Strategic Plan 2020-2030

The Changing Earth: Working Together for a Sustainable Future

Our Vision and Mission


The College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) at the University of Delaware seeks to be a leader by advancing the scientific understanding of the ever-changing coupled Earth and human systems through interdisciplinary research and teaching. CEOE seeks to ensure that our science serves society by informing policy and engaging communities at local, national and global levels.


Through leading-edge interdisciplinary research and education, CEOE explores and addresses complex issues of planetary-scale sciences of the Earth’s systems, supports resiliency for long-term sustainability, and prepares future generations of leaders, all in partnership with academia, government, businesses, and communities.

A Message from the Dean

As the Earth enters the Anthropocene epoch—a period of hydrological, climatological, and biological changes, diverging from previous cycles of global dynamics—the study of Earth processes is becoming exceedingly complex, requiring cross-disciplinary studies. Influenced by the interactions between humans and our environment, many of these changes have had adverse effects of global significance. Furthermore, the limited availability of resources critical to human life as well as the current lack of local institutional capacities to deal with the challenges of climate change create an ever-increasing urgency for intervention.

The College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) at the University of Delaware is built on a foundation of excellence in basic and applied science, with a 50-year legacy of multidisciplinary education, research, and service in atmospheric, geological, marine, environmental, and social sciences. Bridging disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise, technological innovations, and big data, the College is well-positioned to catalyze systems-level and convergence thinking to address Earth’s present and future grand challenges. Through this strategic plan, CEOE will build upon existing strengths to provide a transformative educational experience for our students that deepens their understanding of Earth from a systems approach and the coupling of human natural systems, while providing them with variable career pathways for success. We will recruit and retain outstanding faculty and staff and translate our research to solutions for society while building an environment of inclusive excellence.

At this college, we have the opportunity to address vital issues facing our world, from geologic hazards to water and food security to coastal resilience—and especially understanding, mitigating, and adapting to a changing climate. The most urgent problems of our near future are ones that CEOE is uniquely equipped to study and influence. Looking ahead to the next 10 years, this document provides a roadmap for how we can maximize the good we can do as a college and a community of scholars. If we fully embrace and strive to fulfill our potential and our mission, CEOE will certainly make a real and profound difference in the world we all share.

Dr. Estella Atekwana
Dean, CEOE

Picture of Dean Estella Atekwana

The most urgent problems of our near future are ones that the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment is uniquely equipped to study and influence.


The College will build upon its legacy of excellence in fundamental and applied research and exemplary education to develop thematic, interdisciplinary areas that engage students, faculty, stakeholders, and decision-makers. The strategic plan focuses on six goals. Achieving our goals will require that we all work together and engage administrators, faculty, staff, and students from both academic and administrative units across the College and the University.

Delivering Exemplary Academic Programs that Inspire Students and Produce Impactful Leaders

Prof. Jackson in discussion with students in class

The primary objective of the College is to educate students to become engaged citizens and future leaders who understand disciplinary complexities and can apply quantitative and qualitative reasoning for collaborative problem-solving. Both the demographics of students and the job landscape are rapidly changing.

The College will develop a multiple-pronged, dynamic strategy that will strengthen existing degree programs and will offer hybrid and online degree programs, certificates, affinity programs, and micro-credentials. In this way, the College will continue to prepare a more diverse and equitable student body and will address current scientific and societal issues as well as dynamic employment opportunities. By hiring and supporting talented faculty, along with providing undergraduate and graduate student advisory services, the College will help students to be able to pursue complex research questions, to forge effective career paths, and to engage in lifelong learning.

Undergraduate Programs

  • Grow undergraduate enrollment by developing high school pipeline programs, affinity programs, and articulation agreements with community colleges.
  • Expand experiential learning opportunities by increasing the number of students engaged in faculty-led research and promoting hands-on field education experiences that complement degree programs.
  • Increase retention and four-year graduation rates by launching a student success center to provide a one-stop location for optimizing academic and career advising and co-curricular programming and mentoring.
  • Evaluate, revise, and modernize the degree programs, including 4+1 and online courses to reflect the rapidly changing educational landscape, evolving societal challenges, and job market demands.
  • Expand educational opportunities to non-traditional students by developing flexible and innovative academic programs to enhance access to education.
  • Develop students to be life-long learners by emphasizing strong disciplinary and quantitative skills, and non-technical skills so students will be agile in navigating the changing job landscapes

Graduate and Professional Programs

  • Increase graduate student enrollment by developing and implementing a holistic and best practices recruitment strategy and maintaining competitive stipends.
  • Enhance student success and better prepare graduate students for diverse career pathways by collaborating with the Graduate College to build a robust Professional Development Program.
  • Build and enhance the graduate student cohort between the Lewes and Newark campuses by providing shared academic experiences, activities, and encouraging social gatherings.
  • Establish professional master’s and certificate programs in order to diversify the graduate student body and enhance student success in addressing current scientific challenges and the evolving job market. 

