From Our President
The longer I’m at UD, the shorter the summers seem to be—fewer weeks of relative calm separating the spectacular end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.
For five years now, the end of the spring calendar has been spectacular indeed. Alumni Weekend brings the campus roaring back to life just six days after most students have left it. This year, 5,000-plus Blue Hens flocked to Newark to reconnect with friends and faculty, to re-engage with their alma mater and to reinvest in a mission that guides a number of them to this day. It’s touching to see UD through the eyes of so many alumni who clearly love the University and the people it’s brought into their lives, and who treasure this opportunity to strengthen their Blue Hen bond. Quite a few alums took to social media to express their affection through words and photos (http://storify.com/udelaware/alumni-weekend-2013) and to chronicle a homecoming that most thought ended far too soon.
In a weekend filled with reunions, receptions, luncheons, lectures and workshops, it was gratifying that so many alumni queued up for an insider’s look at our growing and changing campus. Every tour of our now-open Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab sold out quickly.
The attraction isn’t hard to explain. At nearly 200,000 square feet, ISE Lab is the largest academic building project in UD’s history. The facility is state-of-the-art, its equipment is the world’s most advanced, and extensive sustainability features make the lab the greenest building on campus.
But if ISE Lab itself is a marvel, it’s what will happen inside that’s most exciting. The building is designed to fundamentally change the way we teach students and to change what we expect of them. This is a learning laboratory, where students will be given real-world problems and challenged to solve them—together. Everything about the design serves this pedagogical ideal. Small classrooms, flexible spaces, movable furniture and adjoining labs—all of it is intended to upend the traditional instructional model that relies on students’ passivity, and expose them instead to learning that engages and endures, requiring them to apply their knowledge every day so that it has weight and meaning. Faculty across the University have been working for years on integrated curricula that take full advantage of this problem-based approach to teaching and learning.
This is how you nurture leaders. This is how you develop students’ analytical capacity and unleash the inventiveness and creativity they’ll need as they confront the great challenges of their time. The ISE Lab is our incubator for student-centered, student-powered education. So the next time you’re on campus, I hope you’ll stop by the lab for a look at learning in action.
Patrick T. Harker
President, University of Delaware