RESOURCES, RISK, & REWARD


I could do some things here that I couldn't do at other established seats of power.
Carol Worthman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology


Join the discussion
What's your opinion of post-tenure review at Emory? Should internal resources such as University Research Committee grants be closed to senior faculty? Can Emory support its faculty without reducing the motivation to push the envelope?

Resources, Risk & Reward
Getting what you need as a faculty member

Balancing Money and Biomedicine
An academic physician's ambivalence
Samuel C. Dudley, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

If Charles Darwin had wanted to be comfortable, he never would have taken the voyage on the HMS Beagle.
Kim Wallen, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

Keeping the Passion and Keeping a Job
Is post-tenure review a faculty development tool or a lurking threat?


Academic Exchange September 1999 Contents Page

The Academic Exchange What persuaded you to leave Harvard for Emory?

Professor Carol Worthman To take the leap, the advantage had to be that
I could do some things here that I couldn't do at other established seats of power. There was no support for me to do international comparative work at Harvard. The department here had an exciting vision--to promote exploration of the interplay of biology and culture. Rather than fight with each other, we would try to at the very least tolerate one another and preferably have a dynamic of interchange. And I'll be honest--it was the resources: two years of technical support and very good start-up funds. They built the lab for me. And I got URC [University Research Committee] money to develop some novel assays and jump-start the risky work.

It was coming to an atmosphere where there was excitement about ideas and where I could talk to administrators who actually had some investment in the program doing well, because Emory was trying to make a name for itself. You could say it's an arriviste mentality, but hey, it has its advantages. Talent is something to be fostered rather than exploited.

AE Can you give an example of against-the-grain research you're doing that you couldn't have done elsewhere?

CW I've just started doing sleep research. No anthropologist, including me, had ever thought about this until a pediatric endocrinologist called me two years ago and asked, "What do anthropologists know about sleep?" And I said, "Zero." I developed an analytic framework and did a bunch of comparative ethnographies with colleagues. To complete that I need to go to the field and actually look at people sleeping, and then I'll do a book.

On one level, sleep researchers love this. On another level, I don't have a track record in this, other than this one analytic paper that I put together. So I'll go to the URC and ask for money to go to Indonesia. A lot of people love this research and think it'll be hot stuff. That's what I mean. I'm here because I like to do risky research and push the frontiers of what we're doing and not sit within a particular paradigm for very long. And this is a good place to do that. By now, people know I regularly come up with wacky ideas, but I get more and more credibility because I deliver on them. But you can't get started without that help.

AE Do you think Emory loses a competitive edge by providing all those resources?

CW It depends on with whom you're working. Frankly, I think any good scientist is passionate. If you're not passionate, then you're just doing a job. That's okay, but that's a different order of person, as far as I'm concerned. Excellent scholars aren't doing it for money or prestige. I mean, they hopefully pay attention to those things because that's what the world pays attention to; if you want credibility, it matters. But if you give good people resources, they're going to use them for good science.

AE Have you found a culture of intellectual seriousness here?

CW I think Emory has brought in a lot of horsepower, so the density of interesting people has gone up over the years. It's a low-risk strategy. You bring in these people and say, Do your thing, and everybody just hunkers down and does it. Which is quite different from hiring very junior people who are not yet as developed. And frankly, I don't know what to think about that, because when I look at places like Michigan and Harvard, of course, their approach is Darwinian. That is, you bring in smart people, and if you can survive, you're sort of like a road warrior by the time you get there. That has its good and bad sides. There's a lot of wasted talent, too. So that's what I see Emory struggling with. How can you be competitive but remain attractive by providing some opportunities that are going to nurture promising young talent and lure it away from these magnets of academic prestige?

Can Emory support its faculty without reducing the motivation to push the envelope? If you would like to discuss this question over lunch with a group of other faculty members, contact Allison Adams, 727-5269, aadam02@emory.edu.