First Class

Maxwell always served undergraduate social science students. But, for this fall’s incoming class, admission to Maxwell is direct and the “Maxwell freshman” is official.

Undergraduates at Maxwell — including these students in this spring’s intro policy studies class — are officially students of both Maxwell and the College of Arts and Sciences.

If, during the past year, you applied to enter Syracuse University for the fall 2019 semester — and you were planning to major in the social sciences — you did something remarkable: You checked a box that said “Maxwell School.”

Beginning this fall, for the first time ever, students planning to major in the social sciences have been admitted directly to Maxwell. They will still pursue their liberal arts degrees in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, but they will arrive explicitly as Maxwell students.

At the very least, this will reduce confusion. Maxwell was known for decades as a graduate school of public affairs that also provided undergraduate social science programs to A&S students. Social science majors are, in fact, “students of both Maxwell and the College of Arts and Sciences,” explains Carol Faulkner, Maxwell’s associate dean for academic affairs. “We really want to highlight that these students are Maxwell students.”

But the impacts of direct admission are expected to be far more profound than eliminating confusion. For example, communication with prospective students that highlights Maxwell is already proving to draw more and better social science students; they understand better the legacy they have an opportunity to join. It’s expected, also, that when they arrive their student experience will benefit from immediate connection to the School and its undergraduate opportunities. And as alumni their sense of identity and shared values will coalesce.

“It’s going to be much more clear that Maxwell is a central part of the Syracuse University experience for undergraduates,” says Faulkner. More than ever, students will understand that “if they’re interested in the social sciences, citizenship, policy, politics, or international relations, this is the place to be.”

“We really want to highlight that these students are Maxwell students.”
Associate Dean Carol Faulkner

Maxwell leadership is now directly involved in undergraduate recruitment and advising. This winter, the admissions staff for SU and A&S worked closely with the Maxwell dean’s office to better articulate academic opportunities at Maxwell. For enrolled students, the A&S advising team includes a new assistant dean of student success who reports to the deans of both A&S and Maxwell. Plus, this year Maxwell presents its first Leadership Scholars Program, which offers top undergraduates a substantial merit-based award, research stipend, guaranteed admission to the Honors Program, priority consideration for Maxwell’s graduate programs, and more.

The impact on admissions was dramatic, according to Denny Nicholson, until recently director of recruiting for A&S. He says the “intentional leveraging” of the Maxwell brand in communicating with prospective students — plus enhancements in the application process and the addition of the Leadership Scholars — has augmented the quantity and the quality of students applying for Maxwell-based majors. (The number of students accepting admission rose this spring from 319 to 380, an increase of almost 20 percent. Average SAT scores jumped 15 points.) “We are extremely excited about the early success,” he says.

With this program in place, there should never again exist a social science undergraduate uncertain about his or her status. Current junior Nick Rogers, for example, learned about Maxwell while a high school student in New Hampshire planning to major in international relations. Like all undergrads, though, he applied to SU’s College of Arts and Sciences and chose IR from a list of degree options. “My peers and I,” he says, “were always wondering whether or not you could ‘put the Maxwell School on your résumé,’ so to speak.”

In his junior year, Rogers did begin to identify strongly with Maxwell — and, in fact, he is continuing at Maxwell for his master’s degree, also in IR. Despite his original confusion, affiliation with the School grew organically, if uncertainly. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by the close relationship between Maxwell’s graduate programs and the undergraduate social science degrees,” Rogers says. “I’m glad to see that the connection is becoming more explicit.”

By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

This article appeared in the spring 2019 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail