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95-year-old Maxwell School welcomes its first freshman class

August 27, 2019

Class of 2023In many ways, the Maxwell School Class of 2023 will finish their studies at Syracuse University nearly indistinguishable from previous classes. As graduates of both the Maxwell School and the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), they will have earned their social science degree—with a shared spirit of public service and the knowledge, skills and confidence to make positive contributions in their communities around the world. It will be the same as it has been for nearly a century for tens of thousands of social science graduates of Syracuse University.

However, the students arriving this week begin their academic journey as no others before them have—as first-year Maxwell students. Beginning this fall, for the first time ever, students planning to major in the social sciences applied and were admitted directly to the Maxwell School. Prior to this, students applied to A&S, and they became a Maxwell student only if they declared a Maxwell major, usually sometime around the end of their sophomore year.

The Maxwell School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Carol Faulkner explains, “We wanted to change how we engage with prospective undergraduates around the social sciences at Syracuse University. The new application process enables us to tell our story more powerfully and to articulate more clearly the benefits of a liberal arts education delivered jointly by A&S and Maxwell.”

One year into the effort, the impact has been dramatic. According to Dennis Nicholson, assistant dean of admissions for Syracuse University, the “intentional leveraging” of the Maxwell brand with undergraduates plus related enhancements helped lead an increase in the quality and quantity of social science students accepting admission to Syracuse University, with the number of deposits increasing 20% to 383 and average SAT scores increasing 12 points over last year at this time.

“The Maxwell School’s strong reputation for disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship that is domestic, global, and public affairs and policy oriented continues to contribute to our ranking as the #1 school for graduate education in public affairs in the country,” adds Dean David M. Van Slyke. “We’re gratified that the Chancellor and the University’s Trustees encouraged Maxwell to launch an effort to better explain what this means to potential undergraduates and to find meaningful ways to welcome and support them as Maxwell students from the very beginning of their academic journey. Dean Ruhlandt’s support and collaboration has contributed to this transition being successful.”

These recruitment, enrollment and admissions changes are matched by additional improvements within the undergraduate student experience. Enrolled students now benefit from a new assistant dean of student success who reports to the deans of both A&S and the Maxwell School, as well as a revamped Office of Undergraduate Academic and Career Advising. These resources complement departmental faculty and staff who mentor students.

In addition, Syracuse University has invested $1 million in the new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (The SOURCE) housed within the Bird Library, which provides a new source of funding and support for undergraduate scholarship. The Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship, an annual Maxwell tradition, showcases the work of undergraduates across departments with a poster session, awards ceremony for best posters and papers, and a reception.

New study spaces especially for undergraduate students have been created, in part, to welcome this influx of Maxwell admits; and the Maxwell/Eggers complex is now accessible 24 hours a day with additional access to study spaces in the Eggers Café and the Academic Village.

“We’re all excited to welcome these promising young students to Maxwell,” adds Faulkner. “It’s going to be much more clear that undergraduates are a central part of Maxwell, and Maxwell is a central part of Syracuse University for undergraduates.”


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