HR News

Important Update Regarding Fiscal Year ’21 Vacation Time

Dear Colleagues:

This time last year, we were in the thick of our university’s pandemic response. The commitment of our faculty and staff to Syracuse University made this last academic year possible. It also meant that countless members of our community were unable to take all their vacation days during the last fiscal year, whether due to the need to attend to University work or challenges related to travel or family gatherings. Given the unusual nature of this past year and our community’s tremendous dedication to ensuring a safe and fulfilling academic year, we are allowing faculty and staff to carry over up to five unused vacation days into fiscal year 2022, beginning July 1.

You are encouraged to take time off this summer to disconnect, relax and recharge. As always, please coordinate your vacation time with your supervisor. And, if you plan to roll over up to five vacation days, you are asked to secure approval from your dean, senior vice president or unit leader.

Thank you for your continued hard work, commitment and selflessness. I wish you a happy, healthy and safe summer.


Andrew R. Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer

Additional COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Earlier today, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 70% of all adults in New York State have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Here on the Syracuse campus, 97% of benefits-eligible faculty and staff and nearly 90% of our students who will be on campus this summer are fully vaccinated. With the high vaccination rate statewide, Governor Cuomo has lifted the vast majority of remaining COVID-19 restrictions. As such, Syracuse University is taking corresponding action. Specifically,

  • Effective immediately, you will no longer receive nor are you required to complete the daily health questionnaire. Of course, please continue to monitor your daily health symptoms; if you are ill, we ask that you please stay home.
  • All gathering restrictions impacting University events and venues have been lifted.
  • All capacity restrictions have been eliminated, including in our academic buildings; research facilities; recreational, fitness and dining centers; and Hendricks Chapel, among other campus properties. There are two exceptions to note:
    • The stadium, which, at this time, continues to be subject to New York State COVID guidelines governing large event venues, and
    • Public and on-campus mass transportation, including our shuttles and Centro buses, where New York State has not rescinded the requirement for social distancing and the use of masks for all passengers.

Please note, in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks and maintain 6 feet of distance when gathering in groups. Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff accessing campus this summer should continue to participate in weekly surveillance testing. And, we ask for everyone’s grace as we expect some members of our community will elect to continue wearing masks regardless of vaccination status. Finally, as a reminder, masks continue to be required in health care facilities, including Barnes Health and the Kimmel COVID Testing Center.

Today’s news is welcome as it signals a more robust return to pre-pandemic life. We will keep you updated on any further changes to public health conditions and protocols. We appreciate everyone’s continued commitment to the health and well-being of the campus and surrounding communities.

J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation

COVID-19 Update: Campus Access | Required Testing | Masks

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

As we begin our summer academic sessions at Syracuse University, I want to share several important public health updates and reminders related to campus operations for the next few months. Just as adherence to public health guidance was central to our ability to keep the campus safe and sustain residential instruction throughout the past year, the same will be true as we work together to ease the restrictions and limitations previously imposed because of the COVID health emergency. The following updates reflect our continued efforts to protect the health and safety of all of our students, faculty and staff.

Mandatory Vaccine Policy Effective Today

As of today, Tuesday, June 1, all faculty, staff and students accessing campus are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or, alternatively, should have filed a medical or religious exemption with the University. If you have not complied with this requirement and intend to access the Syracuse, New York, campus, you must take action now. Students should submit vaccine documentation or an exemption request through the Student Patient Portal. Faculty and staff should complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Status Attestation QuestionnaireStudents, faculty and staff who have not submitted documentation of vaccination (students) or completed the vaccine attestation (employees) should do so as soon as possible. Faculty and staff who have not completed the vaccine attestation are being contacted today.

Surveillance Testing Requirements for Unvaccinated Members of the Campus Community

Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff who plan to access campus under a medical or religious exemption are required to participate in routine COVID-19 surveillance testing once per week until further notice. Compliance with this requirement will be monitored regularly.

For all members of our campus community—including family members of our employees—the University will continue to provide convenient access to on-campus testing services at Kimmel Dining Hall during the summer months. The testing center’s hours of operations are:

  • Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Friday, 8-11 a.m.
  • Closed on Friday, June 18, in observance of Juneteenth, and on Monday, July 5, in observance of Independence Day

No appointments are required. Please bring your Syracuse University I.D. and refrain from eating, drinking anything (including water), brushing your teeth or using mouthwash, chewing gum or using any tobacco products in the 30 minutes prior to testing. Parking is available at Comstock Avenue Garage.

