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.

Board of Trustees Meeting
Trabant University Center
May 8, 2012

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I thank Chairman Gil Sparks and the entire Board for this chance to talk about the 2011–12 academic year, and what we foresee in the year ahead.

First, though, I want to acknowledge a couple of people who have decided this will be their last Board meeting.

After nearly 19 years, Pete Hayward is retiring as Vice President and University Secretary. His service to UD and to the Board—his loyalty to this University, its people, and its ambitions—will be deeply missed. Pete’s been a close and trusted advisor to me for five years. I’m so grateful I’ve had this opportunity to work with him, and to know him not only as a colleague but also as a friend. Pete, we all wish you the very best in your retirement. You’ve been an incredible asset to UD.

This is also the last Board meeting for Lou Hirsh. Lou has been with the University for 28 years, the last nine of them as Admissions Director. Every spring at this meeting, Lou gives us a glimpse of the incoming freshman class. He gives the statistics one has to give—the SAT scores, the GPAs, the demographics. But it’s all just prelude to the stories: the oboe player, the first-generation college student, the athlete, the math-lete. Because that’s always what’s gotten Lou excited. Not the numbers; the students—the smart, creative, driven students who will call UD home for the next four or more years.

Lou’s legacy is massive; it’s the 16,000 undergrads on campus today, and the thousands and thousands of alumni we have all around the world. If you look closely enough, you can see Lou in each of them. Lou, we’ll miss you.

Technically, this isn’t Robin Morgan’s last Board meeting. But it is her last meeting as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. After serving as CANR dean for 10 years, Robin is returning to the faculty.

Under Robin’s leadership, CANR’s mission grew to encompass agriculture’s role in the most critical issues of our day: energy and the environment, health, food sustainability, and global responsibility. The college became a leader in finding innovative solutions to the resource problems we confront locally and internationally.

Plus, as far as I know, she’s the only dean with a UDairy ice cream flavor named after her. If you haven’t tried the Robin’s Egg—vanilla, with chocolate and toffee chunks—go have a scoop in her honor. Robin, thank you for your leadership.

I wanted to begin today’s remarks with a bit about students—the core of our mission. But, later, Tom Apple will be recognizing students who’ve earned great honors and awards. And, as I said earlier, Lou will be discussing the incoming freshmen. I don’t want to trample his remarks—not on his last year delivering them.

But I will say that the incoming Class of 2016 is something special. “Every year better than the last” has become something of a cliché by now. But it’s true. In high-achievers, in underrepresented students, in resident students, we’re seeing a more competitive pool of candidates. Lou himself has said that this year, we had more admissible students than ever before, giving us flexibility to focus on students’ special talents and life experiences, the very things that that make students so much more than statistics.

We’ve assembled an extraordinary student body. In 18 days, 4,000 of them will be graduating—finally setting out to do what we’ve been preparing them to do all along. It’s my best day on the job, and I hope to see many of you there.

There’s no question that the reason we’re attracting such gifted students is because they believe in UD’s academic rigor and academic innovation. And that’s a tribute to our faculty.

Faculty drive the quality of our programming, the competitiveness of our research, the desirability our students. Our investment in faculty has not wavered—and it won’t. From fall 2007 thru fall 2011, we logged 32 net new faculty hires. That might not seem like many—until you consider that over those same years, universities in relatively good financial health were announcing hiring freezes, and those in weaker positions were initiating large-scale layoffs and furloughs.

We’re also replenishing and promoting faculty at the higher levels. Since 2007, the number of full professors has grown by 21. Associate professors has grown by 18. And we’re drawing stars—high-profile faculty, entrepreneurial faculty. We’ve filled chaired professorships and initiated senior cluster hires in strategic areas.

Our investment continues. So far this year, we’ve hired 47 faculty. Of those, 34 are tenured or tenure-track—that’s nearly three-quarters. And of those, 14 are women—41 percent, comparable to UD’s overall female faculty share of 40 percent. Nine are non-White—26 percent. That’s an improvement on our overall minority share of 19 percent.

These indicators are important; they’ll be tracked closely and publicly. At December’s Board meeting, I said that cultivating diversity on campus was going to be a primary and sustained focus. Bringing more diverse faculty to UD does have a ripple effect. Academics see an institutional commitment to inclusion. Applicants see themselves in their prospective teachers and mentors. The community opens and broadens, and diversity grows.

At the last Board meeting, I announced the launch of two diversity programs, the President’s Diversity Initiative, led by Maggie Andersen, and the Center for the Study of Diversity, led by James Jones. Both are critical to building an architecture of inclusion at UD. And in five months, I’m thrilled to see how much work has been done.

This spring, the President’s Diversity Initiative put out a call for proposals to faculty. We wanted their best thoughts on increasing the presence of underrepresented faculty, staff, and students on campus, and improving our understanding of issues related to diversity.

