Unique Students Mean a Strong Syracuse

Dear Orange Friends:

Welcome to one of the most inspiring weeks of the year at Syracuse University. Thousands of first-year and transfer students will arrive on campus this week. Everything is new. Everything is about possibility. Each of our students brings a story, a biography, that is absolutely unique.

Sometimes, in the first days of school, those unique circumstances can leave you feeling lonely, or distant. Most of us who left for college for the first time can remember that feeling. There will be a legion of Syracuse University staff available—in cafeterias, in residence halls, in classrooms, in offices—to help make the transition a little easier.

Life is full of transitions. Many can be seen as rites of passage. Leaving for college is one of them.

Graduation will be next.

Just a few months ago, at Commencement, I stood on the Dome turf and told thousands of graduates—and the people who love them—a story about our mascot, Otto. It was relevant then, for our outgoing students embarking on the next chapter of their lives. It is just as relevant today, for our incoming students starting their academic careers at Syracuse University.

No one is more visible than Otto, on our campus. No one speaks as beautifully to our dreams, as a university community.

Even without speaking at all.

Otto reminds us that being unique is OK; that there is no true normal; that each of us—at our best—can be truly and powerfully individual.

What a perfect symbol for our aspirations. As it turns out, Otto is exactly like each of us. The qualities that make you exceptional are the qualities that make us strong, collectively. Each of you, under your own beautiful peel, is a wonderful, decent and unique individual.

I do not make this point lightly. It matters too much. Otto represents a core value at Syracuse—the paramount value of diversity, equity and inclusion. Syracuse University believes in the power of individual experience; it believes difference is a gift, the essence of growth and education; and it believes in the idea of many thousands, from many backgrounds, coming together as a whole.

Syracuse University has long been a national leader in inclusion, of a diverse student body. Maintaining and enhancing that diversity has been our standard and our imperative. In recent years, many of our peer universities have sought to replicate our success in this area, which has resulted in increased competition in attracting and enrolling a diverse student body.

While I am very pleased to see such strong improvement in enrollment among students of color at many of our individual schools and colleges, I am disappointed we saw a decline overall.

It serves as a reminder that we can and must do better. It is a reminder that Syracuse cannot rest on its laurels. It is a reminder that a diverse student body enhances the learning experience for every member of our community. It is a reminder that the sum of our parts is always stronger than who we are, individually.

This is a promise: Attracting a diverse student body remains a passion and a priority at this university.

If I need a model, a reminder, it will not be hard to find.

The beauty of difference, of acceptance….

To find it, I look to Otto.


Kent Syverud
Chancellor Kent Syverud