Provost’s Charge

Message From Provost Ritter

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

As we look forward to the energy that comes with students returning to campus, I would like to recognize the important work so many individuals have accomplished this summer. I also want to give you a glimpse into the future of what lies ahead in the critical work of refreshing our Academic Strategic Plan.

You have certainly heard the Academic Strategic Plan described as a living document. It is a roadmap to a vision, with goals and milestones, but it is the “living” part that makes any strategic plan dynamic, timely and relevant. It requires deep reflection—especially from our faculty—to consider how today’s circumstances (and our notion of tomorrow’s needs) can affect the roadmap, strengthen the impact of our research and teaching and ensure a truly collective commitment to a shared, well-defined vision.

Already we have engaged academic leaders from across campus and in every school and college in preparatory work as we embark upon a rigorous process of strategic planning throughout the fall. The Academic Strategic Planning Preparation Working Group, co-chaired by Jamie Winders and Steve Bennett, and representative of a cross-section of faculty and staff, prepared a robust handbook to guide us through the process. Input into the handbook was comprehensive—involving interviews and a look back to the Academic Strategic Plan: Trajectory to Excellence, which enabled great growth since implementation began in 2016, positioning us well for a successful refresh.

The working group considered the many changes—cultural, economic, societal and governmental—that have affected our university and our world since then. These include a pandemic that greatly impacted teaching, learning and technology; a sea change in political culture and discourse in the U.S. and around the world; and social justice and equity issues that have adjusted the way we think about inclusion and opportunity for all members of our community.

Building on this foundation, the success of the refreshed Academic Strategic Plan will be defined by whether it meets the following criteria:

  • Broadly understood, relatively simple and widely agreed upon
  • Distinctive to Syracuse University
  • Aspirational but achievable
  • A guide for decision-making at every level
  • Coherent, in which the various parts work together
  • Clearly measurable for success
  • A living document, including a built-in process of review and adjustment

The refreshed Academic Strategic Plan will also incorporate deeply held shared values and guiding core principles and pillars that will shape the way we make decisions, identify and pursue our goals and objectives and ensure we stay on course to attain our vision. These core pillars and values will define the next set of working groups, which will form this month, through nominations from deans and other academic leaders to include students, faculty, staff and administrators.

Three core pillar groups will focus on shaping vision and strategy:

  • Research and Creative Excellence
  • Educational Excellence and Student Success
  • Public Impact

Intersecting the work in each of these pillar areas are four working groups. These four are formed around our shared and cross-cutting values to shape the process and implementation of the refreshed Academic Strategic Plan in these areas:

  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA)
  • Global Engagement
  • Enrollment Strategy
  • Resource Sustainability and Budgeting

These seven new working groups will meet regularly beginning in September and will continue their work until Thanksgiving. We will announce their membership shortly. These groups will work democratically and collaboratively while continuing to seek input from various stakeholders. I expect the members of each working group will bring fresh, innovative and forward-thinking ideas to their respective areas. Meanwhile, in the schools and colleges, the deans are preparing their own working groups to engage in strategic planning.

Each working group will schedule a series of campus conversations to curate as much feedback as possible. I will also hold a launch forum on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 2 p.m. in K.G. Tan Auditorium in the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building to provide an overview on the process, timeline, goals and ways all can be engaged. The event will be simultaneously webcast, as well as recorded, so that all can participate. I encourage everyone on campus to be involved in helping to shape the next iteration of the Academic Strategic Plan.

Ultimately, we plan to have a draft of the refreshed Academic Strategic Plan in January 2023, then to post it publicly for review and comment. We intend to finalize and begin implementation of the Academic Strategic Plan later in the spring, well before the end of the academic year. It is critical that we achieve these deliverables. The colleges and schools can then use the draft as a guide to refresh and align their respective strategic plans by the end of 2023. Our goal is to give each college and school a framework for deciding what changes to make, what new initiatives to pursue, which existing efforts to phase out and how to thoughtfully allocate resources.

I am optimistic about the task ahead. I’m also confident in our campus community’s ability to collaborate, create and achieve new goals and, most importantly, to delineate the strategies we should pursue to get us to those goals. Along the way, we will surely redefine academic excellence as we currently understand it and enhance our vision for a University that is truly distinctive, accessible and welcoming to all.


Gretchen Ritter
Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer