Provost addresses UDARF

Provost Grasso discusses strategic planning during UDARF luncheon talk

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9:29 a.m., March 20, 2014--University of Delaware Provost Domenico Grasso believes that UD must take its tradition of excellence to the next level to meet the challenges facing institutions of higher learning in the 21st century.

Grasso discussed his views on higher education and the upcoming campus conversation for addressing these significant issues during a University of Delaware Association of Retired Faculty (UDARF) luncheon held Tuesday, March 11, in Clayton Hall. 

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“Everywhere on this campus, I see an enormous opportunity to make a difference in science and technology, in the arts and humanities, locally, nationally and globally, through our great students who study here and go on to make a difference,” Grasso said. “Our accomplished faculty members not only teach our students, but develop lasting, transformative relationships with them.”

World-class scholars at UD, Grasso said, include faculty who have invented new technologies, started companies and served as officials and advisers at the highest levels of government and industry.

“Our students and faculty are certainly most earnestly engaged in the great debates and grand challenges that define our times,” Grasso said. “Together, we are daring to be first to devise conceptualizations, solutions and approaches to society’s most challenging issues.” 

Grasso noted that while it is a very exciting time for higher education, there are significant challenges to be faced in several areas, including student recruitment and innovative new approaches to the educational delivery process. 

“Overall, the University this past year dedicated $53.5 million in institutional aid to undergraduates,” Grasso said. “This is more than double what we contributed five years ago.” 

While the institutional commitment to undergraduates has risen significantly, traditional sources of income remain static or are in decline in terms of the total contribution to the University’s operating budget, Grasso said.

“The large yearly tuition hikes that we have experienced in the past are not sustainable, but the reasons for them are not going away.” Grasso said. “We are a high cost, labor intensive, people driven industry, with some of the country’s best people and best faculty members on this campus.” 

The University also is projected to experience a significant decrease overall in the pool of potential students in traditional recruitment areas, Grasso said.

“We have an obligation to nurture them to completion and make sure that they enter the real world with the skills necessary for success,” Grasso said. “These are some of the reasons that we recently conducted a search for a new vice provost for enrollment management and hired Christopher Lucier, who will be joining us on July 1.” 

Grasso added that UD still has an institutional mission to ensure that the talent, scholarship and capacity for innovation represented by its faculty are used in ways that have consequential and profound impact on the issues that demand attention. 

“When President Harker arrived, he launched a strategic planning process, the Path to Prominence, that effectively distilled UD’s values and priorities to help find a way forward,” Grasso said. “Now, it’s time to build on our strengths and accomplishments and look ahead once more.”

Leading the strategic planning initiative are a recently appointed executive committee and three working groups, Grasso said. 

“The Sustaining and Accelerating the Advance group is going to look at the Path to Prominence and see what we have accomplished, what has to be propagated forward, and what has to be sustained,” Grasso said. “The Great Debates, Grand Challenges and Big Ideas group will consider the needs of society and will form our thinking as we move into the future.” 

The Models for the New American Research University group will look at cost containment, best practices, new opportunities and innovative options in delivering educational processes, Grasso said. 

The new strategic plan will be submitted to the president and the provost by January 2015 and approved the following month. 

Grasso also encouraged retired faculty members to contribute their thoughts and opinions to the strategic planning process.

“We are where we are today due to the talent that has paved the way,” Grasso said. “We can’t look ahead without the counsel, wisdom and voice of this group. I look forward to working with you toward the next chapter in this fine University’s history.” 

Article by Jerry Rhodes

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