Engineering UD's Future
Heading toward his junior year as the president, Pat Harker is forming partnerships that will give the school an international reputation. (If it can just get its hands on that Chrysler plant…)
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The V word comes up quickly whenever there’s a change at the top, especially when the track record has been one of success. Is the new boss a mere caretaker? Does he have a penchant for fixing what’s not broken? Or does he have a sense of the possible and the talent to get there.
What, in short, is his vision?
In the 22 months since he took the helm at the University of Delaware, Pat Harker has shown himself to be a man of vision. He has helped create an atmosphere of ambition, engaging the entire university in the process. He has fostered teamwork, flexibility and the unmistakable thrust of forward motion. He hopes to position UD as a school for the 21st century, a participant in education and evolving economies from China to Newark, Delaware.
“He’s exceeded what I would have expected,” says Howard Cosgrove, who chairs the University of Delaware Board of Trustees. “[Previous president David P.] Roselle had substantially strengthened the university, and we needed someone with the skills to continue that trajectory and take us to the next level.”
Roselle, who held the post for 17 years before retiring in July 2007, is a tough act to follow. He tripled the endowment, modernized the campus, and wired every classroom and dorm for computer use. On that foundation, Harker wants to build a skyscraper.
Expectations of “international prominence” and assertions such as “every student should have the opportunity for a global experience” are not uncommon in the Path to Prominence, the school’s strategic plan, completed one year ago after nine months of outreach to faculty, students, staff and other groups with a stake in the university’s future. The plan, though, is not an edict but a starting point.
“It’s a road map,” Cosgrove says. “Some will open, some will have potholes, some may turn into dead ends. He (Harker) has a firm grasp of that.”
Harker’s plan emphasizes energy, the environment (both physical and global), entrepreneurship, and a collegial approach to growth and problem solving. He is counting on alumni to spread the word and ante up needed dollars. He wants a more diversified student body, yet pledges a commitment to Delawareans. He believes in the art and impact of partnership—with other universities, government and industry. He has cast an eye toward the former Daimler Chrysler plant on South College Avenue. He suggests that there could be a law school in UD’s future.
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