New Masking Policies in Effect

As of May 24, new masking policies are in effect on the Syracuse University campus. Consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health, fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff are no longer required to wear masks indoors or outdoors while on campus. Individuals who have not been vaccinated but have an exemption are required to wear a mask indoors and are also required to wear a mask outdoors while in the company of others on campus.

The University supports any individual, regardless of vaccination status, who chooses to continue wearing a mask while on campus. I would ask that all members of our community demonstrate the same support to your co-workers and fellow students, who might simply feel more comfortable continuing the practice of mask wearing at this stage of the pandemic.

Daily Health Screening

Some members of our community have asked if the daily health screening questionnaire remains a condition of accessing campus. For now, the answer is yes. The daily health screening questionnaire remains a mandate of the New York State Department of Health and required of all major employers in New York. We have engaged New York State on this issue, and will update our community when this changes.

After a long and challenging year, all indicators point toward a summer and fall when the activities of daily living return to something akin to our pre-pandemic experience. The Syracuse University community persevered through the worst of COVID-19 because we stuck together and committed ourselves to the necessary compromises required to ensure the health and safety of our friends, classmates and community. Let’s remain committed to that objective. Do your part to keep COVID off our campus and from disrupting those events, activities and occasions that define what makes being a member of the Orange community unique and meaningful.


J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation

Observing Juneteenth as One Community

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Beginning on June 1, and each day leading up to June 19, Syracuse University will commemorate Juneteenth, a significant day in American history. On June 19, 1865, Black men, women and children in Texas were finally notified of their liberty nearly two and a half years after enslavement had officially ended.

Juneteenth became a day of commemoration to honor the strength, resilience and perseverance of African Americans. While Juneteenth has long been celebrated in the Black community, some Americans are not aware of its significance and meaning.

This year, we will mark Juneteenth with 19 days of reflection. Each day, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with Syracuse University Libraries, will share a unique learning opportunity. This 19-day observance will include a series of readings, lectures, videos and other content that will help our community learn about the Black experience leading up to and following Juneteenth. Every day, the content will be posted on and on the office’s Instagram account, @Syracuseudiversity. We invite students, faculty and staff to engage in these 19 days of reflection.

Finally, please note, this year the University will officially observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 18. Administrative offices will be closed on that day in observance of Juneteenth. Our faculty and staff are urged to take the day to reflect on and participate in Juneteenth activities. Only employees who have been deemed essential to the continuation of University operations, such as critical student-facing roles, and those faculty teaching summer courses will report to campus. Due to previous changes in this year’s academic calendar because of the pandemic, classes scheduled for Friday, June 18, will go on as planned.

We encourage you to participate in the University’s Juneteenth observance. And, we hope you will continue to seek new knowledge, learn from those around you and effect meaningful change in your communities.


Keith A. Alford
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Andrew R. Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer

John Liu
Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost

Wellness Coordinator Kim DeStefano Brings Holistic Well-Being to University Faculty and Staff

As the wellness coordinator in the Office of Human Resources, Kim DeStefano ’05 is motivated by a singular goal—to help faculty and staff members get and stay healthy, whatever that means for them. DeStefano is one half of the two-person team behind the University’s Wellness Initiative, which offers workshops, challenges, educational opportunities, programs and resources to empower employees to make choices and changes that promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Virtual group fitness challenges, which DeStefano conducts via Microsoft Teams, have proven to be particularly popular in the time of COVID. Dozens of faculty and staff members have joined in to work on their cardiovascular fitness (jumping jacks) and strength (planks and core exercises) over the past year, under DeStefano’s instruction and unrelenting encouragement. She is currently leading a challenge to work up to 50 burpees over a two-week period.

“We’ve received great feedback on the group fitness challenges, especially with people not being able to connect in person as much,” DeStefano says. “Employees have appreciated the connection with others around a common interest—fitness—and the motivation I give, while also building up their physical strength.”

Through at-home videos, with frequent cameos by her dog, Brutus, and toddler son, Asher, DeStefano demos each exercise with varying degrees of difficulty and optional modifications so that faculty and staff with any level of fitness can participate. “I want participants to experience the physical benefits, but more importantly I want them to feel good about themselves, be able to participate to their fullest ability and enjoy themselves along the way,” she says.

