Harker embarks on fifth year at UD
Published: Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 05:12
Harker was named university president on Dec. 1, 2006, the school has seen significant change including partnerships with international businesses and a major campus expansion. Along with the additions, many decisions made during his tenure, which officially began in July 2007, have brought criticism of his management style.
Developments during Harker's presidency include ongoing construction of many new facilities, including the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory, a science-engineering research-based creation on Academy Street, and new residence halls being built on East Campus.
Harker has helped negotiate partnerships between the university and large companies, such as JP Morgan Chase. The worldwide banking company donated $5 million to help construct the JP Morgan Chase Innovation Center located in Purnell Hall, allowing students to intern with the company on campus.
Of the projects undergone during his tenure, one of the most scrutinized is the redevelopment of the site of the former Chrysler plant on South College Avenue near Delaware Stadium.
"We always ask ourselves that when we're together as a group administratively. ‘Are we trying to do too much at once?'"
University Provost Tom Apple said of the school's construction projects. "And then we always end by saying, ‘Well, maybe we are, but let's keep doing it.'"
The 272-acre property where the former Chrylser plant once operated sits empty across from the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. University officials revealed a "master plan" in August, which outlined their plans to develop the property into an Interdisciplinary Science and Technology campus. The plan is part of the Path to Prominence, the university's strategic plan for development, which Harker announced in May 2008.
"I think it's going to be vital. There's never going to be another—what 100 acres open up in the heart of Newark anytime soon," said Faculty Senate President and philosophy professor Jeffrey Jordan.
Bloom Energy, a company specializing in fuel cells, plans to open research offices on the site, along with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. Along with the Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Laboratory, the Chrysler plant's future residents will exhibit the enhanced presence of engineering at the university.
In executing the Path to Prominence, Harker has demonstrated his business prowess, attracting JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, which provide opportunities for students to gain work experience, to the campus.
Apple said Harker's personality reflects the university's additions during his presidency.
"Pat is a risk-taker, he enjoys the challenge," Apple said. "He understands without risk there's going to be little gain. He's been a great guide on the [Path to Prominence.]"
He said one of Harker's most positive qualities has been his ability to attract major corporations to the university's campus.
"[President] Harker has had a profound impact in bringing companies to campus," Apple stated in an email message during a later interview. "The corporate community is thrilled with the way in which he has made the university a partner in growing the Delaware economy and providing opportunities for companies and students to interact."
Apple credited Harker with recent additions to the university faculty. He said 16 of the last 17 job offers in the engineering department were accepted, and the recipients were the department's first choices.
He also noted that for the last few years, the university has hired 90 to 95 percent of its first-choice faculty applicants.
"I think we've hired better than any university in the country," Apple said.
Jordan lauded the Harker administration for not implementing furloughs and pay give-backs for faculty salaries—something many faculty at schools in the Colonial Academic Alliance have faced. He also doesn't think there is significant discontent within the faculty against Harker.
Although university officials have been able to secure partnerships with major corporations during Harker's term as president, the school has met some criticism during his tenure.
The university was criticized in July's Middle States accreditation report, a nonprofit organization whose evaluations can be used to determine if a school can receive federal funding, for its lack of diversity. The report said the university is not diverse in "either absolute or relative terms."
Black students constituted 5.2 percent of the undergraduate body last year, and the Middle States report said 52 percent of black students graduated from the university in 2004. Hispanics represented 5.7 percent of students in 2010, according to the Office of Institutional Research.