Syracuse University

Scholarship In Action en route

Scholarship in Action - en route

Septermber 20, 2010

Dear Members of the SU Community:

We've gotten the new academic year off to a great start with high energy and expectations and have welcomed not only our newest students and faculty, but also our newest alumni, the class of 2010, who begin their first year as SU alums. Members of the SU family on campus and off have made all the welcoming particularly warm—including Trustees and alumni across the nation who hosted new student sendoffs and SUccess in the City networking events for young alums. We can feel the SU pride surge across our community near and far—driven powerfully by all we are accomplishing together.

To welcome all of our new community members, I thought I would take a moment to illustrate our University vision of Scholarship in Action, detail the core principles that have propelled us forward so far, share some of our recent successes, and describe how we can build on our strong momentum ahead.

Whether you have been part of the SU community for 25 days or 25 years, Scholarship in Action offers a seat at the table for everyone—students, faculty, staff, alumni—because it leverages the many ways a research institution like ours, with diverse liberal arts and professional programs, can prepare students for the world in the world and contribute discoveries that make a difference on the pressing issues of our time. Our broad collaborations engage scholars, citizens, government, non-profits, and industry across a diverse range of fields and geographies, defining a two-way street that simultaneously sharpens our expertise and changes the world.

We can measure our impact and momentum in many ways. We can point to the record number of applicants that has enabled us to enroll a larger, more geographically and economically diverse class with steadily strong qualifications during a period when some doubt private higher education's commitment to do so. We see it in the remarkably strong cadre of 160 faculty (equivalent to about 16% of our full-time total) we've attracted over the past two years. Our partnerships with corporations, foundations, and government have flourished, providing increased support for research, coupled with extraordinarily generous support from alumni and friends that has us on target to achieve our most ambitious fundraising campaign ever. Taken together, these are strong indications that our vision and our excellence resonates powerfully with our key constituencies. 

We are an institution making a real difference, from the laboratory to the studio to the neighborhood, at home and around the globe. It is this impact on the ground that we are most proud of, even as it is hard to truly capture it in aggregate rankings, whether in the ones we like, such as Washington Monthly's recent ranking of universities on dimensions such as social mobility for students and engagement with the world (SU ranked 8th) or in those that focus on more traditional metrics such as admissions rates and percentage of alumni giving, for example the omnibus US News rankings (where SU is persistently in the 50's). Like them or not, we understand the weight accorded rankings, although we also want to keep our attention focused on the impact we are having in the lives of students and on the innovations that we see mattering in the world. This is clearly what is capturing attention about Syracuse from high school guidance counselors across the nation, to our alumni, to leaders of industry and government.

As I look at our success and consider what we need to do to continue surging forward, I see five principles at the core of Scholarship in Action, which have guided us to date and will keep us true to our vision in the months and years ahead:

  • Strategically invest in our strengths
  • Collaborate broadly
  • Break down disciplinary silos
  • Engage beyond our boundaries
  • Unleash the power of inclusive talent

I thought I would share a few examples from across the University to illustrate how I see these principles working as we pursue our vision:

Strategically Invest in Our Strengths

Leveraging its strengths through strategic, external partnerships is an SU Physics Department tradition epitomized by a current collaboration led by Meredith Professor and NSF Career Award winner Duncan Brown, Pomerantz Professor Peter Saulson, and their students. They're contributing to a massive, worldwide project involving 700 scientists at 60 universities in 11 countries, pioneering detection of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity. As SU's stellar team examines experimental data from around the world, they will use a supercomputer right here in Syracuse to "listen" for echoes of violent collisions of super-dense objects such as black holes and neutron stars. They'll do this at one of our newest collaborative facilities, a state-of-the-art "green data center" built with investments from both SU and IBM as a showcase for energy efficient information technology and research.

Collaborate Broadly

Going green in a big way is also the motivation behind SU's leadership of an unprecedented Upstate-Downstate effort to dramatically increase the energy efficiency of buildings, which account for 40% of carbon emissions in the U.S. alone. Our Syracuse Center of Excellence, with its new LEED Platinum facility, is leading this alliance of 119 partners—the New York Energy-Regional Innovation Cluster.Showcasing our regional assets, teams of scientists, engineers, and designers will invent, test and manufacture new technologies Upstate, while our economists and environmental finance experts team with peers from the financial, real estate, and construction industries downstate to apply these technologies to transform New York City's vast footprint of residential and commercial buildings.

