Professor Tim Eatman welcomes new students to ‘CUSE

Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students Draws Thousands of Students and Families to Dome to Start the New Academic Year

Timothy Eatman speaks from a podiumAs they settle into their new homes and community, students were also encouraged by Timothy Eatman, a School of Education faculty member, to become familiar with the addition to their vernacular: the ’Cuse—and what that represents. “The ’Cuse is a very special place. And goodness gracious, are you poised for an amazing journey,” said Eatman, who is also the co-director of the national consortium Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life based at SU.

Eatman recognized Cantor for the ways in which she’s exemplified the best of “the ’CUSE”—courage, understanding, sacrifice and excellence—as she concludes her tenure at SU later this year, before beginning her new role at Rutgers-Newark in January 2014. Students can embrace the ’Cuse ideals as they begin their academic career at SU. Eatman also challenged students to take up Cantor’s earlier words of connecting their degree with something bigger than themselves to nurture their own needs and benefit society.

Original story on SU News

Professor Timothy Eatman’s Full Remarks

Provost Spina, thanks for your leadership and kind introduction. Chancellor Cantor, Convocation Marshals, Colleagues. Greetings Syracuse and ESF class of 2017 Greetings parents, family, friends and supporters.

Welcome to The ‘CUSE.

Many of you have heard this handle at one time or another. The ‘CUSE. It took a while to grow on me, but now I am texting my family from Hancock airport – “Safely back in The ‘CUSE.” This nickname points both to the university and the larger Central New York locale with its sacred lands, complex history, evolving demographic and sociopolitical context; its daunting challenges and lifting promises.

The CUSE is a very special place. And goodness gracious – are you poised for an amazing journey! Faculty, administrators, your fellow students and members of the larger Syracuse community – beyond the campus – receive you with a commitment to your transformative growth and development. We have every confidence that you will reflect on your experience with great satisfaction at Commencement.

This convocation takes on special significance as it signals the launching of your new journey as students and at the same time an important transition in the life of our University, as we prepare to say goodbye to Chancellor Nancy Cantor later this year. I salute you for your leadership on addressing pressing public problems for example your role in bringing the Syracuse community together to prioritize education – creating a national model that drew the President of the United States here to Henninger High School just yesterday. This is but one example of how Chancellor Cantor’s leadership exemplifies The ‘CUSECourage, Understanding, Sacrifice and Excellence.

When I spot this Dome from the Interstate or an airplane it strikes me as some kind of futuristic vehicle or launching pad. Indeed this is a launching place for a launching moment. Family members as you prepare to leave your loved one in The ‘CUSE today, I empathize with you; so many things racing through your minds and spirits at this time. I too now have an empty room in my house as only two weeks ago the Eatman family dropped off our firstborn daughter and only sister at university. Adjusting to Jasmin’s launching is a continuing struggle. But you better believe that we are making good use of Face time, Instagram, Facebook, Podio, Skype, ooVoo (oh you all didn’t think I knew about that one huh), Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and any other available tools to support this important family transition. I expect that your families are doing the same. However, we know that the time is right for launching our young people into this next phase of their lives.

I am reminded about a common practice among Europeans immigrating to the U.S. Preparing for the long journey across the sea, travelers would bring great sized balls of yarn to the ship leaving one end of the yarn with someone on land. It must have been quite a scene, those balls of yarn slowly unwinding as the ship advanced from the dock. Ultimately multiple strands of yarn would be left waving in the wind anchored from the shore, extending the inevitable farewell as long as possible; marking the moment. Well, we have a launching vessel of sorts today, but I don’t see any balls of yarn.

So how shall we mark this launch? My youngest daughter Jamila – she is sitting right there in the audience – taught me that adding a hashtag to a post in the social media world serves the function of extending one’s message to other conversations, connecting related ideas. While I realize that Provost Spina directed you to silence your mobile devices at the beginning of this ceremony, I also know that many of you are adroit multitaskers. So in the brief remaining time of these remarks I invite you to discreetly mark this launch by posting a farewell message to your loved ones. My colleagues, Jamie Haft and Holly Zahn, from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life are tweeting with you using #SUWELCOME. I can imagine that a parent may use something like #launchingJimmyattheCUSE. Or someone might choose #freeatlast be that as it may.

But what of this CUSE acrostic?


