A letter to the University community


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4:33 p.m., Sept. 8, 2010----To the University of Delaware Community:

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I hope your summer was enjoyable, enriching and relaxing, and that you're as excited as I am to begin another academic year and continue our important work on UD's Path to Prominence.

As you've likely seen and heard around campus over the past few weeks, UD has launched its “Dare to be first” brand campaign. The campaign is an articulation of the University's unique identity: who we are, what we stand for and why we matter. It's based on six attributes, or pillars, supporting that identity -- pillars like Idea Leadership, Discovery Learning and Smart Money.

One of those pillars, Talent Magnet, really came to life on August 30, when we officially welcomed UD's Class of 2014. The 3,420 freshmen who donned their “Dare to be first” T-shirts at New Student Convocation make up the most academically accomplished class in UD's history. I told the students that, at next year's convocation, I expect to see freshmen of comparable achievement, because the talent we have residing here at UD will steadily attract more.

That's certainly the case among our graduate students. This year, 8,330 students from 123 countries applied for graduate admission. That applicant total is a 15-percent climb over last year and an all-time record for the University. Given the unprecedented selectivity we were afforded, the 1,161 graduate students we enrolled represent the very best scholars in a very competitive pool.

Without doubt, they were drawn here by UD's impressive faculty, whose numbers and renown are growing. This year, as universities across the country face hiring freezes or worse, UD welcomes more than 30 new tenure-track faculty -- virtually all of them our first-choice candidates -- along with 250+ new staff.

UD remains a vital contributor to Delaware's economy: The UD community's annual expenditures -- $2.9 billion spent locally each year by UD employees, students, alumni and visitors -- support nearly 26,500 jobs, 5 percent of all the jobs in Delaware. And every state dollar allocated to UD returns nearly $10 to the very communities making this important investment. Smart money, indeed. Still, as economic recovery remains slow, the University continues efforts to better manage assets, decentralize financial decision-making and build support structures that enable both.

Meanwhile, we're adopting policies and providing services to promote employees' health, safety and well-being, and to continue making UD into the University where talented, driven, diverse people want to work. This summer, UD was named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It's the University's second consecutive year on the list, compiled through employee surveys and policy audits.

This isn't the only ranking in which UD has been prominently featured. U.S. News & World Report asked college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans around the country to nominate “up-and-comer” institutions -- rapidly evolving universities, universities making innovative academic improvements, universities worth watching. UD is #8 on that list.

A host of initiatives this year will keep us at the top of lists like this -- in the select company of universities doing truly remarkable things.


A 2-megawatt land-based wind turbine is now powering UD's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, while a research partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory could lead to the testing of commercial wind turbines off the Delaware coast -- the first offshore turbines in the Americas.

Three Newark campus buildings will soon be equipped with more than 2,000 solar panels, yielding an 850-kilowatt solar electric system. The installation should generate more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year and reduce our carbon emissions by 1.3 million pounds. The Delaware Field House will have the state's largest single rooftop installation and, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the project will give UD the third-largest solar capacity among all East Coast colleges.


Sponsored program expenditures topped $181 million last year, and more than $60 million in stimulus grants has funded research in areas as diverse as early childhood education, natural disaster risk management and advanced magnetic materials. For the first time, UD ranks among the nation's top 100 universities in federal R&D obligations.

Our research enterprise continues to grow. A partnership agreement with the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, signed in January, is catalyzing an infrastructure of collaboration between UD and Army scientists and engineers. Six signed statements of work -- and a dozen more in development and processing -- will advance joint research in antenna technology and composite materials, rapid prototyping, information assurance, mobile networking and prosthetic devices.

UD's arts, humanities and social sciences research assumed a higher profile with the launch of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, designed to enhance cross-disciplinary research collaborations and exchanges, and to engage the UD community and the general public in issues of common concern.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is also the big idea behind our new Delaware Design Institute. The Institute provokes creativity and innovation across colleges and departments to find solutions to complex problems. Participants have built a model garden for community outreach on the principles of sustainability, and a design development project in Townsend, Delaware -- led by students majoring in landscape design and leadership -- shows how the country might build living communities that are both sustainable and accessible.

Across the University, we're committed to this kind of interdisciplinary work. We'll continue to prioritize cluster hiring in areas where we have -- or can achieve -- worldwide prominence. And we'll better integrate science and engineering research with social and behavioral sciences, economics, public policy, and the humanities, so that the cutting-edge methods and technologies developed in our labs more efficiently make their way out of them, and are put to work solving the biggest and most persistent challenges we face.


In a continuing bid to align UD's academic units with our Path to Prominence goals, various departments have moved to colleges where a similarity of focus and expertise can advance the units' distinct and mutual missions.

Created through this reorganization is the College of Education and Human Development, which focuses UD's efforts in examining how individuals learn and develop -- in different contexts and across the lifespan. The college's interdisciplinary research in schools and communities drives policy, programming and interventions, and addresses some of today's most challenging educational issues.

Plus, the faculty's acknowledged expertise in such areas as early childhood development and STEM instruction aligns well with a national education agenda sharply focused on these issues. Delaware was one of only two states to win first-round Race to the Top funding, which will funnel millions of federal dollars into the state's public K-12 schools; the College of Education and Human Development will be an indispensable resource as those schools strive to meet the ambitious goals on which Race to the Top is based.


We're continuing a comprehensive assessment of the Newark campus's physical composition -- and how that composition can help us achieve our academic and quality-of-life goals. We're examining our built environment, green space, utility infrastructure, environmental impact, roads, parking and pedestrian traffic. UD's campus footprint will change over the next several years, and we need to ensure that those changes support a connected campus, an engaging environment and opportunities for responsible, sustainable growth.

Of course, one of the biggest changes to come is the redevelopment of the former Chrysler Newark Assembly Plant, adjacent to South Campus. With the recent selection of a decommissioning and demolition contractor, we'll soon begin the real work of transforming the property into a top-tier science and technology campus powering 21st-Century discovery, innovation and economic growth.

Several more capital projects over the next few years will contribute to this campus transformation: the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab, new and renovated athletic and recreational facilities, a new UD bookstore, and a new residential and dining hall complex.


As always, fall brings a full slate of instructive and engaging lectures, events and exhibits; I hope to see you at many of them. And I look forward to working with you as we make UD into one of the country's great public universities. Have a terrific semester.

Patrick T. Harker