“Kim is an essential component of the success of the Wellness Initiative program,” says Gail Grozalis, executive director of wellness and the other half of the Wellness Initiative. “She is professional, knowledgeable, caring and exudes positive energy, and she especially shines in the meaningful connections she makes with our participants.”

Focused on a holistic and multi-dimensional approach to well-being, the Wellness Initiative delivers far more than physical fitness for faculty and staff. Since DeStefano and Grozalis became certified health and wellness coaches in 2019, they have renewed their commitment to offer diverse programs encompassing mental and emotional well-being, stress relief, work-life balance, financial wellness and relationship-building, in addition to exercise and healthy eating.

“Promoting physical activity and good nutrition will always be part of what we do, but I love that we’ve been expanding beyond that,” says DeStefano. In April the Wellness Initiative ran a weekly guided meditation series, two sessions of Move. Pause. Breathe.—25 minutes of stretching, meditation and deep breathing—and a back-by-popular-demand workshop series on bullet journaling offered by a third-party expert in positive psychology.

DeStefano began her journey with Syracuse as an undergraduate student in the School of Education, having graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science. Her interest in health and wellness stemmed from her time as a high school soccer player, during which she encountered injuries, surgeries and time spent in physical therapy.

“I started my degree with the idea that I would get my DPT [doctor of physical therapy], but over the course of four years, I became interested in so much more than just physical therapy,” DeStefano says. “I took nutrition classes and minored in psychology, where I started learning about how our minds work. I knew I wanted to do something to take care of people and help them feel their best.”

Upon graduation, DeStefano launched a 10-year career with St. Joseph’s Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation unit as an exercise physiologist, conducting patient education and stress testing and writing exercise prescriptions for patients recovering from major cardiac events. Ready for a change of pace, she had her eye on her alma mater for career opportunities where she would be able to grow and evolve with a larger and more diverse organization. After a stint in the University’s special events office, she landed with the Wellness Initiative, where she has developed a real passion for worksite wellness and keeping the University’s employees healthy and engaged.

As a mom of two young children, the last year of working remotely has brought plenty of challenges, or growth opportunities, as the ever-optimistic DeStefano might describe them. Working odd hours around the kids’ schedules and juggling nap and feeding schedules with conference calls and work tasks became the new norm. Her husband Aaron, who works an overnight shift, was able to rearrange his work and sleep schedules when needed so DeStefano could run her programs and workshops, and they’ve also been lucky enough to have support from extended family to help with childcare.

“I’m pretty sure both of my kids have made an appearance on every call and in all my challenge videos,” DeStefano says. “It was definitely hard at first, as I’m sure it was for everyone, but as time went on we just went with it and adapted. Some days were a struggle but I’m all about staying positive. The work always gets done and I’ve been lucky to have all this time at home with my family.”

When it comes to her personal well-being, DeStefano stays active by keeping up with her little ones and doing at-home workouts—usually high-intensity interval training or yoga. She practices deep breathing exercises and isn’t afraid to find down time in front of the TV when her body calls for it. The DeStefano family is all about healthy eating, big on fruits, veggies and whole foods but allows for everything in moderation. “I do love ice cream,” she confesses. “So yeah, we indulge. I never want to deprive myself or the kids of anything.”

New CDC Mask Guidance

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:

Yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a policy recommendation indicating that individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks (indoors or outdoors) or maintain social distance. This is the latest in a series of positive signs demonstrating that our country is trending in the right direction and beginning to emerge from some of the health and safety restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

We have been informed that the New York State Department of Health (DOH) is currently reviewing the CDC’s amended policy recommendation. Following that review, the DOH will announce if, how and when New York State’s current masking policy will be amended in response to the new CDC recommendation. As such, until New York State responds to the new CDC recommendations and issues its own amended policy related to masking, we ask that students, faculty, staff and visitors continue to wear masks at all times while on the Syracuse University campus.

We will continue to monitor developments related to this important policy and public health issue, and keep you informed as to changes that might impact our campus community.

J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation Family Care Benefit Available to Faculty and Staff; Join a Learning Session May 25 or 26

Life can be unpredictable and finding the right ongoing care for your family can be difficult, especially when you’re balancing the demands of work. To help ease this burden, the University offers premium membership with the caregiving website to benefits-eligible faculty and staff.