Twenty-nine proposals came in from all over UD—great proposals—and letters went out last week to the faculty whose projects are being funded, seven projects in all:

  • A project to improve the climate for underrepresented faculty in the STEM departments.
  • An outreach program for Hispanic students in Southern Delaware who don’t speak English as their first language.
  • Advancing diversity through an artists-in-residence program.
  • Integrating University-wide efforts to improve recruitment, retention, graduation, and engagement among underrepresented students.
  • Creating a systemic approach to diversity that connects recruitment and retention to mentoring, peer learning, assessment, and curriculum change.
  • Developing a mentoring program, an undergraduate research program, and a new bridge course as a means of attracting more diverse students into the College of Health Sciences.
  • Weaving professional development in diversity into teacher education programs.

The projects will be implemented this fall, and the grantees will share the results of their work with the campus community.

We’re bringing this proposal framework to students next semester. SGA and other student groups have told me they want more dialogue and engagement on diversity. They want a campus that’s more reflective of the region’s demographics.

As a community, we know where the problems are; where’s there’s bias or pushback or inertia; where there are policies or practices working against our goals; where there’s a lack of information, or training, or support to propel us forward. And so these homegrown efforts—student-, and faculty-, and staff-led initiatives—are our best bet for becoming the inclusive institution we want to be.

Meanwhile, the Center for the Study of Diversity is working to build a network of faculty with common scholarly and teaching interests, a core of faculty dedicated to issues of diversity, whose research informs our discourse and agenda.

The Center headed up a search for two senior faculty with appointments in the College Arts & Sciences, and an affiliation with the Center. There was a huge and talented candidate field for the positions—400+ applicants—and we should have a couple of names to announce very soon.

We’re also pursuing faculty in other colleges as an outgrowth of the cluster search process. It’s a good model for broadening diversity scholarship. And it advances our two-pronged approach: Invest in the scholarly time and attention we dedicate to diversity, and invest in its representation on campus.

We know there’s a lot more to do. We’ll be assessing all the reports and recommendations on diversity that have come out over the last four years. and guided us to this point: the Diversity Task Force, the Diversity Action Council, the Diversity and Equity Commission. We’ll determine those areas and concerns we think we’ve captured and addressed, and those we haven’t; where we’ve made significant progress and where we’ve made little. These “holes” will set our agenda for next year.

Now I want to talk broadly about UD’s physical plant, what we’re building and, more importantly, why. Five years ago, we undertook a Campus Capacity Study, based on principles that inform:

  • how we’ll build a connected campus and a collaborative culture;
  • how we’ll promote meaningful student engagement and interaction;
  • how we’ll maximize our research capacity and encourage greater interdisciplinary scholarship;
  • how we’ll deploy our creativity and inventiveness;
  • how we’ll preserve our open space, conserve our natural resources, and prioritize environmentally safe, sustainable growth.

In the significant campus construction that’s taken place since then, we’ve been fulfilling these principles. There are a number of buildings scheduled for completion in 2013, and a lot of work going on right now to ensure we meet our deadlines.

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab—194,000 square feet—is our first new academic building since the Roselle Center for the Arts was completed in 2006. It’s on budget and on schedule for a spring 2013 opening.

The ISE Lab will be a centerpiece for the kind of science and engineering curriculum and pedagogy we know work best. Our world-class research—conducted right there on site—will provide course content, and students will learn through exploration of real-world problems. In newly structured science classes, they’ll apply fundamental principles in broad-based courses—biology, chemistry, physics—to innovate in areas like renewable energy and environmental stewardship.

It’s been a huge undertaking, generously supported by UD alumni and friends, and we can’t wait to cut the ribbon.

Life Sciences Research Facility
Our Life Sciences Research Facility is a 15,000-square-foot building on East Delaware Ave., between McKinly Lab and East Hall. This is where we’ll take the first steps in translating fundamental discoveries into biomedical innovations.

The space will more than double our capacity for important preclinical research, and will be a key resource in the study of pressing health issues like cancer metastasis, cardiovascular disease, vaccine development, osteoporosis and bone growth, and Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, it’ll open up substantial opportunities for private partnerships.

We’re grateful to the National Institutes of Health, which is funding nearly two-thirds of the building cost, and to the State of Delaware, which has contributed almost all of the remainder. The building should be completed by the end of this calendar year.

Alison Hall
The renovation of Alison Hall has been a longstanding priority of ours. We’ve been pitching this project in Dover for several years, and nearly all of the funding has come from the state. We’re very grateful. The 60-year-old building needs many of its major systems replaced, and we’re undertaking some architectural improvements as well. The work should be completed next summer.

