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President Dennis Assanis speaks at the University of Delaware's 170th Commencement ceremony on June 1, 2019.

UD Trustees Extend President Dennis Assanis’ Contract

Photo by Evan Krape

Appointment extended to 2026

The University of Delaware Board of Trustees announced today that the contract for President Dennis Assanis will be extended to 2026. Assanis joined the University in 2016.

“I know I speak for the entire UD Board of Trustees when I say how very pleased we are to share the news that President Dennis Assanis will continue leading the University of Delaware for the next five years,” said John Cochran, chairman of the University Board of Trustees. “From the day he arrived at UD, Dennis has been a catalyst for positive change, elevating leadership, passion and vision to an entirely new level. He is not only an inspirational leader, but also a collaborator. By igniting a shared vision among the UD community for the future of the University, Dennis’ talented leadership has connected strategic goals with actions to successfully position UD for excellence, growth and transformative impact.”

Over the past five years, Assanis has prioritized student engagement and success while enabling conditions for institutional growth and progress. In support of these efforts, he has diligently fostered a culture of innovation, academic excellence and operational effectiveness, fueled by collaboration among all campus constituencies. He has also emphasized strategic planning as a key priority for investing in the University’s future, which includes a comprehensive campus master plan for infrastructure, resources and facilities to compete as a modern university. Reinvigorated attention to UD’s intellectual and physical capital has positioned the University to tackle some of the greatest societal challenges, including health, energy and environment, financial technology, information and data science, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, public service and social justice.

“Most recently, Assanis has navigated the University through the COVID-19 crisis with relentless focus, keeping the health and safety of UD students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities as the top priority,” Cochran said. Assanis admirably managed unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, working to ensure academic continuity for all students while mitigating a wave of accompanying financial headwinds presented to the University. While working with senior leadership to enhance organizational efficiency and drive operational excellence, he also collaborated with state and federal officials, as both a partner and an advocate, to secure necessary resources to help the University and local community weather the pandemic.

Assanis’ ability to lead the University through this challenging time has relied heavily on the institutional foundation for success and resilience that he built at UD over the past five years — from assembling a diverse leadership team to securing dynamic partnerships to advancing initiatives that reinforce UD’s academic and operational excellence.

“I could not be more excited to lead and continue on the great journey of an extraordinary University with so many talented faculty, staff and students,” Assanis said. “UD uniquely connects human values with intellectual curiosity, innovative spirit, cultural enlightenment and purpose-driven impact. In many ways, we are only at the beginning of great things to come, and I am grateful to the Board of Trustees and inspired by our entire community for their continued support to help us all go forward, together.”

Assanis’ ambition to advance the University with unprecedented momentum has been apparent since his 2016 inauguration as the University’s 28th president, when he emphasized the imperative of ensuring that UD students “enter the world prepared to be competitive, curious, informed and inspired.” Joe Biden, a member of the University’s Class of 1965 and now president of the United States, attended and spoke at the inaugural ceremony, lauding Assanis’ commitment to excellence and problem-solving in a world much in need of leaders and change makers.

That commitment has been steadfast as Assanis continues to support and foster an equitable and intercultural campus powered by a focus on inclusive excellence. At his inauguration, Assanis spoke about making UD a model for moving our nation forward, “by raising students’ consciousness as human beings who can lead and contribute to the opportunities of a society that is diverse, inclusive and creative.”

Key University accomplishments during Assanis’ presidency thus far include:

Enhancing student access, development and success

  • With focused attention on academics, advising and co-curricular programs, the four-year graduation rate of 73% places UD fourth in the nation among primarily residential four-year public institutions.
  • Pipeline programs are stronger, with significantly increased scholarship aid by 43% since 2016, from $94 million to $143 million.
  • Applications and enrollments have achieved record levels in all categories of students (in-state, out-of- state, underrepresented minorities, international, honors, graduate, transfer). 
  • The new Whitney Athletic Center has been created to help student-athletes succeed in academics and athletics. 
  • A new Wellbeing Center at the renovated Warner Hall will drive a more holistic approach to health, wellbeing and counseling for students.

