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General Faculty Meeting

President Assanis updates faculty on progress toward strategic goals

UD President Dennis Assanis addressed the General Faculty meeting on Monday, May 1, on the exciting opportunities to advance the University in all areas: enhancing student success, building an environment for inclusive excellence, strengthening interdisciplinary and global programs, fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, and investing in intellectual and physical capital.

“We’re talking about a significant rejuvenation of this campus in the next five to 10 years,” Assanis said, reaffirming his commitment to humanities and social sciences as well as STEM. “We will look at building on excellence, and every unit will have a pathway to excellence.”  

He noted the record number of applicants (nearly 27,500) for the incoming freshman class, particularly the 25 percent increase in Delaware applicants since 2014, as well as the 44 percent increase in underrepresented racial/ethnic groups among in-state applicants during the same time period.

“We are developing the right kinds of programs and pipelines” to attract students, Assanis said.

To enhance student success, the University is increasing scholarship funding and pre-college programming while also expanding student services including advising, utilizing the Blue Hen Success Collaborative for targeted interventions and career services including graduate student services.

Assanis pointed to several moves by the University to achieve its mission related to inclusive excellence, describing a multi-targeted approach that focuses on faculty and staff recruitment, student support, enhanced programming and improving the campus climate. He highlighted new faculty in the departments of English and Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as new staff hires, including a new director of Student Diversity and Inclusion in the Division of Student Life and a director of pre-college programming and special initiatives, among others.

As part of its focus on inclusive excellence, the University aims to boost the international student population by 1,000 over five years, increase undergraduate and graduate support for underrepresented students and has established a working group to investigate improving the campus climate by creating a multicultural center or other spaces on campus for cultural exchange. Assanis also indicated as part of the programming efforts that courses for the diversity module will start Fall 2017, and that the multicultural requirement has been completed.

The creation of a new graduate college would facilitate the quality expansion of UD’s graduate population by about 1,000 new doctoral students and potentially an additional 2,000 master’s students. This is part of an effort to increase the excellence of the University’s graduate programs, foster interdisciplinary programs, increase student diversity and successfully compete for external funding in support of graduate education. A working group led by Ann Ardis, senior vice provost for graduate and professional education, has developed initial recommendations that will be further refined after external consultant review scheduled in May.

But Assanis assured faculty members that “we’re not doing this at the expense of our great undergraduate experience.”

The University also plans to bring its School of Public Policy and Administration to national preeminence, in part with the help of the newly created Biden Institute, he said.  

“We have a wonderful opportunity to invest in our School of Public Policy and Administration,” Assanis said.

He talked of plans to hire about 16 new faculty members in different departments to address key policy issues, creating 25 new graduate fellowships, and co-locating departments and programs with Public Policy, describing the impact as “transformational.”

Furthermore, as part of the effort to expand opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship, Assanis challenged the faculty to establish an Honors Program-like framework to extend the reach of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship to all students. To realize this vision would require hiring additional faculty and an industry/internship coordinator, as well as creating a nine- to 10-credit program focused on entrepreneurship.

He highlighted several previously announced initiatives and projects such as the Delaware Innovation Space, the new STAR tower and the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals as examples of UD’s focus on innovation.

UD also plans to expand and revitalize its faculty to support its mission and enhance academic excellence, which will include adding 250 faculty members across campus beyond replacing retirements and attrition. Strategic hires — especially cluster hires of faculty in complementary disciplines — will strengthen the scholarship and national stature of key programs, he said.

While emphasizing the importance of investing in the University’s intellectual capital, Assanis said that "we will not be successful in our priorities without investing in our physical capital."

In addition to identifying an additional $18 million of funding annually to address $450 million worth of deferred maintenance on existing buildings, Assanis is looking forward to enhancing UD’s athletic facilities, investing in the STAR Innovation Building and the planned improvements to Worrilow Hall, among other projects.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Assanis took questions from faculty members before reiterating his excitement about the changes ahead and "building on excellence."

Editor's note: The May Faculty Senate meeting was held immediately after the General Faculty Meeting. For coverage of that meeting, click here.



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