Syracuse University

Scholarship In Action en route

Scholarship in Action - en route

November 8, 2010

Dear Members of the SU Community:

This year’s Orange Central overflowed with reminders of the pivotal role that SU plays in encouraging students to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world. New Arents Award recipient Bill Viola ’73, H’95, found his passion here in what was then an “experimental” new media program. Now an internationally acclaimed video artist, Bill brings us face to face with experiences and emotions at the core of our humanity (as with his Urban Video Project piece above), from birth to death and from anguish to euphoria. Likewise, SU was where fellow 2010 Arents awardees Suzanne de Passe, Brian McLane, and Karen Winnick tapped their passions through which they broke barriers and made their indelible marks in the entertainment industry, disability advocacy, and children’s literature, respectively.

That same potential and promise are all around us in our current students, who are collaborating with faculty across the University to make their mark. Here are some illustrations that exemplify our five core principles of Scholarship in Action at work.

Strategically Invest in Our Strengths—The Maxwell School is making a permanent home for SU’s Community Geography Program, a catalyst for research and teaching that uses the strength of our faculty and facilities, especially the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Laboratory, directed by Geography faculty member Jane Read, to answer the questions of numerous community organizations by mapping our collective resources. Community Geographer Jonnell Allen Robinson answers the call, enlisting students, through Maxwell’s Community Benchmarking Program and the Mary Ann Shaw Center for Public and Community Service, to map the path of food resources, safe paths for children to school, and paths to prosperity through economic development zones. This is a two-way street, responding to the community, while bringing faculty and students deeply into the community and stretching the boundaries of their disciplines. And this is happening all over Syracuse. Last month, the School of Architecture’s UPSTATE, an interdisciplinary center for design, research, and real estate, hosted “Formerly Urban”—a ground-breaking conference focused on design-oriented challenges and transformative opportunities facing Rust Belt cities. It represented a true cross-pollination of fields, with experts from architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, real estate, and finance coming to Syracuse from around the globe.

Break Down Disciplinary Silos—Transformative impact on our everyday lives also is the aim of the interdisciplinary Syracuse Biomaterials Institute (SBI), which this fall moved into its new, permanent home in Bowne Hall. Led by director Pat Mather, Stevenson Professor in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Associate Director Cristina Marchetti, Kenan Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, SBI faculty from biomedical, chemical, and mechanical engineering, biology, chemistry, and physics, SUNY-ESF, and SUNY Upstate Medical University, are researching and developing “smart” medical devices and biologically compatible materials that work with body tissue to treat diseases or injuries. Their work puts Syracuse at the forefront of biomaterials research and our students are joining them in devising technologies such as antimicrobial wound dressings that can reduce infections and save lives.

Engage Beyond Our Boundaries—Internationally renowned theater artists Ping Chong will bring life-saving stories to Syracuse Stage in December when he debuts “Cry for Peace: Voices from the Congo”, a compelling look at Congolese who fled chaos and unspeakable violence in their homeland to settle in Syracuse. As in his previous “Tales from the Salt City,” Chong’s work unites his audience by harnessing the power of first-person narratives from people tossed to the fringes of society by often unseen cultural currents, emphasizing our shared human identity. Navigating such currents, as they shape communication across cultures, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector, is the domain of public diplomacy, a young but burgeoning field at the intersection of international relations and public communications. In 2007, SU was among the first universities in the nation to launch a signature master’s degree program in public diplomacy, which draws its core faculty from the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools. Demonstrating their own expertise in the field, their students launched a journal this fall for academics and professionals, Exchange: The Journal of Public Diplomacy.

Collaborate Broadly—Relations among nations also are at the heart of the multi-faceted Perpetual Peace Project, a joint initiative of the SU Humanities Center, under the direction of Gregg Lambert, and the Slought Foundation, European Union National Institutes of Culture, the International Peace Institute, and United Nations University. It is as ambitious as it sounds: bring together international scholars and students across the disciplines—philosophers, sociologists, legal scholars, artists, writers, architects, journalists, and diplomats—to conceptualize a new peace movement. Using Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch” as a touchstone, the project centers on his notion that no one institution or individual can clearly claim or guarantee a mastery of the concept of peace. And just as peace is so elusive in our world, sustainability can be too, as 46 SU students learned on the ground when they joined VPA faculty members Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris on a tour of an Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency facility to see for themselves where things go when we throw them “away.” They brought that reality back with them through “There is no AWAY,” an intensive, three-day, multidisciplinary charrette facilitated by COLAB, the true definition of broad collaboration, during which they brainstormed and modeled creative strategies to promote “green” habits among their peers and enlist support for SU's Climate Action Plan.

Unleash the Power of Inclusive Talent—Working from the ground up is what the next generation of entrepreneurs had to imagine for their start-ups, including the 15 teams working with the Student Sandbox, a unique business incubator at the Syracuse Technology Garden downtown. There, mentors lead students through a curriculum to develop their products and refine business plans to launch local enterprises ranging from green urban design companies to interactive gaming systems to a graffiti-inspired clothing line. Their peers provide plenty of inspiration: SU students Pete Kistler '11, Robert Sherman '09, G'11, Evan Watson '11, and Patrick Ambron '09, earned national acclaim for their Sandbox start-up,, which empowers users to manage the many and sometimes unwieldy aspects of their online presence. The Whitman School’s Students in Free Enterprise, empowered by students from all across campus, made headlines of their own, finishing second among 600 teams in a national student business competition. Retail management professor Amanda Nicholson advised the 13-member team as they worked with Mayan residents of a Guatemalan village to establish a thread store for their region’s 25,000 weavers.

Indeed, compelling examples of Scholarship in Action come from near and far—and they certainly did in response to the inaugural Scholarship in Action En Route, as I heard from members of the SU family across campus and across the country. I again invite you to send your ideas, suggestions, and stories by emailing

Locally, nationally, and globally, engagement with the pressing challenges of our time is catalyzing deep learning for SU students, enabling them to develop the tools to succeed while tapping their passion to make a difference in the world. Creating that kind of optimal learning environment along with all of you is critical for our work as a university. Just as Orange Central weekend so clearly demonstrated, the dreams just taking shape in our students today will surely lead to extraordinary achievements that resonate and inspire for decades to come.


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Nancy Cantor