Maya Angelou reminds us that, and I quote, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” When I first arrived at The CUSE in 2007 I made it a priority to attend the Chancellor’s convocation. Feeling almost as nervous as any incoming first year student I sat somewhere over there, unknowingly one row behind a veteran faculty member. He introduced himself and encouraged me to be courageous as I began my new faculty appointment in the School of education.

Members of the Class of 2017 take courage as you begin this journey. You know It takes real courage to ask introspective questions like “How can I make the most difference?” rather than “How can I make the most money? Courage to pursue work that both “pays and matters.” Courage to pursue fields that sometimes get overlooked or marginalized – – like Native American Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Communications and Rhetorical studies, Dance, Transmedia, Arts leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, Collaborative Design. These fields can play a special role in opening up ways of thinking, discourses, methodologies and practices that keep important aspects of the human condition substantively in play within the social structure. They create spaces where questions about our responsibility to promote full participation of people from all backgrounds in society are most likely to be addressed.

It may feel foreign and even confusing at times but remember that exercising courage consistently will help strengthen you forward as you face tough questions.


We all know that your primary business at the university is about building your mind, skillset, and relationships to individuals and organizations toward a bright future. Your class is comprised of a highly selective group so I know that you will move forward with a strong sense of purpose as you pursue the academic knowledge you need to achieve your goals. But do not forget that while knowledge is important, “understanding” takes knowledge to a deeper, more meaningful level. The power of imagination is an important catalyst for this translation. While knowledge and understanding are relatives, they are not always in fellowship. In fact they often need “Cousin Courage” to help them align and cohere.


Often, the most robust expression of understanding manifests itself in sacrifice. Of course during your journey at The ‘CUSE you will sacrifice wants for needs making tough decisions about discipline and time management. This will no doubt require sacrificing some late nights: Longfellow says it well, “The heights by great people reached and kept were not obtained by sudden flight but, they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

However, I want to challenge you to consider another take on sacrifice. Our Chancellor spoke beautifully just a few minutes ago about the importance of connecting your degree work to something bigger than yourself – making your scholarship consequential in ways that nurture your needs AND also contain broader benefit for our society. In our “me first” culture, taking this mindset about your education truly requires a posture of sacrifice. To be clear, I am suggesting that it is a sacrifice to reject the pursuit of normative educational pathways for more dynamic, engaged ones. We must move beyond the often disconnected and less challenging comfort zones of traditional university education models to open up new thinking and channels for creating the world we need. The university is an ideal milieu for this.


The “E” in CUSE stands for excellence. Both Syracuse University and ESF represent deep traditions of academic excellence. As a new member of this community you now bear part of the responsibility to extend and amplify this culture of excellence – we have no doubt that you will do so. As with sacrifice let’s push “excellence” beyond its traditionally understood frame. It is possible to imagine excellence in larger ways than those offered by technocratic quantification. In fact that challenge is actually much harder to divine and achieve. One only need to look at the long tradition of SU “taking a chance” on students whose potential greatness was not evident to all, but who found themselves here at SU and went on to excel at NASA, Wall Street, and Hollywood among many other venues. And that’s what SU saw in each and every one of you new students here today: the potential for excellence through impact.

This summer I had the privilege of leading an SU Abroad trip with five students: Ivy Green, Arecely Hernandez, Anqi Lui, Nicole Keler and Ayania Wellington. These women of excellence brought to bear their knowledge and understanding together with cultural sensitivity they explored the complexities of South African social structure with a special focus on the role of education. They used their academic work to create projects that are making a positive difference for middle school students. Together with Inkululeko, our non-profit partner, we set up the ‘CUSE right there in Grahamstown South Africa.

Those who embrace the ‘CUSE realize the importance of excellence. We each have a duty to recognize the value of the ‘CUSE and leave it better than we found it like the Imagining America Engagement Scholars, who graduate from SU and begin their careers and advanced studies in this community. They do this not out of the arrogance of cleverness or ego centered handiwork but because of deliberate, innovative, and humble contributions to a collective ameliorative ethos. This is the kind of excellence to which I refer.

So as we go forward marking this launch with our “digital yarn” flapping in the virtual wind, take Courage, pursue Understanding, embrace Sacrifice and insist on Excellence. Welcome to the ‘CUSE and Walk In Victory.