Faculty discuss promoting research, interdepartmental cooperation in last Fast Forward town hall

Monday's meeting was the last town hall forum organized to discuss Chancellor Kent Syverud's Fast Forward Syracuse initiative.

In the last of three town hall meetings, an audience of students, faculty and staff offered suggestions and comments about the Fast Forward strategic plan on Monday afternoon at Crouse-Hinds Hall.

Syracuse University community members discussed a variety of issues, including improving the academic reputation of the university, increasing outreach efforts among departments and developing research centers on campus. Fast Forward steering committee members Andria Costello Staniec, associate provost for academic programs, and Cristina Marchetti, the William R. Kenan, Jr. professor of physics, facilitated the meeting. They encouraged participants to highlight positive aspects of the university to improve and focus on.

Fast Forward, led by Chancellor Kent Syverud, is a university-wide initiative aiming to provide strategic direction and framework for the future of SU, according to its website. The three components of the initiative are a strategic plan, a campus master plan and an operational excellence plan.

One key area of focus at Monday’s meeting was research. Jill Hurst-Wahl, an associate professor in the School of Information Studies, proposed a venue for students and faculty to contribute information about their research. “It’s wonderful when you look at an academic institution and you can see the research stand out,” Hurst-Wahl said. “We don’t do a good job of that.” She encouraged each school to talk about its research efforts.

Kate Hanson, an assistant director of scholarship and fellowship preparation under the Renee Crown Honors Program, said she saw a real need for a central office for coordinating undergraduate research. “A centralized funding mechanism would really benefit our students and collaborating with faculty on research,” Hanson said.

Others spoke about the need to enhance the school’s reputation as an academic research institution. Laura Lautz, an associate professor of earth sciences, said the university can invest in interdisciplinary programs and collaborating with other academic departments.

“Pick areas of the university that are poised for success and make strategic investments in those areas so we can brand ourselves in those units,” Lautz said.

Patrick Jones, a professor of music and the director of the Setnor School of Music, said he sees many faculty members receiving grants everyday on the SU News page. He posed the question of how to better sell the university’s academic success.

“I’m really proud of being a faculty here,” Jones said. “Do we trumpet the great things that are already happening on campus?”

Many attendees stressed working with other academic departments as a way to promote SU’s academic possibilities.

“Everyone is used to working their own offices as opposed to reaching out and across,” said Sharon Alestalo, a program manager for WiSE, or Women in Science and Engineering. “Work across academic departments, administrative departments and support departments.” Alestalo suggested people look beyond academic departments, as opportunities do not solely exist there.

Another point of contention during the town hall was SU’s vision and mission statements. The current vision statement, according to the Fast Forward website, is: “Syracuse University is a student-focused global research University renowned for academic rigor, richly diverse learning experiences, and a spirit of discovery.”

Some audience members asked how the university defined academic rigor, and if that was related to school rankings. Others suggested the university should weave diversity into the mission and vision statement and not treat it as a separate issue.

Paul Hagenloh, an associate professor of history in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, invited the steering committee to step up, show leadership and help define what’s special about SU.

“The community-driven bureaucratic process may overlook the reality that Syracuse is a unique place and has a particular history.” Hagenloh said. “There has to be leadership to step up and say this is what’s special about Syracuse University.”

At the end of the town hall, Staniec and Marchetti encouraged everyone to go on the Fast Forward website, where people can make additional suggestions. They said the steering committee would pay careful attention to all the suggestions put forward in the town hall Monday.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.