President's Report 2021

Rising to the Challenge
of COVID-19

During the historic COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Delaware leveraged its unique resources — its dedicated people, its stature as a top-tier research institution, its culture of partnership and collaboration, its role as Delaware’s flagship university, among others — to overcome a multitude of challenges in 2020. UD’s determination and resilience are reflected in the stories below. 

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Testing program tracks campus health
 

Drawing on our own health experts and experienced staff, the University of Delaware created testing and screening programs to quickly identify COVID-positive cases on campus so individuals could get the care they need while staying safely away from others. 

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Staff in UD’s Charles C. Allen Biotechnology Laboratory adapted equipment used for monitoring the health of Delaware’s massive poultry industry to begin processing COVID tests, providing results in a matter of hours at a time when outside testing centers typically took several days. Daily health checks for everyone entering a campus facility also helped slow the spread of COVID by identifying those experiencing symptoms.

“The tireless work of our staff, many of whom are volunteers, has been absolutely essential to the success of this effort,” said Mark Seifert, director of UD Emergency Management. “We added an entire new workforce to meet the need for on-campus surveillance testing. Facilities workers, lab workers, public safety and so many others quickly figured out how to make these operations happen. ” 

Also, UD nursing students got unique, hands-on experience at the testing sites, turning classroom knowledge into real-world skills. 

“This is a great opportunity to help out on campus,” said Shaena Friedman, a senior nursing student.

What’s ahead? With more people on campus in the spring semester, the scope of UD-run testing has tripled, and UD has partnered with public health officials to provide even more testing on or close to campus. Also, the Delaware Reserve Medical Corps — a joint effort of UD and the Delaware Division of Public Health — is recruiting and overseeing volunteers to help with the state’s vaccination sites. 

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Protect the flock: youtube.com/watch?v=7S_wkWvEStI

Culture of caring supports students, faculty and staff

From the outset of the pandemic, Blue Hens stepped up to care for one another.  Faculty, staff, alumni and friends donated more than $448,000 to the new Blue Hen Strong Fund to help students experiencing pandemic-related hardships. 
 

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The fund will help students secure safe housing, cover tuition, provide technology for online learning and advance career-readiness opportunities.

Caring for the wellbeing and mental health of our students and employees has been critically important, too. 

The Coalition for Wellbeing and Mental Health was created to take a holistic approach in reaching out to students and employees through education, services, communications and policy development.

“We want to help everyone flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves, the organization and the communities we touch,” said Beth Finkle, director of Employee Health and Wellbeing and co-chair of the coalition.

“It’s important for students to know we’re here for them in all aspects of their lives,” said Dean of Students Adam Cantley, co-chair of the coalition. 

UD’s Center for Counseling and Student Development transitioned therapy and crisis-support services to a virtual format and added resources specifically tailored for pandemic-related stress.

Drawing on UD social science research, UD faculty, staff and students designed and implemented the “Protect the Flock” campaign to promote healthy behavior and shared responsibility. The successful effort encourages Blue Hens to take the necessary steps to keep each other safe. The campaign continues to be an effective initiative to reach students in the spring semester, especially as in-person activities expand and COVID-fatigue takes its toll on the community.    

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UD staffers pitch in wherever they are needed

“All hands on deck” barely begins to describe how University of Delaware staff members have stepped up throughout the pandemic to complete tasks far beyond their regular jobs. 

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“So many people just said, ‘Tell me how I can help,’ even though they had plenty of other work to do,” said John Long, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It has been incredibly inspiring to see the dedication of the Blue Hen community during this challenging time.” 

When the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020, UD’s Office of Communications and Marketing and UD Information Technologies organized a call center to help provide answers and reassurance to anxious students, parents, faculty and staff about the new virus. More than 135 people from throughout the University — from alumni relations and student affairs to athletics, facilities and more — helped field nearly 2,000 phone calls and emails in just the first week. Staff members continue to respond to inquiries — more than 3,000 in the past year — as the University’s operations adapt and evolve.

About 150 staffers volunteered over the summer to assemble about 38,000 safety kits for students, supplying them with face coverings, hand sanitizer and other essentials when they arrived on campus. Volunteers also added labels to more than 40,000 vials used in campus testing sites, helped students move into the residence halls and are delivering meals to students in quarantine or isolation because of the virus. 

Also, information technology staff members delivered laptops, monitors, web cameras and other equipment to faculty members at home so they could continue to teach their courses. Specialists in online education found themselves in high demand among faculty and colleagues who needed to ramp up their skills quickly. Coaches and other Athletics staff worked in a variety of roles, helping with residence hall inspections and monitoring the safe use of facilities; a few even learned to drive the Zamboni to maintain the ice arena.

“United by compassion and focus, everyone elevated their commitment to creativity and interdisciplinary problem-solving to an entirely new level,” said Glenn Carter, vice president for communications and marketing. “It’s really a defining element of our culture at UD.”

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Safe campus operations resuming in phases

Throughout the pandemic, the University moved carefully and deliberately to ensure a prudent process of returning to normal operations. 

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Classrooms, laboratories, the library and other facilities adhered to strict occupancy and distancing requirements, and research resumed in phases that allowed important work to continue safely. Residence halls were held to less than 20% of their capacity in the fall semester to ensure safe physical distance among students. The Student Centers and Morris Library were opened and staffed to give students options of places to study outside their homes. Most faculty and staff worked remotely much of the year, with only essential personnel on campus. 

As facilities and programs resumed limited operations, a thorough planning and vetting process ensured the use of proper cleaning protocols, staffing, protective equipment and other measures. Athletics and Recreation Services adapted to the testing requirements for student-athletes, coaches and staff in preparation for all 21 sports competing in the spring.

