I can’t believe we’re just about ready to bid farewell to 2015 and ring in the New Year. For the College, 2015 was not boring. We had our share of ups and downs, and thankfully, we’ve ended the year in a good place overall, so maybe that’s why it seemed to fly by so fast. Every week was different. Although the last few weeks of the semester have been as frantic as ever, on December 11th we took time out to have a wonderful holiday party in our newly renovated Townsend Commons (photo). It was a nearly packed house of faculty, staff, students, retirees, friends and family members, engaged in merriment of all sorts. It was really great to see about as many adults with painted faces as children! Mostly, we enjoyed the opportunity to set aside work for two hours to tell stories, catch up, and have a few laughs at the end of a busy and eventful year. This month’s Blog will cover a few noteworthy year-end items, and then settle down for a long winter’s nap.
UD’s next president. By now, many of you have heard that Dr. Dennis Assanis, Provost at the State University of New York-Stony Brook, will become the next president of the University of Delaware on July 1st 2016. If you haven’t, you can read a bit more about him here. I was able to spend half an hour with Dr. Assanis during his three-day visit to campus in November. I gave him copies of our strategic plan, the related Milestones document (see next item in Blog), and a copy of our recent Annual Report, just in case he didn’t have enough to read from the other six deans! We discussed many things about the college and university in our brief time, and one thing stood out in my mind. He asked if there was a university-wide sustainability studies program, and if so, what our college’s involvement was. While there isn’t such a program (yet), I assured him that we would be at the forefront of such an effort, as sustainability is one of our fundamental values and most of what we do relates to sustainability of agriculture and natural resources. My first impression? Dr. Assanis is a personable, thoughtful, and visionary administrator who makes you feel like you know him almost immediately. I am sure that UD is in good hands as we usher in a new administration in 2016.
Master Plan Milestones. During the latter part of 2015 we revisited the college’s strategic plan, the 2013 Master Plan, to chart our accomplishments and progress two years into implementation. The resulting Milestones document has been vetted with faculty, staff and stakeholders, and is now posted to our web site. I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive comments received to date, and I certainly appreciate the thorough review that people have given the document. Here is a sample of the milestones that the faculty, staff and students have accomplished in the execution of our strategic goals:
- Since FY12, the incoming class size has grown 12.7%, student credit hour generation has grown 17.1%, and undergrad and grad enrollments have grown 8.2 and 23.8%, respectively. Total enrollment is just under 1000 students and growing!
- Since FY12, sponsored program expenditures (a proxy for our scholarly activity) are up 7% to $28 million for the year ending last June. Our faculty and extension professionals have done a great job in garnering external support for their programs! Cooperative Extension has grown their portfolio from $3.1 million to $4.3 million and has made significant progress on their goal of increasing external funding.
- The college’s budget has improved significantly since FY13. In that year, our contingency was a mere 0.1% of our total budget – a razor-thin margin. This year (FY16) we are projecting a contingency of ~2% (over $1 million), and we’re able to devote dollars to badly needed deferred maintenance issues, launch a few faculty searches and implement strategic initiatives like internal seed grant programs. We’ve doubled annual fundraising compared to pre-2012 averages, which has helped enhance the quality of all of our programs. We had to do some belt tightening to get here, but the financial picture has brightened considerably in the last two years.
We still have a long way to go to reach many of our goals, but we’ve definitely taken the first steps toward a brighter future as we’ve implemented the strategic plan.
Case for philanthropic support. Speaking of the budget, one of the things we’ll be launching in 2016 is an ambitious fundraising campaign for the college. We have been working in the “silent phase” until now, and already we’ve raised over $20 million toward our goal of $39 million. As we move into the “public phase”, we’re laying out the case for support, i.e., why fundraising is so important to our future and what the main priorities are for gifts received. Our case document is being vetted with past donors and future prospects and will be finalized in early 2016. The many opportunities for investment in the college will be pursued through three broad priorities: investing in students (through scholarships, internships and experiential learning), investing in infrastructure and programs (re-envisioning the potential of Worrilow Hall, funding innovation in Extension), and investing in faculty (through professorships and gifts to support specific programs). So, why is fundraising so important to the college? It allows us to pursue unique and impactful goals that we simply could not otherwise, like giving scholarships to students with financial need, allowing faculty and staff to develop new programs, and creating 21st century facilities conducive to discovery and innovation. The next Blog item gives an example of what a well-placed gift can do.
Many of you who read the Blog are also donors and supporters, and with a joyous holiday spirit, I’d like to thank all of you for your generosity over the years. You have enabled us to build a thriving environment for learning and discovery that has impacted thousands of faculty, staff and students. As I reflect on the true meaning of the holiday season, I am inspired by your willingness to give so that we can continue to produce top notch graduates and tackle some of the grand challenges facing agriculture and natural resources.
UDairy Creamery expansion planned. Speaking of fundraising, we just received a $500,000 grant from the UNIDEL Foundation to expand the UDairy Creamery! This gift will be matched to raise the approximately $1 million required to build a production facility to make new products such as cheeses, yogurt, butter, cream and of course, ice cream base. Currently, the Creamery employs 20-25 students per year and produces solely ice cream products. As we branch out into more diverse line of products, we’ll be able to employ many more students who will be engaged in far more sophisticated production, technology and marketing opportunities. It will greatly reinforce our value proposition of authentic, hands-on learning for students that enroll in the college. The need for faculty involvement will increase as we undertake pasteurization, fermentation, aging and other complex aspects of food science. Some have suggested involving sheep in the operation, given the popularity of cheeses made from sheep’s milk. And there are probably many other endeavors that we haven’t yet considered. As I frequently say, the real product of the UDairy Creamery is a better educated student; the by-product is the ice cream. As we expand, we won’t lose sight of our fundamental mission, we’ll just make it a much more interesting pursuit.
Retirements and departures. As 2015 comes to a close, we will wish the best to a few faculty and staff as they enter retirement or move on to other opportunities. Tom Sims, the TA Baker Professor of Soil Science, will retire in January after almost four decades of service to the college as a professor and administrator. Tom Pizzolato, a professor of plant sciences will retire in January as well after a similar career with CANR. Bill Ritter, a professor and chair of the former Biological Resource Engineering Department will retire in early 2016, as will Pat Nelson who served for many years in Applied Economics and Statistics. Blake Meyers, professor and former Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences, will begin a new chapter in his career at the prestigious Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri. Nancy Gainer, the CANR Communications Director, will become the Executive Director of Communications for West Chester University, and we are grateful for all that she has done to improve our visibility and strategic communications in recent years.
We will miss them all, but hopefully they will continue to engage with the college for years to come. Please take a moment and thank them for their loyal service, and all of the lives made better by their tireless efforts.
The Blog wishes all of you a joyous holiday season, and will return in February following a mild winter.