SU's commitment to become the nation's leading student-centered research university
requires dedication to enhancing the total student experience.
By Jay Cox
Illustrations by Michael Crampton
As Syracuse University enters its eighth year under the leadership of Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw, there's little question it has been a transformative experience. Since Shaw arrived on the Hill in the summer of 1991, change has been the name of the game. The University tackled fiscal restructuring, enduring tough cuts and tradeoffs to steer the budget back on track. It stabilized what had been a declining full-time undergraduate enrollment at about 10,500 students and bulked up undergraduate tuition assistance. SU launched the Commitment to Learning campaign, which continues to climb steadily toward its $300 million goal, and created several new centers and institutes to spark new frontiers of knowledge. |
Simultaneously, the Chancellor introduced the University community to an innovative vision, one designed to redefine SU's place in higher education and guide the University into the future as a fiscally sound, dynamic, and distinctive institution.
The vision is an ambitious one: "To be the leading student-centered research university with faculty, students, and staff sharing responsibility and working together for academic, professional, and personal growth." As a call to action, this encompasses the University's mission "to promote learning through teaching, research, scholarship, creative accomplishment, and service," and embodies the University's five core values of quality, caring, innovation, diversity, and service. "These values more or less define what we arethey provide us with direction and guidance in the decision-making process," Shaw says. "They should always be present because we need to celebrate and call attention to them to help reinforce the values. Ultimately, they offer us a way of continuing to improve what we have, because if we believe in these values and believe in this vision and our mission, we're never satisfied."
This thirst for continuous improvement requires ongoing assessment and adjustments; it's an ever-evolving process of fine-tuning, a pursuit of progress that demands commitment, cooperation, collaboration, constant questioning, and a willingness to change. "We can always do a better job," the Chancellor says.
By embarking on the challenge to become the leading student-centered research university, SU took the standard research university paradigm and gave it a flip, shifting the emphasis from faculty scholarship and research to teaching and student learning. As a Carnegie Research II university, the objective wasn't to downplay research and scholarly activity, but to integrate it more thoroughly with the student learning experience. Essentially, Shaw wanted the University to take advantage of the attributes of a major research university while improving the shortcomings. "The good news about major research universities is they are among the most prestigious in this country and in the world. They tend to attract the best faculty and high-quality students who revel in the intellectual excitement, the diversity of the people, the richness and breadth of the programs," he says. "The bad news is many of these institutions tend to be so preoccupied with research that students, particularly undergraduates, are ignored. I would say that the stereotypical research university is more or less indifferent to its undergraduates."