Syracuse University: Translating Insight to Impact

Our nation’s research universities share a common goal. We strive to shape the future—as institutions, as educators and as leaders—through insight, discovery and engagement. At Syracuse University, this journey has been fueled by bold thinking, collaboration and a commitment to changing lives. We strive to make valuable contributions in research, transform the student experience and create global learning opportunities for students.

April 5, 2020

Insight: Cluster hiring is a proven strategy for producing research programs that tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Syracuse University’s unprecedented investment in faculty—including hiring for 10 cross-disciplinary cluster areas that can have a transformational impact on society—will enrich our campus with more innovators, thinkers and educators with a passion for making an impact.

Impact:  Charting a New Course for Living Systems and Dynamic Materials

Bringing together disciplines in the life sciences and materials sciences, Syracuse University’s BioInspired Institute focuses on strengths in three distinct areas: drug discovery, smart materials, and the biomechanics of how cells and tissues interact with each other and the environment to cause disease or developmental problems. Collectively, the institute’s faculty have published in more than 100 prestigious journals and secured more than 80 patents. These innovators also serve as valued advisors to industry and startups.

“The BioInspired Institute is an idea that came from a large group of faculty on campus who believe that we have a unique perspective on how materials and living systems interact,” says Lisa Manning, William R. Kenan Professor of Physics and director of the institute. “By having engineers and scientists of all kinds communicating with one another with a goal of trying to fix a problem, you come up with new ideas that you never would have had if just one person’s set of training was applied to the problem.”

The institute features faculty from Syracuse University and other area institutions. Through collaboration and by drawing on a range of expertise, researchers are examining ways to take on deadly, drug-resistant bacteria, stop the spread of cancer cells and treat massive bone injuries that happen to soldiers in combat.

Jay Henderson, associate professor of biomedical and chemical engineering and biology, is the inventor of a completely new type of material called an enzyme-responsive shape memory polymer. “We designed a material that changes shape when it is exposed to a particular enzyme that is present in some cells—in this case those found in the liver,” Henderson says. “We proved that a material could change shape in response to the presence and behavior of particular cells—without killing the cells. As a proof of concept, it’s very exciting.”

Now, Henderson has his sights set on aiding those wounded on the battlefield. “There are not great options for treating these injuries, which often involve metal hardware,” he says. “We are trying to figure out how we might use these shape changeable materials to stabilize a fracture and, potentially, have them carry a biologic treatment that could promote bone growth and healing.”

Insight:  Attention to student health and well-being is a critical factor for academic success.
Impact:  The Barnes Center at The Arch provides a “no wrong door” approach to health, wellness and recreation.

When Syracuse University opened the Barnes Center at The Arch, a state-of-the-art health, wellness and recreation complex, in fall 2019, it was a major step forward in the University’s commitment to ensuring student well-being. There’s no wrong door for students seeking health care, counseling and fitness training, it’s all in one central campus location. Our Barnes Center team empowers students to pursue a holistic, integrated approach to health and wellness encompassing mind, body, spirit and community. Through our stepped-care model, students can self-direct their own path to wellness, using resources available at any step in the process and seeking additional ones as needed.

Following its fall 2019 opening, recreation visits increased by 153 percent year compared to the previous fall semester, fitness class participation increased by 383 percent, and participation in wellness events increased by 19 percent. In addition, health care appointments totaled nearly 14,300, visits to the pet therapy room exceeded 4,400, and the esports gaming room logged more than 11,000 visits.

“The level of integration that we’re building is totally unique,” says Cory Wallack, executive director of student health and wellness. “As people become more accepting of the idea that wellness includes mind, body and activity, there are campuses across the country that are bringing health and counseling together the way that we are. There’s nobody I’m aware of who’s bringing health, counseling, health promotion and recreation together.”

Insight: Study abroad is associated with improved completion and retention rates, academic achievement and the acquisition of skills that are valued by employers.
Impact: Syracuse Abroad’s top-ranked programs create global citizens. 

Syracuse University has a global student body, drawing from more than 125 countries, a dozen indigenous nations and every U.S. state and territory. Our students experience richly diverse perspectives on campus and around the world, gaining an appreciation of distinct cultures, interests and beliefs.

Syracuse Abroad, our international study program, partners with institutions worldwide to offer more than 100 programs in 60 countries. We have seven award-winning centers on three continents, and half of our students study abroad. In addition, we have 70 partner universities whose students participate in Syracuse Abroad programs in Europe, South America and Asia.

Justine Legg, a senior majoring in political science, policy studies, and citizenship and civic engagement at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, studied abroad at the University’s center in Strasbourg, France. She considered the experience a transformational part of her college journey. “I think college is an important time for students to get out of their comfort zones as much as possible, and studying abroad is a perfect way to do that,” she says. “It wasn’t always easy adjusting to a new way of life, but those challenges were where the most growth happened for me.”

Along with study abroad opportunities, many of our distinctive programs—including those in the School of Architecture, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Whitman School of Management—offer internationalized curricula, and global citizenship is a shared competency for all of our undergraduates.

Professor Todd Moss, chair of the Whitman School’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, is faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership, a unique interdisciplinary learning experience open to all graduate students enrolled in Syracuse University or SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The students take on sustainable challenges by participating in real-world projects. Students traveled to Mexico to collaborate with a restaurant group, exploring ways to eliminate single-use plastics from restaurants and researching how global online consumer sales of a premium coffee can benefit the producers, a cooperative that supplies the group. Other students focused on the future of work and labor practices in developing countries in light of advancements in autonomy and digitization. “The experience enables students to see outside of their own academic silos to solve real-world problems that cut across traditional boundaries,” Moss says.



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