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.
NYC Alumni Reception
Gotham Hall, New York
September 16, 2010
I thank Stephen for that introduction and for all the great things he’s doing with the New York City Alumni Club. It’s a really vibrant, important club to us and I’m thrilled to see this kind of enthusiasm and growth.
I’m also happy to welcome the newly formed Northern New Jersey Alumni Club, and I thank them for supporting this event. You’ll see many more clubs forming around the country over the next few years, as Blue Hens are seeking out ways to stay connected with each other and support the University.
I haven’t been to New York for an alumni event like this one since November of 2007. I’d been president of UD for just four months, so I can’t even imagine what I talked about. And now it’s not even three years later, and there’s so much to talk about, I’ll struggle to get it all in.
Everyone at UD has been working incredibly hard over the past few years. Really, the pace of change has been breathtaking. But I’m not going to start with the details. I’m going to start with what I want you to take away from tonight. And that’s excitement.
There’s such a sense of excitement at the University right now. We call it a “positive restlessness.” You feel it everywhere you go. And there’s a whole bandwagon behind us—friends and fans who are as excited as we are.
UD’s most famous alum, Joe Biden, swung by campus in the very last days of the presidential campaign, and he talked to students. He said the smartest thing he’d ever done was to enroll at a university he wouldn’t be able to get into today. And then he told the students that UD just keeps getting better and better and better. Actually, he threw in a couple more “betters.”
He’s not the only one who thinks so. About a month ago, U.S. News and World Report surveyed the presidents, provosts, and admissions deans at colleges across the country, asking the administrators which colleges they think are making the most innovative academic improvements; which ones are worth watching. UD was #8 on that list.
Our peers, our competitors, the universities we respect and admire—they said UD is one of the nation’s top “up-and-coming” universities. So just imagine what our UD family is saying.
Last month, we hosted an alumni event at a Phillies game. Cindy Campanella, our alumni relations director, was talking to a man who graduated 25 years ago. And he told her there are two kinds of people in this world—those who are Blue Hens and those who wish they were.
Well, I am a Blue Hen—and I’m really proud to be. I know you are too. And it’s that pride that’s going to propel us forward—to greater prominence, stronger influence, bigger impact.
And so it was important to me that we capture UD’s strengths and aspirations—that we publicly express who we are, what we stand for, and why we matter. We wanted to identify the attributes we value and the big ideas on which the University is based. I want to share those attributes tonight—and tell you what they mean to us.
I’ll start with Talent Magnet. The big idea here is that talented people come to UD because talented people are already here. Talent attracts talent.
Look at our new freshmen class, whittled down to 3,400 students from 26,538 applicants.
It’s the most academically accomplished class in our history. They finished high school with an “A-” average. And the freshmen entering our honors program are just amazing: They had a nearly perfect high school GPA—3.98—and a combined verbal/math SAT score of 1402.
Joe Biden said it best: Choose a university you wouldn’t be able to get into in 20 years’ time.
There’s a pretty simple reason talented students are coming here. It’s the faculty. They’re the ones building world-class programs. They’re the ones earning international notice. They’re the ones doing the extraordinary things that draw extraordinary people.
We’ve hired about 50 faculty this fall—nearly 40 tenure-track. A tremendous year by any standard—but especially now. Let me talk about the recruitment going on in just one college.
The College of Engineering hired 15 faculty this fall. They were all first-choice picks. Okay, we did lose one candidate—to MIT. But if you have to come in second once in a while, you’d probably want to lose out to the world’s best engineering school.
Our engineering program is so good that the college dean, Michael Chajes, just got a superstar professor from one of the great UC campuses. And now he’s got a commitment from the professor’s department chair.
This is how quality spirals. This is how excellence accumulates.
And “excellence” isn’t some vague attribute. Excellence is doing significant work that makes a profound difference in the world. Excellence is Idea Leadership. We’re steering the international dialogue on the most critical issues of the day. Let me give you a few examples.
Last month, a huge ice island separated from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland, and it made headlines worldwide. The island is four times the size of Manhattan—as thick as half the height of the Empire State Building.
