kent syverud

Students on Chancellor Search Committee describe experience

All three student members of the chancellor search committee say they are thrilled with the Board of Trustees’ selection of Kent Syverud as the next leader of Syracuse University, whom the committee unanimously recommended.

“I think that Chancellor Syverud is going to do an amazing job,” said PJ Alampi, a senior film major. “We really fell into the right shoes with him.”

SU announced on Thursday through a campus-wide email the Board of Trustees had unanimously selected Syverud as the school’s 12th chancellor. Syverud, who is the dean of Washington University’s School of Law in St. Louis, will start on Jan. 13, 2014. He will succeed current Chancellor Nancy Cantor.

The students discussed how they felt about Syverud, how they approached the search process as well as their overall experience serving on the committee.

For Alampi, Syverud understood and saw the importance in student life on campus, but balanced this with his experience in academics.

The fact that Syverud understood the structure of the university — and his Rochester, N.Y., roots — really stood out to him. Alampi said Syverud is also passionate and understands the traditions of the university.

Ivan Rosales, a junior in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, said as an undergraduate member of the committee his role involved focusing on what the student body thought would be best.

He heard student input that included how they wanted someone who could improve academic achievement at SU which, he said, is at a good place but could be even better.

Providing as many opportunities and resources at SU as possible was also something he said students were looking for in a leader. You could tell with Syverud that he wanted a better SU, Rosales said. There isn’t one answer to what this means, he said, adding this includes course variety, having more professors and rankings.

Rosales said there was a “unanimous excitement” among committee members about Syverud.

After the second round of interviews “we were blown out of the water,” Rosales said. “We knew that’s who we wanted.”

Rosales said they were also looking for someone who could move SU forward as a research institution, something Patrick Neary said Syverud emphasized.

Neary, a doctoral candidate in the mathematics department and president of the Graduate Student Organization, said Syverud’s views on research were honest and refreshing.

The federal government isn’t paying for research, especially in areas such as science, as much as in the past, Neary said. Syverud stressed the importance of improving research in some parts of the university and innovative ways of paying for it, he said, which is exciting as a graduate student.

Neary said he approached serving on the committee as representing the different experiences of graduate students on campus, but looked at what was best for the entire university at the same time.

During the search process, Neary said Syverud talked about how he planned on spending his first few months to a year as chancellor gathering information on what students, faculty and administrators at the university want.

“Personally, I really wanted to see that much more than someone who was kind of coming in and telling us, ‘I’m going to x, y and z,’” he said. “Because maybe we don’t want x, y and z,” adding that no one the committee interviewed said they would ignore what others thought.

Syverud was very honest, humble and transparent, Neary said.

Throughout the search process, Neary said, he was impressed by his level of access to people who run the university, and that he’s gained a better understanding of what their priorities are and why certain decisions are made. This is helpful for his role as GSO president, he said.

Said Neary: “It was an absolutely fantastic experience.”

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