Office of the President
Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
A New Year
January 25, 2010
In two weeks, the UD campus will be bustling again as we move from Winter Session into Spring and thousands more students return to class. This semester will be just as busy as the last, and we have a lot of exciting projects to look forward to.
FY 2011 Budget
Of course, the semester will unfold as the State gears up for another challenging budget year. Given Delaware's difficult financial position, we can expect limited resources from the State. We can also expect slow growth in an endowment hit hard by recession.
It's therefore critical that we remain committed to finding new ways to optimize our operational efficiency and capitalize on core strengths. One of UD's historic strengths—research—has been bolstered by significant stimulus funding; the federal government has thus far invested $54.9 million in UD research, money that's financing 63 projects.
I appreciate the support of UD's faculty and staff as we implement responsibility-based budgeting, an important component of our financial strategy. I know the system hasn't been without challenges, but I also know that to achieve our most critical academic goals, we must decentralize financial decision-making and move budget authority and accountability to the programs and offices counting on those expenditures. Without doubt, the budget model demands making tough decisions today for a better, stronger position tomorrow.
Reengineering our business processes; strategically deploying resources and moving them as close to students as possible; focusing on efficiency, effectiveness, and key academic priorities—this is how we'll ensure the University is able to take advantage of an economy in rebound.
However, many of the important projects we've initiated won't wait for the economic turnaround, nor should they. We simply can't ignore long-term opportunities because we face short-term challenges. To remain vital and relevant—to continue serving as a powerful economic engine for the community, the State, and the region—the University requires constant investment.
Strategic Priorities: Spring and Beyond
For instance, financial challenges won't diminish our Commitment to Delawareans, which has been a boon to First State families. A few more than 1,200 Delawareans enrolled at UD last fall—a 25-percent increase over fall 2008—and 435 of them shared in $2.7 million made available through the program. Our Commitment puts a college education within reach.
The recession also will not stall the University's top capital priority over the next few fiscal years—the 194,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Lab. Site clearing at the corner of Lovett Avenue and Academy Street will begin this summer, and construction will follow in the fall. The state-of-the-art building will house much-needed research and teaching labs, classrooms, and collaborative work spaces. Its design will encourage interdisciplinary study, and will meaningfully join instruction and research in a setting predicated on problem-based learning.
Of course, there is one long-term project whose profile has risen above the rest. In November, the University of Delaware purchased property formerly occupied by the Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant—272 acres and several buildings adjacent to UD's South Campus. Redevelopment of this land into a dynamic science and technology campus will give us the opportunity to strengthen UD and focus on our core priorities; to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship; to expand strategic partnerships and foster collaboration; and to advance economic development in the State and the region.
We're now in the process of site stabilization. On February 25, we'll hold a public auction of the plant's equipment and assets, and items to be sold at the auction will be available for inspection in the days leading up to it. Go to Newark Chrysler Site for pictures of the equipment available and for more information.
By the end of June, we should have a contract awarded for remediation, demolition, and salvage, a process that will likely take 18–24 months.
The first phase of development will include the construction of a regional transportation hub, featuring accommodations for travel by train, bus, and car. Of course, partnerships are a vital aspect of the property's future. Several components of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance will have a home there, and a new partnership with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground could facilitate joint on-site research in areas of common strength, such as alternative energy and composites.
The Year Ahead
This semester offers us an opportunity for reflection—and acceleration. Our Path to Prominence was unveiled two springs ago; it's time to assess how far we've come and how we're judging that distance. I've asked the Strategic Planning Committee—led by Mark Barteau, senior vice provost for research and strategic initiatives, and Debbie Hess Norris, vice provost for graduate and professional education—to evaluate and strengthen the quantitative and qualitative measures we're using to mark progress along our Path. The Committee's report will be released this spring.
Work will continue in earnest on many initiatives begun in the fall, including the activities of two new research centers. The Delaware Environmental Institute is integrating environmental science, engineering, and policy to address urgent ecosystem restoration and sustainability issues; and the Center for Political Communication is exploring the effect of social networking technologies and non-traditional media on political campaigns, debates, and elections, and examining how to use these digital platforms to foster civic engagement.
We'll cap off the spring with our second annual Forum and Reunion Weekend, June 4–6. We expect an even bigger, better celebration than last year's—and last year's was terrific, drawing 1,700 Blue Hens from across the country. Spread the word now about this summer's reunion, and go to UD Forum & Reunion Weekend to register for email updates.
This excitement will surely carry through to autumn. As of last Friday, UD's Office of Admissions had logged 25,066 applications for the fall's entering freshman class. That's an 8-percent jump over the same time last year. And again this year, there are notable increases among Delawareans, students of color, and applicants to the Honors Program. With SATs, GPAs, and class ranks running higher than ever before, this should be a particularly competitive admission year, especially as we plan to enroll a smaller freshman class than we did in 2009.
When I look ahead to the challenges we'll face in 2010, I think of a quote that affirms our mission and reminds us why we've taken it on. Thomas Jefferson said, "I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man." With an original Jefferson letter now residing in the University of Delaware Library—a letter discovered in November by two UD students—those words are even more meaningful to me.
I wish you great things this spring—satisfying work, strong connections, and excellence in everything you do.
Patrick T. Harker
P.S. UD's Student Health Services has plenty of H1N1 vaccine on hand for students, faculty, and staff, and is scheduling appointments now. Students are asked to make an appointment online through Student Health Services. Faculty and staff should call SHS at 302-831-2226 during regular office hours and press option O. The Delaware Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend H1N1 vaccination to prevent a resurgence of the flu in late winter.