kent syverud

Man on the street: Syverud aims to connect with SU community

Chase Gaewski | Managing Editor

Chancellor Syverud discusses his initial time at SU, including his interactions with students.

On his first day as chancellor, Kent Syverud made his way to the Schine Student Center to have lunch among the students of Syracuse University. He doesn’t want to be a “clueless 57 year old;” he wants to be someone who understands what life is like for an undergraduate student at SU.

He talked with students, many of whom were surprised to see their new chancellor at Schine, about what their SU experience is like. It’s important, Syverud said, that he knows what life is like at SU for every student, not just a select few.

Though some things, like living in a dorm, haven’t changed since Syverud was an undergraduate student, others certainly have. People think that today’s college students have it easy because of technology, he said, but in reality, it makes their life more stressful because they’re unable to disconnect from their various responsibilities with extracurricular activities. Syverud said students today seem older than he was when he was in college.

“It’s been sobering at times because I’d forgotten how many stresses are involved in being simultaneously a student, a reporter, a president of something, a person trying to figure out your love life, all those things happening at the same time. I just forgot what the stress was like, plus waiting for a washing machine,” he said.

While his work as dean of the law school at Washington University at St. Louis differs from the work he’ll be doing as chancellor at SU, there are specific skills that he will bring with him to deal with issues SU also faces, like fundraising, admissions, job placement and communication.


But he realizes that the two universities are different. He is not trying to make SU another Washington University.

“Syracuse is Syracuse and Wash U is Wash U,” he said. “I would never want Syracuse to be Wash U.”

His desire to understand the way of student life at SU led him to live in the Brewster, Boland, Brockway residence complex earlier last month. He wanted to experience the way students live and also have the opportunity to engage with students without a flock of public relations officials around him.

Syverud said he’s still enjoying his relative anonymity, as it gives him the ability to approach students more casually and have a more relaxed conversation with them.

He met students when he did his laundry in the dorms and when he was looking for a late-night snack. He said he heard several laments from students about Taco Bell, which was removed from the Kimmel Dining Center in fall 2012. He learned that “a lot happens after midnight,” though very little of it happens in the student center.

After completing his first day meeting and greeting students on campus, Syverud said he hopes to spend the rest of his first week thoughtfully planning and prepping for upcoming events, like his first board meeting; trying to get the boxes in his new downtown apartment unpacked and getting his dog Lucky, who he adopted from a shelter 14 ½ years ago, acclimated to Syracuse.

He’s been enjoying walking Lucky around his new neighborhood of Armory Square, where she’s eager to make friends.

“She’s a good natured dog, and the greatest danger she poses to anyone is that she’ll lick them to death,” Syverud said. “She likes people, so she’s been walking up to strangers in Armory Square waiting to be petted.”

One of the biggest things he has noticed in his time in Syracuse so far is that the people here are good people. Everyone wants to be helpful and is “unified by caring about this place.”

And Syverud is working to show he cares about this place, too, by striving to learn everything he can about what it’s like to be an SU student and figuring out what the university needs. For now, his overarching goal is to set the right tone and familiarize himself with the SU community.

“I am somebody who tries to be the same person in private as in public, and that means setting the right tone in every interaction and in everything I do. That’s a little hard because I don’t know the place fully yet, but I’m working on it,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”

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