Steve Barnes ’82 calls the opportunity to help young people on the verge of their professional careers and to give back to his alma mater as “the driving force” behind his motivation for leading the Syracuse University Board of Trustees . “Syracuse University is a special place that has done so much for so many,” says Barnes, who completes his term as chair of the board in May. “I wanted to help the institution further its ability to do that for many generations to come, that’s what motivates me—and that’s a big motivation.”
Barnes, who joined the board in 2008 and was elected chair in 2015, can look back on his tenure as a time when the University was able to build strong momentum in achieving its vision by developing and launching the Academic Strategic Plan and the Campus Master Plan. He is particularly proud of groundbreaking initiatives designed to enhance the student experience, raise the level of academic excellence and elevate the University’s research profile. “Successfully investing in faculty, students and research in an integrated academic experience is a big part of what we’re really excited about,” he says.
Investing in Students, Faculty and Research
In July 2017, the University launched the $100 million Invest Syracuse campaign in support of the Academic Strategic Plan, funding a range of new student scholarships and other financial aid support as well as academic initiatives. “Invest Syracuse is all about providing access and opportunity for students,” Barnes says. The campaign also features a major investment in new faculty positions in fields where the University has potential to become a national leader, such as bio-enabled science and technology; artificial intelligence, deep learning, autonomous systems and policy; and social differences and social justice.
New Construction Projects Underscore Focus on Students
As part of the Campus Framework that supports the academic plan, the University also started several major construction projects—among them is the Barnes Center at The Arch , a health and wellness complex supported with a gift from the Barnes family that is scheduled to open in fall 2019. “The University’s focus is on the whole student, and the Barnes Center at The Arch promotes overall student well-being by bringing campus health, wellness and recreation services together in one state-of-the-art facility,” Barnes says.
The Barnes Center at The Arch exemplifies Barnes’ commitment to students. He believes it’s important for students’ physical, mental and spiritual needs to be met, helping them fully develop. “The center is very near and dear to my heart,” he says. “It’s so important that Syracuse has a place where students can take care of themselves. If you’re taking care of your mind, body and soul, you have the opportunity to achieve your greatest potential.”
Reflecting on his Student Experience
When the Central New York native reflects on his own student experience, he likes to say, “Step onto the campus, step into the world.” It was a game-changer for him, introducing him to the diversity of a global student population and new ideas, and setting him on a successful career path. “Syracuse University really did change my life,” says Barnes, who majored in accounting . “It opened my eyes and provided me with opportunities.”
A Commitment to Syracuse University
Barnes understands the transformative power of higher education and how philanthropy can drive positive change. He has supported numerous academic programs, initiatives and scholarships on campus, from the undergraduate accounting program to Remembrance Scholarships and the Brian McLane Legacy Fund for disability services and the athletics department. In addition, he has helped create pathways on campus for military veterans and their families. He endowed the nationally recognized Barnes Family Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities and established the Barnes Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management and was the inaugural co-chair of the University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families . “It’s a way for the University to give back to those people who gave so much to us,” he says. “Having veterans on campus adds to the diversity of our student experience and it’s so important to have all kinds of people here.”
Creating Global Citizens
When asked what being Orange means to him, Barnes cites the proud Syracuse tradition; the full campus experience; the diversity of people, programs and ideas; and the opportunity for individual growth in which students who may be unsure of their next step and potential find their footing and excel. He sees Syracuse as a place that takes chances on students and gives “everyone a shot.” He also emphasizes how the Syracuse University network extends well beyond the college years, welcoming alumni involvement and support to produce opportunities for today’s students and future generations. “When we think about academic excellence, we’re also creating great citizens of the world. Syracuse has the unique opportunity to do that,” Barnes says. “There is something pretty special about Syracuse.”