Mark Grimm

 

Syracuse’s University Chancellor Is Unique

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Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud

Would you hold 30 events at your home to meet the staff? Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud (SIV-uh-rude) did. Convinced he should mostly listen in his first year (his tenure began January 2014), he invited 6,000 university employees to his home. About half, he said, took him up on the offer.

Syverud appeared before the Capital Region alumni chapter last week in Albany. He’s a warm, genuine person with a sense of humor. His eye-popping resume includes a time as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and he is a trustee of the $20 billion fund created by BP to pay claims arising from the Gulf oil spill.

“I’ve never been to a university that had so many niches,” Syverud said. He quizzed the audience on how many radio stations the university had (the answer is five). He pointed out 10,000 high school students took classes at S-U this past year, from all around the world. He underscored the school’s close ties with veterans. It has produced more generals and admirals than other university, except the service academies.

Syverud is candid about the high tuition (about $40,000/year) and the need to address it with savings. He discovered S-U had 11 different mobile phone contracts. It saved a quarter-million dollars by consolidating. Purchasing and travel practices needed updating. Organizational change must occur and technology must be better utilized to become more education savvy.

He didn’t skip over the scandal with the basketball program. Academic support for athletes is now under the Provost, not the athletic department.

Focused squarely on a “collective willingness” to meet the challenges posed, Syverud wants S-U to be a “student-powered’ university with wide scale collaboration.

I want us “to be the university that does change right,” he said.

Big task ahead. Big talent in charge.

The writer received a master’s degree in public communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

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