You have identified four distinctive “signatures” as hallmarks of SU’s strengths as a student-centered research university. Why is it important to make these part of the SU experience?

We’re striving to turn out a unique brand of student. Sometime in the future, I want to be able to say that just by talking to you, I’d know you went to SU.
      There are disciplines in which we are already internationally known or close to it, where we can provide really personalized, unique experiences and skills that differentiate our students from others. As a matter of policy, I would like us to be sure that students have access to the things we’re really good at, because excellence breeds greater excellence.
      Let’s look at internationalization, for example. Our study-abroad programs are simply the best you’ll find anywhere. Period. We have a jewel here that other universities desire—Ivy League schools send their students to our study-abroad programs. And yet only 18 to 20 percent of our own students study abroad. Many clamor to go, but face financial or other hurdles. Our world is becoming globalized at a faster and faster rate. American students in the job market don’t compete as well in multinational firms as do students from abroad; they’re not as familiar with other cultures and languages. If we have the ability to give that to our students, wouldn’t it be criminal not to? If we can get to where I want us to go, 35 to 50 percent of our students will study abroad. I think we would have a leg up in so many ways.
      If you look at the people on campus who write, albeit for different mediums in different ways, I’m awestruck by our depth of talent. We have an internationally acclaimed graduate Creative Writing Program, but it’s so small that we can’t serve all of the students who want to take a course. We don’t have an undergraduate writing major, and students have said they would like one. With so many excellent writers on our faculty, our students should write better than they do.
      We have a very good College of Arts and Sciences and a tremendous collection of professional schools, many of which are among the best anywhere. We have an unusual opportunity for our undergraduates to study in professional schools; many of the best universities offer professional education only at the graduate level. We attract students who want to be able to go in and out of the arts and sciences disciplines while they’re studying in professional schools. Yet these opportunities are limited due to resources, curriculum, and other reasons. If we have a wealth of fruitful opportunities available, all students should be able to partake of that fruit if they wish to take a bite.
      Integrating theory and practice means building a bridge between academic courses and programs like the Center for Public and Community Service. Students tell me they find it easier to learn that way and easier to focus on a theoretical topic when it’s put in the context of an everyday concern. A great example of this is the public policy undergraduate program in the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences. For the sake of our students’ learning, we need to do more of the same.

As part of the plan, the University will commit close to $50 million over the next decade to programmatic, curricular, and research initiatives in four areas: information management and technology, environmental systems and quality, collaborative design, and citizenship and social transformation. Why were these selected? How can we build on the University’s existing strengths in these areas?

Students, faculty, and staff universally pointed to needs that were critical, both nationally and internationally, and areas where the synergies for research and programs at the undergraduate or graduate level hadn’t yet been explored.
      In the area of information management and technology, the School of Information Studies is the best in the country. We have experts at Newhouse who deal with web-based design and new media strategies. We have a very good computer engineering group. We have people in the College of Visual and Performing Arts who work in the more artistic side of the media. We have people in the School of Management and other places who deal with related topics. They don’t all know each other. The purpose here is to bring emphasis and distinction through new programs of study and research.
      The area of environmental systems and quality is one where great synergy is possible. Among the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the College of Arts and Sciences, the Maxwell School, the College of Law, and our colleagues at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Upstate Medical University, we have a great number of excellent people who deal in issues of the outdoor-indoor environment. This is both a tremendous research opportunity and economic opportunity for Central New York. In recognition of our potential excellence in this area, New York State has just invested $16 million with us, and I’m hopeful that will turn into $50 million or more in the future.
      In the area of collaborative design, no other research university in the country has an excellent school of design and a college of visual and performing arts, an internationally recognized architecture program, and some of the more technical design areas represented in ECS. We need to pull them all together and make a statement to the world that we’re here. We need to collaborate and provide an innovative curriculum for our students that will prepare them for a world in which the distinctions among engineering, architecture, and design are blurred by the minute.
      With citizenship and social transformation, people need to realize that this involves much more than Maxwell. They see the word “citizenship” and think, “Well, we’re already doing that, why do we need to invest more in Maxwell?” The answer, of course, is that we need to make an already great thing greater. But this is not solely for Maxwell’s benefit. If you look around the world, you’ll see emerging democracies that need to be studied. We need to understand governance systems and be ready to help those countries that choose to free themselves and to transform themselves culturally and economically. We need to do this in communities in the United States that have had less access to culture, education, and full citizen participation. We have a tremendous amount to offer; we just need to get all our people talking.

Now that you’ve created this plan, what do you need to implement it?


Lots of brains and lots of help, along with elbow grease and money. Although $50 million may seem like a lot, it’s really $5 million over 10 years. And $5 million on an annual budget of almost $600 million is small. All we can really do with that sum is plant the seeds of great ideas and hope the flowers bloom. To get and stay competitive, we’ll need a lot more money and the help of all our friends. In terms of brains and elbow grease, we need to unleash the creative talents of faculty, staff, and students to think about how to make all these things happen. As a result, there will be all kinds of research opportunities that will engage multiple faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. We’ll then have to parlay that momentum into grants to help us sustain these activities.


How will you assess progress in meeting the plan’s goals?


There are some things that you obviously know or can count very easily. If it’s sponsored research, we can simply track that in terms of dollars. We ought to be able to track our influence and the respect accorded us by seeing if we get a better applicant pool for all our programs. For each area that we’re working on, we’ll look for intermediate indicators of how we’re doing. And each academic unit working on an aspect of the plan will report back to me on its progress.


What lasting impression would you like alumni to have of the Academic Plan?


If we’re playing in the big leagues, let’s win the World Series, and let’s do it continuously and let everybody know about it. And let’s continue to take greater pride each year in our accomplishments. I’d ask alumni to keep coming back and asking themselves: Is this an exciting place? Do I think it’s more exciting now than when I was here? Would I like to learn more about what everybody’s doing? Would I send my child here? If the answer is “yes” to all of these questions, then we will have done our job.

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