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General Faculty, Faculty Senate meetings held

President presents ‘state of the University’ address, senators pass two resolutions

Editor’s note: For more detailed information on the Faculty Senate, including meeting minutes, visit the Faculty Senate website.

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis offered a “state of the University” address at the Oct. 2 General Faculty meeting in Mitchell Hall, highlighting recent accomplishments and initiatives, as well as a look ahead at future work focused on academic excellence and student success.

“I always value any opportunity to connect with our talented faculty and share the exciting progress we are making as a University,” Assanis said after the meeting. “Working transparently enables strong collaboration to address institutional and academic priorities to create the best possible experience for our students as we prepare them for the future.”

Assanis’ remarks focused on progress related to his five strategic priorities for the University: enhancing the success of our students; building an environment of inclusive excellence; strengthening interdisciplinary and global programs; fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship; and investing in our intellectual and physical capital.

He noted the record number of applications for the first-year class (over 27,500), resulting in a record-breaking number of first-year students and the largest class of Delaware residents in almost 25 years (1,402). In addition, the first-year class has the largest enrollment of underrepresented minority students at 721, topping the previous high of just over 600, though Assanis noted there is still work to be done in the area of inclusive excellence.

With an increasing student enrollment, the University is also increasing its faculty, and Assanis highlighted the University’s Inclusive Excellence Cluster Hire Initiative, which has resulted in four hires with one remaining position to be filled. While the University hired 85 new faculty members for the current academic year, the “net new” faculty is only 15-20 due to attrition, and Assanis would like that number to be greater to reach an ultimate goal of 250 “net new” faculty over the next five to 10 years.

Referring to the faculty as “the beating heart of the institution,” Assanis also highlighted interdisciplinary cluster hiring to complement ongoing efforts to build excellence within the disciplines, faculty mentoring initiatives and the Provost’s Commission on Tenure-Track Faculty as ways to help boost the University’s intellectual capital.

Growth of the University’s physical capital is also a priority, he said. Investments include the 10-story STAR Tower and the upcoming groundbreaking for a biopharmaceutical innovation building to house the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) and other units, as well as the planned renovation of Morris Library.

The president also told faculty members that the University is making a renewed commitment to addressing the problem of deferred maintenance on buildings around campus by doubling the annual spending in that area, increasing the amount from $18 million to $36 million.

And as he has mentioned before, development of a new Graduate College is still underway, with a plan for the working group to submit a proposal to the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate in the spring. He noted that the University also remains committed to the Arts and Humanities, and will continue to draw attention to its School of Public Policy through the Biden Institute.

In the area of innovation and entrepreneurship, the president highlighted the University-wide expansion of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, as well as the Delaware Innovation Space and UD’s partnerships with the VA Medical Center for research and Delaware State University and the city of Wilmington.

Additionally, the University has focused on building a more diverse and inclusive culture and climate in several ways, including the addition of a new director of Student Diversity and Inclusion in the Division of Student Life, as well as other initiatives such as the development of a new campus Multicultural Center and the Partnership for Public Education program. Such examples support UD’s broader Community Engagement Initiative.

Assanis briefly touched on the University’s upcoming philanthropic campaign, which will kick off in a celebration on The Green from noon to 3 p.m., Nov. 9.

He said work on a new budget model is continuing, with a steering committee and subcommittees to be named this fall. He expects the new budget model to be announced in the winter and implemented in Fiscal Year 2019.

At the end of the General Faculty meeting, the president took questions from faculty before turning the podium back over to Faculty Senate President Martha Buell, who then opened the October Senate meeting.

Provost Domenico Grasso offered a brief farewell address, since the meeting was his last as provost. He will step down from his role later this month to join the faculty in the colleges of Engineering and Arts and Sciences.

Grasso thanked his wife, Susan, for her support and said his primary goal when he became provost four years ago was to build a more collaborative process between faculty and the University administration.

“My overarching goal was to build toward an environment where we were all working toward a common purpose,” he said. “Looking forward, I urge you to continue all your great work and make it a priority to work collaboratively with the administration toward a common purpose. I leave you with all good wishes for unbounded success.”

As Grasso transitions to new opportunities ahead, Robin Morgan will be filling the role as interim provost for the University, effective Oct. 16. Morgan is chairperson of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Buell reminded Senate members of the forum on academic freedom and public speech on Nov. 8 at UD’s Courtyard Marriott and the Graduate College Working Group town halls on Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. in Gore 205 and on Oct. 17 at noon in the Willard Hall Education Building. In addition, she encouraged faculty members to contact her if they would like information on how to get involved with the Biden Institute and said the Senate would be working during this academic year on ways to elevate and support the Honors Program.

Buell also highlighted the University’s membership in The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN). The network of 39 research universities promotes the public role of those institutions in the 21st century and encourages community-engaged scholarship.

The Senate passed two resolutions on Monday — one to approve a University Office of the Ombudsman and another to have the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Studies work with departments and programs to update and finalize the General Education curricular mapping data by the end of December. The latter resolution would also require that the Senate work with the Registrar’s Office to incorporate curricular mapping data into the course catalog and that each department or program responsible for administering undergraduate majors to participate in the mapping process.

Finally, a resolution was introduced under new business to recognize Grasso for his contributions to the University as provost. That resolution will be up for a vote at the Senate’s next meeting on Nov. 6.


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