Care@Work provides free, unlimited access to a vast network of caregivers with a breadth of skills—including child care, tutors, elder care, pet walkers and sitters, housecleaners and more. Typically, users would pay up to $38.99/month for a premium account with the site, which provides the ability to contact potential caregivers, access background checks and check caregiver references.

Curious about this benefit and want to learn more? The Office of Human Resources is offering two upcoming Zoom learning sessions with representative Michael Brunson. These sessions will provide an overview of the benefit, educate users on steps to enroll and demonstrate how to use the site to search for a caregiver. Use the links below to sign up for the session that works best for your schedule.

With any questions about the family care benefit, faculty and staff may contact HR Shared Services at 315.443.4042 or

Faculty, Staff Invited to Session on ‘COVID-19 Vaccines: How They Work and Why You Should Get One’

Faculty and staff are invited to a virtual session, “COVID-19 Vaccines–How They Work and Why You Should Get One,” on Friday, May 14, at 1 p.m. ET. The event will include a panel discussion with Dr. Katie Anderson, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Upstate Medical University; Brittany Kmush, Ph.D., assistant professor of public health in the Falk College; and David Larsen Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of public health in the Falk College.

With vaccines now widely available for COVID-19, the panelists will explain what’s most important to know about vaccination. They will address the benefits of the vaccine, what is known about the latest variants and vaccine effectiveness.

Register for the session. A Zoom link will be sent to those who register a few days before the session.

Important Update About Resuming On-Campus Work

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing today to provide an important update about our efforts to return faculty and staff, who have been working remotely, to working on campus.

While the pandemic is not over, we are seeing positive signs that a return to normal operations is in the not-so-distant future. This includes widespread access to vaccines, including on our campus, as well as significantly improved public health conditions. As of Thursday, 71% of our faculty and staff have already reported that they are fully vaccinated. Though circumstances can change quickly, in continuing our preparation for a fully in-person fall semester, we are asking our staff to transition back to on-campus working over the next eight weeks. If your work requires, you can and should return to regular on-campus work during this time and no later than Tuesday, July 6. We have asked senior vice presidents, deans and other unit leaders to develop and implement plans to help our faculty and staff transition back to in-person, on-campus working.

Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs)

We recognize that there may be some circumstances that require a limited number of faculty and staff to continue to work remotely for a short transition period. Please work with your supervisor and senior HR business partner to submit a request for a flexible work arrangement, which must be submitted and approved by your dean or senior vice president no later than June 1.

Visit the Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) webpage on the HR website for additional information about FWAs. Professional development sessions on FWAs may also be found on the Professional Development webpage. Individuals with specific questions should contact their supervisor, HR business partner or HR Shared Services.

Get Vaccinated          

Vaccines are now widely available across the country and here in Onondaga County. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please do so at your earliest convenience. As a reminder, any individuals accessing campus during the summer months must be vaccinated by June 1.

  • Schedule an Appointment at an Off-Campus Vaccine Clinic: Effective Thursday, April 29, New York State-run sites, including the New York State Fairgrounds will accept walk-ins without appointments. To schedule an appointment at an off-campus vaccine clinic with the county or for more information on locations without appointments, please visit the New York State COVID-19 vaccine website or the Onondaga County COVID-19 vaccine website.

Confirm Your Vaccination Status

  • Faculty/Staff: All faculty and staff must complete our brief COVID-19 Vaccine Status Attestation Questionnaire to confirm their vaccination status. Faculty and staff can also use the form to claim exemption from this requirement for medical or sincerely held religious reasons.
  • Student Workers: Student workers who have already received or will receive the COVID-19 vaccine at an off-campus site are asked to submit their documentation through the Student Patient Portal.

The past year been especially difficult. Through their tireless efforts, our faculty and staff have continuously confronted and overcome the many challenges we have faced as a community. I thank you for your continued flexibility, innovation and understanding.


Andrew R. Gordon
Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer

Commencement 2021 Update

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:

With 25 days until Commencement Weekend, planning continues in earnest as we prepare to host our students and their loved ones on campus. I am grateful to students who completed our survey to indicate whether they intend to participate in this year’s Commencement exercises in person. This step was necessary to help us determine how many ceremonies will be held to comply with New York State’s published regulations for end-of-year academic celebrations. These regulations, which we are required to enforce, dictate public health measures, such as stadium capacity, vaccination, testing requirements for entry and social distancing arrangements, to name a few of the factors that we balanced during planning.

