Drexel’s Areas of Excellence and Opportunity

This message was sent to all faculty and staff by the Provost on February 23, 2023. 

Dear Colleagues,

In developing Drexel’s 2030 Strategic Plan, the Executive Planning Committee identified four primary focus areas for the University — Health, Technology/Engineering, Design and Social Sciences. Recognizing that these areas would require further refinement, the EPC defined among the Plan’s key initiatives the need to “develop transdisciplinary clusters at the intersections of these sectors to maximally leverage current strengths while generating new opportunities for transdisciplinary education, scholarship, collaboration with external partners, and entrepreneurial engagement.”

The initiative to define transdisciplinary clusters, now referred to as Drexel’s Areas of Excellence and Opportunity (AEOs), was launched by my Office almost a year ago. After an extensive review of internal and external data, as well as engagement and feedback from the University community, the following 10 AEOs have been identified:

  • Health Innovation
  • Computing, AI and Cyber Security Frontiers
  • Sustainability and Climate Resilience
  • Urban Futures
  • Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
  • Health Equity and Wellness
  • Human-Centered Design
  • Entertainment and Culture
  • Leadership, Learning and Organizational Innovation
  • Neuroscience

About the AEO Initiative

The 10 AEOs represent areas of strength and opportunity that bridge colleges, schools and activities (e.g. academics, research, external partnership, etc.) and provide opportunities for differentiation and reputation development.

These areas do not exist separately from the characteristics that define us — experiential learning, civic engagement, innovation and entrepreneurship, external partnership, etc. — rather, they provide opportunities to build upon and integrate these characteristics. Similarly, the AEOs do not represent an exclusive set of investments, nor are they the only areas of value for the University. However, to remain a competitive institution in an increasingly challenged industry, we cannot be all things to all people; instead, we must grow in and connect our areas of strength, plant seeds for sustainable growth, and align our resources strategically. This must be done in line with our mission and the imperatives of the Strategic Plan, which will guide the outcomes and metrics of the AEOs (e.g. expanding research impact, delivering cutting-edge curricula, harnessing the power of partnership, etc.).

Next: Activating the AEOs

Activating the AEOs will involve both a pilot process and a longer-term planning process. The pilot process will focus on stimulating activity in the near-term, convening our community around a subset of AEOs and providing opportunities for learning and growth.

A mix of activities will be spurred through the pilot process, including the development of new experiential courses, research partnerships and community-based projects. Funding to support these projects will be provided by the Office of Research & Innovation, The Environmental Collaboratory, the Drexel Solutions Institute and the Innovation Engine, with many activities aimed at pursuing further funding from external sources including federal and state government, foundations and industry partners. More details will be announced soon.

The longer-term planning process will be guided by expert teams in each AEO and will focus on vision and goal setting, inventorying current activities and assets (e.g. facilities, labs, research teams, etc.), and providing recommendations to build impact and reputation in the AEOs. A call for nominations for these teams will go out in the coming months.

To learn more about this initiative, please visit the Provost’s Office website. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you, as well as our external partners, on this collaborative work.


Paul E. Jensen
Executive Vice President
Nina Henderson Provost
University Professor