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Faculty Senate holds October meeting

UD President Dennis Assanis and Provost Laura Carlson provide updates and highlight accomplishments

With the fall semester in full swing, University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis highlighted many recent accomplishments of the University and also shared insights on future developments at the regularly scheduled Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, Oct. 2.

Assanis said that several positive developments and trends show that UD is enjoying strong momentum in advancing its mission.

As an example, Assanis shared that UD was named among the best colleges in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

UD advanced 13 slots to the rank of #76 among the nation’s best overall universities and placed #36 among top public national universities, up two spots from last year. UD’s chemical engineering program remained in the top 10 nationally, ranking fifth overall. Along with chemical engineering, several individual undergraduate academic programs were recognized in the 2024 rankings as among the nation’s best, including psychology, computer science, business, economics and nursing.

UD was also listed among Best Value Schools, Best Colleges for Veterans and Best Undergraduate Teaching.

“We have all the ingredients to continue to see positive movement there, and within the next five years or so, hopefully, we'll crack into the top 50,” Assanis said. “This is a snapshot in time, but certainly trending in the right direction for us.”

Assanis gave an update on enrollment numbers. A record 37,000 students applied to UD in 2023, and the University made a strategic decision to admit fewer students than the year before. About 4,200 students make up the undergraduate Class of 2027.

The University continues to strengthen diversity on campus, Assanis said, highlighting the new Center for Intercultural Engagement in Perkins Student Center, which was formally dedicated on Friday, Oct. 6.

“We want to make new students feel they belong on our campus,” Assanis said. “To that point, strengthening the diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging of the students that we bring to campus continues to be a tremendous priority for us.”

Assanis also gave an update on graduate enrollment. While international student enrollments have increased since the start of the pandemic, domestic student enrollments have lagged and are currently lower than in 2019. The University is working to address some of the issues that may be affecting graduate student enrollment, including housing and stipends.

Hiring and retaining distinguished faculty continues to be a priority of the University, Assanis said. UD has hired more than 500 new faculty members in the last five years, with plans to continue growing in alignment with enrollment needs. About 40 percent of the current faculty have joined UD since 2016. 

“The DNA of the faculty has been rejuvenated and enhanced in so many ways,” Assanis said. “And, of course, the new hires complement the excellent faculty that we already had.”

Growing the faculty has also helped UD increase its research enterprise, Assanis said. In fiscal year 2023, UD’s sponsored research spending was about $237 million, with about $90 million in other sponsored activities. Those figures are up 63 percent and 23 percent, respectively, since fiscal year 2018.

Assanis also highlighted continued momentum across new development of campus facilities. The FinTech Innovation Hub on the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus is now open. The 25,000-square-foot addition to Drake Hall, which features teaching and research labs for chemistry and biochemistry, is now complete. “Building X,” which will replace McKinly Lab and provide research and teaching spaces for multiple departments including biology, psychology, neuroscience, physics and quantum science, is scheduled to be completed in fall 2024. Renovations to the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Design Studio in Spencer Lab will provide additional room and modernized work areas and equipment.

At the meeting, UD Provost Laura Carlson provided several updates.

Carlson said the University is continuing work on the application process for the Carnegie Foundation reclassification for community engagement, which recognizes U.S. colleges and universities for institutionalizing community engagement. UD was awarded the designation in 2017, and the application for reclassification is due in April 2025. Matt Robinson, a professor of sport management who is currently leading the Community Engagement Initiative, is chairing a steering committee to prepare the application.

“That's such an important designation for us as a university,” Carlson said. “It really is one of our values.”

Carlson also highlighted work around UD’s program education goals. In 2022, UD’s accreditation was reaffirmed by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and a self-study conducted during that process determined that an area for improvement was documentation and assessment of program education goals. Carlson encouraged faculty to reach out to the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning for help related to program education goals.

The Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood in the College of Education and Human Development — with support from the Graduate College, the Division of Student Life and the Office of Institutional Equity — received a federal grant to provide childcare access to undergraduate and graduate student parents. Carlson said there are about 400 student parents at UD. This grant from the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, or CCAMPIS, from the U.S. Department of Education was a result of a multi-year effort and part of a longer-term strategy for improving support for graduate student parents.

At the meeting, Faculty Senate President Jim Morrison, professor in the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, introduced this year’s student representatives: Jonathan Hezel, Rayna Katz, Nora Lucas, Aidan Neuberger, Connor Rodenbeck and Aditi Shambharkar.

“I just wanted to acknowledge them because they are very important, since we all want what's best for the University,” Morrison said. “Having our students participate and having their presence is very important to the Senate.”

The Consent Agenda portion of the meeting included a single vote to approve two undergraduate proposals.

Approved on the Regular Agenda was a resolution to modify a section of the Faculty Handbook related to promotion and tenure to include adding descriptions of engaged scholarship, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Faculty Senate voted down a resolution related to promotion and tenure standards, which would have added a statement that evaluation should align with the values and mission of the University.

During the meeting, Elizabeth Reed, director of Disability Support Services (DSS), gave a presentation about the role of DSS, which is to provide accommodations to students, staff, faculty and visitors to ensure they have equal access to all experiences on campus. The office provides academic aids, transportation, housing accommodations and note-taking support, to list a few examples, for people with learning differences, ADHD, chronic health conditions, temporary injuries, mental health diagnoses and many other types of disabilities.

Further information about the Faculty Senate, including meeting minutes and agendas, can be found on its website.

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