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Chancellor Kent Syverud Delivers 2023 Winter Message to the University Community
Chancellor Kent Syverud shared his 2023 Winter Message to the University community in a virtual message.
Below is the text of his remarks.
Greetings! I welcome all friends of Syracuse University to a new semester and a new year, whether you are here in Syracuse or part of the Orange community around the world.
I am coming to you today on campus from Link Hall and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The spaces here are in the process of dramatic renovations to benefit students, faculty and research. That includes state-of-the-art laboratory renovations. By this fall, the space I am in will be a working laboratory for Professor Ian Hosein and his team in biomedical and chemical engineering. They are investigating battery power sources that may be safer, more abundant and more environmentally sustainable for all of us in the future.
This important work is an example of exciting progress and contributions to humanity at our university. There are many such examples, and they should give us reason for optimism about our university and our community in the year ahead. This is a time of extraordinary challenges in the world, and extraordinary opportunities for Syracuse University and its people to make a difference in addressing them. Our university is ready to do so. We are thriving as we take on the future.
Today in this message, I want to concisely brief you on what has been happening at Syracuse University and what to expect in the semester and the year ahead.
This semester begins with great momentum. In the fall, the University hosted a once-in-a-generation announcement from Micron Technology that puts Central New York on the path to economic resurgence.
There also was a campuswide focus on mapping out the University’s academic priorities and setting a course for the future. And, our athletics teams are having unprecedented success, including a national championship! No matter how you slice it, it’s a great time to be Orange!
First and most important, Syracuse University is thriving because of our amazing people—faculty, students, staff, alumni and supporters—and because of their great work.
Our students want to be here. There is joy in returning to day-to-day collaboration in classrooms and laboratories, studio spaces and performance halls.
In August of 2022 we had one of the largest first-year classes in school history—4,095 students strong. On Saturday we officially welcomed more than 470 new students to campus. That includes transfer students from more than 40 colleges and universities.
For the third year in a row, Syracuse University has received a record number of undergraduate applications. Graduate and doctoral applications are up as well, bucking national trends of declines in these areas.
Our students are talented and curious. They come from various backgrounds, geographies, experiences and cultures.
Students of color make up 41% of this year’s applicants and comprise 30% of the fall 2022 entering first-year class. Twelve percent of students hail from a country outside the United States. And our campus is home to 350 Indigenous students. Nearly one in five students is the first in their family to attend college. Nearly 6% of the student body are veterans or military-connected. Each student is unique, but all equally Orange.
And all are fortunate to learn from our outstanding faculty. They are leaders in their areas of expertise and scholars at the forefront of developing fields. Last fall we welcomed our largest faculty cohort on record, including 106 new full-time and 78 new part-time faculty members. This semester 21 faculty members join the University. These scholars are eager to contribute to our vibrant academic community.
And our staff keep the engine of the University running. They are the essential people who support the well-being of our students in and out of the classroom. They are the people who care for our community. They are the people who support our faculty in their scholarly endeavors. They are a critical piece to making Syracuse a great university.
As we embark on a new semester, Syracuse University is on sound financial footing. This is an enviable position at a time when many other private institutions are struggling post-pandemic. For the second year in a row, we have a balanced budget and project a small surplus. Through disciplined decisions, this university is in a strong fiscal position and poised to make investments in strategic priorities.
Forever Orange Campaign
There is great momentum with the Forever Orange Campaign. Alumni, donors, friends and ambassadors are putting their resources behind Syracuse University. More than 100,000 donors have stepped up to support the campaign. Over $1.297 billion has been raised for this university’s highest priorities. And, more than 18% of the powerful Orange alumni network have deepened their connection to their alma mater—either by making a gift, participating in an event or re-engaging with the University.
I know for many fundraising campaigns can feel abstract. Let me share a few concrete ways the campaign is directly impacting our community.
Five hundred ninety-two new scholarships have been created thanks to the Forever Orange Campaign. These scholarships put a Syracuse University education in reach for hundreds of students. These resources give our financial aid and student experience teams the flexibility to respond to students in need.
The Forever Orange Campaign has created 76 faculty funds in all 13 schools and colleges to support teaching, research and creative work. This includes the creation of 28 new endowed professorships and chairs.
