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In a moment of disruption and crisis—and the onset of an academic year unlike any that has come before—it isn’t always easy to see the extraordinary opportunities that await us just around the corner. Like all of you, much of my focus this summer was on adapting to new realities, staying safe, and taking care. So, I wouldn’t blame you if you missed the news that, as of July 1st, the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration has become an independent entity within the University of Delaware. I have the tremendous honor of serving as the inaugural dean of the newly independent Biden School, and I’m thrilled to share a few thoughts with you about why I’m so excited for the road ahead.
First, while our school is evolving in a way that promises to open new doors for our community and expand the breadth, depth, and impact of the work we do, we’re also carrying forward a proud legacy. The Biden School has been able to reach this important inflection point precisely because of our strong foundation—the bedrock of ideas, accomplishments, and generations of remarkable students, alumni, faculty, and staff that have forged our reputation over the last six decades. That legacy, and the values that inspired it, will continue to light our way as we rise to meet the challenges and opportunities of the years ahead.
The challenges of the present are a stark reminder of why those values matter now more than ever. Many of the steps we’ve taken to adapt to the pandemic—engaging students virtually; deploying our researchers to help solve problems in our local communities and organizations; establishing a new team dedicated to fostering genuine inclusivity and racial justice within our school—are more than just practical short-term steps. They foreshadow some of the very same forces that will determine our success in the future: our ability to build authentic connections, marry academic excellence with real-world impact, and ensure that Biden School scholars are leaders in the fullest social, ethical, and human senses of the word.
The world that emerges from this moment will be shaped in large part by the people and institutions that harness those forces for good. And in the months and years to come, the Biden School will showcase the qualities that uniquely equip our community to help shape what comes next. We will continue to grow our groundbreaking lattice of innovative cross-disciplinary programs and partnerships. We will test our students, our faculty, and our ideas in the crucible of real problems, real organizations, and real communities. We will focus on people, both within and without our school—helping each individual student find their place and their voice, and ensuring that our academic work is measured by the positive difference it makes in people’s lives in local communities, in organizations, and across our global reach. And we will delve deeper into realms of policy that will make our school an indispensable national and international source of solutions for the foreseeable future: disaster science and emergency management; energy and climate; civic engagement; public health; and so much more.
I am grateful for the privilege of leading the Biden School as we embark on this new chapter, and I could not be more excited for our Delaware family, our peers, and our global community to see what I see as we grow our distinct identity as the first independent school at the University of Delaware. I hope that you enjoy the articles below, which offer a glimpse into our work over the last few months. I am grateful to all of you for your support and engagement as we start this journey together.
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