Mary E. Graham, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sport Management, has been named Falk College associate dean of faculty affairs effective Jan. 2, 2024. This newly created leadership position reports to Falk College Dean Jeremy Jordan and is dedicated…
Project Advance, One of Nation’s Oldest Concurrent Enrollment Programs, Marks 50 Years
Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA) celebrates 50 years this spring. One of the nation’s oldest concurrent enrollment programs, SUPA has also grown to one of the largest, with over 12,000 high school students around the world taking an SU course through SUPA this year. To celebrate, events were held in New York City and at the Syracuse University Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center to recognize the teachers, staff and faculty who make the program a success.
School partnerships have been at the heart of SUPA since its beginning in 1972, when educational leaders from six local school districts convened with University administrators to collaborate on an innovative educational model called concurrent enrollment. These early visionaries sought to foster students’ college readiness and address the need for more challenging and advanced coursework for students who had already met most of their high school graduation requirements. Together, they helped conceptualize and pilot “Project Advance.” The program began a year later, in 1973.
“Curing ‘senioritis’ was one of the goals of Project Advance and the pilot schools 50 years ago,” says SUPA Director Christina Parish. “And while that is still one of the issues for high schools, we see benefits for students and schools that go far beyond that.”
The hallmarks of SUPA involve high school students enrolling in college courses during their regular school day, taught by a high school instructor, with SU faculty providing ongoing academic oversight and teacher professional development. SUPA’s concurrent enrollment model was seen as providing students with the skills and confidence to be successful in college and easing an otherwise oftentimes difficult transition between secondary and postsecondary education.
From those first founding partners, SUPA quickly grew the next year (1974-1975) to encompass over 40 school partners across New York State and extended into neighboring New Jersey soon thereafter. Today, SUPA annually enrolls over 12,000 students at over 250 partner schools in nine different states and six other countries. And SUPA continues to serve as a model for many other concurrent enrollment programs across the country, as well as being a founding member of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).
A half century later, SUPA’s mission of providing high school students with the opportunity to challenge themselves by engaging in authentic college courses (not a high-stakes testing program) and cultivate their college readiness before they formally matriculate at a postsecondary institution has only increased in significance. The benefits of concurrent enrollment have become more widely understood and valued, not just locally or domestically but internationally.
These days, nearly every college or university in the U.S. now offers some form of concurrent enrollment or dual enrollment programming to high school students. The National Center for Education Statistuics estimates that one-third of all high school students across the country enroll in concurrent or dual enrollment courses, and the vast majority take those college courses at their high school campus.
However, as a New York Times article from 1981 titled “Experiment to Join High School and College is a Lonely Effort” observed at the time, SUPA was part of a novel educational “experiment” in the country that came with many challenges.
The participation and dedication of the Syracuse University faculty who are involved with SUPA is essential to the success of the program. Over 70 SU faculty are involved as course liaisons and visitors, ensuring that the courses taught in the high school classrooms have the same content, rigor and assessments as the course taught on campus. These faculty members train high school teachers every summer, visit their classrooms to meet students and oversee professional development seminars for their course cohorts. Their efforts do more than prepare the teachers to deliver course content, they create communities where teachers can share best practices, engage with each other and the subject material in-depth, and form lasting professional and personal relationships.
“I have devoted almost two decades of my career to SUPA because it is one of those rare things that I have encountered in my career that is a win-win-win for all involved,” says Andrew London, associate dean and professor of sociology in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “In my experience, the impacts of SUPA on students and high school teachers who serve as adjunct faculty members in a diverse array of high school contexts are broad, deep, enduring and meaningful.”
Throughout economic downturns, superstorms, technological revolutions and pandemics, SUPA’s school partnerships have remained strong in support of educational excellence and innovation. A shared commitment to high quality professional development and student achievement, ongoing dialogue and reciprocal engagement has enabled SUPA partnerships to stand out from the multitude of other programs.
In March, SUPA held an SU basketball watch party in New York City at the East End Bar and Grill. Guests included teachers and administrators from downstate New York and New Jersey school partners.
On April 17, a luncheon was held at the Syracuse University Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center. Chancellor Kent Syverud delivered remarks, and SUPA honored the five local school districts that participated in the pilot program a half century ago: North Syracuse, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt and the Syracuse City School District.
Individual honorees included retired SUPA Office Coordinator Debbie Lavine, who provided program support for 40 of those 50 years; former SUPA program directors Joe Mercurio and Leo M. Lambert, president emeritus at Elon University; retired SU faculty member Ron Sutterer, faculty liaison for SUPA’s psychology course in its pilot year (who continues to visit school partners for the program 50 years later); and Ron Cavanagh, former vice president for undergraduate studies and SUPA’s original faculty liaison for religion. A special shout out was given to Professor Emeritus Marvin Druger, SUPA’s faculty liaison for biology for many years who is as legendary at partner high schools as he is on campus.
Noliwe Rooks, professor and chair of Africana studies at Brown University and author of “Cutting School: The Segrenomics of American Education,” delivered the keynote address and took questions from the audience. Attendees included local school officials, teachers and members of the Syracuse University community.
Representatives from the offices of Assemblyman William Magnarelli (129th District) and State Sen. Rachel May (48th District) presented proclamations Rep. Brandon Williams (22nd District) read his recognition on the floor of the House of Representatives.
At the 2023 One University Awards ceremony on April 21, SUPA received the Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence for Outstanding Contributions to the Student Experience and University Initiatives. Director Christina Parish, Business and Budget Manager Victoria Toper and Senior Associate Director Rob Pusch accepted the award on behalf of the staff.
“The mission of Project Advance to provide access to higher education and high quality Syracuse University courses to high school students has been successful well beyond what our founders could have imagined fifty years ago when they undertook this ‘project,’” says Parish. “As a pioneer in concurrent enrollment partnerships, we are excited to continue innovating as a program into the next half century in service to our SUPA students.”