And it worked. No COVID cases were traced to classroom,  lab or athlete transmission, and only a few were linked to the residence halls. Most importantly, vital research continued, and students enjoyed an uninterrupted fall semester so they could stay on track to graduation.

“One big factor in the success of the fall semester was the hard work and dedication of UD’s staff, especially our custodial and facilities workers who kept the campus clean, safe, healthy and functioning,” said Peter Krawchyk, vice president for Facilities, Real Estate and Auxiliary Services. “They truly did amazing work under difficult circumstances.” 

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Respondinging to COVID-19, by the numbers

20,000

COVID-19 tests performed
in 2020
 

329,000

daily health checks
in 2020
 

6,000

COVID-19 tests processed
per week in 2021
 

A data dashboard was created to share information on this site about the status of campus activity this fall and COVID-19 positive cases among members of the campus community to aid in informing our community about public health.  

COVID-19 Data Dashboard

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Investments in online teaching enable strong education

Ensuring our students’ success is UD’s most important job, and the pandemic prompted us to lean into this commitment like never before. 
 

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The University expanded investments by more than $6 million in 2020 to improve the online learning experience for our students. We enhanced online platforms, upgraded computer hardware and added instructional designers to help faculty adapt their courses for online delivery. Faculty in our highly ranked online MBA and online masters’ programs in education aided their colleagues in adapting their courses to digital platforms. 

Staff from throughout the University collaborated to help make the switch to online learning as smooth and effective as possible. UD’s Faculty Commons brings together the efforts of the Center for Teaching and Assessment of LearningInformation Technologies; the UD Libraries, Museums and Press; and Professional and Continuing Studies to support faculty throughout the academic year. The Faculty Commons also launched a new Teaching Online website to connect faculty directly to resources. 

The online resources of the Library, Museums and Press, including expanded access to e-books and streaming media, continued to be available remotely for all UD students, faculty and staff. The Library offered virtual services, such as live research assistance, consultations, workshops and teaching collaborations to ensure students and faculty had the support needed in the online environment.

More than 1,250 professors have participated in training so they could seize the opportunity to refine their teaching in this digital environment.

  • “Professors have been excellent about integrating more technology into their teaching. Online instruction makes it possible to use modeling software or simulations during a lecture while the students try it on their own computers. [Asynchronous learning] provides the flexibility I need during these difficult times to work when I can.” — Jackson Burns, Junior, Chemical Engineering

  • “Online teaching isn't simply ‘putting your course online’ but instead, rethinking assignments/projects and how to meet the learning goals to create a whole different course that actually works better online.” — Katya Roelse, Instructor, Fashion and Apparel Studies
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Online education continues to advance
 

The University of Delaware’s history with remote education goes back to the 1980s, with a strong culture and growing infrastructure that enabled a quick pivot to more online and hybrid learning when the pandemic hit. 

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Building on the unique lessons of 2020, we are reimagining and reinvigorating the ways we teach and the way our students learn. We can extend the UD experience to more people of more ages in more places around the world.

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Professors have been excellent about integrating more technology into their teaching. Online instruction makes it possible to use modeling software or simulations during a lecture while the students try it on their own computers. [Asynchronous learning] provides the flexibility I need during these difficult times to work when I can. 

Jackson Burns Junior, Chemical Engineering

Professors have been excellent about integrating more technology into their teaching. Online instruction makes it possible to use modeling software or simulations during a lecture while the students try it on their own computers. [Asynchronous learning] provides the flexibility I need during these difficult times to work when I can. 

Jackson Burns Junior, Chemical Engineering

NIIMBL Research drives critical support

 

The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), a Manufacturing USA public-private partnership headquartered at the University of Delaware, provided key support in the battle against COVID-19.

 

The $8.9 million Commerce Department grant is helping to expand testing and diagnostic capability, address problems in the healthcare supply chain and develop new ways to accelerate vaccine manufacturing.

 

 

UD researchers join COVID-19 fight

 

As soon as the pandemic hit, the University of Delaware’s research community began hitting back. 

Here is a sampling of UD’s COVID-related research efforts making an impact in Delaware and around the world.

UD donates PPE to emergency workers

When supplies of personal protective equipment were low at the outset of the pandemic, the University of Delaware stepped up.
UD donated a cache of surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer 

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to the Delaware Emergency Management Agency in March. Then, UD researchers and staff scoured their labs and the Library’s conservation department to collect about 25 cases of gloves, lab coats and N-95 respirators for the Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Company, a volunteer-run fire company that protects UD and the surrounding area.

“UD has been fantastic,” said Jeffrey Sands, Aetna’s deputy chief. “We’re in unprecedented waters, and it is relationships like this that are helping us get through.”

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Partnerships key to COVID response

The University of Delaware played an integral part in helping Delaware cope with the pandemic by working closely with governments and nonprofits statewide. 

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UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus hosted the Delaware Emergency Management Agency’s pilot drive-through testing site in May, serving as a model for large-scale sites elsewhere in the state. DEMA and New Castle County now regularly offer testing on the STAR Campus and UD’s Laird Campus.

“Our work with the state has benefitted the entire community, both on and off our campus,” said Mark Seifert, director of UD Emergency Management.

UD also reinforced the city of Newark’s limits on gathering sizes by reminding students to practice safe behaviors. In southern Delaware, UD helped strengthen residents’ social bonds by supporting the Cape Community Coordination for COVID-19 coalition, advancing the mission of UD’s Delaware Sea Grant College Program to build more resilient communities.

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UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE PRESIDENT'S REPORT 2021

The University of Delaware strictly follows all current health protocols, including the wearing of masks and appropriate physical distancing. Some images on this website may have been taken before these rules were implemented.