These endowed positions are critical in our efforts to attract, recruit and retain exceptional faculty.
This past Friday we recognized two of our intellectual leaders appointed to new endowed professorships: Dr. Karin Nisenbaum of the philosophy department as the inaugural Renée Crown Professor in the Humanities, and Dr. Heidi Hehnly as the inaugural Renée Crown Professor in Sciences and Mathematics.
Dr. Nisenbaum came to Syracuse in 2021 and has already established herself as an inspired teacher of some of humanity’s oldest philosophical questions. Her book and writings offer a new perspective on the history of German idealism. Dr. Hehnly is a biochemistry and biotechnology professor. She has been awarded more than $3 million in federal research grants to study developmental disorders, genetic mutations and cancer-causing genes. Professor Hehnly also co-founded Syracuse’s Bio-Art course, where students utilize biological science techniques to create pieces of art. This is just one of the ways she is hoping to bridge the gap between art and science for honors students and all those she teaches.
I am grateful to Life Trustee Renée Crown and her husband Lester for their most recent gift to support best-in-class faculty through these endowed professorships.
It’s our people, here on campus and beyond, that make it a great time to be Orange. They are committed to the Syracuse of today, and the Syracuse of tomorrow.
Welcoming to All
Maintaining a richly diverse community is a priority of so many of our donors. Their philanthropy plays a critical role in ensuring Syracuse is a place that is welcoming to all. It is one of this University’s greatest strengths.
Last semester, our new vice president for diversity and inclusion, Mary Grace Almandrez, began implementing the five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Our campus celebrated the one-year anniversary of 119 Euclid, the University’s home honoring Black culture.
We dedicated Gayaneñhsä•ʔgo•nah [Guy-AH-na Set GO-na], the Onondaga Nation Memorial on Shaw Quadrangle. The installation honors over 1,000 years of Haudenosaunee history and the University’s commitment to Indigenous students.
We recognize the unique perspectives our veteran and military-connected students contribute to campus. Through the work of our Office of Veteran and Military Affairs and our Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), we are making good on the University’s goal of being the best place for vets. You may be surprised to learn that 44% of the College of Professional Studies’ online undergraduate students this fall were military-connected.
In 2023 we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the School of Education’s InclusiveU. This program has become a national model in higher education for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s a reminder that Syracuse University succeeds when we trust in faculty research and expertise.
When it comes to the important work of inclusion at Syracuse, we don’t just practice what we preach. We also invest in the work, research and scholarship that leads to societal change broadly.
For example, Syracuse University’s Lender Center for Social Justice is conducting research on poverty, opportunity and the root causes of wealth disparity in America. In support of that work, the MetLife Foundation recently awarded the center a $2.7 million grant. With this grant, the center will convene a group of up to 25 interdisciplinary scholars, thinkers and voices. The group will focus on generational wealth disparities, income and housing, health and wellness, education and career development.
The academic excellence of this university is evident in the achievements of our students and of our faculty. Syracuse University has had a student named to the prestigious Marshall Scholarship four of the last five years.
Congratulations to 2023 Marshall Scholar Maggie Sardino, a senior with a double major in the College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Last year the University had a record-setting number of Goldwater Scholars and an impressive 11 students named as Fulbright Scholars. This scratches the surface of deep and widespread student achievement.
Our faculty are equally accomplished. An unprecedented nine faculty members received National Science Foundation CAREER awards.
These grants provide faculty members early in their careers with critical resources to expand research and establish career-driving academic focus.
Our faculty are solving some of the world’s toughest problems. They are leading in fields with a direct impact on tomorrow. In several cases, new fields have been established based on research happening on campus.
The University launched the Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship Institute last fall. The Washington, D.C.-based institute is a joint effort of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Director Margaret Telev takes the helm this month after a distinguished 30-year career as a political journalist, CNN commentator and White House correspondent. This work is an investment in academic excellence and in the kind of strategic initiatives that propel the reputation of this great University. Further, it’s an investment in the future of our society, our democracy and our First Amendment rights.
As we look to the future, Syracuse will soon have a new roadmap in place to guide us to greater levels of distinction. Next month, Provost Gretchen Ritter will deliver the initial draft of the academic strategic plan to the campus community. It’s a big undertaking, one in which so many of you have participated.
