s Professor of Literacy, Race and Justice in reading and language arts and as an affiliated faculty member in the departments of African American Studies, Composition and Cultural Studies, Cultural Foundations of Education, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She also holds a courtesy faculty appointment in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies.
01Your role as an administrative leader at the University is a new one. How have you approached shaping the position?
Overall, I have approached this position as a space for learning and a space for opportunity and growth. When I came into the role, I had been on a one-year research sabbatical, and I shifted from being a faculty member with a focus on my scholarship to being an academic administrator and leader. I knew I needed to really take the time to reflect and think about how I could bring all of my leadership, community organizing and teaching experiences, and the ways I have been in service and collaboration with others on campus and in the community, to a role that hadn’t existed before.
I have been reintroducing myself to many units in this new capacity and working to understand what they do, trying to assess commonalities and points of connection. I have been asking how this portfolio makes sense for the University, how we communicate that out, and how the connection can further the provost’s agenda and the vision for the academic enterprise.
I am really focusing and refining how to align and better connect all those initiatives and programs so we can more efficiently, dynamically and robustly deliver programming and opportunities for our students. I want to create a sustainable model with enough capacity and shared resources so that programs have longevity.
02How do you envision this office as advancing the functions and purposes of the campus programs, centers and units you oversee?
I definitely see my role in Academic Affairs as being a conduit for information. I want us to be an open and welcoming place where folks that report through this office can come with ideas and feel like they are supported and that we can help identify resources.
I also want to make sure that people have opportunities for professional development and growth. And people are looking for community building—to connect, reconnect and meet people post-COVID—so I envision a number of ways to create opportunities for people to get together.
I also want us to realize our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in real concrete ways and not just in rhetoric. I want those values to be demonstrated through the work and through real outcomes that are felt and experienced by all faculty, staff, students and community members.
03What has struck you most about the importance of the University’s Academic Affairs engagement with the surrounding community?
Our office’s reciprocity and outreach are always going to be in connection to teaching, learning, service and scholarship. We have to have two-way connection between the University and the community that includes faculty, staff and students, so that what we do is directly related to the education mission.
How we communicate internally and externally about what we’re doing is really important because it informs how people think about the University’s academic connection to the community. I see my role as helping to cohere and coordinate those efforts. It is important that we communicate out and tell a fuller story of community engagement and public impact.
04How do you think a widened community connection benefits the academic mission of the University?
As we commit to being an institution that is welcoming to all and a place that develops and cultivates globally engaged citizens for generations to come, a sense of civic responsibility is essential. It’s part of our responsibility and mission to have broader community engagement.
Academically, community engagement enhances students’ learning opportunities. Many faculty are doing work that has public impact and that creates many opportunities for reciprocity. We have so many resources and a wealth of knowledge to help create solutions to some issues in our immediate area. Being part of that is important because this is not just where we work, it’s where we live, and this is our home. I feel that the University is only as strong as the community that surrounds it.
05The University is experiencing a jump in enrollment, welcoming one of its largest classes this year. As someone dedicated to academic excellence and welcoming student experiences for all, how do you characterize the benefits of a Syracuse University education and unique student experience?
Our renewed commitment and articulation of those commitments toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility as demonstrated through First-Year Seminar is one way. Really looking at our curriculum to see where we focus with intentionality and purpose in these areas is greatly beneficial to our students, too. The opportunity for students to have community engaged learning and experiential learning is key. It’s important that they get real lived experiences that extend beyond the classroom. I’m also always excited and inspired by how much our students want to be engaged in the community. I’m really excited about the new faculty we’re hiring too. The work they do and their enthusiasm and desire to work with students is really a strength.
Located geographically where we are—the history and legacy of this place—being on Onondaga Nation lands and in an area with a legacy of abolitionist history, and here on the campus where there is a legacy around student activism, that rich history is really powerful. When you explore the history of how some campus programs came to be, you find that many of them resulted from student activism, from students asking for a space to learn more about something or to be engaged.