Day of Conversation invites campus input on Strategic Plan findings

The day consisted of three meetings, all meant to provide findings to the campus community and get input as to how to achieve their goals.

The chairs of seven working groups presented a long list of their findings and recommendations Wednesday at Goldstein Auditorium in Schine Student Center during “A Day of Conversation,” part of Fast Forward Syracuse’s Academic Strategic Plan.

The meeting, open to anyone in the campus community, had three sessions throughout the day with as much participation as possible. Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Elizabeth Liddy introduced the meeting as well as the chairs or co-chairs of each of the seven working groups, who presented on their findings and recommendations. The groups were commissioned at the onset of Fast Forward Syracuse, a program started when Chancellor Kent Syverud took office and focused on bettering the university in all aspects. Each group met every week for six months in the lead-up to this presentation of their discoveries.

“We will be sharing with you, but the most important part is when you will be sharing with us.”
-Elizabeth Liddy

There were tables set up for students and faculty to discuss the plan with the members of the working groups after their presentations. There were also computers set up and workers walking around with iPads so that attendees may provide feedback online.

“Your voice is very, very important to us,” Liddy said to the crowd at Goldstein Auditorium. “We will be sharing with you, but the most important part is when you will be sharing with us.”

Liddy said that the strategic plan would ideally carry the university through the next 10 years.

“The strategic plan provides the framework on which we can pin all our goals, our actions, our plans,” Liddy said. “The focus of our academic strategic plan is on quality, excellence, reputation, and relevance, and always with the focus on teaching, learning and research with undergraduate and graduate students always in mind.”

Liddy said that as academic and job competition is increasing, the ability to pay for education is getting more challenging and research funding is decreasing. She called their approach “bold yet achievable.”

“It sounds like a pretty dire picture," Liddy said. "But it doesn’t necessarily have to be.” 

Liddy called the campus participation “remarkable” so far, with many interviews, surveys, focus groups, retreats and open forums held to gather as much input as possible from faculty, students, alumni and parents, with over 1000 inputs so far.

The groups presented many recommendations, including the university developing a competency-based core curriculum, better professional development for teaching, more incentive for innovative teaching, research centers for undergraduate and especially minority students and stronger recruitment for more veteran students and faculty. The group also recommended increasing the amount of undergraduate students who go abroad to 55 percent by making the programs more affordable, and getting better resources for international students and moving all paper-based systems online.

The plan has specific ways of achieving these and other goals, but will still be collecting input and feedback from all in the campus community, said Liddy.

Sherburne Abbott, professor, vice president of Sustainability Initiatives and co-chair of the innovation working group, applauded Syracuse’s history of firsts in her presentation, although he does think communication has to increase on campus to students and faculty for anything to be accomplished.

“There’s a history of the willingness to innovate and the capacity to change quickly,” Abbott said. 

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, professor and chair of the political science department in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the co-chair of the internationalization working group, also spoke about the nature of separate factions of the university.

“To do all these things, we need a better administrative structure,” Boroujerdi said. “There is so much happening on this campus and yet Unit A doesn’t know what’s happening with Unit B.”

Bouroujerdi said they came up with ideas to address these issues and put everything “under one roof,” which will be outlined in the draft of the plan.

Liddy said that the groups will be taking feedback from these meetings and the website until March 6, and then writers will spend the month writing the draft of the plan to be ready by early April. The draft will be available to everyone in the campus community, and the groups will again ask for feedback. In late April, they will get revised drafts to Syverud and in May, to the Board of Trustees.

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