This plan’s creation was driven by community input. It doesn’t belong to me, or to the Provost, or to the deans. It belongs to and reflects all of us. I want to thank the 2,000 students, faculty and staff who provided counsel to this process. This plan will accentuate Syracuse University’s areas of academic distinction. It will build on those opportunities unique to this university.
Academic Excellence – Art Museum
Among the opportunities before us is expanding our vibrant artistic and cultural community. In the coming days we will launch a search for the next executive director and chief curator for the Syracuse University Art Museum. This individual will deliver on the museum’s mission to support original research and creative thinking that will position the University as a national leader. The person will also continue the museum’s accreditation process. This is an important step in elevating our appreciation of our spectacular collections, and affirming our commitment to excellence in the arts.
That commitment can be experienced through the extraordinary artists that choose to work with Syracuse. Acclaimed artists like Rina Banerjee—the 2023 Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities. Starting tomorrow, a new exhibition will open entitled “Take Me to the Palace of Love.” It explores the meaning of home in diaspora communities, and the ideas of identity, place and belonging.
I encourage everyone to take time to experience this extraordinary exhibit and the many other treasures that reside within the museum and the University’s artistic community.
Academic Excellence – Esports
Advancing academic excellence at Syracuse also means forging new paths, innovating and responding to what our students want. I am excited to announce that in the Fall 2024 semester, Syracuse University will launch an esports major. This will be a dual program between Falk and Newhouse. Launching a robust esports major builds on the University’s excellence in sport-related programs.
In support of this extraordinary opportunity, the University will be building two new, state-of-the-art esports facilities on campus. First: a world-class esports venue will be located in the Marley building. This will be home to esports competitions as well as educational space that will support academic needs, including the new esports major.
Second: a new recreational gaming venue will be located in the Schine Student Center. This is in addition to the Esports Room in the Barnes Center. Now we will have two best-in-class spaces at the centers of student life on campus. It is what our students want, and what students of the future will expect.
With these new spaces, Syracuse University is putting a stake in the ground as a leader in esports education and recreation.
This facility will provide our esports club team and recreational gamers alike with space that is among the best on any campus.
The Esports club team will join the University’s Club Sports under a new unit within the Division of Student Experience. For thousands of our students, club sports are an enriching part of the Orange experience. With this new unit, the University will grow club sports programs, will invest in our club sports and will enhance the club sports experience for all of our students. It’s important that we recognize the dedicated achievements of our students in all areas, including club sports.
That same spirit extends to our intercollegiate athletic programs. Though the world of college athletics is evolving, our commitment to our student-athletes remains constant. It begins by delivering an education that will serve our student-athletes long after their final competition.
I am proud to report that Syracuse University is in the top five among the 65 Autonomy Five Conference schools in turning athletes into alumni. Ninety-three percent of Orange student-athletes graduate within six years. Three of those programs—women’s soccer, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball—have graduated every student-athlete for at least a decade.
Among the teams with a 100% graduation rate is the Orange men’s soccer team. This team proved it has what it takes both in the classroom and on the field.
Men’s soccer brought home its first national title, winning a heart-stopping final in penalty kicks. I think it was the first time in Syracuse history that fans at the Dome for a basketball game were watching soccer and not basketball! We’re incredibly proud of this team. As they like to say, they dared to dream. They made it a reality. We’re also proud of the Orange coaching staff, which was named National Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches. Their inspiring season reminds us of the powerful impact sports have on the Orange experience.
We saw it again and again during multiple sold-out Orange football games at the JMA Wireless Dome this year. And, returning to a bowl game this season is such a source of Orange pride.
And with ACC play now well underway, Coach Felisha Legette-Jack and her team have ushered in a new Orange era for women’s basketball. When Coach Legette-Jack returned to her alma mater, I promised her fans would turn out. Now is the time to do so. If you haven’t been to a game yet this season, go there. This team is electric on the court. All our student-athletes and coaching staffs make us proud to be Orange.
Coach Legette-Jack was one of many new leaders who joined Syracuse last year. And in the year ahead, we’ll have some other new faces.
