MANAGING NEWS EDITOR
In a long-awaited announcement, the university released a statement last Tuesday morning confirming its plans to develop a new partnership with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
The partnership, which will include the construction of a new academic facility known as the Biden Domestic Policy Institute, looks to bolster both the School of Public Policy and Administration’s education and research endeavors.
“We’re very excited about this new relationship with Joe Biden, one of our most distinguished and loyal alumni,” President Dennis Assanis said in a statement.
According to Maria Aristigueta, the director of the School of Public Policy and Administration, the institute’s arrival is expected to be coupled with the recruitment of new faculty and an increase in student enrollment.
“We have already seen a whole lot more interest in the university and the school as a result of this announcement,” Aristigueta said. “We are hoping to double our enrollment and increase the number of majors that we have for our undergraduate and graduate offerings.”
Although the timetable for its construction remains unclear, the institute, which will be located at 44 Kent Way on the university’s Newark campus, will focus on crafting innovative public policy solutions for a wide-ranging list of social, economic and environmental issues.
“[Biden]’s going to serve as the founding chair of the institute and our expectation is that, as the founding chair, he will provide the vision for the institute,” Aristigueta said, “He’s going to have other responsibilities as well, so we should expect to find him around campus every week, probably.”
Biden, who is responsible for assembling the institute’s agenda, has handpicked several issues that he has shown strong convictions for in the past, like environmental sustainability, economic and criminal justice reform and civil and women’s rights, to name a few.
Given Biden’s long and cherished history with the state, the former Vice President’s return to the university is largely unsurprising.
Last December at his inauguration as the university’s 28th president, President Assanis hinted at the university’s plans to develop the institute with Biden seated on stage closely behind him. Turning his head to him, he grinned. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could the name the school after one of our university’s, state’s and nation’s most distinguished public servants?” Assanis said.
Biden, an alumnus of the university’s class of 1965 and a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame, has long accredited the school for fostering his passion for politics and forming his ideologies and worldview.
During his time in Washington, he and his wife, Jill Biden — another University of Delaware graduate — regularly returned to his home in Greenville, a Wilmington suburb, and his alma mater, making time to speak at Delaware commencement ceremonies on four separate occasions, most recently in 2014.
“Every day of my career in public service has been motivated by the desire to ensure that every American is treated with dignity and gets a fair shot,” Biden said in a university-issued statement. “I am happy to continue that work at my alma mater, a place that is stamped on my heart.”
Biden’s qualifications for the position are numerous, and this partnership will attempt to capitalize on the Scranton-born politician’s years of experience in public service by providing a resource for a new generation of policy makers to produce domestic policy plans fit for the future.
Biden is also slated to head the University of Pennsylvania’s new Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, which, in contrast to his institute at UD, will focus on matters of foreign policy and national security.
“I look forward to working with a top notch policy staff at the Biden Institute to continue the hard work of developing public policy to benefit American families,” Biden said.
At the age of 30 — the minimum required age to hold the position — Biden began serving as one of Delaware’s U.S. Senators, a position he held for 36 years after six re-elections.
Following his time in the Senate, Biden was tapped for a position as the 47th Vice President of the United States by former President Barack Obama and was jointly elected for two successive terms, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor — in his last month in office for his lifetime dedication to public service.
“His insight and experience will lend invaluable enhancement to programming, education and research initiatives as the University of Delaware helps shape the future of our society,” Assanis said.