Making Sense of ‘Scholarship in Action’

At Syracuse University, our chancellor Nancy Cantor’s vision for the University is labelled ‘Scholarship in Action.’ Chancellor Cantor uses many catchphrases to explain this vision, such as “Education for the world, in the world,” and “Education that comes out of the ivory tower and into the community.” This vision and its buzzwords are the butt of many a joke on the Syracuse campus. I often hear “Scholarship in Action? Oh, that doesn’t mean anything! It’s pointless!” But I’m one of the probable few at Syracuse who actually find this vision relevant and even valuable to our college educational experience.

The catchphrases that Chancellor Cantor loves to include in her promotion of Scholarship in Action sum it up nicely–the vision is truly about “Education for the world, in the world.” The mission is to not limit education to the classroom, but to instead give students real-world, hands-on experience in their desired field, all while doing some good work in the community, too. In higher education, it can be easy to remain isolated in the “ivory tower,” and forget that the University is closely connected with the surrounding area. As students, we attend college to earn a degree, with the goal of doing work that will somehow be beneficial to people. Engineers, teachers, architects, musicians–and yes, even lawyers–all contribute to society and the greater good in some meaningful way. Scholarship in Action seeks to give students experience contributing to this good as an integral part of the educational experience. If the work we do benefits both ourselves and society as a whole while we are in school, it will become even more valuable after graduation, when we enter the ‘real world’ and get a job in our desired field.

Scholarship in Action manifests itself in a number of ways at Syracuse. Many degree programs offer (or even require) a credit-granting internship that requires work within the Syracuse community. The Say Yes to Education program offers students real-world experience with children–something that is beneficial to both the community and the SU students gaining experience relevant to their desired career. This style of education is good for both those doing the work, and those receiving the benefits of that work.

Although Scholarship in Action might seem like a vague, intangible thing–even ridiculous, to some people–it is something that is incredibly well-intentioned and truly unique to the community of higher education. It serves as a constant reminder that our education is for a purpose other than just a degree with our name on it. I would like to take my education out into the real world this fall, and perhaps do some light volunteer work for local political campaigns. Doing so would be fulfilling, and give my education a deeper sense of purpose.

So, before you’re quick to dismiss Scholarship in Action as not serious, or make a joke about how pointless it is, remember that we are all driven by a purpose to make a difference in some way, and that this vision could help you achieve that goal. I applaud Chancellor Cantor, and I hope that she continues to lead us down this innovative path.

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