College Cousins: University of Delaware & University of Maryland

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The University of Delaware and the University of Maryland, two large mid-Atlantic universities, are both well known by name, but there’s a lot about them that you might not know. These are two large state universities, both located in small cities that are adjacent to more populous ones. College Park’s 32,000 residents only slightly outnumber the University of Maryland’s undergrads (about 30,000), and that doesn’t even take into account grad students. Similarly, the University of Delaware (with 18,000 undergrads) is located in Newark, Delaware, which has a population of 31,000. These two state universities clearly are behemoths in their local communities, but they are also the pride of their states. 

The University of Delaware points with pride to its “First State” moniker, a reference to the fact that Delaware was the first of the thirteen original colonies to be ratified as a state. That occurred in 1787, but the University actually precedes even that. It was established, by royal charter, in 1743. UDel claims another “first” – the first university to offer a study abroad program (in 1923). Today, 30% of UDel’s students participate in this popular program, which encompasses more than 100 programs in over 40 countries.

The University of Maryland’s roots aren’t quite so deep. The University opened its doors in 1856 – as the Maryland Agricultural College. But it grew quickly and today offers over 90 majors through its 12 schools and colleges. Best known are the A. James Clark School of Engineering and Robert H. Smith School of Business, whose programs have garnered a widespread reputation for excellence.

Students at UDel select courses of study from 150 majors offered through its seven colleges. Its physical education program enjoys a #1 ranking by US News & World Report, and its School of Education and School of Engineering both enjoy good reputations and are good draws for the university.

UDel is also a highly regarded research institution. It has 75 research centers and institutes engaging over 4,500 students in research ranging from agricultural experimentation to biotechnology and even nano-fabrication. Students not only sit in front of computers and microscopes but, in some, do field work, work with pre-school children, and even run a fine dining restaurant. UDel, however, is perhaps most proud of its STAR (Science, Technology, and Advanced Research) campus, which is involved in cutting-edge research in a number of areas.


The University of Maryland is also active in research, and its programs in the area of innovation and entrepreneurship are particularly impressive, generating 400 patents and licensing more than 500 technologies since the 1990s. According to the UMd website, the school “generates about 130 invention disclosures each year (about 1 every 3 days), which result in about 5 tech start-ups each year.” It’s an impressive record by any standard. 

Of course, both campuses have active social scenes and innumerable activities available for students. Maryland’s Division I sports teams are nationally known, and Delaware also offers many athletic options for its students. Both universities take pride in their somewhat atypical mascots that, in both cases, pay homage to their state’s history. For UDel, the choice of Blue Hens hearkens back to the university’s earliest days and the popularity of cockfighting, and particularly of the ferocious “blue hen” variety. (I guess you have to be around poultry to know how aggressive a chicken can be.) For Maryland, it’s the Terrapins, an abundant creature in the watery areas of Maryland and the choice for state reptile. 

Contrary to the old cliché, familiarity with these universities breeds nothing but respect. These two proud universities do our region proud.

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