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Presidential priorities

President Assanis reviews top five priorities with UD Faculty Senate

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

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis reviewed his top five priorities with the Faculty Senate on Feb. 6, while also focusing on the importance of a successful partnership between University administration and the faculty and staff.

His priorities include: enhancing students’ success, investing in intellectual and physical capital, fostering a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, building an environment of inclusive excellence and strengthening interdisciplinary and global programs.

“We’re doing some things phenomenally well,” Assanis said.

He praised the four-year graduation rate of 72 percent, which he said puts UD on par with schools in the top quartile the Association of American Universities (AAU). However, he said he would like to see that number climb to at least 80 percent.

He also noted a discrepancy in graduation rates between women (78 percent) and men (64 percent) and urged the Faculty Senate to work with Provost Domenico Grasso to appoint a task force to examine this issue with the intent of closing the gap.

Assanis reinforced UD’s Commitment to Delawareans, noting that 90 percent of Delaware applicants are admitted to either the Newark campus or the Associate in Arts program and that a “significant” amount of financial support is provided to Delaware residents.         

And he promoted the new UD Partnership for Public Education, which will connect UD with Delaware’s education community in new ways, from strengthening early-childhood programs to ensuring that high school students are ready for college or a career.

In terms of building an environment of inclusive excellence, Assanis said that while the University has made “significant progress” in enrolling more minority students, UD is continuing efforts to diversify the student body, as well as faculty and staff. He noted that the University is spending $22 million a year on diversity programs on campus and is continuing to enhance recruitment efforts and mentoring programs. As a result, the percentage of minority students has increased from less than 19 percent five years ago to more than 23 percent today.

To strengthen interdisciplinary and global programs, Assanis urged faculty members to develop new degree offerings, especially those with a global focus.

“We need to continue to be innovators in our curriculum,” he said.

UD needs to help solve the societal challenges that are too large to be solved by any one person or organization, Assanis said. He believes one way to do this is to elevate the role of the School of Public Policy and Administration, and he looks forward to working with former Vice President Joe Biden on the Biden Domestic Policy Institute, which was announced the day after the Faculty Senate meeting.

As part of UD’s efforts to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, Assanis said he wants to engage more with local communities and state government as UD expands its role in attracting world-class talent and producing cutting-edge technology. UD has an opportunity through its STAR campus to create a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in health science, energy and cybersecurity.

He noted that achieving this goal is “a tall order,” but he is looking forward to working with the faculty and staff to make it happen.

He also believes UD needs to make a stronger connection between discovery and innovation, and touted the new National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), which was announced in December and will be based on UD’s Newark campus.

Graduate, international education

Also included in the president’s priorities is a plan to establish a graduate college at UD, which Grasso expanded upon in his remarks.

“We have to take our graduate efforts to the next level,” Grasso said, noting that a working group led by Ann Ardis, senior vice provost for graduate and professional education, was established last fall to examine the issue.

A Hanover Graduate Benchmarking Study was commissioned to assist the working group in its planning process and a series of meetings will be scheduled for this spring with all University stakeholders once the working group has drafted its report, Grasso said.

The provost also updated the Faculty Senate on the work of the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS) related to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. OISS has set up a specific website to provide updates and guidance to the University’s 3,188 international students and continues to work with UD’s immigration counsel and professional associations to monitor the situation.

“I want to thank Ravi Ammigan and the staff at OISS for their continued efforts to assist our students,” Grasso said.

Grasso said he would work with Faculty Senate president and Executive Committee to form a faculty committee that would explore the issue of whether UD funds should be used to pay for faculty and staff travel to events and conferences in North Carolina in light of House Bill 2, which has come to be known as “the Bathroom Bill.”

Grasso noted that six states have already banned employee travel to North Carolina, as has the NCAA and some college athletic teams.

“We would like your advice as to what we should do with University dollars,” Grasso said.

New institutes

Following remarks from the president and provost, Charles Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation, gave an overview of NIIMBL and the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute.

NIIMBL will focus on bringing safe drugs to market faster and developing workforce training. A team of more than 150 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and state governments will operate NIIMBL under a newly formed nonprofit.

“This is the right time to be investing in innovation and biopharmaceutical manufacturing,” Riordan said.

RAPID will develop breakthrough technologies and processes that will boost energy productivity and efficiency and decrease environmental impacts, especially related to chemical manufacturing.

Riordan said the work RAPID will accomplish is “going to dramatically reform our society” with its impact on workforce development, manufacturing and U.S. jobs.

Senate passes resolutions

By consent agenda, the Faculty Senate passed 24 changes to various academic programs. The Faculty Senate also passed five resolutions, giving permanent status to doctoral and master’s degrees for disaster science and management, adding a master’s degree in leadership and disability services, changing the name and charge of the Academic Priorities Review Committee and changing the peer review timeline for continuing track faculty.

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