East Campus Housing
The construction of two new East Campus Residence Halls is part of our plan to build an inclusive first-year student community, a community that will support freshmen as they transition to college life, and enhance their university experience. The halls, rising up on the east end of Harrington Beach, will total 252,000 square feet. Both buildings will be five stories high and, together, they’ll house 767 first-year students. We’ll fill them up with freshmen next fall.

Carpenter Sports Building
In March, we began construction on a 50,000-square-foot addition to the Carpenter Sports Building. This was a priority among students, who had to wait in line almost every day to access the gym’s fitness areas. For years, this was the #1 complaint I heard from students.

The three-story expansion will nearly triple our workout space and accommodate better exercise equipment. The addition will include group exercise rooms, offices, a student lounge, and an indoor track. Plus, an outdoor courtyard will connect the Little Bob with the buildings around it. The new space will open next June.

STAR Campus
Then there’s the matter of 272 acres across South College Ave. We’ve officially renamed the Science & Technology Campus the “Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus.” Conveniently, that can be shortened to “STAR Campus.” We think it’s a great name for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it evokes the future—our national prominence in areas like health, energy, and
security—and it references the past. It’s reminiscent of the Pentastar logo of the property’s last owners, the Chrysler Corporation.

For nearly 60 years, Chrysler built tanks and trucks and cars on that land. For the foreseeable future, UD will build knowledge and innovation there. Last week, we started building.

On April 30, we officially welcomed our first tenant, fuel-cell breakout company Bloom Energy. The Bloom Energy Manufacturing Center will occupy about 50 acres of the STAR campus. It’s the California company’s first East Coast facility and will serve as a production and sales hub. By summer 2013, the plant will begin producing solid-oxide fuel-cell generators—what they call “Bloom Boxes”—for clients like Delmarva Power, Washington Gas, Apple, and Urban Outfitters.

The groundbreaking was a celebration of many things: Jobs—900 direct jobs and maybe 1,500 total, if the company’s many contractors pursue proximity. It’s a celebration of manufacturing strength, when that sector is hurting so badly nationwide. It’s a celebration of clean-energy leadership, the University’s and Bloom’s. This is such a great opportunity for synergy in our research and applications. It’s a celebration of a community that came together to assure economic strength through cutting-edge science and technology, through discovery, invention, and innovation.

But our vision for the property is even so much more than that. It’s also a celebration of people and community. Phase I development of the STAR Campus will center on a biomedical and clinical research and education complex, built in and around the former Chrysler Administration Building and anchored by our own College of Health Sciences.

The Health Sciences Complex will connect UD and its partners with the public we serve every day—connect us through research, training, and treatment. It will exist within a walkable, livable, mixed-use campus—a 24/7 working, teaching, serving community. We’re calling it a “healthy community by design,” where health care providers, patients, scientists, students, and faculty interact daily, because they all inhabit this common space predicated on improving health and well-being. Achieving this sense of community means making the Complex a place where health drives our research, our education, our clinical programs, and our a way of life.

We’re planning for:

  • clinics providing comprehensive care to UD employees and to the public, clinics that provide training for our students and inform patient-oriented research;
  • inter-professional education programs for healthcare students;
  • facilities for translational initiatives, like the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance and the Delaware Rehabilitation Institute,
  • space for private biomedical and biotech companies;
  • housing for students completing residencies and preceptorships;
  • core laboratories for collaborative, interdisciplinary research;
  • fitness facilities and retail, healthy food stores and restaurants, and walking & biking trails for people invested in their wellness.

This end-goal—higher education for the public good—goes to the very heart of our mission. The University of Delaware is a land-grant university, and—with land-grant universities across the country—this year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of our charter. Justin Morrill’s “Land-Grant” Act of 1862 opened access to higher education. It connected citizens with the knowledge, research, and resources that support family, community, and economic development. This STAR Campus is our land-grant mission in action.

I want to end my remarks this afternoon with a mention of our alumni: 154,000 alums, living in 116 countries. More than 20,000 donors gave to the University of Delaware last fiscal year. More than half of them are alumni. And, together, they contributed 42 percent of our total dollars raised. Every year, alums fund student scholarships, faculty research, technology upgrades, lab and classroom improvements, student and faculty travel, and so much more.

Alumni power this University, and next month, June 1–3, we’ll welcome about 3,500 of them back to campus to celebrate everything that makes UD special, to remember their time here, to reconnect with friends and classmates, to talk to their favorite professors, to see how time has changed UD, and to acknowledge what endures.

More than 2,200 alums have already registered for the weekend, and the residence halls are sold out. This promises to be our biggest and best Alumni Weekend yet, and I hope you’ll come out for the tours, the receptions, the lectures, the performances, the open houses, the reunions, and—yes—the parties.

I thank the Board for its critical support of the University’s mission, goals, and initiatives. We deeply appreciate your leadership. I also thank the faculty, staff, students, and friends here today for their enormous contributions to what has been a terrific academic year.

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