Commencement 2017

Syracuse University alumni continue to pursue careers outside central New York, emulating statewide trend

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Of the Syracuse University students who report their post-collegiate endeavors, about 10 percent remain in Syracuse and the surrounding area of central New York.

As the Syracuse University class of 2017 looks toward life after college, most will be leaving the central New York area, emulating a state-wide trend.

New York is among the top states with the highest loss in college-educated people, per The New York Times. Of the SU students who report their post-collegiate endeavors, about 10 percent remain in Syracuse and the surrounding area of central New York, said Michael Cahill, director of SU’s career services.

The fact that most students leave the area is common among private, national universities, he said. A major reason students leave the area is because they don’t come with the mindset that they are going to stay, Cahill said.

“We are more of a national university,” he said. “So it’s not really thinking, ‘I’m going to school in Syracuse because I really want to get to know the community and stay there.’ They have other ideas in mind.”

As of 2016, 29,000 SU alumni were living in Syracuse, said David Bartell, executive director of outreach programs in the Office of Alumni Engagement. Of that number, 20 percent have graduated within the last 10 years, he said.

The top three schools accounted for are the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, he said. Bartell noted that high numbers from the education school may stem from graduate students who stay in the area.


The goal of career services is to help students achieve their goals, not to convince them to consider staying local, Cahill said. At the same time, he is confident there are still opportunities closer to the Hill.

There isn’t any subject area that SU offers where students couldn’t find an outlet in central New York, he said, though he added the opportunities might not be as plentiful as they would be in a larger city.

If the city wants to encourage students to remain in the area, Cahill said a strong summer internship program should be constructed with avenues for housing and community engagement. This includes trips to the farmers market and cultural activities like Irish and Italian festivals and the Jamesville Balloonfest.

“There are so many things that take place but I don’t think students see as much of what is going on in the community,” Cahill said. “A lot of it is because there is so much going on (at SU), you don’t really have to venture off campus.”

Brandon Eng graduated from SU in 2015 and stayed in Syracuse for one year before moving closer to New York City with his Excel-training business, ExPrep. While he said he loves the Syracuse community and visits the area frequently, Eng added that he needed to leave because the opportunities in Syracuse don’t compare to those in New York City.


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He said many of his peers also followed opportunities to places like NYC and Boston, and wanted to escape the harsh winters of Syracuse.

The city of Syracuse has struggled to keep the brain power produced on the Hill, said Paul Driscoll, commissioner of neighborhood and business development for the city of Syracuse.

Recent graduates of higher education are a sub-population that tends to produce more economic benefits, he said, and add to the economic and cultural vitality. Every city wants to grow, he said, so having more recent graduates would help the city flourish.

“Our frustration and goal is to broaden the existing opportunities for students in the community to hopefully get them more engrained in society outside of college,” Driscoll said.

Kim Brown graduated from SU in 2006 with a degree in broadcast and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and continues to live in Syracuse. While in school, she found an internship at Channel 9, which she said gave her exposure to the city that most students don’t have.

“You don’t get to experience what is out there in the Finger Lakes, you don’t head up to the Adirondacks,” Brown said. “You don’t see Syracuse at the absolute most beautiful time of the year, which is the summer when all the festivals are happening.”

Brown discovered that she loved central New York and took a job with Channel 9. She later decided to change career paths, but wanted to stay in Syracuse. She went to an alumni office networking event and is now the director of strategic communications and digital engagement in the office of alumni engagement.

The size of Syracuse enabled Brown to become involved in the community in a way that she couldn’t in a larger city, she said, and the cost of living is cheap and there is little traffic.

Brown cited groups like 40 Below Syracuse, an organization that works to provide professionals with a platform to engage and connect within central New York, and Believe in Syracuse, a group dedicated to promoting positive perceptions and improving the quality of life in the greater Syracuse area, as outlets that encourage graduates to remain in the area.

Said Brown: “It’s easy to think of Syracuse as boring and say, ‘There is nothing going on, there is nothing to do here,’ but there is if you look for it and if you give it a chance.”

Graphic by Andy Mendes | Designer Editor


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