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.
Undergraduate Research Program Reception
Courtyard Marriott, Newark
May 7, 2010
Thanks, Lynnette, for the introduction and for the wonderful job you’re doing directing the University’s Undergraduate Research Program. I thank Meg Meiman, as well, whom we’re privileged to have serving as program coordinator.
I welcome all the student-researchers with us tonight, all the alumni who’ve come back home for this wonderful celebration, and, of course, the faculty who have served as their mentors and advisors—the ones who really instilled in them an appreciation for authentic learning, and who have set many of them on their current career and academic paths.
We’ve assembled here at UD a true community of inquiry, discovery, and learning. And our community is a model. UD’s Undergraduate Research Program was the nation’s very first and—30 years later—is still one of its most respected. It’s predicated on some beliefs that have withstood three decades: that we value our undergraduates—and will not hold their age or inexperience against them; that there is a place for undergraduates in meaningful research; that we can encourage and expect undergraduate excellence, and actively develop their capacity for exactly that.
With this program, we’ve said that undergraduate scholarship matters. Discovery-learning matters. Real-world research matters.
Benefit to Participants
I know it matters to the students and alumni here. It was the first time many of you were really exposed to faculty-level research. Maybe it was the first time you were considered not just a student, but a scholar. And in the words of Tom Apple—sorry, Tom, I’m stealing—that’s transformative.
In your program for the weekend, you’ll see brief bios of dozens of URP graduates. Some are serving as speakers and panelists tomorrow; many more simply wrote in to share what they’re doing now. To a person, their experiences and accomplishments are remarkable.
And they attribute their success, in large part, to the opportunities that came their way through undergraduate research. It piqued their interest in a certain area of inquiry. It refined their research skills. It gave them a leg up on the competition when applying for jobs or grad programs. It got them to where they are today.
And where they are today—where you are today—is pretty impressive.
I mention this in my own letter at the front of the program, but what’s really remarkable to me is that these early experiences seemed to have built your character in such powerful ways.
The research program imbued confidence, perseverance, flexibility, critical and creative thinking, independent action. And I don’t care what your discipline is or what your goals are—that’s a great way to finish up your undergraduate career and head on out into the world.
Benefit to the Community
Speaking of “the world,” it’s probably obvious—but nonetheless worth mentioning—that the program’s many benefits didn’t accrue to you alone. The research you undertook wasn’t hatched with the intent of making you better people. It was to make you better researchers—and to make better research, research that could be used in the service of society.
If you’ve been away from campus for a while, you might not know that our three-year-old strategic plan, our Path to Prominence, is premised on some important principles. Distilled from them is one big promise—to engage. We said the University will engage with the world and have an impact on it. We said we’ll graduate students who understand the economic, ethical, political, scientific, and social problems at play in the world—and who will help solve them.
Much of the work you did made its way out of the lab, out of the literature, and into the community—maybe while you were still here, maybe after you left. But that work—as 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds—made a difference. It served as scaffolding for future research; it stoked someone else’s curiosity; it grew our knowledge base; it was put to work in the service of others.
And it helped develop you into the people you are right now, people who are curious, involved, and invested, people who are committed to the big questions and contribute in so many extraordinary ways to our human experience.
I hope that when you have the opportunity to pass that ethic on to others—and, clearly, so many of you do—you remember your own early experiences and the faculty who inspired your interests and channeled your energy into meaningful research.
I hope you are that person to someone else, and that this cycle of scholarship and engagement continues undiminished.
I congratulate all of you—everyone involved in making the University of Delaware’s Undergraduate Research Program such a rare and special place for students, and the crucible of the incredible community we’ve come to celebrate this weekend.