An ongoing commitment to contribute to the common good and to student success helped SUNY Oswego continue on the Washington Monthly list of top Master’s Universities for its advancement of quality academics and the public good.

The publication ranked SUNY Oswego #52 nationally on its Master’s Universities list. Oswego also ranked #53 for Best Bang for the Buck in the Northeast.

Washington Monthly's rankings differ from most services because rather than emphasizing factors like exclusivity, they focus on social mobility, research, community engagement and service. 

“Social mobility and learning by doing have long been two of our institutional strengths, and we continue to deliver on the Oswego Promise to transform lives and ignite new possibilities for our students,” said SUNY Oswego President Peter Nwosu, Ph.D.

“Our Vision 4040 initiative, announced in September, centers on increasing social mobility and strengthening regional economic development in Central New York by doubling the number of graduates from our university to 40,000 per decade by 2040,” he added. “We have a responsibility to make the world a better place and prepare our students to lead the way.” 

Also considered in the rankings are whether schools earned the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which SUNY Oswego received in 2020 for its third five-year cycle. SUNY Oswego appeared in the Master’s Universities list among schools that offer master’s programs but not doctoral degree programs. 

Tradition of service

SUNY Oswego started as an innovative public teaching school 163 years ago and has foundations rooted in teaching, service and giving back to the community. This includes an emphasis on the essential opportunity that service provides to SUNY Oswego, Oswego County, other communities and student development.

Service learning opportunities, many administered by the university’s EXCEL (Experiential Courses and Engaged Learning) program, are often embedded in classes and academic programs but go beyond volunteering. 

“Social mobility is really a strength of our institution and a strength of our students,” said Mallory Bower, the interim director of EXCEL.

“We are looking at creating early experiences for students but also equitable experiences for students,” Bower said. “Common barriers are transportation, accessibility of opportunities and whether they get paid. What we’ve been looking at is building service learning into our curriculum and the classes that they take.”

Oswego has won awards for its related offerings including its Focus Forward program that provides students mentoring opportunities with schools in Oswego County.

“Our students get to mentor students in need in local schools,” said Jenn Joyce, SUNY Oswego’s service-learning coordinator. “They can take the course up to eight times. So they start with students in seventh grade into eighth grade and then into high school, staying with the same students. Not only are they growing their own skillsets, they are growing with the students.”

“Focus Forward is one of our signature service learning programs,” Bower said.

The high school students also see new possibilities as they connect with SUNY Oswego students and have opportunities to tour the campus.

“We have so many with economic needs in our community so they might not even be thinking of going to college before meeting our mentors,” Bower said. “Our mentors show that it can be done.”

In addition, the Civic Engagement and Community Services program in the Student Engagement and Leadership Offices connects students with opportunities to serve. These include Alternative Breaks, where students travel to a site for an extended period to help with a community service project; ecologically minded partnerships with the university’s Sustainability Office such as Shining Waters lakeshore pick-up, the Permaculture Living Lab community garden, a Spring Day of Service and more; and, most recently, the MLK Day of Service where students prepared food to help Rise Against Hunger.

Classes that make a difference

Courses like GST 102 and 302 provide credit for students while supporting the university’s mission which states: “SUNY Oswego contributes to the common good by lighting the path to wisdom and empowering every person in the college community to pursue a meaningful life as a productive, responsible member of society.”

These courses allow students to see the social needs that impact them or that they are concerned about and get to go into the community and help organizations that might meet the need,” Joyce said.

A newer course –- implemented primarily through the efforts of Tina Cooper, internship and student employment coordinator –- is GST 303, which allows a student to make a big difference and earn credit for it. 

“GST 303 allows them to identify a program in the community and contribute 60 hours that fits a specific need,” Joyce said. “Some of the projects become permanent fixtures of these organizations.”

This was the case when Nerlande Pierre, a linguistics major, found a need for students who were not native English speakers. Pierre worked with Joey Tse, director of the Office of Learning Services to implement this initiative.

In the process of creating and implementing this project, I found out that it’s a major need for students, especially international students,” Pierre said. “Some international students are here for one semester while others are here to finish their college degrees; having the option to improve their English speaking skills is a great tool.”

The students supported by the project appreciated it, while Pierre was pleased to put the linguistics background and preparation into action.

I feel a great deal of satisfaction,” Pierre said. “I am doing something to make a difference in my last year as a college student. It could not have happened at a better time.” 

Access to equitable opportunities include more paid internships so students don’t have to choose between a part-time job and an applied learning experience. Bower credited Cooper’s work in this effort as well.

“Tina really started taking a lot of internships and vetting them for quality,” Bower said. “We offer about 39 percent more paid internships now.”

And while service learning, internships and other placements benefit organizational partners, data show that students also gain personal and career development from this meaningful work.

“The students who have more high-quality experiences get the better jobs after graduating,” Bower said.   

To learn more about Washington Monthly’s rankings and detailed methodology, visit their website