Sustaining and Advancing Innovative Research and Discovery

Prof. Jessica Warren and student examine materials

Excellence in research and discovery is central to the identity of faculty and students in CEOE. Our faculty and students address many of Earth’s grand challenges that require a deep understanding of the Earth as a system (biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, and geosphere) and the responses to physical and human stressors. We recognize the need to explore more interdisciplinary and holistic approaches in order to advance discovery and innovation, and address the increasingly complex environmental issues that affect society.

With its deep capabilities in climate science, environmental geochemistry, marine and terrestrial ecosystems and growing expertise in solid earth, natural hazards and coupled human-environmental system analysis, the college has unique opportunities to catalyze and shape more collaborations across the College and the University. In this way, emerging complexities and existing knowledge gaps will be addressed. We fully expect that developing resources towards intra- and cross-college collaborations that move toward convergence research will also help to strengthen state and local community capabilities for mitigating and adapting to growing global threats such as climate change and environmental degradation while addressing urgent demands on the planet’s critical resources for clean energy, air, water, and food.  

  • Establish a world-class Climate Change Science and Policy Hub to address new pressing challenges from climate change and its impact on society, while elevating the profile of climate change research at the University of Delaware.
  • Develop cross-college strategic faculty mentoring and hiring plans to enable recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty while promoting greater inter-connectedness between departments to amplify faculty and student success.
  • Establish college research theme areas to leverage cluster hires, strengthen cross-college collaborations, and expand funding potential and capacity to advance CEOE emerging growth areas.
  • Promote and facilitate convergence research initiatives that build upon disciplinary strengths and human-environment coupled thinking to facilitate intellectual collaborations and offer multi-institutional proposal opportunities.
  • Enhance national and global recognition of faculty research excellence to increase the number of faculty receiving national and international awards and serving in leadership positions in professional organizations by increasing communication efforts that promote faculty research and discoveries and global awareness of our research programs.
  • Enhance innovation and entrepreneurship to provide solutions for a more sustainable future and accelerate the transfer of ideas into the marketplace for our faculty and students.

Investing in Capital Infrastructure

A look inside the Robotic Discoveries Lab

A first-class capital infrastructure is essential for attracting and retaining intellectual leadership and for enabling the College to address research and academic priorities more effectively. The current distribution and quality of physical spaces create some difficult challenges and are impediments to the future growth of the College. The immediate challenges are related to new laboratory space in Newark for additional hires and teaching laboratory spaces on both campuses. To address some of these needs with limited resources, we will move towards a model of shared, thematic research spaces. A high priority of this strategy involves a capital infrastructure fundraising campaign orchestrated with the UD Development Office and with University-level advice and resources.  

  • Establish a CEOE infrastructure advisory committee to outline policies, establish a transparent process for space allocation, and help evaluate the quality of the spaces, prioritize renovations, and enhance operational efficiency through space-saving measures.
  • Develop multi-purpose laboratory and teaching spaces to facilitate collaborations for competitive research programs while alleviating some of the space problems.
  • Enhance greater connectedness between the Newark and Lewes campuses through instructional technology infrastructure in the classroom and laboratory spaces.
  • Sustain the legacy of ship-based research, education, and experiential learning by leveraging the R/V Hugh R. Sharp as a recruiting tool and developing robust marketing and development plans to diversify funding of the R/V Sharp and R/V Joanne Daiber.
  • Expand living and learning community in Lewes by working to enhance the University’s footprint on the campus, including through seeking public-private partnerships to provide new living facilities for students in Lewes.

Realizing Substantial Advantages from Diversity in Education and Research Environments

A group of students in TIDE camp

Diverse campus experiences improve the educational growth of all students by promoting inclusion and social equity and by preparing students for the diverse world they must navigate upon graduation. Diversity is a core value for the university and for CEOE’s education and research mission. Diversity and inclusion mean both the recognition and appreciation of different backgrounds, values, and ideas, as well as a commitment to ensure that all people are treated equally. Increasing the diversity of faculty, staff, and students in ethnicity, culture, race, religion, and gender requires a targeted and sustained program across the College. The College will work with UD’s Office of Equity and Inclusion to access their resources and to seek advice on proven strategies that increase the diversity of the faculty and other role models that will lead to a greater diversity of the students.  