Accelerating diversity, equity and inclusion efforts

  • With the establishment of a chief diversity officer role leading the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, a cohesive structure for improved coordination and impact, UD will be poised to strategically develop and implement transformational equity and social justice initiatives across campus.
  • Underrepresented minority (URM) faculty have increased by 28% since 2016.
  • URM undergraduates have increased by more than 15% since fall 2016, now representing 18% of UD’s total undergraduate enrollment. Among them, 26% of Delawarean-resident undergraduates are URM, growing by 27% since 2016.

Strengthening academics, research and community engagement

  • Effective partnership between the president, provost, college deans and department chairs has enabled the launch of an unprecedented initiative that resulted in hiring more than 350 new faculty members across campus.
  • Leadership has connected and collaborated to foster an interdisciplinary, cross-campus approach to education, research and community engagement to enhance student development and preparation for a world requiring more versatility and adaptiveness. Examples include:
    • The creation of interdisciplinary clusters in biopharmaceutical science and engineering, data science, climate science and costal water management, and disaster science. 
    • The establishment of a Graduate College, reflecting renewed commitment to graduate education and research as a catalyst for interdisciplinary support, growth and success.
    • The founding of the Biden Institute and the naming of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Biden School of Public Policy and Administration.
    • The enhancement of existing programs to reach new levels of excellence, including the Honors College, the School of Music, and the Horn Entrepreneurship Program.
    • An increase in annual sponsored research expenditures by 23% since 2016, including the creation of two Manufacturing USA Institutes, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center of Biomedical Research Excellence, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, a Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Frontier Research Center, doctoral research programs from the National Endowment of the Humanities and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the renewal of major centers funded by NSF, NIH and DOE.
  • Multiple public-private partnerships have been formed to advance the University’s mission as an engaged and collaborative institution. One example of a strategic effort to amplify and accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship at UD is a partnership with DuPont and the state of Delaware to establish the Delaware Innovation Space.
  • Establishment of new global partnerships have enhanced international study opportunities, including World Scholar program sites at Auckland, New Zealand, and Athens, Greece, in addition to the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics-UD Joint Institute of Data Science in Chengdu, China.

Expanding and rejuvenating the UD campus

  • Within just five years, UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus has transformed into a bustling hub of activity, attracting more than $500 million of investment by UD and its partners, adding 750,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facilities, and beginning a new era of opportunity and impact for UD as a 21st century research university. Key developments on the STAR Campus include:
    • UD’s College of Health Sciences STAR Tower, providing hands-on learning and discovery experiences in interdisciplinary labs, clinical care services, internships and research projects.
    • The Ammon Pinizzotto Biopharmaceutical Innovation Center, providing space for the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and its associated core facilities, and the Centers for Chemical Probes and Therapeutic Leads and Materials Research, as well as faculty from the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Medical and Molecular Sciences.
    • Chemours’ global R&D Discovery Hub, promoting collaborative R&D and internship opportunities for UD students.
    • The Fintech building (currently under construction), in partnership with Discover Bank and the Delaware Technology Park, connecting the financial world with UD’s Lerner College of Business and Economics and College of Engineering.
  • Worrilow Hall has been transformed into a state-of-the-art, open-concept laboratory and core facility enabling synergistic learning and research experiences.
  • As part of a multi-year plan to renew the University’s residence halls, the new South Academy residence hall opened in 2017, followed by the acquisition of the University Courtyard Apartments in 2019.
  • Through significantly increased investment to address deferred maintenance, UD has been able to support building renewal around The Green.

Empowering vision and possibility through philanthropy

  • In 2017, UD launched the Delaware First philanthropic campaign to raise funds for various initiatives to propel the University into the future. With continued momentum, the campaign’s original goal of $750 million by December 2019 was surpassed six months ahead of schedule. Fundraising outcomes include the creation of more than 203 new undergraduate scholarships, 30 new graduate fellowships, 22 new endowed professorships and chairs, and 55 new academic program and research funds.  

Going forward, the University anticipates a robust fall 2021 with Assanis at the helm. As the president noted during a recent town hall at which he addressed the Blue Hen community, UD is “a top-notch university — one that’s known for our amazing faculty, our fantastic students and our dedicated staff … one that has a positive impact on society, here in Newark and around the world.”

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