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, An Abiding Mission
September 20, 2012
Welcome back! I hope the semester’s first few weeks have been productive and enjoyable.
This academic year is special for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the fifth year implementing our Path to Prominence. We’ve made tremendous progress toward the milestones we laid out four years ago, and we can point to successes in each of the goals guiding our efforts:
- significant gains in freshman diversity and resident student enrollment, and new programs to build cohesion and community among students;
- a four-year, 30 percent jump in sponsored research expenditures, despite a challenging extramural funding environment;
- a record number of Delawareans taking advantage of professional education, earning certificates in fields like project management, clinical trials management and business analysis;
- continued national leadership in energy and environmental research, and in the commercialization of our discoveries and technologies;
- booming global partnerships and exchanges, and more opportunities for students to participate in meaningful study and research worldwide;
- deeper engagement in our local and global communities, with a student body that contributes 160,000+ hours to our service mission each year.
Of course, there remains much more to do. I look forward to working with the entire UD community this year to deliver on the promises yet to be fulfilled. And next year, after five full years of Path to Prominence implementation, I look forward to initiating a new strategic planning process—convening a committee as we did in 2007 to meet with constituents and partners inside and outside UD, to evaluate our principles and priorities and to identify the goals that should guide us. In 2008, when we unveiled our Path to Prominence, we said it was part of a continuing University-wide conversation. I’m excited to continue the conversation with you next year as we evaluate what we’ve accomplished, and look ahead to what we still must.
The other reason this year is special is that we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, the act that conferred land-grant status on our forebear, Delaware College. In opening access to higher learning, in compelling colleges to serve the public with practical research, in connecting citizens with the scholarship and resources that support community and economic development, the Morrill Act remade American higher education and refocused its mission—squarely on the public good. We are guided by our land-grant mission today. We are deeply committed to applying our considerable resources to benefit our neighbors—to using our knowledge, time, talent and money in a way that brings Delaware and Delawareans into the riches of the UD community.
We’re excited to welcome to campus new leaders with the expertise to build on our accomplishments and the vision to move us forward: Vice President and University Secretary Jeff Garland; College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Mark Rieger; and Admissions Director José Aviles.
Meanwhile, two colleagues well known at UD have assumed new responsibilities. Charlie Riordan has been appointed vice provost for research, and Nancy Guerra is now associate provost for international programs. Getting strong leaders into these positions—positions tightly aligned with our institutional priorities—was essential, and I thank Charlie and Nancy for serving the University in these new roles.
We have several high-profile searches under way. The most prominent of these is the national search we’ve undertaken for a provost, and I thank George Watson for chairing this important committee. The work of the committee has begun, and we look forward to having a provost installed by next summer. I’m deeply grateful to Nancy Brickhouse for taking on the role of UD’s chief academic officer this year, and I appreciate the enormous energy and unique perspective she brings to the job.
This fall, the committee seeking a permanent dean for the College of Engineering will begin its work. I thank Charlie Riordan for chairing the committee, and I’m indebted to Interim Dean Tunde Ogunnaike for the continuity his steady leadership has provided and for his unselfish service to the college and the University while this process has been put in place.
Monica Taylor is chairing the search committee for a new athletic director. Not surprisingly, the position has generated a lot of interest among talented candidates nationwide, and we hope to have an AD installed within the next few months. Dawn Thompson and Bruce Weber are co-chairing the search committee for a vice president of communications and marketing, who we hope will be on board this winter. Michael Gilbert is chairing the committee searching for a director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. Strong leadership here is essential to our ambitions to enlarge our geographic footprint and become a University with truly global reach.
Last year was marked by transition in some central leadership positions. And while change can be challenging, what that change says about UD is nothing but reassuring. The fact that our faculty and staff are so actively sought out by the country’s best institutions of higher education is a testament to the incredible quality of UD’s people. It’s a testament to the quality of this University as well, to our recruiting power and desirability. We’re not the only ones who know how great our people are. And as long as we keep hiring the talent we’re hiring, it’s not a secret that can be kept.
Talent applies equally to the students we’re recruiting. This year, we received more applications for freshman admission than ever before—26,798 UD hopefuls, an 8 percent increase over last year. Students in our top talent tier are setting records as well: The number of freshmen scoring a 2100+ on their SATs (or 1400+ on critical reading and math) is up 4 percent over last year and 21 percent over four years ago.
Especially gratifying is the fact that the diversity of our student body is rising alongside academic achievement. The Class of 2016 includes 56 percent more African-American students and 10 percent more Hispanic students than the Class of 2015. Overall, one freshman in five is a student of color.
The number of in-state students enrolled this year suggests that our Commitment to Delawareans—an unprecedented promise of college access and affordability—is paying off. Among Newark’s freshmen this fall are 14 percent more Delawareans. They come from 54 high schools throughout the First State, and substantially more are from Kent and Sussex counties than in years past.
