January 2010

DSU Hosts First-Ever Delaware Brain Bee



Savannah Zukas of Indian River High School reacts to the verdict on her answer at the Delaware Brain Bee held at DSU on Jan. 9

  DSU was the site of the first-ever Brain Bee Competition in Delaware on Jan 9 and by the end of the competition, Amy Forster of the Charter School of Wilmington won 1st place for the best neurology knowledge among the contestants.   Held in the Mishoe Science Center on campus, the inaugural Delaware Brain Bee intellectually pitted 14 students from Caesar Rodney High School, Charter School of Wilmington, and Indian River High School against each other.   The Delaware Brain Bee was conducted in the same elimination style as the Spelling Bee competition that is held across the country. However instead of being given words to spell, contestants in the Brain Bee were given oral questions about neuroscience that they had to answer correctly or be eliminated.   Amy Forster (center), the first-place winner of the first-ever Delaware Brain Bee, is congratulated by Dr. Princy Mennella, (r) DSU assistant professor of biology, and state Sen. Colin Bonini. Ms. Forster's first-place performance won her an all-expense paid trip to Baltimore, Md. where she will represent Delaware in the U.S. National Brain Bee on March 19-20. There are 52 other competitions across the United States that will send their winners to that National Brain Bee competition.   Dr. Princy Quadros Mennella, an assistant professor of neuroscience and the coordinator of the Delaware Brain Bee, said with so much to learn about the brain in connection with diseases such as schizophrenia, depression, autism and Alzheimer’s, it is important to cultivate interest in neuroscience among young people.   “We need bright young minds to help make new discoveries in the field of neuroscience,” Dr. Mennella said. “Educating our nation’s high school students and getting them excited about the brain is important because one of them could be the next neuroscientist to make a breakthrough in our understanding of the many brain diseases that afflict our society.”   Prior DSU’s facilitation of the event to make it possible in the First State, Delaware previously had been one of the few states that did not hold a Brain Bee competition nor have a representative in the National Brain Bee. Dr. Mennella said it is hoped that more Delaware high schools will engage their students to compete in future competitions.    

DSU Drops Two Sports For Budgetary Reasons

    Delaware State University announced today that it will eliminate two sports programs to address budgetary issues and to help the institution’s other athletics programs become more competitive within its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).   The University will drop the Men’s Tennis and Women’s Equestrian programs at the end of the 2009-2010 athletics year. The University will continue to honor its financial commitment to the student-athletes who are impacted by this decision and will assist those interested in transferring to another institution of higher education.   The DSU athletics budget is approximately $12 million during the current 2009-2010 athletics year – the largest budget among institutions within the conference. DSU Athletics Director Derek Carter said that the Board of Trustees has recommended that the athletics budget be reduced to a level that is more comparable with the top teams in the MEAC.   “The five MEAC institutions that are below DSU in what they spend on athletics all have budgets that are $8 to $9 million this year,” said Mr. Carter. “Couple that with the tough economic times that this University is facing, it is impossible to justify such a disparity between DSU and the other top institutions’ athletics spending.”   Mr. Carter said that DSU regrets the impact this decision will have on the affected student athletes. “We know today’s announcement is not good news for our Men’s Tennis and Equestrian team members, their dedicated coaches and their faithful supporters,” the DSU athletics director said. “While we hope that the student-athletes from the affected teams will continue to attend DSU, we will understand if they decide to transfer to another institution and are prepared to assist them any way we can.”    The DSU athletics director said he recommended making the announcement at this time to give the student-athletes as much opportunity as possible to weigh their future directions.   The elimination of Men’s Tennis and Women’s Equestrian will reduce the number of DSU intercollegiate athletics teams to 15. In 2009, the University dropped its wrestling program. There are no plans to eliminate any additional DSU sports programs at this time, Mr. Carter said. - DSU President Harry L. Williams said while the decision to drop the programs “was extremely difficult,” it is nevertheless consistent with his vision of excellence for the overall athletics program at DSU.   “We want all of DSU’s athletics teams to be competitive and win championships in the MEAC. But it is impossible to support all our teams toward that end with a budget that is spread too thin,” said Dr. Williams. “While it is not a decision we wanted to make, we are confident that it is in the best interest of the overall athletics program and the University as a whole.”   Dr. Williams added that as a founding member of the MEAC, Delaware State University has an obligation to continually strive to be a strongly competitive institution within the conference. “This reduction in the number of sports programs helps DSU continue to be a strong permanent partner of the MEAC,” the DSU President said.   Mr. Carter said that the elimination of the two sports will save the University almost $700,000. He said he will be recommending other cost saving measures that can be implemented to enable the athletics budget to most effectively support the remaining 15 DSU sports programs.   Both the University’s Men’s Tennis and the Women’s Equestrian teams will continue to compete in their respective remaining 2009-2010 seasons.   DSU will continue to field and support its remaining 15 NCAA Division I sport programs. Those include the women’s sports of basketball, bowling, cross country, indoor and outdoor track, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball, as well as the men’s sports of basketball, football, indoor and outdoor track, baseball and cross country.   All of the remaining DSU intercollegiate teams compete in the MEAC with the exception of the women’s soccer team, which plays in the Great West Conference.      

DSU Board Returns Dr. Claibourne Smith as Board Chair

  The DSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to restore Dr. Claibourne D. Smith to his former office as chairman of the board, which had been previously interrupted by his service as acting president of the University. Dr. Claibourne Smith is in his 23rd year as a Board of Trustees member and in his 16th year as board chairman. The action -- which took place at the board's Jan. 14 regular meeting -- also returned Dr. John Land to his former role as vice chairman of the board. Dr. Land served as the acting board chair during the 16-month absence of Dr. Smith. The acting president tenure of Dr. Smith ended on Jan. 9, as Dr. Harry Lee Williams took over the following day as the 10th president of the institution's history. The Board unanimously selected Dr. Smith to serve as the acting DSU president in September 2008 after the resignation of Dr. Allen L. Sessoms, who left the University to become president of University of the District of Columbia. In addition to selecting Dr. Land at that time to serve as acting chair, the board later selected board member David G. Turner to serve as acting vice chair. Prior to becoming acting president, Dr. Smith served 15 consecutive years as board chairman (1992-2008). His resumption of that office now moves him into his 16th year as chairman. Following the vote that returned Dr. Smith to his chair post, the board also unanimously approved a resolution that commended Dr. Smith for his service and performance as acting president.