Fall 2018 Academic Strategic Plan Progress

December 20, 2018

Dear Campus Colleagues:

As we prepare to disperse from campus for the winter break, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all your hard work this semester in your roles as teachers, mentors, researchers and dedicated staff. It has been another busy semester, and I hope you have found it to be productive and rewarding.

Much of our work this fall has continued to focus on progress toward implementing key goals and priorities of the University’s Academic Strategic Plan. We have made strides in a number of areas, many of them cutting across one or more of the plan’s six overarching themes. In particular during these last several months, we have worked to strategically enhance and enrich the student experience, grow our ranks of outstanding faculty, and expand research activity and opportunities among scholars from undergraduates to doctoral candidates.

I’d like to offer some highlights of our progress in priority areas:

As you know, this fall we took initial steps toward establishing a common shared first-year experience for all new students. One of the centerpieces of this fall’s effort was the shared reading of “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime,” and engaging students in dialogue around the themes he raises that may resonate with their own unique experiences. This was a collaborative effort that brought together faculty, staff and students as facilitators for these conversations. I am grateful to all who took part, whether in the planning process or as dialogue leaders. Student feedback has been primarily positive, and we will take what we have learned from this initial effort to inform our work toward formalizing a consistent, comprehensive and compelling first-year experience course.

We also have worked hard this fall, and will continue to do so into the future, to further enhance efforts to foster a more respectful, inclusive and diverse campus community. Early this fall, more than 300 faculty participated in three-hour workshops titled “Inclusive Teaching in the Classroom and Beyond” to enhance self-awareness, detect unconscious bias and promote practical strategies that can be applied in the classroom. The workshops were well received, and while they were initially planned for those teaching anchor courses for first-year students, they also engaged faculty from several of the schools and colleges.

The University also has made some key appointments to amplify resources and support for sustaining an inclusive and diverse campus environment. Keith Alford was named interim chief diversity officer, and I appointed Jeff Mangram as provost faculty fellow to further advance strategies, such as the aforementioned workshops, to enhance inclusive teaching skills.

These and other efforts speak to our long-standing commitment and firm belief that diversity and inclusion are essential to our capacity to deliver an outstanding academic experience and prepare our graduates to thrive in the workplace and the world.

Of course, faculty are critical to achieving our academic goals, and strategically strengthening their ranks continues to be a priority. Most recently, we have worked to do so via cluster hires. This is a critical component of the strategic plan that will strengthen our position as an R1 research university, help us attract talented and diverse faculty interested in working across disciplines, and generate innovative multidisciplinary research opportunities for students.

After six months of collaborative work by hundreds of faculty, administrators and staff, we have concluded the first round in the cluster hire process, identifying seven clusters where new faculty hires will help us expand key areas of excellence. We approved funding for a total of 53 new positions—supplemental to our traditional department hiring—for those clusters.

I am excited about the opportunities these new hires will generate in terms of collaborative scholarship and student research activity, and their potential to further raise our academic profile in distinctive areas of strength.

Along those same lines, this fall we also launched our first-ever Center for Undergraduate Research. This center quadruples central University support for research and creative work by undergraduates—opportunities that will help us recruit and retain outstanding student scholars and prepare them for post-graduate success.

We also have worked to expand funding support for doctoral students via the newly created Research Excellence Graduate Funding program. This program, with support from Invest Syracuse, will provide $750,000 annually to help fund approximately 30 additional doctoral students each year. It will expand access to doctoral education at Syracuse; help advance high-impact research opportunities; and support the University’s goal of increasing doctoral degree conferrals within high-performing programs.

These are just some of the key areas where we have marked progress toward achieving our strategic goals this semester. There is much more to do, and I look forward to continuing our work together through next spring and beyond.

In the meantime, thank you for all you have done to help move these and other key initiatives forward and for all you do to advance academic excellence here at Syracuse. I wish you and your families a joyous holiday season and a restful and restorative winter break.