In May, the University will install a new Chair of the Board of Trustees. Jeff Scruggs will be the first person of color to chair the board. He succeeds the Board’s first female chair, Kathy Walters. Though he’s not a graduate, Jeff grew up on campus. His father, Otey Scruggs, was a distinguished professor of African American history in the Maxwell School for more than 25 years. Trustee Scruggs’ background in finance and passion for our students makes him a great fit for Syracuse.
Five new deans will help determine the trajectory of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Whitman School of Management, the School of Education, the School of Information Studies and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.
And finally, just last week, I announced that John Papazoglou will join the University as chief operations officer. John comes to us from Penn State University where he serves as associate vice president for auxiliary and business services. As our new chief operations officer, John will oversee dining, housing, food services and an array of units, including the University’s Minnowbrook Conference Center, the Sheraton hotel and Drumlins Country Club.
As we welcome new leadership to the University, I remain impressed by the leadership shown by our students. In December, the Student Association issued a climate policy report and recommendations. Syracuse students led a group that includes SUNY ESF in exploring sustainability issues and pathways to a more sustainable campus.
The report has been reviewed by Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala and his team. They have met regularly with Student Association President David Bruen and other student leaders. Much of what is in the report aligns with the University’s long-term sustainability plans. The University will work with student leaders toward achieving these important goals.
I am grateful to David, and all of those who committed their time, energy and knowledge to this effort. Our students’ leadership in these efforts will lead to positive change while they are here, and when they go out into the world when they graduate.
In my very first address to this University in 2014, I said that the greatest contribution Syracuse University can make to this city and this region is to be a great, thriving and engaged international research university. In my nine years here, I have emphasized the University’s role in fueling the engine of public prosperity as a partner in our community’s growth.
Last fall, we realized a significant milestone in the economic resurgence of Central New York. Global microchip fabricator Micron Technology announced Central New York will be the site of its largest fabrication facility in the western hemisphere. Our community stands to benefit from a $100 billion investment over the next 20 years. Syracuse University was a driving force in the community team recruiting Micron to our area. And, we are a leading partner as work begins.
In December, a team of Syracuse University leaders, including Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie, visited Micron’s headquarters in Idaho. We did this as the University is preparing our community for transformational change through three key initiatives.
- First, Micron will support and help expand the Future Professors Fellowship Program at Syracuse. This program seeks to recruit diverse faculty and establish cutting-edge research labs that will support the quantum and chips industry. This will build on changes already taking place here at Link Hall.
- Next, we have partnered with Micron in creating the Syracuse University Future-Ready Workforce Innovation Consortium. Through this effort, we will deliver workforce and professional training to the Central New York community. This includes a focus on preparing those in historically economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with the skills necessary for high-tech jobs
- Finally, Micron plans to hire 1,500 veterans. Micron will lean on Syracuse University to make it happen. The D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families will play a critical role as a pipeline for veteran talent. Micron’s first hire in our area was Syracuse University student-veteran Savion Pollard, a sophomore engineering major.
This is one more way that the IVMF and our Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is playing a critical role well beyond our campus.
Since the IVMF was founded more than a decade ago, “Best for Vets” has become a hallmark of this great university. Our commitment to serving those who have served has never wavered.
But to really be the best university, public or private, for veterans, we cannot be the only. We have a moral obligation to share what we have learned with others while continuing to innovate.
In April, Syracuse University will host a national veterans summit on campus. This first-of-its-kind event will be co-hosted by the University of Tennessee. Attending will be University presidents alongside government and military leaders. During this summit, leaders will focus on creating new and innovative pathways to education for those who are serving and those who have served.
Veterans and military-connected students are among the best of our university community. I am proud that we are hosting this summit to seek solutions to critical challenges facing our veterans and active-duty military. I am grateful to Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie for leading this important effort.
We launch a new semester on a campus that has never looked better, and continues to expand. Our faculty and their work are enhancing Syracuse University’s reputation and attracting scholars from around the world. Our community is on the cusp of an economic renaissance. And, Syracuse University is a place committed to advancing our students, building in those students a sense of belonging that stays with them long after graduation. Our powerful Orange network is engaged and giving back to make this university better than ever.
We head into the spring semester with so much positive momentum. This thriving university on a Hill is poised to push its boundaries even further. Thank you and go Orange.