Andreas Muenchow in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment was the first person in the world notified of the split, and UD processed all the raw data from it. And so it was Muenchow who was called down to DC for an emergency briefing to Congress’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Gulf Oil Spill
Back in the U.S., while the Deepwater Horizon was still gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Nancy Targett—dean of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment—helped convene a meeting in Baton Rouge that assembled the U.S. research community on disaster response. Then she went to DC to brief Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisory Committee on the oil flow’s most immediate scientific challenges, and on how non-federal assets could be deployed in a coordinated way.
Meanwhile, as middle-class America erupted over big bonuses and Wall Street bailouts, our Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance was weighing in on executive pay, shareholder rights, and corporate board responsibilities.
For a while, you couldn’t pick up the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times without seeing a quote from Center Director Charles Elson. Elson was one of 10 professors just named to the Directorship 100, a list of the most influential people in corporate governance. He was joined by the Weinberg Center’s associate director, Roger Coffin. And Deal Magazine named the Center one of four leading governance institutions in academia. Joining us on the short list? Centers at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Pretty good company.
Center for Political Communication
With mid-term elections around the corner, maybe you’ve got politics on your mind. We launched our Center for Political Communication last year under the direction of CNN’s former world-affairs correspondent, Ralph Begleiter. The center is tracking how new media platforms and digital technologies are changing the way we elect our leaders, and how those changes can affect civic engagement on a global scale.
The center gained the national spotlight with a little help from UD’s slate of high-profile political alums: Biden, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David Plouffe, and his rival on the McCain ticket, Steve Schmidt. At the height of the 2008 campaigns, Bloomberg Media called UD the “epicenter of politics.” And now the nation’s top political players are lining up to speak at UD: Plouffe & Schmidt, David Axelrod, Newt Gingrich, Howard Dean & Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, Patti Solis Doyle. It’s an exciting time.
Here’s another big idea supporting UD: Citizen University. “Citizenship” means we have a responsibility to the world—a responsibility to be involved and invested in solving the most pressing problems that we confront as a global community.
There’s so much work going on here, it’s easier to focus on one area in particular, an area that satisfies the urgent and global nature of the charge—environmental sustainability. We pledged to reduce our carbon footprint 20 percent by 2020.
So we’ve got a 2-megawatt on-shore wind turbine fully powering our campus in Lewes, Delaware. It’s taller than the Statue of Liberty. But that’s only part of the story. We’re teaming up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to begin testing commercial wind turbines off the Delaware coast.
They’d be the first offshore turbines in the Americas, and would drive wind-energy science and policy on this continent and beyond.
In a couple of months, three buildings on the main campus will be equipped with about 2,000 solar panels—giving UD the 3rd-largest solar capacity among all East Coast colleges. The installation should reduce our carbon emissions by 1.3 million pounds. That’s a yearly diversion of more than 68,000 gallons of gasoline.
But, again, this is only part of it. UD is a world leader in high-efficiency solar-cell technology. Ten critical solar technologies are credited to UD, powering projects all around the globe.
UD is the birthplace of vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, technology, allowing energy to be stored in electric car batteries and then sent back to the grid when the car’s not in use. Willett Kempton, the professor behind V2G, says if one-quarter of the U.S. automotive fleet were V2G-capable today, the cars could generate all of the electric power currently being consumed in America. He says the lights wouldn’t even dim.
We’ve got our first large-scale demonstration project underway, and now the world’s eyes really are on Delaware as we see where this technology takes us.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg—composites, catalysis, magnets, biofuels, hydrogen storage; we’re doing game-changing work in all of them. We’ve got more than a dozen centers devoted to energy and environmental research. We’ve got the first-ever undergrad and graduate majors in energy and environmental policy, and the first nonprofit committed solely to energy efficiency and renewables.
It’s up to us to do the work that will solve our climate-change crisis, to get our groundbreaking innovations out of the lab and into our homes, our cars, our offices—our way of life, and to be the world’s resource for sustainability solutions.
This next big idea is similar to the last. Discovery Learning is about our students tearing down the wall between college and what we call “real life.” Look closely: There are no walls.
Students have to spend time in the classroom and out of it—in neighborhoods and villages, factories and farms, schools, labs, clinics, boardrooms. They can’t be separated from the world at large for four years, and then succeed in that same world after they graduate.
Discovery learning is the very basis of our Undergraduate Research Program. Every year, hundreds and hundreds of undergrads participate in faculty-led research—the big, important projects that bridge academic principles and practical application.