  • Increase faculty and staff diversity by requiring all search committees to participate in implicit bias training and proactive recruitment to increase the represented minority applicant pool.
  • Attract and recruit underrepresented students by broadening funding sources, leveraging alumni donations, and proactively engaging with minority-serving institutions and organizations.
  • Cultivate a welcoming and inclusive community by developing diversity policies that promote respect and appreciation of human differences, a College Code-of-Conduct and an annual bystander intervention training to promote safe work environments.

Enlarging Local to Global Engagement through Partnerships and Education

Partner organization DEOS in the field

The College seeks to ensure that research findings and student experiences have positive and significant effects, particularly on local communities. Professors and researchers are well poised for developing sound science related to society’s environmental challenges. The College and its faculty, staff and students have outstanding opportunities to work closely with affiliated groups that can assist with promoting and translating reliable science for state and local governments and communities to address critical needs and to produce creative solutions and adaptations. The strategy is two-pronged: first, deepening engagement with faculty and researchers in meeting the evolving demands of regional stakeholders related to coupled human-environmental systems, such as developing hazard mitigation plans and supporting natural resource sustainability in the Delaware watershed and beyond; and second, linking the outreach strategies closely to the educational mission.

  • Facilitate deeper connections to enhance outreach by continuing to forge stronger links through external partnerships around the globe and with internal groups like Delaware Sea Grant and the Delaware Geological Survey.
  • Foster collaborations and catalyze innovations across the University by seeking opportunities for CEOE faculty to join cross-college research efforts that are part of emerging interdisciplinary research areas based upon core strengths in fundamental sciences.
  • Enhance engaged scholarship by encouraging faculty and students to address local community concerns and by facilitating broader dialogues to identify shared research questions addressing societal challenges and potential local impacts. The College will broaden engagement with local communities to serve as an active partner and institutional resource in building capabilities in adaptation and resilience and in sharing complex scientific information.
  • Enhance science literacy within the local communities across Delaware through sustained marketing of existing informal education programs and a deeper reach into underserved communities.
  • Expand engagement around the world through:
  1. Climate Change Science and Policy Hub (see page 4).
  2. New collaborative research partnership with developing nations.
  3. Serving Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Strengthening Development and Amplifying the Network of Alumni

A group of UD alumni posing with YouDee

The College’s development strategies and alumni relationships are essential pillars for its continued success and the ability to raise external resources for meeting our goals. Cultivating, mentoring, and connecting with our students, (e.g., the graduate student cohort programs) lays the groundwork for enhancing community and philanthropic ties. Communicating our story effectively and broadening engagement strategies will expand the College’s reach across a variety of audiences (including alumni and volunteers, friends and community, corporate partners, and private foundations).

  • Enhance engagement with alumni and friends through broader and sustained reach into national and international networks through social media and other platforms, developing more personalized communications, and preparing new graduates to remain engaged and become alumni donors.
  • Foster existing relationships across the region and leverage tactical support from the development office to engage non-alumni in college activities such as public lectures (e.g., Ocean Currents Lectures) and Coast Day events, and mobilize a regional community that translate to a wider net of CEOE philanthropy.
  • Increase resources for faculty and student support through the Delaware First Campaign to establish endowed scholarships and professorships and expanding faculty funding portfolios to include corporate and private foundation funding sources.

Featured Initiative: Climate Change Science and Policy Hub

Offshore turbines

Focusing on this complex thematic area will foster greater cross-department and cross-college collaborations and elevate the profile of climate change research and education at UD. The Hub will build a broad knowledge base grounded in rigorous analysis of the evidence that addresses the urgency of climate change and potential impacts on local and global ecosystems.

The Climate Change Science and Policy Hub will unite researchers and educators from across the university whose work touches on any aspect of climate change, its impacts, mitigation, or adaptation. The Hub will facilitate collaborations and increase public awareness that the University of Delaware is engaged with climate change issues and can serve as a resource as communities begin to adapt. 

Climate Change Science and Policy Hub Focus Areas:

  • Climate dynamics—Focus on oceans, atmosphere observations and modelling of past and future climate and its impact
  • Social dimensions of climate change—Focus on mitigation, urbanization, resilience, adaptation, human migration, policy
  • Climate impacts on health—Focus on water and food security
  • Sustainable Energy Transitions—Focus on wind energy and critical energy minerals
  • Hazards—Focus on climate related hazards