A new Intellectual Experience

Water is an essential resource we often take for granted. In parts of the world where clean water is scarce, it’s impossible to lose sight of the fact it is the basis for wellness, safety and commerce. That’s one lesson some University of Delaware students learned last summer when, as part of an Engineers Without Borders team, they traveled to Malawi to conduct a preliminary analysis for a potable water project and help develop a sustainable solution.

It’s the kind of experiential learning that warrants more than out-of-the-box thinking; it requires out-of-the-box action. It allows our students and faculty to put innovation into practice, learn lessons about themselves, and the world around them. Education, diversity, and action converge in a real way.

In another part of our UD community, elementary teacher education students begin their first service learning experience by mentoring inner-city Wilmington students at the Latin American Community Center (LACC) and the Fraim Boys and Girls Club. Professors and on-site facilitators help the UD students connect what they have learned in the classroom with real-life implementation.

There is two-way learning taking place. Through working with these children in their communities, the future teachers gain new understandings of both the assets and the challenges that children from diverse backgrounds bring to the learning experience – and how to better design experiences that connect with children in their cultural milieu. These children impart important lessons not available in textbooks to the future teachers each day.

Examples such as these demonstrate that we are committed to being a university that is consequential — today and tomorrow. That commitment is embodied in the work being done by our General Education Task Force — giving careful thought to the kinds of bold ideals we want every UD student to embody, and the daring goals we want every UD student to achieve, regardless of major or program. I thank the task force and Faculty Senate for thoughtfully arriving at a plan that will prepare UD students to be engaged citizens who are able to:

  • Read critically, analyze arguments and information, engage in constructive ideation;
  • Communicate effectively in writing, orally, and through creative expression;
  • Work collaboratively and independently within and across a variety of cultural contexts and a spectrum of differences;
  • Critically evaluate the ethical implications of what they say and do; and
  • Reason quantitatively, computationally, and scientifically.

While these goals may appear simple, in essence the work of the task force, together with Delaware Will Shine and other efforts, will enable us to answer these critical questions: “What kind of university do we really want to be?” and “What kind of UD graduates do we want to send into the world?” After careful deliberation and agreement, the following are some of the recommendations being offered by the task force:

  • Create a new set of core courses and incorporate English 110 in the core;
  • Institute a university-wide capstone requirement and university-wide “Engagement and Encounters” requirement for all degree programs; and
  • Transform our current discovery learning and multicultural requirements and strengthen our commitment to discovery, diversity and inclusion by purposefully integrating those values throughout our students’ entire educational journey.

The work of the taskforce, Faculty Senate and many contributing faculty voices were crucial to the development of the principles and objectives of this plan. Unquestionably, successful implementation of these changes will require all of us to continue working collaboratively to ensure each of our undergraduate degree programs aligns with and supports the new vision for general education. We recognize that implementation of this initiative may have financial implications, and are committed to ensuring that transition costs can be accommodated and smoothed while holding the quality of our students’ education paramount.

Let there be no doubt that the University of Delaware is a leader in higher education where we dare to be first, dare to be bold, and dare to shine, and where we impact our collective future through the innovative, thoughtful and responsible leaders we produce.

With a Daring Spirit Bold, Delaware Will Shine,

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Domenico Grasso
Provost & Professor