And undergrad research is tightly linked to our service-learning program—one of the best in the country. Every year, more than half our students—some 12,000 of them—participate in service projects. Last year, they dedicated 143,000 hours to our service mission. That’s probably one of my strongest points of pride.
And when you hear what they’re doing, it’s more amazing still. Let me tell you about just one project. Over seven expeditions to Africa, UD’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders has provided three Cameroon villages clean drinking water. They’ve built wells outfitted with solar-powered pumps; they’ve constructed huge holding tanks; and they’re constantly making needed repairs and improvements.
A few dozen students have made the trip to Cameroon—but, every year, there’s a whole team back home, crunching numbers and doing the tough design work that’s being implemented in the field. In a world where 1.1 billion people have no access to safe water—and where 1,400 Cameroonian villagers now do—this kind of service is something special.
Obviously, the Cameroon project overlaps with our study-abroad program. You know UD’s reputation as a leader in study abroad. We’re 2nd among all public universities in undergrad participation, and our reach now extends to some 50 countries and all seven continents—yes, even Antarctica. Our mission is to engage these students in real work on real problems.
Education as Transformation
UD’s provost, Tom Apple, often says that the college experience is transformative—that by revealing to students their true passions, or by developing those passions, college has the capacity to transform the individual.
What I celebrate equally is that those transformed students—those changed students—go on to change the world. This is the premise—and the promise—of higher education.
East Coast Classic
This next big idea is one that’s closely associated with UD: East Coast Classic. For this one, you’ll need to reminisce a little bit. (Some of you may have to go further back than others.) East Coast Classic invokes UD’s quintessential college campus, the traditional architecture, The Green, the little bucolic town with its very own Main Street.
When the Princeton Review profiled UD as one of the country’s best universities, they asked students not just about the academic experience, but about the college experience. One student’s response summed up the rest: “UD is everything college should be.”
But UD will change. Our campus will change, our footprint will change. Our size and stature will grow. We need to ensure that the coming changes support a connected campus, an engaging intellectual and social environment, and opportunities for responsible, sustainable growth.
Let me give you an overview of some construction projects in keeping with these priorities.
I’ll start with a pretty big one: the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab going up at the corner of Lovett & Academy. The Lab is nearly 200,000 square feet. It’s state-of-the-art. And it’s designed with sustainability in mind. It has to be. It’ll house two of our highest profile energy and environmental centers, along with classrooms, teaching labs, and core facilities for research teams.
The big idea behind the building is the first word in its name: “Interdisciplinary.” Its design tears down walls—literal and metaphorical—walls between disciplines and faculty, between teaching and research, between graduate students and undergrads, so that the work going on in one lab provides the curriculum for the classroom next door.
If collaboration is king, this is its castle. And our castle should open in the spring of 2013.
The next project is one we broke ground on a couple of weeks ago: a new UD/Barnes & Noble Bookstore. It’s going up on the site of the Christina School District Building, near Main and Academy. The bookstore will accommodate everything we now expect in a bookstore: coffee shop, lounge, merchandise. Oh, and some books, too.
It’ll host faculty lectures, readings, and book signings, and we hope to get the entire community—campus and town—involved in the pretty amazing scholarship going on in the buildings we walk past every day. The new bookstore should be doing business next summer.
East Campus Housing
Here’s a project sure to stir some emotions. Last fall, we demolished the Gilbert Complex, which ups our need for student housing. So we’re planning a three-phase project to add about 2,000 beds to that same East Campus location. That’s new residence halls, a new dining hall, and renovations to the Harrington Complex. Construction should begin next year.
And now to stir the emotions of ice cream lovers everywhere, we’ll soon break ground on the UDairy Creamery, a student-run ice cream processing facility and storefront on the UD Farm. Its slogan? From the Cow to the Cone. Truly.
It’ll be a terrific hands-on resource for our Ag students. And it’ll catalyze some big conversations on animal & food science, resource economics, sustainable agriculture, and responsible land use.
But, really, it’s all about the ice cream. Six flavors—all of them terrific. But come prepared with coolers. UDairy doesn’t ship.
More good news: Students will soon have better facilities for working off those ice cream calories. We’ll be expanding and renovating the Little Bob. We need more cardio equipment space, more free weights, and accommodations for activity classes. We’re asking students for their wish lists now, and consulting with recreation firms.
