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 Graduate Student Convocation
Mitchell Hall
August 30, 2010

Read the UDaily story

Good afternoon. I’m honored and delighted to welcome you to UD and to welcome Charlie Riordan as the University’s new vice provost for graduate and professional education.

You couldn’t have picked a better time to come to the University of Delaware. There’s an energy here, a positive restlessness. There’s the excitement that’s born when you’ve gathered, in one place, people who will do great things and, in the process, advance us all—the University, the academic community … humanity itself. Today, we welcome you as the scholars whose discoveries, ideas, inventions, and innovations have the capacity to remake the world. There’s nothing more exciting than the very fact of this extraordinary potential.

Just this summer, we concluded an effort to articulate the University of Delaware’s most defining attributes—to proclaim publicly who we are, what we stand for, and why we matter. And what we found is that our essential character has its foundation in you.

Talent Magnet
We found that the University of Delaware is a Talent Magnet—that talent comes here because talent already resides here. You are both provider and beneficiary of that talent. You were drawn here by faculty and colleagues whose intellectual power and creativity are unparalleled.

And, next year—and years thereafter—I’ll address a new cohort of accomplished, dynamic graduate students lured here because of you, because your name is known, your work is respected, and your cause is worthy. Your talent will attract theirs.

Citizen University
We found that UD is a Citizen University. We’re marshalling our research and scholarship—our full energy and effort—in the pursuit of solving the biggest social, civic, artistic, and scientific challenges of our age.

Ultimately, our ideas and effort must be put into improving the human condition and the world in which we live. Our work must strengthen our global community and our collective resilience—physical, social, and spiritual resilience.

We’re all over the world, mobilizing this mission—from Iraq to Cameroon, Korea to Haiti, China to Chile. We were even in the Arctic the day a massive ice island calved from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier. It was the University of Delaware that conducted the real-time data processing and analysis from this historic event.

It’s exciting work, and I’m so glad you’ve joined us in it.

Idea Leadership
We found that the University of Delaware is Idea Leadership. And leadership has its privileges. Your scholarship will shape—and challenge—prevailing thought. Your research and service will redefine what’s possible. And your drive will exploit those possibilities.

We have an opportunity to lead here. As individuals and as a University, we have a chance to steer the nation’s conversation on urgently important issues, to think broadly and creatively, to contribute in ways disproportionate to our size but not to our intellectual capacity.

This is why I’m so excited you’re here. I hope you’re equally excited. You have good reason to be.

2010 Graduate Cohort
This year, students from 123 countries applied for graduate admission. We logged 8,330 applications—a 15-percent climb over last year, and an all-time record for us. And so we had the luxury of being more selective than ever. And we were. Just over 1,100 of you remain. We owe you an enriching graduate experience, and we’ve worked hard over the past few years to ensure exactly that.

Progress on the Path to Prominence
In 2008, one year after I assumed the presidency of UD, we embarked on a strategic plan, created and embraced by this academic community. And we are living this plan—our Path to Prominence—every day. It’s predicated on six major milestones by which we chart our course and measure our progress. Among those milestones is this: To make the University of Delaware a premier research and graduate university.

And our progress toward this goal is remarkable. Our research centers and institutes now number more than 60. For the first time, UD ranks among the nation’s top 100 universities in federal R&D obligations. And we’re in the minority of institutions that made the list without a medical school.

External research expenditures topped $180 million last year, doubling the expenditures of a decade ago, and funding game-changing research in everything from early childhood education to advanced magnetic materials. And the significant research undertaken at UD doesn’t simply languish here: Faculty and students filed 56 invention disclosures last year, a 60-percent jump over the year before.

Our Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, inaugurated last year, is dramatically raising UD’s profile in cross-disciplinary arts, humanities, and social sciences research.

We’re undertaking groundbreaking work in the life sciences, in agriculture, in environmental science and alternative energy technologies, in chemical and materials engineering, in the arts and art conservation, in public policy, political communication, economics, education, and issues of social change. The list is longer but my time is short.

Graduate Education Accomplishments
To ensure this exciting work continues—and to support you who are doing it—we’ve strengthened the graduate school experience.

We’ve enhanced the caliber and diversity of those who enroll here. We’ve instituted global research travel awards to help defray the costs of international study. We’re offering dissertation boot camps, which have been filled to capacity since their launch. We’re hosting grant-writing workshops; training in responsible research conduct; and institutes designed to get the public engaged and invested in your work. I hope you’ll take advantage of these programs. They’ve proved incredibly popular among students and effective in enhancing the content and impact of their research.

Graduate Education Priorities
But, truly, our efforts have only begun. We continue to prioritize bringing the very best faculty to UD, and we’ve committed to cluster hiring in areas where we have—or can achieve—worldwide prominence. We will build our facilities capacity in the areas central to supporting graduate education, like research computing and libraries.

We understand the urgent need for true interdisciplinary study. And so we will better integrate science and engineering research with social and behavioral sciences, economics, public policy, and the humanities, so that the cutting-edge methods and technologies developed in our labs more efficiently make their way out of them, and are put to work alleviating the many real and pressing problems that plague us.

Graduate Education Leadership
The accomplishments I’ve just rattled off and the priorities I’ve outlined are, to a large degree, the work of our outgoing vice provost for graduate and professional education, Debbie Hess Norris. Debbie held the post for just over two years, and it’s a testament to her amazing leadership—and her minimal need for sleep—that so much has been achieved during her tenure.

The only thing that could tear Debbie away from this position is her one driving passion: art conservation. Debbie will continue as chair of our world-renowned art conservation department while advancing her advocacy for graduate education in the arts and sciences. If there were a few more hours in the day, I think she’d do it all.

Our sadness at losing Debbie is leavened by our delight in welcoming Charlie Riordan, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and former chair of the department. You’ll get to know Charlie very well over the next few years, and I think you’ll see why he’s won our coveted award for Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Advising & Mentoring.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome him as vice provost for graduate and professional education.


The University of Delaware has committed to developing the intellectual leaders and providing the intellectual leadership needed to solve the world’s most complex problems. We’ve committed to expanding the boundaries of human understanding, and contributing doggedly to a body of knowledge that will help perfect us as a people.

Now that you are one of us, you’ve made these same commitments. And so I thank you for taking on this challenge with energy and enthusiasm. I thank you for contributing your talent to this University and, ultimately, to all those who will benefit from your work.

Congratulations to you all.

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