University of Delaware Online Research Magazine
University of Delaware Online Research Magazine

ISSN 2150-5128


by | October 12, 2015

  Charles Riordan

Vice President for Research, Scholarship and Innovation, University of Delaware

The title of a recent Freakanomics Radio segment caught my attention: “The Harvard President Will See You Now.” The next 40 minutes laid out, in interview format, a compelling narrative of the life of Drew Gilpin Faust. Faust became Harvard’s president in 2007 shortly after the dismissal of Larry Summers, who famously posited that one of the reasons there are too few women in leading science positions is “issues of intrinsic aptitude.”

Two years after Summers’ remarks, at the press conference announcing her presidency, Faust found herself being asked how it felt to be the woman president of Harvard. She shot back with confidence, “I’m not the woman president of Harvard, I’m the president of Harvard.” The story of a young girl who grew up in the segregated South in the 1950’s to become the first woman president in Harvard’s 350-year history is inspirational.

At UD, there are faculty achieving well-earned success through their research, with personal stories as compelling as Faust’s. Seven such faculty members are highlighted on the cover and in this issue of UD Research. Indeed, there are commonalities among them—a steadfast commitment to excellence, unrelenting intellectual curiosity, mentors and role models who inspire, and a disdain for the status quo. I encourage you to read their stories to learn about their inspirations, the challenges they have faced and the scope and quality of their scholarly endeavors.

To achieve the levels of research excellence and impact to which the University of Delaware aspires, we must diversify our faculty, staff and student populations. The grand challenges UD highlights in its new strategic plan, Delaware Will Shine, will be successfully addressed only if there are diverse teams bringing their unique talents, perspectives and experiences to bear on our world’s most intractable problems. Put another way, diversity is a necessary component—a sine qua non—of excellence.

Last year, UD was one of only four institutions to receive a prestigious $3.3 million award from the National Science Foundation. The so-called ADVANCE IT program is designed to enhance the representation and advancement of women faculty in STEM fields and women faculty of color in all fields. The program will ensure an inclusive campus culture of excellence by bringing awareness of the impact of unconscious bias in recruitment, hiring and advancement practices. The results will lead to a climate that ensures success for women faculty, or as Drew Faust would say, faculty.