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
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.