Through our Commitment to Delawareans, we’ll distribute $21.5 million in non-loan financial assistance to resident students this year; 46 percent of all in-state students benefit from this aid. When you combine UD’s institutional assistance with other sources of support, we’re able to offer eligible resident students grant and scholarship aid averaging $7,308 this year. This Commitment is fundamental to our land-grant mission. We are beholden to that 150-year-old charter because we know that by securing Delawareans’ access to excellent, affordable education, we ultimately help build families, communities and economies that can weather tough times like these—that can endure and innovate and prosper.
This year, 1,296 students began graduate study at UD. Thirty percent are international students from 59 countries, bringing the total number of countries represented by our graduate student population to 90. In all, 8,285 students applied for graduate admission this year, 4 percent more than applied last year, and 47 percent more than did four years ago. Among UD’s 3,716 graduate students are 11 Fulbright Fellows and 13 NSF Graduate Research Fellows.
This year, we’ll finish construction on campus buildings essential to our teaching, learning and research priorities. The renovation of Alison Hall will be completed. The Life Sciences Research Facility will open. And we’ll finish work on the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab. With so many tenants—UD departments, institutes and centers—counting on the building’s potential to transform the academic enterprise, “Occupy ISE Lab” will be a huge undertaking, and a move-in plan is now being formulated.
It’s critical that we put our people into buildings that are designed and equipped to facilitate their work, that these spaces aid discovery and invite innovation. It’s critical that we put our people into communities where they can collaborate closely—communities that attract partners and competitive funding.
Our Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus is being built with these imperatives in mind. Last year, we began to see the property’s past yield to its future. In September, we joined with NRG Energy, Inc., for the STAR-set launch of eV2g, a company commercializing UD’s vehicle-to-grid technology. Just a few weeks ago, we installed 15 charging stations on the STAR Campus, which we’ll use in our pioneering V2G research and development. In December, we completed the decommissioning and demolition of select campus buildings. In April, California-based fuel cell company Bloom Energy broke ground on 50 campus acres, site of its first East Coast manufacturing center.
In May, we unveiled plans for Phase I STAR Campus development, a 230,000-square-foot Health Sciences Complex, centered in the still-standing Chrysler administrative building. This is where we’ll join efforts with our academic, industry and clinical partners to transform health education, research and community-focused care, where we’ll stake a claim to national leadership in health and wellness, and grow the health sciences’ already significant contribution to the regional economy. In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Delaware a $10 million grant to develop the Newark Regional Transportation Center on the north end of the STAR Campus. An improved and expanded multi-modal transportation hub is key to exploiting partnership opportunities up and down the East Coast corridor, and making the campus into a regional destination for the best science and technology work going on right now.
This is our future growth. It’s ambitious, and it should be. Our land-grant mission requires our leadership in economic and workforce development, in job creation, in the making of new knowledge and new technologies that benefit our local and national communities and secure their health, safety and prosperity.
A Challenge to Lead
This obligation is made more difficult by a still-struggling economy. While our budget outlook is steady, it doesn’t come without challenges. Among them is setting a tuition and financial aid strategy that allows us to meet our freshman class targets in terms of enrollment, quality and diversity. The University of Delaware has a well-deserved reputation as a best-value college. But with successive years of rising tuition costs, especially for nonresident students, we’ve committed to moderating tuition increases in order to strengthen UD’s standing among our comparator institutions as the best of the “best values.”
At the same time, we can anticipate climbing expenditures in certain areas. The energy and operational costs associated with opening the ISE Lab will drive some of our FY14 budget growth. Health care and inflationary pressures in Library resources and capital maintenance will have an impact as well.
We were grateful for a 1.6 percent increase in our state appropriation this year—a modest gain that’s nonetheless significant given that many public universities are still sustaining heavy losses—and we hope to at least retain the same level of operational support in FY14. We’re focused on growing revenue, and we’ve identified many innovative ways to do that.
But the fact remains that our commitment to slowing tuition growth makes us increasingly reliant on philanthropy. Donors gave $61.2 million to the University last fiscal year, exceeding by more than $10 million the fundraising goal set by UD’s Board of Trustees. It marks the second consecutive year of record-setting private support and a 19 percent jump over the FY11 fundraising total, which was already up 26 percent over FY10. In four years, private giving to UD has nearly doubled.
These gifts are the catalyst allowing us to recruit exceptional faculty, to provide scholarships to students from all backgrounds and circumstances, to fund research that answers our most confounding questions and solves our most urgent problems, and to build state-of-the-art facilities where this critical work takes place. We’re so grateful to this community of givers, deeply interested and invested in the University and in the efforts of our people around the world. We’ll be working hard in the months and years ahead to grow our philanthropic base. And that means we’ll work equally hard to show prospective and longstanding donors alike exactly what their generosity enables: a University guided by the land-grant obligation—a University that, every day, puts knowledge into practice in service of the public good.
Patrick T. Harker