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
December 7, 2010

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I thank Gil Sparks and the entire Board of Trustees for this chance to update you on the progress we’re making along our Path to Prominence.

Last year, I convened the Path to Prominence Review Committee to catalogue this progress and identify our priorities and challenges ahead. That committee was co-chaired by Mark Barteau and Debbie Hess Norris. I knew I could count on their leadership. Both had chaired the original Planning Committee assembled 3½ years ago, and there was a certain symmetry to asking them back to find out how we’re doing.

Just as the Planning Committee met extensively with the UD community when drafting the Path to Prominence, the Review Committee met with this same community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends—to evaluate the plan’s implementation and to steer our way forward.

I thank Mark and Debbie—and the entire Review Committee—for their dedication to the task; for their honesty and candor; and for producing an update that positions us for faithful direction and steady momentum. That update is now online at the Path to Prominence web site, and I encourage all of you with us today to read it.

The report is organized according to our six milestones, and attached to each milestone is an accounting of our accomplishments, a discussion of the course ahead, and quantifiable indicators by which we’ll measure our progress.

There are far too many initiatives underway to discuss all of them here, so I’ll quickly highlight an activity or two per milestone that signal our commitment and ambitions.

Undergraduate Environment
Our first goal—to create a diverse and stimulating undergraduate environment—has been advanced with the introduction of our First-Year Experience Program. The program prepares freshmen to succeed not only as students, but as citizens who can and will make a difference in the world. The Experience is students’ first step in finding themselves and their passions—and in preparing to live as knowledgeable, informed, and engaged members of a global society.

As part of the program, we’ve instituted a first-year common reader that brings students into the intellectual life of the University. And we invite the authors to campus for lectures that really engage students in the books’ big ideas. We’ve initiated a first-year seminar led by faculty, with the close involvement of undergraduate peer mentors. The seminars help freshmen adjust to college life and build around them a community focused on securing their success.

Building cohesion among a diverse group of students—and finding strength in that diversity—is a huge part of this goal. And we’ll work to increase that diversity—racial, ethnical, cultural, and intellectual diversity. It’s clear we need to increase the number of African-American and Latino students on campus, while continuing to grow our share of Asian-American and international students. And we must ensure that all students get a quality education that emphasizes writing and oral communication, higher order thinking, and problem- and team-based learning.

Research and Graduate Education
Our second goal is to become a premier research and graduate university. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success in this goal, taking our place among the nation’s top 100 universities in federal research and development obligations—one of the few institutions to do it without a medical school. In the last few years, we’ve inaugurated several interdisciplinary research centers—in energy, the environment, political communication, health sciences, design thinking, and the humanities.

And we’ll continue this leadership in interdisciplinary research by initiating several new faculty cluster searches to advance our work in areas like computational biology, energy, and environmental science. We’re considering still more cluster hires in diversity science—to support our planned Center for Diversity Studies—and in social sciences—to support the Center for Political Communication.

We know our aspiration to rank among the best graduate research universities hinges on our ability to recruit and retain the very best faculty. And those recruitment efforts will, in turn, hinge on our capacity to provide the resources and core facilities that support high-quality research and education, like top-quality professional staff, cutting-edge instrumentation, rich libraries, and solid research computing facilities. We’ll focus on building the kind of infrastructure that keeps us competitive in the extramural funding environment.

And we’ll attract the best graduate students to campus by committing to better funding of student stipends, competitive TA teaching loads, richer mentoring opportunities, and a stronger support structure that cultivates diversity and fosters collaboration.

Professional Education
Our third goal is to expand our professional education programs, and every college has included professional programs in their strategic plans.
We’ve developed four new master’s programs, in teaching, software engineering, historic preservation, and economics & entrepreneurship for educators. We’ve launched our first two PSMs, or professional science master’s programs, in biotechnology and bioinformatics. We’re offering new dual-degree programs in concert with the MBA, and several new graduate-certificate and articulated programs. We’re exploring more professional education options in areas like clinical translational sciences, energy, and environmental science and policy. And we’ll expand and enrich professional programs in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

We’ve all just heard the Board authorize a feasibility study and business plan for a proposed UD Law School. This is in keeping with our professional program priorities. UD is one of few universities without a professional degree program in law or medicine. A law school could support UD’s growing prominence and help us achieve parity with our peers.

Clearly, a lot of assessment remains to be done, but—as we’re already working to expand our professional offerings in health, education, and business—I thank the Board for authorizing this exploration into law.

Initiative for the Planet
Our fourth goal is to be an international resource for environmental education, research, technology, and policy.

