Well, the Blog is running a bit late again. And this being a leap year, there really is no excuse for getting a February blog out in early March. A whole extra day — where did it go? Like most days in the College, there’s a lot to do and great people to work with, so before you know it, time has slipped away.
Last year’s February Blog was a tad critical of Punxsutawney Phil and his (misguided) weather prognostication. But I have to say that he was close to the mark this year, foreseeing an early spring after a winter that will go down in the books as mild overall. Except for the blizzard that brought a season’s worth of snow in 36 hours (and a UD snow day), the El Niño weather pattern has really kept temperatures above normal. And we will take it after the two previous winters!
I can see buds moving on the saucer magnolias, some color on the early ornamental plums, and red maples turning red in southern Delaware, so spring is not very far away based on plant phenology. Soon, our UD Botanical Garden will come alive with color and we will be busy prepping for Ag Day. (By the way, you may want to mark your calendars for Ag Day — Saturday, April 30). So while you’re enjoying the longer day lengths and gradual transition to spring, here are a few highlights from the early weeks of 2016.
Fundraising success! In January, the College received its largest gift in quite some time — a $4.2 million charitable trust that was given for Worrilow Hall expansion and upgrades. It is all the more important to receive a large gift for your number-one fundraising priority, so we are doubly grateful for this incredible gift. To put this in context, this single gift is roughly the amount of money we raise in a typical year. The donor wishes to remain anonymous, like so many of our supporters, and we will certainly respect their wishes. I’d like to thank Dan Sarkissian and Martha Mitchell in UD’s Development Office who worked through the complexities of the gift agreement and made sure everything was in order. Adding our recent $500,000 Unidel gift to this brings us to almost $5 million for gifts targeted at Worrilow in the past four months. This is a great start, given that UD’s official fundraising campaign has not yet reached the public phase. We have a lot more work to do to reach our goal, but this gift helps us make the case for further support among our alumni and friends.
New Communications Director. I am pleased that Catherine Hamrick has joined the College as the Director of Communications. She started just this week, and is already working the hallways and holding meetings with key stakeholders. She has held many positions over her career, ranging from book editor to English instructor, and importantly, many of her projects were horticulturally themed, like the work she did for Ortho books and Better Homes and Gardens. We look forward to her vision and direction in telling the story of the College and increasing awareness and understanding of all the good things we do. I thank Michelle Rodgers and the rest of the search committee for conducting a thorough, yet expedited search that resulted in the best outcome for the college.
More new faces. Another great hire was Jen Clem, who was already working for us in a different capacity at the Kent County office in Dover. She will provide much needed support for grants and contracts, and will be in Newark one day a week and at the Carvel Center other days. I thank Kathy Lyons for chairing the search and many others for screening applicants, interviewing and providing input. Welcome, Jen! Grace Wisser joined the dean’s office staff about the same time as Jen. Grace is doubling our front desk service capacity, providing much needed help with event planning and logistics, and finding many other ways to help out. She has been a delight to work with and has helped us get back on track after a few positions were vacated recently. Stop by the dean’s suite and welcome these new folks to the family!
Enrollment update. It looks like the college is on track for another good year in enrollment of new students. We’ve had about the same number of applications to the College as last year, and thus we’re holding at relatively high numbers compared to recent history. The admitted group is just slightly less than last year, but very talented based on grades and scores. Similarly, overall UD admission offers are slightly lower than last year, prompted by our need to reduce the incoming freshman class, as we’ve exceeded our target for two years in a row. The target is about 3800 rather than the 4100–4200 in previous years, when we’ve experienced overcrowding in the dorms and in freshman classes (by the way, this is a good problem to have).
Some admission decisions are still going out, and we’ve had only one “Decision Day” thus far, where admitted students and their parents come to campus to take a closer look at the opportunity that UD presents. In the College, our goal is to yield as many of the admitted students as possible, which will take a lot of phone calls, emails, and follow-ups over the next several weeks. Most of our admitted students are also admitted at three to four other great universities in the region, so they have choices. If you know any of our admitted students, please encourage them to schedule a private tour of our campus through Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean. We’re happy to accommodate parents and other family members as well. We conduct over 100 such tours in a typical year. Many of the students who tour our campus end up enrolling here — once they see what we’ve got to offer, how could they say no?
Lesa Griffiths named T.A. Baker Professor. Congratulations to Dr. Lesa Griffiths, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who was named the T.A. Baker Professor after an exhaustive search to fill the slot vacated by Tom Sims‘ retirement in January. The T.A. Baker Professorship is awarded to a faculty member who has had significant impact on the college; in Lesa’s case it was impact on students and teaching. Lesa has done an outstanding job with our students, in and out of the classroom. Her appointment is for a five-year term.
The Blog will return in April when winter will be just a distant memory.