kent syverud

Deans, faculty optimistic about Syverud’s experience, background

Looking forward without forgetting the past. These words reflect how Kathleen Joyce feels about the university’s transition into a new administration.

Syracuse University officials announced Thursday that Kent Syverud, current dean of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, would replace Nancy Cantor as SU’s chancellor on Jan. 13, 2014. Cantor, after roughly 10 years, will leave to become the chancellor of Rutgers University’s Newark campus. Syverud will serve as the 12th chancellor in the school’s 143-year history.

Joyce, assistant dean for student recruitment in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, has experienced the work of three out of the 12 chancellors. As a ’97 alumna, she was an undergraduate student during Melvin Eggers’ administration, and then worked at SU beginning with Kenneth “Buzz” Shaw’s tenure. Joyce said she believes the SU community owes a great deal of “gratitude and respect” to Cantor as she served as an example of a strong, dedicated leader.

But despite her sadness at Cantor’s departure, Joyce said she believes Syverud will be a “breath of fresh air” for the university, bringing a newfound perspective to the administration the school hasn’t experienced before, especially with Syverud’s legal background.

“I think we live in a very complex time, so having a legal perspective, I think in these tough times, that is a very good perspective to have,” Joyce said. “I was really excited by the caliber of the person they chose.”

Lorraine Branham, dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, said she has a long list of things she hopes Syverud will accomplish during his time at SU. But she thinks he will need time to become familiar with the university and its students before he can take on his goals.

Branham said she is confident in the search committee’s ability to understand and select the leader the university needs; a person who will take the university “to greater heights as a world class research institution” backed by strong professional schools and colleges.

“He is clearly smart and he has an impressive list of achievements, which I hope will translate into similar successes at Syracuse,” Branham said.

Eugene Poletsky, the chair of the mathematics department, agreed that where a person comes from is irrelevant. Rather, it is more important how one performs at his or her job.

He said Syverud’s credentials as a scholar, teacher and academic leader demonstrate his potential for excellence.

In his address at Hendricks Chapel on Thursday, Syverud mentioned a desire to develop a larger world presence for SU and a passion for students’ success. Poletsky said he believes the university’s national reputation is important because it will determine the quality and quantity of incoming students.

“If you want to improve the national recognition, you have to also select the best faculty to teach the students, so without a doubt it is a very prestigious goal,” Poletsky said.

From the math department’s perspective, Poletsky said, he hopes to see Syverud improve the university’s academic standards and broaden student research opportunities. He said he believes strengthening student research opportunities will maximize student success both within their academics and later in their field.

Although he couldn’t attend Syverud’s address in Hendricks, Thomas Keck, the chair of the political science department in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, watched the speech online and said he thought Syverud’s remarks seemed genuine and thoughtful and demonstrated a “real energy and commitment to the enterprise.”

He said Syverud’s connections to upstate New York will also serve him well during his leadership as chancellor. Keck said growing up in the area could provide Syverud with prior knowledge of SU’s academic reputation and will also provide him with a different insight into the university’s “broad and important role” in New York.

Joyce, the assistant dean for student recruitment in L.C. Smith, said she was also drawn to Syverud’s upstate New York upbringing.

“I think it takes a special kind of person to appreciate this region, and I think having experience growing up here shows that he’s not an outsider,” Joyce said.

During her time as an employee at SU, Joyce said she has learned that universities are complex, multifaceted organizations. But students will always be the focus, she said.

“I do hope that he will be visible. I hope we get to see him,” Joyce said. “I hope we get to know him as a chancellor but also as a person.”



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