Break Down Disciplinary Silos

As we retool the infrastructure of our built environment across New York State, others will be "digging deep" back home in our new Life Sciences Complex. Faculty and students from eight departments in the College of Arts and Sciences have teamed up to form the Forensic and National Security Science Program (FNSS), while crossing silos to create "science-practitioners well prepared in their scientific skills, legal, and political understanding and ethical practices." And collaboration is what they are all about, whether with colleagues at Upstate Medical University and the Onondaga County Wallie Howard, Jr. Center for Forensic Sciences, or with interdisciplinary teams in our own College of Law and the Maxwell School (Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism). From reopening unsolved murders of the Civil Rights Era (Cold Case Justice Initiative) to tracking down war-crimes victims and perpetrators around the world (Impunity Watch), our College of Law faculty is deeply engaged in forensics for social justice. And they, too, will have a new facility on campus, even as their students often can be found doing their work in Atlanta or in D.C., respectively. Thanks to a stunningly generous gift of $15 million from the Dineen family, the campaign for a new building, to be named for Robert Emmett Dineen L'24 and Carolyn Bareham Dineen L'32, has taken off. Fittingly, it will be built where Robert grew up generations ago, on the Western face of our campus, in the midst of a thriving Irish immigrant Syracuse neighborhood.

Engage Beyond Our Boundaries

Speaking of engaging beyond our borders to rebuild and celebrate once grand and still proud neighborhoods in Syracuse, scores of architecture and design students, artists and writers and performers, teachers and students, are partnering with Syracuse businesses, non-profits, and community members on the Near Westside Initiative. The Syracuse Art, Literacy, and Technology District invites innovation and entrepreneurship across many disciplines, including reflections from newcomers on its homegrown heart (Syracuse Bridges Become Love Letters), as seen above. The New York Times and urban affairs media have taken note of this groundbreaking work to cultivate an arts enclave and economy, while integrating green technologies in homes and businesses. The neighborhood's appeal continues to grow, as the world's largest adult literacy organization—ProLiteracy, co-founded by SU alumna and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Ruth Colvin—will relocate to a renovated warehouse in the neighborhood, joined by WCNY, our regional public television station.

Unleash the Power of Inclusive Talent

Changing the face of the next generation of faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is the aim of a new, multi-disciplinary project at SU titled The Inclusive Connective Corridor. Esteemed faculty leaders from the sciences, engineering, the iSchool, and Whitman School are leading the charge in forging expansive social networks crossing disciplines, sectors, and genders to support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in these fields of intense national interest, but which women remain overwhelmingly underrepresented nationwide. It also reflects SU's proud legacy of leadership in building inclusive environments for creative work. School of Education Dean Doug Biklen is among our most prominent heirs of that vital legacy. He has co-produced his second major documentary film, the widely anticipated Wretches & Jabberers, slated for release this fall, chronicling the international travels of two men with autism as they reveal the unfathomable depth and breadth of thought, emotion, and humanity of individuals with autism from around the globe. If Doug's first film, Autism is a World—which garnered an Oscar nomination for best documentary—is any indication, his latest is sure to gain critical acclaim.

All of these projects, people and partners deserve acclaim, and their successes are especially uplifting as our world faces what seem like overwhelming odds to forge peaceful, sustainable, and just communities. With this in mind, it seems ever more important to remind ourselves of the impact we can have and the difference that we all are already making. 

Indeed, everyone has a seat at the Scholarship in Action table and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to engage and deeply connect with all of these efforts. Today, we are announcing a new way to share your ideas, suggestions, and stories. I invite you to send them to us at Whether they're about your own work or that of your colleagues, we will find ways to connect to you and with you.

In the coming months, I will engage you through regular messages like this one, as well as through a soon-to-be-developed companion website. Our shared experiences and stories will serve not only as milestones achieved along the two-way street of Scholarship in Action, but inspiration for the road ahead. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Nancy Cantor