Michele G. Wheatly

Vice Chancellor and Provost
Office of Academic Affairs


Provost’s Summer Update to Syracuse University Community

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

With Commencement ceremonies behind us, we are focused on the work ahead to prepare for the next academic year. Chancellor Syverud promised that he and other senior leaders would provide updates on our ongoing work throughout the summer. I am pleased to provide our progress on several important issues.

Student Conduct Process for Theta Tau
•  The student conduct process is ongoing. We expect the process will reach a conclusion in the next few weeks, at which time we will provide an update.

Greek Life Review
•  The contract for the external review is being prepared and is expected to be complete by June 1.

First-Year Experience
•  A Universitywide steering committee is currently working to develop a plan to enhance first-year forum/seminars/courses for implementation in fall 2018. The committee will then develop a long-term plan to establish a unified first-year experience course for all Syracuse University students that can be presented to the Senate Curriculum Committee before December 2018.
o  The steering committee is composed of student representative Jessie Santillan, University Senate Curriculum Committee Chair Kira Reed, University Senate Diversity Committee Chair James Duah-Agyeman, representatives from each school and college and representatives from the Division of Enrollment and the Student Experience. Amanda Nicholson and Rochelle Ford are co-chairing the committee.
•  Damon A. Williams, leader of the National Inclusive Excellence Leadership Academy, will work with the University during the coming months to support the redesign of the first-year experience program. Damon is a national expert on diversity and inclusion and visited campus last fall during his Inclusive Excellence Tour. He met with University leaders yesterday and today, and will continue throughout the summer.
•  Resources and professional development opportunities related to diversity, inclusion, health and wellness are being prepared for all instructors teaching first-year seminars, courses and forums.
•  All first-year course instructors will participate in professional development this summer on creating a culturally responsive classroom.

Faculty Resources
•  On-campus interviews have been held for the director of the new Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. We expect to extend an offer to the selected candidate by June 5. The center will help faculty integrate issues related to diversity, bias and cultural sensitivity into coursework and reading selections.
•  New funding is being provided for research and scholarship activities related to diversity, accessibility and inclusivity, including:
o  $1.67 million in Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) grants awarded to 90 projects. The funding effort supports faculty research in all disciplines, including basic, translational and applied sciences; social sciences; physical and life sciences; engineering; liberal arts and humanities; and professional studies, as well as creative research and other scholarly activities.
o  We recently announced funding—via our Unsurpassed Student Experience Diversity and Inclusion Grant Program—for eight new projects relating to student programming that will help enhance and sustain an inclusive, accessible and respectful campus community for all. The program supports universal design practices among faculty and other initiatives that expand awareness of and appreciation for differences.

Student Resources
•  The Counseling Center has hired two of the four new staff therapists who will start this summer.
•  Six graduate student trainees have been hired to work with the Counseling Center beginning in August.

Graduate Student Resources
•  We are investing in new digital learning platforms to reach post-traditional students, including veterans and military-connected families. Improvements in health insurance coverage, stipend increases for graduate assistants and additional support for career and professional development will help us attract and retain a more diverse graduate student body.
•  The Graduate School will hire two new staff members this summer to support graduate professional and career development. We have a new person hired as of this week and are interviewing for the associate director position in two weeks.

Disability Audit
•  The Disability Audit Steering Committee is refining a draft of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to engage a consultant and expects to complete the document this week.

Equal Opportunity and Title IX
•  One of two new Title IX investigators has been hired: Melanie Cuevas-Rodriguez will investigate complaints of discrimination and harassment, assist with employee relations issues and ensure compliance with Equal Opportunity policies.
•  Interviews for the second Title IX investigator position are ongoing. On-campus interviews are expected to occur within the next couple weeks.

•  The Division of Marketing and Communications is currently assessing its organizational design and structure. The planned reorganization will prioritize the development of an internal communications team charged with communicating directly to the campus community, leveraging channels most frequently used by students, faculty and staff.
•  The division will also create a student advisory communications council, the members of which will serve in an advisory capacity to the chief communications officer. This council will be established in September 2018.

Our next update will be June 14.


Michele G. Wheatly
Vice Chancellor and Provost