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.

General Faculty Meeting
Gore Hall
October 4, 2010

Read the UDaily story

It’s great to be here to talk about the year ahead and our priorities for it. I won’t rattle off a list of achievements; I just want to highlight what I consider the most important one.  

Faculty Growth & Excellence
That’s the growing quality and size of UD’s faculty. This fall, we hired extremely well in a higher education market that’s still grim. Colleges and universities around the nation are still smarting from last year’s mass layoffs.

In some systems, the bleeding continues. UC Berkeley just announced plans to slash another 200 jobs next spring to cut $20 million in costs. That’s on top of the 600 positions lost last year. The LSU system expects $21.2 million in mid-year cuts. Gov. Bobby Jindal told colleges to prepare for a 32-percent cut in general funds next year. The cut would force a system-wide, 1,300-person layoff—half of whom would be faculty.

And it’s not just bloat that’s driving layoffs—it’s not contained to big systems. Small colleges, private colleges are suffering, too. Most of the Ivies have cut faculty and staff in the face of shrinking endowments and budget shortfalls—Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton.

But it’s not grim here; 2010 was a great year for faculty hiring. We had an explicit goal to reduce costs so we could aggressively hire when other top-tier universities weren’t.

UD hired about 50 faculty this fall; nearly 40 are tenure-track. And our first-choice yield approaches 100 percent, meaning virtually every candidate we wanted said “yes” to UD. We recruited senior faculty from universities that lead in their disciplines—the California system, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers.

And we’ll continue to prioritize aggressive and strategic hiring. For instance, we’re committed to cluster hiring in areas we have—or will achieve—prominence: health sciences; energy; environmental science and policy; computational biology; diversity studies; and social sciences.

Rising Prominence
We’ve been so aggressive because faculty talent is an essential precursor—maybe the only essential precursor—to academic quality. It’s the only way we’ll continue improving our programs and strengthening our impact.

And the faculty-first strategy is paying off. Last week, the National Research Council ranked five of our Ph.D. programs among the best in the country: Biomechanics and Movement Science; Chemical Engineering; Linguistics and Cognitive Science; Materials Science and Engineering; Mathematics. Faculty productivity plays a huge role in the rankings—research activity, publications, citations, grants, and awards. And we’ll continue prioritizing these things as indicators of excellence. For instance, we must grow our multi-investigator, multidisciplinary grants, and we’re committed to increasing our research capacity and capability to do so.

A couple weeks before the NRC assessment, two world rankings of high-impact universities name-checked UD. Times Higher Education out of London put us at #72 in North America.

And when U.S. News Media surveyed the presidents, provosts, and admissions deans at colleges across the country, asking them which colleges they think are the ones worth watching, UD was ranked #8. Our peers, our competitors, the universities we respect and admire—they said UD is one of the nation’s top “up-and-coming” universities. We know it is. Indicators are up all over.

Our freshman class is the most academically accomplished in UD’s history. They came to UD with an A– average, and more 1400+ math and verbal SAT scores than ever before. Meanwhile, applications to our graduate programs hit an all-time high this year—15 percent higher than last year. Selectivity is markedly better—around 30 percent. That’s an 8-percentage-point drop from just two years ago.

Sponsored program expenditures topped $181 million last year, a nearly $20 million climb over FY09—and double the expenditures of a decade ago. We’ve broken the U.S. top 100 in federal R&D obligations, and we’ve competed remarkably well for ARRA funds, topping $64 million in stimulus grants.

Idea Leadership
Increasingly, the nation’s eyes are on UD when the big issues come up—healthcare delivery and legislation, disaster response, climate change, corporate governance and regulatory reform.

Politics & Policy
Just look at politics. For two days around the Senate debates next week, CNN is broadcasting from campus. CNN’s morning show will use UD as its backdrop. The steps of Memorial Hall will double as Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room.” More than two dozen domestic media outlets have already requested credentials, along with nearly three dozen reporters from DC’s Foreign Press Center.

But UD’s arrival as a political presence isn’t just “right place at the right time.” It’s not just hype. It’s the start of something big. With the Center for Political Communication, we’re coalescing thought around how we elect our leaders now—around the role of new digital media in political campaigns and elections worldwide. And we’ve got path-breaking initiatives underway. Long after the mid-term elections are decided, we’ll be shaping the conversation on the political process—here and abroad.

PreK–12 Education
We’ve got game-changing opportunities in K–12 education, as well. Delaware was one of two states to win first-round Race to the Top funding—$119 million to initiate wholesale school reform around standards and assessments, teacher pay and performance, and school turnaround. We just hosted delegations from all ten second-round states to get the work going.

We’re in a position to address the country’s most urgent education needs. For instance, we have enormous expertise in effective STEM instruction—and Pres. Obama has just called for 10,000 new STEM teachers. We can lead here. We must lead here. With the country’s fast-diminishing STEM competitiveness—with 51 percent of U.S. patents going to non-U.S. companies—it’s an economic imperative.

Healthcare Research & Delivery
We also need to strengthen regional partnerships to leverage our assets and expertise. A great example is the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance—and I’m excited to help inaugurate one of its newest components this fall: the Delaware Cardiovascular Research Center.

Beyond the Alliance’s obvious benefits—more and more collaborative biomedical research; expedited application to clinical practice; a bigger pipeline of health professionals; and better healthcare delivery—DHSA exploits our capacity to drive economic development through the health sciences sector: research, technology, small business incubation.

With health sciences accounting for one in six jobs in Greater Philadelphia—and 15 percent of all economic activity—we’re positioned for a big role here.

Facilitating Faculty Leadership
Assuming this kind of leadership demands a faculty-led culture. It demands that faculty drive excellence—that faculty take control. So we’re putting resources in place to facilitate that leadership.

This summer, we installed Angela Anderson as director of federal relations to represent UD in Washington—and to inform and influence federal policy on the issues that can advance faculty work.

We’re building the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab to give our growing science and engineering programs the state-of-the-art space faculty and students need to work and collaborate, to revolutionize research and policy, and enable more breakthroughs like the ones we’ve made our name on. It’ll be the kind of space that draws and keeps the best, most innovative people here at UD, and gets faculty and students from all disciplines working together in ways we’ve never tried before.

We’re improving patent procurement for faculty. The Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships has re-engineered the tech-transfer process so it’s simpler, quicker, more transparent, and more customer-focused. Last year, invention disclosures were up 60 percent over FY09—and they’re running higher this year than last. Among universities without a medical school, we’re in the top 20 percent in licensing income and the top 25 percent in patents issued. We’re also assembling a tight infrastructure of support once disclosure happens—a whole continuum of funding vehicles, plus full life-cycle help: patent, legal, business, and marketing support.

We’re continuing our work to better manage assets and decentralize financial decision-making, so that faculty with the closest relationship to funded programs are the ones spending the money.

And we’re enhancing diversity among faculty and students. Those efforts got a big push last week with the first meeting of the new Diversity and Equity Commission. They’ll hold us accountable on fundamental issues of equity, inclusion, and representation—and show how us strong we can be when we prioritize these values.

………

The University of Delaware thrives only if all seven colleges do. Everyone here has a stake in everyone else’s success. If we’re cognizant of that, if we work toward that—we will make UD into one of the country’s great public universities.

Thank you.

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