With that in mind, I write today to provide an update on the schedule of ceremonies and to remind individuals who intend to participate about the vaccination/testing requirements for entry.

Confirmed Schedule of Ceremonies

Based on the student response and in compliance with New York State regulations, Syracuse University will need to host three Commencement ceremonies. The schedule is as follows:

Commencement Ceremony No. 1
Saturday, May 22, 2021
4 p.m. ET
Participating schools/colleges: All undergraduate students in the School of Architecture; College of Arts and Sciences; Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics; School of Education; University College

Commencement Ceremony No. 2
Sunday, May 23, 2021
9 a.m. ET
Participating schools/colleges: All undergraduate students in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; School of Information Studies; Whitman School of Management; Newhouse School of Public Communications; College of Visual and Performing Arts

Commencement Ceremony No. 3
Sunday, May 23, 2021
3:30 p.m. ET
Participating schools/colleges: All graduate students

Commencement Tickets

As previously communicated, each graduate who has registered their intent to participate in person will be allowed to have up to two guests attend their ceremony. Tickets will be available for selection beginning on Thursday, May 6, at 10 a.m. ET. Graduates will receive a specific email with specific instructions to claim their ticket and two guest tickets. Following ticket selection, students will receive a confirmation email, as well as a ticket with their selected seating assignment and tickets and seating assignments for their guests.

As a reminder, per the New York State graduation guidance, all guests must comply with social distancing guidelines. Students will be seated on the field level of the stadium in three-person “pods.” Guests will be seated in audience sections of the stadium in two-person “pods.” Seating pods will be arranged to maintain 6 feet of distance between groupings. Empty seat buffers will be created at aisles. As noted above, seating assignments will be issued via the ticketing process.

To allow for ease of entry, guests will be assigned a specific gate and arrival time for entry. This will allow for socially distanced entry and compliance with all entry requirements.

To our faculty and staff who plan to attend one or all of the Commencement ceremonies: please be advised we are working on a registration system for you to indicate your intent to participate and submit your proof of vaccination or testing.

School/College Convocations

All school and college convocations will be presented virtually at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, May 22, and recordings will be posted online so that graduates and their families can watch them at a later date if needed. More information about how to access the virtual convocations will be shared in the coming weeks and can be found on the Commencement website.

Pre-Event Testing/Vaccination Compliance

New York State has mandated very specific guidelines related to stadium entry and participation in the Commencement exercise, for all graduates, guests and participants. The state requires that anyone accessing the stadium for Commencement must comply with one of the following options:

·       Proof of completed vaccination; specifically, on the day of the event the individual must provide documentation indicating that at least 14 days have passed since the individual received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or at least 14 days have passed since the individual received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. We strongly encourage guests to seek out a vaccination as it is the most reliable pathway for entry into the stadium.

·       Proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR-type test, administered within 72 hours of the event.

·       Proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen-type test, administered within six hours of the event start time.

Please plan ahead to ensure your compliance with New York State’s venue entry requirements. All graduates and guests are responsible for complying with state regulations for entry to the stadium. Anyone who plans to attend the ceremony and who cannot provide proof of COVID vaccination should ensure they have access to testing services capable of returning a test result within the window of time required by New York State (72 hours prior to the event for a PCR-type test; six hours prior to the event for an antigen-type test).

To support a safe and efficient entry experience into the stadium, we will establish a pre-event compliance station that will open on campus beginning at noon ET on Thursday, May 20. At this station, students and guests can have their COVID-compliance documents verified in advance of the weekend’s Commencement activities, and be issued a unique pass allowing for significantly expedited access to the stadium on the day of Commencement. If your travel plans allow you to take advantage of this service, we strongly encourage you to consider pre-verification. All guests who are not pre-verified will be required to have their vaccine or testing documentation reviewed and approved on-site at the stadium.

All of us at Syracuse University are very much looking forward to celebrating our graduates’ achievements alongside their families, our faculty and our staff. We appreciate your continued patience as we implement a Commencement plan that aligns with New York State requirements.

To learn more about Commencement 2021, please visit There you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions.


Steve Bennett
Senior Vice President for International Programs and Academic Operations and Chief of Staff, Academic Affairs