Second of three town hall-style meetings addresses the strategic plan component of Fast Forward Syracuse

Participants discussed improving teaching facilities, bolstering student support services and scheduling no-class Fridays.

Members of the Syracuse University community participated in the second of three town hall meetings Tuesday in Maxwell Auditorium. The discussion focused on the strategic plan, the first element of Chancellor Kent Syverud’s Fast Forward Syracuse initiative.

As a university-wide initiative that aims to provide the key strategic direction and framework for how to improve SU, according to its website, Fast Forward Syracuse includes three interrelated components: a “strategic plan” to help the university identify its priorities on academics; a “campus master plan” to guide decisions about the university’s strategic infrastructure needs; and an “operational excellence program” designed to create opportunities to fund investment in the strategic and campus master plans.

The members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee sat in the first two rows of the auditorium. Kenneth Kavajecz, finance professor and dean of the Whitman School, and Katie McDonald, associate professor at the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, moderated the forum.

Kavajecz kicked off the open floor meeting by thanking the audience for their presence. Then he said that they need great ideas from great people to write this strategic plan. “The strategic plan is very interested in engaging the community,” he said. “It helps us understand where we will go as a university in the next ten years.”

McDonald spoke next, emphasizing that the meeting was a listening setting, “pushing your ideas on where we want to go in the future. We are here to get your ideas and feedbacks,” she said. 

Kavajecz and McDonald then passed the microphones throughout the audience to hear suggestions about the strategic plan.

Offering better teaching facilities was one of the main suggestions raised during the discussion. Some professors said they think a good teaching environment is important for academics.

“We need better classroom facilities,” said Sarah Pralle, a political science professor. “I encourage them to think about the environments of learning. Good study places inspire students to study.”

James Kallmerten, a chemistry professor, suggested that SU needs more classrooms on campus. He said he generally cannot find a classroom to use for workshops and to teach special sections when he wants.

In addition to improving teaching facilities, enhancing student support was mentioned frequently at the meeting. Aviva Abramovsky, a law professor, said she thinks career services should be a part of a student’s whole education. This is a way to help students to understand the need to find work as gradation approaches, she said. 

Renie Kehres, child and family studies professor and associate dean of the student services at the Falk College, agreed that the school should improve student support services by giving them more career advice. “Advising is more than just picking courses,” she said.

Linda M. Galloway, a librarian at Carnegie Library, said that student support needs to include help for getting international students involved in campus life. There is a huge number of international students at SU, she said, but they do not receive strong support from the university because they seem to be isolated and not have many American friends. She also suggested offering these students more informational education and language practice.   

Students also participated in the discussion. Jason Ashley, a citizenship and civic engagement and political science junior, said he would like the university to set up Fridays without classes. He said no-class Friday did not mean that Friday should be for parties and going out. “No classes on Friday is offering us something like going to conferences or holding conferences,” he said, adding that these could lead to collaborations between students and faculty and create a greater sense of community.

Elizabeth Kahn, an advertising senior, said that no class on Friday would provide students collaborative opportunities on that day. “I think making Friday as mandatory as a class day is sort of not really fair.”

The town hall session was taped and will be shared with the Steering Committee members who did not attend the session, Kavajecz said.

“Students are great sources of our innovation, so listening to students’ ideas is a good way for us to know which direction we should go,” Kavajecz said in an interview after the forum. “I hope everybody can feel as a big part of the community personally.”


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