We granted them one wish a couple weeks ago: We turfed and lighted Frazer Field, behind the Little Bob. But there are bigger changes than these in our future. I’ll let our Athletic Director, Bernard Muir, share our vision for growing UD’s intercollegiate athletic program and supporting the student-athletes who keep us competitive.
Science & Tech Campus
I’ve saved the biggest project for last. And that’s the transformation of Newark’s Chrysler Assembly Plant into a top-tier science and technology campus.
We bought the 272-acre property last November, about a year after the auto plant closed for good. It’s the largest-ever land addition to the Newark campus, adding 22 percent to our footprint. And the first phase of development—just one-third of the total acreage—could yield 4 million square feet.
And it’s not just big. It’s close—directly across S. College Avenue from the UD Farm and the Athletic Complex. This was a once-in-a-lifetime deal; the land is vital to UD’s growth and critical to our innovation leadership.
I’m not going to put a “shovel” date on it like I did for the other projects. We just selected a decommissioning and demolition contractor a couple of weeks ago, and that process alone will take 18–24 months. That’s all right. This land is our next 50, 60—100—years of work. It’s our way forward.
So let me tell you what we want to put there.
The campus will house UD’s College of Health Sciences and its research centers. It’ll also be home to several components of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance. The alliance is a partnership we formed last year with Christiana Care, Nemours, and Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University to collaborate on healthcare research, and more quickly turn that research into clinical practice.
In fact, Jefferson is planning to locate its Campus for Healthcare Education on the Newark property, which means the medical, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy students on clinical rotation would not only work and study on the campus but live there as well.
U.S. Army Partnership
Healthcare isn’t the only research we’ll be conducting on the campus. In January, we signed a huge partnership agreement with the U.S. Army, and we’re working on nearly 20 long-term research projects that will advance innovation in technologies with big implications for America’s military and its civilians. A lot of that research will go to the science & technology campus.
With so many inventive minds living and working together— with so much intellectual capital in one place—there’s no question the campus will power 21st-Century discovery, invention, and economic growth.
And that brings me to the final big idea on which UD is based: Smart Money. Money’s on everyone’s mind in this recession. Students and their parents usually breathe a big sigh of relief when I tell them UD is 16th in the country for return on tuition. That means—as an alum—your lifetime earning power against what you paid for your degree puts you ahead of every single Ivy League grad.
Blue Hens are successful—we have proof. Your investment pays off; your degree has value. So does the University that conferred it. Through our educational mission, our research capacity, our connections with business and industry, we can transform our local and regional economies. We can buoy families and communities that are struggling. We can spur recovery and drive growth.
This is the enormous economic promise we represent. The smart money’s on UD.
Dare To Be First
We’re heading into some remarkable times. We’re growing bigger and more ambitious. We’re growing bolder. We need bold. It’s time for bold.
I’ve told you all the big ideas supporting UD—the attributes that combine to create our unique identity. But I haven’t told you the tagline we took on—the one line that captures our character and, at the same time, challenges us to greater things. We focused on two words.
“First.” Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution. That’s how we got the nickname. The First State. It’s simple, direct—and powerful.
“Dare.” This is from our fight song. I hope you still remember it: “And when we hit that line/ Our team is there/With a daring spirit bold …”
So take the two words together and this is our challenge: Dare to be first. You are the University of Delaware—you were from the moment you accepted our offer of admission, however many years ago that was.
What We Need From Alums
And so we need you on this dare with us. We need you to believe that UD can be one of the country’s truly great public universities. And we need you to believe it must be. In your heads and your hearts, we need you with us on this journey.
We need you to open doors for us, to make connections for the University and for your fellow alums. We need an alumni community that looks out for its own. If you have an internship—just one—offer it to a student. If you have a job—just one—offer it to a Blue Hen. Attend more events like this one. Come back to campus to see first-hand where this dare is taking us. Ask one of the club leaders—or any of us—how to ramp up your engagement with UD.
And, finally, we need your financial support—for student scholarships, for important programs that make a difference, for any of those things that provoked your passions as an undergrad, or that provokes them today.
Alumni giving is critical—in any amount. Obviously, giving helps the University and our students; it also helps our rankings. But most importantly, it shows your investment in UD’s progress and prominence—a goal I know we all share.
I said it before: UD is one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
Thanks for coming out, and for your patience. I’m happy to take your questions.