SUNY Oswego earned a national ranking among best colleges in their class in Washington Monthly’s annual college guide that measures how institutions benefit the public good through student upward mobility, research and civic engagement.

Ranking #69 nationally among master’s institutions, Oswego as an institution embeds these values into activities inside and outside the classroom, President Deborah F. Stanley said.

"I am incredibly proud of the ways in which our students, faculty and staff have shown devotion to teaching, fortitude to learn, and an inherent desire to support one another and serve others," said President Stanley. "While managing our response to an unprecedented global pandemic in 2020, we have moved Oswego Forward together, working to ensure the health and safety for all, while maintaining and extending excellence in the classroom and in our communities. Our Laker spirit has been truly inspiring." 

The central role of community service in SUNY Oswego’s activities is reflected in the college again earning the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification earlier this year, which honors institutional commitment to community engagement.

Michelle Bandla, director of EXCEL: Experiential Courses and Engaged Learning, which coordinates many service learning efforts, remembers community service as a “defining characteristic” of the college since she attended SUNY Oswego in the 1990s.

I remember volunteering at the Children's Center on campus and at local nursing homes,” Bandla said. “In the 20 years I have been back as a professional on campus, we have upheld that tradition and created more structures and more support to help students get into our community and make a difference.” 

As a result, community service and the importance of helping others has a role from the classroom to the residence hall to the surrounding areas. The college-community connections created benefit students and those they serve.

“The partnerships we have created in our community are invaluable, both to the students and the community agencies and organizations,” Bandla said. “Our community relies on the college students to provide support in so many areas and the students can find a sense of belonging in their new homes.”

Providing value

SUNY Oswego students regularly find valuable ways to help the Oswego community and partners further afield through such activities as Alternative Breaks, where students build houses and wheelchair ramps, create and repair infrastructure, help animals and much more. 

Through programs like Focus Forward and Project Serve, Oswego students mentor youths, participate in local beautification projects and support local not-for-profits. Laker athletics regularly receives awards for the outstanding level of community service student-athletes on its 24 teams contribute.

In addition to its regular commitments, the college’s dedication to service showed when the pandemic’s arrival saw faculty and staff shift to providing personal protective equipment (PPE) in a number of ways. 

Technology education faculty member Daniel Tryon and biological sciences faculty member David Dunn led an effort to design and produce nearly 2,200 protective face shields, intubation shields and ventilation adaptors for local healthcare providers. Theatre faculty members Kitty Macey and Judy McCabe enlisted students in their classes to manufacture hundreds of cloth masks, while Facilities Services set up an operation for volunteers to make more than 1,600 facemasks.

Faculty members contribute to the public good with a wide range of other activities. From preparing tomorrow’s teachers to research on such topics as mental and physical well-being, climate change, threatened species, infectious disease and many more, Oswego’s faculty regularly involve students in solving the problems of today and tomorrow.

In addition, the college-wide Grand Challenge: Fresh Water for All initiative takes an interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach to one of the greatest threats to humanity, which is the need for people across the globe to access fresh water.

Different rankings

The editors of Washington Monthly note that their rankings differ from other services in that, instead of focusing on elite universities and selectivity, their lists look at how colleges support accessibility and strive to make the world a better place.

“Which colleges deliver the best results for taxpayers—who invest more than $150 billion annually in student financial aid—and for typical students, especially those who are minorities, the first in their family to attend college, or of modest means?” Washington Monthly editors Paul Glastris and Grace Gedye wrote in announcing the rankings.

Unique factors “include the net price a school charges lower-income families (part of our social mobility category), how many of its students go on to get PhDs (part of our research category), and the degree to which it encourages its students to vote (part of our service category),” the editors added.