Fast Forward Syracuse

Fast Forward Syracuse is a roadmap for the future and a guide to help ensure the success of the University in the context of a changing and challenging higher education environment. It’s a way to increase the value of the institution and the degree students earn. It’s about making choices to position and strengthen the University as a whole. Since its June 2014 launch, Fast Forward Syracuse has examined how we create academic excellence, invest in our priorities and establish a strong financial footing—while limiting the impact on student tuition and enhancing the student experience. Included in this campus-wide effort are three interrelated components that allow the University to build on its widely recognized strengths, yet identify areas for improvement.

Fast Forward Syracuse is a multi-year process with several planning and implementation goals:

  • creation of a Strategic Plan to lay out a common vision for Syracuse and clear investment in priority areas
  • development of a Campus Master Plan to address the University’s infrastructure needs to support a dynamic academic environment
  • implementation of the Operational Excellence Program to ensure the financial health of the University and help us operate more efficiently and effectively

Chancellor Kent Syverud is adding more than 20 seats on Fast Forward Syracuse work teams to provide additional undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to participate in the University-wide initiative. All three Fast Forward Syracuse components—the Strategic Plan, Campus Master Plan and Operational Excellence—will have additional space for student participants. Consideration will be given first to students who have previously submitted their contact information and expressed an interest in joining a work team. Students who are interested should email a resume or statement of interest to by Dec. 10.


Strategic Plan

With the help of the campus community, teams are working on a shared vision for the University and identifying clear academic priorities needed to achieve that vision. The Strategic Plan prioritizes the University as a whole—rather than focusing on specific schools, colleges, departments and support units, and it is intended to serve as a vehicle by which the University becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

An integral part of the Strategic Plan is the development of the University’s Vision and Mission statements. In order to address recent concerns, the team has extended the one-month period to invite feedback from the campus community on the University’s proposed Vision and Mission statements. The new feedback period follows outreach to the campus community in September and October that included campus-wide emails, consultation with student government bodies and two open fora.

To read the latest iterations of the proposed Vision and Mission statements, as revised by the Strategic Plan Steering Committee in October, please click here. Comments are welcome and encouraged until Dec. 13.

The Strategic Plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees for its consideration and approval in May 2015, after which it will become a “living plan” with routine assessment of progress toward key objectives and regular revision to account for changes in our environment.


Campus Master Plan

The goal of the Campus Master Plan is to create a strategic framework and to equip the University with the building blocks it needs to agilely respond to changing circumstances. This plan identifies projects that launch the University toward its long-term vision in a realistic and meaningful way. It also reinforces an effective planning process, driven by principles and data, that integrates multiple variables so that new campus scenarios can emerge as needed. Successful planning and implementation include ideas about learning and research; place and environment; people and collaboration.  They combine academic, financial and physical considerations to create urban design ideas that represent high-value capital investment opportunities that excite broad and diverse stakeholder groups.  Further, the goal must be to ensure that mission drives the physical environment.

As previously announced, Syracuse University has partnered with Sasaki Associates to assist with campus planning and identify guidelines to better support the University’s academic and research mission. In October, more than 3,000 students, faculty and staff participated in an interactive mapping survey to help Sasaki Associates understand the nature of campus today and how it should develop and thrive for future use. Respondents cited a general sentiment of satisfaction with dining and on-campus housing options. Personal safety, parking and shuttle system were clear sources of concern. Survey results were shared with the community at campus meetings on Oct. 28. To watch the presentation and learn more about the MyCampus survey findings, click here.


Operational Excellence

Under Operational Excellence, the University is evaluating opportunities to deliver better levels of service to students, faculty and staff to improve the overall effectiveness of the University, and be good stewards of our students’ tuition dollars. The program embodies Chancellor Syverud’s belief that tuition should not fund administrative costs that do not provide direct value to students.

The Program Management Office (PMO) serves as the umbrella office coordinating and supporting the work of teams from across the campus that are focusing on achieving cost savings in such already-identified areas as procurement, business processes, development, office supplies, travel and human resources. The PMO has the responsibility to coordinate, track and monitor the implementation of administrative cost savings that will be reinvested in University priorities outlined in the Strategic Plan.

Now Fast Forward Syracuse work teams are zeroing in on the most promising areas to achieve immediate cost savings for the University. They are starting to design the actual process changes required to realize savings. The work on two of the 14 initiative teams is furthest along and cost savings to the University will begin to be realized in FY15. Additional communications will be announced shortly.

Printers and Copiers: With an installed base of about 2,000 printers and 400 copiers, the University will benefit from creating a campus purchasing policy, improving network security and standardizing the purchasing process. Specifically, the Printers and Copiers work team recommends standardizing printers and renegotiating contracts with preferred suppliers to enable the University to get the most from its spending. Using information to make better-informed decisions will provide long-term advantages and enable more sustainable use of printing devices and mobile print options down the road. Additional details will be forthcoming.

Office Supplies: The Office Supply work team is examining how the University can reduce office supply expenses, while maintaining choice and service levels. After listening to feedback from focus groups and benchmarking with peer universities, the team recommends faculty and staff take advantage of specially negotiated discounts available through its online market place. This process allows the Purchasing Department to more efficiently manage commonly used items and saves employees’ time spent comparison shopping. Additional details and instructions will be announced shortly.

These are just two examples of how teams are working to realize cost savings for the entire campus and help streamline operations so that we can allocate resources to better serve students.

The University is entering an important phase of its administrative reorganization and has focused on administrative structures and areas identified in the Innovation and Opportunities Assessment; it is not focused on academic programming, faculty affairs or classroom activities.

As mentioned above, teams are working first to streamline operations and reduce non-personnel costs (for example, the goods and services the University buys) because it’s the most direct way to manage costs without impacting personnel. Teams are also reviewing our administrative structures and looking for ways of reorganizing and being more efficient.

Since last summer, University leaders and administrative officers have been asked to reimagine their organizations based on best practices, peer institution reviews and changing needs. These teams are giving thoughtful analysis and insights into designing changes to better serve our students, manage our costs and focus on our priorities. Through this process, the University is being extremely careful not to make changes that in any way reduce levels of service to students. No specific savings percentages will be applied across the University. Any changes made will be based on the current, unique situation of each college or administrative unit.


What’s Ahead

The Program Management team is set to launch a refreshed Fast Forward Syracuse web site and continue to partner with campus communications channels to invite collaboration, insights and communicate progress. Further information about Strategic Plan priorities and work team progress will be shared. Sasaki Associates will return to campus and conduct focus groups and continue to learn about the University and its campus needs. Additional details about the Office Supplies and Printers and Copiers initiatives will be announced with further details about process updates and policy changes.

Every effort will be made to ensure there are ongoing opportunities for the University community to be engaged in a shared dialogue. In the coming months, faculty, staff and students may notice an increased volume of surveys soliciting input. Your participation is optional and voluntary, but encouraged to help teams focus their efforts and help the University operate more effectively and efficiently. To submit an idea, inquire about joining a work team, review the Vision or Mission statements, or read the latest updates, visit