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.

New Student Orientation
Trabant University Center
June 29, 2011

Good morning, Blue Hens! And welcome to the University of Delaware. Today, you’re a member of the UD family. You’re connected to something bigger than yourselves. And you will be for the rest of your lives: Once a Blue Hen, ALWAYS a Blue Hen.

From here on out, you’re part of a community that values excellence, develops potential, and works for change. This isn’t by chance. You were chosen because we knew you’d be a perfect fit. We asked you to join this family because we knew you’d make the University of Delaware even better—that you’d enrich this community with your effort, your ambition, and your activism.

The Class of 2015 is the biggest and most accomplished class we’ve ever enrolled. For a school with a 268-year history, that’s saying something. You come from 34 states, East Coast to West—from 19 countries—Bangladesh, Colombia, Korea, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia. Nearly 25,000 applicants vied to be sitting where you are right now. So there had to be compelling reasons why we chose you.

There were. Academically, you’re achievers. But academic achievement is just part of it. You’re not just smart. You’re interesting. And you’re interested—interested in the world around you, in finding your own creative expression, in developing the skills and talents that make you uniquely you. One-third of you volunteer in your communities; nearly 7 in 10 play a sport; 1 in 5 plays a musical instrument.

I saw an admissions essay from a pre-vet major who’s played clarinet in some of Europe’s best classical-music venues AND toured the festival circuit as a drummer in two rock bands. I saw essays from an engineering major who can trim a sheep in half-an-hour; a baseball player who moonlights as a ballet dancer; a computer science major who’s learning Icelandic, and thinks his interest in languages could advance computational linguistics; a first-generation college student who worked four jobs, seven days (and sometimes seven nights) a week to support herself, and to afford the exams and the application that won her a slot in this freshman class.

How could we NOT ask you to be a part of UD?

And so what I ask of you now is to keep being the extraordinary people you’ve already shown us you are. Make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Because it is exactly that. Enrollment isn’t the same as involvement. So I have some suggestions for involving yourselves in the life and the spirit of this University.

Acquaint yourselves with talent.
Acquaint yourselves with talent. Get to know your professors and classmates. Every day, you’ll walk into classrooms housing some of the best minds in the country—in the world—right here in Newark.

Last year, Delaware professor emeritus Richard Heck won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and senior Matthew Watters was named a Rhodes Scholar, one of just 32 nationwide. The UD community boasts renowned authors, artists, and scientists; Pulitzer Prize winners; Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellows; members of the National Academies.

You’ll have unprecedented access to these academic giants—people who will show you what real talent looks like, and who will work with you to develop your own. I can’t urge you enough to take advantage of this access, because you won’t get another shot quite like this one.

Pursue discovery learning.
Pursue discovery learning. Find out how much you can learn off campus, as well as on it. UD stresses problem-based, hands-on learning in every college, in every major—because what we do here at the University of Delaware isn’t theoretical. We study and excel in the disciplines that have real-world implications, and so we can’t be disconnected from that world.

You’ll be working in Delaware’s schools, clinics, labs, corporate offices, farms, and neighborhoods. You’ll have to really commit to having one foot on campus and one in the field. Because that’s how learning “sticks.” And that’s a competitive advantage you’ll see play out once employers come calling.

Step outside your major.
Step outside your major. The toughest challenges we face as a nation and a world won’t be met by people working in isolation. That’s why we’re bringing together colleges and majors to focus on critical issues like clean energy and environmental sustainability, education, diplomacy and national security, health care policy and practice. See what your expertise and experience can contribute to the cause.

Serve the community.
Serve the community. UD has one of the most active and honored service-learning programs in the nation. Last year, 12,000 students dedicated more than 160,000 hours to community service. The outstanding man of last year’s senior class spearheaded a student movement that raised $60,000 to rebuild a hospital destroyed in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. The outstanding senior woman founded a popular student organization that helps ill and elderly neighbors in need.

Find your cause and tap your commitment. We need your hands and your help.

Join a club.
Join a club. UD has more than 200 student organizations. They draw on a common cause or culture, a shared spirituality or religion, the same interest or political affiliation. These are some of the most dynamic groups on campus, and they’re critical to helping us sustain an environment that’s diverse in backgrounds, ideas, opinions, and perspectives. And that diversity is our strength.

Study abroad.
Study abroad. UD is the birthplace of international study, and we’re #3 among U.S. public universities in study-abroad participation. Nearly half our undergrads go overseas during their time here. Join them.

Be the global citizens we’re preparing you to be. Explore different cultures and traditions. Put the world into the context of its connections, and consider how countries and their people relate to one another—historically, geographically, politically, socially, economically, ideologically. Use your time here and abroad to start imagining new solutions to global problems, and to re-envision exactly what we can achieve when we work across borders and biases.

Make good choices.
And, finally, make good choices; protect your character. Pretend your parents are watching. Practice civility and tolerance, and cultivate a reputation for kindness. I don’t think there’s anything more worth your effort.

And if all your choices don’t work out as you thought they would, or if you’re struggling in any way, understand that you’re not alone. We have a campus full of people who are here to help you. Let them. And if, in turn, you see a friend or a classmate struggling, lend an ear, or a shoulder, or a hand. Hard times build stronger friendships than good times do.

UD’s Promise to Students
It might sound like I’ve just asked a lot from you. But I’m promising a lot in return. I’m promising a University that will invest itself in you—in what you want to achieve and the path that takes you there. I’m promising a University that will ask you to make your ideas known, and actively contribute to our campus-wide conversation on important issues.

I promise a University that will celebrate the diversity you bring to this institution—that will make you feel welcomed and valued and included. I promise that top-notch faculty—some of the country’s most influential thought leaders and innovators—will actually teach you (yes, you freshmen); will actually advise you; and hold office hours; and invite you to join their research.

I promise a campus that will continue changing and improving. As you walk around today, look at the construction and the cranes, the rubble and the rebar. That’s growth. New campus construction will touch every aspect of your college experience: a new UD bookstore, improved and expanded athletic and recreational facilities, a new housing complex and dining hall, renovated classroom space, and new state-of-the-art research and teaching labs. This is a University with vision.

I promise you an opportunity to join your talents, your intelligence, and your capacity for hard work to the University’s mission—to ultimately, and inevitably, change the world. And, finally, I promise you a University that believes in itself, and knows it’s on the cusp of some truly great things.

We’re not alone in this conviction. In a survey last year, the country’s most respected college presidents and provosts put UD on a Top 10 list of “universities to watch.” And so I think it’s fitting that you’ve got the best view of all.


I thank the parents here today for entrusting us with your children. I thank you for fostering their initiative, independence, and drive. If gaining admission to UD says a lot about these students (and it does), it also says a lot about the households they grew up in and the families that encouraged them along the way. I’ve said this before: Achievement can triumph over adversity, but it more often thrives on support. So thank you for that support.

And to our newest Blue Hens, enjoy today’s program and be an active participant in it. Ask as many questions as you need to get the most out of this day. I look forward to seeing you in the fall, and welcoming you—again—into the UD family.


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