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Major Focus

Throughout its 150-year history, Syracuse University has created programs of study that provide a strong academic foundation with an eye toward the future.

Student photographers
Newhouse students polish their photography skills in The Fall Workshop 2019.

In Syracuse University’s earliest days, undergraduates earned degrees in the liberal arts, architecture, painting, music and civil engineering. Commencement programs from the first two decades show students honored for researching thesis topics on universal suffrage, the practical value of chemistry, “The Saloon in American Politics,” “Longfellow’s Rank as a Poet,” “Hypnotism in Medieval and Modern Times” and “Will Canada Be Annexed?”

Today, the University offers more than 200 undergraduate majors—some that have existed in name since the earliest days, others that have emerged only in recent years. Biology, psychology and economics remain popular majors. Many students double major, and there’s an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. The College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs offer a number of integrated learning majors (ILM), each of which combines a traditional major with coursework in an applied or multidisciplinary field. Among the options: forensic science; energy and its impacts; and environment, sustainability and policy. Starting last fall, students can declare an ILM in digital humanities or health humanities.

Chris Johnson, associate provost for academic affairs, cites the University welcoming thousands of World War II veterans in 1946 under the GI Bill of Rights as a “sea-change moment” in its history. “The growth since then has largely been in the professional schools and colleges,” he says. “We’ve always sought to develop professional degrees that were relevant to the workplace and had an eye toward what’s driving the job market.” At the same time, all of the undergraduate academic programs feature a liberal arts core through the College of Arts and Sciences, Johnson says. “The common thread is we have always been a university that focuses on the liberal arts as the heart and soul of what we do.”

Technology also plays an influential role in the evolution of majors. It’s no surprise that cybersecurity—protecting computer systems from attack—has emerged as a multidisciplinary field with a presence in several of the University’s schools and colleges. One of the newest majors on campus is sport analytics, a driving force in today’s sports world.

Capturing Images

Black and white image of an old photography class
Students work on a shoot in a photography class back in the day.

Photography—first taught as a course in 1873 by Ward V. Ranger—is a longstanding major now firmly planted in the digital realm, though darkrooms haven’t vanished from campus. “Professor Ranger’s reputation was attested by a federal appointment to observe the eclipse of the sun and the transit of Venus in 1864 and 1874, respectively,” wrote W. Freeman Galpin in “Syracuse University, Volume I: Pioneer Days” (Syracuse University Press, 1952).

“That was the digital of the day,” says Lawrence Mason Jr. G’79, G’85, professor emeritus of visual communications at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “He was teaching far out on the limb of what technology allowed.” The College of Visual and Performing Arts upholds the legacy with an art photography major, and the Newhouse School offers a major geared toward commercial photography and photojournalism. Like many photographers, Mason hasn’t lost his love for the magic of the darkroom, but he acknowledges the efficiency, cheaper cost and technical prowess of digital. “The world of photography seems more all-encompassing these days,” he says. “I see art photographers doing documentary work and documentary photographers using art techniques. Both programs are interesting and successful—and I just love photography however you categorize it.”

Protecting Information

Professor teaching on a computer with students gathered around
Professor Wenliang “Kevin” Du discusses cybersecurity with students.

Years ago, electrical engineering and computer science professor Wenliang “Kevin” Du realized the best way for students to learn to fend off computer attacks is through hands-on experience. In 2002, with support from the National Science Foundation, he launched Security Education Labs, a series of open-source exercises designed to help students master the intricacies of real cybersecurity issues. To date, Du has created more than 30 labs, drawing educators from more than 1,000 educational institutions spanning dozens of countries. He’s also written a textbook based on the labs and is developing an online video series of his lectures.

Du, a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence, acknowledges that as technology grows increasingly more sophisticated, including the emergence of artificial intelligence, more threats develop. “We are always catching up,” he says. “I tell my students, if you go into cybersecurity, you will have job security.”

For undergraduates, the College of Engineering and Computer Science offers the 18-credit Cybersecurity Semester, which features coursework on assessing, developing and protecting systems. The college also has on-campus and online master’s programs and a certificate of advanced study in cybersecurity.

In fall 2018, University College, in collaboration with the School of Information Studies, created a cybersecurity administration online program leading to a bachelor of professional studies degree. Currently, the program has 30 students, including active military members. “It’s an up-and-coming major with a lot of jobs being created,” says academic program administrator Michele Mooney.

University College Dean Michael Frasciello G’15 says many cybersecurity programs are weighted toward traditional computer science, network security or assurance. “We determined we can address a niche aspect of cybersecurity on the administration side,” he says. “While some computational coursework is in the curriculum, we saw administration as a good way both to differentiate ourselves from other programs and to provide a nice generalist program.”

Cybersecurity administration major Gurudev Dhimal ’22 enjoys the program’s flexibility and says its specific focus as an alternative to computer science caught his attention. “I’d like to make the world of technology a safer place,” he says.

Crunching Numbers in Sports

A student and Professor collaborate in the sports computer lab
Professor Michael Veley, chair of the Department of Sport Management in Falk College, was instrumental in creating the department’s sport analytics program.

Dylan Blechner ’20 has a passion for sports and an affinity for mathematics. When he learned about Falk College’s sport analytics program—launched in 2016 as the first undergraduate program of its kind in the nation—he was all in. “Once I knew there was a major in such a field, I had to be a part of it,” he says.

Blechner has fully immersed himself in the program’s offerings, from earning accolades in national competitions and being involved in the baseball, basketball and football analytics clubs to participating in conferences. He also interned—and continues to work as a data analyst—at Spotted Inc., an insurance company that utilizes data analysis to predict whether celebrities will be involved in scandals. “We are learning all of the tools necessary to get a job in the field,” he says.

The Department of Sport Management built the program with high-caliber students in mind, and Professor Rodney Pau, a sports economist who helped establish the program, wants to expand its appeal, especially for female students interested in sports. The program’s first four graduates landed jobs with professional sports organizations. This fall, 59 students are enrolled. “We’re really about skills,” Paul says. “It’s just that we teach all the skills through sports, which is a heck of a lot of fun for those who enjoy sports.”

In 2018, the program received a significant boost with a $1 million gift from University Trustee Andrew Berlin ’83, a part-owner of the Chicago Cubs and owner of their minor league affiliate South Bend Cubs. The gift supports scholarships, faculty research, participation in competitions and conferences and an annual symposium. It also established the Berlin Sport Analytics Academy to introduce high school students to the field. “The use of data-driven information is revolutionizing the world of sports,” Berlin says. “Our program attracts extremely talented students and is in a unique position to develop leaders who will contribute in numerous ways to this exciting new field. Through my support, I want to ensure they have rewarding opportunities to succeed and influence the future of the sports industry.”

Paul credits the students for their energy and innovation. “They’re go-getters and have a ton of ideas,” he says. “The future of sports will be in good hands.”

Jay Cox

This story was published on .


Also of Interest

  • Undergraduate Majors and Minors

    Choose from more than 200 majors and over 100 minors and embrace the interdisciplinary nature of Syracuse University’s academic options.

  • Schools and Colleges

    Within Syracuse's 13 schools and colleges, you'll find 200 majors and 100 minors, more than 200 advanced degree programs, hundreds of the world's top researchers and scholars, and almost infinite opportunity.