Progress in this goal has been swift. We’ve launched two interdisciplinary centers dedicated to this mission, and both—the Delaware Environmental Institute and the UD Energy Institute—have already won significant federal funding and brokered exciting partnerships. We’re planning to hire several new faculty in energy and the environment over the next several years, including at least half-a-dozen to be recruited through a cluster hire. We’ve added undergrad majors in environmental studies and energy & environmental policy. We’ve revised the existing environmental science major. And we’ve begun developing new graduate programs in bio-geochemistry and water science and policy.

Catalyzing all these education and research efforts is the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab. The Lab will house several of our energy and environment centers, along with multi-college research groups focused on sustainability science and policy. It will be the focal point for our energy and environmental research, enabling the collaboration that breeds breakthrough ideas, innovations, and technologies.

But if this is our “global” plan, our local plan is just as important. We will “walk the sustainability walk.” Our onshore wind turbine is powering the Lewes campus, and a 2,000-panel solar installation on three Newark rooftops gives UD the third-largest solar capacity of all East Coast colleges. But we’re conscious of the fact that our expanding physical footprint could, in turn, enlarge our environmental footprint.

We’re challenged to consider carefully how we’ll be good environmental stewards despite our expanding energy needs; how our planning, policies, and practices will serve our green mission; and how we’ll educate citizens inside and outside this community in a way that demonstrably influences behavior.

The Global Initiative
Our fifth goal is to foster knowledge of the important issues that face the world and to develop in this community the courage and capacity to solve them.

Key to achieving this goal is the Institute for Global Studies, which we launched last year to expand and strengthen international programs, partnerships, and exchanges. We recently celebrated the first major partnership inaugurated under IGS. The Confucius Institute will promote instruction in Chinese language and culture, and strengthen research and cultural collaborations with Chinese universities, industry, government, and NGOs.

UD has long been a leader in international programming. Our global education and research partnerships are significant and growing. And among the nation’s public doctoral institutions, we rank third for study-abroad participation.

And yet we haven’t been as successful in internationalizing our own campus. While foreign nationals account for 41 percent of our graduate students, just over 1 percent of our undergrads come from countries outside the U.S.—compared with 5 percent among our peers. We’re working to increase that share with new recruiting efforts; a streamlined admissions process for exchange students; stronger orientation and transition programs; and a support structure that makes international students feel truly included in the life of this University community. Our growing English Language Institute is a great asset in this work. It’s launching its own semester-long First-Year Experience program for international students this spring.

If we truly value what can be gained by bringing international students to UD—along with sending our students abroad—we’ll need to address issues of adequate staffing, professional development, and cross-cultural training, advising, and IT.

The Engaged University
Our sixth and final goal is to engage with our local communities in Delaware and with the world.

At its core, this milestone is the culmination of all the others. It’s why we’re driven to be an exceptional undergraduate and graduate institution; it’s why we’re committed to cutting-edge research, to environmental stewardship, and to global citizenship.

Every college has close ties to the communities and constituents they serve, and these relationships are the basis for improving the social, economic, educational, and cultural climate of the state and the region—for enabling health and happiness, prosperity, security, and sustainability.

Our work in this goal will focus on strengthening these community connections, and maximizing the impact we have in important areas. For instance, our partnership with the state’s elementary and secondary schools will grow even tighter in the years ahead, as UD takes on a key role in school reform under Delaware’s $119m Race to the Top grant.

We’ll seize opportunities for even closer engagement all along the preK–12 continuum. Already, we’re expanding our outreach in early childhood education, providing on-site training statewide to family- and center-based early care providers.

Engagement in Southern Delaware is clearly an area of focus, as well. The University already has a substantial impact in Kent and Sussex counties, contributing $620m annually to the two counties’ economies. And while we have no plans for a residential undergraduate campus in Southern Delaware, we do have plans for more programs and partnerships that will yield an even bigger presence downstate.

For instance, as the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance expands this year, we’ll be taking on affiliates. And so we’re looking to our clinical colleagues at Beebe, Bayhealth, and Nanticoke to join the Alliance’s efforts, so we can begin tying our programs together in areas of mutual interest.  

Key Capabilities
The Path to Prominence Update doesn’t actually end with the last milestone. The Committee also assessed the key capabilities we need if we hope to achieve any of them.

First, we need faculty and staff excellence—and a commitment to the recruitment, development, support, and compensation practices that will bring that excellence to UD—and keep it here. We need investments in IT—investments that will help our systems share information more efficiently, and satisfy our high-performance computing needs.

We need best management practices, and to ensure that Responsibility-Based Budgeting is aligned with our strategic goals and priorities—like interdisciplinary collaboration—and that it supports University-wide functions. We need financial resources that meet our significant program and capital needs.

We need a deeply held commitment to excellence in everything we do, and a capacity—an eagerness—to embrace change as we set about becoming the University of our aspirations.

We’re all on this Path together. I mean that. And I thank the Board and the entire UD community for committing to the journey; for helping us log a lot of progress in a short time; and for setting the direction ahead.

Thank you.

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