Beginning this week, the University will migrate travel and expense approvals online through the travel and expense portal on MySlice. Paper-based approvals will be entirely phased out by the end of fiscal year 2024, along with paper-based submittal of expense…
Exploring Syracuse University’s Future Through the Academic Strategic Plan: ‘A Roadmap to the Future We Collectively Create’ on the ‘’Cuse Conversations’ Podcast
The Syracuse University campus community is embarking on an important five-year journey of self-discovery and self-improvement, revamping its Academic Strategic Plan (ASP) to position itself as a leading global institution that attracts the best students and accomplished faculty who are respected thought leaders.
The goals are ambitious: creating an unsurpassed student experience that is guided and informed by extraordinary scholarship, research and discovery. The stakes are high: determining how Syracuse University can improve its academic excellence at every level while fostering a sense of welcome and belonging and ensuring the distinctive excellence, accessibility and collective success for all members of the campus community.
The impact of this revised ASP will be far-reaching. Besides setting the course for where the University is headed, the ASP will also be responsive to the cultural, economic, societal and governmental changes that impact the University and our world.
The ASP will set the course for the future of the University by addressing three key questions:
- Where is the institution currently, what is Syracuse University really good at and in what areas could we improve to get even more proficient?
- Where does the University want to go, and what values does it want to embody in the future?
- How does the institution achieve that future state of academia, allowing students, faculty and staff to flourish and thrive on campus?
Check out episode 119 of the “’Cuse Conversations” podcast featuring Gretchen Ritter, vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer, and Jamie Winders, associate provost for faculty affairs. A transcript [PDF] is also available.
The ASP is guided by three core pillars, with working groups dedicated to each:
- Research and Creative Excellence
- Educational Excellence and Student Success
- Public Impact
Additionally, four working groups formed to shape the process of implementing our shared and cross-cutting values:
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA)
- Global Engagement
- Enrollment Strategy
- Resource Sustainability and Budgeting
Recognizing the need to have all voices heard, the University’s students, faculty, staff and alumni are invited to provide their feedback on the ASP. Between Wednesday, Oct. 12, and Nov. 1, there are also a series of online engagement forums, valuable opportunities for members of the campus community to get involved and give their feedback on the plan.
Wanting to both educate the campus community and drum up excitement for the far-reaching impact of the ASP, Gretchen Ritter, vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer, and Jamie Winders associate provost for faculty affairs, stopped by the “’Cuse Conversations” podcast to discuss the thought process behind the Academic Strategic Plan, how an ASP can set Syracuse University up for sustained success, why members of the campus community should get involved in deciding the future of the University and how this ASP differs from other higher education institutions.
Note: This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.
01What exactly is an academic strategic plan and what are the goals we hope to accomplish to move Syracuse University forward?
Jamie Winders: It’s a roadmap of the future that we all collectively create. We think of the Academic Strategic Plan as laying out those three questions [listed above] so that it’s that roadmap to where we want to go. And then it also becomes the set of principles and ideas that help shape our decisions, that help us think about, of all the things that we could do as a university, what should we be doing to reach that future state that we want?
02How can an academic strategic plan set Syracuse University up for sustained long-term success?
Provost Gretchen Ritter: The benefit of a plan like this is that it’s a coming together around what we’re seeking to achieve as a community. I’ve encouraged everybody to start conversations about academic strategic planning by asking themselves why do we do what we do? And I think a great way to think about this is to say, imagine you are talking to someone you’re trying to recruit, say a faculty candidate or a prospective student. What do you tell them about why this is the place that they want to come to? And when you get people to start talking about that, you surface all the things that they’re proud of, you surface all the things that we’re great at, you surface all the ways that we as an institution already make a difference.
Our job is to think together about, given the moment we’re in and what we see on the horizon five years from now, what should we be thinking about in doing collectively to make an impact in a way that is distinctive to the areas of excellence that you see here at Syracuse?
03Why should the members of the campus community care about the Academic Strategic Plan?
Provost Ritter: People should get involved for both principled and practical reasons. If they believe that what they’re doing makes a positive difference in the world, this is a way to accelerate and enhance that difference. If you think educating students and helping them to develop their skills, their talents and ambitions makes a positive difference in our community, our country and our world, then thinking about how we do that at an even higher level is something that I think people should want to be involved with.
At a practical level, we’re developing a social contract for this community. We’re saying these are the commitments that we have identified and that we are going to bind ourselves to. I would hope that everyone would want to be part of the effort to create what that social contract is since it’s going to govern our work over the next few years.
Jamie Winders: We have this sense of being part of this collective project that, at its root is about the greater good and the public good. It gives us as members of the campus community an opportunity to be invested in and shape our collective future in a way we might not see in other kinds of places. It’s both a privilege, but I think it’s also a responsibility as a member of this campus community to be part of that process.
What has been the most exciting thing for me is the level of engagement. The campus has really come together and taken the time to do the labor-intensive work of thinking about where we want to go.
04Why is it important to have everyone’s voice heard in this process?
Provost Ritter: As a scholar who works on deliberative democracy, among other topics, I believe strongly that getting the participation of all the different stakeholder groups means the outcomes will be better because we will have the benefit of having different perspectives and experiences contributing to a larger process, helping us to generate the right core ideas to focus on.
I also very much believe that the plan is only step one. The real work begins after we have a plan that we’ve all endorsed and bought into. For people to feel like this is something that they want to participate in that guides our collective work, they need to be part of the process. Part of the aim is to really create a vision that is collectively owned so that it will guide the work at all levels of the University.
05The goal is to have the Academic Strategic Plan draft ready for review and feedback in the new year. What was the driving force behind this ambitious timeline?
Jamie Winders: We did not want the planning process to stretch until the next time we need to revisit the Academic Strategic Plan. So, we wanted to contain that process on purpose so that it would be an intense period of engagement, as opposed to this low-intensity project that we’re just doing seemingly in perpetuity. We also wanted to then have a separate semester to engage with the draft, to finesse it, to talk about it, to workshop it and get more feedback on it. We were intentional in terms of putting an ambitious timeline around drafting it out so that we had the bandwidth to really work through the plan, to reflect on whether this document accurately reflects where we are and where we want to go.
06Why is this something you’re so passionate about?
Provost Gretchen Ritter: It’s a huge opportunity for us. As a university, we’re in a fortunate position. Syracuse University is vibrant, it’s thriving and it’s incredibly well positioned to move ahead. The world needs us to be making the highest level of contributions that we can. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the kind of talented partners I have all over the University who are willing to join this work of figuring out how do we collectively think about making the highest possible level of difference as we go ahead.